Ocean Deserts Expanding

April 5, 2008 • Climate Change & Mitigation, News

Scientists from the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Hawaii unveiled new research last week showing that steadily warming sea surface waters are causing the least biologically productive swaths of the world’s oceans—so-called “ocean deserts”—to expand at an unprecedented rate (some 15 percent on average) over a nine-year period ending in 2007.

“The warming increases stratification of the ocean waters, preventing deep ocean nutrients from rising to the surface and creating plant life,” the researchers said in a statement released by NOAA. The study was published last week in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters. “These barren areas are found in roughly 20 percent of the world’s oceans and are within subtropical gyres—the swirling expanses of water on either side of the equator.”

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