I'm trying to understand CO2 dissolved in blood, carbonic acid and the bicarbonate ion. I think of 'dissolving' as in NaCl dissociating into Na+ and Cl- ions sloshing around in water. CO2 isn't going to break apart. Do some CO2 molecules just float around in water/blood, or are they immediately latched on to by an H2O to become carbonic acid, H2CO3?
Or does it readily become H+ and HCO3- (bicarbonate) (Is it HCO3 or HCO3- as an ion to make the + - math work out?) My understanding is that some magical buffering operation is going on (in the body), where the balance between carbonic acid and bicarbonate ions shifts -- perhaps aided by an enzyme.
I'm an EMT trying to understand how 'respiratory acidosis' (presumably carbonic acid) is different from 'metabolic acidosis' (presumably CO2 in the blood in the form or bicarbonate?) These seem to be two things, not just 'CO2 dissolved in the blood'. When I ask medical doctors about this, they usually say 'Gee, I used to know that 30 years ago when I went to medical school'. I'm hoping that real chemists can describe accurately what is going on.