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Programmes Oceans

21st Century Ocean Institute

The 21st Century Ocean Institute was established at the Oxford Martin School in early 2009 for a three-year programme of research. Although funding of the Institute has finished, its Directors, Professor Gideon Henderson and Professor David Marshall remain actively involved with the School as Oxford Martin Senior Fellows.

The 21st Century Ocean Institute was an interdisciplinary research programme that sought to understand and quantify how the ocean will cause and respond to climate change in the 21st Century. 

The Institute's approach to research combined innovative computer modelling of ocean physics with state-of-the-art expertise of ocean chemistry to assess the response of the ocean system to the changing carbon cycle in the 21st century.

The oceans contain approximately forty times more carbon than the atmosphere and have absorbed roughly a third of the carbon released by burning of fossil fuels. During the 21st century, the ocean carbon cycle will experience changes never witnessed by humankind and unique in at least the last three million years. These changes will be both accidental, through increasing atmospheric CO2, and intentional, through carbon sequestration and geoengineering. They will have profound impacts on the chemistry and biology of the oceans themselves and, because of the significance of the oceans in the carbon cycle, to atmospheric CO2 levels and hence to future climate.