Earth's oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide and turning acidic

Global warming is a sticky subject and many climate scientists that think global warming is real are also convinced that it was caused by human activities like burning fossil fuels, which led to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. 

Researchers have constructed new computer scenarios that show how the rapidity and timing of carbon dioxide emission cuts will affect ocean acidification in the future. According to Dr. Toby Tyrrell from the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science, a third of these carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the Earth's oceans, which is helpful in the case of global warming, but it is still negatively affecting the planet. The oceans are becoming acidic, which could eventually affect the biogeochemistry and ecosystems of the oceans.

Climate models have been made to understand how decreased carbon emissions will affect the Earth's climate, but now, Tyrrell, Dan Bernie (Met Office Hadley Centre), Jason Lowe (University of Reading) and Oliver Legge (SOES) have created a new model that simulates the different effects of mitigation scenarios on ocean acidification. Climate, ocean chemistry, and ocean-atmosphere interactions are taken into account to create these simulations. Such research could be helpful to policy makers because it helps form a timeline of what could result in what period of time with certain mitigation scenarios.

According to this research, a decrease in pH means an increase in acidity. In 1750, the global mean ocean surface pH was at 8.2, and now it is at 8.1. If carbon dioxide emissions are not cut, the researchers' simulations predict that the pH could decrease to as low as 7.7 by 2100. On the other hand, if carbon dioxide emissions are controlled, the simulations predict that the pH won't fall below 8.0 by 2100. Research indicates that there will be an emissions peak in 2016, then it will decrease by five percent each year after. 

"As far as we know, such a rate of change would be without precedent for millions of years, and a concern must be whether and how quickly organisms could adapt to such a rate of change after such a long period of relative stability in ocean pH," said Tyrrell. 

The study, "Influence of mitigation policy on ocean acidification" was published in Geophysical Research Letters in August 2010. 


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