Ocean basin ocean acidification

A new study shows that rising acidification in the world’s oceans is widespread.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is more than a global warmer; it’s also an ocean acidifier. The ocean is a huge reservoir of dissolved CO2 — with nearly 40,000 billion tons of carbon dissolved as CO2 in its vast waters, compared to 750 billion tons in the atmosphere.

We’re fortunate that the ocean is capable of absorbing even more (see my earlier posts here and here). Within about a year of being emitted, some 25 percent of the CO2 put into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels and deforestation is transferred into the ocean. Eventually, within centuries, a large fraction of the remaining emitted CO2 will find its way into the ocean depths.
Oceans’ Ability to Absorb CO2 Provides a Buffer From Even Warmer Climes

Why are we fortunate? If it weren’t for the ocean uptake of CO2, the climate impact of CO2 emissions would be a lot more intense and longer lived. But as with many things in this world, there’s a catch to the ocean buffer. Basic solution chemistry tells us that when CO2 is dissolved in water, it turns into an acid — namely, carbonic acid. And so it’s expected that CO2 dissolved in seawater would render the water more acidic.

Theory tells us that the change in the ocean’s acidity from anthropogenic CO2 will be small — for those of you familiar with the pH scale of acidity, we’re talking so far about a decrease in pH of 0.1 unit since the Industrial Revolution (a change of about -0.3 pH is expected by mid-century).

Scientific American, 26 January 2010. Full article.

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