Claim: Local factors cause dramatic spikes in coastal ocean acidity

From Duke University

Fluctuation ‘adds insult to injury’ for marine creatures

DURHAM, N.C. – A new Duke University-led study has documented dramatic, natural short-term increases in the acidity of a North Carolina estuary.

“The natural short-term variability in acidity we observed over the course of one year exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole and may already be exerting added pressure on some of the estuary’s organisms, particularly shelled organisms that are especially susceptible to changes in pH,” said Zackary I. Johnson, Arthur P. Kaupe Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

The short-term spikes in the acidity of the estuary were driven by changes in temperature, water flow, biological activity and other natural factors, the researchers said. And they are occurring in addition to the long-term acidification taking place in Earth’s oceans as a result of human-caused climate change.

“For vulnerable coastal marine ecosystems, this may be adding insult to injury,” said Johnson, who was lead author of the study.

When the effects of long-term ocean acidification and short-term natural variation combine, they can create “extreme events” which may be especially harmful to coastal marine life, he said.

The study was conducted at the Pivers Island Coastal Observatory at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., as part of a long-term coastal monitoring program. Researchers collected seawater samples from Beaufort Inlet weekly for a year and on a daily and hourly basis for shorter periods to track changes in the water’s pH and dissolved inorganic carbon on multiple time scales.

Numerous studies have shown that increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide from human sources are finding their way into the world’s oceans. When the carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it reduces the water’s pH and the ability of organisms to form calcium carbonate minerals that are the building blocks of many species’ shells and skeletons. This process is known as ocean acidification.

If current trends continue, experts predict that the mean ocean pH will decrease by about 0.2 units over the next 50 years. A drop of that magnitude could have far-reaching effects on ocean ecosystems and organisms.

“We may see significant changes in biological processes such as primary production,” said Dana Hunt, assistant professor of microbial ecology, who co-authored the new study. “Some organisms, such as phytoplankton, may benefit. Many others, including shelled organisms and corals, will not.”

The Duke team’s analysis showed that a wide range of natural variables, including changes in temperature, algal production and respiration, and water movement caused by tides and storms, triggered sharp spikes in the inlet’s acidity. Some changes occurred over the course of a season; others took place on a daily or hourly basis.

“Understanding to what extent pH naturally varies in coastal ecosystems worldwide will be essential for predicting where and when the effects of increasing ocean acidity will be most profound, and what organisms and ecosystems may be most affected,” Hunt said. “Our research demonstrates we have to take into account a wide range of environmental variables, not just pH.”

The study appears in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PLOS ONE.

###

Johnson and Hunt’s co-authors were research technician Benjamin Wheeler, doctoral student Christopher Ward and former undergraduate Christina Carlson, all of Duke; and Sara Blinebry, a student intern from Carteret County Community College. Blinebry is now a research technician in Johnson’s lab. Carlson is now a policy research assistant at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The study was funded by National Science Foundation grants to Johnson and Hunt and through private support through Duke’s Nicholas School.

CITATION: “Dramatic Variability of the Carbonate System at a Temperate Coastal Ocean Site (Beaufort, North Carolina) is Regulated by Physical and Biogeochemical Processes on Multiple Timescales,” by Zackary I. Johnson, Benjamin J. Wheeler, Sara K. Blinebry, Christina M. Carlson, Christopher S. Ward, Dana E. Hunt. PLOS ONE, Dec. 17, 2013. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0085117

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90 thoughts on “Claim: Local factors cause dramatic spikes in coastal ocean acidity

  1. “A new Duke University-led study has documented dramatic, natural short-term increases in the acidity of a North Carolina estuary.”
    I assume these very clever scientists mean a reduction in alkaninity?

  2. Surely as the ocean is an alkaline solution, any change in pH should be described as a reduction or increase in alkalinity rather than in terms of acidity? Failure to do so brings into question the authors basic understanding of High School Chemistry and encourages the supposition that any science in the paper has been twisted to conform with the CAGW narrative.

  3. “Our research demonstrates we have to take into account a wide range of environmental variables, not just pH.” That’s it. They have performed a study for the BS article they produce but they have absolutely nothing.

    Don’t send your kids to Duke University unless it has been your objective to breed “Morons” from the beginning.

  4. I have sailed around these estuaries for years. There are innumerable swamps upstream and on the edge of these that contain enough tannic acid to stain your boat brown. A good rain or a change in wind will drive these waters out into the currents and changes can occur fairly rapidly. Plus this area is extremely shallow.

    Maybe not the best place to conduct a “representative” study. Of course, Duke has their research center located there so it is much easier to go out the back door of the building and drop a water bottle in than to set up multiple locations that require someone getting in a boat on bad days.

  5. Reduced alkalinity… Oceanic acidification always reminds me of Nektar’s second album, ‘A Tab in the Ocean’.

  6. What they don’t tell you:
    1) aquatic organisms EAT CO2 and carbonate ions when they grow causing order of magnitude pH shifts of higher pH to 9 – 10 from ~8 of the water that surrounds them

    2) sea water has massive buffering capacity so that while local water pH may shift, subsequent mixing will generally quickly restore prior equilibrium.

    Conclusion: ocean life is already adapted to the usual changes in local pH far larger than the pitiful “long term .2 pH units” observed from air CO2 concentrations.

    Just more tales “full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.”

  7. Acidity occurs around remote beach front hotels. usually where the climate kiddies have been drinking too much pop ‘n eating too much poop from the day before they scoop the water and start pushing local trees over clinging for life on the old exposed coral beds.

    The fact of the matter is, the warmer the water, the less CO2 stays in solution.

  8. How stupid this article is becomes evident when you replace acidity with warming and Ph by temperature.

    Claim: Local factors cause dramatic spikes in warming.
    Conclusion: “Our research demonstrates to take into account a wide range of environmental variables, not just temperature”.

    I think I go fishing.

  9. ‘ acidification’ what a nice ‘scary ‘ word , while the scientifical more accurate ‘less base’ is rather boring. But then what matters is the ‘message’ not the data
    Makes you wonder given these animals evolved and have been around for hundred of thousands or even millions year how they managed to last this long given all the past changes in ocean ‘acidification’.

  10. The real take is that the marine environment is very robust and capable of handling a wide range of conditions, including dynamic pH.

  11. The natural short-term variability in acidity we observed over the course of one year exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole…

    Sounds like the ocean can buffer the effects of the river quite effectively then. Which is a positive sign.

  12. Scientists are just now beginning to discover just how variable pH can be in different marine ecosystems. For example, on the west coast, depending on whether there is substantial upwelling or not (it varies), pH can vary from about 7.8 to about 8.1. A few years ago, nobody knew this could happen, at least in the published literature. The Scripps Institute study which made the findings above sampled something like 18 sites worldwide, and found that even in the least variable parts of the oceans, pH wasn’t constant.

    You can say that it isn’t the natural variability that is the problem, but the small added CO2-induced reduction in pH. That certainly seems backwards: if natural organisms can tolerate wide swings in pH, it speaks to resiliency, not to fragility.

    We need long term studies, such as are now happening in the Great Barrier Reef, where you take a natural system with all its complexity, and then you add CO2 with bubblers, so that you get an area with pH that is lower by about .2 points, with the effect diminishing with distance from the bubbler. You can then look at what happens in the natural world, with the pH of 2100 or thereabouts. THAT is when you can find out if there are any deleterious effects.

