The idea that human activity could fundamentally change the chemistry of the oceans can seem preposterous. The oceans have a volume of around 1.5 billion cu km, and people have only visited a fraction of that space. No less an environmentalist than Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, thought the oceans so vast that human beings could never really change them.
A private foundation has announced a $2 million competition to develop sensors to monitor the acidity of the Earth’s oceans. The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is offering the money to anyone who can create “accurate and affordable” sensors to monitor ocean acidity, which is increasing due to large quantities of carbon dioxide in the water. That threatens shellfish, corals and other ocean life. The prize could be split into two $1 million awards.
Die immer höheren Kohlendioxid-Werte in der Atmosphäre sorgen nicht nur für steigende Temperaturen. Sie lassen auch die Ozeane versauern. Die Meere nehmen nämlich gut ein Viertel des von der Menschheit ausgestoßenen CO2 auf. Im Wasser reagiert das Kohlendioxid zu Kohlensäure. Dieses lässt den pH-Wert des Wassers sinken, die Meere werden saurer - mit tiefgreifenden Folgen für die marinen Ökosysteme.
In August, scientists reported that atmospheric acidity is on the rise, as CO2 levels reached 400 parts per million for the first time in at least 800,000 years. It is difficult to tell if the same is true of pH level in our oceans because, unlike measuring temperature, measuring pH is costly and cumbersome.
Carbon dioxide is now gushing into Earth's atmosphere at the fastest pace in human history, trapping heat that fuels global warming. But higher temperatures and stronger storms are only part of the problem: Manmade CO2 emissions are also absorbed by Earth's oceans, making them roughly 30 percent more acidic in the past 250 years.
When I was a child, I spent hours collecting seashells near my parents' home on Cape Cod. I even gathered the clam shells after big family dinners. I still enjoy these summer pastimes, but a cloud has been cast over them. Ocean acidification is posing a new threat to shell fish, and marine industries are already seeing its troubling effects.
Today, the latest XPRIZE competition was announced in Los Angeles, and this time the target is improving ocean health. Past XPRIZE efforts have focused on suborbital commercial spaceflight, efficient cars, and moon rovers.
The prestigious XPRIZE Foundation has announced a new competition geared at tackling ocean acidification, which has in recent years taken a hard hit at some of the ocean’s hardest-bodied animals.
The tools that scientists use to monitor the acidification of the world's oceans are expected to get a major upgrade, thanks to a $2 million competition aimed at rewarding innovations that lower the cost and improve the accuracy of chemical sensors.
Basic chemistry teaches that dissolving carbon dioxide in seawater will increase acidity. With atmospheric CO2 levels rising—touching 400 parts per million for the first time in millennia this past May—it is therefore a safe bet that the world's oceans are becoming more acidic. But just how much more? And how much do those levels change from place to place—at the coast or out in open waters, or at the surface versus in the depths?