Ocean warming and acidification
The Ocean - the great big puddle which covers most of the surface of our Earth to a average depth of about 4 kilometres - is not just warming up, it is also absorbing about 30% of all carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. This is causing a reduction to the pH of ocean water such that before the end of this century the ocean may have become slightly acidic. This will make a very different world for the creatures which live in the ocean because the ocean has been slightly alkaline for hundreds of millions of years.
In combination with warming of the ocean waters which is already occurring, this acidification will kill off most corals and most other creatures which make carbonate shells and exoskeletons.
In addition to wide scale species extinctions, when the ocean waters become saturated with CO2, the ocean will no longer absorb more CO2 than it releases. When that happens the rate of increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will itself increase - very significantly.
There is much more can be said about this.
I believe however there is a method by which we may overcome the very real problem of ocean acidification and in the process create enormous ecological, economical and social benefits.
What is required is to create artificial upwellings of deep ocean water which contain a very much greater concentration of nutrients than waters near the surface - ie the photic zone wherein sunlight penetrates to power photosynthesis. Natural upwellings occur during powerful low pressure cyclonic wind systems which gain their energy from the precipitation of water vapour. The circulating winds drive large waves which pick up angular momentum and move the surface waters away from the circulation centre. Deep water rises up because of this.
Other upwelling situations are:
- where long sure winds move towards the equator on western continental margins driving surface waters before them the Coriolis effect takes the surface waters away from the coast; and
- where deep currents are forced upwards by continental shelf or island chains.
Wherever such upwellings occur phytoplankton proliferate and marine animals of all species flourish.
How to do it
We can create artificial upwellings driven by wind and wave power if we create wind driven convoys of robust (ie unsinkable) barges or pontoons which will go round in an endless circle and thus create a circulating surface current. There is no particular limit to how big such a circulating convoy can be so they can be located and sized according to the requirements of local environmental, social, and economic conditions.
Note, smaller systems can be built using pipes suspended from buoys. Where a non-return valve is fitted - preferably to the bottom of such pipes - wave action raising and lowering the buoys relative to the average sea level will cause water to be drawn up to the surface. This has been demonstrated to work and the expected increase of phytoplankton occurs.
Note also that if enough such upwellings are created in ocean areas where hurricanes/ taiphoons/ tropical cyclones arise and/or pass through, it should be possible to decrease their ferocity. This has the potential to save many thousands of lives in the future as global warming causes the breeding of ever greater tropical storms!