When it comes to the weather and climate, most of us think only about what is happening in the atmosphere. If we ignore the ocean, however, we miss a big piece of the picture.
Covering some 70% of the Earth’s surface, the ocean is a major driver of the world’s weather and climate. It also plays a central role in climate change. The ocean is also a major driver of the global economy, carrying more than 90% of world trade and sustaining the 40% of humanity that lives within 100 km of the coast. Recognizing this, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and researchers regularly monitor the ocean and how it is changing, modeling how it affects the atmosphere and delivering a wide variety of marine services, including supporting coastal management and Safety of Life at Sea. Today, the growing impacts of climate change are making ocean observations, research and services more critical than ever before.
The World Meteorological Day theme – The ocean, our climate and weather – celebrates WMO’s focus in connecting the ocean, climate and weather within the Earth System. It also marks the starting year of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). The Decade galvanizes efforts to gather ocean science – through innovative and transformative ideas – as the basis of information to support sustainable development. WMO, as the United Nations specialized agency for climate, weather and water, strives to support understanding the inextricable link between ocean, climate and weather. This helps us understand the world in which we live, including the impacts of climate change, and to help Members to strengthen their ability to keep lives and property safe – reducing the risk of disaster – and to maintain viable economies.
How the ocean shapes weather and climate
Over 90% of the extra heat trapped to the Earth by humanity’s carbon emissions is stored in the ocean – only about 2.3% warms the atmosphere, while the rest melts snow and ice and warms the land.
The ocean and climate change
The ocean stores most of the heat that is being trapped by humanity’s greenhouse gases and plays a major role in how climate change is progressing. It also absorbs some of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, causing sea water to become more acidic (or, more correctly, less alkaline). This is already damaging coral reefs and the reef fisheries on which some one billion people rely.
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