    The reason you have to do this is partly that lab studies won’t get you the answer, but partly because many of these sea creatures, whether with shells or not, were around at the end of the Eocene, when CO2 levels were about 1,100 ppm, plus or minus. They survived then, so they may well have the genetic capability to deal with 600 ppm of CO2 and the pH that results. Of course, there are likely to be some CHANGES, yes. But do we take apart western economies because of changes in ecosystems that let all creatures survive, but just change the balance? Let’s see what capabilities these creatures really do have. We need real science.

    And despite the attempt at fear mongering from these scientists (or perhaps their PR people), they are doing real science, their problem isn’t the science, but the fear mongering in the press statement.

  13. This looks like a non-issue to me. One local factor I didn’t see mentioned is the presence of natural tannic acids in the tributaries that flow into these estuaries. Swamps and rivers in the southeast are typically the color of coffee/cola with pH values in the range of 3 to 5. This is due to relatively high levels of tannic acids released during the decomposition of plant matter in the surrounding forests and marshes. It’s nothing new and nothing bad. Estuarine ecosystems evolved with these natural influxes of acidic water. As a result, estuarine organisms have likely adapted to these natural pH fluctuations. One would expect Duke University Ph.Ds who study these environments to know that.

  14. My stars! This is as scary as if long term Global Warming was compounded by horrific things called ‘winter’ and ‘summer’. Or maybe just ‘day’ and ‘night’. How will the ecosystem survive?
    Oh wait. What they’re calling acidification is just neutralisation. The sophistry of shysters does not will intellectual assent from any honest person.

  15. R Babcock says: @ January 3, 2014 at 5:25 am

    I have sailed around these estuaries for years. There are innumerable swamps upstream and on the edge of these that contain enough tannic acid…
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Tannic acid is just one of the organic acids found in swamps.

    I had the displeasure of titrating water from the Merrimack river (MA) (aka swamp water) to figure out how much KOH to add to the deionized water for each batch to bring the pH into the correct range. Since we were in a drought fresh rain water caused the swamps to be ‘Flushed’ every time it rained. so the amount changed wildly from day to day and even batch to batch on the same day.

    My boss insisted I come up with a standard amount to add and fired me when I refused to do the impossible.

    Reality bit her but good when she came up with a standard amount, ruined a large number of batches and joined me in the unemployment as the VP of manufacturing got back from vacation.

    Don’t you love Karma? :>)

  16. Oh God! Now that the first card of the annual pack failed (Antarctic melting) they soon come to the second card, played every year in November and March (ocean acidification)
    Look at the two annual peaks clearly here: http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=ocean%20acidification
    This is getting too predictable…
    Later came: tornadoes, permafrost, hurricanes, ocean acidification again, blah, blah, blah

  17. If a reduction in alkalinity is called acidification then I want to see Minute Maid advertize its reduced acid orange juice as alkalized orange juice.

  18. When I see phrases such as “long-term ocean acidification,” I see the purported study as being nothing but eco-activism run amok. I would be more receptive to the message if it used such terms as “long-term ocean neutralization.”

    But then, science has prostituted itself to keep the funding spigot open, so they choose the “correct” hot-button phrases. Just keep on pushing the panic mode … eventually the wolf will eat the boy.

  19. Call this stuff “Tabloid” publication. Fact light, and emotion heavy. “What your acidity reveals about your bio-future.”

    That’s not necessarily bad. As Mark Steyn pointed out one time, at least the tabloids are recognizing that they can’t take their audience for granted. They have to write in an interesting style.

  20. North Carolina has blackwater and brownwater rivers/estuaries, and I believe that the Duke laboratory is near the confluence of both of those types of rivers. The changes relate to lots of factors, and the study notes that the observed changes are natural. Then, the speculation begins on adding CO2 to the process. The assumption is that there will be incremental impacts from a trend to lower pH for the estuaries and ocean. However, as noted above, this doesn’t account for the dynamics of ocean current, upwelling, or biological responses and adaptations. They assert that shellfish will definitely be harmed, which needs to be studied in real estuaries and oceans–not just in the lab. The suggested study around the Great Barrier reef is a great suggestion, but it also needs to be done in other marine environments with different geological and biological components and biological systems.

    As noted above, the study is useful, but the speculation exceeds what was shown.

  21. LEt me see if I have this right. There are huge natural variations in acidity that organisms have no trouble dealing with. On the other hand the small changes caused by CO2 are going to cause everything to die?

  22. @ Gail Combs says: January 3, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Sounds like your boss was a Duke alumna.

    Duke must have run short on students to abuse.

  23. pH is, by definition, the measure of hydrogen ions in concentration and therefore, by definition, the measure of acidity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that the alkalinity is decreasing (technically, that would be measured by pOH), but there is also nothing wrong with saying the acidity is increasing – when pH goes down (and therefore hydrogen ion concentration goes up) the acidity is increasing. Critisize the work on it’s merits.

  24. I can see the Ships now…Ships…Jobs…
    A Fleet of tankers whose purpose is to traverse the seas, sucking up low PH water into processing tanks, increasing the PH to slightly above “normal levels”, then expelling the treated water back into the oceans. The process could even be what propells the ships.

    someone slap me, I’m in a geoengineering nightmare

  25. Well, the following two paragraphs in this posting pricked my curiosity:

    ‘Johnson and Hunt’s co-authors were research … and former undergraduate Christina Carlson, all of Duke; and Sara Blinebry, a student intern from Carteret County Community College. Blinebry is now a research technician in Johnson’s lab. Carlson is now a policy research assistant at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    The study was funded by National Science Foundation grants to Johnson and Hunt and through private support through Duke’s Nicholas School.’

    Now, maybe it indicates a bias of mine, but I think a student intern from a community college is, perhaps, in a little over their head when they’re involved in research that’s intended to impact national and global policy. But, then again, it must be an inspiring thing to be involved in changing the world. Except of course when it all goes wrong. And, also taking part in this research we have Christina Carlson who’s now a policy research assistant at that important world bettering organization; Union of Concerned Scientists. But of particular satisfaction to my curiosity was to discover some things about one of the funders of this research (or, should I say several funders since it was all of us): the National Science Foundation. On NSF’s own website was the following:

    ‘NSF Notice of Intent to Revise American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Award General Terms and Conditions to Ensure Project Completion by September 30, 2013′

    For whatever reason was the NSF a part recipient in the nearly trillion dollars in stimulus funds that was thrown to the winds back in 2009? And, was this research one of the ‘shovel ready’ projects designed to get us all re employed? I don’t know. But, before anybody puts too much stock in this science I think it’s a question worthy of being asked. And, out of the legions of students leaving college with no job prospects, at least the stimulus may have employed two, eh?

  26. Ocean water has the same chemistry for 400Ma through extreme CO2 changes without causing acidification. pH has remained within its natural variability above pH 7.0.
    Estuary waters will have enormous variations because of the fresh water feed. Nothing to do with CO2.

  27. Typical.

    Neither “insult” nor “injury” is in the published article, because the authors know full well that they are not justified. But they can say what they want in the press release.

    A bit of perspective from the article

    If the carbonate system was in equilibrium and the sole driver of changes in pH, elevated levels of DIC would directly lower pHT. However, based on time-lagged correlation the summer minimum in pHT precedes the maximum in DIC by ~2 months pointing to different mechanisms driving their respective extremes (Figure S2). Over the annual cycle pHT is strongly correlated with temperature (r2=0.68), whereas DIC is most strongly correlated with salinity (r2=0.69) (Figures 1 and S3).

