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Posted Fri Nov 5 2010: from
Ocean pH dropping faster than expected
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.... "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."... One important source of carbonate ions is aragonite, a particularly soluble form of calcium carbonate. Seawater is usually saturated with aragonite. However a recent study in Biogeosciences estimated that by 2016, according to the IPCC's mid-range emissions projections, aragonite will fall below this level in some Arctic waters for at least one month a year. By the end of the century, it predicts that the entire Arctic Ocean could be under-saturated with respect to aragonite. "But we don't have to wait until 2016," says Mathis. "We're already seeing places in the Arctic where these under-saturations are happening now." High latitude waters in the Arctic and Antarctic are particularly sensitive to pH changes, as cold waters absorb more gas than warm waters.... The news gets worse. Several speakers on the panel, including Richard Feely, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who has been leading large-scale ocean surveys of acidification, warned that the acidity of seawater could double by the end of the century.
[Read more stories about: ocean acidification, short-term thinking, rights of nature, faster than expected]

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