Ocean Acidification

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OCEAN ACIDIFICATION- ESSAY
THURSDAY, JANUARY 24TH, 2012
Covering more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, the ocean is one of planet Earth’s most distinguishing characteristics. Over recent years, human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels have increased the amount of carbon dioxide gas emitted to the atmosphere and the amount that dissolves into the ocean. Now, so much carbon dioxide has been absorbed by the ocean that the chemistry of seawater is changing, causing the ocean to become more acidic.

THE CARBON CYCLE

Carbon dioxide is a critical part of Earth’s atmosphere; it traps heat and prevents the Earth from being covered in ice. Normally, the Earth’s carbon cycle maintains a natural balance of carbon in the atmosphere, land, and ocean through the “breathing of the planet”. However, since the beginning of the industrial era, emissions of carbon dioxide have climbed, and now are exceeding the capacity of the carbon cycle to maintain equilibrium between the atmosphere and ocean. Excess carbon dioxide traps more heat in the atmosphere, which changes the Earth’s climate.

Not all of the excess carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere. Scientists estimate that one-third of all the carbon dioxide produced by human activities has been absorbed by the ocean. The ocean’s removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has undoubtedly helped curb the extent of climate change—but this benefit has come at a cost. The absorption of carbon dioxide is fundamentally changing the chemistry of the ocean by triggering reactions that make seawater more acidic, a phenomenon called ocean acidification. In fact, the ocean has become nearly 30 percent more acidic than it was at the beginning of the industrial era—a change larger and more rapid than seen in the fossil record going back at least 800,000 years.

THE CHEMISTRY OF OCEAN ACIDIFICAT ION

Atmospheric…...

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