An annual update on the state of ocean acidification science in Alaska – 2019 update

What is Ocean Acidification?

Scientists estimate that the ocean is 30% more acidic today than it was 300 years ago, traceable to increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel burning and land-use change, such as deforestation. As human-generated CO2 is released into the atmosphere, about a third is absorbed by the ocean. The additional CO2 lowers the pH of the seawater, driving the process known as ocean acidification (OA). The current pace of OA is faster than any time on record — 10 times faster than the last major acidification event 55 million years ago.

Why is Alaska at Risk?

Ocean acidification is expected to progress faster and more severely in Alaska than lower latitudes. Waters in Alaska are both ‘cold and old’: cooler water temperatures and global circulation patterns mean that Alaska waters naturally hold more CO2 year round. On top of this high baseline concentration of CO2, other processes also make Alaska’s waters more naturally acidic on a seasonal scale.

Alaskan Ocean Acidification Network, December 2019. Report.


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