Changing Climate, Changing Ocean: Introduction

By: Lauren McCarthy, Science Communications intern

Global climate change is presently one of the largest and most urgent issues facing the Earth and its inhabitants. Climate change refers to an atmospheric process that is driven by both natural and man-made causes. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report on Climate Change, studies on paleoclimate have indicated that natural climate cycles have been present throughout Earth’s geologic history and can alter the temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on the Earth. However, since the age of Industrialization, climate change has been severely enhanced by anthropogenic activities (IPCC, 2007).  Fossil fuel consumption, waste decomposition, and agriculture are among a few sources of greenhouse gases to the Earth’s atmosphere. The additions of these gaseous chemical compounds, such as nitrous oxide, methane, and carbon dioxide, have radiative properties and can increase the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere when they interact with sunlight.

Since climate change is an anthropogenic-sourced problem, efforts to mediate its negative effects are often focused on protecting humans. Climate change will alter our terrestrial ecosystems, how we produce food, our exposure to natural disasters, and our economic well-being. However, the implications of climate change have the same level of severity in the oceans as they do on land. Researchers at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences have made climate change, its effect on marine environments, and the consequences our planet faces because of the changing ocean a top priority in many of their research topics. These include ocean acidification, changes in Arctic sea ice, increasing sea surface temperatures, and microbial influence in the Gulf of Maine and globally. To coincide with Bigelow Laboratory’s 2016 Café Scientifique lectures, this series of blog posts will encompass the theme “Changing Climate, Changing Ocean.” Over the next nine weeks, each post will highlight some of the interesting research projects of the Laboratory’s Senior Research Scientists and REU summer interns and how their topics contribute to expanding our knowledge about the effects of a changing ocean on our planet.


The first installment of “Changing Climate, Changing Ocean” will discuss the work of Dr. Paty Matrai. One of Dr. Matrai’s research areas explores how trace gases released by microbes affect air quality and cloud formation in Arctic regions. As changes in climate continue to drive increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification, Dr. Matrai will use atmospheric data collected by 16 custom-designed buoys in the Arctic to project what changes will occur in Arctic ecosystems.


About the Blogger:

Lauren McCarthy is the summer 2016 Science Communications intern at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Lauren graduated in May from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where she was a double major in Environmental Science and Geoscience. She plans to pursue a M.S. degree in Applied Meteorology at Plymouth State University in the fall and is a resident of Lynnfield, Massachusetts.



Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policymakers.

Changing Climate, Changing Ocean: Introduction