500 years of ocean change

The global ocean has changed dramatically since Ferdinand Magellan undertook the first circumnavigation of the world  in 1519-1522. The ocean has increasingly become a connecting element among nations and people, while the human impact has largely increased and ocean observation is now an important tool in managing its waters.

This visual, based on scientific data, shows how the ocean has evolved in terms of temperature, acidity, sea-level, ice-cover, plastic pollution, shipping, stocks of larger animals, etc. in the past 500 years. It also displays some of the efforts made with regard to ocean observation. This graphic is produced by artist Glynn Gorick and by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), in cooperation with the Oceans Past Initiative (OPI).

For a high resolution version of the infographic, click HERE

500 years of ocean change


Extended legend:

1. Carbon Dioxide in the Atmoshpere – NOAA
2. Sea Surface Temperature anomaly – ERSST4 – NOAA
3. Global Mean Sea Level – Church & White 2011
4. Ocean Acidity – adapted from Mackenzie et al. 2011
5. Arctic Summer Sea Ice Cover – Kinnard et al. 2011
6. Global Human Population – Kremer 1993 & US Census Bureau
7. The Changing Designs of Ships
8. Stocks of Large Predatory Fish
9. Plastic Debris in the Ocean – Barnes et al. 2009
10. Populations of Large Sea Mammals – Christensen 2006
11. Ocean Observation – methods of taking measurements

1. Carbon Dioxide in the Atmoshpere – NOAA

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations from Law Dome in Antarctica.

For 1500-2004 AD:
MacFarling Meure, C., D. Etheridge, C. Trudinger, P. Steele, R. Langenfelds, T. Van Ommen, A. Smith, and J. Elkins, 2006: Law dome CO2, CH4 and N2O ice core records extended to 2000 years BP. Geophysical Research Letters, 33 (14), L14810, DOI: 10.1029/2006GL026152.
Full text: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2006GL026152/pdf
Exact data can be consulted at NOAA: ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/antarctica/law/law2006.txt

For 2004-2016:
Exact data can be consulted at NOAA/ESRL: ftp://aftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/products/trends/co2/co2_annmean_mlo.txt

2. Sea Surface Temperature anomaly – ERSST4 – NOAA

Global SST anomaly (K or °C) versus 1971-2000 average SST

Boyin Huang, Viva F. Banzon, Eric Freeman, Jay Lawrimore, Wei Liu, Thomas C. Peterson, Thomas M. Smith, Peter W. Thorne, Scott D. Woodruff, and Huai-Min Zhang, 2015: Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature (ERSST), Version 4. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. doi:10.7289/V5KD1VVF

Data from: ERSST4-NOAA: https://data.nodc.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/iso?id=gov.noaa.ncdc:C00884

3. Global Mean Sea Level – Church & White 2011

Church JA, White NJ. 2011. Sea-level rise from the late 19th to the early 21st Century. Surveys in Geophysics, 32 (4), 585-602.
Full text: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10712-011-9119-1

Data from: http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_data_cmar.html

4. Ocean Acidity – adapted from Mackenzie et al. 2011

Mackenzie FT, Andersson AJ, Arvidson RS, Guidry MW, Lerman A. 2011. Land-sea carbon and nutrient fluxes and coastal ocean CO2 exchange and acidification: Past, present, and future. Applied Geochemistry 26, S298-S302.
Abstract: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0883292711001661

5. Arctic Summer Sea Ice Cover – Kinnard et al. 2011

40-year smoothed reconstructed late-summer Arctic sea ice extent.

