Environmental Protection Agency: Climate Change Indicators - Ocean Acidity

This indicator describes changes in the chemistry of the ocean that relate to the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the water.

This indicator describes trends in pH and related properties of ocean water, based on a combination of direct observations, calculations, and modeling.

Figure 1 shows pH values and levels of dissolved carbon dioxide at three locations that have collected measurements consistently over the last few decades. These data have been either measured directly or calculated from related measurements, such as dissolved inorganic carbon and alkalinity. Data come from two stations in the Atlantic Ocean (Bermuda and the Canary Islands) and one in the Pacific (Hawaii).

The global map in Figure 2 shows changes over time in aragonite saturation level. Aragonite is a specific form of calcium carbonate that many organisms produce and use to build their skeletons and shells, and the saturation state is a measure of how easily aragonite can dissolve in the water. The lower the saturation level, the more difficult it is for organisms to build and maintain their protective skeletons and shells. This map was created by comparing average conditions during the 1880s with average conditions during the most recent 10 years (2006–2015). Aragonite saturation has only been measured at selected locations during the last few decades, but it can be calculated reliably for different times and locations based on the relationships scientists have observed among aragonite saturation, pH, dissolved carbon, water temperature, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and other factors that can be measured. Thus, while Figure 2 was created using a computer model, it is based on measurements.


Science Topics
Climate Change, Meteorology, Oceanography
Middle School
6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade

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