Nutri-systems for climate control

From the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)

Ocean nutrients a key component of future change say scientists

Variations in nutrient availability in the world’s oceans could be a vital component of future environmental change, according to a multi-author review paper involving the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS).

The paper, published this month in Nature Geoscience, reviews what we know about ocean nutrient patterns and interactions, and how they might be influenced by future climate change and other man-made factors. The authors also highlight how nutrient cycles influence climate by fuelling biological production, hence keeping carbon dioxide (CO2) locked down in the ocean away from the atmosphere.

Dr Mark Moore from University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science, which is based at NOCS, led the review. He said: “We aimed to get a group of international experts together in an attempt to define the current state of knowledge in this rapidly developing field.”

Marine algae, which support most marine ecosystems, need certain resources to grow and reproduce – including nutrients. If there are not enough nutrients available, the growth or abundance of these microscopic plants can become restricted. This is known as ‘nutrient limitation’.

“All organisms, from the smallest microbes, up to complex multi-cellular animals like us, require a variety of chemical elements to survive,” explained Dr Moore. “Somehow we all have to get these elements from our external environment.”

Nutrients are therefore a key driver of microbial activity in the oceans. But at the same time, microorganisms play a major role in cycling nutrients and carbon throughout the vast ocean system – including drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere. Therefore understanding ocean nutrient cycling is important for predicting future environmental change.

Dr Moore said: “Despite many decades of research, we still don’t understand some of the complex interactions between marine microorganisms and nutrient cycles.

“Human activity has the potential to profoundly impact oceanic nutrient cycles. A solid understanding of complex feedbacks in the system will be required if we are going to be able to predict the consequences of these changes.”

The authors – from 22 different institutes – call for an interdisciplinary approach merging new analytical techniques, observations and models going forward to address current gaps in our understanding.

###

The review resulted from a workshop, hosted at NOCS, as part of the International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme/Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (IGBP-SCOR) funded Fast Track Initiative on Upper Ocean Nutrient Limitation.

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35 thoughts on “Nutri-systems for climate control

  1. ALL CHANGE, Climate is now 4 years of weather
    The Sun UK Newspaper
    “BRITAIN’S winters are getting colder because of melting Arctic ice, the Government’s forecaster said yesterday.
    “Met Office chief scientist Julia Slingo said climate change was “loading the dice” towards freezing, drier weather — and called publicly for the first time for an urgent investigation.”

    Prof Slingo said: “If you look at the way our weather patterns have behaved over the past four or five years, we’re beginning to think that there is something happening. “

  2. “Human activity has the potential to profoundly impact oceanic nutrient cycles.”

    Yes indeed. Especially the appalling fishing practice as imposed by the EU, throw away fish you are not licenced to land. Then there is seabed hoovering to produce fish meal for fish farms with a return of 1lb farmed fish for 8lb fish meal. No wonder the ocean food chain is in distress.

  3. “Marine algae, which support most marine ecosystems, need certain resources to grow and reproduce – including nutrients. If there are not enough nutrients available, the growth or abundance of these microscopic plants can become restricted. This is known as ‘nutrient limitation’.”

    This is the principle underlying the ‘Malthusian’ AGW agenda,…

  4. “Human activity has the potential to profoundly impact oceanic nutrient cycles. A solid understanding of complex feedbacks in the system will be required if we are going to be able to predict the consequences of these changes.”
    In other words, “Send Money!”

  5. The most needed nutrient for marine algae is CO2. Mineral nutrients are sourced in the ocean depths, upwelling sea water contains more than surface waters.
    This report is from a University that added hydrochloric acid to its sea water tanks because they couldn’t get the bubbled CO2 to dissolve sea shells so any reported research from them I view with disbelief.

  6. Slightly ot but sort of relevant, there was an interesting programme on BBC4 on Tuesday about the science of bubbles. It covered lots of things from the taste of champagne through medicine to reducing friction for ships. The presenter was Helen Czerski from Southampton university, whose area of speciality is bubbles in the ocean including their effect on climate. I waited for the worse than we thought moment, but it never came. Is the climate climate changing?

  7. “We aimed to get a group of international experts together in an attempt to define the current state of knowledge in this rapidly developing field.”- so they don’t know much but will this stop them from doing a ‘worse than we thought’ paper in Nature Geoscience.

