Misguided PBS Spreads Acid Ocean Alarm

Guest post by Steve Goreham

Originally published in The Washington Times

On December 5, the PBS News Hour showed a segment titled “Endangered Coral Reefs Die as Ocean Temperatures Rise and Water Turns Acidic,” with Hari Sreenivasan reporting. The story discussed the recent loss of Florida coral reefs and the possible impact on recreation and tourism if reef degradation continues. But PBS wrongly told viewers that reef degradation was due to warmer ocean temperatures and “ocean acidification,” both allegedly caused by human carbon dioxide emissions. Sreenivasan concluded with, “Time that maybe is running out for coral reefs in Florida and elsewhere.”

Scientists, environmental groups, and the United Nations promote the fear of ocean acidification. According to claims, man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are absorbed by the oceans and converted into carbonic acid, thereby changing the chemical balance of the oceans. The basic concept of acidification is correct, but hugely exaggerated.

The PBS segment is wrong in several ways. First, while today’s temperatures are the warmest in the last 400 years, oceans were warmer still during the Medieval Warm Period ten centuries ago. Peer-reviewed studies found that both the Gulf of Mexico and nearby Sargasso Sea were warmer about 1000 AD than at present. These warm temperatures were due to natural climatic changes of Earth―not man-made emissions. Caribbean reefs adapted to these warm seas to remain with us today.

Second, the segment paints a misleading picture of carbon dioxide entering the oceans, without providing perspective for the viewer. Sreenivasan interviews scientist Chris Landon who states, “And it’s enough railroad cars stacked end to end to wrap around the earth seven times. That’s how much carbon is going into the ocean every single year.” This sounds alarming, unless you know that the oceans absorb and release about 90 times that amount of CO2 every year from the atmosphere naturally. In addition, carbon dioxide is absorbed by vast deposits of limestone rock in the ocean floor, removing it from sea water.

Third, the oceans are alkaline, not acidic. We’re discussing a reduction in alkalinity. Solutions are measured as acidic or alkaline (basic) on a logarithmic 14-point scale, called the pH Scale. Battery acid has a pH of about one, while the base lye has a pH as high as thirteen. Milk is slightly acidic, as are most of the foods we eat.

Measured in the open ocean, sea water is alkaline, with a pH of about 8.2. According to computer models, doubling of atmospheric CO2 would decrease ocean pH to about 7.9, still basic, but less so. The concern is that this change would destroy the coral reefs by dissolving the carbonate shells and skeletons of reef creatures. Sreenivasan states, “Acidification acts a lot like osteoporosis does in humans. But in marine animals, it makes their shells and skeletons brittle. The more acidic the water, the harder it is for corals to grow their skeletons.”

But, empirical evidence does not show it harder for today’s marine animals to grow their shells. A study of corals at the Great Barrier Reef shows that shell calcium growth rates today are about 25 percent higher than 300‒400 years ago when both ocean temperatures and levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide were lower.

Scientists still know little about the alkalinity of today’s ocean or the oceans of past centuries. Ocean pH varies by depth, becoming less basic as one goes deeper. It varies by latitude from the equator to the poles. It varies by location, such as the open ocean, coral reef, or kelp bed.

But the PBS segment ignores this uncertainty and implies that the rate of change in ocean pH is alarming. Dr. Langdon states, “What’s really and completely unique about what’s going on now is the rate of change. And that’s what is so difficult for organisms.”

However, evidence shows that a high rate of change in ocean alkalinity is natural. A 2011 study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found large variations in ocean pH by day, week, and month. Changes in some locations were as high as 0.35 units over the course of a day, higher than computer models are predicting for the next century.

Scuba divers know that reef creatures already experience acidic conditions near CO2 vents in the ocean floor. These vents bubble CO2 gas amidst coral reefs and grassy ocean pastures in millions of locations. Fish and reefs appear to be doing quite well near these CO2 vents.

The coral reefs in the Caribbean and other seas may be endangered due overfishing, chemical pollution, and human abuse. But let’s not blame reef degradation on misguided fears about global warming.

Steve Goreham is Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of the new book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania.

About these ads

68 thoughts on “Misguided PBS Spreads Acid Ocean Alarm

  1. These are the EPA regulations on coastal waters regarding the PH levels.

    http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/lawsguidance/cwa/tmdl/upload/oa_state_info_nov2010.pdf

    extract

    Florida: For Class II and III (marine) waters, pH shall not vary more than one unit above or below
    natural background of coastal waters, provided that the pH is not lowered to less than 6.5 units or raised
    above 8.5 units. If natural background is less than 6.5 units in marine waters, the pH shall not vary below
    natural background or vary more than one unit above natural background levels. If natural background is
    higher than 8.5 units, the pH shall not vary above natural background or vary more than one unit below
    natural background.

    and extract from NOAA workshop,

    This is often termed “ocean acidification” because it describes the
    process of decreasing pH. Current projections of ocean acidification
    suggest that
    the pH of surface ocean waters will continue to decline. However, the
    term can also lead to confusion
    when it is wrongly assumed that the oceans will become acidic, when in
    reality, ocean pH is never expected to fall below 7.0; i.e., the
    oceans are becoming
    less basic, but not acidic. Such a phenomenon could
    only occur in the unlikely event that CO2 emissions
    reach more than 10,000 Pg C (Caldeira and Wickett,
    2005)

  2. One word. Carbonates. Limestone and Dolomite. And the aragonite which comprises the shells of many invertebrates. CaO + CO2 — CaCo3.

    This alarm has been spread like syrup by David Suzuki’s bunch as well. The stupid hurts. In the case of the PBS presentation, the ignorant leading the ignorant, unquestioningly.

  3. Funny that they used Florida reefs for their example. With in the last few years, I could have sworn I saw a study of Florida Keys reefs, showing they are thriving with increased CO2.

  4. So many mistakes and irrelevances, one might begin to think it was deliberate.

    ” the oceans absorb and release about 90 times that amount of CO2 every year from the atmosphere naturally.”
    The magnitude of fluxes is irrelevant. It is the difference between gain and loss that is all important. Just ask Wilkins Micawber.

    “carbon dioxide is absorbed by vast deposits of limestone rock in the ocean floor, removing it from sea water.”
    This is a very important process on long time scales. It is one of the processes that will return atmospheric CO2 concentrations to their natural level over thousands of years, but over the next century, it is of minor relevance.

    “Third, the oceans are alkaline, not acidic.”
    Gosh, I never knew that.

    “However, evidence shows that a high rate of change in ocean alkalinity is natural.”
    Variability is one thing. A change in the mean state is another.

    “Fish and reefs appear to be doing quite well near these CO2 vents.”
    Provided you ignore all the papers that show the the effects of CO2 vents.

    “The coral reefs in the Caribbean and other seas may be endangered due overfishing, chemical pollution, and human abuse. ”
    At last, something that can be agree upon. Especially if we agree that CO2 is a chemical.

  5. Related to PBS, this morning NPR was hyping a story about Superstorm Sandy and how the NJ beach residents are doomed due to sea level rise and Climate Change(TM). They said even sea walls wouldn’t help because within a decade or two the oceans would rise and storm surges would oeverpower them. One woman said the climate change data is pouring in and we are witnessing climate change right now, it’s not a theory for the future.

    Sickening. I bet none of the people on that program ever even thought to look at the data. I bet most can’t spell the word “data”. And yet they “know” all this is happening. Here’s a simple solution: within a decade the people that “know” climate change is happening can sell their beach front property and move to high ground. Those that know climate change isn’t happening can buy those properties. Also, if climate change really is happening and this dumbocrats believe in it, why are they investing millions of tax payer revenue into rebuilding those beaches and sea walls. If sea level rise and storm surges are inevitable now, then they are just throwing their money away. The money should be spent in moving all those people to higher ground and let those tidal plains be nature preserves rather than million dollar mansions.

  6. “The basic concept of acidification is correct, but hugely exaggerated.”

    1) Sea water is a complex buffer and carbonic acid a weak acid. Its ability to alter pH is pathetic. The elephant in the room they do not want to address is that marine organisms can handle the changes quite well as they evolved in periods when CO2 was MUCH higher most of the time. It’s the high pH of today that is probably the most stressful for these life forms.

    2) Also, as carbonic acid is the beginning of a long equilibrium including bicarbonate to carbonate to calcium carbonate, and more CO2 means more calcium carbonate deposition in warm waters, not less. In addition, the protons released by this equilibrium cannot affect the equilibrium. Only protons from an outside source can push this equilibrium around. Calcium carbonate is more soluble in cold water than warm and, thus, cooling oceans are the biggest threat to coral reefs.

    3) Photosynthesis is an alkalizing process which can raise the pH during the day by 2-3 whole units. So, where’s the problem. Marine life simply is more robust than the whiners would want us to believe. CO2 is food to marine life in every way.

  7. They are doubling down on the rate of change argument. That’s risky, as things may not keep going their way.

  8. ” In addition, carbon dioxide is absorbed by vast deposits of limestone rock in the ocean floor, removing it from sea water.”

    Did not know limestone could absorb CO2.

    Would it not be better to say -

    CO2 is sequestered on the ocean floor when carbonates form and settle to the ocean floor …”?

  9. Just in case it hasn’t been mentioned before… PBS’s use of the term ‘acidification’ seems to be a deliberate attempt to deceive. If they were interested in accuracy, they would use ‘neutralization’ or something similar, wouldn’t they? Or does that not sound scary enough?

  10. Cold water also kills corals in the Florida Keys.

    A 2010 cold snap in Florida caused widespread coral death in the reefs along the state’s coast, a new study finds. In fact, the mortality rates from the cold were higher than in any other event on record.

    “It was a major setback,” said study researcher Diego Lirman, a professor of marine and atmospheric science at the University of Miami. “Centuries-old coral colonies were lost in a matter of days.”

    http://www.livescience.com/15799-florida-cold-devastated-coral-reefs.html

    Here is the paper:

    Severe 2010 Cold-Water Event Caused Unprecedented Mortality to Corals of the Florida Reef Tract and Reversed Previous Survivorship Patterns
    Abstract
    Background
    Coral reefs are facing increasing pressure from natural and anthropogenic stressors that have already caused significant worldwide declines. In January 2010, coral reefs of Florida, United States, were impacted by an extreme cold-water anomaly that exposed corals to temperatures well below their reported thresholds (16°C), causing rapid coral mortality unprecedented in spatial extent and severity………….

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0023047

    I vaguely recall, though I could be wrong, that corals evolved during a geologic time when co2 levels were far higher than today.

  11. While El Hierro was being festive, some of the water samples showed a pH of around 5.0 from the SO2 that was being released into the ocean. Thats actually acidic. Earlier this year, Havre Seamount in the Kermadec Islands (north of New Zealand) went up and produced a pretty significant pumice raft. Had the eruption been above water, it probably could have been as high as VEI-4. Most of the gases went into solution in the ocean.

    Thousands of miles of mid-oceanic ridges are dumping acid forming compounds (CO2, SO2, HCl, HF) into the ocean every single day… the sea critters seem to be okay with that. This has been going on for millions of years.

    And now they want to be concerned about CO2? What? Are they that stupid?

  12. richard telford:

    You say in your post at December 13, 2012 at 5:58 am

    “Third, the oceans are alkaline, not acidic.”

    Gosh, I never knew that.

    That is not surprising because the rest of your post displays similar ignorance.

    Please tell why you wish to display that you know nothing about the subject.

    Richard

  13. Here are the other impacts on Florida Keys coral reefs.

    “Preliminary evidence for human fecal contamination in corals of the Florida Keys, USA”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X01003320

    “Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment of seagrass and coral reef communities in the Lower Florida Keys”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022098104000875

    “Nutrient inputs from the watershed and coastal eutrophication in the Florida keys”

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.2307%2F1352391?LI=true

    “Algal contact as a trigger for coral disease”

    http://tinyurl.com/cgh4cdj

    “Condition of coral reef cnidarians from the northern Florida reef tract: Pesticides, heavy metals, and histopathological examination”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0025326X89903597

    “Scuba diver behaviour and the management of diving impacts on coral reefs”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320704001466

    Here are some other impacts on other corals elswhere.

    “Effects of cyanide on corals in relation to cyanide fishing on reefs”

    http://www.publish.csiro.au/?paper=MF97048

    “Short-term ecological consequences of a major oil spill on Panamanian subtidal reef corals”

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00301900?LI=true

    “Dynamite fishing in southern Tanzania, geographical variation, intensity of use and possible solutions”

    http://md1.csa.com/partners/viewrecord.php?requester=gs&collection=ENV&recid=4409890&q=&uid=791805140&setcookie=yes

    But remember, it’s co2 wot done it.

  14. So, if I were obese and I lost a few pounds, that would make me more anorexic – not less obese. Well according to the Eco Taliban it would. How do we actually get some fraud trials underway?

  15. One process which is little understood is called “whitings” it is an area of the warm sea that turns white due to precipitation of aragonite needles by phytoplankton. The phytoplanton breathe in CO2 and cause these fine needles of aragonite to form thus taking out of the ocean 2 molecules of CO2 for every molecule of carbonate formed. The geologic record has tremendous Limestone and Dolomite sections in which CO2 has been sequestered in the past. It is also one of the natural sources of atmosperic CO2 when these rocks are dissolved by Carbonic acid water at the surface.
    Carbonate formation in the oceans by animals and precipitations may be a large source of sequestation of CO2 from the oceans.

  16. GeoLurking said in part….
    “This has been going on for millions of years.”

    Why bother with millions of years of real data when the Warmists can predict, via their GIGO
    computers a disaster/tipping point using conveniently adjusted/falsified data from the past decade or so?

  17. If you meet one of these guys walking in the rain, ask him what on earth does he think he is doing walking around when water 1,000 times more acid than the oceans is falling on his skin.

  18. GeoLurking says:
    December 13, 2012 at 7:23 am

    And now they want to be concerned about CO2? What? Are they that stupid?
    ____________________
    No, but they are proceeding as if we are.

  19. This post starts with the proposition that”coral reefs die as ocean temps rise and water turns acidic”. If the ocean temps are rising it has nothing to do with human activity because you CANNOT heat water from above. You can radiate water but physical heat will not pass fom the atmosphere into the ocean due to surface tension. How do I know this, because I’ve tried. I tried to heat a bucket of water from above with a paint stripping gun and the surface rejects the heat totally.
    I realize that what I’m saying is so off the wall that people will want to argue so before anybody argues try heating a bucket of water with a heat gun. If you can heat the water you win, if you can’t, I win. Because of the effect of surface tension in blocking physical heat from the atmosphere there can not be any storage of heat on the planet and therefore no ratcheting up of temperature therefore no global warming its that simple. The only energy that goes into the ocean is radiated energy which penetrates surface tension no problem. The ocean is controlled by solar activity only.
    Science has made a major error in assuming that the second law of thermodynamics applies universally without actually checking and water is an exception because of surface tension. More research needed as they say.

  20. I lived in Florida 40 years ago. The reefs were dying, then, and the villains were slurp-gun toting divers who were taking all the fish to their salt-water aquariums, where most of them promptly died. It was easier to replace them than to manage the aquarium water quality. If that didn’t kill them, the outfalls of untreated or insuffficiently treated sewage and lawn chemicals would. The reefs promptly died when the fish were eliminated. That plague was spreading rapidly as the population exploded. So, should you take the CO2 story seriously? Nope.

    NPR also did a story about the shellfish industry in Puget Sound, which oddly enough has been declining as the population of the surrounding area explodes. There is also upwelling of heavily carbonized deep water, but I would be pretty suspicious of the former situation. I suspect the nonsense drums are being beaten again.

  21. PBS spreads alarm, agree.
    Misinformed? Disagree
    Their behaviour to date indicates intention to mislead.
    Our preening media, keeps telling us how smart they are.
    How if we were just better educated, we would concur with their beliefs.
    As they claim they can not be mistaken, therefore they be malicious.
    At this point in the climate alarm scam, the choice is stark, either or both, incompetent – criminal..

  22. Coral disease

    About 30 diseases of corals have been recognised since they were first discovered more than 30 years ago. There is still little known about the causes and effects of coral disease although diseases of coral can be caused by bacteria, fungi, algae and worms.

    Coral disease has a major impact on Caribbean reefs, where 80% of coral has been lost to disease in the last 20 years.

    Apparently no one at PBS has access to Google.

    Concerning heat guns, the water you warmed evaporated away! Air at 80 F, for instance, can heat water at 79 F, by conduction, without much evaporation. “Surface tension” does not affect heat transfer. Put a drop of detergent in your water, release most of the tension, try again. Turn your heat gun down low, raise it up a couple of feet, try again. There are no exceptions to the Second Law!!!

  23. Seems to me like several things are missing in the PBS contentions. As I understand their argument, (1) the climate is warming, (2) CO2 is causing warming, (3) increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere increases the amount of CO2 going into the ocean, (4) increasing CO2 in the ocean is causing it to become acid (less alkaline), (5) the increasing acidity is killing coral reefs. Let’s look at each of these contentions:
    (1) The climate is warming. Well, no warming over the past 16 years and the climate has been warming and cooling for millions of years—two periods of warming this century (1915-1945 and 1978-1998) and 25 times since 1480 AD without increased CO2. The climate has been warmer than present over about 90% of the past 10,000 years and coral reefs thrived. So the only argument here is so what?
    (2) The amount of global warming that can be cause by increased CO2 is insignificant. The CO2 composition of the atmosphere has changed only 0.008% since 1950 and CO2 accounts for only about 3% of the greenhouse gas effect (95% is from water vapor, which is not increasing).
    (3) It’s not that simple—atmospheric and oceanic CO2 exchange CO2 depending on temperature. The ocean puts 90 times more CO2 into the atmosphere than human emissions. The warmer the temperature, the more CO2 goes from the ocean into the atmosphere. So even if global warming was being caused by CO2, warming of the oceans would cause them to lose CO2, not gain it.
    (4) So far, I haven’t seen any data that shows significant increase in the level of oceanic carbonic acid as a result of increased CO2. The spatial and temporal variation of oceanic pH seems to be greater than any systematic difference in recent years. Where is the data to support this assumption?
    (5) Coral reefs survived 10,000 years of global temperatures higher than now and temperature drives the CO2 balance in water, not atmospheric CO2 levels.

    Have I missed something or was the PBS program just another exercise in dogmatic stupidity?

  24. @robert barclay

    Ok, the acidification pH reduction of seawater comes from the increased partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere not any supposed warming. Actually, the higher the seawater temperature the lower the CO2 solubility.

  25. Jimbo has it exactly correct. The 2010 cold weather killed so many fish in all the waterways, ponds, rivers and in near ocean water that carcasses were everywhere along the shore, and there was a lot of concern about the impact to fishing. Additionally, a lot of coral was killed, and there was some acknowledgement of that in scientific literature.

    2010 was one of three very cold winters (in a row) that we experienced here that killed trees and other plants that had been in place for years.

    It is important for folks who are not local to note that the water temperature in the near shore regions of Florida can range from the low 60s to near 90F during the course of the year. Commentary from the wildlife folks said the cause of the mortality was not the absolute temperature, but the speed with which it dropped, and the length of time it stayed cold.

    Gerry Parker

  26. I’m sure that back in the stone Age when I studied engineering there was some theory that as water warmed dissolved gases were emitted, not absorbed, Dalton’s Law or something like that…

  27. Andrew says:
    December 13, 2012 at 7:35 am
    So, if I were obese and I lost a few pounds, that would make me more anorexic – not less obese. Well according to the Eco Taliban it would.

    Here’s a link to a funny picture of a 400-pound guy wearing an “I Beat Anorexia” T-shirt:
    s27.photobucket.com

  28. I have often commented the following on supposed ocean acidification by CO2.

    If you do the maths, you will find at the current rate of absorption, the CO2 content of the oceans will increase by around one part per million over the next century.

    Now that’s a figure to be really alarmed about!!!

  29. This is an entirely contrived doomsday scenario. Saltwater aquarists often add CO2 to their seawater in order to increase calcification and growth. This is analogous to the practice of greenhouse growers directing the exhaust from their gas and wood heaters into the greenhouse to increase growth rates by up to 80%.
    See: Atkinson, M.J., Carlson, B.A. and Crow, G.L. 1995, “Coral Growth in High-Nutrient, Low-pH Seawater: A Case Study of Corals Cultured at the Waikiki Aquarium, Honolulu, Hawaii,” Coral Reefs 14, no. 4, pp. 215–223, http://www.springerlink.com/content/g2554037454q13wp

  30. richard telford says:
    December 13, 2012 at 5:58 am

    ….At last, something that can be agree upon. Especially if we agree that CO2 is a chemical.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    And so are YOU! The only thing not made of chemicals is the vacuum in space and that is debatable since there is some matter just not very much.

  31. richard telford says: @ December 13, 2012 at 5:58 am
    … At last, something that can be agree upon. Especially if we agree that CO2 is a chemical.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    There are times I would really like to dump all the people who hate ‘chemicals’ into a completely chemical free environment.

    And yes I am a chemist.

  32. I posted this in Tips and Notes, on Nov 28th:

    Folks,
    Our lame Governor from Washington state has just committed WA citizens to even greater expenses to control CO2, as it is ‘causing the acidification of our Puget Sound waters and threatening our shellfish resources with extinction’. This means more ‘blue ribbon’ committees spending more tax payer dollars setting up government/university/NGO research groups to spread even more of the taxpayer dollars around getting selective data to support their foregone conclusions.

    1) http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2012502655_acidification01.html
    2) http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2012/11/27/gov-gregoire-addresses-water-acidity.html
    3) http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2012/nov/27/governor-calls-for-action-to-fight-acidification/
    4) http://crosscut.com/2012/11/27/puget-sound/111701/state-tackle-ocean-acidification-global-warming/

    First, we found it in the air. Then, we found it in the water! Soon we’ll all be exhaling this CO2 pollution!!! Oh, the humanity……..”

    Ugh! Think of this as pHase II, in the mainstreaming of the “CO2 is BAD!” meme.
    MtK

  33. Ca leached from Feldspars and certain clays into the oceans will cause sequestation of CO2. Feldpsars and ca ricj clays are very common mineras.l In many warm areas , seas are saturated with Ca CO3 with extensive CacO3 on sea bed. Excess CO2 in form of carbonic acid will react with the CaCO3 and be neutralised. pH of water can vary due to heating, cooling and photosynthesis (n highest value I have seen is pH 9). Unless one knows natural variability, changes of pH less than 0.5 are fairly meaningless.

  34. James Ard says:
    December 13, 2012 at 6:22 am

    They are doubling down on the rate of change argument. That’s risky, as things may not keep going their way.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    They have Obummer and the US EPA to push through the changes they want. All the hype is to make sure the Sheeple are too brainwashed to notice they are being fleeced big time… AGAIN.

    More than 100 bills, resolutions, and amendments focusing on climate change have been introduced in the U.S. Congress during its current term (2011 – 2012). The information on what the EPA is upto is HERE. (Well worth the read because it is from a Climate Solutions lobbying group)

    They are very well aware that the time to push through all this crap is quickly running out.
    A Link listing all the news on winter storms that does not make it into the MSM.

    The reason for the Carbon(Dioxide) scapegoating:

    “The carbon economy is the fastest growing industry globally with US$84 billion of carbon trading conducted in 2007, doubling to $116 billion in 2008, and expected to reach over $200 billion by 2012 and over $2,000 billion by 2020″ – World Bank Carbon Finance Report for 2007 http://www.carbonplanet.com/navigating_the_carbon_economy

    H. L. Mencken had it right. “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”

  35. Michael Moon says:
    December 13, 2012 at 8:39 am
    Coral disease

    About 30 diseases of corals have been recognised since they were first discovered more than 30 years ago. There is still little known about the causes and effects of coral disease although diseases of coral can be caused by bacteria, fungi, algae and worms.

    Coral disease has a major impact on Caribbean reefs, where 80% of coral has been lost to disease in the last 20 years.
    …………………………………………..
    As Michael Moon says a lot of research establishes bacterial or viral diseases have played a part in coral reef decline, much of that since the 70′s.
    Interesting correlation in the growth of shipping, both tourist and fishing, since then that move from one ocean to another. Caribbean cruise ships may work the Alaska tours as the seasons change. Antarctic cruise ships transfer to the Arctic for that summer season. Fishing rustbuckets plunder one fishing area then move to another. Whaling fleets move from Japan to the southern oceans. We do not yet fully understand viruses and the effect of ships transferring them from an area where the particular strain is benign to where it may be virulent. Perhaps they transfer variant strains from one eco-system to another where they attack the corals, but in time immune or surviving corals recover. This may account for recovery of corals where major bleaching has occurred.

  36. richardscourtney says:
    December 13, 2012 at 7:23 am

    richard telford:

    You say in your post at December 13, 2012 at 5:58 am
    “Third, the oceans are alkaline, not acidic.”

    Gosh, I never knew that.

    That is not surprising because the rest of your post displays similar ignorance.

    Please tell why you wish to display that you know nothing about the subject.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Oh it is even funner than that. Click on his name richard telford it states:

    richard telford

    Ecologist with interests in quantitative methods and palaeoenvironments

    You can follow from that.

    I am continually amazed at how narrow the training is in various disciplines. I found as an undergrad I knew enough chemistry to do breakthrough research in geology only because the PhD Geologists had such crappy training in chemistry. I had Dr. Rane L. Curl (Karst) breathing down my neck to continue the research.

  37. highley7 says:

    The elephant in the room they do not want to address is that marine organisms can handle the changes quite well as they evolved in periods when CO2 was MUCH higher most of the time.

    Jimbo says:

    I vaguely recall, though I could be wrong, that corals evolved during a geologic time when co2 levels were far higher than today.

    These facts are unfortunately irrelevant. It is not the atmospheric level of CO2 that determines the pH of the oceans but how fast it changes. This is because there are processes such as that mentioned in this post (“carbon dioxide is absorbed by vast deposits of limestone rock in the ocean floor, removing it from sea water”) that act to restore pH but unfortunately the timescale for them to do so is on the order of something like 10,000 years and we are significantly changing CO2 levels on the timescale of a century. Hence, these buffering processes simply can’t keep up.

    If you want to see a recent talk on ocean acidification from one of the experts, here is Ken Caldeira’s talk at the AGU meeting last week: http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2012/events/gc44c-special-lecture-in-ocean-acidification-consequences-of-excess-carbon-dioxide-in-the-marine-environment-video-on-demand/

  38. I guess corals don’t like the cold either. Why do they always insist on global warming being the cause of Florida coral decline when there is plenty of reasons to point at other causes?

    Florida January 2010.

  39. joeldshore:

    At December 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm you say

    we are significantly changing CO2 levels on the timescale of a century.

    Really? You know that?
    If so then you are the man I have been seeking for over a decade.

    I don’t know the cause(s) of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration, but I want to know. You say you do know, so please tell me how you can and do know.

    Richard

  40. There’s going to come a day when Alarmists everywhere will get run out of town. People are getting fed up with this nonsense. Haven’t any of them realized the doom-dates have come and gone, again and again and again? As for global warming, we were supposed to be at the tipping point (too late to do anything) by 2012. Now it’s 20 years in the future or 30 or 50, or by 2100. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia was supposed to be completely destroyed by the year 2000 due to acidification – I was told all about the coming loss as a kid way back in the 1970s. They were spreading the scare then, but it’s still there, as healthy as ever.

    We need better policies and an adult approach. These idiots have had their cruel fun for literally generations, they have ruined lives, terrified children, and been responsible for now millions of deaths. It’s time to stop them. Governments need to ban extremism and alarmism. If something truly poses a threat, it should be examined properly – openly. Scientifically. But to pop a scare up to gain funding? No. That should be made a crime and the penalty should be severe. They are destroying peoples lives and they MUST be held accountable.

  41. Gail Combs says:
    December 13, 2012 at 11:25 am
    richard telford says:
    December 13, 2012 at 5:58 am

    ….At last, something that can be agree upon. Especially if we agree that CO2 is a chemical.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    And so are YOU! The only thing not made of chemicals is the vacuum in space and that is debatable since there is some matter just not very much.
    ——————————
    You have misunderstood my intent. If only you had been less hasty to judge, you would have found that we agree on this point. I was mocking those who would think that CO2 could not be a chemical pollutant, just as I would mock those who think that organic foods are chemical free.

    But I fail to see that is so funny with the text “Ecologist with interests in quantitative methods and palaeoenvironments”.

    Mods: it would be greatly appreciated if you didn’t censor half my comments.

  42. I prefer the term ‘less caustic’, although caustic can be used to describe acids, it is conventionally used to describe the corrosive properties of alkalies, as opposed to ‘acidic’.

    ‘Less caustic’ just does not sound quite so scary, does it?

  43. Good article, Steve. Thank you. I urge everyone to contact their local PBS station to complain about the many errors in the News Hour “Making Sense of Climate Change” series. I have told them that I am withholding my pledge because of the misinformation.

  44. From the AGU lecture link given above by joeldshore
    20 mins 45seconds:

    “So, anyway, we don’t really know what’s going on there, but that didn’t stop us publishing the paper.”

    That’s what I thought, too.

  45. @ joeldshore

    LOL. Did you notice your so called expert makes the assumption in his presentation that carbonate saturation is the limiting factor for coral survival instead of temperature? As usual with alarmist “experts” they assume a cause and effect relationships that’s opposite of the most likely and obvious case. The saturation of carbonate distribution is due to temperature being the dominate factor in Henry’s Law. Coral distribution mimics the saturation distribution most likely because they have the same dominant factor, temperature. In other words, your expert is either foolish, fooling, or has secret knowledge that no one else on the planet does.

  46. Many years ago, there used to be the worry of raw sewage being dumped in the oceans. (If people can remember the time when they spray painted fish stencils on all drains heading into oceans/lakes and rivers.) Now they want to worry about ocean acidification? Soon enough they are going to worry about caffeine and hormones among some of the things that are contaminating the oceans from raw sewage still being dumped into our oceans.
    So why are governments still funding study after study, why hasn’t that money gone back into rebuilding sea walls, upgrading sewage systems. Improving our building codes and so on. The list is pretty much using some common sense that sh*t happens, and it’s logical to be prepared.

  47. I believe it was part of the same series, but a few days earlier PBS had a piece on the impact of “ocean acidification” on Pacific NW oyster production. There is no doubt of changing environmental conditions having a negative impact on the industry. I emailed Dr Richard Feely, who was quoted on the piece about a particular comment referring to “corrosive” deep welling currents, pointing out that moving to a more “neutral” point on the pH scale could not really be corrosive. Dr Feely took the time to reply, providing reference papers. If one looks at research results, organisms that form shells have shown an impact that looks like corrosion. If I understand the process correctly, it has more to do with inhibiting the ability to form a shell, which is not the same as having the shell corroding. While the accuracy of the terminology from a pure science perspective can be questioned. It is not a wild distortion.

    What remained unanwsered are questions about certainty with regard to human CO2 verses natural processes. The PBS piece made repeated reference to upwelling currents along the PNW. From what I can determine, no good evidence has been presented that differenciates between these deep currents and CO2 uptake by the oceans from anthropogenic sources. One of the papers Dr Feely referenced talked about changes in surface wind patterns caused by higher CO2 concentrations which would lead to greater upwelling. But if I understood the paper correctly, the connection between C)2 and changes in wind patterns was basically model derived.

    So I was left with this impression – there is no doubt environmental conditions along the PNW coast are changing. The impact to the shell fish industry is real. What is not certain is the link to CO2 emissions. Up welling is a known. What is not known is the relationship between these currents and the increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. There appears to be a leap of faith that human CO2 emmisions are the difference. While I personally believe that such leaps are not unwarranted in life, I do have doubts when they occur in science.

  48. In analyzing any degradation to reefs I would suppose all things have been considered? e.g the effects of anti-fouling paint, bilge water, human urine (PH 4.6 – a large recreational industry must mean a lot of people), agricultural runoff, Crown of Thorns star fish, and the unregulated removal of coral and fish for trade, In addition plants and animals are moved around the planet and let lose by idiots, such as the Lion Fish (the fish is not the idiot).
    I am assuming all things have been considered.

  49. Anthony— is there an assignment of stupidity we could use like a “CLUB OF BAFOONS” ? One or more persons could nominate and a dozen votes would place the offender in the club. If the moron continues to use fictitious and unfactual comments they advance through varying degrees of stupid with a winner receiving a ” Scientific Imposter of the Year Award”.
    We absolutely need comic relief before our heads explode!!

