Ocean Acidification

In collaboration with NOAA, we will carry a continuous carbon dioxide level meter. The unit will sample dissolved CO2 throughout the expedition by running sea water through the meter, reporting ocean CO2 saturation levels back to NASA.The increasing amounts of CO2 in the planet’s atmosphere is being absorbed by the oceans. The additional CO2 is driving significant increase in acidity, threatening corals, shellfish and many plankton species that utilize calcium. Click here for the project overview from NOAA.

Here are a few of the points stressed in by the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA), in at the recent Coppenhagen climate change summit:

  1. The world’s oceans absorb approximately 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions
  2. Ocean acidity has increased by 30% since the begining of the industrial revolution – and this rate of change will accelerate to beyond anything seen in the last 55 million years.
  3. The impact of ocean acidification will affect major economic interests and damage valuable marine ecosystems…by 2050 conditions for warm water coral reefs will be marginal and we can expect extinction of some species

Here is an image of the change in ocean pH…decreases in this case are lower pH which is more acidic (source Wikimedia Commons)

The underlying increase in atmospheric CO2 drives concerns about ocean water acidity. Here is a profile of the dramatic shifts in the last 200 years. Since the industrial revolution, large amounts of once stored carbon have been released into the air- essentially returning from the deposits of once great plant forest and marine life hundreds of millions of years ago (Image source NASA).

Here are just a few links to information on Ocean Acidification