This letter to Dr. Richard A. Feely of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environment Laboratory Carbon Program in Seattle, WA was sent by Chuck F. Wiese on Wednesday. Chuck also asked me to post it on WUWT but I wanted to see if NOAA would fix the error on the web page first. It is now Saturday, and they haven’t, so I think a public notice is appropriate. I suppose I’m not surprised though, since Dr. Feely lists “Nobel Peace Prize (co-shared with Al Gore and other members of IPCC) – 2007” on his web page. I suppose anyone who lists Al Gore along with the gross errors he makes, such as his laughably non-reproducible “high school physics” of CO2, would not bother to correct their own gross errors. – Anthony
Dear Dr. Feely:
I exchanged e-mails with you a while back over a story that ran in the Oregonian on April 12, 2012. It was about “ocean acidification” that was supposedly killing off what would otherwise be healthy oyster harvests here in the Northwest, The story can be found here:
An OSU researcher who gave the story to the Oregonian, Alan Barton, had incorrectly asserted that the ocean pH had risen 30% because of human CO2 emissions and gave that as the reason the oyster harvests had been suffering. And he qualified that statement by stating that the ocean pH had moved .1 unit towards acidity over the last century.
But as you know, the equation for the pH of an aqueous solution is logarithmic and defined as pH = -log[ H+ ] . As you also know, there are 14 orders of magnitude that define the pH scale from zero to fourteen units as per this equation. So a movement of .1 units towards acidity cannot equal a 30% increase in acidity as claimed in this article. It is actually .1/14 or only 7/10ths of 1%. In order for there to be the increase cited, the researchers solved it for the hydrogen ion concentration and computed that change instead and called it the change in acidity. So if we moved .1 units towards acidity from the alkaline 8.2 to 8.1 oceans and compared the change, we have [delta H+] = 8 E-9/6 E-9 = 1.33 or a 33% increase in the hydrogen ion concentration, not an increase of 33% in the pH. None the less, that is how the story was reported and it is wrong.
Since the natural variation of ocean pH can be up to 5% in either direction, I am speculating that in order to make the story seem legitimate, a gross exaggeration of fact was needed to sell it and hence the switch and bait tactic was used with the pH equation.
You agreed with me in my premise that hydrogen ion concentration makes up the pH but it is not defined by that number because the number of ions in an aqueous solution of water are very large. That was the whole idea behind creating a logarithmic scale with the 14 orders of magnitude to define it. I reported this to the Oregonian readership and thought the issue was settled. But then I found this:
In this explanation offered by NOAA, of which you are a senior scientist, we are back to the trickery of claiming the ocean acidity has increased by 30%. Are you aware of this NOAA information page? It needs an immediate correction. The ocean pH has been changing everywhere within natural variations. There is no provable decrease that can be identified with atmospheric CO2 that is related to human activity. Does Jane Lubchenco understand this? She has made numerous and completely false assertions that the up welling ocean water off of the Northwest coasts ( that will be on the rise because of the switch to cold phase PDO in 2007 that will run thirty years and likely decrease the pH additionally ) is attributable to human caused climate change. There is absolutely no proof of this and as far as meteorologists can tell, the mid and north Pacific Hadley cell summer circulation has intensified on schedule and is behaving perfectly normally in the cold phase of this ocean cycle. Either you or Lubchenco need to correct this page. It is misleading the public.
Chuck F. Wiese