  50. I bought a Soda Stream a while back. The instructions recommend cooling the water first so that it will retain more of the CO2 the Soda Stream sprays into it. What do they know that Climate Alarmists do not?

  51. theOtherJohninCalif says:

    What do they know that Climate Alarmists do not?

    What the people whom you call “Climate Alarmists” (and I would call “scientists”) know and you do not is that temperature isn’t the only thing that controls the concentration of CO2 in the oceans. Another important factor is the partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere above the ocean. That partial pressure has increased by ~40% since the beginning of the industrial revolution (with about half of that rise having occurred in the last ~35 years).

    Can you guess which effect is dominating?

  52. All the commentry seems to be preoccupied with the “current” warming hysteria, understandably.
    However, I would bring it to attention that a young man called Eddie Hegerl came to Brisbane Queensland, Australia from the U.S.A. in 1963+- to save the Great Barrier Reef. He started the Australian Littoral Society and it was due to its efforts along with many others that the reef system is now a world heritage and under protective management with mostly positive results. My point is, he stated the reason for his coming was that the damage to Florida and Carribean reefs due to direct human exploitation was extreme and out of control(fishing,collecting,coral industries,visitation………….) ; that he thought those reefs were “finished” and that we had to protect the G.B.R. before it was too late. NOBODY WAS TALKING ABOUT AGW THEN !

  53. joeldshore says:

    “Can you guess which effect is dominating?”

    No need to guess, the CO2 partial pressure of seawater is dominated by physical, chemical, and biological processes within the water not simply the partial pressure of the overlying air.

    http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=kt167nb66r;chunk.id=d3_7_ch06;doc.view=print

    “The partial pressure of CO2 in the surface water can be computed with sufficient accuracy when the temperature, salinity, alkalinity, and pH are known, but, before a better understanding of the CO2 exchange between the sea and the atmosphere can be obtained, a far more comprehensive study of the partial pressure of the atmospheric CO2 must be made. Buch (1939b) has reported a number of direct observations on the CO2 content of the air which indicate that polar air is relatively low in CO2 (pCO2 = 0.23 Torr), compared to continental and tropical air (pCO2 = 0.25 Torr). It has been suggested that in low latitudes the air is enriched with CO2 from the ocean and that the general atmospheric circulation carries the CO2 into high latitudes. There it again dissolves in the sea water, which in time brings it back toward the Equator.”

    Note the higher concentration of atmospheric CO2 (~329 ppm or .25 Torr) is where CO2 is going from the seawater to the air and the lower atmospheric concentration (~303 ppm or .23 Torr) is where the CO2 is being dissolved, that’s because the dissolution of atmospheric CO2 into seawater is dominated by the temperature not the atmospheric CO2 partial pressure.

    “Cycle of CO2 Between Sea and Atmosphere. Investigations of the partial pressure of CO2 in the ocean and the atmosphere have been made by Krogh (1904) and Buch (1939a,b). The following internal changes will increase or decrease the pCO2 in the surface layer:
    Increase pco2
    1. Rise in temperature
    2. Rise in salinity (evaporation)
    3. Respiration
    4. Precipitation of CaCO3
    5. Deep water brought to surface

    Decrease pco2
    1. Decrease in temperature
    2. Decrease in salinity
    3. Photosynthesis
    4. Solution of CaCO3 “

    Hmmm, atmospheric CO2 didn’t even make their list but temperature is the #1 factor.

  54. I read of one study that showed lowered alkalinity made the calcium more available; dead shells dissolved faster, and living shellfish found capturing and utilizing it easier, resulting in enhanced growth. As usual, the opposite result of that touted by Warmists.

  55. John West,

    So are you trying to claim that sea water has been a net emitter rather than a net absorber of CO2 from the atmosphere in the last century?!? I believe that flies in the face of lots of other evidence, including the fact that the CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising only at about half the rate at which we have emitted CO2 into the air through the burning of fossil fuels. This means the extra CO2 has to be going somewhere, and while some of it can be going into land biomass, I think there is plenty of evidence that at least some of it is going into the oceans.

  56. joeldshore:

    Your post addressed to John West at December 17, 2012 at 11:27 am says in total

    So are you trying to claim that sea water has been a net emitter rather than a net absorber of CO2 from the atmosphere in the last century?!? I believe that flies in the face of lots of other evidence, including the fact that the CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising only at about half the rate at which we have emitted CO2 into the air through the burning of fossil fuels. This means the extra CO2 has to be going somewhere, and while some of it can be going into land biomass, I think there is plenty of evidence that at least some of it is going into the oceans.

    Your post – as is usual with your posts – displays a complete lack of understanding of the issue under discussion.

    Please note that I don’t know what has caused the recent increase to atmospheric CO2 concentration, but I want to know. And anybody who thinks they know is mistaken because available data permits either an anthropogenic or a natural cause to be attributed
    (ref. Rorsch A, Courtney RS & Thoenes D, ‘The Interaction of Climate Change and the Carbon Dioxide Cycle’ E&E v16no2 (2005) ).

    I draw your attention to the several discussions of the carbon cycle on WUWT and in particular to the ongoing discussion on the thread at

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/07/a-brief-history-of-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide-record-breaking/

    In that thread Henry P had been attempting to model changes to the carbon cycle using the ‘mass balance’ argument which you present. I pointed out that the ‘mass balance argument’ is irrelevant to an understanding of the causes of recent rise to atmospheric CO2 concentration. But I failed to adequately explain why that argument is irrelevant and he responded.

    Therefore, I provided the post which I copy below (to save you and others needing to find it).

