Ocean Acidification and Corals

Guest post by Steven Goddard
The BBC ran an article this week titled “Acid oceans ‘need urgent action” based on the premise:

The world’s marine ecosystems risk being severely damaged by ocean acidification unless there are dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions, warn scientists.

This sounds very alarming, so being diligent researchers we should of course check the facts.  The ocean currently has a pH of 8.1, which is alkaline not acid.  In order to become acid, it would have to drop below 7.0.  According to WikipediaBetween 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104.”  At that rate, it will take another 3,500 years for the ocean to become even slightly acid.  One also has to wonder how they measured the pH of the ocean to 4 decimal places in 1751, since the idea of pH wasn’t introduced until 1909.
The BBC article then asserts:

The researchers warn that ocean acidification, which they refer to as “the other CO2 problem”, could make most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase.

This does indeed sound alarming, until you consider that corals became common in the oceans during the Ordovician Era – nearly 500 million years ago – when atmospheric CO2 levels were about 10X greater than they are today. (One might also note in the graph below that there was an ice age during the late Ordovician and early Silurian with CO2 levels 10X higher than current levels, and the correlation between CO2 and temperature is essentially nil throughout the Phanerozoic.)

https://i0.wp.com/ff.org/centers/csspp/library/co2weekly/2005-08-18/dioxide_files/image002.gif?w=1110

Perhaps corals are not so tough as they used to be?  In 1954, the US detonated the world’s largest nuclear weapon at Bikini Island in the South Pacific.  The bomb was equivalent to 30 billion pounds of TNT, vapourised three islands, and raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees.  Yet half a century of rising CO2 later, the corals at Bikini are thriving.  Another drop in pH of 0.075 will likely have less impact on the corals than a thermonuclear blast.  The corals might even survive a rise in ocean temperatures of half a degree, since they flourished at times when the earth’s temperature was 10C higher than the present.

There seems to be no shortage of theories about how rising CO2 levels will destroy the planet, yet the geological record shows that life flourished for hundreds of millions of years with much higher CO2 levels and temperatures.  This is a primary reason why there are so many skeptics in the geological community.  At some point the theorists will have to start paying attention to empirical data.
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Neil Crafter
January 31, 2009 9:24 pm

This has always seemed intuitively impossible to acidify the oceans, given how salty they are. How could CO2 possible overcome all that salt? But then nothing seems above the vast powers of this wonder molecule!

Robert S
January 31, 2009 9:27 pm

“The ocean currently has a pH of 8.1, which is alkaline not acid. ”
Acidification is the process of becoming acidic, and based on the fact that ocean pH has dropped, we can certainly say that is the case. Just to be clear, the end result of acidification is not necessarily an acidic ocean (which would be very unlikely).

CJA
January 31, 2009 9:38 pm

“One also has to wonder how they measured the pH of the ocean to 4 decimal places in 1751, since the idea of pH wasn’t introduced until 1909.”
It’s observations like this that will continue to make some of us without PhD’s skeptical of the thought process utilized by some of the leading climate scientists. Similarly, when you look at the surfacestations project and realize that the measurement of global surface temperatures has an inherent flaw, it does not make immediate sense to talk about minor temperature changes over the past 30 years–even if the math says its statistically significant.

mccall
January 31, 2009 9:39 pm

I suppose a better term would be “debased” — similar to the science that comes from many alarmists!

Richard Sharpe
January 31, 2009 9:45 pm

The bomb was equivalent to 30 billion pounds of TNT, vapourised three islands, and raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees.

I suspect that it did not raise the water temperature to 55,000 degrees. That might have been the temperature at the center of the explosion, but I suspect that the water nearby flashed into steam …
Can you clarify?
I am also lead to believe that the current corrals and the ones before the KT event (I believe) were different, one being rugose corals and the other not. I might have the boundary wrong, though.
Perhaps some words should be said to indicate why corals back then are expected to have behaved the same as those of today in the presence of greater levels of carbonic acid or whatever in the seas, or that similar buffering was possible.

Jon
January 31, 2009 9:48 pm

I second “Robert S”. The tone of indignation is misplaced. Acidification is any decline in pH, no matter how alkaline the final result. That said, the terminology “acidification” draws upon the negative public connotations of something being “acidic” and is primarily used in ecological sciences.

David Archibald
January 31, 2009 10:01 pm

The temperature of large bodies of water is limited to 31degrees C due to the rate of evaporation increasing with temperature. When the Earth was warmer, the tropics remained the same, the rest of the planet heated up.

Mikey
January 31, 2009 10:04 pm

Use of the term acidification is just more BS terminology like using the term Climate Change when what you’re really talking about is human-caused global warming. It’s use is designed to insinuate the oceans are acidic. If they’re not it’s just lying agitprop. That’s not science. That’s english. Any school kid can figure that one out. In the long run using these BS terms will eventually be among the alarmists biggest mistakes. They’re allowing the average guy to get a peak at the BS their quote unquote science is based on.

Jon Jewett
January 31, 2009 10:07 pm

Neil,
Salt (NaCl) does not have an effect on maintaining the pH in this case. There may be other chemicals that would help to maintain the pH above 7.0 (i.e. basic, the opposite of acid). The effect of chemicals resisting a change in pH is called “buffering” and it would take someone more knowledgeable to know if sea water is a buffered solution.
CO2 dissolved in water makes a very weak acid called carbonic acid. It is so weak that we can drink it in soda pop. However, it does have an effect that we can see. Over zillions of years, CO2 dissolves in rainwater and that water with the weak acid percolates through limestone deposits. The weak acid slowly dissolves the limestone and creates caves. But it does take zillions of years.
Regards,
Steamboat Jack

Fraizer
January 31, 2009 10:11 pm

I am a reef aquarium enthusiast.
I add CO2 in a calcium reactor to provide free calcium carbonate for the corals.
I can tell you for a fact that my corals have never done so well since I began the regular addition of CO2. I actually have corals propagating to the point that I have to remove them and trade with the local fish store.
OK, this is slightly different than the natural environment, but the idea is to mimic the natural carbon cycle. CO2 is a fundamental building block of the marine ecosystem. Think of it a pumping CO2 into a hothouse for tomatoes.
So I would ask the folks that subscribe to the AGW proposition:
What is the ultimate solubility of an acid gas in an infinitely buffered alkaline solution?

hunter
January 31, 2009 10:20 pm

Robert S and Jon,
One of the most important tools of AGW fear promotion is to wring out of the statistical noise some numerical value indistinguishable from the noise, and then declare that numerical value is an established fact of grave implications.
There is not one shred of evidence that the AGW claim about acidification is true.
And since the oceans are strongly basic, and the alleged change, even if true, is so trivial, the use of the term ‘acidification’ is not one used to describe a process but rather to elicit acceptance of claims about AGW.
Additionally, please feel free to refer to any credible studies at all that show in the laboratory that a change in Ph of .04 in a marine tank of coral will have any effect at all on the coral. In fact a google of coral+Ph+lab yields no listing of any experimental results.
This pattern is true of basically every tenet of AGW dogma.

J.Hansford.
January 31, 2009 10:21 pm

More AGW hype and myth making.

Fraizer
January 31, 2009 10:29 pm

@Robert S (21:27:59) :
FYI, the natural ocean pH varies from about 8.1 to about 8.4 depending on a multitude of factors. I try to maintain my reef tank at 8.3 but that varies with temperature and lighting on a diurnal basis.
It is extremely difficult to measure pH IN THE LABORATORY with a precision of better than +/- 0.1.
Make no mistake. Corral reefs are in trouble. Largely from pesticide and fertilizer runoff as well as sewage sludge. CO2 is the least of their problems.

Mike McMillan
January 31, 2009 10:36 pm

Richard Sharpe (21:45:26) :
” The bomb was equivalent to 30 billion pounds of TNT, vapourised three islands, and raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees. ”
I suspect that it did not raise the water temperature to 55,000 degrees. That might have been the temperature at the center of the explosion, but I suspect that the water nearby flashed into steam.

As I recall from nuke weapons school, ignition temp for hydrogen fusion is around 100 million degrees, so 55K is very likely the water temp some great distance away, unless the water has dissociated. Nearby, I don’t think you’ll find anything but plasma. 🙂

Mike Bryant
January 31, 2009 10:44 pm

The coral are making a comeback after the tsunami. How is this possible with the acidification of the oceans?
http://www.physorg.com/news149768973.html

January 31, 2009 10:51 pm

To become acidic, the ocean would have to be below pH 7.0. Saying that “acidification” is just the process of moving closer to 7.0 is equivocation. A little word game, like saying you’re being Newyorkized just because you take a couple of steps eastward in Los Angeles. Heck, you haven’t even been Denverized, yet.
pH, by the way, is not an esoteric chemistry concept, it’s just a handy measurement scale, a shorthand, and can be calculated from other measures of acidity.

D. King
January 31, 2009 10:55 pm

Soft-shell lobsters…Yummy!

Glenn
January 31, 2009 11:00 pm

“In order to become acid, it would have to drop below 7.0.”
I agree. The term “acidification” applied to ocean ph was apparently first
applied by global warming advocates. Whoda guessed.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification
“Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by their uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.[1]”
http://pangea.stanford.edu/research/Oceans/GES205/Caldeira_Science_Anthropogenic%20Carbon%20and%20ocean%20pH.pdf
“When carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean it lowers the pH, making the ocean more acidic.”
Scientists, gotta love them. No, the oceans are not acidic, and lowering the ph a small amount will not make the oceans “more acidic”. Great PR, though.
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&defl=en&q=define:acidic&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title
Define acidic:
“being or containing an acid; of a solution having an excess of hydrogen atoms (having a pH of less than 7) ”
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define%3Amore
Define more:
“More” is the theme from the Italian movie Mondo Cane, from 1962

January 31, 2009 11:03 pm

At some point the theorists will have to start paying attention to empirical data.
You sure? It didn’t stop them from proclaiming unprecedented ice melt even though they find whole villages and 3000 year old tree stumps under the glaciers. I wondered if you would pick up on the bikini island bombs, didn’t bother those ever so delicate corals much at all.

sod
January 31, 2009 11:04 pm

a google scholar search of
coral+Ph+laboratory+experiment gives me 14000 RECENT hits.
http://scholar.google.de/scholar?q=corals+ph+laboratory+experiment&hl=en&lr=&scoring=r&as_ylo=2004

wes george
January 31, 2009 11:07 pm

First they claim an apocalypse is looming due to AGW.
But when self-evident cooling occurs they blur AGW to vague “climate change” Any climate evolution defying total climate stasis is the result of capitalist evil.
Of course, by definition, the climate is always changing and the concept of an optimum climate stasis is an idiotically impossible oxymoron.
Now that more and more people are becoming aware of the dual idiocy of a tautology “climate change” and its implied oxymoronic corollary of a “stationary climate” we are being prepared to move on to the next FUD, the acidification of the oceans.
Remarkably, the dire threats keep shifting, but the boogie man remains the same. And so does the collectivist socio-economic policy solutions.
What’s wrong with this picture?

Glenn
January 31, 2009 11:10 pm

After considering this “acidification” it occured to me to question whether
other factors could be involved rather than increased co2, if indeed that is the case at all. I know little about the subject, but “red tides”, created by the billions of tons of crap we have dumped into the oceans, manufacture domoic acid, which may cause similar reactions in seawater to calcium and such. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the chemistry might take an interest.

Jon
January 31, 2009 11:12 pm

Hunter,
I’d like to take a moderate approach. Absolutism makes me uncomfortable. e.g., Klaus claiming that there is no global warming–none. That’s a sloppy step too far.
The second part of the post is good, but the bit about ridiculing the conjunction of “acidification” with a basic ocean pH is a step too far.
Skeptics need to have higher standards for themselves and their claims.

Neil Crafter
January 31, 2009 11:13 pm

Steamboat Jack
Thanks for that correction.
The use of the term “acidification” is scary to the average punter. The effect is to make the oceans very slightly less alkaline, but that term does not have the right scare factor for the AGW scarists.
Fraizer
Interesting that your corals are enjoying the extra CO2 boost you are giving them. I see that a number of corals form a symbiotic relationship with a particular family of algae and presumably it is the algae that benefit from the increased CO2.

Steven Goddard
January 31, 2009 11:24 pm

The BBC article was titled “Acid Oceans.” They are not acidic, rather they are alkaline.
The 55,000 degrees number is from the Science Daily article linked to in that paragraph. The radiative heat from even a small fission device (like at Hiroshima) was enough to instantly vaporize people miles away from ground zero. A thermonuclear weapon like at Bikini releases thousands of times more energy.
Why would anyone expect corals to be so much more sensitive to CO2 than in the past? The argument that is often made is that the lower pH from rising CO2 softens the aragonite in shellfish and coral. Yet we know that atmospheric CO2 levels were much higher when corals and many species of shellfish appeared in the oceans. The physical properties of aragonite have not changed.
The onus needs to be on the people making the claims that a few more ppm CO2 will kill the corals – not the other way around.

a jones
January 31, 2009 11:26 pm

May I suggest readers consult co2science.org which has excellent reporting and a good database on this subject.
Kindest Regards

Manfred
January 31, 2009 11:31 pm

The BBC title is “ACID oceans ‘need urgent action‘”.
So the BBC get it wrong, like always, in recent history.

braddles
January 31, 2009 11:47 pm

To a chemist, a pH change of 8.1 to 8.0 would almost always be referred to as neutralization, not acidification. I guess that “Ocean Neutralization” wouldn’t gather as many headlines as “Acidification”.

Alan Wilkinson
January 31, 2009 11:50 pm

As an ex-chemist I confidently assert that acidification means becoming acid, not staying alkaline. It’s misuse in this context is simple propaganda, not science. Apologists for propagandists have a lost cause.
I’ve also seen chemical claptrap spouted in this context by biologists along the lines that acidification caused by higher CO2 levels reduces carbonate ion availability for calcification for shell, coral formation etc. Complete nonsense. There is no way adding CO2 to water ever reduces carbonate ion concentrations.

evanjones
Editor
January 31, 2009 11:52 pm

The 55,000 degrees number is from the Science Daily article linked to in that paragraph. The radiative heat from even a small fission device (like at Hiroshima) was enough to instantly vaporize people miles away from ground zero.
Nah, the Little Boy was a comparative firecracker. Half the people in the city survived. And most who died did not die in the blast, but in the ensuing firestorm. No way people miles away were vaporized. There were people who were burnt utterly at ground zero, leaving only shadows on the pavement–which was not destroyed by the bomb. (An H-bomb leaves no intact pavement.)
There were even conventional bombing raids that killed more people.
Bikini is a whole ‘nother bag of beans, though. There were like a couple dozen tests there (don’t recall whether they were A-bombs or H-bombs, though).

Glenn
January 31, 2009 11:56 pm

“The BBC title is “ACID oceans ‘need urgent action‘”.
So the BBC get it wrong, like always, in recent history.”
Or maybe they are just playing along and turned the title into the joke that was the article. Acidification means to *make* acidic. You’ll notice they report “The researchers warn” and “they refer to”, not that the BBC is warning about ocean acidification.

Glenn
February 1, 2009 12:09 am

Another linked article to the OP:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7745714.stm
“They sampled coastal waters off the north-west Pacific coast of the US every half-hour for eight years.
The results, published in the journal PNAS, suggest that earlier climate change models may have underestimated the rate of ocean acidification.”
There has been a problem off the NW Pacific coast for at least the last eight years with “red tides”, or “algal blooms”, which create acid and influence the chemistry of the ocean and sealife in various ways.

February 1, 2009 12:17 am

So they have (questionable) data over 243 years, what about to those years from 1994, i am missing the those 15 years, what did happen in that time?
Accoording to this it will take almost 5 centuries from 1751 to somewhere halfway the 23rd century for the PH to drop from 8.179 to 8.029. The sky is falling it seems? NOT.

Ted Annonson
February 1, 2009 12:34 am

Whenever I read something put out by the AGW crowd, it reminds me of the only thing I remember from my 1944 class in mathematical analysis which was the instructor saying—
Hucksters often take true numbers and facts and present them in such a manner that it creates a false picture of reality. (Not his exact words, but–)
He then gave the following illistration
Three salesmen were late for a convention and had a hard time trying to find a room for the night. Finally at one hotel the clerk said he had one single room for $30.00 and he could have two more beds installed, so each of them would only pay $10.00.(3x$10.00=$30.00 Right?)
Later the clerk started to think that maybe they payed too much for that crowded room, so he gave the bellboy $5.00 to divide among the three.
Since $5.00 is not divisable evenly by three, the bellboy just gave each $1.00 and kept $2.00 for himself. This meant that each salesman only paid $9.00.
($10.00-$1.00=$9.00 Right?) But 3x$9.00=$27.00 plus the $2.00 that the bellboy make $29.00(Right?), So where did the other dollar go?

Andrew McRae
February 1, 2009 12:50 am

Hey there Watters,
I saw this headline in the BBC headlines a few hours ago and was checking it for signs of lunacy. I should have known that WUWT (or allied sites) would have done the analysis for me already.
Well anyway, thought I’d post a link to some related data for discussion. Here’s a NOAA-funded study of ocean pH, comparing observations done in 1991 and 2006.
http://www.marine.usf.edu/PDFs-and-DOCs/publications/Sherwood-AGU2006.pdf
Now, on the one hand, they also report pH has in fact decreased by almost the same amount that was predicted by atmospheric CO2 models.
On the other hand, what I find unscientific about it (aside from it being a poster and not a journal paper) is that it says in Fig 11 at the bottom right corner that they have graphed the “delta-pH signal from anthropogenic CO2”. That is plainly false. They have measured a drop in pH. There is nothing about this study that disproves all alternative influences on pH aside from CO2. Plus there is nothing about this study that tells where the CO2 came from, let alone that it is from human activity.
Personally I think that since CO2 has a higher solubility in warmer water than cooler water, and since the satellite measurements (MMU) of the SST have definitely shown (via e.g. CRU) the surface warmed between 1991 and 2006, this would mean the ocean would have sucked in more CO2 even if atmospheric CO2 concentration had stayed the same between 1991 and 2006. All they’ve done is build a million dollar thermometer – not an AGW fingerprint detective.
If anyone else wants to check it out and give a different opinion on the significance of this result, I would like to hear it.
See ya,
– Andrew McRae.

CodeTech
February 1, 2009 12:57 am

Estimated mass of the oceans: 1.37×10^21 kg
Estimated mass of the atmosphere: 5.1 x 10^18 kg
Written out:
1,370,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
5,100,000,000,000,000,000 kg
That means there is about 270 times more mass of ocean than atmosphere, and remember the interface between the two is a very very small portion of the two. Gigatons of CO2 exchange between the two on a regular basis:
Unfortunately, it is difficult to find real numbers because so much of the internet is polluted by AGW agenda articles, but from what I can see there is about a 90 gigaton yearly exchange between ocean and atmosphere. So lets put those three numbers together:
1,370,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
5,100,000,000,000,000,000 kg
90,000,000,000,000 kg
And adding a fourth number: the amount estimated to be emitted by human activity. Once again, good luck finding any documented or non-hyped value, but I’m seeing it’s about 7 gigatons per year.
1,370,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
5,100,000,000,000,000,000 kg
90,000,000,000,000 kg
7,000,000,000,000 kg
Simple arithmetic shows that “our” contribution of CO2 to the oceans is approximately 1/195,714,285 the mass of the ocean, or written out that is about one two-hundred-millionth.
I can’t even conceive of anyone seriously worried about this.

Steve Brown
February 1, 2009 1:17 am

Here in England the BBC is now recognised as being nothing more than a Socialist organisation which backs the Labour Government’s socialist agenda whilst being financed by a legally enforceable tax on the general populace (the TV ‘licence’ fee).
Have a look at the newspaper article linked.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/4413474/BBC-abandons-impartiality-on-warming.html

deadwood
February 1, 2009 1:29 am

Someone please correct me if I have this backwards.
As I understand it warming oceans release CO2 because cold sea water holds more in solution.
Since CO2, when dissolved in seawater is an acid (H2CO3 – AKA carbonic acid), would not the ocean become less acidic as the seas warm?

John Edmondson
February 1, 2009 1:33 am

Did Steve Goddard ask the BBC to post his analysis of their article, in the interest of providing a balanced view?
If he did, I think we can guess what the reply was?

Bill D
February 1, 2009 1:46 am

The effect of changes in ocean pH on calcifying organs, such as corals, clams (and other molluscs) and certain plankton is a very active area of scientific experimental research. This research can be accessed in Goggle Scholar. Various key words, such as (“ocean acidification and calcifying organisms”) give thousands of hits (try it!). Maybe 20% of these articles are available to the general public as PDF’s but the majority require subscriptions (because many scientific journals are “for profit” and even journals published by scientific societies are sustained by subscriptions).
I have enough expertise in aquatic invertebrate physiology and ecology to readily understand this literature. Although I have not published on the specific topic, I have, in the past few months been a reviewer of two papers on calcium balance in freshwater crustaceans submitted to peer reviewed journals, reflecting my specific expertise (search W.R. DeMott in Goggle scholar).
Freshwater organisms experience a much broader range in pH than marine organisms. Different species occur at lakes of different pH’s, for example. However, when we get to lakes of increasingly lower (more acidic) pH (and calcium concentrations), molluscs (snails and bivalves) are among the first to disappear followed by crustaceans and fish. Depending on lake pH we find different species that are adapted to a specific pH range. This has been very helpful for determining which lakes have been acidified by acid rain and which were naturally acidic (search under “fossil diatoms and lake pH”). Diatoms skeletons in sediment cores of mud allow reconstruction of past lake pH to the nearest 0.1 pH units.
Unfortunately, the rate of acidification of the world’s oceans is about 100X faster than in the past and current rates of CO2 increase will quickly (within the next century) lead to more acidic oceans than have ben experienced in the last 10 million years (see review articles). This means that the coral species that now present will have difficulty surviving. This does not mean that all corals will go extinct. If acidification is not too fast, perhaps adaptations will occur that allow coral reefs to be rebuilt over the next thousands or 10’s of thousands or 100s of thousands of years. However, it is naive to think that the animals that currently occupy the world’s oceans are the same ones that occurred millions of years ago when the world’s atmospheric CO2 was higher and the oceans were more acidic. Animals (including corals) may have difficulty adapting to the rapid acidification (decades and centuries are short-term for evolutionary adaptations). The calcification of marine organisms is very sensitive to pH and does not require acidic (pH < 7.0) conditions to be markedly reduced.
This posting is the understanding of a scientist with a peripheral understanding of the relevant literature. Clearly, if I had the time and motivation to read more of the literature on this topic (say 100 of the top peer reviewed papers) I would be better informed. However, our understanding of the effects of pH change is solidly ground in 1000’s of scientific papers. This literature shows that ocean life is already being effected and will become much more serious in the coming decades, given current levels of human CO2 release. There is no need to readers here to speculate that the recent and ongoing changes in ocean pH are not important. As mentioned in the first line of this post, this is a topic of very intensive, experimental research.

redneck
February 1, 2009 1:53 am

Steven,
I would caution you about comparing modern day corals with corals extant in the Ordivician. The most common Ordivician corals belonged to the orders Rugosa and Tabulata while todays most common corals belong to the order Scleractinia. Sort of an apples and oranges kind of thing. Also the Rugosa and Tabulata became extinct at the end of the Permian whereas the first appearance of the Scleractinia in the fossil record is not until later in the mid-Triassic.
I also wonder where they collect the samples to measure the ocean’s pH. Do they take samples from near surface which are likely to have slightly lower pHs due to contamination from rainfall. Or do they take samples from deeper water.
It is my opinion that if they want to find out if the ocean is becoming less alkaline or more acidic they should be monitoring changes in depth of the lysocline and CCD (Carbonate Compensation Depth). The lysocline occurs where dissolution of CaCO3 increases significantly due to higher pressures and lower temperatures. The CCD is the depth at which the rate of dissolution of CaCO3 exceeds the rate of supply of calcium carbonate from calcareous pelagic organisms like foraminifera. Below the depth of the CCD no CaCO3 is present on the ocean floors. According to the Glossary of Geology the CCD in the Pacific Ocean occurs between 4000 and 5000m and in the Atlantic Ocean it is somewhat shallower. It also occurs at shallower depths in high latitudes than it does in tropical latitudes.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 2:02 am

THEIR pH VALUE SEEMS TO BE VERY HIGH
Here’s a copy of a paper from 1988 where they are developing the technique, and they get very different number, with decreasing numbers as depth increases.
To say that the whole ocean has to have the same pH, regardless of location and depth is less than honest. But, hey, it’s the BBC, after all.

