Alaska Fish Factor: Glaciers May be Intensifying Acidity in Prince William Sound

US – Ocean chemists are calling it “revolutionary technology” as unmanned gliders track how melting glaciers may be intensifying corrosive waters in Prince William Sound.

“It’s been hugely successful. We’ve flown these things all over inside and outside of Prince William Sound, we’ve had great control over them, we’ve been able to move them to exactly where we want them to be. They are making thousands of measurements all over,” said Jeremy Mathis, director of the Ocean Environment Research Division at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle.

Mathis also is an affiliate faculty member at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks and oversees studies at Newport, Oregon.

In different regions of the world, natural processes (like glacial melt) are worsening the effects of ocean acidification so that a region like Prince William Sound may already be preconditioned, Mathis explained.

Ocean acidification is a global phenomenon being driven by increased, human produced levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. It is changing the chemistry of the entire ocean at a slow, methodical pace.

“So now we have this anthropogenic (manmade) process combining with natural process, and it makes some regions more vulnerable to the impacts of ocean acidification than others. And Prince William Sound is very high up on that list because of the processes that go on inside of it.”

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