Articles | Volume 10, issue 11
Reviews and syntheses
19 Nov 2013
Reviews and syntheses |  | 19 Nov 2013

A short history of ocean acidification science in the 20th century: a chemist's view

P. G. Brewer

Abstract. This review covers the development of ocean acidification science, with an emphasis on the creation of ocean chemical knowledge, through the course of the 20th century. This begins with the creation of the pH scale by Sørensen in 1909 and ends with the widespread knowledge of the impact of the "High CO2 Ocean" by then well underway as the trajectory along the IPCC scenario pathways continues. By mid-century the massive role of the ocean in absorbing fossil fuel CO2 was known to specialists, but not appreciated by the greater scientific community. By the end of the century the trade-offs between the beneficial role of the ocean in absorbing some 90% of all heat created, and the accumulation of some 50% of all fossil fuel CO2 emitted, and the impacts on marine life were becoming more clear. This paper documents the evolution of knowledge throughout this period.

Final-revised paper