University, partners deploy carbon dioxide-sensing underwater glider

Photo by Heather McFarland. Scientists and their industry partners aboard the research vessel Nanuq recover the carbon dioxide-measuring Seaglider after a test dive in the Gulf of Alaska.

Alaska has a new tool for tracking ocean acidification — a 7-foot-long, bright pink Seaglider. The University of Alaska Fairbanks and its commercial partners are the first U.S. team to measure carbon dioxide, the driving factor in ocean acidification, with an unoccupied underwater vehicle.

Globally, the pH of the ocean is decreasing as humans burn coal, oil and gas. When carbon dioxide from these activities is absorbed by the ocean, it affects the ability of marine organisms to build and maintain their shells and may also change the behavior of some fish.

The Gulf of Alaska’s cold waters naturally hold more carbon dioxide, so it only takes a little added human-made CO2 to reach a threshold that puts marine organisms at risk. Melting glaciers that dump freshwater into the ocean can further reduce the number of building blocks available for shells. 

Despite the urgent risk to commercial, subsistence and sport fishing in Alaska, data are lacking to determine the status of ocean acidification around the state.  

“In order to understand how the human-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere changes the oceans, we also need to know how ocean chemistry varies naturally throughout the year,” explained Claudine Hauri, an oceanographer at the UAF International Arctic Research Center.

Heather McFarland, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 23 May 2022. Full article.


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