Global climate change

Ocean acidification likely to get worse as atmospheric CO2 steadily climbs

By Brett Anderson, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
8/03/2018, 12:59:28 PM

New research shows that increasing global CO2 emissions are continuing to lower the pH of the oceans (making them more acidic), which in turn is killing off coral reef, kelp forests and other marine life.

The pH of oceans have dropped 0.1 units since the start of the industrial revolution, which is equal to a 30 percent increase in acidity. Estimates are that by the end of the century the oceans could have a 150-percent increase in acidity, which has not occurred in the world's oceans for more than 20 million years.

Impacts of rising temperatures and acidification of coral reefs. Courtesy National Geographic and YouTube.

If CO2 levels continue to rise at their current rate, we may potentially see catastrophic impacts on coral reefs in the coming decades due to further ocean acidification..

The international research team looked at recently discovered volcanic CO2 seeps off the coast of Japan.

Ocean currents in the area mean there are naturally low levels of surface water CO2, similar to those that would have been present before the global Industrial Revolution, according to the University of Plymouth report.

Key excerpts from the University of Plymouth report below........

"There was mass mortality of corals in the south of Japan last year, but many people cling to the hope that corals will be able to spread north. Therefore it is extremely worrying to find that tropical corals are so vulnerable to ocean acidification, as this will stop them from being able to spread farther north and escape the damage caused by water that is too hot for them," said lead author Dr Sylvain Agostini, Associate Professor at the University of Tsukuba Shimoda Marine Research Centre

"Our research site is like a time machine. In areas with pre-industrial levels of CO2 the coast has an impressive amount of calcified organisms such as corals and oysters. But in areas with present-day average levels of surface seawater CO2 we found far fewer corals and other calcified life, and so there was less biodiversity. It shows the extensive damage caused by humans due to CO2 emissions over the past 300 years and unless we can get a grip on reducing CO2 emissions we will undoubtedly see major degradation of coastal systems worldwide," said Jason Hall-Spencer, Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Global climate change