Oceans Ten Times More Acidic Than Thought

Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may make Earth’s oceans more acidic faster than previously thought—unbalancing ecosystems in the process, a new study says.

Since 2000, scientists have measured the acidity of seawater around Tatoosh Island off the coast of Washington state. The acidity increased ten times quicker than climate models predicted.

The research also revealed the corrosive effect of acidic oceans could trigger a dramatic shift in coastal species and jeopardize shellfish stocks.

“The increase in acidity we saw during our study was about the same magnitude as we expect over the course of the next century,” said study co-author Timothy Wootton, a marine biologist from the University of Chicago.

“This raises a warning flag that the oceans may be changing faster than people think,” he said.

Increased carbon dioxide emissions from human activities have led to a 30 percent rise in ocean acidity in the past 200 years.

Helen Scales, National Geographic News, 24 November 2008. Article.

[Comment from Jean-Pierre Gattuso: the terminology used in this article is not scientifically accurate. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7”. This definition does not apply to un-manipulated seawater now nor in the foreseeable future. Hence, the adjective “acidic” should not be used. Note that here are very few exceptions, for example in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents.]

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