Climate Change Could Increase Economic Opportunity Alongside Hostile Conditions at Sea

The future of Earth’s oceans is getting more mysterious and interesting as climate change instigates new and sometimes unforeseen conditions. These changes have already created new opportunities for scientific study, technological advancement, and economic exploitation. Seafaring humans have long been at the forefront of scientific innovation because the sea is such a volatile, ever-changing aspect of the planet to explore. In the coming decades, Earth’s climate will morph into new modes faster than it has in the past, challenging humanity’s most formidable ability: the ability to adapt to new environments. Here’s a look at some nautical situations affected, and how tech is allowing us to adapt to living on the cutting edge between science fiction and often-times bleak meteorological fact.

Dead Water

Dead Water is a sailor’s slang for ocean surface conditions that cause a seemingly-mysterious lag in speed and steering disruption. Melting glaciers release a layer of near-freezing, fresh water into the warmer, salty ocean. Gradually, the freshwater will mix in with the seawater but the temperature and salinity differences cause pools of often times calm, freshwater to float on the surface of the more dense saltwater.

While the effect isn’t always visibly noticeable, a boat can become trapped or experience the sensation of being pulled and pushed around by waves created by disturbing the subsurface saltwater layer. The surface of the water remains calm, yet a boat can lose all control and become unable to resist ocean wave fluctuations taht can’t be seen on the surface at all. If the boat stops in dead water, there is no wake to pull it backward, and there is nothing churning up the deeper saltwater layer – it often seems like there is no current. When the boat tries to move again, the wave pulls it backwards, counter-intuitive to a sailor’s understanding of how wind or engine power should normally propel the boat.  This video really explains it better than words can. Check it out:

Storm Activity Will Affect Shipping and Trade Activity, World Economy

International shipping companies have a lot to lose if they don’t adapt. The adaptation process if often behind where it could be because trade corporations are unwilling to share  proprietary technology regarding safety and ETA projections when planning  and choosing optimum shipping routes. Many of these trade secrets seem to be of dubious cost effectiveness. but are increasing in effectiveness as demand increases. For example: Climatological Ship Resistance (CSR) analyzes the  historical wind and wave data in an attempt to predict conditions, an energy hog of a computer problem that requires additional personnel and training to use but are being used more and more as shipping companies struggle to remain competetive.   Predicting maritime weather is a huge tech industry that is relatively unknown outside the industry. Historically, isolated tech communities aren’t able to grow as fast or efficiently.

The shipping industry is enormous and it’s difficult to interpret the available data but delays, spoiled and lost cargo are all on the rise. Weather conditions can cause crowding at ports, as boats unexpectedly change destinations or show up ahead or behind schedule. A boat ahead of schedule is rare but can actually cause further delays. A currently unfolding drama at the the twin CA ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach where about 40 percent of all imports in the USA show up. Beginning in October of 2014, ships commonly languish offshore for days and weeks while other boats are unloading.


Climate change causes highly elevated levels of CO2 in the ocean which leads to ocean acidification and indirectly or directly threatens every type of edible ocean creature. A great example is the depressingly undeniable case of the shells of young oysters and other calcifying organisms getting thinner and weaker over time as the acidic ocean thins calcium in the shells. UK scientist-in-chief, Sir Mark Walport has warned that the acidity of the oceans is up by about 25% since the the industrial revolution began.

In a recent study, we’ve found most fish not fast enough at adapting to acidification, and humanity should expect to see massive species collapse int he coming decades. Tropical fish and lobstersT are changing locations as they take advantage of warmer sea climates popping up unexpectedly.  Tropical fish might be susceptible to more parasites in hotter water while lobsters overeat,  endangering other habitats and species.

Read more about Climate Change on Cosmoso:

Harvesting electricity from wave and riptide activity

Riptides are amazingly powerful underwater currents. Devices that can withstand deep ocean conditions yet also remain accessible for repairs and upgrades are currently under development and market experimentation. Riptides are particularly appropriate for energy harvesting because they are predictable and consistent. Check out this video to gain a sense of how powerful ocean currents can be.

Wave energy is a renewable resource that is gaining attention as fledgling efforts have had some success. Here’s a great description of the proposed and attempted wave harvesting operations.

Changes to transcontinental, submerged communication fiber-optic lines.

Harsher undersea conditions might make repairing existing internet and phone fiber-optics more complicated but confusing surface conditions can sometimes allow the security to be compromised, as industrial and international espionage operations attempt to hack or sabotage communication lines. On the positive side, thawing polar ocean regions are allowing a previously impossible transoceanic cable to be built. More details about underwater communication cables here.

New examples of climate change are likely to pop up. There are going to be unexpected aspects to Earth’s oceans in the coming years. Preparation and adaptability are crucial in order to properly take advantage of these conditions or protect ourselves from the effects. The smart move for the future economy and world health would be to increase science education and increase funding toward scientific research.

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY