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SOURCE: Scientific American

DATE: November 28, 2017

SNIP: Melting glaciers might be making ocean water more acidic, an unexpected finding that’s given scientists new cause for concern.

A new study published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests surprising ways that climate change is drastically altering the water chemistry in deep seas—a process that may happen faster than researchers anticipated.

The threat of ocean acidification has drawn increasing attention in recent years. The ocean absorbs a substantial amount of the carbon dioxide that humans emit into the atmosphere—and when carbon dioxide goes into the sea, a chemical reaction occurs that causes the water to become more acidic. That’s a big concern for marine biologists, as research suggests that the decreasing pH levels could disrupt the ability of corals, mollusks and other marine organisms to build the hard outer shells they need to survive.

As the new research points out, dead plants and animals also release carbon dioxide as they drift to the bottom of the sea and decompose. Deep ocean currents can help to move the carbon dioxide throughout the water so it doesn’t sit in one place.

But some scientists believe that certain effects of climate change—including the influx of cold, fresh water from melting glaciers, or an increase in the heat absorption as sea ice disappears and exposes the water to the sun—may eventually disrupt these currents or cause them to slow down.

Now, the new study’s authors suggest this process could speed up the acidification of the deep seas.