    They have measured nothing that looks strikingly new, nor anything that looks alarming. Pretty much what you would expect from the text books. If they are just learning how to use the instrumentation and practice their techniques, then fair enough.

  28. What an incredible finding…short-term variability exceeds long-term trends and projections! I wonder if we can apply this to temperature, precipitation, and other parameters, lol. Eureka…it works!

  29. papertiger says: @ January 3, 2014 at 6:53 am

    …Sounds like your boss was a Duke alumna…
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Actually it gets even better.

    She had a recent degree in Chemistry from a MA school. The poor troubleshooter from the DI equipment company did analysis on several samples of the water from different times I collected for him. Therefore we KNEW there were all sorts of nasty organics in the water like Putracine and that they changed over short periods of time. Unfortunately the woman was only looking at how to advance up the corporate ladder and did not realize all the toes she had stepped on would come back to bite her.

    According to a friend, a chem engineer, who attended the high level meeting on why the plant was losing so much $$$, the VP asked where I was and why I had not fixed the problem. When he found out I was fired he stated. “I knew I should have gotten rid of that B…h – Fire her!”

    (I was the person they assigned sticky production problems to at that plant and others.)

    I think Prof. Chris(tmas) Turkey is looking at a very similar situation. He has stepped on a lot more toes than he realizes.

    MORE Popcorn!

  30. The report said;

    ‘If current trends continue, experts predict that the mean ocean pH will decrease by about 0.2 units over the next 50 years. A drop of that magnitude could have far-reaching effects on ocean ecosystems and organisms.’

    The mean average means that there will be measurements substantially above and substantially below. If someone would like to confirm the actual ph obtained in this study I will find out the ph of our local estuary. I suspect there will be a substantial difference which the marine eco systems haven’t noticed. Can I get funding for this?

    tonyb

  31. John says:
    January 3, 2014 at 5:53 am

    “That certainly seems backwards: if natural organisms can tolerate wide swings in pH, it speaks to resiliency, not to fragility.”

    John is exactly right. This story parallels the whole global warming crisis. The alarmist argue that the small change produce by humans will be a catastrophe, while ignoring or remaining willfully ignorant of the much larger, natural variability that already exists, in which organisms survive quite nicely.

    This study clearly reveals the resiliency of these environments and indicates that the small changes that humans will produce will probably have no noticeable impact, but such a conclusion would certainly result in the end of all funding for study. The funders are simply not interested in non-issues, so the authors have to spin their conclusions 180 degrees to remain relevant and active scientists.

    This all stems from one of the main myths of modern environmentalism, which holds that the biosphere was in perfect balance and harmony until the nasty human creatures came along and started mucking around with the Divine Gaea. The reality is that the Earth has always been a dynamic place to live, and it is that dynamic that makes life on Earth so resilient.

    Modern environmentalists do not like change, but this study (along with all other similar studies) indicates that change (in the form of large, natural variability) is inevitable and vitally important to the environment. Consequently, we must conclude that modern environmentalism is fundamentally anti-environment.

  32. Does anyone still understand the difference between “interpolation” and “extrapolation”? When I was in engineering school years ago they taught us that while interpolation usually worked, extrapolation gives unreliable results. Duke has started a nice study but to extrapolate as they did is completely irresponsible.

  33. Leo Morgan says:
    January 3, 2014 at 6:07 am
    My stars! This is as scary as if long term Global Warming was compounded by horrific things called ‘winter’ and ‘summer’. Or maybe just ‘day’ and ‘night’. How will the ecosystem survive?

    Exactly! Here is a related thought I found amusing …“For vulnerable coastal marine ecosystems, this may be adding insult to injury,” said Johnson, who was lead author of the study…. Which is the insult and which is the injury, here? Are the natural variations the insult or injury? A tsunami of group-think possibly overwhelms the trickle of new knowledge.

  34. The real take is that the marine environment is very robust and capable of handling a wide range of conditions, including dynamic pH.

    Since the dominant paradigm in Biology and related fields is evolution and natural selection, surely the organisms in those environment have already been selected to handle such fluctuations.

  35. Is this a search for a pH Hockey Stick?
    When natural variation is large and some scientist goes looking for a trend, it takes some very hard work to get a significant result. Not happening in this case, I think.

  36. “When the carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it reduces the water’s pH and the ability of organisms to form calcium carbonate minerals that are the building blocks of many species’ shells and skeletons.”
    How in heck are the organisms supposed to form carbonate minerals *without* CO2?
    Also the actual pH of the water is not mentioned. A ‘pure’ aqueous CO2 solution has a pH of 6.37; any lower pH must come from some other acid such as the humic and fulvic acids formed by the action of O2 and water on organic materials.

  37. Merrick so why do you think they go for ‘acidification’ rather than ‘alkalinity is decreasing ‘?
    The data be dammed its all about the message , could be climate ‘science’ motto , and ‘acidification’ gives nice scary message.

  38. In the Cambrian, CO2 levels were way up, in the atmosphere around 7000 ppm. Since there was presumably equilibrium over these million of years (Henry’s law), the levels were way up in the oceans as well.

    The Cambrian is known as the period when live exploded. So I can not see any problem with any acidification of the oceans. Life in the oceans are proven to be very resilient.

  39. Huge swings in coastal pH were also documented during the sleuthing as to what was causing commercial oyster die-offs off Washington state. Turns out that the native Olympic oysters thrive under these conditions, the imported Japanese oysters not so much.

  40. My take is that the hourly/daily/monthly and annual variations in ocean pH measured by this team exceed the change expected from MMCO2 over a century.

    Pffft.

  41. Lets get this straight. They put their instruments into the estuary for a YEAR, and got readings that went up and down. Their readings were local and different “and exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole”. Apples and Oranges folks. Local variations will always trump some modelled/projected mean.

  42. Gail Combs says:
    January 3, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Very amusing story. Even in well educated nations only about a sixth of the college educated people have any acquaintance with science. I assume you are a chemist. Your bad boss was a recent chemistry grad with much lesser ability; but to the average person you are both chemists and what the bumbler says and thinks has weight equal to yours. This is the origin of much bad policy.

  43. I have sailed around these estuaries for years. There are innumerable swamps upstream and on the edge of these that contain enough tannic acid to stain your boat brown. A good rain or a change in wind will drive these waters out into the currents and changes can occur fairly rapidly. Plus this area is extremely shallow.

    Maybe not the best place to conduct a “representative” study. Of course, Duke has their research center located there so it is much easier to go out the back door of the building and drop a water bottle in than to set up multiple locations that require someone getting in a boat on bad days.

    I actually teach at the Marine Lab in the summers, and usually live in a house right next to Pivers Island that looks out through the inlet gap into the Atlantic. The rocks around the island are covered with oysters. There are oyster reefs lining the estuary. Barnacles grow on any hard surface immersed in the water for as little as a week — a folding chair of ours blew into the creek at the beginning of one summer and I hooked it while fishing three weeks later and dragged it back up — now decorated with barnacles. What they are really doing is noting that local hard shelled organisms such as barnacles, clams (also abundant and prolific), and oysters are remarkably tolerant to variation in ocean pH, and of course this is a good thing because the ocean pH can vary substantially seasonally, daily, hourly depending on the rain, the wind, the temperature, and more.

