Study: Pacific coast becoming more acidic

Scientists aboard a U.S. research ship have discovered high levels of acidified ocean water within 20 miles of the West Coast shoreline.

The international team of researchers aboard Oregon State University’s research vessel Wecoma surveying the waters of the continental shelf off the West Coast of North America said their finding raises concern for marine ecosystems from Canada to Mexico.
The scientists said they also discovered the corrosive, acidified water that’s being “upwelled” seasonally from the deeper ocean is probably 50 years old. That suggests future ocean acidification levels will increase, since atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have increased rapidly during the past half century.

“When the upwelled water was last at the surface, it was exposed to an atmosphere with much lower CO2 levels than today’s,” said OSU Associate Professor Burke Hales. “The water that will upwell off the coast in future years already is making its undersea trek toward us, with ever-increasing levels of carbon dioxide and acidity.

“The coastal ocean acidification train has left the station,” Hales added, “and there’s not much we can do to derail it.”

Results of the study appear in the online journal Science Express.

United Press International, 27 May 2008. Article.

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