Monday, March 2, 2009

Saving the oceans: ‘Mission Possible’

Pioneering marine scientist sees hope despite increasing ocean acidity.

Joanie Kleypaus

In science, “Aha” moments take many forms. For Joanie Kleypas, a flash of scientific revelation made her, literally, sick to her stomach.

An oceanographer and coral reef geologist, Kleypas was attending a conference in 1998 with an eclectic group of scientists, pondering the ecological consequences of climate change. Everybody knew that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were on the rise. So were global air and ocean temperatures.

Widespread coral bleaching during the 1997-98 El Nino event had turned vast coral forests white, a clear response to temporarily higher ocean temperatures. Kleypas also knew that oceans, which act as “sinks” that absorb atmospheric CO2, were changing in ways that any high school chemistry student could understand: As CO2 is added to water, it makes carbonic acid, lowering its pH.

The dual whammy of warmer waters and increased acidification hit her like a shark attack. When she realized her beloved coral reefs would be drastically affected if these trends continued, she hurried to the bathroom and threw up.

Daniel Glick, Daily Climate, 25 February 2009. Full article.

Saving the oceans: ‘Mission Possible’

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