Arctic Ocean is getting more acidic: what does it mean?

The Arctic Ocean is not only getting warmer but even more acidic. An international research team for Nature Climate Change found a rapid rise in acidification in the western Arctic Ocean.
Why? What could be the consequences? Let’s try to understand this phenomenon.

In this study, researchers from all over the world analyzed ocean acidification of the Arctic Ocean and compared the results with the historical data from 1990 to 2010. In only 15 years acidified waters have expanded north about 300 nautical miles from Alaska to just below the North Pole and not just on the sea surface: the depth of acidified waters was found to have increased, from approximately 325 feet to over 800 feet (or from 100 to 250 meters).

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Why is water acidifying?

Acidification is becoming a big problem all over the world, due to climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is growing and it is absorbed by seawater where chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals. One fourth of the carbon dioxide floating in the atmosphere is absorbed by water. These chemical reactions are termed “ocean acidification” or “OA” for short.

What are the consequences?

Ocean Acidification is a potential threat to shellfish, the marine ecosystem and the fishing industry.

Calcium carbonate minerals are the building blocks for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms. In areas where most life now congregates in the ocean, the seawater is supersaturated with respect to calcium carbonate minerals. This means there are abundant building blocks for calcifying organisms to build their skeletons and shells. However, continued ocean acidification is causing many parts of the ocean to become undersaturated with these minerals, which is likely to affect the ability of some organisms to produce and maintain their shells.

 

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