Pacific Northwest

Pacific West Coast Acidification Rate Larger than Other Oceans

The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which reduces pH levels and concentrations of calcium carbonate, a mineral used by shellfish to calcify their shells. As more carbon is released into the atmosphere, concentrations of calcium carbonate decrease and the shells of organisms like foraminifera get thinner, a trend Osborne saw clearly in the sediment cores she examined.

“The shell thickness record instantly showed a long-term declining trend,” she said. “It was really obvious across entire record.”

31% of Carbon Absorbed by Oceans

Research published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Science analyzed more than 100,000 seawater samples worldwide collected from 1994 to 2007 and taken from nearly every corner and depth of ocean.

The analysis found the oceans are absorbing about 31 percent of the carbon humans are spewing into the world. For context, the weight of the carbon seeping into the ocean each year, on average for the period of study, is roughly equivalent to 2.6 billion Volkswagen Beetle cars, Feely said.