    Re nutrients, Na, Mg, K, Ca, Fe, C, N, O, P, S plus trace metals – these are all super abundant in the ocean and on land. Any other questions? Perhaps I could give a paper on the likelihood of their depletion.

  8. “The paper, published this month in Nature Geoscience, reviews what we know about ocean nutrient patterns and interactions, and how they might be influenced by future climate change and other man-made factors.”

    That sentence implies that future climate change is man-made. So it seems that these “scientists” have a fundamental misunderstanding about nature. Start with wrong assumptions, how likely is it that you arrive at correct conclusions, well, and if you do, it would be despite your misconceptions, not because of them.

    22 different institutes all hitching a ride on the climate gravy train.

  9. Check the P-V-T charts for CO2….at 4C and 150 atmospheres, CO2 is a liquid. Per Timothy Casey in”Volcanic CO2″….there are vast pools of liquid CO2 on the ocean floor….posted at Geologist-1011. This supply assures that the entire ocean is at maximum saturation, regardless of a 10 – 20 PPM human caused atmospheric change. The net system flow is dissolved ocean CO2 outgassed to the atmosphere….and CO2 is the basis for ALL CARBON LIFE FORMS….including politicians and environmentalists. [although it is entertaining to think about starving THEIR nutrient supply....which is monopoly money]

  10. This is excellent research and its scientific goal is well stated; just one example of how ‘climate change’related research may generate ‘real’ science.Sceptics/IIPCcritics ioften ignore this and concentrate on the misuse of science by interested parties, so-called users who usually have a financial or power related interest in one interpreation of the science.

  11. Friends:

    I draw attention to the post by Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen at April 11, 2013 at 5:25 am.

    If she says that then consider the issue carefully before commenting.

    Sonja produced the best paper by far on the 1980s ‘acid rain’ issue. It is better than both of my papers on that subject.

    If you choose to question her on her post then be prepared for robust debate from this extraordinary lady who – when AGW is long-forgotten – will be remembered as a hero of science.

    As Editor of E&E she has published both pro and anti AGW scientific papers. She published the first papers from McIthrick and McIntyre which broke the MBH Hockey Stick.

    The Climategate emails reveal how ‘The Team’ attempted to muzzle Sonja by attempting to get her sacked from her university position.

    So, answer her how you want. But be aware of the lady we are honoured to have here with us.

    Richard

  12. They admit that they don’t know what they are doing by announcing that they need to assemble a team of experts to study a potential problem. I think all that biosphere will consume all the CO2 that is delivered to it and the atmosphere is a very good delivery system. Think about the upwelling off the coast of Peru emitting CO2 that ends up in the Arctic to feed phytoplankton blumes.

  13. It is also of interest that Earth has two open-cycle refrigeration systems. In a closed system heat is moved by opposite actions, separated by piping and coils. Freon is heated [and boiled] in an evaporator, cooling the environment outside the evaporator coil. The Freon is pumped to a condenser where it is cooled [giving off heat] and condenses back to liquid….but the surrounding air is heated. A heat pump reverses this refrigerant flow, removing some heat from the cold outdoors and condensing that heat in the usual inside evaporator coil.

    Now imagine the same process with NO piping. The ocean surface is cooled by evaporation [largely water] and the heat carried aloft where it condenses, releasing heat, which falls as cool rain. The refrigerant [in this case water] still has the opposite action of the environment, but without the easily visible process. This same atmospheric process also occurs in the ocean in a liquid state. Multiple gases are discharged under high heat and high pressure at sea floor vents and instantly condense [cooling the ocean floor]. These gases [now liquid] disperse in the water column, reaching maximum saturation and outgassing [evaporating] at various levels and again removing heat from the ocean. These gases include CO2, NOx, SOx, CH4 and others, and again checking the P-V-T charts, all have different phase change points.

    These entrained gases can also separated by mechanical action, which is why deep sea robots and submarines must have very slow moving propellers to avoid the ‘cavitation’ that produces bubble tracts. The result is that a portion of Earth’s elemental heat production is hidden as open cycle refrigeration as described in “Earth’s Missing Geothermal Flux”. This also explains the needed feedstock for the 3 micron SOx in the atmosphere that is then nucleacized by solar radiation into into the 50 micron size needed for cloud formation. Many mysteries are hidden in plain view. We don’t know who discovered water….but we are pretty sure it wasn’t the fish.

