Learning about climate from oceans

What does studying the oceans teach us about the climate?

Oceans play a huge part in creating our climate on earth, and studying them can give us valuable information about the effect of changes to the earth’s temperature.

The oceans play an important role in the world’s climate. As well as having an effect on air temperatures and rainfall patterns, they soak up more than 30% of the carbon dioxide that humans produce.

There are loads of ways that the oceans can help us spot changes in our climate.

If you’ve ever been snorkelling or looked in rock pools at the beach, you’ll know that the ocean is full of all sorts of interesting plant and animal life. What you find under the water depends on the local conditions, and if those conditions change, then those living things may change too.

Two real-life ocean explorers are going to tell us how we can learn more about our climate through the oceans – here’s Sina and Emma!

Sina

Hi I’m Sina. I look at tiny fossils from the ocean to learn more about the different kinds of plants and animals that were around when the earth was younger and much hotter.

How does this help us learn about climates today?

Because in the future our climate may be similar – much warmer than it is now. It helps us to understand how life in warmer conditions is different to what we have now. My fossils come from a time over two and a half million years ago when there were forests all the way up to the Artic – hard to imagine!

That sounds really interesting! What equipment do you use to learn from these fossils?

I use a powerful microscope to identify different types of tiny fossils. Some are from plants – including pollen, and some of marine micro-organisms such as plankton – tiny creatures that live in the oceans.

Emma

Hi! I’m Emma and I study coral reefs deep beneath the oceans and research what they are eating.

People think coral are plants but they’re actually omnivores like us – they eat both animals and plants. I study both microscopic plants – they’re called phytoplankton, and the marine organisms in the area to see what’s being munched the most.

Coral makes a safe place for baby fish with lots of nooks for them to hide from predators, so healthy coral means a wide range of other wildlife can survive. A change in the conditions – like the water getting hotter or colder, or more acidic, can affect what’s available for the coral to eat. This has a knock on effect on the other marine life, so it’s a good way to identify the effects of climate change.

Coral can be found a long way down – how do you collect your samples?

We collect corals up to 2,000 metres below the surface using a very cool robot submarine. Some ocean scientists though travel down in small pods that can carry a couple of people – so they can see the coral for themselves.

Sounds like a great way to see the effect of changes in our climate!

Next, we’ll be finding out more how studying the clouds in the sky can help us learn more about the earth’s climate… click here!

You can hear Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers weekdays from 5pm on Fun Kids!

Get the series on your phone or tablet and listen whenever you like – at home or in the car!

…or you can listen here:

Marina Ventura: Kids Guide to Our Planet

The podcast exploring the environment, ecology, oceans and climates on our planet Earth.

 

Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers with support from the Natural Environment Research Council.

Additional support thanks to Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Met Office, and King’s College London.

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