Acid Test

Now we can watch our oceans acidifying—from space.

February 20, 2015

Satellites are joining the fight against our acidifying seas, 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 how the carbon dioxide we spew into the air is affecting seawater, but they can't be everywhere at once, and there are holes in the data. Now satellites that send us information on other ocean conditions like salinity levels (pictured above) can help close the gaps. 

The oceans absorb about a quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions through chemical reactions that turn CO2 into carbonic acid. 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. Researchers from Europe, the United States, and India say this new way of looking at our oceans could help us study particularly sensitive stretches of sea, such as the Bay of Bengal and the Arctic Ocean. Hopefully, seeing what we're doing to our seas (and raw bar options) will make us all a little more carbon conscious.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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