The potential impact of nuclear conflict on ocean acidification

We demonstrate that the global cooling resulting from a range of nuclear conflict scenarios would temporarily increase the pH in the surface ocean by up to 0.06 units over a 5‐year period, briefly alleviating the decline in pH associated with ocean acidification. Conversely, the global cooling dissolves atmospheric carbon into the upper ocean, driving a 0.1 to 0.3 unit decrease in the aragonite saturation state (Ωarag) that persists for ~10 years. The peak anomaly in pH occurs 2 years post‐conflict, while the Ωarag anomaly peaks 4‐5 years post‐conflict. The decrease in Ωarag would exacerbate a primary threat of ocean acidification: the inability of marine calcifying organisms to maintain their shells/skeletons in a corrosive environment. Our results are based on sensitivity simulations conducted with a state‐of‐the‐art Earth system model integrated under various black carbon (soot) external forcings. Our findings suggest that regional nuclear conflict may have ramifications for global ocean acidification.

Lovenduski N. S., Harrison C. S., Olivarez H., Bardeen C. G., Toon O. B., Coupe J., Robock A., Rohr T. & Stevenson S., in press. The potential impact of nuclear conflict on ocean acidification, Geophysical Research Letters. Article (subscription required).

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