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CO2 could worsen whales' sonar problems

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(Read caption) A gray whale surfaces off the coast of Point Loma near San Diego, Calif. Sonar from war-games exercises conducted by the US Navy has been found to cause severs harm to whales.

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On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court heard a dispute between a group of conservationists and the Navy over sonar exercises that scientists say are killing and injuring whales. What isn't often mentioned in the debate is how the burning of fossil fuels could be making the problem worse.

It's not mentioned because the discovery of the connection was published only last week. Scientists have long known that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes ocean acidification, and they have also known that the amount of sound that can be absorbed by seawater partly depends on the water's pH. But nobody thought to combine these two phenomena until ocean chemists Peter Brewer, Keith Hester, and their colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute came along.


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