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A plea to ocean acidification scientists

28
Aug
2015

It is unfortunate that the terminology used in some papers, presentations and media interviews is misleading. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7”. Despite the process of ocean acidification (the acidity of seawater, or hydrogen ion concentration, has increased by 28% since preindustrial time), the oceans are alkaline (pH higher than 7) and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future in most regions of the oceans. Hence, while it is accurate to refer to an “increase in acidity” or to “ocean acidification”, the terms “acid” or “acidic” should not be used when referring to seawater. Note that there are few exceptions, seawater can be acidic in some near-shore environments such as estuaries, in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents, or in purposeful perturbation experiments.

 

The importance of using accurate terms cannot be underestimated. Our community does not want to be seen as using improper terms, especially considering the intense scrutiny by the media and general public ahead of COP21.

 

Some of us have made this mistake in the past but let us ban the future use of “acid” or “acidic” in the context of our work.

 

Members of the SOLAS-IMBER Working Group on Ocean Acidification<http://www.imber.info/index.php/Science/Working-Groups/SOLAS-IMBER-Carbon/Subgroup-3>:

Jean-Pierre Gattuso, Jim Barry, Jelle Bijma, Sarah Cooley, Minhan Dai, Richard Feely, Dan Laffoley, Nelson Lagos, Richard Matear, James Orr, Ulf Riebesell, Lisa Robbins, Carol Turley, Patrizia Ziveri

 

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