Satellite Data Shows Increasing Acidification Of Oceans

Scientists have been monitoring ocean acidification using data from space satellites, and found that the problem is far graver than we thought.

The climatologists claim that action is necessary before the levels of ocean acidification increase so much that marine life is destroyed, and animals further up the food chain are also harmed. Data gathered from the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite, as well as other space technology, has allowed scientists a better understanding of our oceans than before.

Improved acidification research

“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,” said Jamie Shutler of the University of Exeter.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claims that the world’s oceans have become 30% more acidic since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Around 25% of the carbon dioxide released by human activities is absorbed by the ocean, which leads to the formation of carbonic acid.

Although the absorption of carbon dioxide by the sea helps the atmosphere, it also raises water acidity, which can harm marine life if it reaches certain levels. The shells of animals such as shellfish, mussels, clams and oysters are damaged by rising levels of acidity, which can reduce their population.

Potential consequences for humanity

There is a knock on effect for other animals higher up the food chain who rely on those below them to survive, which eventually reaches mankind at the top of the food chain.

Scientists have collected ocean water samples at various locations around the world, testing the concentration of carbon against their total alkalinity in order to work out how far water can act as a buffer against rising acidity. Results show that the buffer was greatest along the south coast of the U.S., and decreased with latitude.

The waters off Maine had the weakest buffer, but scientists are still unsure as to whether this is affected by global warming. Acidification looks set to be an increasingly important problem unless significant action is taken.