The oceans of the Earth have maintained a consistent acidity level for millions of years. Research now shows that this balance is changing due to a recent and rapid drop in surface pH that could have devastating global consequences which we can now see on satellite imagery from space.
Satellites are now allowing us to measure their falling pH levels in real time from above. Scientists used to depend on buoys, ships, and lab tests to monitor seawater, but now satellites that send us information on other ocean conditions like salinity levels (pictured above) can help close the gaps.
On the pH scale, which runs from 0 to 14, solutions with low numbers are considered acidic and those with higher numbers are basic. Seven is neutral. Over the past 300 million years, ocean pH has been slightly basic, averaging about 8.2. Today, it is around 8.1, a drop of 0.1 pH units, representing a 25-percent increase in acidity over the past two centuries.
The increasingly acidic water that disintegrates shells, exoskeletons, and coral is really bad news for species like corals, oysters, snails, shrimp, lobster--and all the others who rely on them for food, including us.
Scientific awareness of ocean acidification is relatively recent, and researchers are just beginning to study its effects on marine ecosystems. But all signs indicate that unless humans are able to control and eventually eliminate pollution rates and emissions, ocean organisms will find themselves under increasing pressure to adapt to their habitat's changing chemistry or perish.