    It seems to me that they’ve basically shown that if the worst-case projections of GCMs are correct, the globe warms, and the ocean’s overall pH drops by 0.2 that many of the organisms that might be threatened are evolved to tolerate that because that is within the range of the “noise” of natural variation. If the change occurs slowly, over years, there is plenty of time for natural selection to further enhance their tolerance, because these species are highly prolific. There is even time for UN-natural selection to work — at this point we could go in and tinker with the genes of these animals to enhance their tolerance of lower pH or could actively breed tolerant organisms in the lab.

    This is old news, anyway. It verifies what was reported by Scripps last year:

    http://joannenova.com.au/2012/01/scripps-blockbuster-ocean-acidification-happens-all-the-time-naturally/

    There are two important points here. One is that the change in the pH of the open ocean (as opposed to coastal pH that can easily change due to multiple factors) is so small that it is difficult to observe at least on the comparatively few graphs I’ve seen of it. Global pH change appears to be like global SLR or global warming — more often observed as local pH change, where any systematic worldwide effect is completely swamped in all sorts of noise and local chemical dynamics. The other is that in most of the places where pH does change dramatically over comparatively short timescales, usually driven by alterations of e.g. ocean upwelling of CO_2-rich colder water — if organisms couldn’t tolerate the change they wouldn’t exist there. And in many cases, they don’t! This is much more an issue of marginal local habitats than it is a global issue.

    Could this be a serious issue? Sure. Even small changes in water chemistry or ecology could be fatal for sensitive organisms living in a marginal habitat. We’ve certainly wiped out species by polluting inland waters with agricultural runoff or by accidentally introducing competing species from around the globle. Humans have had a major impact on global microecologies time and again, and have without question directly driven numerous species to extinction. Is it a bad idea to drive species to extinction? Sure. They are part of the genetic wealth of the world. We are just beginning to realize how valuable the little chemical factories various species have evolved to solve local problems really are. Also, while local ecologies as a whole are rather tolerant (they have to be!) if you tear enough holes in them they can certainly collapse, and that is usually going to be bad.

    But like SLR, it is observed more in the predictions of future disaster than in some immediately apparent observable/measurable change that can be definitively attributed to anthropogenic CO_2.

    Oh, by the way — to the nice individual above who asserted that children sent to Duke are destined to become morons — if any of your children are fortunate enough to be the one applicant in ten that is accepted at the University, I think that it is almost certain that a) they are not a moron; b) they ain’t never gonna be a moron, barring accidents that damage their brains; c) they are going to get a world-class education. The University is tolerant of dissenting opinions and diverse viewpoints. I have stood on Pivers Island and expressed my personal doubts about the predictive skill of GCMs and the possibility that the scientific case for catastrophe is being overstated for political reasons to my students. They have listened, in some cases expressed their own doubts, in others raised points that support the possibility of catastrophe. That is called reasoned discourse, and it does not produce morons, it produces individuals who aren’t afraid to doubt accepted beliefs and who are capable of making up their own minds before deciding things.

    Lots of research like this is currently being done at Pivers Island by undergraduates. That by itself is impressive — undergraduates participating in actual research is awesome, as by doing so they MUST confront critical issues, learn to understand the variability of data, learn to deal with confirmation bias. Yes, the work so far is far from systematic even locally, but it is a decent first step. The knowledge they have gained and presented is useful, and whether or not their “interpretation” of that knowledge survives the test of time is really beside the point. This serves to reinforce the Scripps observations linked above that local estuarine pH often varies — perhaps even usually varies — by amounts as great or greater than the proposed worst-case acidification projected by the IPCC. Their paper might, in other words, eventually prove part of the evidence that undermines their own interpretation (or not!) but that, too, is the point of research. If you already knew the answer, why would you look?

    rgb

  44. R. de Haan says:
    January 3, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Don’t send your kids to Duke University unless it has been your objective to breed “Morons” from the beginning.

    And while you are at it, make sure to cheer against the university’s basketball and football teams all the time. To give you motivation (as if you need any), there is an excellent book on why everyone hates Duke, especially Duke basketball: http://www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=isbn:1250008190.

    Being serious, although I hate the Duke athletic department because I am a UNC fan, do not let this one report affect your viewpoint on the education you receive at Duke. It really does provide some of the best education money can buy. Duke is one of the best medical colleges in the US and thus has one of the best hospitals in this country. If I needed major surgery, Duke hospital is the first place I would want to be. Do not judge the many by the actions of a few.

  45. for fun just emailed Zack Johnson the EPA rules and regulations. I wonder how long before the EPA rules and regulations of coastal waters is removed.

  46. I think that there are people, who have conditions, which make them very susceptible to CO2 narcosis. Breathing or drinking any amount of dissolved CO2 causes hallucinations and erratic thought behavior. How else can we explain this rabid war on life’s natural food base? How do we get such people committed to a CO2 free sanitarium, where they cannot hurt themselves or anyone else. GK

  47. Has anyone heard of rain water?
    The pH of which is 5.5 . This means that when rain falls on the ocean, there is a temporary shift in pH, which can seem ‘brutal’, especially to the soft hearts of Greenies…

  48. RGB , why do you use the term acidification, do you mean less base or is it to scare us.

    From a NOAA workshop.

    “Tripling the pre-industrial atmospheric CO2
    concentration will cause a reduction in surface ocean
    pH that is almost three times greater than that experienced during transitions from glacial to interglacial
    periods. 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)”

  49. Canadian Water Quality
    Guidelines for the Protection
    of Aquatic Life
    pH
    (Marine)

    7.5 – 8.5, that is quite a range.

    “The pH of marine waters is usually quite stable (between
    7.5 and 8.5 worldwide) and is similar to that of estuarine
    waters because of the buffering capacity provided by the
    abundance of strong basic cations such as sodium,
    potassium, and calcium and of weak acid anions such as
    carbonates and borates (Wetzel 1983). Higher pHs are
    usually found in near-surface waters because of solar
    radiationBiological Effects
    A broad spectrum of marine and estuarine organisms have
    been shown to be adversely affected by pH fluctuations,
    many of these effects being physiological. A decrease in
    pH was correlated with a reduction in carapace weight,
    increased magnesium content (with constant calcium….”

  50. So we see that natural marine systems exist and thrive across a wide range of changing pH, mineral and nutrient dynamics, as well as temperatures.
    The climate kooks and hypesters twist that to claim the systems are fragile and under dangerous change. Yet offer no evidence of either fragility or dangerous changes.

  51. As a Duke parent, whose daughter got a very good education there. Which has led her professional work in public health issues. And she is well track for a masters in Public Health, I think painting Duke with a broad negative brush is not really fair or accurate. There are many concerns about our higher education system that are justified. Asserting that Duke is graduating morons is not one of those justified concerns.

  52. RGB, I was trying to figure a way to say basically what you said so… What RBG said! BTW, too bad about the Chic-fil-a bowl. Gig’em Aggies, WHOOP!

  53. RGB says:”…and have without question directly driven numerous species to extinction.”

    Please define numerous and what would those numerous species be?

  54. It’s unfortunate that the authors of the paper immediately link their study with the issue of ocean acidification because if they had just limited it to what their title describes “Dramatic Variability of the Carbonate System at a Temperate Coastal Ocean Site (Beaufort, North Carolina) is Regulated by Physical and Biogeochemical Processes on Multiple Timescales”, they would be presenting a credible paper.

