Becoming Acidic

Its no secret that humans have affected the natural processes that dictate climate. No matter how much politicians bicker over the truth behind climate change, the overwhelming scientific data says that humans are to blame for Mother Nature going sick.

More evidence of this has just surfaced, after a team from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have been able to link the increase of carbon dioxide in the air and the levels of ocean acidification happening right now.

Ocean acidification is a process that has an effect on the way ocean some creatures live, and it is being spurred on by human greenhouse gas emissions. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is acidifying the ocean, which prevents ocean animals, like some snails, from forming their shells.

Widening Scope

The effect on shells was the original goal of the research, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. The researchers wanted to see how this acidification was affecting sea snails called pterapods.

However, the research quickly expanded into focusing on the increase of acidification in the Pacific Northeast. This region, from the Alaskan Aleutian islands to the southern tip of California, is the end of the Pacific currents, and where most of its naturally-occurring dissolved carbon goes. So, the pH level there is naturally more than waters may be elsewhere.

A previous study in 2001 allowed a comparison in how much the acidification has changed. By using statistical models to predict how much dissolved carbon should be in the water, the researchers determined how much of it was due to CO2 in the atmosphere. It turned out that these rates were comparable to the rates of atmospheric carbon emission.

The good news, for now, is that the increase of  11 micromoles per kilogram can easily be accommodated by the ocean. “It would take hundreds of thousands of years for the ocean to absorb the majority of CO2 that humans have released into the atmosphere,” says lead scientist Sophie Chu in a statement. “But at the rate we’re going, it’s just way faster than anything can keep up with.”

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