Southern California Seas' Sour Note, Scripps Study Reveals 37-Year pH Plunge

Southern California Seas' Sour Note, Scripps Study Reveals 37-Year pH PlungeSource: Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Kamal Jenkins
Published on November 30, 2023

In a significant revelation from the depths of Southern California, scientists have unveiled a 37-year research effort documenting the silent struggle of our oceans against increasing acidity. The study, conducted by UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, provides crucial insights into the ocean's response to the absorption of more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The research, spanning from the 1980s to the present, exposes a gradual decline in pH levels, with a noteworthy decrease of 0.0015 each year. Although seemingly small, this trend poses significant challenges for the marine life inhabiting these waters. Scripps Oceanography marine chemist Todd Martz highlighted the importance of tracking this climate signal in an oceanic area where such measurements have been scarce.

The origins of this research can be traced back to Charles David Keeling, known for the Keeling Curve, which chronicles atmospheric CO2 levels. The legacy of Keeling's insights now finds a vital location at Station 90.90, a key CalCOFI program site situated approximately 280 miles from San Diego. This station's measurements contribute to a globally limited archive of direct inorganic carbon data in the oceans.

The journey of this study faced challenges, with funding gaps leading to data gaps from 2002 to 2008. However, the dedication of present-day researchers, including Wiley Wolfe, played a crucial role in piecing together past measurements, providing a comprehensive view of oceanic changes. The study's financial support came from various sources, including the National Science Foundation and the NOAA Climate Program Office.