    This study is piggy-backing itself on a flawed study which did not conclusively show that any significant acidification has occurred over the past 250 years, so the introduction itself is flawed. The body presents no evidence that supports their conclusions about the hypothesis that the increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is leading to increased acidification of the oceans, it simply shows that in a highly dynamic system, the variability of the pH is going to be highly dynamic, and sets a benchmark for further studies which can potentially be used to support the hypothesis.

    This paper demonstrates everything the title says with the support of good scientific methodology. My criticism of the actual study is that they didn’t cover the role of calcium in the carbonate buffer system. This is unfortunate, because the limiting nutrient for marine organisms to form their shells of calcium carbonate is not the carbonate ion, it is the calcium ion – zebra mussels, a current invasive species in North American waters, cannot reproduce in waters which do not have a calcium concentration of at least 12ppm. When they describe Total Alkalinity (Talk) they mention phosphate (PO4) and silica hydroxide (SiOH3) but they fail to mention calcium and magnesium, the two major ions responsible for Talk – which is frequently expressed in units of miliequivalents (meq) of calcium and also referred to as hardness. I have a few more minor criticisms of some technical aspects of the paper but they do not impact what the title of the paper describes.

    BTW, they are correct in terms of describing it as acidity because the term ‘alkalinity’ carries a different meaning when dealing with limnology (fresh water) and oceanography (seawater), rather than chemistry. Acidity is used to describe the pH, with a pH of 14 being the least acidic, not the most alkaline. Alkalinity is used to describe the ability of the water to neutralize the acidity and is frequently termed as ‘hardness’ in water treatment, because of its tendency to form scale (magnesium and calcium carbonate) in pipes.

    HT to rgbatduke, I sympathize with your moral outrage at the slurs to your Alma Mater.


  55. R. de Haan says:
    January 3, 2014 at 5:22 am
    “…
    Don’t send your kids to Duke University unless it has been your objective to breed “Morons” from the beginning.
    …”

    Please, lets not be so fast to tar everyone with the same brush.

    Remember that one of the most knowledgeable posters on WUWT is “rgb at Duke” (aka Dr. Brown)

  56. Research so far has shown that Antarctic marine microbes can tolerate the natural large seasonal fluctuations of CO2 concentrations from 84 to 643 ppm. However, above 1281 ppm there are dramatic changes in the species composition and size of microbial cells. Large phytoplankton above 0.02 mm in size greatly decline, while smaller species less than 5 µm increased.

    http://www.antarctica.gov.au/science/cool-science/2013/changes-forecast-for-marine-microbial-communities

  57. The vertical pH profile for the oceans drops quickly with depth. Any form of upwelling delivers sunken nutrients which promotes a burst of biological productivity. That same upwelling raises de-oxygneated more acidic water. Attributing changes in ocean pH to CO2 without accounting for that upwelling effect means such attribution is meaningless

  58. @MarkW

    >LEt me see if I have this right. There are huge natural variations in acidity that organisms have no trouble dealing with. On the other hand the small changes caused by CO2 are going to cause everything to die?

    I see you are beginning to understand how this CAGW thing works. Very good. You get a star.

    @Ivor Ward (aka Disko Troop)
    >How do you “insult” a shellfish?

    Give him a knitted pair of sweat pants with, “I love monopods” embroidered on it.
    Point out the pattern is “knit 1, perl 2″.
    Ask him if he polishes his shell with Bivalvoline Oil.
    If he tries to say anything, tell him to clam-up.

  59. Being serious, although I hate the Duke athletic department because I am a UNC fan, do not let this one report affect your viewpoint on the education you receive at Duke. It really does provide some of the best education money can buy. Duke is one of the best medical colleges in the US and thus has one of the best hospitals in this country. If I needed major surgery, Duke hospital is the first place I would want to be. Do not judge the many by the actions of a few.

    Said like a gentleman and a scholar. And right back at you — much as I detest UNC athletics (I was a Duke freshman in 1973, the year of the dread 8 point-17 second loss at UNC) UNC-CH is one of the premier state Universities in the country and indeed the world. I’ve got one son at UNC-Greensboro and another at UNC Asheville who is thinking of transferring to Chapel Hill. My wife (a Duke grad) graduated from UNC’s medical school. As for the rivalry — neither side would have it any other way. The nice thing is they are both entirely respectable, clean programs. Academics first, athletics second, and little under the table stuff. So one can hate UNC (or, I’m sure, Duke) with honor either way.

    My wife would also say (probably correctly) that while Duke’s medical system is great for exotic stuff, you might actually get better treatment at UNC for the more mundane.

    The point in the end being that there is far too much anger and rancor over any issue connected with the scientific question of the connection between human-generated CO_2 an the climate. Both sides have an entirely annoying tendency to descend to ad hominem attack at the least provocation, to impugn both the honor and the motives of the other, to claim the high ground of evidentiary and scientific support as their unique province. I can think of absolutely nothing “evil” about measuring estuarine pH by sampling the water off of Pivers Island on a regular basis. The tide flows in and out of there like a river twice a day — part of the day pulling nearly straight from the Atlantic, part of the day pulling from the Neuse river basin (basically filtered brackish swampwater drained from North Carolina’s mostly acidic soil). Whether the result is or is not expected, whether or not it is presented as part of a narrative that might not be true, the data speak for themselves, and are no doubt useful in the long run as a small part of a developing big picture. There is nothing moronic about doing that kind of research, especially with undergraduates seeking a first exposure to “real science” which this most definitely is.

    The most useful comments above are ones that any scientist might make. Why off of Pivers Island? Well, it’s not a terrible sampling location — there is a tidal gauge on the island, it’s square at the entrance to the Beaufort harbor with a strong tidal current, the current flows around the island in a complex pattern that splits between a river estuary (under the US 70 bridge) and Taylor Creek (that runs in front of Beaufort and back into the sound). Basically, several different sources of water meet and mix at Pivers Island, so it is a place where the variation in pH might be expected to be most extreme. Still, one might expect a future extension of the research to sample in a number of other locations, perhaps eventually providing a dynamic picture of how AND WHY the pH changes — watching relatively acidic waters propagate down the rivers and lowering the pH at successive sampling sites along the way. In the longer run, very precise measurements at one site might reveal whether or not there is any discernible trend under the enormously fluctuating signal. Also, a good scientist would question whether or not the conclusion that this fluctuation adds “insult to injury” is justified — if this is a natural cycle of pH fluctuation that has been occurring for hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, clearly the “insult” is something the estuarine ecology is well equipped to handle. The “injury” begs an unmeasured question — has human activity changed the baseline pH of the Pivers Island site at all over time?

    The answer there could be yes or no — fifty years ago, it was a sandspit island with a bunch of shacks on it. The perimeter of the entire island was then surrounded by a seawall that is at least a half a meter higher than the highest spring tides, backfilled with sand, levelled off at a height some meter and a half above the average sea level, planted with grass, ground cover, and sufficiently salt-tolerant trees, and built up into a proper research and teaching facility. NOAA occupies the first third of the island — Duke is on the outside two thirds. It is connected to Radio Island (the US 70 causeway) between Beaufort and Morehead City by a bridge, and is right next to a second bridge from the causeway over to Beaufort proper. If you look at maps of the inlet that date back to civil war times, humans have completely redrawn the shape of the islands and sound over the years, and hurricanes periodically resculpture it as well. What is now Radio and Pivers Island at one time was known as “Shark Island” (I’m not making this up, and the entire inlet is truly lousy with sharks, who come to munch on the blues, the spanish mackerel, the menhaden, the mullet, the flounder, and all the other “good eats” of a healthy marine ecology including the VERY infrequent tourist:-).

