Model Calculations of Ocean Acidification at the End Cretaceous

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Toby Tyrrell, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO14, United Kingdom, Agostino Merico, Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology, Bremen, Germany and David I Armstrong McKay, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
Most episodes of ocean acidification (OA) in Earth’s past were either too slow or too minor to provide useful lessons for understanding the present. The end-Cretaceous event (66 Mya) is special in this sense, both because of its rapid onset and also because many calcifying species (including 100% of ammonites and >95% of calcareous nannoplankton and planktonic foraminifera) went extinct at this time. We used box models of the ocean carbon cycle to evaluate whether impact-generated OA could feasibly have been responsible for the calcifier mass extinctions. We simulated several proposed consequences of the asteroid impact: (1) vaporisation of gypsum (CaSO4) and carbonate (CaCO3) rocks at the point of impact, producing sulphuric acid and CO2 respectively; (2) generation of NOx by the impact pressure wave and other sources, producing nitric acid; (3) release of CO2 from wildfires, biomass decay and disinterring of fossil organic carbon and hydrocarbons; and (4) ocean stirring leading to introduction into the surface layer of deep water with elevated CO2. We simulated additions over: (A) a few years (e-folding time of 6 months), and also (B) a few days (e-folding time of 10 hours) for SO4 and NOx, as recently proposed by Ohno et al (2014. Nature Geoscience, 7:279-282). Sulphuric acid as a consequence of gypsum vaporisation was found to be the most important acidifying process. Results will also be presented of the amounts of SO4 required to make the surface ocean become extremely undersaturated (Ωcalcite<0.5) for different e-folding times and combinations of processes. These will be compared to estimates in the literature of how much SO4 was actually released.