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Revealing Ocean Acidification from Space
By Ian Seldrup, February 16, 2015 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: EurekAlert!

It’s long been known that the carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean—roughly a quarter, in fact. This oceanic uptake of carbon dioxide results in a change in marine carbonate chemistry, leading to “ocean acidification”—a decrease of seawater pH and carbonate ion concentration. Monitoring this ocean acidification precisely, however, is a much more tricky prospect.

A new approach outlined in the journal Environmental Science and Technology on February 17 suggests that pioneering techniques using satellites are set to revolutionize the way that climate scientists and marine biologists study the ocean. These new methods of monitoring the acidity of the oceans from space are being developed by researchers from the University of Exeter, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Institut français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer (Ifremer), the European Space Agency (ESA), and a team of international collaborators.

Lead researcher from the University of Exeter, Dr Jamie Shutler, says, “Satellites are likely to become increasingly important for the monitoring of ocean acidification, especially in remote and often dangerous waters like the Arctic. It can be both difficult and expensive to take year-round direct measurements in such inaccessible locations.”

Current methods of determining acidity require instrumentation aboard research vessels sampling small areas of the sea, which is both time-consuming and costly. The new techniques use satellite-mounted instruments instead—microwave sensors to measure salinity and thermal cameras to measure temperature—and can assess acidification faster and with much wider coverage.

Among others, the ESA’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) sensor and NASA’s Aquarius satellite can already be used for this purpose. The image below shows the total ocean alkalinity from space as determined by Ifremer/ESA/CNES.

Read more here.
 

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