Wind Parks Can Help to Oxygenate the Ocean

22 April, 2024

Just as all life on land, life in the sea depends on oxygen.  But for the oxygen to penetrate to the depths, the gas must be able to mix through the layers of sea water. Groundbreaking British research shows that summer storms are important for keeping the ocean healthy. And wind power has a positive effect, shows the study, published in Nature Communications.

Differences in salinity and temperature cause different layers to form in the sea. The water in the depths is then isolated from the atmosphere, which is the most important source of oxygen.

The different layers of the ocean need to be mixed to oxygenate the deep water. The study shows that summer storms are a very important process for mixing.

Lead author Professor Tom Rippeth of Bangor University explains:

“There is growing concern for the health of the coasts of our oceans as the climate warms, as warmer waters have less oxygen. Life in the sea depends on oxygen to survive in the same way as animals on land. Oxygen is also used when decaying matter decomposes in the depths of the ocean. This creates a deficit of oxygen in the summer in the deep sea. As our climate warms, this deficit is projected to grow.”

The research team, from the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University, the University of Liverpool, and the National Oceanography Centre, used new techniques to estimate oxygen fluxes in the ocean. The results show that summer storms can slow the development of the oxygen deficit in deep water by as much as 50%.

The new results also show how offshore wind power can help ecology. When tides and currents pass the foundations of the wind turbines, turbulence occurs that mixes the oxygen-rich surface water with the deep water. This improves the health of the sea. The researchers state that the positive effect of wind power should be part of the planning of the construction of the foundations.

The UK study covers the sea around the British Isles, including the North Sea.

In the Baltic Sea, the situation is more serious. Large bottom areas are oxygen-free, “dead”.

The Baltic Sea is dependent on storms that can bring in oxygen-rich salt water from the Öresund and the Great Belt. With the British results, hope is growing that offshore wind power can help life in our troubled inland seas.

Text: Peter Löfgren
Photo: Stock Image

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