Why does the ocean absorb more of the incoming solar radiation than land surface

The purpose of the next two labs are to help you better understand what is happening in our

oceans due to climate change. This lab will be focused on the warming oceans and sea level rise

including how they will influence future human migration. The lab next week will be focused on

ocean acidification. By the end of this lab you should be able to better understand and discuss

the following concepts.

Ocean Warming:

• The factors that explain why 93% of the incoming solar radiation is going toward heating the oceans rather than land surfaces.

• How the thermal inertia of the ocean helps to minimize the warming of the Earth’s climate system.

• How warmer water impacts coral reefs and the “ocean food web”. • The impacts to cultures that have a close relationship to life surrounding the coral reefs.

Sea Level Rise:

• The difference between “sea ice” and “land ice” in relationship to sea level rise. • How melting of part or all of the Greenland Ice Sheet could raise sea level. • How the Antarctic Ice Sheet may cause significant impacts to sea level rise. • The impact that sea level rise could have on US towns and cities using a computer model

that predicts sea level rise in relationship to global average temperature rise.

Human migration:

• What is a “climate refugee”? • What is the difference between a “political refugee” and a “climate refugee”? • What are “Rights of Asylum” and how might this relate to climate change?

Questions are in blue and are worth 1 point unless otherwise noted.


Ocean Warming. 93% of incoming solar radiation has gone toward warming the Earth’s oceans.

70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean but they are dark in color so absorb more heat

than land surfaces.

While ocean warming has a profound impact on ocean organisms, the rate at which the ocean

warms is mediated by the Thermal Inertia it takes to change water temperature. Your Lab

Instructor will perform a “thermal inertia demonstration” with balloons to help better

understand the thermal inertia of oceans and how they absorb heat to maintain equilibrium with

the air temperature.

The ocean surface waters have warmed due to increasing air temperatures over the past century

and have caused massive outbreaks of coral bleaching and dying coral throughout the world.

There is great risk to coral in the future and the 2018 IPCC findings will be discussed. Two short

videos from the “Years of Living Dangerously” series will be shown to demonstrate this issue.

(for reference these videos are parts 1 Here, and part 2 Here)

Questions for Section I:

Q1: Why does the ocean absorb more of the incoming solar radiation than land surfaces?

(2 reasons)

Q2: The balloon did not pop, how might this provide a demonstration of the thermal

inertia of the ocean?

Q3: How much of the additional heat caused by the anthropogenic greenhouse effect has

been absorbed into the ocean? How much has it raised the ocean’s surface temp?

Q4: What impact do warmer ocean temperatures have on coral reefs? What percentage of

coral reefs have died due to warming oceans in the last 30 years?

Q5: What percentage of the ocean species are supported by coral reefs?

Q6: What does the IPCC say will happen to coral reefs with a 1.5 deg. C global average

temperature rise? With a 2.0 deg. C rise?

Q7: Essay Question. What did you know about coral reefs before this class? Consider

for a few minutes what is happening to the coral reefs and discuss in depth your thoughts

on this. 100-200 words minimum. (4 pts)

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