    [suggestion: take a look at the world outside the elitist limited intellectual fishbowl]

  14. Dust from extreme dry cold conditions, and silt from catastrophic wet floods replenishes algae-growing areas in the ocean. That stuff is filled with exactly the nutrients needed to create the blooms that later become food for the cyclic nature of fish population counts. Extremes are a necessary and natural part of oceanic nutrients. Stable “climate” with predicatable weather, which most unschooled people think the ideal, is the real catastrophy.

  15. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen says:
    April 11, 2013 at 5:25 am
    “This is excellent research and its scientific goal is well stated; just one example of how ‘climate change’related research may generate ‘real’ science.”

    So you’re saying they were only lying when claiming that future climate change is an exclusively man made phenomenon; to be able to steal some warmist money.

    Makes me feel better already.

  16. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen says

    quote
    This is excellent research and its scientific goal is well stated; just one example of how ‘climate change’related research may generate ‘real’ science.
    unquote

    Dr Boehmer-Christiansen,

    I’ve been waiting for years for someone to examine the effects of ocean biology on the carbon isotope signal. A naive expectation is that dissolved silica run-off from agriculture and industry would increase diatom growth. This should restrict the growth of calcareous phytoplankton until the silica is used, delaying the spring bloom, reducing ultimate CO2 pulldown and, as diatoms use a non-discriminatory carbon fixing system, the comparative amount of light C left in the atmosphere will go up. So more CO2 in the atmosphere, light C signal. Sounds familiar.

    I can’t wait.

    JF
    Or not, of course. But at least someone is looking.

  17. Nutrients are not a control knob determining the productive state of the oceans. And while Dr. Moore’s comment that “Despite many decades of research, we still don’t understand some of the complex interactions between marine microorganisms and nutrient cycles” is correct it is not sufficent. We also do not understand the interaction of entire the grazer spectrum including the vertebrates on productivity. Nor do we understand the complex interactions of tide, current, flushing times, sediment interactions, temperature, light penetration, allelopathy, ocean phase etc.
    EPA is currently pushing nutrients as the control knob controlling ocean and estuary production for a very simple reason– it can’t regulate any of the other parameters.

  18. While researching nutrient cycles in the vast oceans is no doubt a worthy project, it does seem that once again scientists are imagining that we puny humans could fix everything just the way we like it if only we could find the right settings for the machine (which they presume that we control).

    It is certainly true that human activity can have significant effects on small areas of the sea near coastlines. As for the other 99% – these people either have delusions of grandeur or have been playing too many computer games.

    Understanding of the oceans is even more primitive than understanding land systems. On land, we have the advantage that there is much less of it and we live there, but we are still arguing about many fundamental issues.

    A touch of humility and a good dose of reality are required here.

  19. As I read the post, at first I was expecting another puff piece. At the end, I saw that there were 22 authors. That usually means a low quality article ( using Willis’s index of authors to quality )

    The post looks like a press release. However, it makes sense. It sumarises the state of current research and the huge hole in our knowledge. As such it looks like a reasonable piece of research.

    I noted the comment of Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and it had the ring of truth, at least for me. I then saw Richard Courtney’s comment. And it put Sonja’s comment in perspective.

    As a sceptic / sometime Luke-warmer I am sometimes disappointed by people on our side of the argument who take a religious position. Something we criticise the Alarmists for.

    Not just alarmists, but real scientists have to get funding, and global warming is a good source. We should not be critical just because they appeal for funding.

    /ikh

  20. johanna says: April 11, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    quote
    While researching nutrient cycles in the vast oceans is no doubt a worthy project, it does seem that once again scientists are imagining that we puny humans could fix everything just the way we like it if only we could find the right settings for the machine (which they presume that we control).
    unquote

    On March 12 last year we flew to Madeira from the UK: from 40,000 ft the ocean looked odd. First, large tendrils of different texture wavered over the surface, with no waves in the smooth bits but whitecaps showing in the unsmoothed. Then the tendrils joined and a vast smooth area of ocean was all that I could see from horizon to horizon. We flew over this smooth for forty minutes. i estimate its area as between 20,000 and 30,000 square miles. The smooth was resisting what looked like a force 4 wind.

