Diverging seasonal extremes for ocean acidification during the twenty-first century

How ocean acidification will affect marine organisms depends on changes in both the long-term mean and the short-term temporal variability of carbonate chemistry1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Although the decadal-to-centennial response to atmospheric CO2 and climate change is constrained by observations and models1, 9, little is known about corresponding changes in seasonality10,11,12, particularly for pH. Here we assess the latter by analysing nine earth system models (ESMs) forced with a business-as-usual emissions scenario13. During the twenty-first century, the seasonal cycle of surface-ocean pH was attenuated by 16 ± 7%, on average, whereas that for hydrogen ion concentration [H+] was amplified by 81 ± 16%. Simultaneously, the seasonal amplitude of the aragonite saturation state (Ωarag) was attenuated except in the subtropics, where it was amplified. These contrasting changes derive from regionally varying sensitivities of these variables to atmospheric CO2 and climate change and to diverging trends in seasonal extremes in the primary controlling variables (temperature, dissolved inorganic carbon and alkalinity). Projected seasonality changes will tend to exacerbate the impacts of increasing [H+] on marine organisms during the summer and ameliorate the impacts during the winter, although the opposite holds in the high latitudes. Similarly, over most of the ocean, impacts from declining Ωarag are likely to be intensified during the summer and dampened during the winter.

Kwiatkowski L. & Orr J. C., in press. Diverging seasonal extremes for ocean acidification during the twenty-first century. Nature Climate Change. Article (subscription required).


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