Co-Written by Meena Miriam Yust & Arshad M. Khan

tasmanian kelp

If one can imagine looking at our globe from the South Pole end, one can observe the ocean currents circulating water across the oceans.

First one would notice a current all the way around the perimeter of the Antarctic.  A surface current circulates clockwise but there is also a deep undercurrent in the same direction.  Branches then lead off towards the different oceans serving as a global conveyor belt mixing the waters.

A deep current pushes its way between the east coast of Africa and Madagascar emerging as the monsoon surface current across the Indian ocean to India before looping back to supplement another current along Africa’s west coast.  This eventually crosses the Atlantic to form the Gulf Stream drift recrossing the Atlantic to warm Britain and southern Scandinavia.  Currents also loop the Pacific.

In an early Islamic map the system is clarified.  The currents serve as global arteries that redistribute heat, salt and carbon around the globe.  Is it climate change slowing the system, mitigating its tempering effects?  It has slowed by about 15 percent in the last half-century.

One consequence is the worsening Indian Ocean dipole effect where contrasting sea surface temperatures in the warmer western (Arabian Sea area) and cooler eastern end near Indonesia affect climate.  This year has seen one of the strongest dipoles on record, a 2C difference.  The result is more storms for East Africa leading to cooler, wetter weather, while at the other end Australia suffers extreme heat and raging bush fires far worse than usual.  No ordinary fire but a 50-meter high firewall engulfed the homes, according to a shocked homeowner in a vivid description of what happened.  The uncontrollable fires continue with the hope they will burn themselves out.

The ocean warming is also killing the kelp beds in the waters by the island of Tasmania.  Australia’s giant kelp beds are literally being cooked by the ocean.  The kelp rising in 30-foot high stalks has been habitat for rare ocean life through recorded history.  Once present along the whole length of Tasmania’s east coast, now little is left — just in the cooler waters bordering the southern tip.

And the effects of global warming are everywhere.  The Arctic tundra’s permafrost is melting from Alaska through Russia’s Siberia.  At 57 degrees Fahrenheit, Chicago has just experienced the second warmest Christmas on record i.e. since 1871; the day following was 56 F and the hottest December 26 ever.  New Jersey’s winters are so warm, its lakes no longer freeze.

Fish follow their instincts but are also in trouble.  When the water turns too warm, they move, collapsing known fisheries.  Worse, an abrupt change can decimate numbers.  Fisheries in widely separated countries such as Japan, Angola and Uruguay are affected.

While the Philippines suffers a dozen and more severe storms annually, this year it has been hit by Super-Typhoon Mangkut in September with winds gusting to 255 km/h (160 mph).  That is equivalent to a Category 5 (most severe) Atlantic storm.  Then on December 3, it was struck by Typhoon Kammuri, followed not long thereafter by Typhoon Phanfone … tragically on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day turning celebration into anguish.  Aside from the loss of crops and damage to infrastructure, the typhoons kill dozens of people, if not more, and can displace hundreds of thousands who take time to repair their lives.

Climate change (or more accurately warming) and the weather and its consequences remain inextricably linked.  So are we humans, the principal catalysts of this Anthropocene age

Meena Miriam Yust is an attorney based in Chicago, Illinois.  Educated at Vassar College and Case Western Reserve University School of Law, she published a draft Migratory Insect Treaty with commentary in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law.

Arshad M. Khan is a retired US- based professor and occasional commentator. Educated at King’s College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background.

Originally published by

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One Comment

  1. George Chakko says:

    Sorry, this is the corrected version and pl. publish this version only.

    May I thank the authors for touching upon an issue less publicised in the media.

    Climate change does directly cause Ocean warming. There is no iota of doubt that it affects ocean fauna and flora, systematically destroying it. Marine bio-life has changed radically for the worse this past decade. Whales are disappearing from its Antarctica home thanks to aggressive, “anti-Buddhist” indiscriminate killing of whales by the Japanese commercial industry, and of Canada and Norway, and due to an egregious, greedy mass-fishing of Krill that is staple food for whales, and last but not the least, due to temperature rise in Antarctica and the Arctic. A fourth lethal factor of marine ecology collapse is man-made toxicity of ocean waters plus the mega-billion plastic dump into the sea. Only recently we saw the spectre of a whale washed ashore dead on the banks of river Thames in U.K.
    Scientifically, we need to be very cautious on the causality of Ocean Warming. Firstly, as I had previously pointed out elsewhere in U.S. media, that our Sun has spat out a mammoth amount of sun flares systematically the past years, releasing huge energy chunks accelerating the rotation of all solar planets on its axes. Our Earth is rotating more now on its axis than a decade ago. This creates changes in atmospheric dynamics in displacing clouds bringing more rain in one place and drought in another simultaneously , as much as ocean currents’ shifts generating geo-climate paradoxes of weird kinds. The second factor, also given less prominence, is the effect of geothermal heat from Earth’s sea-bed that could also have been caused by a faster rotation. Now these two extraneous factors are beyond any human control. Only, we have added more coal to the fire by aggravating the situation through C02 and Methane inputs substantially augmenting Greenhouse Gas pollution, also enlarging the Ozone Hole in Antarctica (now reaching the size of the U.S. – as per German Space Centre report many years ago)

    One correction please! I do not see any causal correlation between Ocean warming and heat-caused Australian bush fires. These are two separate things.

    George Chakko, former U.N. correspondent at Vienna International Center, now retiree.
    Vienna, 01/01/ 2020 17:41 hrs CET