    Concrete is of course artificial limestone, and highly alkaline. One expects that the seawall alone might alter the local pH measured literally a few centimeters from said wall island towards alkalinity, by a small amount that would tend back towards acidic over time as accessible lime leaches out and as the wall is covered by algae and barnacles. Covering what might have been either a sandy or mucky bottom with rip-rap and concrete might have further changed the local chemistry when the island was built. Altering the currents no doubt changed things more. Without the sea wall, the island might not even still be there, given half a century of hurricanes — the unprotected islands outside of the inlet “walk” at a fairly steady rate as sand disappears one place to show up someplace else. Last year Sandy ate almost half a mile of the end of Shackleford Bank, a process that is not yet re-equilibrated, spreading the sand that used to be its tip out all over the inlet itself and completely altering the currents in and out of the inlet (they are now much more dangerous, and they weren’t exactly safe before!).

    The ocean is all about change — it is by its nature a highly dynamical system. Humans try to resist or alter its natural patterns at their peril — as Sandy clearly indicated, just because the Morehead harbor has been open through the gap to the Atlantic for a century plus doesn’t mean that it will remain so forever. Dredgers worked all summer to keep it open last summer, and even so tour boats whose captains have piloted literally thousands of tours around the inlet area over decades kept getting stuck last summer as sandbars formed of ex-Shackleford sand suddenly appeared where deepwater existed two years ago. In order to BEGIN to discern human influences on its change — and I have no doubt at all that we do have influences, especially where we build — we have to measure literally everything we can about the system and come to understand its natural cycles. This is just as true of the climate — discerning human-produced “warming” in a constantly changing NATURAL climate system is almost impossible to do until one understands the natural system well enough to answer simple questions that currently have no useful (and certainly no simple) answers, such as “What caused the Little Ice Age?”

    rgb

  60. Estuaries suffer daily changes in pH that are larger by far than the predicted effect of CO2 dissolving in the water. In fact, there is no evidence that more CO2 has any negative effects at all on marine life, as they evolved under conditions with much higher CO2 than the present.

    This is all propaganda/alarmism to push a political agenda. Marine life, particularly the photosynthetic producer trophic level of the food web simply love to have more CO2. It begs the education of these researcher for them not to understand that these organisms have metabolic power to make use of the higher CO2 and ameliorate/ignore any supposed change in pH.

    In fact, seawater is a complex buffer that naturally resists changes in pH, particularly from a weak acid such as carbonic acid.

    Furthermore, CO2 and carbonic acid are part of a long chain of equilibrium from CO2 to carbonic acid to bicarbonate (& a proton, H+) to carbonate (& a H+) to calcium carbonate, and any increase in CO2 at one end of the chain will force a greater deposition of calcium carbonate, the law of mass action. The fact is that any protons (H+) given off by these equilibria cannot affect these equilibria—an equilibrium cannot affect itself—an outside source of protons would be required to affect these equilibria.

  61. rgb
    “and I have no doubt at all that we do have influences, especially where we build”

    absolutely!!

    and don’t get me started on the spread of non-indigenous species from the movement of the human population around the world.

  62. non- indigenous animals.

    “Since their introduction from Europe in the 19th century, the effect of rabbits on the ecology of Australia has been devastating. They are suspected of being the most significant known factor in species loss in Australia. The extent of plant species’ loss is unknown at this time though it is known that rabbits often kill young trees in orchards, forests, and on properties by ringbarking them”

  63. Rabbits are also responsible for serious erosion problems, as they eat native plants, leaving the topsoil exposed and vulnerable to sheet, gully, and wind erosion. The removal of this topsoil is devastating to the land, as it takes many hundreds of years to regenerate

  64. Rabbits are also responsible for serious erosion problems, as they eat native plants, leaving the topsoil exposed and vulnerable to sheet, gully, and wind erosion. The removal of this topsoil is devastating to the land, as it takes many hundreds of years to regenerate

    They also alter the climate. Plants have a generally cooling effect — their respiration is a natural air-conditioner and they transform some of the incoming solar energy into stored forms instead of heat. They bind the soil. It takes only a small bit of damage to a marginal ecosystem to transform a marginal ecology into a desert, and the desert will often be considerably hotter (or at least, will have much less moderated temperatures) that the scrublands it replaces. Goatherding is thought to have created much of the sahara desert, with an enormous, global impact on climate, and “desertification” continues today in part aided by human encroachment and diversion of water supplies or use of the resources that (barely) bind the land.

    Then there are kudzu, snakehead fish, zebra mussels. Some of these have been embraced by the local ecology without breaking it — kudzu hasn’t quite covered the Earth as it was early predicted to do, for example. Snakeheads have an impact that is just starting to be felt as they spread, especially in Maryland but fish have been sighted in NC and the Great Lakes and Florida. Zebra mussels completely altered the fishing patterns in the Great Lakes in my lifetime — one could catch all sorts of perch in next to the shore in Lake Huron in 1980, but now the perch only bite offshore in 20-30 feet of water where the zebra mussels won’t grow. Freshwater clams in local streams have been shown to be very sensitive to agricultural contaminants in the water. The sad thing is that so many environmental scientists are worrying about CAGW (and so much money is being diverted there) that there aren’t as many doing work in places like this where human influence is easy to find, uncontroversial, and there are easy steps one can take to improve things without bringing down modern civilization in the process.

    Although fixing the snakehead problem is going to be pretty damn difficult, just as fixing the kudzu problem proved to be, now that they are “established” in the Potomac river basin. They can survive on land for up to four days under moist conditions, and can wriggle hundreds of meters to bridge gaps between reservoirs or waterways as they spread out. In the end, we’ll probably just have to live with them and if it means that certain local species become extinct there may not be a lot we can do about it. Unless somebody comes up with a very, very specific way to target “just” snakeheads with some sort of biological vector, they are already through most of the barriers erected to try to slow their spread.

    rgb

  65. Environmental and Economic Costs Associated with Non-Indigenous
    http://www.grida.no/geo/GEO/Geo-2-084.htm‎
    by D Pimentel – ‎Related articles
    Invading non-indigenous species in the United States cause major environmental damages and losses adding up to more than $138 billion per year.

    Are invasive species a major cause of
    extinctions?

    http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/grosholz/InvasionReadings.pdf

    ALIEN – Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
    http://www.nda.agric.za/docs/Infopaks/Alien.html‎
    A great deal of South Africa’s water is used by plants that do not belong here. … These plants are invasive because they spread and displace our natural trees … Many springs and streams have already dried up because of invading alien trees. … soil is then washed into rivers causing the rivers and dams to fill up with sand.

    and on and on and on……..

  66. HT to rgbatduke, I sympathize with your moral outrage at the slurs to your Alma Mater.

    Not really a problem. I just sometimes wonder if the people who comment so nastily realize that there are human beings at the other end of those comments, in this case undergraduate students. Would they actually attend a poster session where the students presented this kind of work and then go up to them and say “You’re a moron, and everyone else at your University is a moron, because I disagree with something you said”?

    Not every Duke student is a rocket scientist, although a damn good lot of them could be rocket scientists if they weren’t more interested in becoming physicians, lawyers, business persons, scientists, or simply happy and successful human beings. A rather large chunk of the kids I teach are “scary smart”. But even the most clueless (about heavy math and physics, which is my own greatest concern:-) are hardly morons — they may well suck at math and physics but still be rather bright and quite good at other things. And there are many reasons a student might suck at math and physics in a classroom setting and not really be stupid even about math or physics.