    So what was it? It ran from abeam Oporto to shortly before our destination where it faded into tendrils and then disappeared. I think it was pollution. Above it the clouds had disappeared and the smoothed surface must have been warmed by a sun which was not reflected by the stratocu — a difference in albedo of approximately zero and seventy.

    I was for a while an RAF pilot and the nastiest job I ever had was maritime strike attack, 100 ft over the sea at 480 knots, so I’ve got an intimate idea what the sea looks like. The only time I’ve seen the smooth effect was when the surface was oil and/or surfactant polluted. Until I saw that smooth I would have agreed with you: our oil spills (a city of 5 million people spills enough oil pollution each year to equal a major tanker disaster – NASA, from memory) should really be oxidised before they got that far from shore. We spill enough light oil down our rivers to coat the entire ocean surface every four weeks (it’s actually something like four weeks and eight hours, a calculation I did for rgb@duke when he objected), and assuming that surfactant is about the same we can expect a smoothed ocean every fortnight. Then one must allow for biodegradation, oxidation etc, so it won’t be anywhere near that much, but in principle that’s what is happening. Some areas get more than their share — every two weeks enough light oil comes down the rivers of Siberia to equal an Exxon Valdez disaster.

    So, johanna, while I’d agree with you that we can’t find a control knob, I think we could usefully clean up our effluent which may extend for thousands of miles, not just near the coasts, which would be the equivalent of stopping hitting the weather machine with a large rock. If oil spills are really reducing cloud cover then climate sensitivity to CO2 is much less than 2 and all the windmills and expense are for nothing.

    Aeolian dust, that’s worth measuring too.

    See my posting at Judith Curry’s site: GLOBAL WARMING IN THE 20TH CENTURY: AN ALTERNATIVE SCENARIO

    JF
    http://marinas.com/view/inlet/1668_Beaufort_Harbor_Inlet_NC_United_States , the first two images show a nice area of smooths.

  21. On March 12 last year we flew to Madeira from the UK: from 40,000 ft the ocean looked odd. First, large tendrils of different texture wavered over the surface, with no waves in the smooth bits but whitecaps showing in the unsmoothed. Then the tendrils joined and a vast smooth area of ocean was all that I could see from horizon to horizon. We flew over this smooth for forty minutes. i estimate its area as between 20,000 and 30,000 square miles. The smooth was resisting what looked like a force 4 wind.

    So what was it? It ran from abeam Oporto to shortly before our destination where it faded into tendrils and then disappeared. I think it was pollution. Above it the clouds had disappeared and the smoothed surface must have been warmed by a sun which was not reflected by the stratocu — a difference in albedo of approximately zero and seventy.
    ——————————————————–
    What you describe proves nothing, except to highlight my point that we know very little about the oceans. “I think it was pollution” is a bit like saying “I think it’s the CO2 that’s doing it”.

    On the face of it, 20-30,000 square miles of otherwise undetected “pollution” in the middle of the sea is implausible.

    I would want to hear rgb@duke’s version of the exchange before going any further on your point about oil pouring down rivers and its effects.

  22. The London Dumping Convention adopted a non-binding resolution in 2008 on fertilization (labeled LC-LP.1(2008)). The resolution states that ocean fertilization activities, other than legitimate scientific research, “should be considered as contrary to the aims of the Convention and Protocol and do not currently qualify for any exemption from the definition of dumping.”

  23. johanna wrote:

    quote
    I would want to hear rgb@duke’s version of the exchange before going any further on your point about oil pouring down rivers and its effects.
    unquote

    rgb’s input was confined to doubting that smooths exist and so I pointed him at the pictures of Beaufort harbour which he knows well, with large smooths obvious to anyone, Why not do some research for yourself? Google… lessee… shiptracks NASA, seawifs oil spills, Beaufort harbour images. I appreciate that you are speaking from a position of no knowledge, but the last google will show you what a smooth looks like and the former will enable you to comment on how much pollution there is.

    What do you think caused the smooth between Portugal and Madeira? I’ve been crossing the Atlantic since 1969 and I’ve never seen anything of that size, but I’ve frequently seen smoothed areas of ocean. If you care to use your eyes you’ll see a few square miles at every harbour outflow in the world, but very few people really look at the world around them. What happens to all those little smooths? I don’t know. Do they sink, recombine, meld? Do they quickly get devoured by bacteria? As far as I can find, _no-one_ knows.

