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UK Facts

  • Scotland and the worldThe global abundance of cold water corals has only recently been appreciated, following the discovery by UK researchers in the 1990s of extensive deep-water reefs in the North East Atlantic. The Darwin Mounds off NW Scotland are now a Special Area of Conservation.
  • The air delivers our weather, the sea our climate. More heat is stored in the top 5 m of the ocean than in all the Earth's atmosphere, and around 25% of the heat input to the UK is first absorbed by the surface waters of the North Atlantic.
  • The UK has the largest wave, tidal and offshore wind resources in Europe. Such energy sources could potentially provide 15-20% of UK electricity. More about Marine Renewables energy...
  • Tracking devices have been developed by UK researchers to follow the movements of fish, sea mammals and turtles. For seals, mobile phone technology is used to transmit data back to researchers.
  • Long range weather forecasts for Europe are now based on temperatures in the top 2 km of the North Atlantic. This information is automatically collected by profiling Argo floats, based on a UK invention.
  • UK-designed 'smart buoys' provide rapid detection of environmental change in shelf sea waters with satellite-based data transmission.
  • The UK- developed Autosub (autonomous underwater vehicle) made the world's first ever surveys under ice shelves in Antarctica and Greenland, providing unique data on how a warmer ocean might accelerate the loss of ice from land.
  • The most accurate sea surface temperature measurements from space depend on a UK invention, the Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR), developed in the 1980s by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
  • UK scientists pioneered experiments showing that adding iron can stimulate marine productivity. For most of the ocean, this process occurs naturally; however, in some regions, adding extra iron could help slow global warming (if potential benefits were considered to outweigh potential risks).
  • New calculations by UK researchers and international colleagues indicate that the ocean releases around 27 million tonnes per year of sulphur to the atmosphere as dimethyl sulphide (DMS). This biologically-produced gas plays an important role in cloud formation, especially in the southern hemisphere.
  • UK analyses of satellite data found that Arctic winter sea ice was on average 10% [26 cm] thinner than usual in 2007/08. In the previous summer, total ice cover fell by 1.6 million sq km - more than six times the UK land area.
  • The UK pioneered storm surge models that combine tidal predictions, tide-gauge data and meteorological information to give up to two days warning of coastal flood events.
  • The UK leads the international co-ordination of research on air-sea exchange processes, climate variability and prediction, and ocean ecosystem dynamics. The UK also hosts global data centres for sea level measurements and sea-floor mapping.
  • Human health depends on iodine from the sea. A UK scientist first identified the natural pathways that link the release of organic iodine compounds from marine algae to the trace amounts of iodine in rainfall and soil.
  • UK researchers pioneered the automatic measurements of upper ocean CO2 from commercial ships. They found that the North Atlantic uptake of CO2 halved between 1995 and 2002; since then it has partly recovered (for reasons that are not well understood).
  • In the developing world, 60% of the people obtain more than 30% of their protein supply from fish.