Oceanography The Official Magazine of
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Volume 28 Issue 03

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Volume 28, No. 3
Pages 36 - 45


Assessing Ocean Acidification Variability in the Pacific-Arctic Region as Part of the Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic

By Nicholas R. Bates  
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Article Abstract

The Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA) project provides a rare opportunity to study the Russian sector of the Pacific Arctic Region (PAR), which includes the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas. RUSALCA data from 2009 and 2012 allow fuller understanding of changes in ocean chemistry across this the region and, in particular, provide perspectives on the ocean carbon cycle, air-sea CO2 gas exchange, and ocean acidification variability. Summertime surface waters of the western Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea mostly exhibited low pCO2 (<100 to 400 µatm) and high pH (8.0 to 8.4) conditions during sea ice retreat. As earlier studies of the adjacent eastern Chukchi Sea show, this area of the PAR had a strong potential for ocean uptake of atmospheric CO2 , with saturation states for calcium carbonate (CaCO3) minerals such as calcite and aragonite (Ωcalcite and Ωaragonite, respectively) having values generally greater than two, thereby facilitating CaCO3 production. In contrast, fresher surface waters flowing into the Chukchi Sea from the East Siberian Sea and bottom waters on the PAR shelves exhibited high pCO2 and low pH, Ωcalcite, and Ωaragonite conditions. Low Ω surface waters near the Russian coast and nearly 70% of waters next to the seafloor were corrosive to CaCO3 minerals such as aragonite, with this change seemingly occurring at a more rapid rate than typical global open-ocean changes in ocean chemistry. The exposure of subsurface benthic communities and nearshore ecosystems near the Russian coast to potentially corrosive water is likely exacerbated by the ocean uptake of anthropogenic CO2 and gradual ocean acidification. The RUSALCA project also highlights the complexities and uncertainties in the physical and biogeochemical drivers of the ocean carbon cycle and ocean chemistry in this region of the Arctic.


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