History of Seawater Carbonate Chemistry, Atmospheric CO 2 , and Ocean Acidification

  • Zeebe R
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Abstract

Humans are continuing to add vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the
atmosphere through fossil fuel burning and other activities. A large fraction
of the CO2 is taken up by the oceans in a process that lowers ocean pH
and carbonate mineral saturation state. This effect has potentially serious
consequences for marine life, which are, however, difficult to predict. One
approach to address the issue is to study the geologic record, which may
provide clues about what the future holds for ocean chemistry and marine
organisms. This article reviews basic controls on ocean carbonate chemistry
on different timescales and examines past ocean chemistry changes and ocean
acidification events during various geologic eras.The results allow evaluation
of the current anthropogenic perturbation in the context of Earth’s history. It
appears that the ocean acidification event that humans are expected to cause
is unprecedented in the geologic past, for which sufficiently well-preserved
records are available.

Author-supplied keywords

  • carbon dioxide
  • fossil fuels
  • paleochemistry

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Authors

  • Richard E Zeebe

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