    Perhaps I malign you unjustly. Perhaps you have more experience of these matters than I and have observed the oceans for many years: if so I’d be delighted to hear your considered and expert opinion. Surface pollution could do with examination and I would be grateful if you could point me to quantitative studies. If smooths really exist in the size I observed then they would be another forcing which might reduce CO2 sensitivity. Don’t you think it’s worth looking?

    JF

  24. Julian Flood:

    In your post at April 12, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/04/11/nutri-systems-for-climate-control/#comment-1273640

    you ask

    What happens to all those little smooths? I don’t know. Do they sink, recombine, meld? Do they quickly get devoured by bacteria?

    Most of such oil spills is rapidly “devoured by bacteria”.
    This must be so because otherwise the entire surface of the Earth would now be coated in oil from natural seepage.

    Richard

  25. Many smaller “smooths” are the remants of predatory fish feeding on oily prey fish. One can see patches that can run for miles when bluefish attack large schools of menhaden. “Smooths” can also be the result of density currents or natural seeps. However, the big smooth or slick described may have been a diatom bloom which contain”natural” oil within their cells and these blooms are known to have a damping effect on wave formation.

  26. I’ve seen oily fish smooths, but I’m surprised that diatoms create one. What about the calcareous phytoplankton? I know that dissolved silica depletion is the thing that lets the latter take over from the former.

    If we have tipped the balance from calcareous phytos to diatoms, have we increased the number of diatom smooths? They seem, at a large scale, to be good at suppressing cloud formation — obvious when you think about it as they reduce wave action and thus salt aerosols.

    I also wonder about synthetic surfactants which caused problems for sewage treatment plants as the novel chemicals were resistant to bacterial degradation. it would be amusing if the late 20th century warming ws due to a tussle betweenbacteria and Tide.

    But haven’t I heard that the science is settled? Nothing to see here….

    JF

  27. Julian Flood says:
    “If we have tipped the balance from calcareous phytos to diatoms, have we increased the number of diatom smooths?”
    Why do you assume tipping and why must all change be of human origin?” There is simply no way synthetic detergents created a 20K sq mi slick and detergents coming out of a wastewater plants as measured by MBAS are no big deal. You will see more foaming from natual proteins than you will from synthetics.
    The loss of biogenic silica may be playing an important role in some estuaries (and large lakes) shifting primary production from diatoms to more noxious/allelopathic forms however it is highly doubtful it is of significant importance in the open ocean.

  28. Pat Moffitt says
    quote
    Why do you assume tipping and why must all change be of human origin?” There is simply no way synthetic detergents created a 20K sq mi slick and detergents coming out of a wastewater plants as measured by MBAS are no big deal.
    unquote

    Experiments? Measurements? Or just your considered opinion? BTW, you could try working out the amount of surfactant/oil needed to make 20k miles^2 at a thickness of 2*10^-10 m. Or even twice that thickness. Or do the sums from 5ml smooths a hectare.

    quote
    You will see more foaming from natural proteins than you will from synthetics.
    unquote

    Experiments? Peer reviewed papers? And until waste management caught up you could see the results of just a little synthetic surfactant on every weir in England, while non-sewage enhanced rivers were producing hardly any..

    quote
    The loss of biogenic silica may be playing an important role in some estuaries (and large lakes) shifting primary production from diatoms to more noxious/allelopathic forms however it is highly doubtful it is of significant importance in the open ocean.
    unquote

    See above. Incidentally, AFAIK diatoms bloom first and then when they run out of silica the other phytos take over. But perhaps you can point me to … etc etc… And the suggestion is increased silica, not reduction.

    We all condemn this attitude when we see it among climate scientists. — was it sensitivity that they boasted of sitting around and winging? They certainly do something like that with confidence intervals. It’s not good enough for them to assert their version of the truth and to dismiss alternative explanations out of hand, and it’s not good enough for us. My bet on Phil Jones ‘the blip’ is that it is just this process, Bob Tisdale calls it three big el Ninos. We can experiment and find out if he’s right. We know very little about what is going on with surface changes, and I for one would like to find out. It would cost loose change in a GCM budget, They could fund it out of the coffee account.

    You know the big blow out in the Gulf of Mexico? that was a wasted chance to see what a smooth does to the boundary layer. Maybe when the next one happens someone might have a look.

