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Ocean Oxygen

May 13, 2008

Oxygen-deprived areas of tropical oceans are expanding due to global warming.


Oxygen-starved oceans. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Just like us, fish need oxygen – but they get it from water. However, new research suggests that ocean oxygen is getting scarcer, which could threaten marine life worldwide. Physical oceanographer Janet Sprintall of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and her colleagues charted oxygen levels in six tropical ocean regions over the past 50 years. They found that areas of abnormally low oxygen have been expanding vertically.

JANET SPRINTALL (Scripps Institution of Oceanography):
So it’s become both shallower in the upper layer and deeper at depth. And the oxygen level itself in three of those regions in the Atlantic has also decreased.

Sprintall says the culprit here is global warming, since warmer surface waters can’t dissolve as much oxygen from the air as cooler ones. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.