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Volume 12 Issue 10, October 2022

The breadth and depth of ocean change

Climate change impacts on global oceans are varied, far-reaching and severe. In our Editorial we discuss work featured in this issue of Nature Climate Change, which ranges from the surface to the ocean depths, through physical changes and biological impacts, and encompasses scales from the sub-cellular to the global.

See Editorial.

Image: Olena Holubova / Alamy Stock Photo. Cover Design: Valentina Monaco

Editorial

  • Nearly two years into the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science, research, including some featured in this month’s issue, shows that there is still a wealth of scientific secrets to uncover in the ocean depths.

    Editorial

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Comment

  • Forward-looking information about climate risks is critical for decision makers, but the provision and accuracy of such information is limited. Innovative prediction-market designs could provide a mechanism to enhance applied climate research in an incentive-compatible way.

    • Mark Roulston
    • Todd Kaplan
    • Kim Kaivanto
    Comment
  • Infrastructure investment needs to account for climate change globally, yet most day-to-day projects are small and poorly served by economic assessment processes. Four simple adjustments to cost–benefit analysis practices would greatly improve decision making for future infrastructure resilience.

    • Russell M. Wise
    • Tim Capon
    • Mark Stafford-Smith
    Comment
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Recent recognition of the human right to a healthy environment by the United Nations can facilitate a shift in climate policy and shape climate litigation. Now, a recent study discusses these benefits and the potential to assist social movements in garnering political pressure towards stronger climate action.

    • Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh
    News & Views
  • Wealthy countries failed to meet their US$100 billion climate finance pledge, and research now suggests that they may be further away from their goal than previously thought. Machine coding of finance projects may help settle the debate and could be part of a more rigorous tracking system.

    • J. Timmons Roberts
    • Romain Weikmans
    News & Views
  • Western boundary currents are narrow, fast-moving ocean flows that are experiencing rapid warming under climate change. Using satellite observations and high-resolution model simulations, two studies now find that this rapid warming is primarily induced by poleward-intensifying ocean eddies.

    • Hu Yang
    News & Views
  • Our global oceans are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate, including marine heatwaves, species redistributions and increased human–wildlife conflict. Now, researchers use acoustic surveys to project risk for one of the least understood and most abundant habitats on Earth, the ocean’s mesopelagic zone.

    • Elliott L. Hazen
    News & Views
  • More cities are including urban forests in their climate change adaptation plans. Now, research shows that more than two-thirds of tree species across cities worldwide are facing severe climate risks, undermining their roles in climate adaptation and other ecosystem services they provide.

    • Kangning Huang
    News & Views
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Research Briefings

  • Demand for aviation will increase by 2–3-fold by 2050. Nonetheless, 90% decarbonization compared with 2019 can be achieved by continued efficiency gains in aircraft and operations, and by the use of ultra-green fuels derived from biomass or clean electricity. Achieving this decarbonization goal will require an increase in airfares of up to approximately 15%.

    Research Briefing
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Brief Communications

  • A reliable and consistent inventory is important for the international community to track and promote the progress of climate finance. A machine learning classifier reveals that the current framework may overestimate the actual number of bilateral climate finance projects.

    • Malte Toetzke
    • Anna Stünzi
    • Florian Egli
    Brief Communication
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Articles

  • Observed warming of the Southern Hemisphere western boundary currents (WBCs) is still under debate. Here poleward shifts, associated with changes in the mid-latitude easterly winds, of the WBCs, not strengthening, are found to drive enhanced eddy generation and ocean warming in their extensions.

    • Junde Li
    • Moninya Roughan
    • Colette Kerry
    Article
  • Anthropogenic changes in ocean eddies are difficult to distinguish from natural variability due to short satellite records. Here model projections show a poleward shift and intensification of eddy kinetic energy in most eddy-rich regions; however, Gulf Stream eddy activity decreases.

    • Nathan Beech
    • Thomas Rackow
    • Thomas Jung
    Article Open Access
  • The authors investigate the mechanism underlying the multigenerational resilience of a copepod to ocean acidification. They demonstrate that recovery of negative reproductive impacts is linked to epigenetic changes and highlight the need to consider plasticity in estimating future vulnerabilities.

    • Young Hwan Lee
    • Min-Sub Kim
    • Jae-Seong Lee
    Article Open Access
  • The authors compile an underwater sonar database to understand the current and future distribution of pelagic fauna in the world’s oceans. They show loss of 3–22% of these fauna in low and mid latitudes under high-emissions scenarios, with impact reduced to less than half if global warming is contained below 2 °C.

    • Alejandro Ariza
    • Matthieu Lengaigne
    • Arnaud Bertrand
    Article
  • The authors use daily data to understand current thermal conditions across ocean depths and project changes under various future scenarios. They show varying responses in thermal range shifts on the basis of depth, highlighting complexities in predicting marine life habitat under global change.

    • Yeray Santana-Falcón
    • Roland Séférian
    Article
  • The authors use long-term ground and satellite data to reveal the impact of drought on autumn date of foliar senescence (DFS). They link increased drought impacts to precipitation changes and plant functional traits and project earlier DFS by the end of the century, particularly at high latitudes.

    • Chaoyang Wu
    • Jie Peng
    • Quansheng Ge
    Article
  • Assessing 3,129 species of trees and shrubs found in 164 global urban areas shows that over half of the species currently experience non-ideal climates. They project increases in risk due to climate change by 2050 and highlight cities where all species are at risk.

    • Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez
    • Mark G. Tjoelker
    • Rachael V. Gallagher
    Article
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Analysis

  • Decarbonization of the aviation sector is difficult due to increasing demand and the current lack of scalable mitigation technologies. This Analysis examines pathways towards a net-zero aviation system with improved fuel and aircraft technologies, efficiency gains and contrail avoidance.

    • Lynnette Dray
    • Andreas W. Schäfer
    • Steven R. H. Barrett
    Analysis
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