While many argue that the fight against greenhouse gases is long over, climatologists and ecologists continue to urge that the battle continues on. And while the culprits are all the same, the problems with these remnants of burning fossil fuels are taking on new problems. A topic of major research has developed from these changes and now researchers are quantify just how it will impact our world in the years to come.
A byproduct as water takes up free-floating carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, ocean acidification has become a great concern for researchers in recent years. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) the surface pH of the ocean has become 30 percent more acidic since the end of the Industrial Revolution, and figures point to their continued acidification.
Major concerns are for the oceans' vast coral reefs and mollusk species, whose outer exoskeletons are easily dissolved in acidified waters. However, every aquatic species is at risk for extinction if the waters continue to change as drastically as they have in the past century.
To give you an example of exactly how delicate an organism's sensitivity is to pH, we will use you as our subject. In a healthy human, arterial blood pH varies between 7.35 and 7.45 with the average being slightly more basic. If the interior pH of the human body drops below 7.35, patients are at risk for developing acidosis and if their pH exceeds 7.45 they can develop alkalosis. While both have symptoms that run the gamut from headaches to tremors, by causing dysfunction of the cerebrum of the brain, both can lead to comas.
Researchers to date have been aware of the widespread issue in our Earth's oceans, however, as the acidity is not evenly distributed, it is not easy to estimate an accurate measure. Most studies have relied on physical measurements taken in open oceans, but now scientists are turning to technology already in space to give us a better look of what changes lie in our oceans.
Utilizing satellite measurements from NASA's Aquarius satellite and the ESA's Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity sensor, researchers with the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom have developed the first global maps of ocean acidity to show the areas of the world most affected by the greenhouse gas byproduct.
"We are pioneering these techniques so that we can monitor large areas of the Earth's oceans, allowing us to quickly and easily identify those areas most at risk from the increasing acidification" lead author of the study, Jamie Shutler says.
By combining thermal camera imagery with salinity data the researchers were able to calculate acidification on a global level with great accuracy, and hope that further research will show how the problem continues to evolve.
Their study was recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.