Scientists have been warning that the world’s oceans are becoming steadily more acidic, posing a threat to the oceanic food chain.
It is happening as some of the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed into sea water, where chemical reactions lead to a drop in pH.
Today, Amanda Mascarelli (a former student here at the CEJ) reports from the Geologic Society of America in Denver that the process appears to be happening more quickly than scientists had expected. Writing in The Great Beyond, a blog of breaking news in the journal Nature, she has this to say:
Thanks to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, some Arctic waters are already experiencing pH dips that could be harmful to sea life. What’s more, this acidification seems to be happening more rapidly than models have predicted.
This sobering conclusion was reached by researchers who met on Wednesday to discuss ocean acidification at the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver. “Models are probably underestimating at least by a few years the impact of ocean acidification in the Arctic,” says Jeremy Mathis, a chemical oceanographer at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. “We don’t know what the organisms’ responses are yet, but the conditions are already there to potentially be disruptive to the ecosystems.”
The pH is dropping faster than our models suggested. It is another indication of how scientists more often take a conservative approach when they work this stuff out.
The fact that the current La Nina may be one of the strongest ever means we are in for a pretty bad year. Of course, this is based on models that very well might underestimate the length of the La Nina. It’ll be colder and wetter in the Pacific NW while the south will be warmer and drier.