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Towards a robust and sustained production and global supply of certified reference materials for the seawater carbonate system
by Dr. Maribel I. García-Ibáñez, Dr. Regina A. Easley, Dr. Artur P. Palacz, Dr. Courtney Cochran, Dr. Kim Currie, Dr. Abed El Rahman Hassoun, Dr. Elizabeth B. Jewett, Dr. Jian Ma, Dr. Keyhong Park, Dr. Tobias Steinhoff, Dr. Maciej Telszewski, Dr. Bronte Tilbrook


A robust and sustained production and global supply of certified reference materials (CRMs) for the seawater carbonate system is critical for ocean carbon research and climate science. The availability and consistent use of CRMs over the past decades have enabled comparable measurements of seawater total alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon, and pH with known quality, which underpin our ability to assess changes in the ocean carbon cycle and trends of ocean acidification. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the fragility of the current global production and supply system of primary CRMs, which is dependent on one unique lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA. The dramatic reduction in CRM supply from the USA forced many research laboratories to produce secondary (in-house) standards, a challenging task since there are no standard protocols for their production, thus resulting in non-uniform production and compliance measures. Given the current inability to produce the CRMs elsewhere, a more robust distribution and production scheme has been proposed by the international community of ocean carbon researchers, supported by the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project (IOCCP), the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification, and the Integrated Carbon Observation System - Ocean Thematic Centre (ICOS-OTC) among others. A proposed solution to create a more resilient production of CRMs is the production of primary CRMs in an accredited lab and of secondary reference materials (ultimately dependent on the values of the primary reference materials - CRMs) among regional hubs distributed across multiple continents. Reduced costs (e.g. of shipping) and greater production capacity enabled by regional hubs would ensure consistent use of RMs by the rapidly growing ocean acidification and ocean carbon dioxide removal communities. The ultimate goal for a resilient CRM production would be to reduce the reliance on just one lab producing CRMs. The successful use of RMs by the ocean observing community depends on the robustness of the production system. To this end, there is a need to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for producing secondary reference materials for the seawater carbonate system which include guidance on establishing traceability using primary CRMs and constructing the total uncertainty budget with consideration of batch homogeneity and stability. Close collaborations with national metrology labs across the globe are indispensable in this process.

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Topic : Theme 1: Oceans and Hydrology.
Reference : T1-B3

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