Burning fossil fuel not only affects the atmosphere but also impacts the ecology of the oceans. 25% of the carbon dioxide which is emitted by human activity ends up in the ocean. This makes the oceans more acidic killing off coral reefs and some types of shell fishes. The human race is dependent on the ocean for many food resources and hence the process of acidification needs to be understood.
The ocean is a vast place and the instruments used by scientists to monitor such changes measure small portions and thus the results are not consistent and vague.
In a paper which has been published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, a new technique to measure the acidification of the ocean from space has been explained.
The new technique envisages the use of data from existing satellites. One of the satellites is the European Space Agency’s satellite, Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity sensor (SMOS), launched in 2009.The other is NASA’s Aquarius, launched in 2011.The technique to determine the acidity of the oceans uses two measurements- ocean temperature measured by thermal cameras and salinity measured by microwave sensors. By this technique scientists will be able to evaluate the ocean acidification in a wider area and much more rapidly.
Jamie Shutler, an oceanographer at University of Exeter and head of the research team, said, “Satellites are likely to become increasingly important for monitoring ocean acidification, especially in remote waters. We are pioneering this data fusion approach so that we can observe large areas of Earth’s oceans, allowing us to quickly and easily identify those areas most at risk from increasing acidification.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the pH of ocean surface today is 30% more than what it was during the pre-Industrial Revolution period. Some climate models predict that the acidity of the ocean could reach 150% by the end of the century as compared to pre industrial revolution times.