    JF

  29. Julian,
    Consider what was being said- a 20-30,000 sqmi. slick severl hundred miles offshore that was “resistant” to force 4 winds and you want me to “prove” this wasn’t from antropogenic surfactants? I think I’ll pass on this silliness.

    A few papers to support the dominant role of natural surfactants in the ocean:

    http://www.biogeosciences.net/8/121/2011/bg-8-121-2011.pdf

    http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2013/EGU2013-13199.pdf

    http://www.stormingmedia.us/47/4704/A470413.html

    You state “And until waste management caught up you could see the results of just a little synthetic surfactant on every weir in England, while non-sewage enhanced rivers were producing hardly any..” But wastewater treatment did catch up and surfactants are highly degraded by the activated sludge process. You should also be aware that there was a major shift in the type of detergents sold about 30 years ago.

    Diatoms and dinoflagegellates can create oil and surfactant slicks. Red tide is a classic example. Sea birds are often severely oiled by diatom blooms and bird resuce units are taught to distinguish between petroleum and diatom oiling. (Not easy to the untrained eye). Red tide surfactants can also cause severe bird coating and health probelms.

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0004550

    I’ve spent 1000s of hours on the ocean most in the NYC area where billions of gallons per day of wastewater is discharged– you do not see large surfactant slicks. A wind resistant slick of 20-30,000 sq miles is most likely either a major oil spill or a bloom. Detergents as the cause is highly improbable.

  30. Pat Moffitt says: April 13, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Well, apart from calling my concerns silly that’s what I call a keeper post.

    Consider what was being said- a 20-30,000 sq mi. slick several hundred miles offshore that was “resistant” to force 4 winds and you want me to “prove” this wasn’t from anthropogenic surfactants? I think I’ll pass on this silliness.

    No, read what I said. It was a question. The current CO2 hypothesis of GW does not seem to match reality and we need to think about other mechanisms — beside natural variation — that might explain the warming record. While I think the sky dragon explanation is less than scientifically rigorous, it pays to have an open mind about possible causes. What effect on aerosol production does an oil and or surfactant spill have on the mechanical production of salt aerosols and the biological production of DMS? I don’t know if anyone knows. I’m not demanding that you prove it does nothing, I’m asking for information. If no-one knows then maybe someone should find out.

    surfactants are highly degraded by the activated sludge process. You should also be aware that there was a major shift in the type of detergents sold about 30 years ago.

    I’ve walked past the outfall of the Thetford, Norfolk (the original Norfolk) sewage works in the last couple of weeks. The smooth it caused extended literally miles downstream. The amount of whatever required is tiny as the smoothing film is microns thick. As a patriotic American you would enjoy Benjamin Franklin’s account of smoothing a Clapham Common pond. As a non-scientist I like reading about the experiments of Fraulein Pockel.

    Diatoms and dinoflagellates can create oil and surfactant slicks. Red tide is a classic example. Sea birds are often severely oiled by diatom blooms and bird rescue units are taught to distinguish between petroleum and diatom oiling. (Not easy to the untrained eye). Red tide surfactants can also cause severe bird coating and health problems.

    The money quote — thanks, just what I hope for in these threads: information. If we must blame ourselves for climate change then it would be as well to get the attribution right. Reduced wave action, however caused, should warm the ocean surface — fewer aerosols, reduced turbulence, albedo change, reduced stirring. It would not cause a hot spot and the ocean should warm first, confirming Compo’s paper that sea warming leads land. There’s a Jones correspondence in the Climategte emails about the fudge that Jones et al had to employ to make ocean warming match the land in accordance with CO2 forcing theoery. Climate science treats the Earth as a physics entity, and we should consider the idea that there may be biological responses to what we are doing. We have, for example, vastly increased the Earth’s fixation of nitrogen via the Haber process and I heard a scientist on BBC Discovery claiming that we will be able to see the record of this in the rocks, a marker for the Anthropocene. Compare the relative size of our CO2 and our fixed nitrogen changes.

    Do calcareous phytoplankton blooms lead to oiling? Emeliania huxley blooms well. Are they oily? Is their number increasing?

    I’ve spent 1000s of hours on the ocean most in the NYC area where billions of gallons per day of wastewater is discharged– you do not see large surfactant slicks.

