Wednesday, October 07, 2009

First Came Acid Rain, Now It's Acid Sea

Will the Arctic Ocean turn into a corrosive stew? Researchers now warn that parts of the Arctic Ocean could reach corrosive levels within a decade. From The Sunday Observer:

"This is extremely worrying," Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, told an international oceanography conference last week. "We knew that the seas were getting more acidic and this would disrupt the ability of shellfish – like mussels – to grow their shells. But now we realise the situation is much worse. The water will become so acidic it will actually dissolve the shells of living shellfish."

Just as an acid descaler breaks apart limescale inside a kettle, so the shells that protect molluscs and other creatures will be dissolved. "This will affect the whole food chain, including the North Atlantic salmon, which feeds on molluscs," said Gattuso, speaking at a European commission conference,
Oceans of Tomorrow, in Barcelona last week. The oceanographer told delegates that the problem of ocean acidification was worse in high latitudes, in the Arctic and around Antarctica, than it was nearer the equator.

"More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm," he said. "Hence the problem of acidification is worse in the Arctic than in the tropics, though we have only recently got round to studying the problem in detail."

About a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by factories, power stations and cars now ends up being absorbed by the oceans. That represents more than six million tonnes of carbon a day.


LMA said...

We have already lost one fifth of coral reefs as a result of the acidification of the oceans, another blow to marine life and the food chain. Oh well, the geoengineers will figure out a way to seed the oceans with some sort of alkaline poison and fix everything, right?

The Mound of Sound said...

Actually LMA, I think the only chance the seas (and marine life) have is that, within a couple of centuries, mankind's carbon footprint is largely erased. We actually have the technology to do that, to de-carbonize our economies and our societies, but the resistance to it is at the very powerful end of the pecking order.

I'm coming to Gwynne Dyer's view that, long before we in the West face the real impacts of global warming, we'll resolve our differences through war anyway.