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The same emissions of greenhouse gases that are causing climate change on the planet are also causing the seafloor to dissolve faster and faster, according to a new study.
The ocean is what is known as the carbon sewer since it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and this carbon acidifies the water. In the depths of the ocean, where the pressure is high, acidified seawater reacts with calcium carbonate, which originates from dead creatures. The reaction neutralizes the carbon, creating bicarbonate.
Over the millennia, this reaction has been a practical way of storing carbon without damaging the chemistry of the ocean. But as humans burn fossil fuels, more and more carbon has finally accumulated in the ocean. According to NASA, about 48 percent of the excess carbon that humans have sent into the atmosphere has been blocked in the oceans.
All this carbon leads to more acidic oceans, which means faster dissolution of the calcium carbonate on the seabed. Researchers led by ocean scientist Robert Key estimated the likely rate of dissolution worldwide, using watercourse, calcium carbonate measurements in seabed sediments, and other key metrics such as ocean salinity and temperature.
The results, published Oct. 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were a mixture of good and bad news. The good news was that most areas of the oceans still did not show a dramatic difference in the rate of calcium carbonate dissolution before and after the industrial revolution.
However, there are several places where man-made carbon emissions are making a big difference. The biggest critical point is the western North Atlantic, where carbon accounts for between 40 and 100% dissolved calcium carbonate. There are other small critical points in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic, where carbon deposits and rapid currents accelerate the rate of dissolution.
The western North Atlantic is the place where the ocean layer without calcium carbonate rose 300 meters. This depth occurs when calcium carbonate from dead animals is nullified by the acidity of the ocean. Below this line, there is no accumulation of calcium carbonate.
The increase in depth indicates that now that there is more carbon in the ocean, dissolution reactions are occurring faster and at lower depths.
“The chemical destruction of already deposited carbonate sediments has already begun and will intensify and spread over vast areas of the seabed over the next decades and centuries, altering the geological record of the seabed, ” Key wrote.
Scientists still do not know what this bottom-set change will mean for creatures living in the depths, but future geologists will be able to see human-induced climate changes in the rocks eventually formed by the ocean floor today.
Source: Zap Aeiou