Acidified water has shown up sooner than we thought.
Five years ago, many scientists probably thought they’d never see large pools of corrosive water near the ocean’s surface in their lifetimes.
Basic chemistry told them that as the oceans absorbed more carbon dioxide pollution from cars and smokestacks and industrial processes, seawater would become more acidic. Eventually, the oceans could become corrosive enough to kill vulnerable forms of sea life like corals and shellfish and plankton.
But scientists believed the effects of this chemical process—called—would be confined to deep offshore ocean waters for some time. before corrosive waters reached the shallow continental shelf off the Pacific Coast, where an abundance of sea life lives.
Until a group of oceanographers started hunting for it.
“What we found, of course, was that it was,” said Richard Feely, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s in Seattle, who was one of the first to recognize the trouble ahead.
The—corrosive enough to begin dissolving the shells and skeletal structures of some marine creatures—at relatively shallow depths all along the West Coast, from British Columbia to the tip of Baja California. Researchers acidification until the middle to the end of this century. But in a seasonal process called “upwelling,” summertime winds pushed surface waters offshore and pulled deeper, more acidic water towards the continental shelf, shorelines, and beaches.
Or, as one Oregon State University marine ecologist put it:
Acidifying water poses a threat to marine animals, especially ones that need calcium carbonate to build shells and skeletons. In the Northwest, that includes everything from, a giant clam that supports one of the region’s most valuable commercial fisheries, to , the tiny shrimplike creatures that and feed rockfish, seals, and whales.
Other effects of low pH water on marine creatures range from lethal to bizarre to beneficial. In laboratory studies, clownfish exposed to more acidic seawater haveand ability to find habitat, Antarctic krill embryos , Humboldt squid , and some eelgrass .
Then, the oceanographers announced. On the surface of Puget Sound, they found waters with a pH of 7.7, roughly on par with the most acidified waters found in the earlier study along the West Coast. In the deeper waters of southern Hood Canal, the acidity level was even higher — the pH plummeted to 7.4.
It was some of the most corrosive seawater recorded anywhere on Earth.
Jennifer Langston, Sightline Daily, 26 May 2011. Full article.