Arctic Climate Emergency

ARCTIC OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

Concerned that ocean acidification was being left out of the global climate agenda, in 2005 the Royal Society published a full review of the issue: Ocean acidification due to increasing
atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The Catlin Arctic Survey in 2010 started to explore Earth’s "other" carbon dioxide problem: ocean acidification.

Approximately one quarter of all CO2 emissions are absorbed by the Earth’s oceans, at a rate of more than 20 million tons per day. Although this means the seas effectively reduce the impacts of this "greenhouse gas," the benefit does not come without a cost.

When CO2 dissolves in seawater, it forms a weak acid, called carbonic acid. The ocean has so far been able to naturally accommodate these changes, but as the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere increases, the oceans' capacity to absorb it without impact diminishes. This leads to a decrease in pH, or ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification risks a catastrophic positive climate feedback by impairing the marine biological carbon pump, which is the ultimate control of the climate system.

Research shows that oceanic acidification affects marine carbon pump and triggers extended marine oxygen holes.

Methane hydrate is widely distributed off continental margins holding several times all the methane in the atmosphere. It is most vulnerable to global warming in the Arctic and the cold Arctic water is most vulnerable to acidification.

The hydrate methane that is escaping increases ocean acidification – especially in the water layers near the sea floor, which up to now were thought to be less threatened (Kiel Leibniz Institute for Marine Sciences, “The Future Ocean” project, 2011).

Ocean acidification and anoxia from methane hydrates

New (2011) research has found that methane hydrate is deadly dangerous. A computer simulation at Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division found that large methane releases erode the ocean’s ability to consume methane. Methane hydrates will destabilize (break apart and release methane) as the Arctic ocean continues to warm. The simulation shows oxygen levels in the ocean plummet and acidification rises. “The amount of methane entering the ocean is huge and it changes the water chemistry dramatically.... It consumes oxygen, the microbes stop eating, and methane can reach the surface.... Large-scale methane releases have a greater impact than we anticipated.... When this happens, microbes cannot consume all of the methane because there isn’t enough oxygen to fuel them."

Arctic ocean
Ocean-Acidification-graphic
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