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Ocean Conservancy expert testifies on coastal & ocean impacts of climate, acidification

WASHINGTON, DC – Rising carbon pollution is not only warming the world’s ocean – it’s also changing its very chemistry, marine scientist Sarah Cooley, Ph.D., told members U.S. House Committee on Science, Space & Technology Subcommittee on Environment today.

“Our ocean and the people who depend on it are facing unprecedented challenges,” Dr. Cooley warned. “The ocean is at risk, struggling to keep pace with rising temperatures, pollution, and the absorption of greenhouse gases.” Today’s hearing, Sea Change: Impacts of Climate Change on Our Oceans and Coasts, explored the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on oceans and U.S. coastal communities.

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Rapid warming and salinity changes mask acidification in Gulf of Maine waters

Why don’t we see ocean acidification in over a decade of high-frequency observations in the Gulf of Maine? The answer lies in a recent decade of changes that raised sea surface temperature and salinity, and in turn dampened the expected acidification signal and caused the saturation states of calcite minerals to increase. From 2004 to 2014, sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine were higher than any observations recorded in the region over the past 150 years. This greatly impacted both CO2 solubility and the sea surface carbonate system, as detailed in a recent paper in Biogeochemistry.

Over the 34 years of the time-series, the recent event is extreme, but interannual and decadal salinity and temperature variability also influenced carbonate system parameters, which makes it difficult to isolate and quantify an anthropogenic ocean acidification signal, especially if relying on shorter-term observations (Figure 1).

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Podcast: ocean acidification

Description: Guest Carl Lundin, Principal Marine and Polar Scientist in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature

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Ocean acidification impacts on coastal communities

Researchers gathered to formulate recommendations for policymakers on the mitigation, adaptation and research priorities needed to avoid the catastrophic impact of ocean acidification on coastal economies.


Ocean acidification is “one of the greatest scourges from the development of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to have both concrete and global impact,” H.S.H Prince Albert of Monaco.

The change in seawater chemistry caused by excess atmospheric CO absorbed by the ocean weakens coral reefs and slows their growth. A high CO2 ocean will affect marine organisms and the health of wider ecosystems, and has potentially huge consequences for coastal communities and their economies.

For researchers modelling the type and magnitude of ocean acidification impacts, for governments identifying policy interventions and for coastal communities seeking to maintain current economic activities and benefits, ocean acidification is a growing concern. This is where the Scientific Center of Monaco and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stepped in to help.

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The ocean acidification day of action

The Ocean Foundation has launched a new website that uses digital storytelling tools to engage users in learning about ocean acidification and encouraging them to get involved in the first OA Day of Action, on the 8th of January (8.1, for the pH of the ocean!)

The Baltimore based band Animal Collective took an interest in The Ocean Foundation’s efforts and wrote an exclusive song just for this website. The song, “Suspend the Time,” features sounds from coral reefs and is available for download exclusively through the OA Day of Action website.

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Development of a highly accurate pH sensor for monitoring ocean acidification

To contribute to the goal related to ocean acidification described in SDG14, continuous accumulation of ocean pH data is needed. There is great need for quality instrumentation to assess and monitor slight changes in seawater pH. To meet this need, JAMSTEC and Kimoto Electric Co., Ltd., have developed an in situ highly accurate pH sensor (Hybrid pH sensor: HpHS) for long-term seawater pH monitoring. The HpHS has two types of pH sensors (i.e. potentiometric pH and spectrophotometric pH sensors). HpHS corrects the value of the potentiometric pH sensor (frequently measuring) by the value of the spectrophotometric pH sensor making it possible to calibrate in situ with a standard solution.

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End-of-year update: seagrass may help protect corals from ocean acidification, Mote science affirms

Mote Marine Laboratory research in 2018 strengthened the concept that seagrasses could help protect nearby coral reefs from ocean acidification (OA), a chemistry shift occurring as part of global climate change.

The research, led by Mote Ocean Acidification Program Manager Dr. Emily Hall and in prep for submission to a peer-reviewed scientific journal,  examined coral physiology in the presence of seagrass in the lab and in the ocean.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book