ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside March 2006

The Dangers of Ocean Acidification

Much of the carbon dioxide given off from the burning of fossil fuels goes into the ocean, where it changes the acid balance of seawater. The repercussions for marine life may be enormous

In 1956 Roger Revelle and Hans Suess, geochemists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, pointed out the need to measure carbon dioxide in the air and ocean so as to obtain "a clearer understanding of the probable climatic effects of the predicted great industrial production of carbon-dioxide over the next 50 years." In other words, they wanted to figure out how dire the situation would be today. That they had to argue the importance of such observations now seems astonishing, but at the time scientists did not know for certain whether the carbon dioxide spewing out of tailpipes and smokestacks would indeed accumulate in the atmosphere. Some believed that it would all be absorbed benignly by the sea or be happily taken up by growing plants on land.

Revelle and the young researcher he hired for this project, the late Charles David Keeling, realized that they had to set up equipment at remote locations, far from local sources and sinks of carbon dioxide, which would cause the measurements to vary erratically. One spot they chose was about as far from industrial activity and vegetation as anyone could get: the South Pole. Another was at a newly established weather station atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Back To School

Back to School Sale!

12 Digital Issues + 4 Years of Archive Access just $19.99

Order Now >

X

Email this Article



This function is currently unavailable

X