Danger to some fish species
The Arctic Ocean could become more acidic in the summer
In fact, acidification in the Arctic Ocean is greater in winter than in summer. But that could change due to climate change, the researchers found. The development would be detrimental to some arctic creatures such as the polar cod.
Due to climate change, the Arctic Ocean may be more acidic in the summer than in the winter in the future. The authors of a study published in the journal “Nature” reached this conclusion. Of course, acidification in the Arctic Ocean is highest in the winter. But as global warming increases, it could intensify in the summer in the future.
“These findings worsen the outlook for some Arctic fish, such as polar cod, which are already threatened by climate change,” said co-author Hans-Otto Pörtner, of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, in Bremerhaven.
According to the AWI, the oceans have absorbed more than a quarter of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere over the past 200 years. For this reason, since the beginning of the industrial revolution, they have become almost 30 percent more acidic. However, the acidity of the water varies according to the season and the region.
Many factors and a glimmer of hope
According to the AWI, air temperatures in the Arctic will rise more dramatically in the summer than before, more sea ice will melt, and the water will warm faster than before, also due to increased solar radiation. According to the researchers, there are complex reasons why the Arctic Ocean will become more acidic in the summer in the future. Acidification is influenced not only by one factor, but by a sensitive interaction of physico-chemical and biological processes. Ultimately, it can no longer be compensated for, for example by algae that carry out photosynthesis and thus absorb CO2.
In their study, the researchers analyzed simulations of different models and developed future climate scenarios. The changes in acidification were larger for medium and high greenhouse gas emissions – and significantly smaller for low emissions. “For the researchers, a glimmer of hope that key elements of the Arctic Ocean ecosystem can be preserved if average global warming can be kept below two degrees Celsius,” the statement said.