    I liked your direct assessment of the science. It seemed well-balanced and better than I can generate myself, since the last chemistry class I took was in 1974. This is ever so much more useful than pointless railing against the personal characteristics of the people who conducted the study.

    rgb

  67. Please define numerous and what would those numerous species be?

    Going back how far? There are well documented cases of humans simply hunting a number of species to extinction — e.g. the passenger pigeon, the dodo, tasmanian tigers — but these are only over the last few hundred years. If you go back in North America or Australia proper, humans wiped out basically all of the large mammals by hunting them to extinction some 10,000 years ago:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=98510

    In other cases it is more difficult to see whether or not humans per se are responsible for the extinctions as the extinct species aren’t human prey animals, but humans have again without any doubt at all driven species to extinction simply by invading their habitat and destroying the niche they once occupied. Not just animal species, but plants.

    You might or might not agree that global warming is causing parts of the current mass extinction event, and I might or might not agree as well, but that the extinction event is occurring is pretty well documented, see e.g. here:

    http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

    Their estimate of the current extinction rate is 1 to 5 species a year. Some of this may be due to overbroad characterization of just what a “species” is, but even if one accepts only the lowball estimate, that is a pretty hefty rate on millennial timescales. Note that they can count 1000 species by name that have gone extinct over the last 500 years, and that is probably only a fraction of the total. Humans may not have caused all of these, but it is rather likely that we are the ultimate cause of most of them.

    Again, why is this surprising? If one has a species of freshwater clam that only lives in a handful of streams in central North Carolina (as in fact exist, a few miles from where I’m sitting) then that species is pretty vulnerable to any sort of factor that makes its niche vulnerable. Building a dam to create an impoundment. The widespread use of toxic compounds on agricultural land that drains into the waterways. A very bad string of drought years. The introduction of non-native species of fish into the impoundments who have a taste for clams and who migrate up the waterways. All of the above.

    Of course there are no doubt other species of closely related clams living more generally that survive, and it is doubtful the stream ecology will collapse without the clams, but there is always the chance that something one of THESE clams evolved for their local habitat will turn out to be useful. We are just beginning to appreciate the enormous value of genes and are still only one or two generations into the time when genes can more or less directly be manipulated — we haven’t even fully grown into the possibilities of genetic science. One day we may well rue the broad extinction of so many species great and small simply because every one of them carries off with it a (potential) wealth of genetic expression that we will have to work hard to rediscover. The cure to cancer, metaphorically if not literally, could be sitting on a branch in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, awaiting discovery, if the branch on which it is sitting isn’t cut down and turned into firewood or furniture first.

    It’s sort of like burning oil for energy. Yes, it is a fabulous energy source. But any organic chemist cringes at the notion, as you are burning raw materials that require ever so much more energy and effort to directly synthesize and that can be used as an inexpensive starting point to make many useful things. Burning trees for energy when one of the yet-unnamed tree fungi could produce a super-antibiotic (if discovered in time) is in the same category of affair — there is no doubt that somebody needs energy and that old-growth Amazonian timber can provide it, but that doesn’t mean that doing so is without price in the long run.

    rgb

  68. strange how the cookie crumbles.

    Global Garden Gets Greener – NASA Earth Observatory
    earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/GlobalGarden/‎
    For the most part, these changes were favorable for Earth’s vegetation. … impact of the last two decade’s climate changes on Northern Hemisphere vegetation, …

  69. Merrick says:
    January 3, 2014 at 7:13 am
    “pH is, by definition, the measure of hydrogen ions in concentration and therefore, by definition, the measure of acidity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that the alkalinity is decreasing (technically, that would be measured by pOH), but there is also nothing wrong with saying the acidity is increasing – when pH goes down (and therefore hydrogen ion concentration goes up) the acidity is increasing. Critisize the work on it’s merits.”

    I would add that the foregoing applies to strong acid solutions, but not for sea water in the pH 8 range. Acidity is a measure of reactivity to hydroxide ion and in the case of sea water at pH 8 it is dominated by bicarbonate. Hydrogen ion concentration is so small at pH 8 that of course small changes in pH yield huge changes in hydrogen ion concentration on a percentage basis. That is how the bogus claim that we’ve increased the acidity of sea water by 30%. Of course on that basis, one could say that tap water is a 1000% more acidic than sea water.

  70. So what they are saying is that local pH levels can vary wildly due to purely natural causes, and they are unable to find any actual damage to any organism as a result (or else they would have said so).

    We should however be very alarmed about a far smaller, very long term change in the same parameter, because….

    Are these guys familiar with the term “own goal”?

  71. What I take away from this is that the reported natural, dramatic sic pH swings have little effect on quality of life in the estuaries. Therefore, the wringing of hands, gnashing of teeth, and declarations that “may be” we’re all gonna die because of ocean acidification is just more nonsense from these money grubbing parasites.

  72. Thanks rgb, I’ve been trying to be more objective when it comes to reviewing studies and reports that appear. I recently completed a program in water engineering with an environmental monitoring component – part of my re-education since my retirement from the Canadian Navy – so I can easily relate to the complexity of water chemistry, especially when it comes to seawater.

    BTW, when it comes to discussing acidification of the oceans, Oceanographers seem to forget that fresh water lakes will be the first to acidify and act as canaries to assess the impact of CO2 on acidification. What do the Limnologists say is happening?

  73. It would be bad enough if a school associated itself with research publications that made excursions from their declared and ostensible goals to draw confident but flawed and feeble conclusions about global warming. It is egregious if that was why the paper slid past the referees and editors into print, and was just yet another obligatory declaration of fidelity and fealty to the dominant group-think meme and funding bias.

    On the evidence, it was one or the other.

    The focus on the Amazon which is so popular might have to draw in its horns, a little. Gas-exchange sats now indicate that it is not the “lungs of the world”; over a diurnal cycle, it produces as much CO2 and O2 as it absorbs. Its contribution is indirect: riparian and other runoff fertilizes ocean phytoplankton which consume the former and release the latter on balance. And it is apparently, however variegated, far from pristine and “fragile”: earthworks beneath the canopy now indicate widespread agricultural clearing before the Hibernian Holocaust destroyed the local economies. The current rainforest is mostly post-Columbian. Give the jungle an inch, … >;p

  74. Could somebody please help me. I often argue these points with relatives. These relatives include a PHD scientist for EPA that tests water quality. Her description of her test equipment was “it can detect a grain a salt in an Olympic size pool.” Others include a graduate student of physics, an NIH research assistant to a Nobel laureate biochemistry scientist, a couple of graduate level students of biochemistry, and… I think you get my drift.

    I, on the other hand, went into the Navy after High School. I’ve learned in the military and over the years (mostly self-taught) how to become a pretty fair programmer, systems analyst, and systems administrator. Therefore, I’m not at their educational level. I do have the countervailing influence that all of them will admit that I’m their intellectual equal.

    I don’t like to argue from ignorance. If I don’t know – I don’t know. These are heavy weight people I debate with so I can’t afford to be wrong on the science. Especially in their field of specialty.

    My understanding is that ph drops through several levels of alkalinity until it achieves base. From there it descends to acidity. It is my understanding that a decrease in alkalinity in no way, shape, or form, implies an increase in acidity. It is also my understanding that our ability to measure ph is not very accurate, that any measurement too far right of the decimal point is meaningless.