Kinnard C, Zdanowicz CM, Fisher DA, Isaksson E, Vernal A, Thompson LG. 2011. Reconstructed changes in Arctic sea ice over the past 1,450 years. Nature (479), 509-512.
Abstract: https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v479/n7374/full/nature10581.html

6. Global Human Population – Kremer 1993 & US Census Bureau

For 1500-1950 AD: Kremer M. 1993. Population growth and technological change: one million B.C. to 1990. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 108 (3), 681-716.
Full Text: http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/210a/readings/kremer1993.pdf

For 1950-2016 AD: US Census Bureau
Data from: https://www.census.gov/population/international/data/worldpop/table_population.php

7. The Changing Designs of Ships

B. Landström, 1972. Het schip: de geschiedenis van het schip van primitief vlot tot atoom-onderzeeboot met reconstructies in woord en beeld, Septuaginta – Hoofddorp. 309 pp.

Université de Montréal: http://www-labs.iro.umontreal.ca/~vaucher/History/Ships_Discovery/

Martin Stopford (pers. comm.)

Corbett & Winebrake, 2008. The Impact of Globalisation on International Maritime Transport Activity, past trends and future perspectives. Contribution to the OECD/ITF Global Forum on Transport and Environment in a Globalising World, 10-12 Nov 2008. Guadalajara, Mexico.
Full text: http://www.oecd.org/greengrowth/greening-transport/41380820.pdf

8. Stocks of Large Predatory Fish

Worm B, Sandow M, Oschlies A, Lotze HK, Myers RA. 2005. Global patterns of predator diversity in the open oceans. Science 309, 1365-1369.
Abstract: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/309/5739/1365
Supplementary information: http://www.fmap.ca/ramweb/papers-total/Worm_etal_2005_Supplement.pdf

Worm B, Davis B, Kettemeyer L, Ward-Paige CA, Chapman D, Heithaus R, Kessel ST, Gruber SH. 2013. Global catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks. Marine Policy 40, 194-204.
Abstract: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308597X13000055

Dickey-Collas M, Nash RDM, Brunel T, van Damme CJG, Tara Marshall C, Payne MR, Corten A, Geffen AJ, Peck MA, Hatfield EMC, Hintzen NT, Enberg K, Kell LT, Simmonds EJ. 2010. Lessons learned from stock collapse and recovery of North Sea herring: a review. ICES Journal of Marine Science 67, 1875-1886.
Full Text: www.vliz.be/imisdocs/publications/256670.pdf

9. Plastic Debris in the Ocean – Barnes et al. 2009

Plastic debris in the ocean as a percentage of plastic production

Barnes DKA, Galgani F, Thompson RC, Barlaz M. 2009. Accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 364, 1985-1998.
Full text: www.vliz.be/imisdocs/publications/213208.pdf

Plastic production : Plastics Europe: http://www.plastics.gl/market/plastics-the-facts-2014/

Jambeck JR, Geyer R, Wilcox C, Siegler TR, Perryman M, Andrady A, Narayan R, Lavender Law K. 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347 (6223), 768-771.
Full text: https://www.iswa.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Calendar_2011_03_AMERICANA/Science-2015-Jambeck-768-71__2_.pdf

Cózar A., Echevarria F, González-Gordillo JI, Irigoien X, Úbeda B, Hernández-León S, Palma AT, Navarro S, Garcia-de-Lomas J, Ruiz A, Fernández-de-Puelles ML, Duarte CM. 2014. Plastic debris in the open ocean. PNAS 111 (28), 10239-10244.
Full text: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/28/10239.full.pdf

With special thanks to the members of the British Plastics Historical Society for their suggestions and personal comments.
British Plastics Historical Society: http://plastiquarian.com

10. Populations of Large Sea Mammals – Christensen 2006

Christensen LB, 2006. Marine Mammal Populations: Reconstructing historical abundances at the global scale. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 14 (9). ISSN 1198-6727. (161 pp).

More information on recent trends: Magera AM, Mills Flemming JE, Kaschner K, Christensen LB, Lotze HK. 2013. Recovery trends in marine mammal populations. PLoS ONE 8 (10): e77908. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077908
Full text: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0077908

11. Ocean Observation – Methods of Taking Measurements

Information collected by the artist.

See the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) for more details. (http://www.goosocean.org/index.php?option=com_oe&task=viewDocumentRecord&docID=5488)

Privacy Statement