Demesure
February 1, 2009 2:09 am

To have 55 000 degree temperatures for water, you must have impossibly high pressures, which is of course impossible in an open container (the ocean), except for some cubic meters of water.
This kind of numbers is exagerated and sensationalistic.

King of Cool
February 1, 2009 2:14 am

More than 150 top marine researchers have voiced their concerns through the “Monaco Declaration”, which warns that changes in acidity are accelerating.
So what are the noticeable effects of this?
The oceans are not a static laboratory experiment. They are evolving parts of a constantly changing planet teeming with living species and bacteria.
Over 3500 delegates also attended the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Florida in July 2008. Sure, they identified acidification as a factor. But CO2 has been around in various quantities in the 500 million year evolvement of coral reefs which have survived remarkably well over this period.
The reef symposium also recognised that other major issues that would affect the survival of coral reefs were management, overfishing, run-off, development and local community attitudes. These I suspect are the real man made problems that we have to worry about.

February 1, 2009 2:30 am

Fraizer (22:11:28) : I am a reef aquarium enthusiast. I add CO2 in a calcium reactor to provide free calcium carbonate for the corals. I can tell you for a fact that my corals have never done so well since I began the regular addition of CO2.
Fraizer’s got it dead right, and so, unfortunately, has Hunter. I had an excellent discussion with Floor Anthoni about all this; he taught me that since the oceans always carry excess Ca++ ions, the fauna there will always utilize any spare CO2 to build shells and thusly regulate the balance. He also warns that “ocean acidification” stands poised to become the next bogeyman when the Climate Science hot air is punctured. There are local issues with the oceans: the danger is when they get falsely multiplied up.
I do recommend a visit to Dr Floor Anthoni everyone. He’s got what so few people have, a rounded grasp of his topic, hands-on, heart, and good science. Because he understands the subtle nature of ocean dynamics, he’s not in line with hard fundamentalist science headlines. But he can help people grasp the elusive powers of the ocean that we need to grasp but PC-landlubber modellers miss.

February 1, 2009 2:33 am

The fixation of carbon by oceanic animals is responsible for all the limestone in the world, is it not, from the white cliffs of Dover to Mt. Everest. I speculate that taken in total there is a lot more carbon in limestone than in fossil fuels. And a lot more annual fixation of carbon in the oceans than on land. Furthermore, terrestrial biomass is prone to combustion and de-sequesterization of the carbon, whereas in the oceans the calcium carbonate sinks and remains intact for eons.
Unless it is uplifted by plate tectonics, or is thermonuclearized, and even then marine critters replace it shortly thereafter.
Is any of that in the climate models??????

Neven
February 1, 2009 2:47 am

Steven,
Maybe you also could’ve said something about how parts of marine life will cope with a relatively rapid switch in pH? Will they be able to adapt? A lot of marine scientists say they won’t. The argument that corals in the Ordovician era – 500 million years ago – did well with high CO2 levels doesn’t say anything about adaptability of current corals.
And that’s the big question, isn’t it? Will corals etc be able to adapt to a rapid switch in pH? Why isn’t this question addressed at all in your piece?

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 2:57 am
RobJM
February 1, 2009 3:42 am

Coral exist in a symbiotic relationship with algae and many algae benefit from extra CO2 as it is potentially limiting in photosynthesis. Therefor it would be reasonable to expect that many coral would benefit from higher CO2 levels. Basic biology 101.

Reference
February 1, 2009 3:47 am

Ocean acidification? See
Are oceans becoming more acidic and is this a threat to marine life?
By Dr J Floor Anthoni

E.M.Smith
Editor
February 1, 2009 3:58 am

I thought this one was the biggest:
http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Russia/TsarBomba.html
Maybe it wasn’t considered a weapon?
I’m also quite certain that any excess of CO2 in the ocean will rapidly be consumed by plants. It works in greenhouses. Add CO2, get more growth.
One of my major gripes about AGW as a thesis is the way that they almost universally confine biological processes to the production of methane. Life does so much more, including sequester CO2 as coal and oil. The oil via algae in shallow seas…

Glenn Rowe
February 1, 2009 4:09 am


This seems to be the key point in all global warming arguments. The warmists persistently ignore the growing mass of data showing that no matter how much they may wish that CO2 is demolishing the planet, there simply isn’t any evidence for it.
How on earth can we skeptics ever win the day when faced with religious zeal? No matter how much evidence is produced, the environmentalists still seem to have the world’s media and politicians in their pocket. That’s what I find most frustrating about the whole global warming argument. I try not to despair, but I’m at a loss as to how we can make the world sit up and take notice of the evidence. Any thoughts?

Glenn Rowe
February 1, 2009 4:10 am

Sorry, in my previous post I meant to quote the last sentence of the original posting but seem to have pressed the wrong button:
“At some point the theorists will have to start paying attention to empirical data.”

Alan the Brit
February 1, 2009 4:17 am

Fraizer:-)
When I was a young engineer (many moons ago) in 1991-2, I worked on the structural design of a bunch of underground sewage treatment pump houses/chambers in Negril, Jamaica. (Sadly I never got to go there on site due to being made redundant in the recession of that period). They desperately needed the treatment plants to boost tourism & to protect the surrounding coral reefs from degradation from pumping raw untreated sewage into the seas! There was no mention in the report of this coral reef degradation being caused by CO2 in the atmosphere despite that being a regular call from the alarmist camps!
Glenn;-)
I suggest then that the BBC reporting is maybe covering its rear for the possibility of greater cooling, & the world (sorry that should be rich western democracies) realising they’re being conned big time. One Adolf Hitler said in his book ‘the mass of the people are more likely to believe a big lie than a small one!’. If one thinks about it logically this is perfectly true, something that is so huge & incredible must be true! Most people I know over 40 have similar views to myself, perhaps there is a hidden tactic of waiting for all us old fogies over 40 to pop our clogs then the circle will be complete! Millionaire socialist (the very worst kind) Maurice Strong has made his position very clear, the people should be controlled, especially the western democracies. I find this kind of propaganda repulsive, the rich & famous are frequently seen using their popularity & clout to highlight social/environmental issues that require the necessary raising of taxes for everyone, when they are themselves wealthy beyond most peoples needs & wants or even desires, yet they will happily employ the skills of accountants to ensue they pay as little as possible!

Caleb
February 1, 2009 4:19 am

Here is a typical scare-your-socks-off article:
huliq.com/11/69071/modest-co2-cutbacks-may-be-too-little-too-late-coral-reefs
Please notice a small understanding of oceanic bio-chemistry is taken, and extrapolated into the future to create fear. It seems to me the larger picture would show all sorts of other bio-chemical reactions are involved, and that the ocean actually is a robust system which gobbles up CO2 with relish.
Often these articles point to “bleaching” as proof that bad things are occurring. However follow-up shows, in every case I’ve been able to check out, that the bleaching is followed by re-growth of coral.
It is possible, using the web, to visit tour guides who lead scuba tours of reefs in Australia and Indonesia, (and probably the Caribbean as well.) When you talk to such people, (who represent the-man-on-the-street in this case,) they either have seen bleached reefs recover, or have never seen a bleached reef and wonder what all the fuss is about.
As far as I have been able to learn, as a layman, the bleaching is usually caused by a short term addition of nutrients to the water the coral lives in. The nutrients favor plankton and algae which compete with coral. The nutrients come from dust drifting down, and the dust originates from distant places. In one case it was iron-rich dust from the sub-Sahara, caused by drought brought on by the warm phase of the AMO. In another case it was caused by a huge forest fire in Indonesia. As soon as the dust is gone the reef recovers. The reefs also have recovered when damage was due to the tsunami in Indonesia, or by careless fishermen. CO2 has not been a proven factor.
The bio-chemistry of the sea and the photo-chemistry of the upper atmosphere are fascinating subjects, and well worth further study, but people who pretend to be authorities on such subjects need to be a bit more humble. We are barely scratching the surface of the wonders involved.
Having been burned once, and seen my trust in the NASA and NOAH temperatures broken, I am shy of giving such people the benefit of the doubt again, when they produce scary articles. It seems they are bailing out of the temperature-scare, and hopping aboard the acid-oceans-scare.
The motto must be: “If you scare and don’t succeed; scare, scare again.”

February 1, 2009 4:21 am

After been studying the Global Warming movement and the bad science it is based on I have come to realize that the problem is not only limited to Global Warming but it goes much deeper and it now affects most disciplines of natural science.
Most scientists in these disciplines are disciples of what I call Apocalyptic Environmentalism of which the Global Warming Movement is just a part, although an important one.
This religion has its roots in the belief in a very fragile and delicate ecological balance. If this balance is changed, especially if this is caused by human activity, then the system will crash. In other words, if humans continue to industrialize, soon the birds will start falling from the sky, plants will start to dye and the only fish left in the oceans will soon by jellyfish.
Of course in reality the natural world is very adaptable and have adopted through evolution to at times very sudden and rapid change. The only stable thing in nature is change.
So we have today an army of researcher who look for trends, extrapolate these trends, then conclude that they will be catastrophic and then blame humans for the trends. This are then picked up by MSM as part of its tabloidisation. And because people and politicians respond to fears and are scientific ignorant they believe in it.
We are now in a period of cooling and eventually the global warming scare will die. How long that will take I don’t know, but when it dies, then I expect that they will push the ocean acidification scare to the max.

E.M.Smith
Editor
February 1, 2009 4:30 am

This link:
http://www.abomb1.org/atmosphr/ustests.html#Castle
lists “Bravo” at 15 Megatons and the largest of the U.S. atmospheric tests.
http://www.abomb1.org/testpix/index.html
has some nice pictures with this one being very nice:
http://www.abomb1.org/images/bakerb.jpg
When you consider that we were popping these puppies off about 6 a year in the 1954 series it does argue for coral being ‘tough stuff’…
Per the water flashing to steam: I think you need to also allow for the intense pressure it was under at the time it was heated. A nuke does kind of raise the pressure right under it when surface detonated. And the rapid arrival of the heating energy as radiation also has the molecules being ‘inertial confined’ during a lot of the heating…
There are manganese nodules and similar mineral deposits all over the ocean floor along with rather massive clay / silt on the bottom (perforated with worm holes). It would take one heck of a lot of ‘acid’ to get past the buffering of the sea bed and all those metal nodules…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manganese_nodule
says 500 Billion Tons…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manganese(II)_carbonate
says it is used as a fertilizer but has low solubility in water. Used in health foods. Yum! 😉

David Porter
February 1, 2009 4:34 am

There have been many references to the bias of the BBC on this thread. Today, Christopher Booker’s column in the Sunday Telegraph, highlights many more.
I realise this is slightly off topic but worth a visit to:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/4413474/BBC-abandons-impartiality-on-warming.html

Alan the Brit
February 1, 2009 4:35 am

Glenn:-)
Forgot to add, when you look at the BBC’s website with its columns on the left hand side denoting topics for reference, when one actually logs on the “Science & Environment” section one notices that the two themes are separated, i.e. Science on the left & Environment on the right (don’t read too much into faction-ism). This suggests to me that the BBC does in fact consider the two as different topics, e.g. Science is science, & Environment is environment, & never should the two be confused, so perhaps they are being impartial after all but people just don’t notice it!

Sean
February 1, 2009 4:44 am

I have a stupid question regarding acidification and the sensitivity of modern coral vs. those 500 million years old. When Mt. Pinatubo blew in the ’90s it released massive amounts of sulfur dioxide in a short period of time. I could see how there could have been localized areas of the ocean where there was actual acidification for a period of time. What happened to the coral reefs in the areas that became more acidic, albeit for a brief period?

Ken Hall
February 1, 2009 4:48 am

King of Cool wrote: “The reef symposium also recognised that other major issues that would affect the survival of coral reefs were management, overfishing, run-off, development and local community attitudes. These I suspect are the real man made problems that we have to worry about.”
————————————-
I agree. However scientists work on grant money and many marine biologists who are specialising in coral research *may* see CO2 alarmism as a way to secure research grants. I suppose that “run off” alarmism is not as effective for securing a grant.
This is what really annoys me about the whole AGW alarmism. In mis-labelling CO2 as a pollutant, they are masking and taking the spotlight away from REAL pollution and environmental vandalism that is much more urgent than tackling a relatively harmless trace gas which is a very useful plant food.

John Philip
February 1, 2009 4:51 am

‘Acidification’ is simply the correct word for a negative shift in pH, as others have pointed out, the corals that became widespread in the Ordovician period, the Rugose and Tabulate, are now extinct- as a brief visit to wiki would have uncovered, so this point is actually evidence against the argument that the current species are robust against acidification.
If the corals are so tough, then why have we lost about a fifth of the reefs since 1950? While initially the main causes were overfishing and pollution, in recent decades it has been mass bleaching events, triggered by warmer waters that present the main threat – Coral bleaching occurs when coral is stressed, the coral expels the colourful symbiotic unicellular algae leaving it with a whitened bleached out appearance. I’ve seen a bleached reef first and hand and it is a sobering sight. Bleaching is not necesarily a death sentence, if the cause of stress is removed then the coral can regenerate quite quickly.
In one single year – 1998 16% of the coral was functionally destroyed, and the overall rate of loss is faster than that of the rainforests. In the future acidification by the CO2 enriched atmosphere may damage considerably the ability of corals to form hard structures.
The 2008 GCRMN annual status summary had
The condition of coral reefs in most regions of the world has progressively declined during the past 3 to 4 decades. Initial damage was largely caused by human activities, such as over- and destructive fishing, inappropriate coastal developments and land-use causing sedimentation and nutrient pollution, and outbreaks of coral and fish diseases and predators such as the crown-of-thorns starfish; all of which might have been exacerbated by human activities. However, since the first recognised mass bleaching event in 1982/83, there has been growing concern about the influence of climate on coral reefs. Unfortunately, these concerns have been vindicated by the increasing frequency and intensity of mass coral bleaching events, particularly in 1998 when approximately 16% of the world’s reefs were functionally destroyed, in 2002 when reefs across the western Pacific were affected, and in 2005 when severe bleaching and coral disease caused up to 50% mortality in many areas of the Caribbean. Caribbean reefs were also subjected to 26 named storms, including 13 hurricanes in 2005. There is also growing recognition that increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 threaten the structural integrity of reefs by reducing the rate of calcification in corals.
Coincidentally the four-yearly International Coral Reef Symposium was held this year. The Outcomes communiqué contains the stark sentence ‘The canary in the coral-coal mine is dead, but we still have time to save the miners’ and the assembled experts felt the need to issue a ‘Call to Action’ : .2008 is a critical time for coral reefs. At the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium held in July, midway in the International Year of the Reef, over 3000 experts from 75 countries assembled to face some hard truths: coral reefs are teetering on the edge of survival and it is our fault. High levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have produced a lethal combination of hotter and less alkaline seawater. Pervasive overfishing, pollution, coastal development, and physical damage further undermine reef health, and consequently, that of the people and ecosystems depending upon them … Only by taking bold and urgent steps now can we hope to ensure that reefs will survive to enrich life on earth, as they have for millions of years before us. By failing to act we risk bequeathing an impoverished ocean to our children and future generations.
For those with a serious interest and a sub to Science here is a literature review, containing this plot of CO2, temp and pH from the Vostok ice cores. And the 2005 Royal Society report on the topic is here. (Large pdf).
JP.

February 1, 2009 4:55 am

Didn’t a British court find that coral bleaching as a result of AGW was an unsupportable claim?

John Egan
February 1, 2009 4:57 am

Here is just one gobbley-gook statement from the Royal Society paper –
“Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide” –
http://royalsociety.org/displaypagedoc.asp?id=13314
used by many as evidence of ocean acidification.
“These additions of CO2 to the deep oceans cause its pH to decrease as the deep waters transit from the North Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.”
How, exactly, do deep waters transit from the North Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean? I know that deep waters might transit from the SOUTH Atlantic to the Pacific. It is also possible for water to transit from the Arctic Ocean (considered by some to be an arm of the Atlantic); however, the Bering Strait is shallow – so there could be no deep water transit.

E.M.Smith
Editor
February 1, 2009 5:02 am

You know, maybe, given that ‘pee’ breaks down to ammonia, taking a few gazillion tons of fish per year out of the ocean (along with their pee production) might, just maybe, account for some of the measured pH change…
Near Alaska, Mt. Redoubt has punched a hole in it’s glacier and is getting ready to blow… Volcanos heating ice cover… who’d a thunk it…

Bill D
February 1, 2009 5:10 am

Frasier:
Unfortunately, adding CO2 to dissolve limestone is quite different from adding CO2 to oceans over decades, which lowers pH and makes it difficult for calcifying organisms like corals and molluscs to take calcium out of solution. This seems to be just the opposite of the results which you observed in your aquaria with corals. Presumably, if you lowered the pH of your aquarium this would have had a negative effect on your corals. This is what many scientific experiments are showing–that corals are sensitve to small decreases in pH and this results in lower Ca uptake.
To examine this in a scientific experiment, you going to need replicate aquaria and you are going to need to measure and control pH and calcium in solution. You can then measure coral growth and, perhaps, Ca uptake by the corals. If you had 9 aquaria, you could have 3 replicate controls and two levels of pH change with three resplicates of each. You could then compare your results with any number of published scientific studies.
If you study is published, then we could compare your results with those of other studies. To get your paper published you would need to read up on the literature so that your study could be placed in the context of studies already published.
Scientists rely on studies published in scientific journals rather than anecdotes published on blogs. Scientific debates occur in scientific journals. When scientists start a new line of research, this often involves reading a few hundred published articles. This helps provide an understanding of what is known and what is still controversial or unstudied.

Mike Young
February 1, 2009 5:13 am

By the way, what happened to the acid rain scare years ago? Was that “solved” or did we just move on to another more scary scare?

Garacka
February 1, 2009 5:24 am

So the headline should read; “Less Basic Oceans ‘Need Urgent Action‘”, in lieu of “Acid Oceans ‘Need Urgent Action‘”.
Alternatively, “Less Basic Oceans are Fun to Study, but Urgent Government Funding Action is Needed”

David Holliday
February 1, 2009 5:28 am

Anytime I see someone say “it is naive”, “it would be naive” or any other variant of such in a purportedly scientific argument I immediately skip to the next response because I know that person has left the realm of arguing on the basis of facts and has entered into the realm of “common sense”. The history of science is repleat with examples of “common sense” that was not.

Ellie in Belfast
February 1, 2009 5:30 am

People don’t like change. They see it as a threat – always bad. Ecologists are guilty of this too, and we as a species find it all too easy to forget that our brief human lifespan is but a blink of a eye in terms of natural global change (as frequently discussed here!), species’ evolution and population shifts.
After a previous post on this subject I came across a very good presentation (I will try to find it again) on the subject of the decline in corals (Great Barrier Reef region) due to increased temperature, and one thing that struck me was that the future may bring a reverse of the decline, or a population shift as species from other (warmer) areas move in. A future “snapshot” study would conclude that these corals were part of the natural population. Also, once again (cf. CO2) how do we distinguish natural change from human cause and effect? Ecological alarmists always assume change is caused by man and is bad.
Regarding pH measurement:
“One also has to wonder how they measured the pH of the ocean to 4 decimal places in 1751, since the idea of pH wasn’t introduced until 1909.”
One thing 18th and 19thC scientists were good at was measurement – detailed, accurate measurement. In fact many were obsessed by accuracy. The term and concept (pH) was only putting a name and number to what was already being measured by wet chemistry. Colour changing indicators of acidity/alkalinity had been known for a long time; some of these have very defined colour change end-points.
Using large volumes and weak acids increases accuracy – under such conditions pH titrations to 2 decimal places requires care but is not difficult. One assumes that four decimal place accuracy comes from a calculated average of many measurements.

tarpon
February 1, 2009 5:44 am

Thanks Steve for the educational posting — The media used to do stuff like this, but has somehow forgotten how, as they stand in line for their PRAVDA credentials and bailouts.
I believe the correct term for loss of coral reefs, at least locally, is silting. Of course, a hurricane went through our area and what wasn’t silted over was ripped out by wave action. Really was spectacular what Andrew did to the place, not only was the reefs hit hard, but so were the shore line and mangroves, scars which still show to this day. I wonder what the cyclone data was like back then … hmmm.
One of the great features of WUWT is science education — And for that Anthony you are to be commended. After talking to recent graduates of the government public schools, science seems to get completely left out of the education curriculum and replaced with ‘paper or plastic’.
A pet peeve — I’ve often wondered how accurate the instrumentation that measured all these fantasy effects was in ancient times. I would bet that proxies are not accurate at all, and man’s instrumentation, well I doubt it worked for anything but basic measurement, much less was accurate. My guess would be instruments of old are only good in a general ‘ballpark data’ sense.

Ellie in Belfast
February 1, 2009 5:55 am

Lucy Skywalker (02:30:38) :
Thanks for the link to Dr Floor Antonini’s website. Facinating.

TJA
February 1, 2009 6:00 am

I don’t doubt that changes in PH will affect the balance of species, what I haven’t seen is any explanation of how they measured PH to 3 digits in the 18th century?

Bill D
February 1, 2009 6:02 am

My understanding of the scientific literature on coral reefs matches well with the comments of John Philip above. If coral reefs were only affected by pollution and overfishing, this would not be such a serious problem, since reefs far from human populations would be largely uneffected. For example, reefs near Florida might be at risk but the Great Barrier Reef of Australia would be relatively safe. Again, unfortunately, coral bleaching and death is occuring far from coastlines with significant local human impact.
Coral bleaching in recent years has mainly been associated with ocean heating events. The optimal temperature for corals is unfortunately, less that 2oC below the lethal temperature. Temperatures too hot cause loss of the symbiotic algae that contributes most of the energy that most corals use. When the bleaching becomes long term, the corals die. Many studies show direct plots between warming events and bleaching events over large expanses of coral reefs.
My readings suggest that the decreases in ocean pH are just becoming important corals and will become a more serious problem over the coming decades. This effect of CO2 on ocean pH is a relatively new finding that was not well known among scientists until recently.

Alan Chappell
February 1, 2009 6:03 am

BBC ? that’s what happens when drug addicts mix Heroin and Cocaine and fantasize, and the British Tax payer accepts this ?( doing a search on Google news it looks like the only British workers (tax payers) are Foreigners.)
Code Tech. (00.57.09)
Thanks for the math, even with a plus minus to the power of 20 it still looks good!

JimB
February 1, 2009 6:09 am

OT:
I had no idea that sea level rise was causing so many problems:
“As sea levels rise and world weather patterns worsen, flooding has become a major cause of rice crop loss. Scientists estimate 4 million tons of rice are lost every year because of flooding. That’s enough rice to feed 30 million people.”
From CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/01/29/waterproof.rice/index.html
Amazing how they manage to insert little snipits like that…
So is it the flooding?…or the sea level rise?…how much of each?
JimB

Garacka
February 1, 2009 6:20 am

Andrew McRae (00:50:11) :
“Personally I think that since CO2 has a higher solubility in warmer water than cooler water, and since the satellite measurements (MMU) of the SST have definitely shown (via e.g. CRU) the surface warmed between 1991 and 2006, this would mean the ocean would have sucked in more CO2 even if atmospheric CO2 concentration had stayed the same between 1991 and 2006. All they’ve done is build a million dollar thermometer – not an AGW fingerprint detective.”
Its the other way around on the CO2 solubility in water.

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 6:32 am

Here is a famous picture from Hiroshima of the shadow of a person and ladder burned onto a wall, which was undamaged from the shock wave.
http://history.independence.co.jp/ww2/raid/h02.jpg
It had to have been quite far away from ground zero, and had to have received huge amounts of radiative heat.
My belief is that nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is far more dangerous than a few tens of PPM of extra CO2, but apparently that is not in tune with the current thinking of the best minds in Washington, London and Brussels.

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 6:41 am

No doubt man’s activities have had a serious impact on the ocean. Instead of wasting endless amounts of money, time political will and “brainpower” focusing on CO2, why not concentrate on the pollutants and activities which are actually doing the damage? Corals and shellfish thrived in the oceans with CO2 levels much higher than at the present.
One of the first things that Geology students are taught in their freshman year is that the solubility of CO2 in seawater decreases as ocean temperatures rise. It is unfortunate that some climate scientists never learned this, as they might have avoided wasting their time trying to invert the interpretation of ice cores.

February 1, 2009 6:44 am

This is only “Climate Change” marketing, it is not about any scientific reasoning whatsoever. It is just a political issue. Fortunately nature does not follow our wishes. They will not succeed in changing the laws of nature.
Every chemical compound reaches an equilibrium state, say an end state, the one for CO2 is calcium carbonate (chalk, marble,etc.)
For sure, some day, in the future, our grandchildrens, will find AGW´rs bones in a phosphates field….

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 6:49 am

Neven,
As I said earlier, the onus is on the people making the claims that a 0.1 drop in pH over a century or so will be catastrophic to corals and shellfish. I don’t know how to construct an argument against arm waving speculation, other than to point out again that CO2 levels were much, much higher in the past – and the oceans were teaming with life.

John Philip
February 1, 2009 6:56 am

Smokey – I guess you have in mind the Dimmock vs ‘Inconvenient Truth’ court case [point 9]. The judge actually found that attribution of bleaching solely to GW was unsupportable. Its particularly hard to understand the judicial thought processes on this one as the movie makes exactly the same point.
I am not sure that a law court is the optimal forum to determine the merit of a scientific argument: apparently the judge agreed: It was essential to appreciate that the hearing before me did not relate to an analysis of the scientific questions

Chris Schoneveld
February 1, 2009 6:57 am

Richard Sharpe (21:45:26) :
“I am also lead to believe that the current corrals and the ones before the KT event (I believe) were different, one being rugose corals and the other not.”
Many of the modern reef-building and non-reefal coral species were also present in the Cretaceous or had similar mineralogy as the Cretaceous corals.

Bill D
February 1, 2009 7:07 am

The losses of coral reefs worldwide over the last 30 years or so are attributed to “coral bleaching” which means that corals lose their algal symbionts and then die. Google Scholar lists over 15,000 hits on the key words “coral bleaching” and the first two articles are available free as PDF’s. These articles show that the bleaching events are linked to “warming events.” That is, high peak ocean surface temperatures. Of course, the corals don’t care about the warming events are human-caused or “natural.” If the ocean temperatures stay the same or continue to warm, most or all of the world’s coral reefs will die off in the current century. If the oceans cool, the coral reefs should be able to recover unless acidification (decline in pH) causes them to die off.
http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=coral+bleaching&hl=en&lr=&btnG=Search
Anyone interested in debating or discussing the decline in coral reefs should read at least a few of these articles.

Hell_is_like_newark
February 1, 2009 7:17 am

A while back I read an article originally from the NYT about experiments on ocean acidification. The original experiments where done by adding carbonic acid directly to what was basically a large salt water aquarium. Result: Corals started to die.
Some researchers decided to make the experiments a little more like the real world. Instead of adding acid, they bubbled CO2 into the water. Result: Algae growth accelerated which in turn created byproducts that coral needed to grow. The sea water became more acidic, but life blossomed in the aquarium (including the corals).
I can’t recall all the details and haven’t been able to find a copy of the article yet.. :+(

Jeff L
February 1, 2009 7:17 am

John Philip (04:51:14) :
“mass bleaching events, triggered by warmer waters that present the main threat” ……
“these concerns have been vindicated by the increasing frequency and intensity of mass coral bleaching events, particularly in 1998 when approximately 16% of the world’s reefs were functionally destroyed,…”
1998 was the record El Nino year – ie massive warm waters. You aren’t suggesting that event was human caused as well??? I think we can all agree that was a natural event, thus so was that bleaching event.
“Caribbean reefs were also subjected to 26 named storms, including 13 hurricanes in 2005. ”
…. I suggest you read up on Dr. Bill Gray’s work on hurricanes – there is no statistical correlation between temperatures & # of or intensity of tropical disturbances. Also see the work of Nolan & Rappin (2008) which says there should be no correlation – because increasing shear in the warmer atmosphere offsets the increasing potential energy of the water- just as is observed. Here’s a layman’s link to that research:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080812160615.htm
“Pervasive overfishing, pollution, coastal development, and physical damage further undermine reef health”
These are all defensible problems that are caused by mankind – but they have nothing to do with CO2 or acidification. Stick to the arguments that are defensible and you will be better off.
As a society, the use of non-defensible agruments, especially by those who know better, is a huge problem. You can see where this will lead. With time, this whole AGW hypothesis will unspool, but the general public, who doesnt have the time or interest to learn what is going on, will likely throw the baby out with the bath water. In other words, there are legitimate environmental issues that should be a concern (such as overfishing, pollution, etc), but if burned by the AGW scam, the general public will look at ALL environmental science as a scam and dismiss it all, which will be bad for society. If protection of the environment is truly the goal of the AGW camp (and not a socialistic political agenda, as many would suggest), then they need to realize that , in the end, they may achieve the exact opposite of what they are setting out to do. As a citizen that does care about the environment – as I spend most of my spare time recreating outdoors – the whole situation is a very sad state of affairs.

Bill D
February 1, 2009 7:18 am

Mike Young (05:13:05) :
By the way, what happened to the acid rain scare years ago? Was that “solved” or did we just move on to another more scary scare?
Mike–regulation of the release of SO2 when burning coal has significantly improved the acid rain situation. Many lakes in northern New York, the Canadian shield and Scandanavia are still acidic from human-caused acid rain, but the overall situation is better. Rain fall down wind from coal burning and dense human populations is still more acid than “natural rain” but the situation is improved. Good studies on recovery from acidification come for the Sudbury, Ontaria region, where massive and local acid rain caused by smelting ore was stopped allowing a slow recovery of the lake food chains.

Tom in Florida
February 1, 2009 7:20 am

Neil Crafter (23:13:31) : “The use of the term “acidification” is scary to the average punter. The effect is to make the oceans very slightly less alkaline, but that term does not have the right scare factor for the AGW scarists. ”
You are absolutely correct. While “acidification” may be technically correct, I believe is was a conscious effort to scare the average joe. I believe if you ask most people on the street they will tell you that first thing the word “acid” brings to mind is flesh disolving liquids that kill everything.
I also believe the average joe thinks higher PH means more acidic. This is probably due to usually referring to things as more/less acidic and rarely referring to them as more/less basic; therefore they then make the incorrect conclusion that the words “more acidic” equate to “more PH”.

BraudRP
February 1, 2009 7:22 am

Supposedly before Industrialization the atmospheric CO2 content varied during Glacial periods and Inter-Glacial periods from as low as about 180ppm during Glacial periods and up to 280ppm during Inter-Glacial periods. The difference in atmospheric CO2 levels was supposedly to a large degree caused by the amount of CO2 the world’s oceans could contain under the existing conditions, the so called “out gassing”. So when earth temperature increases, oceans are less able to contain CO2 and CO2 causes more warming, but increased CO2 in the atmosphere increases the CO2 in the oceans… I am having a Vinnie Barbarino moment here! I am confused.

February 1, 2009 7:26 am

I haven’t read all the comments yet and may not have time, but I wanted to suggest that perhaps loss of coral reefs might be due to excess nitrogen and sedimentation, and even disease rather than CO2.
I mean Occam’s Razor and all that.
Mark

February 1, 2009 7:26 am

OK, so some sub-editor at BBC Online turned “relative acidification” into “acid” to save space and increase shock value, not much news there. The comparison with geological history is spurious (actually, somewhat confirmatory to the danger) because we are talking about different species. I can’t fathom any possible relevance to short-term effects of, and recovery from, a nuclear blast. Not much left, then.
This issue isn’t in the same class as the somewhat debatable (at least in scale) CO2->temperature link, which starts from a basic physical premise at the low end but requires theoretical models and large forward feedbacks to reach the wilder predicted catastrophic levels. The loss of corals seems to stem from simple, well-understood chemistry and biology, and most importantly, is actually being observed. Thanks to Bill D and John Philip for explaining this in measured terms.
Sorry, folks, and Anthony in particular, but I find this site – particularly in some of the guest posts – is drifting from what seemed to be a genuine concern for measurement accuracy and lets-check-it-ourselves popular science towards reactive, anti-all-environmentalism point-scoring. If that’s Anthony’s wish (which I seriously doubt, actually), that’s his privilege, of course, but I’m afraid the change may leave some of the former audience behind.

JamesG
February 1, 2009 7:28 am

John Philip
Firstly, acidification is only one way to describe it, neutralization is more correct and reduced alkalinity is yet another way – equally worrying to any ocean researchers. Acidification is simply the scary way – and my discussion with the author of that Wikipedia article (as JG17) proved beyond all doubt that the use of the word acidification was entirely a political decision, not a scientific one. When I requested the addition of the comment in the article about the sea still actually being alkaline – as per the pH scale we all learnt in high school chemistry, one of his return comments was:
“it’s unclear exactly who would feel misled other than someone who hasn’t a basic grasp of chemistry.”
Well clearly the BBC reporter didn’t have that necessary basic grasp of chemistry. And reporters inform the general public. He was quite simply misinformed and it wasn’t by accident but by design. Acid sea, factually incorrect as it is, is design to shock and the word “acidification” led him to incorrectly believe that the sea was acid. It’s pure propaganda.
I’d like to see the study that says bleaching is caused by acidity. Traditionally bleaching is caused by excess alkalinity. So acidity is not necessarily the first thing you might think about wrt bleaching. It could be fertilizer runoff to mention just one rather more likely candidate.
The reference to the Caribbean is good as far as it goes, but they completely fail to mention that the coral in Cuba is utterly pristine – as reported several times in National Geographic, latterly by the late Peter Benchley. Why pristine? Mostly because Castro doesn’t allow fishing boats there, plus some basic environmental protection measures. So the case against CO2 in the Caribbean falls apart completely when you consider Cuba. A mere error of omission? Unlikely because every marine biologist knows about Cuba’s coral, so it is almost certainly another deliberately political misrepresentation for propaganda purposes – likely in order to encourage funding.
So why is it important to be factually correct and precise with respect to the evidence against CO2 or acidification “stress” if the main aim is to get funding to improve things? Well, as others have said, there are very good reasons to worry about the real causes of ocean degradation, and they are usually human in cause too; fishing, runoff etc. Yet how do we begin to stop this pollution of the seas, which is most certainly far more dastardly and imminent than some imaginary “stress” caused by CO2, if those polluters are allowed and even encouraged to shift the blame to CO2 and then continue happily polluting?

Garacka
February 1, 2009 7:28 am

Ted Annonson (00:34:11) on the three salesmen:
1. So the logic error occurs when adding the $2 to the $27, because the $2 is part of the $27. The $2 should be added to the $25 that is in the clerk’s hands. Alternatively, if one asked how much money does each party have at given fixed times and applying the Conservation of Money principle:
a) Before any transactions:
3 salesman $30.00
Clerk …….. $0.00
bellboy…… $0.00
b) After 1st transaction:
3 salesman (now broke) …. $0.00
Clerk ………………………… $30.00
bellboy………………………… $0.00
c) After 2nd transaction:
3 salesman (still broke) …………………………… $0.00
Clerk … (Now 2nd guessing his compassion)… $25.00
bellboy… (Now Rich) …………………………………$5.00
d) After last transaction;
3 salesman (Thinking, what an idiot that Clerk was)…………..$3.00
Clerk … (Now banging his head against the wall) ………………$25.00
bellboy… (2nd guessing giving the salesman any of the $5)…..$2.00
2. In CO2 world, the equivalent is adding 2 bits of CO2 to 27 bits of Air and Ocean (= 7.407…percent), when it’s for all practical purposes already part of it.
3. Miraculously, CodeTech (00:57:09) numbers are in very close agreement with the salesman story. From Code Tech; Anthropogenic CO2 annual emissions are 7/90 = 7.8 percent of the Air + Ocean annual exchange.
4. Since 7.8 percent is very close to 7.407…percent, I have no other option but to conclude that Ted’s 1944 math instructor was leaving a message for us. He was the “1st skeptic” and more than deserving of a Nobel prize. In fact, he’s telling us that the Anthropogenic to Air/Ocean ratio is a universal constant = 2/27. Not more, not less, and that is the number that needs to go in the models.
5. Since I am the 1st to reveal this truth, I claim name ownership. Henceforth it will be known as “Garacka’s Rule”.

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 7:34 am

Consider the difference between a petroleum geologist and a climate researcher.
The geologist remotely studies the subsurface sometimes for years, then decides to ask his company to drill a multi-million dollar well. If he is wrong, he may well lose his job and reputation.
On the other hand, it is well understood that some research “scientists” need only come up with an alarming story, and they will get front page coverage on many of the world’s newspapers and in the halls of Congress and Parliament. Journalists and politicians want an alarming story. The truth behind it is secondary or often even unacceptable.
Has Lewis Pugh made it to the North Pole yet?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7588329.stm

gary gulrud
February 1, 2009 7:41 am

“I actually have corals propagating to the point that I have to remove them and trade with the local fish store.”
You are a god. I’ve studied everything but can’t keep fish more than a couple months.
Aquarist sites are a great place to learn about the CO2 buffering system in the oceans. Perhaps, a reef aquarium log should be submitted with all papers for publication?

tarpon
February 1, 2009 7:48 am

Thanks for the link Lucy Skywalker, fascinating real science.

Jeff L
February 1, 2009 7:53 am

This is second post related to the initial graph ( as the topic matter is so different to the 1st post). This a geologic perspective on the subject, which I think provides definitive evidence that CO2 “acidification” isn’t a problem.
As a geologist, I find the top plot to be fascinating – especially the CO2 curve. A first order least squares fit to the CO2 curve basically shows that CO2 has generally been decreasing with time. There is a plot I wish I could show you, but I couldn’t find online for the post – the distribution of carbonate rocks with geologic time. As posted by Mike D. (02:33:26) :, carbonate rocks are by far the biggest CO2 sink in the carbon cycle over time, so this is very relevant. As a percentage of all sedimentary rocks, if plotted versus time, the carbonate % of total sediments would look very similar to the CO2 plot – much more carbonate rocks in the distant geological past, much less in recent geologic times. This is important because the vast majority of carbonate rocks are formed through biologic processes – plants & animals precipitating aragonite from sea water. Based on this observation, It would appear that the more CO2 available, the more that the organisms can extract from ocean – thus the bio-systems thrive better with more CO2 in the ocean – that’s what the geologic record says. This is consistent with what Fraizer (22:11:28) : posted relative to his aquarium experiment. It also says that even with the very high CO2 levels of the past -as much as 20x current levels, that the oceans were not sufficiently “acidified” that precipitation of aragonite was a problem.
Extrapolating further, 2 interesting thoughts :
1) Based on the geologic record, lack of CO2 may be the problem, not too much CO2.
2) The other implication is that the ocean carbonate factory is slowly depleting our atmosphere of CO2 over geologic time – putting all the CO2 into storage in carbonate rocks. Think about this long term if it continues- CO2 is plant food. Will we reach some point in the future where plant life is decreased / impossible due to lack of CO2? No plants = no animals = no food = no life. Of course, none of this would be in our lifetime, but it is something to ponder. How ironic ….

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 7:54 am

Unpolluted rainwater falling in the ocean has a pH of about 5.2, which is about one thousand times as acidic as seawater. Acid rain has been measured at about one million times as acidic as seawater. Every raindrop that hits the ocean makes it less alkaline.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_rain
Perhaps Parliament should legislate an end to rainfall in the oceans, to reduce “ocean acidification?”

Matt Dernoga
February 1, 2009 8:00 am

I like how you think you know better than 150 marine researchers sounding an alarm. Lets “wait and see” until the ocean is a deadzone. Brilliant.
“The declaration, supported by Prince Albert II of Monaco, builds on findings from an earlier international summit.
It says pH levels are changing 100 times faster than natural variability.”
100 times faster? nothing out of line there!

February 1, 2009 8:05 am

Chemistry was always my weak link. I have tried reading reams of science review – including the Royal Society report, and just now, Floor Anthoni, and I am still confused!
Warming ocean waters release carbon dioxide and become more acid? Cooling oceans absorb carbon dioxide and…..?
Hence – solar induced 20th century global warming warms the oceans, with great spatial and depth variation, and there is outgassing and rising carbon dioxide levels BUT the current rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide is apparently clearly due to fossil fuels (c-14 already decayed) and not ocean outgassing (c-14 not decayed? but the deep water has been enriched from the sediments which may have long lost their c-14???)
I am more than somewhat confused. And I do recommend Floor Anthoni for his refreshing approach – even if it will take me a month to study and understand!

Brian Macker
February 1, 2009 8:16 am

Oceans have all sorts of buffering chemicals that prevent PH changes, have small relative surface areas to the atmosphere, are large bodies fed with comparatively small quantities of rain water, etc. One would expect that fresh water systems would be more quickly and severely effected by increases in PH caused by CO2. 1) They are fed by rain water in such quantities that it actually cycles the entire body of water. Thus having an enormous effective surface area to the atmosphere via the surface area of the droplets of rain. 2) Have no buffering chemicals like sodium bicarbonate.
Aquarium hobbyists often inject CO2 into their coral reefs and fresh water systems. Aquariums are already stressful environments due to the crowding of fish, high nitrogen levels, fluctuating PH due to buildup of organic acids, etc. One would think corals were so sensitive to changes in C02 causes PH fluctuation that hobbyists wouldn’t inject CO2. This goes double for fresh water setups.

D Johnson
February 1, 2009 8:16 am

Out of curiosity, I consulted my reliable Websters Unabridged Dictionary, which was published in 1989, before the ball got rolling on the “acidification” of the oceans issue. It defines “acidify”, the verb form, and “acidification” the noun form as: “to make or become acid; convert into an acid.”
It’s pretty clear to me that the term became applied to a slight reduction in alkalinity to elicit a fear reaction. Why don’t we say the ocean is becoming less caustic? 😉
It’s sad how WIkipedia has been corrupted, and can only be trusted on non-controversial matters.

February 1, 2009 8:25 am

Though, as i said before, this is not about science but just marketing, it is useful to underline that for CO2 to increase its amount in sea water it needs a cooler sea water, then they have to choose between global warming, as they say, as a consequence of CO2 increase in the atmosphere, with warmer seas and less CO2 in the sea water, or colder seas with more dissolved CO2 in it.

Sekerob
February 1, 2009 8:27 am

RobJM, so you know Biology 101? Heard of Liebig’s Law of the Minimum?
Algae will take oxygen, the part that is missing in the oceanic dead zones, but they need other nutrients too, so doubt your envisioned scheme has a long lasting life, anywhere in the living world.

Jeff L
February 1, 2009 8:32 am

One last calculation based on the initial numbers presented. I’ll go with the assumption that there is a reasonable proxy for ph back in 1751 & there is a way to estimate it to 4 decimals….
If you assume the ocean PH is in equilibrium with atmospheric CO2 concentrations – which is the hypothesis put forward in the paper, then you can calculate at what concentration of CO2 the oceans ph reaches 7.0 – or neutral – before it goes acidic. It is a simple ratio calculation :
Ocean PH vs Atmospheric CO2
Year CO2 PH
1800 280 8.179
1994 357 8.104
differnces 77 -0.075
target PH 7.0
differnce from current ph -1.104
Ratio 14.72
Ratio * CO2 diff 1133.44
total value 1490.44
So, if in equilibrium, at 1490 ppm atmospheric CO2, the oceans reach a ph of 7.0. Of course, based on my last post & the initial plot, CO2 ratio have been higher in the geologic past. Possible implications:
1) The oceans ph & atmospheric CO2 are not in equilibrium, thus atmospheric CO2 isn’t as important to ocean ph as the hypothesis suggests.
2) There are other buffering mechanisms in the ocean that keep the ph above 7.0, regardless of atmospheric CO2.
3) Even the IPCC doesnt suggest that CO2 concentrations will get to this level – they are around 700 ppm in the year 2100. Reversing the calculation, if in equilibrium (which doesnt seem to be supported based on points 1 &2, + the geological record, but we’ll go with it anyway), the ocean PH would only drop to 7.7699 by the year 2100 (might as well go with the 4 decimal places) – which of course is still a base, not an acid.
4) Back one more time to John Philip (04:51:14) : – which says bleaching events are associated with warming events – such as the 1998 El Nino. We know that CO2 solubility decreases with increasing temperature – so a warming event would decrease the disolved CO2 in the area of warming – so we are having dying / bleaching events in water with LESS CO2 (and in theory higher PH). Again, the data always says more CO2 is better – at least when it comes to coral. The data appears to be not permissive of arguing the opposite.
In the whole “CO2 is bad” arena, the ocean acidification hypothesis is actually easier to conclusively debunk than AGW with only minimal digging into the data. Again back to post 1, this argument is so flimsy that all it really does is undermine the credibility of all environmental science. Enough said.

Steve Keohane
February 1, 2009 8:42 am

I made a comment a few weeks ago about the fallacious use of ‘acidification’. CO2 and its magical effects are just silly. Warm water holds less CO2, so unless there is some other source for acid, the oceans must be cooling to become less alkaline. The equilibrium of dissolved CO2 in the oceans, maxiumum levels, were reached long before we crawled out of the swamps. There is a lot more going on in our world than CO2, it needs a lot less attention than it is getting so we can tackle real problems.

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 8:53 am

Paul Clark,
I’m not following your logic at all. Bikini was hit by a series of thermonuclear blasts 50 years ago, and yet the corals are thriving despite an additional 55 years of rising CO2 in the atmosphere. Corals are apparently very resilient and adaptive.
Here are some nice drawings of Ordovician sea life. Not very different from today – with aragonite shells. Aragonite has not changed.
http://www.mcgill.ca/redpath/exhibits/special/ordovician_diorama/
After diving into the crater, Zoe Richards of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University says, I didnt know what to expect some kind of moonscape perhaps. But it was incredible, huge matrices of branching Porites coral (up to 8 meters high) had established, creating thriving coral reef habitat. Throughout other parts of the lagoon it was awesome to see coral cover as high as 80 per cent and large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks 30cm thick. It was fascinating Ive never seen corals growing like trees outside of the Marshall Islands. The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini atoll today is proof of their resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances, that is, if the reef is left undisturbed and there are healthy nearby reefs to source the recovery.

Richard Sharpe
February 1, 2009 8:57 am

Jennifer Marohasy points to Craig Idso’s article on coral responses to CO2.
It is worthwhile reading what some real-world investigative research has shown as opposed to a bunch of armchair theorizing.

JamesG
February 1, 2009 9:01 am

Regarding “dead zones” mentioned above. Yes these are scary. They are known to be caused mainly by fertilizer runoff and over-fishing. Some scientists have tried to link it to global warming by some dubious theories. Nobody has yet blamed acidity as far as I know but that’ll be coming. Now you can believe in the CO2 catastrophism which now apparently says (ref Susan Solomon) yes we should cut our CO2 but it’s too late anyway (ok more guesswork and more propaganda) or you can presume that it’s more likely to be nothing to do with CO2 or global warming and that likely it’s just runoff and over-fishing – as we always suspected until the CO2 alarmists came along – and actually do something to prevent it.

Richard Sharpe
February 1, 2009 9:03 am

Jeff L says:

4) Back one more time to John Philip (04:51:14) : – which says bleaching events are associated with warming events – such as the 1998 El Nino. We know that CO2 solubility decreases with increasing temperature – so a warming event would decrease the disolved CO2 in the area of warming – so we are having dying / bleaching events in water with LESS CO2 (and in theory higher PH). Again, the data always says more CO2 is better – at least when it comes to coral. The data appears to be not permissive of arguing the opposite.

Yes. This is one very solid demonstration that alarmist are unwilling to think through the consequences of their claims and that they are solely interested in scaring people for political reasons.
Let me set this out in words of one syllable for you AGWers.
Higher CO2 is supposed to lead to higher temperatures, including ocean temperatures! However, higher water temperatures lead to lower levels of dissolved CO2 and thus higher Ph in the oceans, that is, lower acidification and corals should thrive, by your assumption.
This would seem to be a major fail on the part of the hysterical.

Neven
February 1, 2009 9:04 am

Steven,
“As I said earlier, the onus is on the people making the claims that a 0.1 drop in pH over a century or so will be catastrophic to corals and shellfish.”
But the onus is there. The style and content of your pieces induces me to believe you haven’t been looking for it. Like Bill D said:
“However, our understanding of the effects of pH change is solidly ground in 1000’s of scientific papers. This literature shows that ocean life is already being effected and will become much more serious in the coming decades, given current levels of human CO2 release. There is no need to readers here to speculate that the recent and ongoing changes in ocean pH are not important. As mentioned in the first line of this post, this is a topic of very intensive, experimental research.”
Now the reason I feel induced that you haven’t done a broad research by using Google Scholar for example, is the fact that you talk about levels (ie CO2 levels being higher 500 million years ago and the oceans teeming with life) and not at all about the rate at which these levels are changing. That’s what the whole acidification-story is about, isn’t it?
Here’s a quote from the BBC article with the inaccurate ‘Acid Oceans’-title:
“It says pH levels are changing 100 times faster than natural variability. ”
Now pray tell me, if this is true, how can creatures adapt to changes that are 100 times faster than natural variability? That would be a problem, wouldn’t it? How would marine life have reacted 500 million years ago if pH levels would have changed 100 times faster than natural variability?

Terry
February 1, 2009 9:11 am

Jeff L –
pH is a logarithmic scale, so the math is a little more involved than finding a ratio. At the same time, I agree this is much ado about nothing, and the original article is terrible reporting.

robc
February 1, 2009 9:20 am

off topic,
BBC abandons ‘impartiality’ on warming,
Londoners might have been startled last Monday to see a giant mock-up of a polar bear on an iceberg, floating on the Thames outside the Palace of Westminster. They might not have been so surprised to learn, first, that this was a global warming propaganda stunt and, second, that the television company behind it is part-owned by the BBC.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/4413474/BBC-abandons-impartiality-on-warming.html

Bob Coats
February 1, 2009 9:31 am

Most of these comments are just ignorant bloviating, reflecting a complete lack of understanding of basic geochemistry and oceanography. Go to the literature and do some reading, before you shoot your mouth off! Two good places to start are:
1. Hoegh-Guldberg, et al. 2007. Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318:1737-1472.
2. De’ath et al. 2009. Declining coral calcification in the Great Barrier Reef. Science 323:116-119.
These papers will lead you other good ones. If you can’t find them for free on line, then get thee to a library (remember what a library is?)

Bill D
February 1, 2009 9:32 am

This is frustrating for what is supposed to be a science blog. Many bloggers are drawing conclusions based on misunderstanding of basic principles of physics, chemistry and biology. Many of you seem to assume that the majority of scientists are either fraudulent or incompetent. However, this is not based on reading the science literature or even an understanding of what can be found in basic undergraduate text books. Perhaps scientist appear to be wrong because it seems implausible that humans can have widespread or global effects on the environment.
Scientific research is a very competitive field and the best way to get one’s manuscript rejected for publication is to drawn conclusions that are not well supported by the data and results of one’s study. It seems arrogant to me to assume that the majority of people doing basic research in environmental sciences are fraudulent or incompetent. Do you assume that medical science, for example is equally unreliable?
Scientists spend their lives looking for holes and weaknesses in the current literature. It makes no sense at all that people who devote their life study to understanding how nature works would overlook very simple (but often erroneous) factors that people with little training in science simply guess might be important or may have been overlooked. If you think that scientists have over looked or misintrepted the importance of some variable, you are going to need to spend a few months reading the scientific literature to find out if that is the case.
As an aside, “acidification” is the routine scientific term for a decrease in
pH. “Neutralization” is more ambigous, since it could mean either a decline from an alkaline pH or an increase from an acidic pH. We could invent a new term, such as “de-alkinization” but we don’t have such a term. Scientists use the term “acidification” because there is no other single word that accurately discribes this process and no one has come up with a better term. Use of the term “acidification” cannot be taken as an effort to exaggerate or dramatize.

jarhead
February 1, 2009 9:33 am

Steven Goddard asked “Has Lewis Pugh made it to the North Pole yet?”
According to Wikipedia … “The expedition coincided with some scientists predicting that the North Pole could be free of sea-ice for the first time this summer[1]; however, Pugh was forced to abandon his planned 745-mile trip about 500 miles from the North Pole due to ice.”
Back on topic, can anyone direct me to a data base of actual ph measurements over time? Thanks in advance for assistance.

Marcus
February 1, 2009 9:43 am

Gah! Acidification means “becoming more acidic” regardless of whether you are above or below pH 7! One could say “the process of the oceans becoming less alkaline” which would also be true, but kind of awkward which is why real scientists don’t use that terminology.
Two examples: One: if I say “today is 2 degrees warmer than yesterday” is this less true if yesterday was -30 degrees C or 80 degrees C? No! I could also say “today is 2 degrees less cold” but again, awkward.
Other example: for the fun of it, I did a search for “alkalinization”: I get hits like the following: “Alkalinization of the urine with potassium citrate to a pH of 6.5 to 7 is recommended”
Huh. But… that’s a pH below 7! This website is using the term “alkalinization” rather than “making urine less acidic” because of fear mongering! They want people to worry that their urine is going to turn into evil dissolving lye!
Look: if you want to argue that corals will survive a more acidic ocean, fine. Your best argument would probably rest on the study by Alina Szmant – look it up. I’d still think you’re wrong, and that acidification is adding stress on top of warming and pollution and overfishing, but I’d be willing to be convinced by further experiments along the lines of Szmant et al. that show that her conclusion is robust across a number of different coral organisms and conditions. (having worked with buffered solutions trying to keep various kinds of cells alive, I was often surprised by the impacts of what seemed like small changes in pH – that log scale can be deceiving sometimes)

Bill D
February 1, 2009 9:43 am

Jeff:
One problem with your analysis is the assumption that a pH of 7 has signficance for aquatic life. Currently living coral species will be long gone before a pH of 7.0 is reached.
Howevery, you need to read research by chemical oceanographers to be sure that your conclusions about debunking ocean acidification are valid. Compare your reasoning with a few dozen articles written by experts in ocean chemistry before you assume that they are wrong. I am not an expert in this field, but I have better trust in people who have published peer reviewed papers on the topic.

Marcus
February 1, 2009 9:56 am

Also, for those of you arguing about CO2 become less soluble in warmer waters:
Basically, Henry’s Law states that the equilibrium concentration of CO2 in the oceans will be proportion to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere divided by Henry’s coefficient. The coefficient increases with temperature.
So, if atmospheric CO2 is constant, increasing temperature would mean decreasing CO2 in the oceans.
But atmospheric CO2 has increased by 30%. Henry’s coefficient hasn’t increased nearly that much. So the increasing temperature of the ocean just means that the ocean is a smaller sink that it might have been otherwise, not that it is a source. (those of you who argue about the carbon cycle should also try to understand this reasoning)

Richard Sharpe
February 1, 2009 10:00 am

Bill D asks an interesting question:

Do you assume that medical science, for example is equally unreliable?

H pylori?
Anyhow, please connect the dots for us. So, increasing acidification has been proven to be bad for corals by sound scientific work … all well and good.
Increasing human-produced atmospheric CO2 is supposed to lead to increased atmospheric temperatures, which lead to increased sea-surface temperatures and temperatures of the seas where corals live, which is supposed to do what to the levels of CO2 in the ocean and thus the level of pH of the ocean?
Help me understand what is going on here. I like to understand all the causal chains. Perhaps I have one of the links wrong.

Richard Heg
February 1, 2009 10:01 am

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14085-acidic-champagne-sea-nothing-to-celebrate-for-corals-.html
“An exploration of natural “bubble streams” of carbon dioxide in shallow Mediterranean waters off the coast of Italy is the first to document the effects of ocean acidification in a real ocean setting.”

Richard M
February 1, 2009 10:01 am

Has any scientific study of coral impacts been done near underwater volcanoes. It would seem the environment around them would contain higher quantities of CO2 and hence give an idea as to the real world effects.

pablo an ex pat
February 1, 2009 10:03 am

Guys as an old fashioned chemist I must point out that the pH scale is logarithmic. To get the pH to move by 1 point you have to change the acidity or alkalinity by a factor of 10, by two points by a factor of 100 etc etc.
The oceans are naturally buffered by the Carbonate/Bicarbonate reaction. As more CO2 in introduced it forms Carbonic Acid. (H20 + Co2 = H2 CO3) the Carbonic Acid reacts with the Bicarbonate already present to form Calcium Carbonate. The ocean system is vast and the amount of Bicarbonate available to react is also vast, the Ocean pH has therefore a naturally self correcting mechanism making the premise of the BBC article essentially a non issue.
And yes Cold water has a higher ability to absorb CO2 than Warm water. So if the oceans are absorbing more they must be cooling eh ?

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 10:05 am

I don’t know why my post on this doesn’t appear above, but here’s the link again, with some additional info…
CO2 measurements in the ocean…
http://www.mgac.nsysu.edu.tw/ctchen/Publications/A/64.pdf
(note – (1) the pH values decrease with ocean depth (2) the pH values are much lower than those given by the BBC, even though they were made earlier than the BBC “report.” [surface pH of 7.916 to 7.945, and at 10 meters pH measured at from 8.183 to 8.184])
Here some of the same authors take measurements at different locations with the same result that pH decreases with ocean depth…
http://www.mgac.nsysu.edu.tw/ctchen/Publications/A/95.pdf
(Note that here the data show surface pH varying from about 8.25 to a little about 8.35, seemingly dependent on location, and that in this case the pH they observe is HIGHER than the BBC’s [8.104 to 8.179])
Conclusion – pH is a lot more variable than the warmers want you to believe, and that being afraid of a drop in some global average (a meaningless concept) by a tiny fraction of that value, and well within a much larger range, is not only not scientific, it’s just plain dumb; the BBC’s information is Bubkas.

Bob Coats
February 1, 2009 10:09 am

Bill D.: Thanks for that comment; well said! Seems that the American Disenlightenment is in full gallop here.

Robert Rust
February 1, 2009 10:10 am

Bill D
Unfortunately, the rate of acidification of the world’s oceans is about 100X faster than in the past… This means that the coral species that now present will have difficulty surviving. … However, it is naive to think that the animals that currently occupy the world’s oceans are the same ones that occurred millions of years ago when the world’s atmospheric CO2 was higher… Animals (including corals) may have difficulty adapting to the rapid acidification …
—-
Fraizer (22:11:28) :
I can tell you for a fact that my corals have never done so well since I began the regular addition of CO2.
———-
When I see a post like this from Bill D AFTER the post from Fraizer – I have to conclude that one’s intuition carries more weight than facts. Maybe I’m naive, but facts carry more weight with me. Do I have that wrong, Bill?

February 1, 2009 10:11 am

Per Strandberg (04:21:10) : “Most scientists in these disciplines are disciples of what I call Apocalyptic Environmentalism of which the Global Warming Movement is just a part, although an important one.
This religion has its roots in the belief in a very fragile and delicate ecological balance. If this balance is changed, especially if this is caused by human activity, then the system will crash.”
Re the fragile and delicate ecological balance, this is what Adrian Wills had to say last week. He is the head of Eden, a new digital TV channel in the UK, which is part owned by BBC Worldwide. “The Earth is a fragile place and we were keen to launch with a message that would draw attention to the uncertain state of our finely balanced environment. Our aim is to reflect one amazing world, with one amazing channel that can address issues like climate change whilst providing an entertaining, informative experience by airing a range of high-end premieres, landmark natural history programmes and first class wildlife documentaries.”
The “message” he is referring to was, of course, the floating of a giant plastic sculpture of a mother polar bear and her cub (stranded on a plastic ice floe) down the Thames last Monday. This will be repeated in cities around the UK, such as Birmingham and Glasgow.
Could the media’s bias, in these matters, be any more evident?

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 10:12 am

I said, “the pH values are much lower than those given by the BBC, even though they were made earlier than the BBC “report.” [surface pH of 7.916 to 7.945, and at 10 meters pH measured at from 8.183 to 8.184])”
Sorry, I just realized that’s confusing.
**the higher values for 10 meters were at a different location from the surface measurements.
**those values at 10 meters were higher in that case than the BBC’s, not lower as MOST of the other data on that site were.

TerryS
February 1, 2009 10:22 am

A couple of questions if anybody can answer them
How much carbonic acid would it take to change the oceans pH by 0.1?
What does that volume translate to in gigatonnes of C02?
Is the relationship between carbonic acid and ocean pH a direct one or are there factors involved that either increase or decrease its impact?

Peter Jones
February 1, 2009 10:25 am

Yes, and this is the real problem with being able to blame all environmental problems on CO2s contribution to global warming. It is that governments have a convenient reason to look away from finding the real source of the problem and the people buying the politicians, i.e., big business, are happy to have AGW as the main focus of our environmental efforts.

pablo an ex pat
February 1, 2009 10:27 am

You’d expect the pH to drop as the depth of the measurement increases. But then only to a point. That’s because as the depth increases the water is colder, cold water can absorb more Co2 which in turn reacts with more of the bicarbonate, which is alkaline, dropping the pH marginally.
Cold water is more dense than warm and so it sinks. I know with fresh water that the maximum density is found at 4 C which is why ice forms top down and not bottom up. Not sure about salt water.
If water didn’t have that endearing quality this would be a very different planet.

February 1, 2009 10:38 am

woodfortrees:

Sorry, folks, and Anthony in particular, but I find this site – particularly in some of the guest posts – is drifting from what seemed to be a genuine concern for measurement accuracy and lets-check-it-ourselves popular science towards reactive, anti-all-environmentalism point-scoring.

OK, let’s look at an empirical, real world experiment, rather than listening to opinions:

Fraizer (22:11:28) :
I am a reef aquarium enthusiast…
I can tell you for a fact that my corals have never done so well since I began the regular addition of CO2. I actually have corals propagating to the point that I have to remove them and trade with the local fish store.

I worked for over 30 years in a large metrology/calibration lab. Prominently displayed on a wall was a sign that said:

ONE TEST IS WORTH A THOUSAND
EXPERT OPINIONS

There are a lot of “expert” opinions here implying that coral bleaching is due to AGW. I prefer to listen to a real expert who tested that hypothesis in his reef aquariums.

Robc
February 1, 2009 10:51 am

1998 Coral Reef Bleaching in Indian Ocean Unprecedented, NOAA Announces
An episode of extremely high ocean temperatures migrated from south to north throughout the Indian Ocean during the first six months of 1998 causing considerable coral reef bleaching in its wake, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports.
A somewhat similar episode occurred following the 1987 El Nino in the Indian Ocean; however, in 1988 the extreme sea surface temperature anomalies, toxic to corals, moderated sufficiently as the sun moved into the Northern Hemisphere. In that year, reefs in the Indian Ocean north of the equator were spared heavy bleaching.
In 1998, this has not been the case. Bleaching, earlier projected by NOAA, has been reported from the field on the following reefs: Seychelles; Kenya; Reunion; Mauritius; Somalia; Madagascar; Maldives; Indonesia; Sri Lanka; Gulf of Thailand [Siam]; Andaman Islands; Malaysia; Oman; India; and Cambodia.
This unprecedented round of bleaching in coral reefs throughout the Indian Ocean follows El Nino-related bleaching events during late-1997 and early-1998 both projected by NOAA’s satellite HotSpot charts and documented by reef scientists in Mexico (Pacific), Panama (Pacific); Galapagos; Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; Papua New Guinea; and American Samoa.
http://www.fishingnj.org/artcoral3.htm
Massive coral bleaching in Madagascar
Blue Ventures
October 6, 2006
“Global warming is a major threat to the world’s coral reefs, but there are other more direct threats as well that can be more immediately addressed,” said Harris. “Destructive fishing practices and nutrient runoff from villages and resorts are also killing these incredible underwater systems that provide vital resources for the people of Madagascar.”
http://news.mongabay.com/2006/1006-madagascar.html
No mention of acidification of ocean by either Harris or NOAA, is this another lot of BS.

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 10:58 am

“Natural variability” includes things like asteroid impacts, volcanoes, tsunamis, floods, droughts, ice ages, etc. Those who cling to the idea that nature is naturally “stable” are deluding themselves.
A key point of this piece is to point out the gap between the theorists and the observational record. One of my favourite Michael Crichton lines was from Jurassic Park – “life will find a way.” Clearly the corals have recovered exceptionally well at Bikini despite all the “thousands of papers” which predict they should have done otherwise. I have been near a few nuclear blasts, and I can assure you that they produce more rapid changes to the environment than CO2 increasing by 0.00009 concentration.
Good thing no scientists have yet been allowed to dump chemicals in the ocean to stop global warming. Who knows how much damage that will do?
Maybe people can write a few thousand more papers to convince the Bikini corals that they are supposed to be dead?

hunter
February 1, 2009 11:00 am

From Sod to so many other true believers, why can you not get it through your heads?
There is literally no rapid acidification happening.
Like so much else involved with the bizarre-o world of AGW, acidification is as real as alien abductions.
One sure sign of how bad AGW is, is this:
AGW ‘climatologists; keep rewriting non-climate science to ‘prove’ that CO2 and a ‘rapid’ change in _X_ is caused by CO2.
Corals have been under pressure by many human caused and natural factors for many many years. But *now* it is, like the forest scam or the phony Antarctic heating scam, all about AGW.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 11:04 am

Chen-Tung A. chen, is a very prolific investigator. I don’t know enough to critique his work yet, but he’s got lots of data, and his methods do seem ok on superficial reading. Also, he seems to also have milking the AGW funding cow down to an art.
In this paper he has info on pH which also shows it’s variability. (see esp., figs 3 and 10)
http://www.mgac.nsysu.edu.tw/ctchen/Publications/A/86.pdf

Neven
February 1, 2009 11:13 am

I’ve never heard of the expression ‘American Disenlightenment’ before, but it’s the best possible description for remarks such as this one:
“There are a lot of “expert” opinions here implying that coral bleaching is due to AGW. I prefer to listen to a real expert who tested that hypothesis in his reef aquariums.”
The idea that someone rather believes some guy with an aquarium (God knows what he did and if he tells the truth) than thousands of peer-reviewed papers by scientists who spend a life time studying the oceans, makes my stomach churn. Smokey, you kill all the hope I have for humanity.

Richard Sharpe
February 1, 2009 11:14 am

Robert Rust says:

When I see a post like this from Bill D AFTER the post from Fraizer – I have to conclude that one’s intuition carries more weight than facts. Maybe I’m naive, but facts carry more weight with me. Do I have that wrong, Bill?

Unfortunately, we don’t know the state of Fraizer’s aquariums before he started adding CO2. It is an interesting data point, but to make it science would involve …
Of course, those guys who got the Nobel in Medicine for the discovery of H Pylori and their association with peptic ulcers got their start by listening to interesting real-world observations, or so I am lead to believe.

DaveE
February 1, 2009 11:17 am

When I see statements like this, “pH levels are changing 100 times faster than natural variability”, my BS alarms start ringing deafeningly.
What is their metric to decide what is “natural variability”?
It just brings back memories of “unprecedented” temperature rise.
DaveE.

Bill D
February 1, 2009 11:23 am

Richard Sharpe (10:00:02) :
Marcus’ comment about Henry’s law is the simplest way to look at CO2 equilibrium between the atmosphere and water. You can be sure that oceanographers are also considering effects of wind mixing and other factors. As Marcus points out, the effect of the increase in atmospheric CO2 in increasing CO2 in the ocean is much greater than the effect of water warming in reducing CO2 solubility
Scientist doing experiments and obsevations on the effects of pH and temperature on corals donot need to consider why the oceans are warmer, only that in the last 20+ years the increases in peak temperatures are too high for corals. However, if you want make predictions about the future, you need to know whether water temperature will continue to rise and if humans will continue to use large amounts of fossil fuels.
The oceans have been a major sink for carbon over the ages. For example, many studies have looked at how fecal pellets of copepods carry undigested carbon to deep sediments. There are hundreds of studies by oceanographers on how carbon and many other elements are transported from the upper mixed layers of the ocean to deep waters. In general, however, a lot of the carbon dioxide adsorped into the ocean is recycled in the upper layers even after it is taken up in photosynthesis. Deposing of carbon usually requires the transport of particulate matter to deep waters. Most algae sink too slowly to fall into deeper waters before decomposing. Diatoms have higher sinking rates and are therefore an exception. Some planktonic protists also have limestone skeletons and enter the sediments when they die.
Although this is not my field, I am aware of sessions of oceangraphy meetings that considered silica depletion (Si is required by diatoms) to be an important factor in determining the oceans effect as a carbon sink over past millenia and in the present as well. Over the last 20 + years thousands of studies have been published that are increasing our understanding of carbon cycling in the oceans and its potential effect on climate, past, present and future. Modeling studies are only a part of this effort.
The story of H. pilori is a classic in science. Scientists did not believe that this bacterium was an important cause of stomach ulcers until its discoverer published convincing results. When scientist think that they may have a new discovery, they work very hard to collect data and conduct experiments that will be convincing to other scientists. When you make a significant discovery and/or find a new test of an hypothesis, this is a good chance to write a convincing and successful grant proposal.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 11:27 am

HERE’S AN INTERESTING CLAIM…
“The shelf water is now supersaturated with respect to calcite and aragonite, but could become undersaturated with a doubling of the current atmospheric CO2 level. The carbonate deposits on the shelf could then begin to neutralize excess CO2 and become an important excess CO2 sink.”
http://www.mgac.nsysu.edu.tw/ctchen/Publications/A/87.pdf
In other words, increased CO2 will result in better CO2 removal from atmosphere, i.e., it sounds like he’s saying it’s probably self regulating.

littlepeaks
February 1, 2009 11:27 am

I read an article in Chemical and Engineering News, a long time ago, describing the possibility of deep-sea disposal of CO2 — the CO2 under extreme pressure, forms a hydrate, which does not dissolve in the ocean water. I cannot find the article, but this article seems to capture the gist of it:
http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/1999/may12/co2disposal-512.html
(Hope that URL doesn’t wrap).
Didn’t see any mention of worries about changing th ph of sea water.

February 1, 2009 11:30 am

From Per Strandberg:
“After been studying the Global Warming movement and the bad science it is based on I have come to realize that the problem is not only limited to Global Warming but it goes much deeper and it now affects most disciplines of natural science.
Most scientists in these disciplines are disciples of what I call Apocalyptic Environmentalism of which the Global Warming Movement is just a part, although an important one.
This religion has its roots in the belief in a very fragile and delicate ecological balance.”
I submit that this religion is also rooted in the high cost of conducting most modern research in the natural sciences and the fact that getting tenure is tied to publishing research papers. In order to get research money, you have to “tow the party line”. This process filters out many reseachers with different belief systems. This is one of the reasons I got out of science as a career.

Steve Huntwork
February 1, 2009 11:39 am

Smokey:
Having two reef aquariums in my home, I must agree with Fraizer.
A buffer is the combination of an acid with a base, and that is called a salt. When a salt is in solution, the introduction of a very weak acid it neutalized by the buffer.
Last year, someone was debating with me on this same subject, so I had us both perform the exact same experiment.
We each setup two 1 liter test bottles and place 1 cm of Argonite in the bottom of these test containers.
Aquarium salt was then mixed to a specific gravity of 1.023 and placed into our test and control bottles.
To generate CO2, another bottle was created with aquarium tubing attached to its top. Each day, 1 tbs of baking soda and 1 cup of white vinegar was placed into the CO2 generation bottles and the gases were bubbled into the saltwater test bottle.
Each day, prior to the introduction of the CO2, Aquarium pH test strips were used to test the water in each of the test bottles.
For three months, my buddy and I conducted this experiment. He was absolutly convinced the the CO2 would acidify the saltwater.
I knew better!
Was this a perfectly controlled experiment?
No, but it got the point across to my buddy about the effect of a buffer (salt) in the solution.

February 1, 2009 11:40 am

Someone probably already asked, but what are the oceans historical rate of pH change, and how is that determined?

Bruce
February 1, 2009 11:53 am

I think this article implies that Coral is too stupid to evolve. Its kind of like people worrying about people from Bangledesh drowning when the mythical rise in Oceans occur. That too implies that the people from bangledesh who now cope with tides that rise and fall 15 feet are too stupid to deal with a few inches of ocean rise in 100 years.
In reality, the article proves that the BBC are too stupid to evolve and are incapable of dealing with facts and new information.

hunter
February 1, 2009 11:55 am

woodfortrees,
When the weedy invasive underbrush of AGW pseudoscience is cleared out, we can get to the real science of climate. Until then, it is fight and resist and expose the fraud of AGW.

John Philip
February 1, 2009 12:01 pm

There are a lot of “expert” opinions here implying that coral bleaching is due to AGW. I prefer to listen to a real expert who tested that hypothesis in his reef aquariums.
Category Error. The acidification (or de-alkalinisation) is a concern because it will make it harder for calcifying organisms to make hard structures. This requires seawater to be supersaturated with calcium and carbonate ions to ensure that once formed the CaCO3 does not dissolve. Lower pH reduces the carbonate saturation of the seawater, making calcification harder and also weakening any structures that have been formed. Feely et al found that a doubling of CO2 will reduce calcification by between 5-25% depending on species.
Coral Bleaching, on the other hand, in this context, is either a consequence of heat stress, or is made worse by heat stress.
Hypothesis testing is at the core of good science, of course, but you have to test the right hypothesis! It would be interesting to know of the pH if the aquarium was measured; however to test the global warming / bleaching hypothesis an experiment would have to be devised that increased the water temperature gradually to simulate the rise in SSTs over recent decades with occaional spikes of 2-3C to simulate El Nino events. Not an experiment I would recommend to someone who cares about the welfare of their aquarium …

Tim Clark
February 1, 2009 12:19 pm

Bob Coats (09:31:35) :
Most of these comments are just ignorant bloviating, reflecting a complete lack of understanding of basic geochemistry and oceanography. Go to the literature and do some reading, before you shoot your mouth off! Two good places to start are:
1. Hoegh-Guldberg, et al. 2007. Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318:1737-1472.
Warming and Acidifying Seas
The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere now exceeds 380 ppm, which is more than 80 ppm above the maximum values of the past 740,000 years (5, 6), if not 20 million years (7). During the 20th century, increasing [CO2]atm has driven an increase in the global oceans’ average temperature by 0.74°C and sea level by 17 cm, and has depleted seawater carbonate concentrations by 30 µmol kg–1 seawater and acidity by 0.1 pH unit (8). Approximately 25% (2.2 Pg C year–1) of the CO2 emitted from all anthropogenic sources (9.1 Pg C year–1) currently enters the ocean (9), where it reacts with water to produce carbonic acid. Carbonic acid dissociates to form bicarbonate ions and protons, which in turn react with carbonate ions to produce more bicarbonate ions, reducing the availability of carbonate to biological systems (Fig. 1A). Decreasing carbonate-ion concentrations reduce the rate of calcification of marine organisms such as reef-building corals, ultimately favoring erosion at 200 µmol kg–1 seawater (7, 10)

Now that selection, from your article, is bloviating. Does anyone here believe the bolded assertion. Do you see the circuitous logic? More carbon leads to more bicarbonate leads to more…. What????? Do you see a chemist in the list of authors (below).
1 Centre for Marine Studies, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, 4072 Queensland, Australia.
2 Marine Spatial Ecology Laboratory, School of BioSciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK.
3 AJH Environmental Services, 4900 Auburn Avenue, Suite 201, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA.
4 University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences, Darling Marine Center, Walpole, ME 04573, USA.
5 The Chancellery, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, 4072 Queensland, Australia.
6 Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines.
7 Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, E321 Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
8 International Network on Water, Environment and Health, United Nations University, 50 Main Street East, Hamilton, Ontario L8N 1E9, Canada.
9 School of Biology, Ridley Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE17RU, UK.
10 Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 260 Panama Street, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
11 National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013, USA.
12 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coral Reef Watch, E/RA31, 1335 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910–3226, USA.
13 Unidad Académica Puerto Morelos, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 1152, Cancún 77500 QR, México.
14 Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York, NY 10460, USA.
15 Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program, Australian National University, Canberra, 0200 Australia.
16 Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
17 Environment Department, MC5-523, The World Bank, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC20433, USA
Jon Jewett (22:07:22) :
Neil,
Salt (NaCl) does not have an effect on maintaining the pH in this case.
TerryS (10:22:40) :
A couple of questions if anybody can answer them
How much carbonic acid would it take to change the oceans pH by 0.1?
What does that volume translate to in gigatonnes of C02?
Is the relationship between carbonic acid and ocean pH a direct one or are there factors involved that either increase or decrease its impact?

Solutions of carbon dioxide in water can be of H 2 CO 3, or the salts of carbonic acid called bicarbonates (or hydrogen carbonates) and carbonates.
The ocean is filled with buffering cations, Mg, Na, Ca, K to name some common ones. The concentration or prevalence of any molecule containing CO3(and derivatives) in the ocean is subject to specific disassociation constants, temperature, and concentration of other molecules, etc., even if they don’t contain carbon (for example magnesium or calcium sulfate). Which means every molecule that can form a salt with carbon is present in the ocean, some in large concentrations, some miniscule. (I just knew that old Quantitative Analysis would come in handy—NOT).
Summation:
Technically speaking, NaCl is involved.
Terry, the ocean chemical makeup is very, very ,very complex. The questions you ask are still being debated, with wildly divergent numbers. Research in this area is even less “consensusified” than dCO2/dt.
Now I’m going to have a brewsky and watch the game. Burn me at the stake at your leisure.

Bill D
February 1, 2009 12:33 pm

Here’s my last point for this post.
I think that Frazier’s observation on how corals in his aquarium responded to CO2 AND calcium carbonate addition is a nice anecdotal observation. This is not be compared to the opinions of experts or to theory. Rather, as I scientist, I look to published articles where scientists used buffers, included controls, included replication and statistical analysis, measured coral growth and survival quantitatively, wrote up their methods, results and conclusions in detail, displayed data in graphs and tables, placed their study in the context of 20-50 other cited studies and subjected their work to review and criticism by experts. These studies show strong negative effects of decreased pH on corals while Frazier did not even measure effect of his additions on pH. I hope that everyone can agree that the published scientific papers are more convincing than Frazier’s observation. Google Scholar is relatively new, free search engine and makes it easier for scientists and especially, for people without paid subscriptions to other search engines to access the scientific literature. I hope that some of you, including Frazier, check read some scientific articles on effects of pH and temperature on corals.

John Philip
February 1, 2009 12:35 pm

BTW, Mr Goddard points to the recovery of the coral at Bikini atholl after the atomic tests there, and links to a report on a paper by Richards et al in Marine Pollution Bulletin discussed here by coral specialist and blogger Simon Donner.
Here’s an extract from that paper, courtesy of Donner If the disturbance event were to be repeated in the modern day, recovery would not be expected to be as high, due to the combination of additional stressors associated with climate change (Anthony et al., 2007; Lesser, 2007) and a possibly much altered atoll environment due to an additional 50 years of human occupation. Thus, in a twist of fate, the radioactive contamination of northern Marshall Island Atolls has enabled the recovery of the reefs of Bikini Atoll to take place in the absence of further anthropogenic pressure. Today Bikini Atoll provides a diverse coral reef community and a convincing example of partial resilience of coral biodiversity to non-chronic disturbance events.
Always go to the source ….

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 12:38 pm

Here is a good coral reef GIS resource, which shows overfishing and coastal development as being the primary sources of risk to coral reefs. I don’t see any mention of CO2 on the site.
http://reefgis.reefbase.org/default.aspx?wms=RGRRRCAR&bbox=-103.808693265072,25.8935666327375,-93.7331787563456,35.2426724764468&layers=Bathymetry,Countries,ReefOverfishing,Bathymetry

Herman Dobrowolski
February 1, 2009 12:50 pm

Most of the arguments made on this blog are incorrect because they present only part of the story. Listen to the voices of reason – woodfortrees and fraizer.
The facts are that carbon dioxide does reduce the alkalinity of sea water. However photosynthesis (corals contain photosynthetic organisms) accelerates, countering this affect. The effect of photosynthesis is far greater that the increase in carbon dioxide and necessarily slows down due to carbon dioxide deficiency. The overall effect is more coral.
This is borne out by sea observations around Australia during recent El Ninos. Increased temperature and carbon dioxide accelerate coral growth.

J. Peden
February 1, 2009 1:11 pm

Adolfo Giurfa (08:25:05) :
Though, as i said before, this is not about science but just marketing, it is useful to underline that for CO2 to increase its amount in sea water it needs a cooler sea water, then they have to choose between global warming, as they say, as a consequence of CO2 increase in the atmosphere, with warmer seas and less CO2 in the sea water, or colder seas with more dissolved CO2 in it.

Exactly.
Or else perhaps to escape this choice, the AGW scientists should tell us what atmospheric CO2 concentration it is which then effectively overcomes – by virtue of simple “mass action” – the decreased solubility of CO2 in warming water so that dissolved CO2 actually increases in this warming water, producing increased concentrations of Hydrogen ions [“acidity”].
So that then the World can have both acidifying Oceans, and warming Oceans and Atmosphere at the same time, as a result of atmospheric CO2.
CO2 + H2O H2CO3[Carbonic Acid] H[“acidity”] + HCO3[Bicarbonate]

Garacka
February 1, 2009 1:11 pm

Is “Bleaching” being used in a technical sense to mean exposure to more alkaline conditions or is it being used in a non-technical sense to refer to whitening?
If the 1st definition, than it means the oceans are becoming more basic as the surface waters warm and the corals are bleached.
If the 2nd definition, then something is happening to the Oceans and the corals are ejecting their algae and therefore whitening.

Bob Coats
February 1, 2009 1:15 pm

In Fraizer’s aquaria, were there control tanks, to which no CO2 was added? Did he measure water temperature, nutrient (N&P) concentrations, salinity, etc. Were the grazer and fish populations the same in the treatment and control tanks? Did he measure pH and CO2 concentration in the water? Were there any replications? If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then it was not an experiment, and cannot be used to falsify a hypothesis, though his observations might be used to formulate a hypothesis. It’s the difference between science and messing around.

David Porter
February 1, 2009 1:23 pm

Bill D (09:32:42) :
“As an aside, “acidification” is the routine scientific term for a decrease in
pH. “Neutralization” is more ambigous, since it could mean either a decline from an alkaline pH or an increase from an acidic pH. We could invent a new term, such as “de-alkinization” but we don’t have such a term. Scientists use the term “acidification” because there is no other single word that accurately discribes this process and no one has come up with a better term. Use of the term “acidification” cannot be taken as an effort to exaggerate or dramatize.”
You just could not be more wrong. The scientific term is neutralisation, which by definition means we are tending towards a neutral state. There is no need to invent any new term. The scientific heading for this thread would be correct if it said “OCEAN NEUTRALISATION AND CORALS”. As many others have said before me, the acidity term is used in an alarmist sense and is another reason why so many chemist are sceptics.
And as to your many references about how we should conceive of what scientist do, does grandma and sucking eggs mean anything to you?

J. Peden
February 1, 2009 1:23 pm

CO2 + H2O H2CO3[Carbonic Acid] H[“acidity”] + HCO3[Bicarbonate]
Sorry, my symbols between sides of the equations didn’t translate above:
CO2 + H2O = H2CO3[Carbonic Acid] = H[“acidity”] + HCO3[Bicarbonate]
the “=” is not correct, either, but so far it’s the best I can do.

Glenn
February 1, 2009 1:31 pm

Although not mentioned in the Monaco Declaration itself, ocean temperature
is clearly a concern, and an assumed element in coral bleaching to AGWers.
Here SST is used to provide alerts to bleaching “events”.
http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/virtual_stations/hawaii_virtualstations_timeseries_20062007.html
This Declaration clearly has elements of propaganda, as in ” Ocean acidification can be controlled *only* by limiting future atmospheric CO2 levels.” *Emphasis mine* “Can’t do it” gets it’s rear kicked by “did it” most every time.
I consider most if not all of that Declaration to be beyond what science can or should claim. Another example: “hundreds of thousands to millions of years will be required for coral reefs to return, based on the past record of natural coral-reef extinction events.” I have a hard time accepting that anything can or ever has recovered from an extinction event. This is junk science:
http://ioc3.unesco.org/oanet/Symposium2008/MonacoDeclaration.pdf

pablo an ex pat
February 1, 2009 1:52 pm

Mea culpa – erratum !
Sorry folks after thinking it through and then reading up a little more I should point out that I have erred.
The Carbonate/Bicarbonate buffering reaction I alluded to does in fact occur and is vital to retaining the health of the sea. The reaction is slightly different to the one described. The CO2 dissolves and forms Carbonic Acid, that Carbonic Acid reacts with Calcium Carbonate to form Calcium Bicarbonate.
As these two push and pull against each other the pH naturally varies between 7.5 and 8.5, right now it’s at about 8.2.
The alarmists are ringing the alarm bells because of an assumption that the mixing between upper layers of the ocean and the lower layers is thought to be a slow process taking up to 300 years. This would allow the CO2 to concentrate in the upper layers to the point where it overcomes the buffering and depresses the pH.
Here’s a link to a paper by Mr. G.E. Marsh, Argonne National Laboratory (retd) that discusses the above
http://www.gemarsh.com/wp-content/uploads/SEAWATER%20pH%20&%20ANTHRO%20CO2%20V2.pdf
There is no evidence that this long cycle time is true, it’s an assumption, there is evidence that the contrary is true i.e. the mixing is a lot faster than the alarmist assume that it is. e.g. Tritium from Nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1950’s and 60’s has already shown up in the deep waters of the North Atlantic.

Glenn
February 1, 2009 2:08 pm

Another alarmist article indicting ocean temperature increase being responsible for coral bleaching and death:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081228201342.htm
“This forecast bleaching episode will be caused by increased water temperatures and is the kind of event we can expect on a regular basis if average global temperatures rise above 2 degrees,” said Richard Leck, Climate Change Strategy Leader for WWF’s Coral Triangle Program.
The bleaching, predicted to occur between now and February, could have a devastating impact on coral reef ecosystems, killing coral and destroying food chains.”
Does anyone seriously believe that ocean temperatures do not and have not in the past varied by a couple degrees? Why was the pollution problem in the Great Barrier Reef not mentioned, since pollution is known to cause coral bleaching and death? WHy did the article not mention that warmer water temperatures recapture CO2 and release it into the atmosphere?
I call it “biologists gone wild” at the local AGW bar.

H.R.
February 1, 2009 2:14 pm

Thanks for the post, Steven Goddard. I particularly liked your closing line.
“At some point the theorists will have to start paying attention to empirical data.”
Yup. And according to the early aero models, bumblebees couldn’t fly, yet bumblebees do fly. The aero-modeling gang had sense enough to observe bumblebees and go back to the drawing board.
The graph you included above would make most people stop and think for at least a moment, but apparently not. Unfortunately, I think I’ll be seeing pigs flying around before the CO2-driven AGW models are discarded.

February 1, 2009 2:20 pm

So they’ve made rebounds in some areas…however, most of the rest of the world’s coral is threatened.
I think scientists are too concerned with preserving the status quo to consider the rise of new species: don’t want anything interfering with our lifestyles.

Steve Huntwork
February 1, 2009 2:29 pm

Thanks, that is something that everyone who has attempted to grow a coral reef in a private aquarium soon learns.
I am not sure how you get the 7.5 to 8.5 variability, but at least you understood the basic concepts.
Later;
“The Carbonate/Bicarbonate buffering reaction I alluded to does in fact occur and is vital to retaining the health of the sea. The reaction is slightly different to the one described. The CO2 dissolves and forms Carbonic Acid, that Carbonic Acid reacts with Calcium Carbonate to form Calcium Bicarbonate.
As these two push and pull against each other the pH naturally varies between 7.5 and 8.5, right now it’s at about 8.2.”

Bill D
February 1, 2009 2:33 pm

David Porter (13:23:19) :
Neutralization can either mean adding base to an acidic solution or adding acid to a basic solution. Solutions can approach a neutral (pH = 7.0) from above 7 or above 7. “Neutralization is clearly ambiguous–it does not say whether a solution is becoming more acidic or more basic. It’s like saying the “weather is gettin more moderate.” That doesn’t even tell us if it is cooling from being hot or warming from being cold.

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 2:40 pm

John Philip,
The article did not say that Bikini corals were thriving in the past, but are now succumbing to CO2. What it did say is that the corals are thriving now.
“it was incredible, huge matrices of branching Porites coral (up to 8 meters high) had established, creating thriving coral reef habitat. Throughout other parts of the lagoon it was awesome to see coral cover as high as 80 per cent and large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks 30cm thick. It was fascinating I’ve never seen corals growing like trees outside of the Marshall Islands. ” “The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini atoll today is proof of their resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances”
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080415101021.htm

Steve Huntwork
February 1, 2009 2:41 pm

neurotype:
“however, most of the rest of the world’s coral is threatened.”
Oh?
My wife and I are very active scuba divers.
Where has this happended, and where we can we visually see it?
Why is it, that pollution is horrible somewhere else, but never in your location?

