How will these resources help you?

As with many aspects of the ocean, most of our understanding of how climate change affects it does not extend far beneath the surface. It is a cause for concern that changes in greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere are changing the nutrient dynamics of the water. However, the ocean also offers solutions to counteracting climate change. The hydrosphere is a complex system involving numerous cycles of nutrients. Iron enrichment of the ocean, for example, increases the productivity of phytoplankton which stimulates phytoplankton blooms, where carbon dioxide uptake from the atmosphere occurs at a much greater rate. This list aims to support teachers and older students in developing their understanding of these processes. The resources link well to the Carbon Cycles topic, which is a core area of A-level Geography.

What cycles make up the hydrosphere?

Biogeochemical Cycles and Climate

by Han Dolman, published by Oxford University Press, (2021), 9780192845269

This book is perfect for teachers and A-level students who want to understand all aspects of ocean systems and cycles. Dolman has been meticulous in covering all the most relevant cycles as well as how climate affects them. Chapters 8–11 cover cycles such as the hydrological cycle and how they link to the climate. Later chapters discuss other nutrients relevant to maintaining a healthy ocean and a summary of our future interactions with the climate and solutions to the current climate crisis. The book is written in an easily digestible way, so any reader looking for a good understanding of the hydrosphere would benefit from reading it.

How ocean acidification is caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations

Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean

by National Research Council, published by National Academies Press, (2010), 9780309153591

Focusing on improving the reader’s understanding of ocean acidification, this resource covers an initial explanation of the process before discussing its effects on different aspects of marine ecosystems. While it doesn’t discuss at length solutions to correct the salinity of seawater, this resource instead considers the current actions being taken as part of the National Ocean Acidification Program. An additional bonus from this resource is that as part of their explanation of ocean acidification, the socioeconomic concerns of this process are outlined and discussed within chapter 5. 

How is the carbon cycle affected by rising greenhouse gas concentrations?

Ocean Dynamics and the Carbon Cycle: Principles and Mechanisms

by Richard G. Williams and Michael J. Follows, published by Cambridge University Press, (2011), 9780521843690

One of the most important natural cycles occurring in the ocean is the carbon cycle, which all ocean organisms depend on for ventilating oceans with new organic carbon. However, its importance also extends to people on the surface: this is outlined in chapters 5 and 6, where the biological processes and chemical reactions with seawater are discussed. The authors go into great detail about each level of the carbon cycle (although they do provide the context to understand the majority of the content in this resource), so this is recommended for A-level students who already have some understanding of the hydrosphere.

How we can use the ocean to reduce greenhouse gas concentration

The Oceans: A Deep History

by Eelco J. Rohling, published by Princeton University Press, (2020), 9780691202648

Rohling is a paleoceanographer who studies how ancient oceans have changed, which is closely linked to climate change and provides a baseline against which to compare more recent ocean changes. In this book, Rohling explores the intertwining of human actions and changes to the climate and oceans. He considers both long-term and abrupt, short-term changes, linking them to consequences for ocean life and the whole planet. Chapters of particular interest to geographers include ‘Oceans on Acid’, ‘Winter is Coming’ and ‘Future Oceans and Climate’. The epilogue is a message of hope – we need to ‘step out of our fossil fuel comfort zone’ and act immediately on ‘more immediately resolvable issues of pollution, eutrophication and food-web disturbances’. 

Audiovisual clip

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures - The ocean and the earth’s climate

published by BBC, (2020)

A practical explanation of how climate change is affecting the Earth's oceans.

Further materials

Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans by Sylvia Earle, published by Texas A&M University Press, (2020), 9781623499044 Find this book
Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts, published by Penguin Books, (2013), 9780241950708 Find this book
Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and what We Can Do to Save Them by Ted Danson with Michael D'Orso, published by Rodale Press, (2021), 9781605292625 Find this book
Saving Planet Earth: What is destroying the earth and what you can do to help by Tony Juniper, published by Collins, (2007), 9780007261833 Find this book
Catherine Owen is Head of Geography at The King Alfred School – an Academy, CGeog and Geographical Association Consultant. She writes and presents for OUP, Hodder Geography, Tutor2U and more .

Jack Owen is an undergraduate studying MSci Marine Biology at the University of Southampton. He studies at the National Oceanographic Centre, a world leading research facility and collaborates with Catherine Owen to develop teaching ideas and resources linking the subjects of marine biology and geography.

Text © Catherine Owen and Jack Owen, 2022.