File under: ‘it’s worse than we thought’

If I had a penny for every time I’ve read a paper that says climate change is worse than we thought, I’d have … well … over a pound by now. A colleague on Nature Reports Climate Change says she’d have “at least five pounds … maybe a hundred”.

Today’s example: the oceans are turning acidic faster than we thought.

“The increase in acidity we saw during our study was about the same magnitude as we expect over the course of the next century,” says Timothy Wootton, of the University of Chicago (National Geographic).

His study period was the last eight years.

More carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere puts more carbon in the oceans in the form of carbonic acid and drives down the pH of the water, notes Wootton, lead author of a new paper in PNAS. After looking at over 24,000 measurements of coastal ocean acidity, recorded over the last eight years off the coast of Washington state, he brings bad news:

This rate of decline is more than an order of magnitude higher than predicted by simulation models, suggesting that ocean acidification may be a more urgent issue than previously predicted, at least in some areas of the ocean.

Wootton told the Independent the finding was “an alarming surprise”. Of course this might just be a freak change at the site Wootton studied, so a global data set of ocean pH over time should be obtained as a matter of urgency, he adds.

The Great Beyond, 25 November 2008. Article.

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