How Does Global Warming Contribute To The Formation Of Dead Water Zones?

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Global warming decreases the oxygen dissolution rate, which results in the suffocation of marine life and forms dead water zones.

Everywhere we look, the climate crisis is growing more dire. The polar ice caps are melting, there are regular floods in cities like Venice, forest fires are raging in Australia and Brazil, and the loss of habitat for a variety of different animals is becoming all to normal, all thanks to global warming. However, these are only a few examples of the havoc that global warming has the potential to wreak all over the globe. The production of dead water zones is yet another!

Global warming has been found to form dead water zones in large water bodies. As the average temperature of the earth rises, the occurrence of flora and fauna is also affected. Dead water zones begin to expand as the oxygen content of a water body declines. Due to the absence of oxygen, the plethora of living creatures that depend on it will fail to flourish. This is why the expansion of dead water zones is becoming such a significant concern in terms of global warming!

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What Exactly Is Global Warming?

The phrase “global warming” seems to be on everyone’s tongue—and with good reason—but many people are still unclear about what it actually means. Essentially, the heat energy coming from the sun is welcomed in two ways by our atmosphere. A very small percentage is absorbed by the atmosphere, while a majority of it is reflected. The normal functioning of this phenomenon is responsible for keeping Earth habitable.

Global warming is a real threat for our civilization(Sergei25)S
The Increase In The Average Temperature of Earth is called global warming (Photo Credit : Sergei25/Shutterstock)

However, due to the accumulation of pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the phenomenon mentioned above is taking place in an abnormal fashion. An increasingly large percentage of the sun’s heat is being absorbed, bringing about a change in the average temperature of the earth. This increase in temperature is commonly referred to as global warming.

As we can clearly see, global warming has resulted in the melting of ice caps, thereby causing an increase in the global sea level. The adverse effects of global warming might be an inescapable reality for a majority of countries in the future, but for small islands, it’s already a clear and present danger. This is because these island nations have a more vulnerable topography than so many others. They possess a thinner landmass, low elevation, and have no higher ground available when the waters rise.

The bottom line is, global warming is causing detrimental changes to our planet, and these changes are taking place quicker than ever.

Also Read: What If We Did Not Have Greenhouse Gases?

What Are Dead Water Zones?

Now let’s talk about the second part of our topic. Dead water zones primarily represent a state of hypoxia in our planet’s oceans. This means that the oxygen content of the water is highly reduced, due to which a majority of oxygen-dependent animals die as a result of suffocation, which causes the formation of a dead zone. However, if the fauna is mobile, then they may abandon the area and move elsewhere.

Dead fish due to polluted water(Ivy Yin)s
A shoal of Dead Sea creatures washed ashore (Photo Credit : Ivy Yin/Shutterstock)

It is often suggested that the mineral-rich effluents from industries drained directly into water bodies cause the formation of dead water zones. However, interestingly enough, oceans also contain natural dead water zones. From a depth of 600-1200 meters, there exists very little oxygen in any water body. This is referred to as the Oxygen Minimum Zone. Flora and fauna are also very negligible in the Oxygen Minimum Zone, which is why it is considered equivalent to a dead water zone.

Also Read: What Is The Benthic Zone?

How Does Global Warming Cause The Expansion Of Dead Water Zones?

The use of the term ‘expansion’ shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, as natural dead water already exists in the oceans, which does negligible harm to marine life as a whole. However, due to the exacerbating actions of greenhouse gases, these dead water zones are expanding at an alarming rate. This expansion is resulting in the extinction of thousands of marine species.

But how does Global Warming contribute to this tragedy? What you have to remember is that global warming is basically just an increase in temperature. This change not only affects the terrestrial temperature, but also the temperature of water bodies. Due to this rising temperature, the dissolution rate of oxygen in the water drops. As such, all the marine life flourishing in that area finds it difficult to respire and eventually dies, thereby expanding the dead water zone.

The decreased level of oxygen in water bodies will not only kill animals, but also cause the abnormal migration of fish into distant waters. This will directly affect fishing patterns and pose serious issues for fishermen.

Side wiew of dirty water discharging from rusty pipe into the river(Mettus)S
The most common factor that contributes to formation of dead water zones are effluents and untreated waste from industries. (Photo Credit : Mettus/Shutterstock)

Also Read: How Vital Is The Ocean Ecosystem?


Whenever we talk about global warming, the polar ice caps seem to take center stage. However, global warming has its claws in far worse consequences pertaining to rampant destruction. This damage can be caused by catastrophes or by gradual processes, such as the formation of dead water zones. As such, our only resort is sustainability. Many nations have begun to advocate blue and green economies. However, individual efforts towards greener behavior is also essential, so get involved and do your part!

Also Read: Would Oceans Become Less Salty If All The Polar Ice Caps Melted?

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References (click to expand)
  1. What is a dead zone? - NOAA's National Ocean Service. The National Ocean Service
  2. Atoll nations at immediate risk of climate change - DownToEarth. Down to Earth
  3. Dead Zone - National Geographic Society. National Geographic
  4. Global Warming 101 - Definition, Facts, Causes and Effects of .... The Natural Resources Defense Council
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About the Author

Bhoomika has a degree in Biological Sciences from Sophia Girls College, Ajmer. Apart from writing, she adores travelling to offbeat destinations that offer more than just tourism. Being a strong supporter of women in STEM, she derives her inspiration from trailblazing personalities such as Marie Curie and Jane Goodall.