    Not ‘slicks’. Smooths. Google “new york harbor” and click on images. The first hit has a nice aerial shot with boats fussing about on a water surface that is alive with textures, smooths everywhere. People don’t see them, they are so much part of our everyday life, but those are what I’m talking about. In particular look at the wake of the boats and see the increased smooth — why is that? Do they stir up something in suspension below the surface which forms a surface film? I don’t know. I do know that a smooth of the sort displayed on that image resists wave breaking up to about force 4 compared with an unpolluted (? I assume unpolluted but I was just looking from 40,000 ft) surface because I have observed it. Those smooths are not biological, they are from the sewers and roads of New York. It would be childish of me to take revenge for being called silly by calling you short-sighted. So I won’t. (!)

    A wind resistant slick of 20-30,000 sq miles is most likely either a major oil spill or a bloom. Detergents as the cause is highly improbable.

    A major spill? Let me ask again that you calculate the amount of light oil required to produce a smooth of that size. As inputs to the calculation, use the information from Benjamin Franklin. My assumption was 5ml per hectare of smooth, but that’s just within an order of magnitude.

    Do diatoms like lots of sun? I can imagine if they do that the oil production is a mechanism to decrease cloud. A fascinating speculation. Do whole classes of ocean plants ever suffer from plagues? What happens to diatom populations before an ice age? Here you go… a plague hits diatoms. Diatom oil production decreases, oceanic stratocumulus cover increases, earth albedo rises… Sorry, getting carried away there. I love speculation and there’s not enough of it now the science is settled. I’m a minor SF writer, the urge to explain is very high in such.

    Please let us continue this on another thread when the chance occurs. I’m away from my computer for a few days, but your information about ocean biology is just what I need. In the meantime you could carry out an experiment. Fill a litre bottle with a 50:50 mix of oil and surfactant. On a stillish day let it dribble out behind your boat and study the results. Two-stroke oil and washing up liquid works well. Take supplies and see how fast it degrades, i’ve not found any info on that. Don’t let the EPA see you, it’s illegal to pollute a water surface and even if you point to the image above that won’t wash. Threaten them with exposure of the fact that their own drains are coating the rivers, that’ll larn ‘em.

    JF

  31. Julian,
    “We have, for example, vastly increased the Earth’s fixation of nitrogen via the Haber process and I heard a scientist on BBC Discovery claiming that we will be able to see the record of this in the rocks, a marker for the Anthropocene.”
    We do not know that we have increased the production of reactive nitrogen unless someone can tell me what the natural fixation rate was before we drained most of our hydric soils and suppressed the fire cycle.
    Nitorgen cycles from inert N2 through organic N, ammonia and nitrite/nitrate. Many factors infuence the speed and direction of these reactions. Not sure how any rock “N” content can tell us much about sequestered N unless we know the denitrification rate etc. Soil N content as well is far more complex than simple loading. Some sediment core techniques claim nutrient proxy ability however unless we know allelopathy, predation, initial condition, and may other parameters we cannot IMO isolate the diatoms to a single input.
    Many of the smooths you mention in NY harbor are density currents from the complex interplay of the Hudson/Raritan/Passaic/Hackensack rivers draining into the Harbor. You will find that the freshwater rides over the top of the more dense slatwater depending on tinde and wind.
    Are you claiming the slicks are surfactants or oil. As I said the surfactants (detergents) are pretty well chewed up by wastewater treatment. And you don’t see 20,000 sqmi slicks off NY Harbor.
    You are looking at “smooths” as a simple matter of concentration when it is far more complex interplay of wind speed, tide, density, temperature etc.

  32. “Experiments? Peer reviewed papers? And until waste management caught up you could see the results of just a little synthetic surfactant on every weir in England, while non-sewage enhanced rivers were producing hardly any..”

    A minor correction: the synthetic surfactant that created large build ups of foam on rivers and streams was from laundry water discharged into the rivers and streams. In England the water from laundries and from sewers is almost entirely kept apart until discharged into the sea. The Thames had plenty of sewage discharged into if from the Northern and Southern outfall sewers – until they were cleaned up – it stank and was dead, but this was not the result of surfactants.

    And my swimming pool today is a bright green due to the growth of algae from the atmosphere and small amounts of phosphate. So since the algae are using CO2, perhaps to control CO2 in the atmosphere one should add large amounts of phosphates to the oceans? I think not!

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