Continuing evidence of “climate change” affecting UK seas

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP, see membership listed below) has published, 28th November 2013, its latest “report card” which seeks to assess how climate change is affecting UK seas.

Their press release states: ” For the first time, Arctic sea-ice coverage is considered by the report’s authors. A long-term decline is clearly apparent, with Arctic sea-ice extent retreating and the ice becoming thinner as temperatures rise. This may provide opportunities for European and Asian commercial ships to cross the globe via northern polar routes, but could herald other geopolitical challenges.

The report card explains how short term variability means some years will be cooler than others. However, long term records clearly demonstrate an overall warming trend in recent decades, which is expected to continue in the future.

In addition, the 2013 report’s regional maps highlight differences across the UK’s seas and show the importance of local-scale impacts. For instance, the movement of fish species — important to commercial and recreational fishermen — and how non-native species are expanding their range are both covered.

Some key findings in the 2013 MCCIP Report Card include:

  • Temperature records continue to show an overall upward trend despite short-term variability. For example, in the last decade, the average UK coastal sea surface temperature was actually lower in 2008-2012 than in 2003-2007.
  • The seven lowest Arctic sea-ice extents in the satellite era were recorded between 2007 and 2013. The continuing downward trend is providing opportunities for the use of polar transit routes between Europe and Asia by commercial ships.
  • Changes to primary production are expected throughout the UK, with southern regions (e.g. Celtic Sea, English Channel) becoming up to 10% more productive and northern regions (e.g. central and northern North Sea) up to 20% less productive; with clear implications for fisheries.
  • There continue to be some challenges in identifying impacts of climate change. These are due to difficulties distinguishing between short-term variability and long-term trends, and between climate drivers and other pressures.

Dr Matthew Frost of the Marine Biological Association and Chair of the MCCIP Report Card Working Group said: “The marine environment is subject to a wide range of man-made pressures but can also change in response to natural processes. Disentangling these factors to enable identification of current and potential future impacts of climate change continues to be one of the greatest challenges facing marine scientists today. We have sought to clearly explain these challenges whilst continuing to report on the rapid and significant impacts of marine climate change.”

Marine Environment Minister, George Eustice MP, said: “This report improves our understanding of how UK seas are already influenced by climate change and of potential changes in the future. Understanding these impacts, threats and opportunities is an essential basis for managing our marine environment.”

The report card highlights how little is known about climate change impacts on the “marine economy”, despite its importance for food (fish and aquaculture), energy (oil, gas and renewable energy), transport and coastal tourism and marine recreation. Coastal tourism and marine recreation is a key economic sector that could be highly sensitive to climate change (e.g. the threats of flooding, coastal erosion and opportunities for increasing visitor numbers), but little is known about future social and economic impacts.

Source: MMMCIP Press Release 28th November, 2013. For further details, see

Note: The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) was launched in March 2005 and is a partnership between scientists, government, its agencies, non-governmental organisations and industry.

MCCIP partner organisations are:

  • Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Northern Ireland
  • Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
  • Department of Energy and Climate Change
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland
  • Environment Agency
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • Isle of Man Government
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee
  • Marine Institute, Ireland
  • Marine Biological Association – Marine Environmental Change Network
  • Marine Management Organisation
  • Marine Scotland
  • Met Office
  • National Oceanography Centre
  • Natural England
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Seaweb
  • Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science
  • States of Guernsey
  • States of Jersey
  • University of East Anglia — Climatic Research Unit
  • Welsh Assembly Government

The MCCIP Secretariat is hosted at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

Contact Stephen Dye at Tel: 01502-524508 E-mail: email hidden; JavaScript is required

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