Title Ocean Thermostat and Its Role in Tropical Ecosystem Response to Climate Change
Type Research Project
URL no url available
Abstract Within this century, coral reefs and other shallow marine ecosystems will be affected by increases in sea surface temperature (SST) associated with warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. The ocean thermostat may play an important role in how such ecosystems fare within a greenhouse earth, because those that exist in waters that are already near the thermostat value may not experience as much warming as others in cooler waters. For example, the increasing frequency and extent of coral bleaching episodes over the last few decades has emphasized the importance of predicting future SST increases in the tropics. A better understanding of the ocean thermostat will provide desperately needed information regarding which coral reefs, for example, are likely to experience the least SST change, and consequently which are best suited for protection. Our proposed project goals are to explore these issues, including the proposed thermostat mechanisms, in a set of coupled climate models. Although NCAR's Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3) is our primary target and tool, whenever possible we will consider other coupled models submitted to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. We emphasize the importance of the thermostat to coral reef ecosystems, although other shallow benthic marine ecosystems will certainly be affected by SST increases as well
Participants Joanie Kleypas
Janice Lough (Australian Inst. Mar. Sci.)
Gokhan Danabasoglu (CGD)
Start Date January 2006
Keywords ocean thermostat
coral bleaching
Research Themes Climate-Ecosystem-Human Interactions


"Because the pathway to sustainability cannot be charted in advance, it will have to be navigated through trial and error and conscious experimentation. The urgent need is to design strategies and institutions that can better integrate incomplete knowledge with experimental action into programs of adaptive management and social learning."
NRC, Our Common Journey (1999)