Marine Institute’s Irish Ocean Climate and Ecosystem Status Report 2023
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD has today officially launched the Marine Institute’s Irish Ocean Climate and Ecosystem Status Report 2023. The 2023 report provides important and timely updates on national observations and recommendations previously presented by the Marine Institute.
The report notes the following key findings;
- Sea-level rises of between 2-3 mm per annum since the 1990s,
- A rise of ~0.5C in sea surface temperatures on Ireland’s north coast over the past ten years.
- Identification of surface water acidification and year-round presence of harmful algal species
Speaking at a special briefing today as part of today’s launch in Buswells Hotel, Dublin, Minister McConalogue said “It is critical that both scientists and policy makers are equipped with pertinent and high-quality evidence in relation to the changing state of our seas. This begins with the collection and observation of essential ocean variables from ships, buoys, and robotic platforms in our territorial seas and beyond, measuring ocean temperature, salinity, sea level, ocean carbon, plankton and fish species. This information enables marine scientists to analyse the array of data to gain insights into the nature of some of the changes we are observing. We also need to predict or project what will happen to our oceans in the future using climate models. Based on this evidence, we have set out ambitious climate action targets that include an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“Tackling emissions will help Ireland address rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification, along with coastal inundation. Ireland’s climate is dominated by the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. As this report outlines and as most of us are already aware, the ocean and the atmosphere are a tightly coupled system, with heat, momentum and mass continuously exchanged between the two. Heat transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere provides one of the main energy sources for atmospheric motion” Minister McConalogue added.
Paul Connolly, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute, said “scientific evidence is critical to informing marine climate adaptation in Ireland: Local authorities require evidence to formulate action plans in line with national legislation. Changes in the ocean affect seafood, transport and biodiversity. Excess nutrients primarily from land-based activities, can lead to eutrophication and adversely impact marine life. The oceans provide 50 per cent of the oxygen we breathe. They are a critical element of the global climate system in their role to regulate atmospheric processes and for distributing heat, salt, and organisms. This research shows the impact of climate change is already evident in Irish marine waters with patterns of harmful algal blooms changing. The ocean off the southwest coast will likely become warmer and less salty by the year 2035,” he warns.
The report mainly focuses on Irish waters with findings put into context with wider international climate change efforts such as the International Panel on Climate Change’s 6th assessment report. In thematic layout it summarises key changes in marine conditions, and examines changing atmospheric conditions (ocean circulation, chemistry, plankton, fisheries and seabirds), and examines the link between freshwater catchments and the ocean. Model predictions and marine infrastructures critical to understanding Ireland’s changing marine climate are also considered.
The report represents a collaboration between marine researchers within the Marine Institute and others based in Ireland’s higher education institutes and public bodies. It includes authors from Met Éireann, Maynooth University, the University of Galway, the Atlantic Technological University, National Parks and Wildlife, Birdwatch Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Inland Fisheries Ireland, The National Water Forum, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Dundalk Institute of Technology.