• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .

Detecting regional anthropogenic trends in ocean acidification against natural variability

Nature Climate Change (2012)

Friedrich T, Timmermann A, Abe-Ouchi A, Bates N R, Chikamoto M O, Church M J, Dore J E, Gledhill D K, González-Dávila M, Heinemann M, Ilyina T, Jungclaus J H, McLeod E, Mouchet A and Santana-Casiano J M

DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1372

Vol 2, pp 167-171


Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution humans have released ~500 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere through fossil-fuel burning, cement production and land-use changes(1.2). About 30% has been taken up by the oceans(3). The oceanic uptake of carbon dioxide leads to changes in marine carbonate chemistry resulting in a decrease of seawater pH and carbonate ion concentration, commonly referred to as ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is considered a major threat to calcifying organisms(4.5.6). Detecting its magnitude and impacts on regional scales requires accurate knowledge of the level of natural variability of surface ocean carbonate ion concentrations on seasonal to annual timescales and beyond. Ocean observations are severely limited with respect to providing reliable estimates of the signal-to-noise ratio of human-induced trends in carbonate chemistry against natural factors. Using three Earth system models we show that the current anthropogenic trend in ocean acidification already exceeds the level of natural variability by up to 30 times on regional scales. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that the current rates of ocean acidification at monitoring sites in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans exceed those experienced during the last glacial termination by two orders of magnitude.

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