Understanding the current use and future needs of CO2 in seawater certified reference materials

Certified reference materials (CRMs) are fundamental for accurate and precise measurements of seawater CO2 system parameters and research related to ocean acidification and oceanic carbon cycles. Currently, there is a single global source of reference materials for total alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon, and pH in seawater and a calibrated HCl titrant for seawater alkalinity analysis (Andrew Dickson Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego). When production of these materials was halted during lab closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a shortage of CRMs ensued and highlighted the risks associated with having a single producer of CRMs. Distribution of CRMs was halted from for a year starting in March 2020. The U.S. Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification, which is responsible for coordinating U.S. federal activities related to ocean acidification, is engaging in efforts to increase resilience in the production and distribution of reference materials for the quality control of measurements of seawater CO2 system parameters. Increasing resilience of CRM production includes exploring multiple nodes of production inside the U.S. and whether a country outside of the United States could develop a production site. In parallel with U.S. efforts, the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) is also working to advance efforts to improve international CRM resilience through its program for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development: OARS, Ocean Acidification Research for Sustainability.

A new model for CRM production and certification, both within the US and internationally, must be informed by an understanding of the current and future use of CRMs. Specifically, it is vital to understand who uses CRMs, how and where CRMs are used, how many CRMs are currently used, and how many CRMs are expected to be used in the future. To better understand these aspects of CRM use, the GOA-ON executive secretariat created a questionnaire on CRM usage in collaboration with the Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification. The questionnaire was shared with the carbonate chemistry research community in April 2021. It was released approximately one month after Dr. Andrew Dickson presented a webinar in which he discussed his current reference material production system at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and options for the future of CRM production. The questionnaire was made available on social media platforms, including the Ocean Acidification Information Exchange, and was shared with webinar attendees. Additionally, the Dickson laboratory, GOA-ON, and the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program (OCB) shared the questionnaire with their contacts. The questionnaire was made available along with a link to a recording of Dr. Dickson’s webinar and a link to an Ocean Acidification Information Exchange post about the webinar which contains questions, discussions, and a pdf copy of the presentation slides. Members of the OA and carbonate chemistry research communities voluntarily elected to participate in the questionnaire. It was encouraged that only one representative from each laboratory or research group provide answers.

A total of 247 individuals voluntarily responded to the questionnaire, although not every participant responded to every question. This document describes the responses that were received. All responses are presented in aggregate form as all individual responses are confidential and will not be released publicly.

Acquafredda M., Cochran C., Busch D. S., Jewett L., Edmonds H. & Dickson A., 2022. Understanding the current use and future needs of CO2 in seawater certified reference materials. NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. Report.

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