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Op-Ed: Major heat trouble in Mediterranean and Black Seas and scary consequences

There are absolutely no easy fixes for this situation. Stabilizing the climate is the absolute minimum requirement.

The Po River is Italy's largest reservoir of freshwater and much of it is used by farmers. — © Piero CRUCIATTI AFP
The Po River is Italy's largest reservoir of freshwater and much of it is used by farmers. — © Piero CRUCIATTI AFP

A median 4C spike in Mediterranean Sea temperatures isn’t a good sign for the future. Add to this the fact that the Black Sea is also having similar issues, and it’s a very big issue for the future. This is about as bad as the situation with Rhine, Loire and Po rivers, but on a much larger scale.

In the last 20 years, the Mediterranean has undergone a grim, relentless increase in temperatures. The current situation is hardly reassuring showing projections of increased temperatures.

This information coincides with a gruesome situation regarding rainfall in Europe around the Mediterranean in particular. The hydrography of the Mediterranean is based on runoff, mainly from western Europe.

The current drought and heatwaves will have an additional impact, reducing net water volume in the Mediterranean significantly in the short term. That means the added heat from this summer will be contained in a smaller volume of water. Fundamental water thermodynamics are therefore also severely affected.

The Black Sea, similarly, relies on runoff from major rivers like the Danube, Dnieper, and similar large waterways draining into it. The thermal profile of the Black Sea is truly looking threatening. If you check out current daily Black Sea temperature information, it doesn’t look much better.

The dynamics of endangered seas

Shrinking volumes of water entering these seas means shrinking seas. The Mediterranean and Black Seas are much more like very large lakes. Prolonged shortages of river inputs will play literal havoc with them. Those big droughts could easily cause a significant thermal event in a couple of years.

Data from 2014 to now indicates a pattern of summer drought moisture deficiencies for both seas. The trouble is that winter precipitation and snow melts aren’t making up the difference.  

Fisheries will obviously be seriously affected but increased salinity is another factor. It means evaporation rates decrease, which feeds back into the rainfall deficits. It’s a truly vicious cycle.

The Mediterranean did virtually dry up at one time about 5 million years ago. A layer of salt two miles deep is the archaeological record. A gigantic flood revived it. The water dynamics must have been incredibly low. The sea must have been out of water for an extended period of time.

The Black Sea isn’t the same ballgame, but there are many indicators of a longer-term shrinkage of habitable oxygen-rich waters and various trends indicating loss of water since the 1960s.

…So what happens next?

The human impact of these two seas shrinking could be truly horrific:

  • Loss of shipping.
  • Navigation issues as water levels drop.
  • Suez Canal shipping problems affecting global trade. (The Red Sea has similar issues.)
  • Severe trade routes disruption.
  • Supply chain disruption.
  • Hundreds of millions of people directly affected.
  • Reduced rainfall affecting crop yields.
  • Displaced people along the coastlines.

That’s the simple version. Disruption of food supplies alone could be catastrophic. The reduced water levels could also create additional dry land, which would act as an additional heat conductor, adding to the thermal issues and disrupting weather patterns.  

A point to make

There are absolutely no easy fixes for this situation. Stabilizing the climate is the absolute minimum requirement. Humanity pulls a truly huge amount of water out of the natural cycles, and now it’s coming back to bite. The carbon, oxygen and water cycles are fundamental to life on Earth.

The point to make is this:

Much better water management and returning water to the water cycle will do the job, perhaps slowly, but efficiently.  

What is the world waiting for?


The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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