    Henry P is an honest man so he read the post (which I copy below) and admitted the impossibility of a ‘mass balance’ model being informative.

    I wait to see if you can muster similar honesty to that demonstrated by Henry P.

    Richard

    *********************
    richardscourtney says:
    December 13, 2012 at 8:23 am

    HenryP:

    At December 13, 2012 at 5:27 am you say to me

    What you are asking is if CO2 is or could be dragged over from previous warmer ages.

    NO!
    I have no idea where you got such an idea because I have not questioned and not mentioned any such thing.

    CO2 is in various compartments of the carbon cycle system, and it is exchanged between them. Almost all of the CO2 is in the deep oceans. Much is in the upper ocean surface layer. Much is in the biosphere. Some is in the atmosphere. etc..

    The equilibrium state of the carbon cycle system defines the stable distribution of CO2 among the compartments of the system. And at any moment the system is adjusting towards that stable distribution. But the equilibrium state is not a constant: it varies at all time scales.

    Any change to the equilibrium state of the carbon cycle system induces a change to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Indeed, this is seen as the ‘seasonal variation’ in the Mauna Loa data. However, some of the mechanisms for exchange between the compartments have rate constants of years and decades. Hence, it takes decades for the system to adjust to an altered equilibrium state.

    The observed increase of atmospheric CO2 over recent decades could be an effect of such a change to the equilibrium state. If so, then the cause of the change is not known.

    Indeed, if – as you suggest – the cause of the recent atmospheric CO2 increase is volcanism then the most likely alteration is NOT volcanic emission of CO2: it is volcanic emission of sulphur ions below the sea decades or centuries ago.

    The thermohaline circulation carries ocean water through the deeps for centuries before those waters return to ocean surface. The water acquires sulphur ions as it passes undersea volcanoes and it carries that sulphur with it to the ocean surface layer decades or centuries later. The resulting change to sulphur in the ocean surface layer alters the pH of the layer.

    An alteration of ocean surface layer pH alters the equilibrium concentration of atmospheric CO2.

    A reduction to surface layer pH of only 0.1 (which is much too small to be detectable) would induce more than all the change to atmospheric CO2 concentration of 290 ppmv to ~400 ppmv which has happened since before the industrial revolution.

    I don’t know if this volcanic effect has happened, and I doubt that it has. But it demonstrates how changed equilibrium conditions could have had the observed effect on atmospheric CO2 concentration whether or not the anthropogenic CO2 emission existed.

    Richard

  57. joeldshore says:

    ”John West,
    So are you trying to claim that sea water has been a net emitter rather than a net absorber of CO2 from the atmosphere in the last century?!? I believe that flies in the face of lots of other evidence, including the fact that the CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising only at about half the rate at which we have emitted CO2 into the air through the burning of fossil fuels. This means the extra CO2 has to be going somewhere, and while some of it can be going into land biomass, I think there is plenty of evidence that at least some of it is going into the oceans.

    I was not claiming anything as to the ocean being a net emitter or absorber of CO2 but rather was illustrating that the temperature is a more dominant factor in determining the partial CO2 pressure of seawater than the partial pressure of the overlying air.

    But while we’re on the subject we might as well discuss the carbon cycle and how the ocean could be a net emitter of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere AND absorb half of our emissions. Hopefully, your brain didn’t just explode. Let me explain. Take a moment and consider the carbon cycle as being split into a biological carbon cycle and chemical carbon cycle. The biological carbon cycle includes photosynthesis and respiration among other processes that may occur in the atmosphere and in the ocean. The chemical carbon cycle includes weathering and carbonate dissolution among other processes. Where these two cycles intersect is in the surface ocean with organisms that produce carbonate shells. We also need to realize the ocean is not some homogenous blob of water, but has several distinct layers and sections. The deep ocean where there’s no light is very different from the surface ocean and similarly the surface tropical waters are very different from polar surface waters. So, as I was saying the ocean could be emitting from tropical waters more than it is absorbing from polar waters and still be absorbing half “our” emissions from the atmosphere because it’s more like a complicated web than a simple cycle.

    I’ll try to illustrate: (“u” just being units and values completely hypothetical, “^” = emit to and “v” = absorbed from)
    Start with atmosphere = 1,000 u; surface ocean = 10,000 u; and deep ocean = 1,000,000 u
    Annually:
    Respiration: 95 u ^ atmosphere & 100 u ^ surface ocean.
    Combustion: 10 u ^ atmosphere.
    Photosynthesis: 105 u v atmosphere & 100 u v surface ocean.
    Tropical surface ocean: 10 u ^ atmosphere.
    Polar surface ocean: 5 u v atmosphere.
    Deep ocean 20 u v surface ocean.

    Ok, yes, this is absurdly oversimplified. Still, in this example even though the surface ocean is net emitting the atmosphere is gaining at only half the combustion emission rate. Now, I’m not saying this is representative of what is actually going on, the carbon cycle is much much much more complicated than this, but what I am saying is yes it is possible for the ocean to be net emitting AND have absorbed half of “our” emissions.

  58. richardscourtney says:

    “Please note that I don’t know what has caused the recent increase to atmospheric CO2 concentration, but I want to know. And anybody who thinks they know is mistaken because available data permits either an anthropogenic or a natural cause to be attributed.”

    I’ll second that!

    And thanks for the backing, I almost forgot about this thread. I shudder just thinking of some AGW advocate getting the last word and possibly being come across by someone googling months or even years later who’s just started trying to figure this mess out and thinking that the AGW advocate’s point went unanswered because it was challenging to the skeptical position.

Comments are closed.