M/V Columbia starts its study of ocean acidification

An Alaska state ferry recently started work doubling as an ocean research platform.

The M/V Columbia, which conducts weekly runs between Bellingham, Washington and Alaska, has been installed with a seawater monitoring system to study ocean acidification, a byproduct of human-caused climate change which could affect sea life in Alaska and around the world.

The Columbia travels the same route every week from Washington to Skagway, making it an ideal research platform. Every three minutes along the 1,854-mile journey, the Columbia will measure the seawater temperature as it enters the vessel through a port in its bow, about six feet below the sea surface.

The seawater is then pumped to a monitoring system on the ferry’s car deck, where sensors will again record temperature along with dissolved oxygen, salt content and CO2 levels.

By continuously tracking these variables, scientists will be able to study changes in ocean chemistry, how it varies from place to place and what drives those changes.

“Ocean acidification is a moving target. It’s the trajectory of our coastal waters being forced by increasing atmospheric CO2 content and in order to capture that we need to make measurements over a long period of time,” said oceanographer Wiley Evans, of Canada’s Hakai Institute in a release.

The round trip between Bellingham and Skagway is the longest ferry run in North America, according to the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center. The Columbia’s schedule will allow researchers to gather about 11 months of data before the boat is put up for repairs.

The ocean is actually alkaline, not acidic. Ocean acidification is a process linked to climate change by which sea water has become more acidic — less alkaline — which could have a big impact on marine ecosystems, especially shellfish. Scientists predict varying degrees of changes depending on the amount of CO2 humans continue to put into the atmosphere.

More in Neighbors

t
Living & Growing: Our spiritual teachers

The cat is the most perceptive and graceful of all animals.

t
Thank You for the week of Jan. 22, 2023

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

t
Recognitions for the week of Jan. 22, 2023

Juneau students earn academic honors

Tari Stage-Harvey (Courtesy photo)
Living & Growing: Taking a moment for parents and caregivers

Wow. You are making it through a pandemic, child care crisis and the Ironman of viruses.

t
Recognitions for the week of Jan. 15

Juneau students earn academic honors.

Thx
Thank you letter for the week of Jan. 15

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

Jane Hale (Courtesy Photo)
Coming Out: An ethical appeal

Don’t ignore shared humanity.

Roger Wharton (Courtesy Photo)
Living Growing: First friend

Dogs are very common special friends of people in Southeast Alaska.

t
Slack Tide: Out-dated, again

Learning guitar took a little patience.

a
Birth announcement

Calvin Kautz was born at 6:53 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, in Bartlett… Continue reading

t
Living & Growing: Spiritual direction

A brief explanation of spiritual direction as I practice it.