Mathis, Jeremy T. Ocean Acidification Research Center, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska.
Last reviewed:March 2019
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- The CO2 problem
- Why is the ocean more acidic?
- What are the effects of a more acidic ocean?
- Ocean acidification effects and outlook
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The decrease in the pH of the ocean over time, as carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere is absorbed by and dissolves in seawater. Since the Industrial Revolution, rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and increased absorption of CO2 by the oceans have created an unprecedented ocean acidification (OA) phenomenon that is altering pH levels and threatening a number of marine ecosystems (Fig. 1). Although the average oceanic pH can vary on interglacial time scales, the changes are usually of the order of about 0.002 unit per 100 years; however, the current observed rate of change is about 0.1 unit per 100 years, or roughly 50 times faster. Even more disconcerting, regional factors such as coastal upwelling, changes in riverine and glacial discharge rates, and loss of sea ice have created OA “hotspots” where changes are occurring at even faster rates. See also: Acid and base; Carbon dioxide; Glaciology; Marine ecology; pH; Sea ice; Upwelling
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