More Effects of and on the ocean

Let's now consider how the ocean might affect global warming and how global warming might affect the ocean. One of the most important effects stems from the fact that global warming is a form of climate variability, albeit variability of a forced kind; thus, just as with natural variability, the ocean damps the response in some fashion. There are other potential effects, so let's make a short list of them and then consider them one by one.

1. The damping effect will slow down the warming and delay the time it takes to reach a new equilibrium state.

2. The ocean circulation may change in some fashion. The most worrisome possibility is that the overturning circulation will change substantially, and possibly even shut down.

3. The sea level will rise, both because of an expansion of seawater as it warms and because of the melting of land ice, such as glaciers.

4. The ocean will absorb some of the C02 that is added to the atmosphere. he extent to which it does will obviously affect the rate and ultimate level of warming. It will also lead to changes in ocean acidification and possible changes in ocean biology.

Each of these effects is quite important and we devote a section to each, except for the last one, which is beyond our purview. However, we do note that it may take many centuries for the ocean or any other component of the climate system to draw down anthropogenically enhanced levels of C02 in the atmosphere.9

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