Ireland's Warming Waters

Effects on Coastal Waters

Ocean Acidification Levels
Courtesy of the Marine Institute ©

The warming of the world's oceans will have a significant impact on the island of Ireland. Evidence of this can already be seen in the Irish Ocean Climate and Ecosystem Status Report conducted by the Marine Institute in 2009. The report acknowledges that Ireland's weather patterns are largely driven by the North Atlantic Ocean.

The report found that not only could the warming of Ireland's waters affect weather and current patterns but that several other factors have already been impacted. These factors have been summarised below:

  •  Global warming of our oceans could result in mean sea level rise of approximately 0.09metres to 0.88 metres by 2100, resulting in increased wave heights off the South West of Ireland of 0.8 metres.
  • Increases in phytoplankton and Zooplankton have been observed since 1998 with gelatinous species increasing since 1997.
  • More sightings of exotic species in our coasts as well as increased numbers of warm water species in marine fisheries have been observed.
  • Ocean chemistry Median winter nutrient values are well below internationally acceptable thresholds.
  • Migratory fish stocks have been in decline e.g. salmon and trout.
  • Declines in numbers as well as failures of breeding in seabirds have been noted.
  • Ocean Acidification, caused by increasing anthropogenic CO2 in our oceans, can have detrimental effects to Ireland marine ecosystems as it disrupts the calcium carbonate shell and skeleton formation of key species such as molluscs, crustaceans or cold water coral reefs. This can significantly disrupt the food web in Irish waters which in turn will have a negative effect on socio- economic aspects production, declining resources and a decline in biodiversity.

For further information on ocean acidification please the Marine Institute website.

Case Study

Irish Maerl is subject to Ocean Acidification
Courtesy NPWS © photograph from: Merc

Orange water was observed at Dublin's Sandycove beach in June 2019 due to blooms of a micro alga called Noctiluca Scintillans. Similar reports of such blooms were also recorded of the east coast of Ireland for several weeks. This algal bloom event that displayed bioluminescence blue sparkles of light when disturbed by waves was attributed to a natural summer phenomena directly influenced by warm water. For further information please see the Irish water website.   

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