National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A just-published study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) highlights another dire consequence of global warming—California’s coastal water is acidifying twice as fast as the rest of the ocean. 

The research team drew its conclusions after studying acidification rates over the past 100 years. They were able to do this by collecting and analyzing a specific type of sea shell from core samples taken from the seafloor of the Santa Barbara basin.

The scientists concluded that the water off the California coast had a 0.21 decline in pH starting in 1895, which is more than double the average decline (0.1 pH) estimated in oceans worldwide.

They also found that the forces or climate cycles affecting the West Coast and causing the acidification are some of the same forces playing a major role in the higher and faster rates of sea level rise now hitting California.

The carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming are responsible for changing the ocean’s chemistry. Ocean water is ordinarily slightly basic (alkaline), but is becoming increasingly acidic as it absorbs carbon dioxide. 

An acidifying ocean causes shellfish to struggle because fewer of the chemical building blocks they need to form their shells are available—their shells are thinning.

The LA Times wrote, “Across the globe, coral reefs are dying, oysters and clams are struggling to build their shells and fish seem to be losing their sense of smell and direction. Harmful algal blooms are getting more toxic—and occurring more frequently.”

Scientists are not sure how much more CO2 the ocean can absorb. When it reaches its limit, the planet’s air quality will be affected.  

Human-produced greenhouse gases play a significant role in temperature, wind patterns, acidification and how fast the sea will rise.

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