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Tums of the Sea

How good is the ocean's natural antacid?

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11:26am, August 12, 2002

Just as a pepperoni pizza with spicy sausage can leave a person reaching for antacids, a diet high in carbon dioxide can disrupt the delicate balance of the ocean's chemistry. This odorless, tasteless, invisible gas in Earth's atmosphere is the ocean's equivalent of tomato sauce. As the atmosphere mixes with surface seawater, carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean. Some of the gas reacts with water, forming carbonic acid, H2CO3, the same weak acid that appears in carbonated drinks. The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more the gas enters into the surface waters.

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