U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 741
U.S. Department of the
U.S. Geological Survey
St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
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Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is absorbed at the surface of the ocean by reacting with seawater to form carbonic acid, a weak, naturally occurring acid. As atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, the concentration of carbonic acid in seawater also increases, causing a decrease in ocean pH and carbonate mineral saturation states, a process known as ocean acidification. The oceans have absorbed approximately 525 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or about one-quarter to one-third of the anthropogenic carbon emissions released since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (Sabine and others, 2004). Global surveys of ocean chemistry have revealed that seawater pH has decreased by about 0.1 units (from a pH of 8.2 to 8.1) since the 1700s due to absorption of carbon dioxide (Caldeira and Wickett, 2003; Orr and others, 2005; Raven and others, 2005). Modeling studies, based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) CO2 emission scenarios, predict that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could reach more than 500 parts per million (ppm) by the middle of this century and 800 ppm by the year 2100, causing an additional decrease in surface water pH of 0.3 pH units. Ocean acidification is a global threat and is already having profound and deleterious effects on the geology, biology, chemistry, and socioeconomic resources of coastal and marine habitats (Raven and others, 2005; Ruttiman, 2006). The polar and sub-polar seas have been identified as the bellwethers for global ocean acidification.
A number of studies have shown that decreased pH and mineral saturation state impair the ability of many fish and shellfish to grow and will affect many parts of the food chain from primary producers to higher trophic organisms (Comeau and others, 2009). High-latitude marine organisms often exhibit low metabolic rates and very slow development and growth rates when compared with similar taxa at middle or low latitudes (Fabry and others, 2009). Because of their prolonged lifetimes, fewer generations will have opportunities for successful acclimation or adaptation to seawater that will become progressively elevated in dissolved CO2. Although many physiological processes in diverse organisms may be affected by rising ocean acidity, it has been suggested that the declining carbonate mineral saturation states of aragonite and calcite in surface waters, and establishment of corrosive conditions in some regions, may impact high-latitude planktonic and benthic calcifiers (Comeau and others, 2009; Fabry and others, 2009). Because of these factors, marine food supplies could be reduced with significant implications for food production and security for indigenous populations that are dependent on fish protein.
From August 4 to September 6, 2010, a joint operation between the United States and Canadian governments occurred to collect seismic-reflection, multibeam bathymetric and high-resolution chirp data aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Louis S. St-Laurent and U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy icebreakers. These operations were part of the U.S. interagency Extended Continental Shelf Project to determine the limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. The Chief Scientist aboard the USCGC Healy was U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Brian Edwards. On a non-interference basis, a USGS Ocean Acidification Team participated on the Healy to collect baseline water data in the Canada Basin north of Alaska. The USGS Ocean Acidification Team, led by Lisa Robbins, included both shipboard and home-based team members. A number of hypotheses were tested and questions asked associated with ocean acidification, including:
Collaborating with the University of South Florida (USF), the U.S. Geological Survey used a state of the art flow-through Multiparameter Inorganic Carbon Analyzer (MICA) (Liu and others, 2006). The MICA collected continuous measurements every 2 minutes (min) of pCO2, pH, and total carbon (TCO2) in seawater. In addition, discrete samples were collected for on-board measurement of pH and total alkalinity (TA). Water was also collected for TA and TCO2 analyses to be performed land-side. During the cruise, instrumentation on the USCGC Healy continuously recorded temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and fluorescence of surface water; these parameters were collected also during vertical casts of a Niskin rosette. Discrete surface and depth-profile water samples were taken for nutrient, isotope, and elemental analyses in order to supplement our understanding of the Arctic carbonate system. During one Niskin cast, water was filtered onboard to obtain micro-organismal and microbiological community data, plus particulate organic carbon and particulate inorganic carbon data (not reported here).
Robbins, L.L., Yates, K.K., Gove, M.D., Knorr, P.O., Wynn, Jonathan, Byrne, R.H., and Liu, Xuewu, 2013, USGS Arctic Ocean carbon cruise 2010: Field activity H-03-10-AR to collect carbon data in the Arctic Ocean, August - September 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 741, 1 CD.
Assayag, Nelly, Rivé, Karine, Ader, Magali, Jézéquel, Didier, and Agrinier, Pierre, 2006, Improved method for isotopic and quantitative analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon in natural water samples: Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, v. 20, p. 2243-2251, available at http://www.ipgp.fr/~piag/CO2-bis/Assayag%202006.pdf.
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CO2 sink in the
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Comeau, S., Gorsky, G., Jeffree, R., Teyssie, J.-L., and Gattuso, J.-P., 2009, Impact of ocean acidification on a key Arctic pelagic mollusc (Limacina helicina): Biogeosciences, v. 6, no. 9, p. 1877-1882.
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Fabry, V.J., McClintock, J.B., Mathis, J.T., and Grebmeier, J.M., 2009, Ocean acidification at high latitudes: The bellwether: Oceanography, v. 22, no. 4, p. 160-171.
Ho, D.T., Law, C.S., Smith, M.J., Schlosser, Peter, Harvey, Mike, and Hill, Peter, 2006, Measurements of air-sea gas exchange at high wind speeds in the Southern Ocean: Implications for global parameterizations: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 33, 6 p.
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Robbins, L.L., Yates, K., Feely, R., and Fabry, V., 2010, Monitoring and assessment of ocean acidification in
the Arctic Ocean: Scoping paper for Arctic Mapping and Assessment Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1227, 9 p. available at https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1227/.
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