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Climate change is causing our oceans to absorb more carbon dioxide, with detrimental long-term impacts on marine life.

Oceans are getting more acidic and humans might be to blame

Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 7:01 PM - The wrath of carbon dioxide isn't limited to the air we breathe. Oceans, too, are impacted by the billions of tons of CO2 emitted annually.

Referred to as global warming's "evil twin," ocean acidification poses a serious threat to marine wildlife. It occurs when earth's oceans absorb an increased amount of carbon dioxide, resulting in a decrease of pH levels.

Though correlation seems clear, causation falls in a grey area for some scientists. But a recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution finds that the recent increase in ocean acidification is directly due to human activity.

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Oceanographers, led by Sophie Chu, graduate student at MIT's department if Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, discovered that most of the anthropogenic carbon (emissions caused by humans) found in the northeast Pacific is stationed in the top-most layers, altering the ocean's chemistry, Phys.org reports.

The Pacific Ocean has seen an increase in the amount of anthropogenic carbon absorbed over the past 10 years, and the rate reflects the increase in CO2 emissions humans have emitted.

The past decade has seen pH levels drop by 0.002 pH units a year, Phys.org notes, creating more acidic waters. As a result, there's been a decrease in aragonite -- a vital mineral for the shells of many marine species.

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"The ocean has been the only true sink for anthropogenic emissions since the industrial revolution," Chu says.

"Right now, it stores about 1/4 to 1/3 of the anthropogenic emissions from the atmosphere. We're expecting at some point the storage will slow down. When it does, more carbon dioxide will stay in the atmosphere, which means more warming. So it's really important that we continue to monitor this."

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SOURCE: Phys.org | Journal of Geophysical Research

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