As this blog title suggests, ocean acidification (OA) provides the context for much of the scientific work on this cruise. Cruise scientists are interested in how human-generated carbon dioxide (CO2) is affecting seawater chemistry and marine life along the West Coast of North America, from Baja California, Mexico to Haida Gwaii, B.C. Some of the scientists are looking at OA in the context of other climate- and ocean-related phenomena, such as El Nino and ‘The Blob‘, which contributed to warmer-than-usual ocean temperatures.
The California Current System, running along the North American west coast from British Columbia to Baja California, is a region where seasonal upwelling brings old, nutrient and CO2-rich and O2-poor waters to the surface. It is an area of intense biogeochemical cycling, with high rates of primary production, air-sea CO2 exchange, and carbon export to the open ocean and sediments. Retention and recycling of material on the continental shelf are particularly high in the northern part of the California Current System, and these features predispose ecosystems in this region to being particularly susceptible to the impacts of decreased calcium carbonate saturation resulting from a combination of ocean acidification and natural processes along the west coast (upwelling, river inputs, seasonal development of hypoxia). Understanding the progression of OA in our coastal oceans in the context of these other natural processes is critical for developing management, mitigation, and adaptation strategies for coastal resources. The cruise will also provide a large-scale picture of ocean acidification along the North American west coast that will give many other observing assets in the coastal ocean a larger context, including existing and planned moorings, repeat glider transects, and tests of wave gliders and other new technologies.