Rapid warming and salinity changes in the Gulf of Maine alter surface ocean carbonate parameters and hide ocean acidification

A profound warming event in the Gulf of Maine during the last decade has caused sea surface temperatures to rise to levels exceeding any earlier observations recorded in the region over the last 150 years. This event dramatically affected CO2 solubility and, in turn, the status of the sea surface carbonate system. When combined with the concomitant increase in sea surface salinity and assumed rapid equilibration of carbon dioxide across the air sea interface, thermodynamic forcing partially mitigated the effects of ocean acidification for pH, while raising the saturation index of aragonite (ΩARΩAR ) by an average of 0.14 U. Although the recent event is categorically extreme, we find that carbonate system parameters also respond to interannual and decadal variability in temperature and salinity, and that such phenomena can mask the expression of ocean acidification caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. An analysis of a 34-year salinity and SST time series (1981–2014) shows instances of 5–10 years anomalies in temperature and salinity that perturb the carbonate system to an extent greater than that expected from ocean acidification. Because such conditions are not uncommon in our time series, it is critical to understand processes controlling the carbonate system and how ecosystems with calcifying organisms respond to its rapidly changing conditions. It is also imperative that regional and global models used to estimate carbonate system trends carefully resolve variations in the physical processes that control CO2 concentrations in the surface ocean on timescales from episodic events to decades and longer.

Salisbury J. E. & Jönsson B. F., in press. Rapid warming and salinity changes in the Gulf of Maine alter surface ocean carbonate parameters and hide ocean acidification. Biogeochemistry. Article.

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