    Is my understanding correct? Does it require re-learning or modification?

  75. “And they are occurring in addition to the long-term acidification taking place in Earth’s oceans as a result of human-caused climate change.”
    Not according to what I have read on this excellent site. The cause is not certain and if humans are contributing it is a small proportion at best.

  76. Merrick says: January 3, 2014 at 7:13 am “pH is, by definition, the measure of hydrogen ions in concentration….”
    Not quite. The definition I was taught related to hydrogen ion activity, which can be a rather different figure in the presence of high concentrations of other ions and even suspended particles. Like in the sea.

  77. Numerous studies have shown that increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide from human sources are finding their way into the world’s oceans. When the carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it reduces the water’s pH and the ability of organisms to form calcium carbonate minerals that are the building blocks of many species’ shells and skeletons.

    Were these the studies in fish tanks with unrealistic levels of co2 added or the In situ studies? Here are some more studies showing how damaging ocean acidification can be to sea creatures. Hold onto your hats!

    Abstract – Bethan M. Jones et. al – 12 April 2013
    Responses of the Emiliania huxleyi Proteome to Ocean Acidification
    ….We employed an approach combining tandem mass-spectrometry with isobaric tagging (iTRAQ) and multiple database searching to identify proteins that were differentially expressed in cells of the marine coccolithophore species Emiliania huxleyi (strain NZEH) between two CO2 conditions: 395 (~current day) and ~1340 p.p.m.v. CO2……..Under high CO2 conditions, coccospheres were larger and cells possessed bigger coccoliths that did not show any signs of malformation compared to those from cells grown under present-day CO2 levels. No differences in calcification rate, particulate organic carbon production or cellular organic carbon: nitrogen ratios were observed….
    doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061868
    ——————————
    Abstract – T. Cyronak et. al. – April 2013
    Groundwater and porewater as major sources of alkalinity to a fringing coral reef lagoon (Muri Lagoon, Cook Islands)

    …This study quantifies the contribution of shallow porewater exchange (as quantified from advective chamber incubations) and fresh groundwater discharge (as traced by 222Rn) to total alkalinity (TA) dynamics on a fringing coral reef lagoon along the southern Pacific island of Rarotonga over a tidal and diel cycle….

    …This study describes overlooked sources of TA to coral reef ecosystems that can potentially alter water column carbonate chemistry. We suggest that porewater and groundwater fluxes of TA should be taken into account in ocean acidification models in order to properly address changing carbonate chemistry within coral reef ecosystems.

    doi:10.5194/bg-10-2467-2013
    ——————————
    Abstract – Gabrielle M. Miller et. al. – May 2013
    Increased CO2 stimulates reproduction in a coral reef fish
    ………We investigated the effects of near-future levels of pCO2 on the reproductive performance of the cinnamon anemonefish, Amphiprion melanopus, from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Breeding pairs were held under three CO2 treatments [Current-day Control (430 μatm), Moderate (584 μatm) and High (1032 μatm)] for a 9-month period that included the summer breeding season. Unexpectedly, increased CO2 dramatically stimulated breeding activity in this species of fish. Over twice as many pairs bred in the Moderate (67% of pairs) and High (55%) compared to the Control (27%) CO2 treatment. Pairs in the High CO2 group produced double the number of clutches per pair and 67% more eggs per clutch compared to the Moderate and Control groups. As a result, reproductive output in the High group was 82% higher than that in the Control group and 50% higher than that in the Moderate group. Despite the increase in reproductive activity, there was no difference in adult body condition among the three treatment groups. There was no significant difference in hatchling length between the treatment groups, but larvae from the High CO2 group had smaller yolks than Controls. This study provides the first evidence of the potential effects of ocean acidification on key reproductive attributes of marine fishes and, contrary to expectations, demonstrates an initially stimulatory (hormetic) effect in response to increased pCO2. However, any long-term consequences of increased reproductive effort on individuals or populations remain to be determined.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12259/abstract

    ——————————
    Abstract- Morgan W. Kelly et. al. – 11 June 2013
    Natural variation and the capacity to adapt to ocean acidification in the keystone sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus

    …However, nearly all of this work has focused on the effects of future conditions on modern populations, neglecting the role of adaptation…..These results suggest that spatially varying selection may help to maintain genetic variation necessary for adaptation to future ocean acidification.
    doi:10.1111/gcb.12251

  78. “The natural short-term variability in acidity we observed over the course of one year exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole and may already be exerting added pressure on some of the estuary’s organisms, particularly shelled organisms that are especially susceptible to changes in pH,” said Zackary I. Johnson, …..

    One year! Wow! This is indeed a very startling result. The evidence is clear and we must act now before we see large changes over ONE MONTH and even ONE DAY! Now what’s this?

    Abstract – December 19, 2011
    Gretchen E. Hofmann et al
    High-Frequency Dynamics of Ocean pH: A Multi-Ecosystem Comparison
    ………. These observations reveal a continuum of month-long pH variability with standard deviations from 0.004 to 0.277 and ranges spanning 0.024 to 1.430 pH units. The nature of the observed variability was also highly site-dependent, with characteristic diel, semi-diurnal, and stochastic patterns of varying amplitudes. These biome-specific pH signatures disclose current levels of exposure to both high and low dissolved CO2, often demonstrating that resident organisms are already experiencing pH regimes that are not predicted until 2100……..

    …..and (2) in some cases, seawater in these sites reaches extremes in pH, sometimes daily, that are often considered to only occur in open ocean systems well into the future [46]. …..
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028983

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0028983

    H/t

    http://joannenova.com.au/2012/01/scripps-blockbuster-ocean-acidification-happens-all-the-time-naturally/

    http://joannenova.com.au/2012/2011/11/the-chemistry-of-ocean-ph-and-acidification/

  79. “When the carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it reduces the water’s pH and the ability of organisms to form calcium carbonate minerals that are the building blocks of many species’ shells and skeletons.”

    No, it reduces the ability of only SOME organisms to secrete aragonite from seawater. I believe that most of the studies using CO2 as the acidifier (not HCl or some other proton donor) have shown that most shelly fauna benefit, that is, make thicker or larger shells. Reasons for this may simply that more bicarbonate is available to the organisms, or that living shelly organisms actively modify the pH in the immediate vicinity of their tests, an adaptation one might expect for organisms dealing with large natural pH swings.

  80. Hey Anthony, how come you never post the full link when you write “From Duke University” or from wherever? I always have to look it up. Not much work to do but it would be nice to have the full link to the actual article when you write “From XYZ”…

    [Reply: Best to put this post in 'Tips & Notes'. ~ mod.]

  81. A reply from Zachary Johnson to me,

    Hi Richard,
    Thanks for the note. You’re right, there is quite a range currently allowed by the EPA in North Carolina (and many other states). And our measurements of pH did not exceed that range, so with the current regulations and observations I don’t think the EPA would take any action. Indeed, one of our goals was to get a good estimate of what normal natural variability is and how this compares to longer term (decadal) projections of increasing acidity (decreasing pH). With additional monitoring including at other sites in North Carolina and beyond, the EPA and other regulatory agencies will be able to better establish what is ‘normal’ to establish better guidelines to maintain a healthy environment for the long term. One of the broader goals of this type of study is to provide the best data and science available so that we (our society) can make informed choices.

    All the best, Zackary

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