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Growing ocean acidity (2)

By: Floro Mercene

Due to of the amount of fossil fuels being burned over the past few hundred years, more and more CO2 has been added to the atmosphere. At least one-quarter of the carbon dioxide released by human activities dissolves into the ocean.

This dissolves into the seawater and reacts with the water to produce a weak carbonic acid. The ocean gradually becomes less alkaline and the level of carbonate is reduced. Calcium carbonate is required by organisms, such as corals and shellfish, to build skeletons and shells. They can’t grow properly in these conditions, wreaking havoc on the many organisms that live in and around coral reefs.

Some estimates suggest the oceans have become 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. And if CO2 continues to be emitted at the same rate by 2100, acidity will increase by about 150 percent.

The high CO2 levels also prevent ocean water holding as much oxygen, which makes it more difficult for organisms to survive. More CO2 is stored in the oceans and atmosphere, retaining greater amounts of heat and warming the planet more rapidly. As the temperature rises, the cycling of warm surface water and cool deep water is less pronounced, which prevents nutrients from reaching the surface, and prevents phytoplankton and other organic material from reaching the depths, potentially long-term implications for the marine food chain.

As a result of warming oceans, storms starting out on the oceans form over warm water and rely on heat and humidity to gather strength, raising the risk of bigger, more intense storms. Arctic ice is melting at a dangerous rate, and ocean currents shifting due to increased temperatures may be sufficient to release many gigatons of frozen methane (another greenhouse gas) from the seafloor, far too much to be oxidized by marine microbes.