Arctic Ocean acidifying faster than southern seas, study finds

An international study suggests greenhouse gases are acidifying the Arctic Ocean at a faster rate than any of the world’s southern seas.

“What we know is that ocean acidification is actually stronger in the Arctic than in southern waters,” said Rashid Sumalia, a University of British Columbia researcher, who is one of 60 authors of the report released Monday in Bergen, Norway.

That makes the Arctic an early warning system for the planet’s other oceans, the report concludes.

The report, the first on acidification of the Arctic Ocean, is to be presented next week at a meeting in Sweden of the Arctic Council, an eight-member group of countries that ring the North Pole. Canada will assume the council’s chairmanship for a two-year term at that meeting.

Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is absorbed by ocean waters. The dissolved gas forms a weak acid and enough of it can change the pH level of large ocean areas.

The process is more pronounced in the Arctic, the study concludes, because cold water absorbs carbon dioxide more readily than warm water. The result is that some Arctic waters are already so acidic that sea creatures are likely to have trouble building shells, which are made of highly alkaline calcium carbonate.

Bob Weber, The Vancouver Sun, 7 May 2013. Article.

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