Bill D
February 1, 2009 2:52 pm

Garacka (13:11:58) :
Is “Bleaching” being used in a technical sense to mean exposure to more alkaline conditions or is it being used in a non-technical sense to refer to whitening?
If the 1st definition, than it means the oceans are becoming more basic as the surface waters warm and the corals are bleached.
If the 2nd definition, then something is happening to the Oceans and the corals are ejecting their algae and therefore whitening.
Bleaching is clearly used in the sense of whitening due to loss of the dinoflagellate algae. Death of the corals is due to a loss of the symbiotic algae as a source of nutrition. If the high temperature is short in duration, corals can sometimes recover from bleaching. However, bleaching kills the algae on a time scale of weeks.
The coral reefs have experienced fluctuations of 2oC in the past, but not from such a high starting point.
Someone in a past posting talked about pollution problems being an alternative explanation for bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef. Was this just a “made up” idea? This vast area is not near sources of pollution. Can you provide a source of information on pollution problems?

John W.
February 1, 2009 2:55 pm

Could I suggest a “change” in terminology?
The phrase “climate change” has always struck me as subtly inaccurate at best, and misleading at worst. Could we begin using the phrase “climate variation” instead? It seems a much more appropriate way to describe what the climate is actually doing.

February 1, 2009 3:05 pm

Steve Huntwork (11:39:54) :

Having two reef aquariums in my home, I must agree with Fraizer…

For many years I had numerous tropical fish tanks up to 125 gallons. I never had reef [saltwater] tanks, but when I hooked up a CO2 injection system, the plant life exploded! I’m sure this will be critiqued as non-scientific, but the result of using those little 12-gram CO2 cylinders was really amazing. Plants grew at more than double their former rate.
Bob Coats (13:15:20) :

In Fraizer’s aquaria, were there control tanks, to which no CO2 was added?

It appears that it was a simple test to find out if injecting CO2 caused the water to become more acid. It did not.
And that physical, hands-on experiment is more impressive than people nitpicking someone else, instead of replicating the experiment themselves, wouldn’t you agree?
Neven:

“Smokey, you kill all the hope I have for humanity.”

Neven me boy, I’m sorry you’re hopeless. But try to cheer up. The world is not going to end, and the climate will keep chugging along within its normal and natural historical parameters. Nothing to get alarmed about.

Steve Huntwork
February 1, 2009 3:24 pm

Smokey:
I have 400 gallons of saltwater circulating between my sump in the basement and my two display aquariums on my living floor. On eis “only” 55 gallons and the other is “only” 95 gallons.
Argonite, as a buffer, is very important and why it is a vital part of my aquariums. I know all about the chemistry of buffers and why they are important in a saltwater environment.
Why is it, that pollution is horrible somewhere else, but never where you are located?
I live across the street from a High School, and my favorite trick it to provide every student with a camera.
TASK: Document any environmental pollution in this area!
After five years, nobody has been able to photograph a source of environmental pollution in our area.
Think about that…

pablo an ex pat
February 1, 2009 3:37 pm

Sreve Huntwork
The 7.5 to 8.5 natural variability of ocean pH is demonstrated on page 10, Figure A 2 of the link.
http://www.gemarsh.com/wp-content/uploads/SEAWATER%20pH%20&%20ANTHRO%20CO2%20V2.pdf

Steve Huntwork
February 1, 2009 4:12 pm

pablo an ex pat:
Outstanding!
I will wager $100 that you can not demonstrate that result, in an experiment that we both conduct under the exact same conditions.
Get your saltwater aquarium ready…
If your fish die, then you cheated!

John Game
February 1, 2009 4:43 pm

Steve Goddard’s post is helpful in putting ocean acidification in perspective, but remember that pH reflects the logarithm of the ion concentration – it is not a linear scale. So, when Goddard writes
“Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104.” At that rate, it will take another 3,500 years for the ocean to become even slightly acid
Then if “rate” means that acidic substances (presumably cabonic acid from atmospheric CO2) are added at a constant rate per unit time, a much faster response in numerical pH per unit time will occur as one approaches nearer and nearer to neutrality. So, technically, it would not take 3,500 years to reach pH 7.0. Also, most of the change may have happened more recently than 1751, and taking a 250+ year time scale for the pH trend will underestimate the current rate of change if the change occurred mostly in recent decades.
I am not sure if this affects the overall argument. To assess the risk, one would have to know what are the pH tolerances of modern corals in our current oceans. I dare say there has been work on this, does anyone know of relevant publications? What happened at Bikini is not relevant, because once the bomb tests stopped, in a few yearsconditions presumably became similar enough to conditions prior to the tests that coral could grow back. The same is true when reefs are damaged by hurricanes, etc. – they eventually recover. But if the water becomes too cold/too hot/ too acid/too alkaline or in any other way toxic for them, and stays that way – that’s a different matter.
John G.

TerryS
February 1, 2009 4:43 pm

I’ve just been reading another BBC article titled “Mammoth-killing comet questioned”
You would think that this wouldn’t have a “climate change” angle but you would be wrong. The end section nicely weaves it in.

Of more importance to current climate watchers is the finding that during the 5,000-year period studies, the greatest incidence of fires occurred just after periods of abrupt climate change.

Periods of climate change result in the death of plants and trees that more readily provide fuel.

Its seems that any article on the BBC has to make a claim that we heading for a catastrophe.

February 1, 2009 4:49 pm

Robert S (21:27:59) :
“The ocean currently has a pH of 8.1, which is alkaline not acid. ”
Acidification is the process of becoming acidic

Correct, but irrelevant, since the oceans are not becoming acidic, they are becoming very slightly less alkaline, or if you like, more PH neutral.
Get it right.
I really really dislike scaremongering foolishness such as that displayed by these AGW ‘scientists’.

DaveE
February 1, 2009 5:01 pm

TerryS (16:43:52) :
“Its seems that any article on the BBC has to make a claim that we heading for a catastrophe.”
This is welcome. It means that desperation is setting in.
DaveE.

February 1, 2009 5:02 pm

Ye gods man, do you guys get anything right before you criticize, comment and disparage? I’ll keep submitting comments here until you decide to actually publish them.
1) “Acidification” refers to the lowering of pH, not whether the liquid is an acid or alkili. Acidity refers to the concentration of hydrogen ions in the liquid, of which pH is a logarithmic measure. So a decline in pH indicates an increase in the acidic properties of the liquid, regardless of what the actual pH number is. The ocean is a tremendous buffer, and pH should generally change only on geological timescales, as indeed we know it has. The fact that we have been able to measure a decrease in modern instrumental time is very disturbing.
2) The decrease is driven by the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When CO2, which is very soluble, dissolves in seawater, it undergoes a series of chemical dissociations, first to form carbonic acid, then free bicarbonate ions, and finally carbonate ions. As the ocean becomes more saturated with CO2, this equilibrium is being shifted so that solid carbonate salts become more soluble. The most common biologically produced carbonate is calcium carbonate, one form of which is used by corals for the construction of their skeletons. Therein lies the reasons to worry about the corals as atmospheric CO2 concentration rises.
3) There is a lot that we don’t know about the potential impact of this issue. It will definitely be detrimental for a lot of organisms, and not only because of the attack on their skeletons, but also because the increase in CO2 in the water often causes hypercapnia; think of this as strangulation underwater.
4) Some organisms might benefit, and there is some experimental evidence to support this now. However, before we celebrate this, I’ve noted that the reports of these organisms generally involve species that are currently minor ecological components. If they rise to more dominant ecological roles, we’ll see a shift in community/ecosystem compositions and functioning. Whether these changes will be bad, neutral, or beneficial to other species, as well as human economic dependencies, is a wide open question. Be concerned gentlemen.
5) To the coral aquarium enthusiast who claimed that his corals have never done better since adding CO2 to his water, I’ll point out simply that he is making it easier for the corals to mineralize their carbonate skeletons. His aquarium water is definitely not at a saturation point. If he’s interested, keep ramping up the CO2 concentration, and see what happens. Science at home.

Alan Wilkinson
February 1, 2009 5:08 pm

John Philip (12:01:09) : The acidification (or de-alkalinisation) is a concern because it will make it harder for calcifying organisms to make hard structures. This requires seawater to be supersaturated with calcium and carbonate ions to ensure that once formed the CaCO3 does not dissolve. Lower pH reduces the carbonate saturation of the seawater, making calcification harder and also weakening any structures that have been formed. Feely et al found that a doubling of CO2 will reduce calcification by between 5-25% depending on species.

This is a misrepresentation of the basic chemistry.
There are two aqueous dissociation constants involved:
(1) H2CO3 H+ & HCO3- 2H+ & CO3–
as well as the solubility reaction involving Henry’s Law at the surface:
(2) H20 + CO2 H2CO3
Adding more CO2 to the sea whether by increasing atmospheric CO2 or by cooling the water which modifies Ks can only drive equation 1 to the right, increasing the amount of CO3– in the water.
Likewise, increasing the amount of CO3– in the water (by dissolving Calcium Carbonate can only drive equation (1) to the left (incidentally making the water more alkaline.)
In this scenario the only way the ocean can be made more acidic without also increasing carbonate concentrations is to remove the carbonate by forming more shells and coral, not less.
So the alarmists are actually complaining that the increased coral and shell productivity over the last two centuries is going to slow down because of the decreased alkalinity it has caused. That is the real message of Feeny et al., in basic chemistry stripped of its spin.

February 1, 2009 5:12 pm

And one more point. Corals from the Ordovician were in no way comparable to modern corals. They were evolutionary distinct. Those reef builders were rugose corals. Today’s scleractinian corals evolved from a separate evolutionary lineage probably no earlier than the Triassic.

MikeT
February 1, 2009 5:14 pm

It appears coral bleaching can be an ‘survival’/’evolutionary’ strategy:
http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2004/06/07/bleached-bond/
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v411/n6839/full/411765a0.html
and an alternative explanation for bleaching other than ocean temperature can be found at:
http://www.co2science.org/education/reports/corals/p1ch3.php

Alan Wilkinson
February 1, 2009 5:16 pm

Sorry, HTML tags wrecked my equations. Trying again:

John Philip (12:01:09) : The acidification (or de-alkalinisation) is a concern because it will make it harder for calcifying organisms to make hard structures. This requires seawater to be supersaturated with calcium and carbonate ions to ensure that once formed the CaCO3 does not dissolve. Lower pH reduces the carbonate saturation of the seawater, making calcification harder and also weakening any structures that have been formed. Feely et al found that a doubling of CO2 will reduce calcification by between 5-25% depending on species.

This is a misrepresentation of the basic chemistry.
There are two aqueous dissociation constants involved:
(1) H2CO3 ← K1 → H+ & HCO3- ← K2 → 2H+ & CO3–
as well as the solubility reaction involving Henry’s Law at the surface:
(2) H20 + CO2 ← Ks → H2CO3
Adding more CO2 to the sea whether by increasing atmospheric CO2 or by cooling the water which modifies Ks can only drive equation 1 to the right, increasing the amount of CO3– in the water.
Likewise, increasing the amount of CO3– in the water (by dissolving Calcium Carbonate can only drive equation (1) to the left (incidentally making the water more alkaline.)
In this scenario the only way the ocean can be made more acidic without also increasing carbonate concentrations is to remove the carbonate by forming more shells and coral, not less.
So the alarmists are actually complaining that the increased coral and shell productivity over the last two centuries is going to slow down because of the decreased alkalinity it has caused. That is the real message of Feeny et al., in basic chemistry stripped of its spin.

Alan Wilkinson
February 1, 2009 5:19 pm

Still having trouble with my HTML – obviously the carbonate ions should have two negative charges rather than the one HTML left me with.

February 1, 2009 5:19 pm

Bill D (11:23:10) :
if you want make predictions about the future, you need to know whether water temperature will continue to rise and if humans will continue to use large amounts of fossil fuels.

And of course, you’ll need to know if there is any measurable connection between the two. Until then, it remains a non secuiteur.
Happily though, water temperature is falling. While co2 continues to rise.
http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadsst2gl/from:2004/scale:100/offset:-40/plot/esrl-co2/from:2004/offset:-380

G Alston
February 1, 2009 5:21 pm

OT sort of.
Don’t let ’em fool you. This too will be blamed on AGW…
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20090201/D962KB401.html

Bob Coats
February 1, 2009 5:30 pm

Tim Clark (12:19:04) :
If you really think that Hoegh-Guldberg and his co-authors have got carbonate chemistry wrong, but you have it right, then you should write a letter to the editors of Science Magazine, correcting their mistake(s). I will be watching for it, but not holding my breath.

Roger Knights
February 1, 2009 5:47 pm

“When I see a post like this from Bill D AFTER the post from Fraizer – I have to conclude that one’s intuition carries more weight than facts.
The moderators are not constantly monitoring posts nowadays, as their number has been reduced from five to two, as Anthony has mentioned a few times here and there. Therefore posts are “batch processed” in bunches, and it will often appear as though a subsequent poster has ignored a previous one.
Reply: Well I just got back from Brazil so the number (of moderators) is creeping back up again ~ charles the moderator

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 5:51 pm

John Game,
Good point about the 3500 years to neutral. The number isn’t terribly meaningful though because of the buffering effects of limestone in the oceans. As pH decreases, more CaCO3 dissolves, tending to drive the pH back up. It would be simple enough to dump powdered CaCO3 into the oceans to keep the pH up, if people are worried about it. Remember that shellfish appeared in the oceans when atmospheric CO2 levels were much higher than the present.
As far as the bomb effect goes, of course it is important. The fact that the ecosystem has recovered from completely annihilated and highly radioactive in just 55 years, indicates a tremendous resiliency.

deadwood
February 1, 2009 6:08 pm

A problem with the hypothesis of CO2 causing dead zones in the ocean is the evidence from the deep oceans, where acidic fluids from black smokers associated with submarine volcanic activity are where life flourishes. I know from grad school days that the fluids measured at the vents are pH of between 2.0 to 5.5 (i.e weakly to strongly acidic).

E.M.Smith
Editor
February 1, 2009 6:09 pm

Steven Goddard (06:49:14) : I don’t know how to construct an argument against arm waving speculation, other than to point out again that CO2 levels were much, much higher in the past – and the oceans were teaming with life.
Are there any corals were a volcanic vent makes locally acidified water? I’d use Iceland as and example if only it were a few thousand miles more south… 8-|
Any tropical underwater volcano growing corals?
Nothing like an existance proof if you can find it.

Steven Goddard
February 1, 2009 7:28 pm

E.M.Smith,
I’m not trying to construct an argument that corals or shellfish can survive in acidic water. Because they can’t.
What I am saying is that corals and other shellfish have thrived at much higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The point being that the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and ocean pH is apparently not so simple as some might have us believe.

H.R.
February 1, 2009 7:41 pm

@Peter (17:02:48) :
[…]4) Some organisms might benefit, and there is some experimental evidence to support this now. However, before we celebrate this, I’ve noted that the reports of these organisms generally involve species that are currently minor ecological components. If they rise to more dominant ecological roles, we’ll see a shift in community/ecosystem compositions and functioning. Whether these changes will be bad, neutral, or beneficial to other species, as well as human economic dependencies, is a wide open question. Be concerned gentlemen.[…]
I was reading the chart and admittedly ignorant of the different species of coral involved multi-MYA vs the present. I thought your point #4 was good. Something is going to fill a niche left by a failed species. How far can various current coral species (‘X’) “migrate” to become established in favorable voids left by species (‘Y’) where the environment became unfavorable to species (‘Y’)? Just wondering. Someone somewhere is probably studying that.
I think the answer to “Whether these changes will be bad, neutral, or beneficial to other species,…” is, all three.

Tim Clark
February 1, 2009 7:54 pm

Bob Coats (17:30:34) :
If you really think that Hoegh-Guldberg and his co-authors have got carbonate chemistry wrong, but you have it right, then you should write a letter to the editors of Science Magazine, correcting their mistake(s). I will be watching for it, but not holding my breath.

There have been at least four other posters, including Alan above, that concur with my point, showing elementary equations. Either show where the chemistry we present is in error, or propose another hypothesis. If you can’t understand it now, how will you be able to read the magazine?

George E. Smith
February 1, 2009 7:55 pm

Well teenagers drink carbonic acid by the gallon and it doesn’t seem to bother them
So just where has it been tried out; growing Corals in acid that is.
I would think that as ocean surface waters became warmer, that the surface waters would hold less CO2, and the process of driving the CO2 to deeper cooler waters would accelerate.
You don’t find a lot of people diving on the coral reefs in the southern ocean. Corals can migrate and find the conditions they prefer, and mostly they seem to prefer warmer waters. I don’t know whether they pick the water based on its pH or whether they find the food chain to their liking in warmer waters.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 8:07 pm

CORALS WERE MEANT TO BLEACH? (another link for you, MikeT)
@E.M.Smith (18:09:27)
I looked for that yesterday, and found a few things which weren’t as clear as I wanted, but I think that line is definitely worth pursuing. My guess is that there isn’t much on it, and that if the environment proved the warmers’ points there would be, so the absence, while not proof they are wrong, is highly suggestive.
@pablo an ex pat
Indian Ocean winter pH range is about 7.87 to 8.23 (0.35 pH units!) over the Temperature Range of about 0.2 to 0.3 DegC.
http://www.mgac.nsysu.edu.tw/ctchen/Publications/A/58.pdf
If you haven’t seen these videos you might want to…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4SN1-vwBVs
…enjoy

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 8:10 pm

arrrrggg
I’ll try this in two sections because it’s not appearing at all…
ONE OF TWO
CORALS WERE MEANT TO BLEACH? (another link for you, MikeT)
@E.M.Smith (18:09:27)
I looked for that yesterday, and found a few things which weren’t as clear as I wanted, but I think that line is definitely worth pursuing. My guess is that there isn’t much on it, and that if the environment proved the warmers’ points there would be, so the absence, while not proof they are wrong, is highly suggestive.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 8:11 pm

TWO OF TWO
@pablo an ex pat
Indian Ocean winter pH range is about 7.87 to 8.23 (0.35 pH units!) over the Temperature Range of about 0.2 to 0.3 DegC.
http://www.mgac.nsysu.edu.tw/ctchen/Publications/A/58.pdf
If you haven’t seen these videos you might want to…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4SN1-vwBVs
…enjoy

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 8:12 pm

APPARENTLY THIS ONE’S THE PROBLEM…
TWO OF THREE, NOW
@pablo an ex pat
Indian Ocean winter pH range is about 7.87 to 8.23 (0.35 pH units!) over the Temperature Range of about 0.2 to 0.3 DegC.
http://www.mgac.nsysu.edu.tw/ctchen/Publications/A/58.pdf

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 8:12 pm

THREE OF THREE
If you haven’t seen these videos you might want to…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4SN1-vwBVs

Neven
February 1, 2009 8:19 pm

Steven,
“Remember that shellfish appeared in the oceans when atmospheric CO2 levels were much higher than the present.”
Are they the same shellfish as today’s shellfish?
“As far as the bomb effect goes, of course it is important. The fact that the ecosystem has recovered from completely annihilated and highly radioactive in just 55 years, indicates a tremendous resiliency.”
A human being can survive a heavy car crash and recover completely after a certain amount of time. If however after the car crash the car drops into a river, the human being will not recover. Of course an ecosystem can survive a thermonuclear explosion when after that conditions return to normal. But the whole point is that there’s possibly a shift that is affecting those conditions. If the ocean pH reaches a certain threshold and you set off a thermonuclear bomb in an area where there is a lot of coral, the coral will NOT recover.
I don’t know much about the science, but this is just plain common sense.
“What I am saying is that corals and other shellfish have thrived at much higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations. ”
I’ll ask you again: Did these corals and other shellfish in the distant past have to cope with a rate of change that is a hundred times bigger than natural variability? If so, how did they do? You probably know this as you must have done some extensive research for your article.
“The point being that the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and ocean pH is apparently not so simple as some might have us believe.”
If this is the case then why is your article so incredibly simplistic? You’re not addressing the real issue at all, ie rate of change. You’re just beating about the bush because you don’t want CO2 to be linked to any possible adverse effects. This is misleading and I’m not really sure if you’re doing it on purpose or not. I would say you’re too smart not too notice the fallacies of your argument.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 8:19 pm

@pablo an ex pat
My …“Indian Ocean winter pH range is about 7.87 to 8.23 (0.35 pH units!) over the Temperature Range of about 0.2 to 0.3 DegC”
SHOULD HAVE READ…
Indian Ocean winter pH range is about 7.87 to 8.23 (0.35 pH units!) over the Temperature Range of about 0.2 to 30 DegC
Sorry

Admin
February 1, 2009 8:22 pm

THIRD OF THREE, TAKE TWO
It won’t let me give the You Tube links, so I’ll try something different…
Link one
Link two
Reply: I accidentally deleted your post, and lost the links when I tried to recreate it from my cache. My sincere apologies.
Comment update. I recovered the links from the previous post.
FYI, posts here are moderated, so they don’t show up until approved. ~charles the moderator

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 8:31 pm

@charles the moderator
“Reply: I accidentally deleted your post, and lost the links when I tried to recreate it. My sincere apologies.”
Stuff happens. I think I’ve gotten everything in these several posts, so nothing was lost. And, since I’ve posted it, it’s a good thing you can’t redo it so there won’t be any redundancy.
Regards

Richard Sharpe
February 1, 2009 8:31 pm

Neven asks:

I’ll ask you again: Did these corals and other shellfish in the distant past have to cope with a rate of change that is a hundred times bigger than natural variability?

Please define natural variability?
Please also tell us what you are concerned with? Acidification? Temperature Increases?

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 1, 2009 8:36 pm

@charles the moderator
Oh, but I see you did recostruct a lot of it. Sorry about the duplication, but sometimes moderators don’t get to restoring things until too late for comments to be read by the readers the poster intended them for, so since I didn’t know when you would get to it I tried to get the info out there. Sorry, and thanks for being so timely. Sorry I wasn’t expecting it.

Jeff L
February 1, 2009 8:37 pm

Bill D (09:43:50) :
“Compare your reasoning with a few dozen articles written by experts in ocean chemistry before you assume that they are wrong.”
You make a good point – and if I had time, I would, but I am offering my perspective as a geologist , not as an ocean chemist. The geologic record (my speciality) – and the basic chemistry of CO2 which is less soluble in warmer water (does anyone dispute that?) and the fact the quote from John Phillip that bleaching / dying events are worse in warm waters simply do not add up – all say more CO2 is better – at least for coral – so there is a huge disconnect here – which given the alarmist rhetorical makes me very very skeptical of these claims. You should be skeptical too. You don’t need to be an expert in ocean chemistry to recognize that there is a huge disconnect here.
As a side note, I am guessing almost all ocean chemistry research is funded by grants – and if you are funded by grants, your motives are suspect. Sad , but true. Anyone who has been in a graduate level science program & has seen the grant process knows this. You think “big oil” is motivated by money? That’s nothing compared to a college prof who will be unemployed & pennyless if he doesn’t get his grant. If the funders of the grant want the research to show that CO2 is evil, then the research will show it’s evil – to the best of it’s ability.
This again comes back to my original post on this thread. Science, not just climatology, is being irreparably harmed by politics seeping into it. We cant blindly trust anything that anyone publishes anymore because the process has become so corrupt – we must all be skeptical of all points put forward & make our own judgments of what is correct. Science has sold it’s soul to the devil & we are all paying the price. Fortunately, there are a few questioning minds out there, but the general public is being lead around by the nose by those who control the purse strings (govt , which in turn funds the grants) – being lead to believe that scientists are somehow above the fray. It would be funny if it wasnt so sad.

anna v
February 1, 2009 8:52 pm

Neven (20:19:08) :
I don’t know much about the science, but this is just plain common sense.
and
’ll ask you again: Did these corals and other shellfish in the distant past have to cope with a rate of change that is a hundred times bigger than natural variability? If so, how did they do? You probably know this as you must have done some extensive research for your article.
The answer is yes, sometimes they did, when the temperatures started rising or falling rapidly, some research says within a few years. If you look at the thread below this one, co2-temperatures-and-ice-age, you can see it in the first figure.
You can also see that there is not “natural”. Rather that everything is natural and the most natural thing is transience.
As for the simplicity of this presentation, do you know the KISS principle? Keep It Simple Stupid. It is a prime driver of science, particularly of looking for a theory that fits the data. The simplest theory that fits the data wins every time. AGW theory is neither simple not fits the data.

Glenn
February 1, 2009 8:55 pm

Bill D (14:33:58) :
“Neutralization can either mean adding base to an acidic solution or adding acid to a basic solution. Solutions can approach a neutral (pH = 7.0) from above 7 or above 7. “Neutralization is clearly ambiguous–it does not say whether a solution is becoming more acidic or more basic. It’s like saying the “weather is gettin more moderate.” That doesn’t even tell us if it is cooling from being hot or warming from being cold.”
And if acidification only means to move more acidic, then a ph from 3 to 2 would also be acidification, yet the word itself would be ambiguous in that it not tell us if the ph were moving from base to acid. “The acidification of the oceans” could then mean that the oceans are already highly acidic. Oops, I used the word acidic.
One poster thinks the word clearly means simply to move the ph down, and claims that is some acknowledged or understood usage in science or a particular branch of science, leaving us to accept or reject his word for it.
Another poster argues that the word is used because no single word can express a reduction in alkalinity, as if using one word for a scientific process is ever an issue.
I may have omitted other arguments for why “acidification” should not be thought of as propaganda but rather as correct terminology or grammar, but none are convincing. And even less convincing when considering what often accompanies the word, “becoming more acidic”, which is clearly wrong. The oceans are not acidic. I have researched the definition at some length, and not found the word to be used to describe changes in alkalinity. You are welcome to do the same and return your results.
I’d think it safe to say that the general public regards the word acidification as “to make acidic”, or “acid”.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/acidification
“the process of becoming acid or being converted into an acid”
http://www.answers.com/topic/acidification-chemistry
“(chemistry) Addition of an acid to a solution until the pH falls below 7”
http://www.chemistry-dictionary.com/definition/acidification.html
“This process happens when compounds like ammonia, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides are converted in a chemical reaction into acidic substances. ”
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/acidification
“The act or process of making something sour (acidifying), or changing into an acid.The act or process of making something sour (acidifying), or changing into an acid.”

Robert S
February 1, 2009 9:11 pm

Tall Bloke
Correct, but irrelevant, since the oceans are not becoming acidic, they are becoming very slightly less alkaline, or if you like, more PH neutral.
Get it right.

I am sorry you are confused Tall Bloke, but as many have pointed out here (Bill D, Peter, Marcus), acidification is any drop in pH regardless of whether it starts out as alkaline, neutral, or acidic. You can call it what you like, but acidification will remain the correct–and thus, perfectly acceptable– term.

paminator
February 1, 2009 10:21 pm

Prof Tim Wootton (Dept. Ecology & Evolution,
The University of Chicago ) has a website at-
http://pondside.uchicago.edu/ecol-evol/faculty/Wootton/pH.htm
He recently hit the MSM with data on ph reductions at one site off Washington’s coast. From his website, here is what he says about the global pH database upon which pH trends critically depend;
“Hence, predictions have been made that ocean pH will decline with increasing atmospheric CO2 emissions, and that this decline will be sufficient to disrupt major physiological processes such as calcification. While the physics of this reaction are well known, there are surprisingly few published data of measurements of pH change in the ocean through time. Furthermore, although laboratory studies demonstrate that many calcifying organisms perform poorly in acidified water, extrapolating these results to predict the response in complex ecosystems is difficult.”
The database is, shall we say, sparse.
As to changes in ocean pH of 0.1 being alarming;
“Since 2000, we have been monitoring physical ocean conditions, including ocean pH, at our main study site in the northeastern Pacific Ocean: Tatoosh Island, Washington, USA. We use a submersible data logger to record water conditions at 1/2 hour intervals, yielding a dataset of very high temporal resolution (>40,000 datapoints total and growing) to explore changes in pH through time.
In contrast to the widely-held notion that the ocean is well buffered, our pH data exhibit a surprising degree of systematic variability through time. Even over the course of a day, pH typically varies by 0.24 units, a consequence of the uptake and production of CO2 through photosynthesis and respiration. Hence biological processes, which are often left out of models of ocean pH, can have strong effects.”
A graph at his site indicates daily thru seasonal variations at this one location at Tatoosh Island, WA shows variations from 7.4 to 8.9 pH. It would seem particularly specious to claim a teleconnection from this site to the other 99.99999999% of the world’s oceans as to what global ocean pH is today. How about a hundred years ago? A thousand?
As to our understanding of what impacts multiyear trends in ocean pH measured in shallow waters at Tatoosh Island;
“Over the entire span of the data, ocean pH is clearly declining as atmospheric CO2 increases, but at a rate an order of magnitude faster than predicted by current physical models.”
Sounds like we yet more worthless models.
We need much more measured data, and much less catastrophism.

anna v
February 1, 2009 10:23 pm

Α

Bill D
February 1, 2009 11:01 pm

If we exclude all of modern science that is funded by grants then almost no science remains. We might as well say that science can only be done by people who are not paid to be scientists and we can also exclude anyone with an advanced degree who is actually working in his or her field of expertise.
Oceanographers, for example, often need ship time, which costs a lot of grant money. Almost all scientists need modern equipment, a large part of which is purchased from grants. The days when science was done by aristocrats from wealthy families using their own money is long gone. Doing pure theory does not require much equipment, but theoreticians, like Einstein, who started doing science on the side while working in a patent office, are also very rare. A big chunk of grant money goes to training students, including undergraduates and graduate students as well as postdocs. Without grants, the training of young scientists comes to halt.
Opinions have no basis in science. The opinions of experts, politicians and the public do not matter for scientific debates, only peer reviewed publications really count. (Of course opinions matter a lot in politics and policy decisions).
Some people on this blog seem to think that scientific articles are “opinions.” This is completely false. Articles in scientific journals are the presentation and analysis of data, observations, experiments and models. Sometimes journal articles also present new theory. Exaggerated claims or misrepresentation of cited articles is a cause for the rejection of a submitted manuscript. This is why the writing in scientific articles is very cautious and precise and why sections should not be quoted out of context.
I completely agree that the media, environmentalists and politicians often simplify, dramatize and exaggerate scientific results and conclusions. This is why you should read the original scientific studies described in scientific journals. Review articles that weigh the evidence of the publications of a field of research without presenting new data are also useful, especially when you don’t have the time to read all of the original studies or when you want to decide which of the original studies to read.

February 1, 2009 11:03 pm

ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 2008) — University of Chicago scientists have documented that the ocean is growing more acidic faster than previously thought. In addition, they have found that the increasing acidity correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a paper published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Nov. 24.
… The new study is based on 24,519 measurements of ocean pH spanning eight years, which represents the first detailed dataset on variations of coastal pH at a temperate latitude—where the world’s most productive fisheries live.
“The acidity increased more than 10 times faster than had been predicted by climate change models and other studies,” Wootton said. “This increase will have a severe impact on marine food webs and suggests that ocean acidification may be a more urgent issue than previously thought, at least in some areas of the ocean.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124141053.htm
This is the latest, “best available” science. Note that the rate of change is 10 times, not 100 times. Note that the base rate for comparison is a MODEL!!!!! Note that “the first detailed dataset” is 8 years long, not 100 years, not 1,000 years, not a million years.
This has all the hallmarks of junk science: inflammatory conclusions, inferences expanded far beyond the limits of the data, based on a model no less, and used by professional alarmists as justification for inducing panic.
Every point can be easily refuted: historical rates of pH change are unknown, correlation is not causation, ocean acidification cannot be due to atmospheric CO2 based on simple chemistry, the dataset is limited in time and location, and the postulated “urgency” is pure speculation designed to induce political hysteria.
So too, coral reef bleaching is blown completely out of proportion. It is limited to certain specific locations, causal factors are unknown, correlations with postulated factors are weak, and there is no historical data for comparison.
Oceanic carbon fixation occurs everywhere in the oceans, from under the polar sea ice to the warmest equatorial waters. Plankton, diatoms, mollusks, echinoderms, and other sea life as well as tropical corals are anabolic calcium carbonate producers. That fundamental life process is not limited to any narrow range of temperature or pH.
It is tragic that “scientists” today must abandon their integrity for research dollars, but it is nothing new and has been happening since the early days of alchemy. Buyer beware.

Glenn
February 1, 2009 11:07 pm

Robert S (21:11:53) :
“I am sorry you are confused Tall Bloke, but as many have pointed out here (Bill D, Peter, Marcus), acidification is any drop in pH regardless of whether it starts out as alkaline, neutral, or acidic. You can call it what you like, but acidification will remain the correct–and thus, perfectly acceptable– term.”
Many here have pointed out that acidification in not any drop in ph, as well. I’d say because of that your response above shows that you are confused.
How about the terms in this article, correct or not with regard to “acidity” and “acidic”?
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/081124-acidic-oceans.html
“oceans more acidic”
“the acidity increased”
“the increase in acidity”
“30 percent rise in ocean acidity”
Do you think “acidification” means “to make more acidic”? If so, is a ph of 8 acidic or not? Is 8 more acidic than 9? Does a drop from 9 to 8 signify an increase in *acidity*?

February 1, 2009 11:24 pm

Whoops, I forgot to add that one sure sign of junk science is the use of Principal Component Analysis. No logical inferences or testable hypotheses can be derived from PCA. None. The “dynamics of orthonormal eigenvectors in k dimensions” and similar stat-babble gibberish should be a red flag. Alchemy, not science.
Just because it appears in journal doth not make it science. Sorry to burst anybody’s bubble, but (sadly) most of what appears in science journals is more or less junk.

February 1, 2009 11:25 pm

Robert S (21:11:53) :
I am sorry you are confused Tall Bloke, but as many have pointed out here (Bill D, Peter, Marcus), acidification is any drop in pH regardless of whether it starts out as alkaline, neutral, or acidic.

And I’m sorry you are the willing dupe of propagandists Robert, but as you’ve seen, the journalists and the general public are more easily confused than either of us.
Regardless of the ‘correctness’ of terminology, the aim of science’s pronouncements to the public should always be to inform and educate, not mislead. Sadly, the agenda of the alarmista is to do just that.

Admin
February 1, 2009 11:31 pm

On this use of the term acidification. This argument is silly. The term is correct and is used correctly in these these articles whether or not you agree with the content or tone of the articles. It would be silly to use dealkanilinization as an alternative.
Do people find the word acid scary? Yes. But people also find the word chemical scary and tell you they don’t want to eat food with chemicals in it. Simply because these same people do not know what these words mean does not mean they are being used incorrectly.
My favorite rhetorical device when discussing, “natural” or “raw” food is to ask the proponents of such: “What is the definition of an enzyme?” since they are always going on about how these foods have more enzymes or some such. I have never found one that knew what an enzyme actually was or that it would be unlikely to survive the digestive process.

J. Peden
February 1, 2009 11:58 pm

Bill D (23:01:37)
It doesn’t take a “peer reviewed” article to see that ipcc-related temperature reconstructions do/did not involve checking the quality of the surface station sites and the status of the temperature-sensing devices [upon which the reconstructions are based] and are therefore not themselves based upon even the most basic of scientific practices: seeing if/that your equipment is working properly.
And it doesn’t get any better from there for the ipcc-related “science” – including, of course, the idea that a “peer reviewed” article delivers the given truth or at least the current state of knowledge.

anna v
February 2, 2009 12:03 am

jeez (23:31:13) :
On this use of the term acidification. This argument is silly. The term is correct and is used correctly in these these articles whether or not you agree with the content or tone of the articles. It would be silly to use dealkanilinization as an alternative.
The effect is really like discussing the angels on the head of a pin. It is the angels that catch the imagination.
Or, “the sky is falling” was a good description for “Chicken Little”, because something fell from above, that was her definition of sky. Now with good PR linguistics she could defend herself and all her followers.

Glenn
February 2, 2009 12:03 am

Jeez,
I don’t think it is silly. I’ve read through dozens of articles, including journal articles that use the word. All seem to use acidification to refer to a process resulting in an acidic solution. The only discipline that appears to use the word to describe a change in ph is connected with global warming.
http://depts.washington.edu/mpanews/MPA103.htm
“A lesser-known impact of the rise in carbon dioxide levels will be “ocean acidification”, a term coined just five years ago.”
My first post referred to the Nature article of five years ago. Now perhaps because a new term was coined and is used by AGWers means the usage is “correct”.
I happen to think it not correct, bad word usage, misleading, and that it was coined to be used as a tool to frighten. I was, until I found out that that the oceans are not acidic, nor is there any indication that the *oceans* could ever be acidic. I don’t know much chemistry, but am not scared of the word.

Alan Wilkinson
February 2, 2009 12:51 am

Bill D (23:01:37) : [in scientific debates] only peer reviewed publications really count

Twaddle. The only thing peer reviewed publications matter for is academic promotion. Most of them are never read by anyone except their authors.
What matters in scientific debates is understanding how and why things work. Brains and honest and diligent studies are what count and it doesn’t matter a fig how the results are disseminated.

Alan Wilkinson
February 2, 2009 12:53 am

It would be silly to use dealkanilinization as an alternative.
No, it would be honest.

Alan Wilkinson
February 2, 2009 12:57 am

It would be silly to use dealkanilinization as an alternative.
No, it would be honest – preferably spelt right.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 2, 2009 1:04 am

From “thefreedictionary.com”
a·cid·i·fy (-sd-f)
tr. & intr.v. a·cid·i·fied, a·cid·i·fy·ing, a·cid·i·fies
To make or become acid.
You have NOT “acidified” anything until you bring it’s pH BELOW 7. In fact, if you are adding acid and the buffer’s pH is going down, you could just as easily say I’m “neutralizing” it, which would be true if you stopped at 7. Calling the process of decreasing the pH of a solution “acidification” is an example of changing the meaning of a word to advance a specific agenda.

E.M.Smith
Editor
February 2, 2009 1:09 am

Jeff L (08:32:25) : So, if in equilibrium, at 1490 ppm atmospheric CO2, the oceans reach a ph of 7.0. Of course, based on my last post & the initial plot, CO2 ratio have been higher in the geologic past. Possible implications:
[…]
2) There are other buffering mechanisms in the ocean that keep the ph above 7.0, regardless of atmospheric CO2.

I think this is more the point…
Earlier I noted the 500 Billion tons of manganese nodules on the ocean fllor. This is an example of a chemical agent presently precipitating from solution that would react with an acid. The typical problem in aquaria is accumulation of ammonia; the CO2 will help the oceans avoid their alkaline fate…
What happens when acid rain hits rocks? Some neutralization… I would expect the same in the ocean. The fact is that CO2 does not just dissolve in the ocean, it reacts. Your calculations establish the extreme limit case, reality will be much milder…
Finally, as soon as a reacting agent hits a biological system, it is dominated by enzyme chemistry, not by simple chemistry. Somehow the AGW folks miss this. The coral will do what coral enzymes do, not what naked coral skeletons do… This isn’t a physical chemistry problem, it’s a biochemistry problem; and for that I’ll take the aquarium evidence over worry and panic from a hypothetical case…

Jari
February 2, 2009 1:17 am

At least somewhere the corals are growing fast:
“Scientists have reported a rapid recovery in some of the coral reefs that were damaged by the Indian Ocean tsunami four years ago.
It had been feared that some of the reefs off the coast of Indonesia could take a decade to recover.
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) found evidence of rapid growth of young corals in badly-hit areas.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7800796.stm

Bill DeMott
February 2, 2009 1:18 am

My comment above on science requiring grants missed one important group of scientists who usually do not need competitive grants. These are scientists who work for government agencies such as NIH, NASA, EPA and NOAA. So, if you want to limit valid science to people not funded by grants, you would be limiting scientific debate largerly to work by government scientists and eliminating mostly university researchers.
Of course, scientists and engineering working for corporations also do important research. However, since they are often not encouraged to publish and are often prohibited from publishing their research, it does not contribute much to scientific debates.

Mary Hinge
February 2, 2009 1:37 am

There seems to be no shortage of theories about how rising CO2 levels will destroy the planet, yet the geological record shows that life flourished for hundreds of millions of years with much higher CO2 levels and temperatures. This is a primary reason why there are so many skeptics in the geological community. At some point the theorists will have to start paying attention to empirical data.

You have heard of evolution over there haven’t you? Corals have shown to be resiliant in geological time scales, they evolve as they adapt to the changing conditions. Like rainforests the intense competition of coral reefs man that most of the organisms function well at their optimum conditions but poorly (become less fit) once conditions stray from the optimum. It is sudden increases in sea temperatures and chemistry that cause the problems. Rapid changes will have the effect of reducing biodiversity as there will be some species that cope better with the changes (are fitter) and will reproduce more rapidly at the expense of those speciea less able to adapt to rapid changes. Once the diversity of the coral is reduced this has major effects on other marine organisms, especially fish breeding grounds.

Steven Goddard (23:24:20) :
Yet we know that atmospheric CO2 levels were much higher when corals and many species of shellfish appeared in the oceans. The physical properties of aragonite have not changed.

As discussed above the properties of the coral do change as they evolve.

David Porter
February 2, 2009 1:43 am

Bill D (14:33:58) :
Sorry I’m late in coming back to you but it was night time over here.
Obviously I cannot accept your logic. IMO it is pedantic and a lame excuse to use the more frightening and agenda driven term.
For my part I think the post above by Glenn (23:07:54) sums up exactly my feelings.

E.M.Smith
Editor
February 2, 2009 1:51 am

Richard Sharpe (10:00:02) :
Bill D asks an interesting question:
Do you assume that medical science, for example is equally unreliable?
H pylori?

And many others. Which is why after a long and sometimes shoddy history the medical field adopted very strict methods. The state of ‘climate science’ is worse than that of medicine back when they were having folks stand in puddles with magnets and sniff ether. And it needs the same formal discipline.
Help me understand what is going on here. I like to understand all the causal chains. Perhaps I have one of the links wrong.
So you are looking for the missing link 😎
CO2 is not going to react with a living system the same way it reacts with rocks. While there will be some acid / base neutralization inorganic chemistry going on, the wild card is all those millions of square kilometers of enzyme studded surface area on zillions of algae and microbes. There is just no way you can predict how that will turn out.
Also, on the issue of speed of change: I’ve set up more aquariums than I car to think about. The key thing is the bacteria. At first the pH goes way alkaline as the ammonia builds up, then various bacteria get established and it all settles down. In about 3 weeks. Same thing will happen with CO2. It is a scarce and rate limiting nutrient for plants. As soon as it starts rising into ‘abundant’ range in the ocean there will be a ‘bloom’ of plants and bacteria to suck it out. And never underestimate the pH adjusting power of bacterial soup…
Frankly, all I see so far is yet another research area dancing in the error bands of measurement. We have a pH that is 8.x where x can bounce around quite a bit in normal oceans. Now there is a claim of the sky falling because someone measured something somewhere and calculated a 0.1 pH unit drop? This is just silly. More averages of averages playing in the error band. Sound and fury signifying nothing.
Think the pH doesn’t change when a fish pees or poops on a coral? Where are all the white spots from this assault? How about all the acidity when the sun goes down and all those hosted algae start emitting CO2 instead of absorbing it? The corals respire. In and out. The pH at the surface is not going to be unaffected by this.

Alan Wilkinson
February 2, 2009 2:30 am

Mary Hinge: Rapid changes will have the effect of reducing biodiversity as there will be some species that cope better with the changes (are fitter) and will reproduce more rapidly at the expense of those speciea less able to adapt to rapid changes.
The planet has had many rapid climate changes in its past and the ultimate outcome seems a continuing increase in both the biodiversity and the skills of its inhabitants.

February 2, 2009 2:39 am

Coral bleaching is caused by warming sea temps?….not exactly. There are many causes, and the major cause is a sudden change in sea temperature up or down.
Not something generally associated with the AGW process, but more a part of the natural ENSO cycle. This is just another example of twisting the facts to suit a cause. Might be time to look at some facts.
Here is a marine Biology report that states:
“Coral species live within a relatively narrow temperature margin, and anomalously low and high sea temperatures can induce coral bleaching. Bleaching events occur during sudden temperature drops accompanying intense upwelling episodes, (-3 degrees C to –5 degrees C for 5-10 days), seasonal cold-air outbreaks. Bleaching is much more frequently reported from elevated se water temperature. A small positive anomaly of 1-2 degrees C for 5-10 weeks during the summer season will usually induce bleaching.”
http://www.marinebiology.org/coralbleaching.htm
On the Great Barrier Reef there is no indication of the oceans warming.
http://mclean.ch/climate/GBR_sea_temperature.htm

papertiger
February 2, 2009 3:54 am

Horseshoe crab – this little bugger was crawling around the shallow coastal oceans at least 100 million years before the dinosaurs arrived. Climate changes, he has been there done that.
Floor Anthoni mentions that ocean upwelling brings stored deep water co2 to the surface making places like the Galapogos and Monterey Bay the most “acidic” parts of the ocean. These are also the most productive food locations in the seas.
Strange – I spent the better part of three hours trying to find a quoted figure for ocean pH in Monterey Bay. It’s hidden like a national defence secret – better even because the New York Times hasn’t even leaked it.
You would think that the Monterey Aquarium, USC Monterey Bay, the National Marine Sancuary with NOAA monitoring water quality 24/7, that somewhere among that seathing cesspool of climate change and ocean acid propaganda, that there would be at least one person who dipped a pH meter in the water.
It says something I think. about the results that they are not mentioned {at least anywhere I can find}.
It shows religious ferver.

papertiger
February 2, 2009 4:14 am

Also there are plenty of pristine corals in the Monterey Bay, 4,100 to 12,000 (1250 to 3660 meters) below the ocean surface. Because they’re so deep a comprehensive survey of the various species hasn’t been done.
Here are the best pictures.

Jari
February 2, 2009 4:42 am

Papertiger:
here is Monterey Bay Aquarium Incoming Seawater pH Spot Measurements during 1994 – 2007. No bad news here so maybe it is not news. pH increased from about 7.85 in 1996 to about 8.05 at the end of 2006 (if I read the data correctly).
http://sanctuarymonitoring.org/regional_docs/monitoring_projects/100240_167.pdf

carlbrannen
February 2, 2009 5:17 am

Fascinating topic. This was the one part of global warming I was at all worried about, as I didn’t know anything about it. Still don’t but it seems less worrisome.

Bill D
February 2, 2009 5:30 am

Alan Wilkinson (00:51:23) :
Bill D (23:01:37) : [in scientific debates] only peer reviewed publications really count
Twaddle. The only thing peer reviewed publications matter for is academic promotion. Most of them are never read by anyone except their authors.
What matters in scientific debates is understanding how and why things work. Brains and honest and diligent studies are what count and it doesn’t matter a fig how the results are disseminated.
Alan–I assume that you do not publish in science. You are mistaken on this one. What are the altenatives to publishing in a legitimate scientifiic journal?
I can post my research on the internet, present it at a scientific meeting, send copies of a manuscript to experts, write it up in a thesis, or perhaps put it in a government report. In all of these cases, the research will be largely ignored by the scientific community, it will not be cited by other scientists in their work and it will be soon forgotten by everyone, probably in a year or less.
If I publish in a scientific journal, the work will be read, discussed and cited by other scientists. If the work is important it will be read by graduate students training in the field. In any case, it will be listed on search engines such as google scholar.
When I go to meeting and institutions around the world, scientists who don’t know me personally know who I am by my journal publications. For example, right now I am working at a research institution in Europe for six months and this morning I was introduced to several young scientists working in my field who were familiar with publications that are relevant to their experiments.
As Alan correctly points out, many peer reviewed articles are hardly read or cited. The best work is well cited by other scientists. For example, when you
do a search on http://scholar.google.com/
Try searching under “coral bleaching” and the first paper listed is by O. Hoegh-Guldberg (1999). Toward to bottom of the entry you can learn that this paper was cited by 722 other scientific articles. Click on this link to get a list of the 722 articles. Reading a portion of the 722 articles will give an idea why this paper by Hoegh-Guldberg is considered so important by other scientists. One can assume that anyone interested in coral bleaching should be very familiar with this paper (which you can download as a PDF). It is also listed first by Google because it is well cited and influencial.
Most scientific papers are not influencial and are only cited by a handful of other articles. You can be sure that a paper cited by over 700 other papers is very important. It takes a while for a scientific paper to accumulate citations. If you disagree with conclusions of a scientific paper, you can check out whether and how the paper has been cited by other scientists. Do their results contradict or support this earlier study?

Bruce Cobb
February 2, 2009 5:36 am

“Ocean Acidification” is just one more in the long line of Climate-Speak, which are (mostly) 2-word phrases invented for the sole purpose of propagandizing the AGW ideology, and keeping people in an alarmed state, including the following: climate chaos, climate disruption, climate catastrophe, climate emergency, climate criminal, carbon pollution, carbon footprint, ecological footprint, and terracide.
If you can control the language, you control thought to a great degree.

pkatt
February 2, 2009 5:44 am

“E.M.Smith (18:09:27) :
Any tropical underwater volcano growing corals?
Nothing like an existance proof if you can find it.”
*Raises hand*… Um the Hawaiian islands. If it werent for volcanic activity creating the islands the ocean would be too deep to support coral growth and since each island is “built” from the ocean floor to the surface (tallest mtn on earth) creating places for the coral to grow, Id say thats pretty good proof of a tropical underwater volcano growing corals..
Does it seem strange to anyone but me that they measure Co2 near a live volcano? What a curious world we live in.
PS I too own a reef tank and while it has an optimal temp range, growth of corals depend more on the chemistry of the water, light and circulation. Our system does not have a cooler so in the summertime at times the temp of my tank is higher than it should be by a degree or two, it has yet to bleach my pretty coral and I have a population that is quickly outgrowing my tank.

Jon
February 2, 2009 5:46 am

The Bikini “Castle Bravo” 15 Megaton was at the time the worlds largest, but since then the Russians have tested far larger weapons, like the “Tsar” more than 3 times the power 8 years later.
As far as coral, it is and will be fine.

Sekerob
February 2, 2009 5:51 am

From a different corner, the Christian Science Monitor:
How air imperils the sea
Continue ;D

Bill D
February 2, 2009 6:14 am

nobwainer (Geoff Sharp) (02:39:15)
Geoff: You state that the temperature has been stable in the Great Barrier Reef and link to graphs that show only small changes.
If you look at the O. Hoegh-Guldburg (1998) paper that I mention above, on page 24 (I think) you can learn that 1998 experienced the warmest SST (sea surface temperatures) in the 95 years of instrumental data at the Great Barrier Reef. You can also learn that 1998 saw the biggest coral bleaching and die off that had been recorded up to that time. This does not look a much of a temperature change, but a one or two degree increase can be enough to cause a coral die-off. Many readers of this blog probably know that 1998 was a very warm year in many places on earth.
Added note: The Hoegh-Guldberg (1998) paper is listed as a “book” and is available as a doc file not a PDF or a journal article as I state above. Most other papers under “coral bleaching” are journal articles.

Mary Hinge
February 2, 2009 6:23 am

Alan Wilkinson (02:30:34) :
The planet has had many rapid climate changes in its past and the ultimate outcome seems a continuing increase in both the biodiversity and the skills of its inhabitants.

All a question of time scales, the immediate time frame, for instance the human life span) diversity will be greatly reduced. In the longer time frame, (100,000’s of years ) then you’re right. care to wait that long?

pkatt
February 2, 2009 6:42 am

“Steven Goddard (19:28:25) :
I’m not trying to construct an argument that corals or shellfish can survive in acidic water. Because they can’t.”
I think you are misinformed here. Lately some deep dives have been discovering life that depends on deep ocean volcanic vents. To quote from the dive record in the link on the 2nd picture of the dive summary: Closeup of tube worms and long neck barnacles that colonize volcanic vents on the seafloor. They live by metabolising the hot, acidic, mineral laden fluids being pumped out of the vents.
http://data.gns.cri.nz/hazardwatch/2004/10/nz-scientist-explores-underwater.html
Isnt Nature marvelous:)

Robert
February 2, 2009 7:20 am

Bruce Cobb (05:36:20) :
as in Newspeak?

Eric
February 2, 2009 7:35 am

Alan wilkinson said
“This is a misrepresentation of the basic chemistry.
There are two aqueous dissociation constants involved:
(1) H2CO3 ← K1 → H+ & HCO3- ← K2 → 2H+ & CO3–
as well as the solubility reaction involving Henry’s Law at the surface:
(2) H20 + CO2 ← Ks → H2CO3
Adding more CO2 to the sea whether by increasing atmospheric CO2 or by cooling the water which modifies Ks can only drive equation 1 to the right, increasing the amount of CO3– in the water.
Likewise, increasing the amount of CO3– in the water (by dissolving Calcium Carbonate can only drive equation (1) to the left (incidentally making the water more alkaline.)
In this scenario the only way the ocean can be made more acidic without also increasing carbonate concentrations is to remove the carbonate by forming more shells and coral, not less.
So the alarmists are actually complaining that the increased coral and shell productivity over the last two centuries is going to slow down because of the decreased alkalinity it has caused. That is the real message of Feeny et al., in basic chemistry stripped of its spin.”
The story told by the experts in this field is
http://ioc3.unesco.org/oanet/FAQacidity.html
“When CO2 dissolves in seawater, carbonic acid is produced via the reaction:
This carbonic acid dissociates in the water, releasing hydrogen ions and bicarbonate:
The increase in the hydrogen ion concentration causes an increase in acidity, since acidity is defined by the pH scale, where pH = -log [H+] (so as hydrogen increases, the pH decreases). This log scale means that for every unit decrease on the pH scale, the hydrogen ion concentration has increased 10-fold.
One result of the release of hydrogen ions is that they combine with any carbonate ions in the water to form bicarbonate:
This removes carbonate ions from the water, making it more difficult for organisms to form the CaCO3 they need for their shells. ”
A more detailed exposition of the Chemistry can be found at
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=169
“The pH of seawater is buffered by the chemistry of carbon, just as is the chemistry of blood and cellular fluids. The buffering action arises from the fact that the concentrations of the various carbon species are much higher than is the concentration of H+ ions. If some process tries to add or remove H+ ions, the amount of H+ ions required will be determined by the amount of the carbon species that have to be converted from one form to another. This will be an amount much higher than the actual change in H+ concentration itself.
Most of the carbon in seawater is in the form of HCO3-, while the concentrations of CO32- and dissolved CO2 are one and two orders of magnitude lower, respectively. The equilibrium reaction for CO2 chemistry in seawater that most cogently captures its behavior is
CO2 + CO32- + H2O == 2 HCO3-
where I am using double equal signs as double arrows, denoting chemical equilibrium. Since this is a chemical equilibrium, Le Chatlier’s principal states that a perturbation, by say the addition of CO2, will cause the equilibrium to shift in such a way as to minimize the perturbation. In this case, it moves to the right. The concentration of CO2 goes up, while the concentration of CO32- goes down. The concentration of HCO3- goes up a bit, but there is so much HCO3- that the relative change in HCO3- is smaller than the changes are for CO2 and CO32-. It works out in the end that CO2 and CO32- are very nearly inversely related to each other, as if CO2 times CO32- equaled a constant.

Tim Clark
February 2, 2009 8:13 am

Bill D (05:30:49) :
do a search on http://scholar.google.com/
Try searching under “coral bleaching” and the first paper listed is by O. Hoegh-Guldberg (1999). Toward to bottom of the entry you can learn that this paper was cited by 722 other scientific articles. Click on this link to get a list of the 722 articles.

I would like to find that paper but I cannot use Google (company policy).
Could you please just give me the publisher, ie. Science.mag or Elshivier etc.
Thanks.

Richard Sharpe
February 2, 2009 8:42 am

Bill D is still at it:

If you look at the O. Hoegh-Guldburg (1998) paper that I mention above, on page 24 (I think) you can learn that 1998 experienced the warmest SST (sea surface temperatures) in the 95 years of instrumental data at the Great Barrier Reef. You can also learn that 1998 saw the biggest coral bleaching and die off that had been recorded up to that time. This does not look a much of a temperature change, but a one or two degree increase can be enough to cause a coral die-off. Many readers of this blog probably know that 1998 was a very warm year in many places on earth.

So, how is this increase in temperature (which I believe is nicely explained by a couple of natural things) related to human produced CO2 and acidification?
Those two things are really the topic of this thread, no matter how much you want to derail the thread.

papertiger
February 2, 2009 8:48 am

Here is a passage from Bill D’s
most cited peer reviewed paper.
Like their terrestrial counterparts -rainforests- coral reefs are
being endangered by a diverse range of human-related threats.
Eutrophication and increased sedimentation flowing from dis-
turbed terrestrial environments, over-exploitation of marine
species, mining and physical destruction by reef users are the
main causes of reef destruction (Sebens 1994). Mass coral bleaching™ is yet another major contributing factor to decline of coral reefs.
Although reef building corals are not likely to not become extinct in the long term, their health and distribution will be severely compromised for many hundreds of years unless warming is mit-
igated. The implications of this ‚future™ are enormous and
should be avoided with all the resources at our disposal.

We just found out that rainforests aren’t all that endangered, and that biologists were keeping it hush hush.
Eutrophication – I looked that up and it means pumping sewage into rivers.
Not good but not climate change either. And it’s the city county muni governments who are our primary polluters. Whens the last time you heard of a pol saying that? It’s easy to mouth the climate change mantra but do something real like modernize sewers which is one of the basic government functions anyhow? Congressman Doolittle was setting up small scale tests of various new water treatment plants. But he got kneecapped by the SAC Bee and decided not to run again. Besides Doolittle I haven’t heard anything more concrete then “Where are all the Salmon?” from the other pols.
Global warming isn’t a factor.

MartinGAtkins
February 2, 2009 8:48 am

“The declaration, supported by Prince Albert II of Monaco.”
I presume the good Prince will lead by example and ban the Grand Prix.

papertiger
February 2, 2009 8:50 am

http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=MF99078.pdf
Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world™s coral reefs
Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
There you go Tim.

foinavon
February 2, 2009 9:01 am

Just to reinforce Eric’s account: Eric (07:35:24)
The oceans, much like our blood, are buffered by carbonic acid (H2CO3) -bicarbonate (HCO3-) – carbonate (CO3–) equilibria of the form:
CO2(aq) + H2O == H2CO3 == H+ + HCO3- == H+ + CO3–
where “==” denotes equilbrium dissociations.
The positions of the equilibria depend on the pH and the proton affinity of the acids (H+ donors) and bases (H+ acceptors). The latter can be defined by the pKa of each conjugate acid-base pair, which is equivalent to the pH at which there is equal amounts of the acid and base component of the conjugate pair. More quantitatively the concentration of any of the species can be easily determined using the equation (Henderson-Hasselbalch):
pH = pKa + log[base/acid]
so if the pKa for the bicarbonate – carbonate equilibrium is 9.1 in seawater (can’t remember the exact value) then at pH 8.1 the carbonate concentration is around 10% of the bicarbonate concentration. If the ocean pH drops by 0.3 pH units (say), the carbonate concentration drops to 5% of the bicarbonate concentration…and so on…
So it’s straightforward that acidification of the oceans results in a decrease in the concentration of carbonate even if the acidification is the result of enhanced CO2 in the oceans. Bicarbonate which is already in large excess as Eric stated, doesn’t change that much. The reduction in carbonate concentration is a problem for sea animals that “fix” CO2 in the form of carbonates to make shells, exostructures (corals) or skeletal parts.

Allen
February 2, 2009 9:10 am

Coral reefs in the Ordovician were of a 100% different composition, rugose corals, which are extinct. Modern corals (scleractinians) did not evolve until hundreds of millions of years later. They are not comparable in any way. Please get your facts straight before posting this nonsense.

pablo an ex pat
February 2, 2009 9:14 am

Eric
It looks as if the system of buffering works to nullify any significant impact of CO2 on pH. There maybe local effects that force the pH outside the norm but the oceans will naturally correct as they mix. And mix they do, consider as evidence the spread of the Tritium from the Pacific to the deep Atlantic.
Pushing the equation to the right means that extra Bicarbonate is being produced by the action of Carbonic Acid on Calcium Carbonate. As the supply of Calcium Carbonate vastly outstrips the available supply of CO2 so we’re safe for many many centuries, phew !
Oh my goodness, the planet has checks and balances already built in that prevent excursions. Wow. : )

MartinGAtkins
February 2, 2009 9:31 am

“Oceans May Soon Be More Corrosive Than When The Dinosaurs Died”

The last time the oceans endured such a drastic change in chemistry was 65 million years ago, at about the same time the dinosaurs went extinct. Though researchers do not yet know exactly what caused this ancient acidification,

The Chicxulub meteor must have been made of dry ice.

Steven Goddard
February 2, 2009 9:31 am

Neven,
As far as the “pace of change” goes, what pace are you referring to? Corals and shellfish are not exposed to the atmosphere, and are not directly impacted by changes in atmospheric CO2.
Reading through some of the literature people have posted about the modeled relationships between atmospheric CO2 and ocean pH, it would appear impossible for aragonite based shellfish and corals to have existed at most times in the past – yet they did. If people fail to consider the buffering of the ocean, they will probably reach some very poor conclusions.

MartinGAtkins
February 2, 2009 9:34 am

Oops!
Link to the last my post.
http://tinyurl.com/c55ta7

Steven Goddard
February 2, 2009 9:35 am

Allen,
You said “Coral reefs in the Ordovician were of a 100% different composition”
That is incorrect. They are all CaCO3 based and respond in the same way to pH. Chemistry has not changed.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
February 2, 2009 9:59 am

“GLOBAL WARMING, FISH, AND SUNSPOTS””
There are cycles in the ocean, and like climate above the water that below the water is determined in part by the sun.
The warmeres don’t take those cycles into account, and hence misinterpret changes in things like fish population in a given area to “overfishing” when the fish have just moved temporarily.
Some sanity in the literature, this on in “Nature” in 2001,

Ecosystems: Reef corals bleach to survive change
Andrew C. Baker1
Top of page
Abstract
The bleaching of coral reefs, in which symbiotic algae are lost from reef-building invertebrates, is usually considered to be a drastic and damaging response to adverse environmental conditions1, 2. Here I report results from transplant experiments involving different combinations of coral host and algal symbiont that support an alternative view, in which bleaching offers a high-risk ecological opportunity for reef corals to rid themselves rapidly of suboptimal algae and to acquire new partners. This strategy could be an advantage to coral reefs that face increasingly frequent and severe episodes of mass bleaching as a result of projected climate chang

The BBC reports on the resilience of coral…

Coral springs back from tsunami
Scientists have reported a rapid recovery in some of the coral reefs that were damaged by the Indian Ocean tsunami four years ago.
It had been feared that some of the reefs off the coast of Indonesia could take a decade to recover.
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) found evidence of rapid growth of young corals in badly-hit areas.

Funny, isn’t it, how those scientists who tell us they know everything keep getting blind-sided by reality.

Richard M
February 2, 2009 10:02 am

Allen (09:10:00) :
“Coral reefs in the Ordovician were of a 100% different composition, rugose corals, which are extinct. Modern corals (scleractinians) did not evolve until hundreds of millions of years later. They are not comparable in any way. Please get your facts straight before posting this nonsense.”
Whether this is correct or not, just why should we care what the compostion is of the coral reefs? For some reason many people want to forget our world is all about “survival of the fitest”. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand the effect of our lifestyles. However, knee-jerk reactions are uncalled for.

Richard M
February 2, 2009 10:07 am

HasItBeen4YearsYet? (09:59:34) :
Excellent!
Isn’t it strange how reports like these are ignored. It reminds me of the way forest fires were viewed years ago. Now, we understand they are “healthy”.
So much is not understood or misunderstood that will eventually fill libraries.

TJ
February 2, 2009 10:07 am

Can anybody point me to a clear explanation of how PH change over the past two hundred years was measured?

J. Peden
February 2, 2009 10:09 am

Eric (07:35:24), from Real Climate:
“The equilibrium reaction for CO2 chemistry in seawater that most cogently captures its behavior is
CO2 + CO32- + H2O == 2 HCO3-
[…]
It works out in the end that CO2 and CO32- are very nearly inversely related to each other, as if CO2 times CO32- equaled a constant. “

I don’t think so. From a simple inorganic chemistry standpoint, here’s what happens when CO2 interacts with H2O in the presense of Ca:
CO2 + H20 = H2CO3 = H + HCO3
HCO3 = H + CO3
CO3 + Ca = CaCO3
So right at the beginning, there is no obvious way that adding more CO2 to the H2O will decrease CO3, despite what RC thinks is a “most cogent” equation.
Otoh, if there is a way, then RC should show the equations, etc., not simply summarize/make pronouncements as per its “most cogent” offering.
“Most cogent” is not a term from inorganic chemistry, where words have been replaced by equations for a reason. Chemical symbols and quantitative reactions replace the inferior qualitative words.

Bill D
February 2, 2009 10:29 am

pkatt (06:42:22) :
“Steven Goddard (19:28:25) :
I’m not trying to construct an argument that corals or shellfish can survive in acidic water. Because they can’t.”
I think you are misinformed here. Lately some deep dives have been discovering life that depends on deep ocean volcanic vents. To quote from the dive record in the link on the 2nd picture of the dive summary: Closeup of tube worms and long neck barnacles that colonize volcanic vents on the seafloor. They live by metabolising the hot, acidic, mineral laden fluids being pumped out of the vents.
http://data.gns.cri.nz/hazardwatch/2004/10/nz-scientist-explores-underwater.html
Isnt Nature marvelous:)
Pkatt:
Steven who you quote above specifically states that “corals and shellfish” are adversely effected by acid conditions.
How does your quote on “tube worms and barnacles” relate to corals and “shellfish”? Clearly corals are not going to survive in deep acidic waters. Shellfish is not a valid taxonomic term, but barnacles are not usually included.

Allen
February 2, 2009 10:34 am

Steven,
I know you are not that bright, but surely you can understand that organisms which are entire family levels apart, would respond to things like ph in a different manner? Do you really think that all ocean organisms process calcium carbonate in the exact same way? The truth is; the ability to secrete calcium carbonate is a convergent feature, it evolved many many times, as an adaptation to living in an ocean full of dissolved Ca ions. Each time it evolved slightly different, which is why corals are very sensitive to ph, while other CaCo3 secreting organisms react differently. Your article shows a complete lack of understanding about how this process works. You should be ashamed of yourself.

pablo an ex pat
February 2, 2009 10:35 am

Here’s an interesting piece that talks about the beneficial effects of extra CO2 on some important classes of marine organisms when it comes to building their exoskeltons.
http://oceanacidification.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/can-seashells-save-the-world/

Bill D
February 2, 2009 10:36 am

Richard Sharpe (08:42:16) :
Bill D is still at it:
Richard:
My point is that conditions in Australia and accross the tropics are hot enough to kill off corals. I don’t see why it is necessary that one be concerned about the cause of the warm water, only that it’s warm enough now to threaten corals. The article that I quoted noted that the sea surface temperature in 1998 was the highest recorded until that time in the 95 year record of thermometer data. I think that it’s important to know that corals are now theatened by the recent or current conditions. If the oceans cool during the next decades they should be ok, as long as acidification does not increase.

Frediano
February 2, 2009 10:42 am

accuracy, precision, resolution, and most of all, uncertainty and significance.
All terms glaringly missing from the AGW religion, which behaves not as science, but cargo cult science. it is, purely political science.
The politicization of science has been a giant leap backwards for mankind, which let’s face it, is an integral part of the politics.

Bill D
February 2, 2009 10:45 am

Richard Sharpe–
It will be interesting to learn whether the record hot weather in Australia during the past month will heat the ocean enough to cause further coral bleaching and death. Surely we can study the effect of warm temperature even if we are unsure about the cause or causes. I thought that the topic of this posting was about the effect of ocean acidification and warm temperatures on corals? Scientists studying these problems may have their concerns about the local or global climate, but one does not need to know any about causes to gather lab and field data about effects of these factors on coral survival and growth.

Simon Evans
February 2, 2009 10:47 am

Steven Goddard (09:31:48) :
If people fail to consider the buffering of the ocean, they will probably reach some very poor conclusions.
Exactly so – for example, they might think that the fact of corals having existed at times when atmospheric CO2 was higher is evidence of their immunity