Oceans and climate

UVic oceanographer Roberta Hamme studies the ocean carbon cycle, which is fundamental to life—and our climate.

Understanding the oceans

How do ocean processes work? How do they interact to influence the diversity and abundance of ocean life? What mechanisms drive the complex relationship between oceans and climate?

How can we manage our ocean-based activities in a more sustainable way? And can the oceans help us meet our energy needs?

UVic is a national and international leader in the study of the oceans. We have strong links with the region’s thriving marine technology sector, and with scientists at several nearby research centres.

Researcher spotlight

The vital ocean-climate connection

Where does carbon go in the ocean and why? Where will it go next? Chemical oceanographer Roberta Hamme measures dissolved gases in the ocean to answer these questions about the carbon cycle, which is critical to life on Earth.

“Few people realize that the ocean ultimately controls atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), and that it currently absorbs about one-third of the excess CO2 that humans produce,” she says. “Determining how that absorption is evolving and what factors control it are essential to predicting the progression of climate change.”

Hamme studies air-sea gas exchange, biological productivity, and the transport of gases from the surface to the deep ocean. In 2010, she was lead author of a high-impact paper that linked iron fertilization by a volcanic eruption to the largest phytoplankton bloom ever recorded in the subarctic North Pacific.

Learn more about oceans research at UVic:

crab on instrument platform

Transforming ocean research

The University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada operates world-leading ocean observatories off the British Columbia coast and in the Arctic.

The regional NEPTUNE and coastal VENUS cabled observatories off BC supply continuous power and Internet connectivity to a broad suite of subsea instruments from the coast to the deep sea, supporting research on complex ocean and Earth processes in ways not previously possible.

Real-time flow of data to onshore laboratories and data centres permits rapid analysis of information on natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, storm surge, and underwater landslides.

ONC also operates a mini-observatory in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. It supports long-term studies of the dramatic changes taking place in Arctic waters and the impact on marine ecosystems.

The ONC Innovation Centre—one of Canada’s Centres for Commercialization and Research—is responsible for bringing advanced ocean observing technologies developed on ONC observatories to world markets.

Biogeochemist Michael Whiticar is investigating the processes behind Canada’s thawing permafrost and what it means for climate change.

Meeting the climate challenge

How do we better understand the science of global warming and its consequences? How do we make the right policy and technology decisions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize the impacts of climate change, and take advantage of economic opportunities?

Our researchers are working with governments, industry and community groups to find effective public policy and technological solutions.

UVic is a hub for climate change research. It leads and hosts the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), a multi-university initiative that conducts and promotes research on climate change science, impacts and mitigation solutions.

UVic is also home to the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC), which provides practical information on the physical impacts of climate variability and change in the Pacific and Yukon regions of Canada.

Researcher spotlight

Understanding Canada’s thawing North

Locked under the surface of Canada’s North for up to 40,000 years lies a frozen layer of permafrost. It does no harm to the environment while it’s frozen. But warming Arctic temperatures are changing all that.

The thawing permafrost is predicted to release two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year—about three times the amount emitted annually by Canadians. It’s also releasing methane gas, which has 21 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide.

Where is permafrost thawing most critical? How are large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide released? And is it possible to slow this process?

UVic biogeochemist Michael Whiticar is working to find answers in a long-term study of four sites in Canada’s Arctic. “We have to accurately understand the processes and magnitude of these emissions,” he says. “Only then can our predictions be useful to other scientists, policy-makers, and especially the public.”

Learn more about climate research at UVic: