Sabine's excuse for using modeled data over real data? – 'earlier data is not of "sufficient quality."'

WUWT reader Peter Gadiel writes:

After reading of the critique of Sabine’s exclusion of the historical data on ocean acidification I emailed him. I thought his response might be of interest to you at WUWT. He says the earlier data is not of “sufficient quality.”

My question to him:

As a taxpayer who is helping to pay your salary I’d like to know why you are refusing to include all the data on ocean acidification that is available.

Sabine’s response:

Chris Sabine – NOAA Federal

12:31 AM (11 hours ago)

As a public servant that must stick to the rigor of the scientific method and only present data that is of sufficient quality to address the question, I am obliged to report the best evaluation of ocean chemistry changes available. This is what you pay me to do and I am working very hard to give you the best value for your tax dollar every day. I hope you are having a good holiday season.

The question that immediately comes to mind is:

Who determined that the directly measured ocean pH data was not of “sufficient quality” and if it wasn’t, why then did NOAA make the data available on their website as part of other ocean data in their World Ocean Database without a caveat?

My search on NOAA’s NODC database for ocean pH data showed plenty of data and no caveats on use:



So was Sabine’s decision arbitrary and without basis in fact? Inquiring minds want to know.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Charles Nelson

So what did they feed into their model?

Proud Skeptic


Craig Moore

Soylent Green. It’s organic.

As a public servant that must stick to the rigor of the scientific method and only present data that is of sufficient quality to address the question, I am obliged to report the best evaluation of ocean chemistry changes available.
Nowhere does the scientific method require that a scientists “only present data that is of sufficient quality to address the question”. Quite the opposite. The scientific method requires that you present all the evidence.
Imagine that someone was on trial for murder, and the jury was only presented some of the evidence. A low quality fingerprint on the murder weapon was omitted from the evidence. A fingerprint that told a different story than was told the jury.
When data is deliberately omitted, that must be noted in the report. When data is of poor quality, you add error bars to the results. You cannot make a scientific report more accurate by excluding data.
If the data is of poor quality, then stating this on the report tells us that more research and investigation is required. Omitting this from the report gives the false impression that the science is more certain than it is.
This suggests that Sabine was intending to paint a false picture, that the science on ocean pH is more certain than in fact it really is.


Noble cause corruption…he is doing the best job (in propagating the party line) he can.
ferdberple….It sounds like you know more about science than Sabine does.
Your quote…
“When data is deliberately omitted, that must be noted in the report. When data is of poor quality, you add error bars to the results. You cannot make a scientific report more accurate by excluding data.
If the data is of poor quality, then stating this on the report tells us that more research and investigation is required. Omitting this from the report gives the false impression that the science is more certain than it is.”
is more in line with a man of great scientific integrity Richard Feynman wrote.
Searching on WUWT for Feynman produces this quote…
Richard Feynman idealized the good scientist as someone who displays “a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.”


This should be interesting because Englebeen has often referred to “millions of pH readings from ships” in making some of his claims regarding ocean pH, while at other times referring to the theorecally derived ocean pH data from Bermuda and Hawaii.

@ferdberple, remember that 80 years ago, nobody was smart enough to read a thermometer properly. That’s why GISS has to fix the data. Likewise with glass electrode pH meters.
I took a look at Michael Wallace’s page www dot abeqas dot com. On the face of it he seems to be a sane, level-headed, industrious and professional hydroclimatologist with no ax to grind either way in the climate debate. If he managed to make sense out of the historical database, a responsible scientist should also have been able to.

Brian H

You merely have to rightly understand “quality”; it is a synonym for “in agreement with my theory”.

Do you accuse Keeling of fraud, because he didn’t use any historical CO2 data before Mauna Loa was established with much better measurement methods?
Do you accuse Dr. Spencer of fraud, because he didn’t use any historical ground based temperature data when he used the more accurate satellite data?
The pre-1984 pH data from glass electrode measurements are simply worthless to show any trend at all, except if based on calculations and repeated measurements over the same track in the same seasons.

The jury is only presented some of the evidence, that is why we have rules of evidence and the lawyers can’t present everything they can think of, they can’t for example present hearsay, or other questionable evidence,or even good evidence acquired by illegal means. In your example if there was disagreement about which set of fingerprints to present to the jury, the lawyers would argue it out in front of the judge and he would decide.

Charles Nelson
So what did they feed into their model?
Established ocean chemistry:
Sabine didn’t use any model, he only published the more accurate data after 1984. Thus the title here is a false accusation.

Solomon Green

“Sabine didn’t use any model…”
Sabine email to Wallace
“The rest of the curve you are trying to reproduce is from a modeling study that Dr. Feely has already provided and referenced in the publication.”
“Joe, the model used by Sabine and Feely … It is a theoretical model …”
Apparent inconsistency. There must be something that I am missing.

Sabine only showed the pH data from Hawaii from the 1980’s on. These are from direct measurements and calculated data derived from direct measurements. The same “model” can be used (and was used by Feely) to back calculate the theoretical decrease of pH for the observed (ice cores, Mauna Loa) CO2 increase in the atmosphere since humans emitted extra CO2 in the atmosphere.
Thus while the data after 1984 are based on direct (or calculated) measurements, the curve before 1984 is based on CO2 increases in the atmosphere, not on direct measurements in the oceans, using the same set of calculations.
The “model” used is based on ocean carbon/buffer chemistry and was established some 80 years ago and used in thousands of calculations. Modern colorimetric pH measurements do confirm the results.

Mark Nutley

You made a mistake in calling it “ocean acidification “, cos it ain`t.

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley (even more ghostly at this time of year)

Mark, that’s right. He (Peter Gadiel) should not have used the phrase in his email to Sabine. It doesn’t matter how you think of it, or which side of the fence you are on, when the oceans move a TINY bit away from the average pH, it is NOT ‘acidification’ – simply isn’t.

Acidification is a reasonable Chemistry term to use to describe lowering the PH of a liquid (in this case the ocean), even if the end result is still alkaline (basic). When mixing acid with a solution to neutralise it, we were always told we were acidifying the solution, even though the final PH was neutral (7) – neither acid nor alkaline.


Eric Worrell. You were taught some poor chemistry! When titrating a basic solution with acid you are neutralising a proportion of the basic solution. At no time are you acidifying the solution unless you neutralise all the basic component and move the pH to less than 7. The use of the word scidification is a simple scare term and is scientific nonsensr


Whether it’s a scientific term or not is not the point. These career activists calling themselves public servants of science, are deliberately addressing their message at the public gallery, over the heads of the real scientific community (what’s left of it). The word “acidification” in the public’s mind conveys a message of seawater being acidic – pH <7 – and becoming more so. The public servants like Sabine know this. For them it's "job done". The public has been deceived and all with correct "scientific" terminology.

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley (even more ghostly at this time of year)

Eric, sorry, but as I have pointed out before, it’s just plain bad English. If you have a bucket of salt water, and you add a grain of sugar, have you sweetened it? NO! There is simply no logic to using ‘acidifying’ – I don’t care whether you were told that or not. You should know that not all teachers are very bright. Eric, if you really think you have sweetened that bucket of water, then you need to re-think things. Any anyway, what you describe from your teaching is NOT what is going on when atmospheric CO2 is absorbed into the oceans. The oceans are still alkaline, NOT neutral. Please stop using the term, Eric – it is incorrect.

Mark from the Midwest

Eric, it doesn’t matter what chemists call it, this is a political and public policy issue, and the term stirs up all kinds of odd imagery for the general public. That’s been the problem in many public policy debates lately. The so-called “experts” hide behind their jargon, the legislators, (many who really aren’t that capable of critical thinking), swoon, and we all get screwed.

Stephen Skinner

I understand something acidic will have a positive charge due to an excess of ionised Hyrdogen (Hyrdogen without an electron) and something Alkaline to have a negative charge due to an excess of Hydroxide ions (‘Water’ without a Hydrogen proton and with an extra electron). Therefore [1] the oceans are still negatively charged as there are no excess Hydrogen ions; [2] the oceans are not becoming more acidic because they have to be in that state first. You can’t have more of something that’s not there.
Why is there a persistence in wanting to describe the chemical characteristics of the Oceans in this way as it seems pedantic and misleading? I can understand that if the Oceans lose their negative charge or have less Hydroxide ions this is a change in the chemistry. But lets talk about it in this way as this would provide a better focus for what is going on and would give us all a fighting chance of conversing clearly and working out whether things are bad and need fixing or not.
I was forwarded this table which shows not just the pH scale but also the pOH scale.comment image?dl=0


Saying “Acidification is a reasonable Chemistry term ” is not acceptable. Acidic/alkaline have specific meanings in chemistry. Conflating going up or down the PH scale with levels of acidity is misleading and dishonest. What is reasonable is to state that in any foreseeable future the oceans have as much chance of becoming acidic as zebras growing wings and getting a comedy sitcom on cable TV. Scientists can knock themselves out calling oceans less alkaline if they so choose, too bad if they get less media coverage for being honest.


I believe this is incorrect. If I have an alkaline solution and add acid but not enough to make the Ph neutral or acidic, then I have not ‘acidified’ the solution, I have made it less alkaline, but it is still alkaline. Saying that I have ‘acidified’ the solution could also be described as making the solution ‘more neutral’ as well and that would be just as misleading and inexact as saying I had ‘acidified’ the solution. Saying either implies that you have made the solution either acidic or neutral, neither of which is an accurate description.


Eric Worrell needs some basic instruction in vocabulary and word meaning. “Acidify” means to make acid. If you change the pH of a solution from neutral or basic to acid, then you have _acidified_the solution and you can call such a process “acidification”. If you only alter the pH from say, 7.9 to 7.8, that is not “acidification” because the solution remains basic.
Nor is it “alkalinization” if you alter the pH of a solution from, say, 6.2 to 6.3, because the solution remains acid.
There are many in science, and some of them teach, who use incorrect terminology. Those who have had incorrect instruction can remedy that simply by correcting themselves.


It is sometimes useful to remind persons in public employ that they are accountable to the taxpayer.
There are many in public employ that need such a reminder, and indeed, some would dispute such a principle.
Someone like Sabine, who falsifies data, deserves the worst. Why kiss his ass?
Let me reiterate that I consider Sabine’s methods a type of fabrication. Referring to a “model” is simply a means of covering up the fabrication. Someone like Mosher would swallow such an explanation. Not me.

Tom T

Eric if you have any guts you will prove your assertion by providing many examples of the term acidification used in context of lowering the PH of a solution towards 7 when not talking about “ocean acidification”
Good luck.


If I add NaHCO3 to a solution with a pH of 5, am I making it more basic or less acidic? (Several commenters use “PH” which is incorrect.)


Adding some acid to a basic solution doesn’t neutralize the solution if the pH remains above 7.
That is a corollary of the contention that “acidify” can only mean “render acidic”.
Of course, the specter of catastrophe is evoked with the term “acidification” but the same is true of “warming” and “heating”. 15C is not warm or hot but it’s not cold, either.
IMO it’s a shame that every thread on ocean pH unravels into this trivial cavil.


Stephen Skinner
The ocean is not electrically charged, whether acidic or alkaline. All ions in solution have a counter-balancing ion..

I agreed with Eric Worrall, and was about to weigh in, but first of course I needed to check. Cambridge dictionary – no entry. Merriam-Webster – 1. To make acid. 2. To convert into an acid. So although Eric Worrall may well be correct in a strictly scientific context, in this ‘general public’ context the term “acidification” is incorrect.

Bill Zettler

Gadiel was exactly right since he was certainly referring directly to the 13 references to “ocean acidification” in the Feely paper. The antecedent was established and he was correct in referencing it in his email. There are more important nits to pick than this one.

Stephen Skinner

Katio1505 December 26, 2014 at 1:09 pm
Stephen Skinner
“The ocean is not electrically charged, whether acidic or alkaline. All ions in solution have a counter-balancing ion.”
That sounds like neutral?

The Oceans are not becoming more acidic, although they may be becoming slightly less alkaline.

Jim G

Though this entire discussion of the use of the term “acidification” is really picking at flyshit, let me add a small spec: Dictionary Quote
tr. & intr.v. a·cid·i·fied, a·cid·i·fy·ing, a·cid·i·fies
To make or become acid.
a·cid′i·fi′a·ble adj.
a·cid′i·fi·ca′tion (-fĭ-kā′shən) n.
a·cid′i·fi′er n.
acidification – the process of becoming acid or being converted into an acid

Thus, the correct name for adding acid to base is “neutralization”, not acidification, so long as the final result is not acidic.
CO2 is neutralizing the oceans.

Anna Keppa

Agreed. If I add enough acid to a pH 8.0 solution to reduce it to a pH of 7.0, is the resulting solution acidified?

This rhetorical situation is ripe for a “Man on the Street” question:
“Efforts to fight Climate Change should result in
a) Acidizing the World’s Oceans
b) Neutralizing the Worlds Oceans
c) Alkalizing the Worlds Oceans.”
Everyone reading here knows that a) and b) are essentially the same under present circumstances. But the Man on the Street answer will be hands down “Neutralizing”.
Acidizing or Acidification are terms not as scientifically accurate and Neutralizing, but are much better marketing terms.

Gunga Din

If describing the ocean as becoming more acidic is the proper term to use and is not misleading then it should also be proper to describe the oceans as becoming less caustic.


pH values above 7 are commonly referred to as “basic” (or “alkaline”).
These common terms engender confusion, because a pH value does not directly reflect a quantitative measure of the concentration of bases in the solution, nor do high pH values constitute a measure of alkalinity. What is expressed by pH values >7 is still the acidity of a solution, it’s just that the acidity (H+ concentration) is very, very low (less than 10-7 (or 0.0000001) moles per liter, to be specific). To determine the alkalinity of a solution (which is related to the concentration of bases), a separate, detailed laboratory analysis must be run on the solution, so it is incorrect to characterize the change in hydrogen ion concentration as a decrease in alkalinity.
Calling this phenomenon “ocean acidification” when surface seawater will remain “basic” under future emissions scenarios is alarmist


I think you misinterpreted that NOAA bit. They are posing a question then answering it. In reality they allege it is acidifying the ocean (I disagree), and as it is NOAA you should have been more careful. From the link you provided.
Calling this phenomenon “ocean acidification” when surface seawater will remain “basic” under future emissions scenarios is alarmist
Just as we describe an increase in temperature from -40°F to -20°F as warming, even though neither the starting nor the ending temperature is “warm,” the term “acidification” describes a direction of change (i.e. increase) in the level of acidity in the global oceans, not an absolute end point. When CO2 is added to seawater, it reacts with water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3); [b]hence acid is being added to seawater, thereby acidifying it[/b]. Similarly, in the example about human blood, a drop in pH is referred to as acidosis, even though the point where acidemia begins (7.35) is still above 7.”


Why be provocative? If I were a public servant nothing could get my back up faster than a missive opening with “As a taxpayer who is helping pay your salary….” Forget government employees, how would someone in a private industry respond to “As a customer who helps pay your salary….” be taken? I’d give you the most sarcastic reply I could get away with.
What’s wrong with a polite request denoting interest in the topic and asking for clarification? A simple “What was wrong with the older data? Help me to understand.”

“As a customer who helps pay your salary….”
Would get my full attention. Unhappy customers multiply. And tell their friends.


how would someone in a private industry respond

UK/US: “The customer is always right”.
France: “le client n’a jamais tort” – the customer is never wrong.
Germany: “der Kunde ist König” – the customer is King.
In private industry it is recognised that without customers you do not have a job so you always reply to the customer with politeness and respect and to the best of your ability no matter what your personal feeling are.
Purely as a matter of interest, do you work in the public or private sector and do you interact with customers?

In Spanish: “El cliente siempre tiene razón” (same as “The customer is always right”)

jon sutton

The customer is not always right, but he is always the customer

Stephen Richards

In france it is: Que soit le client? Il n’est pas important.

Rule # 1–The customer is always right.
Rule #2–If the customer is wrong, refer to rule #1.

Silver ralph

Or in Ryanair: “the customer is an idiot who is to be used and abused, and duped into paying more than they expected…… “.
Got the T-shirt on that one. Actually, Ryanair are rather similar to these climate ‘academics’, sucking the public teat.


Here is the result you wanted, now where is my grant?

Well said. This is no way for an employer to address an employee. How would anybody take it if their boss talked to them in this way?

Doubting Rich

If the employer was in the process of auditing and had found suspect paperwork which the employee had clearly tried to hide from the auditor, then the employer would be quite justified in asking a rather pointed question. The response would be considered telling – as it might be here.
If I was auditing (I am a quality auditor among other things) I would expect a better answer than this, or indeed than any of the answers given through this whole scandal. I would expect at least a brief explanation of the basis on which the determination had been made in the quality of the data.

Eamon Butler

Yes indeed. The old adage ”the customer is always right” is a bit dated now. Respect is a two way thing.
All that aside, Sabine’s response is very unconvincing. It’s more of the ” lets make this up as we go” coz, we haven’t got a clue really.


Wasn’t it Sabine who told Wallace he would not last long in his career in response to Wallace asking him for the data not the modeling output?


This is no way for an employer to address an employee.

Anthony is not Sabine’s employer. He can not direct how Sabine works or either reward or punish him for the work he does.
Your criticism doesn’t apply to this situation.

Nigel S

The simple answer is “To provoke a reply”. The difference is that you, at least, would be calculating the waspishness that you could survive careerwise. I suspect that there are enough hostages to fortune in the reply for Mr Sabine to come to regret them at some point.
‘Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.’


The customer is always right. Is how private industry would respond.
“The taxpayer is always right” is not exactly the motto of public servants.

Greg Woods

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Tom in Florida

That is because the salary of the public servant is not tied to the fiscal success of the government department for which they work. And as anyone who has owned a business knows, if you don’t keep customers satisfied, you won’t have any customers.

In private industry the customer has a choice, they can always shop elsewhere. In public service, even if you vote out the politicians, the bureaucrats remain the same.
That is why it is so dangerous to allow monopolies to provide services to the public. The public cannot vote with their feet, no matter how inefficient and corrupt the monopoly becomes, until the system finally collapses and must be rebuilt from the ground up at great expense to the public.


“The customer is always right. Is how private industry would respond.”
No, this is not true, private industry does things all the time that upset their customers.Take a simple example, where a software company stops providing support for an old product, such as Microsoft did when they dropped support for Windows XP. Lots of customers were not happy with this, Microsoft still went ahead.


“I’d give you the most sarcastic reply I could get away with.” I am guessing you don’t own a business or at least not a business in a competitive environment. There are always bad customers, unreasonable, irrational or a bottomless well of unhappiness whose business is worth sacrificing, in the most polite manner as possible. Bad word of mouth is bad for business, even if it is coming from a jerk.
However that is not the case here, he works for the public, he does not get to chooses his customers. Reasonable requests were made of Sabine and his response failed to shed any light on the question asked. I cannot read Sabine’s mind and so don’t know if his response, “proving best value per tax dollar…” was genuine or mocking, however I do know this and other actions show stonewalling and a “because I said so” type of mentality.

I don’t think that’s really a fair analogy.
The analogy SHOULD be from management of your company, asking “Since I/we are paying your salary…”
We directly pay the salary of government employees. We may have little or nothing to do with paying the salary of someone employed by private industry.
Just my $.02

Michael 2

Many replies all speaking to “customer” but this is a case of “client”. Clients are not “right” and that is why a client hires a consultant, the consultant presumably knows what the client does not.
This creates an obvious problem — how does the client know the consultant is right (correct)? By itself it is impossible; that is why you validate the consultant’s consultation; by second opinions, by doing some self-research. Some industries have certifications by which a client can have more faith in a consultant.
In this instant the consultant’s consultation appears not to withstand much scrutiny. In science, the customer (the public) is not “right” but no guarantee about the consultant, either.

I disagree. We are the customer, not the client. The Federal Government is the client.
Let’s say someone’s involved in a vehicular accident. The motorist who needs their car repaired is the body shop’s customer. But the insurance company is the body shop’s client. Whoa be the car owners when the body shop is working, not for them, but for the insurance company – shoddy, low cost repair. (In the same manner, whoa be the patient if their doctor is the putting the best interests of the insurance company ahead of that patient.) And that certainly seems to be what’s happening. And, that being the case, the customer (the taxpayer) has every right to vociferously remind the servicer that, in the end, the money originated from the taxpayer (or customer), and not from the client (the Federal Government). Respect the one who ultimately butters the bread, or – and it may take a long time, but – that bread will cease to be buttered.


The difference being that tax dollars are taken against the will of the people under the pretext of being of public necessity. A consumer getting services from a private enterprise has a choice to take his business elsewhere. Public servants need to remember that the public is not only their customers but also their employer. Every use of public money should be eagerly supported with transparency and a steadfast desire to demonstrate necessity of purpose.

‘Forget government employees, how would someone in a private industry respond to “As a customer who helps pay your salary….” be taken? I’d give you the most sarcastic reply I could get away with.’
Where I worked I don’t think I’d like it either if a customer said that to me. But, I can guarantee you, if I gave that customer “the most sarcastic reply I could get away with” I’d be out of a job rather quickly unless I understood that no sarcastic reply was the only reply I could get away with. And, of even greater importance is that the money customers gave our company was freely given, and not forcibly extracted as a tax. And furthermore, the customer always had the free choice to accept or reject our product rather than having that product rammed down their throats and set to generate even greater costs from them down the road.

At a social gathering I was arguing with the CEO of a very large listed company. He asked somewhat aggressively “Do you work for me?” and (as the holder of a few shares) I had the great pleasure of replying “No, you work for me”.


Amazing how many replies about how the customer is always right and asserting same as an excuse and not one addressed the question in my first sentence. “Why be provocative?” It serves zero purpose except to inform the recipient that you are looking for confirmation of whatever opinion you happen to hold and aren’t interested in a factual answer.
Sorry, but it’s the old “Do you know who I am?” BS in a new wrapper. It’s not about getting information but simply establishing prominence. “Do you know who I am? I’m the customer and I am always right. Therefore I’m far more important than you are.” Retailers have a name for people like this, “Wankers”. Because no matter what you say or do will appease them.
So why not ask politely? It makes a world of difference. 😉


Another triumph of narrative over reality.

Non Nomen

What are the required quality standards that have to be met by the data?
Who defines these standards?
Are there any at all?
Or is it just spoofing again?

Good point. If data was excluded, as it appears it was, under what standard was it excluded?
Government employees can’t simply make things up as they go along. If data was excluded there would have to be a regulation covering the exclusion. What is the specific regulation under which it was excluded?


Do you notice that he didn’t point what the question was? You know the answer, but you don’t know the question. Let me present the question: What data can we find in support of the beliefs of the cult (as in cargo cult science)? Now the mystery reveals itself: data is of ‘sufficient quality’ if it supports the beliefs. If it doesn’t, it is not of ‘sufficient quality’. The same goes for models, so now you know how come they know that the model that replaced real data is of ‘sufficient quality’.

I don’t have too much trouble with the claim that the old data is probably patchy and potentially unreliable. That does not, however, excuse making up your own ‘data’ using modelling to replace it.


More the point, if you don’t think the measured data is of sufficient quality then you very specifically spell out why and why you will use modelled data instead. Feynman would have torn him and his faux science to shreds.

richard verney

Even if one is tuning your model to present day data (which you consider is of sufficient quality), how do you actually test/validify your model? How do your know that its hindcasting is accurate?
Surely, to satisfy yourself that the model is working properly within required parameters, it would have to be checked against historical records, patchy as those may be? At the very least, this would give you some insight into error bounds that one should subscribe to the model.


I think you know the answer, Richard. And I think that’s why these details were missed from the paper. Undefendable “science”. Sometimes we simply can’t answer scientific questions with the knowledge we have….but that doesn’t stop people from doing so.

@richard verney,
The criteria by which Sabines deemed the early data of insufficient quality is lacking in his reply. That being so, I feel free to hypothesize why he discarded the early measured data.
H0: It didn’t agree with the hindcast of his model.
I await the data that will falsify that hypothesis.

I don’t know how many mails Sabine and Feely have received about the question of the pH drop in the past, anyway I should have made a “standard” answer like this:
We are looking at a trend of -0.1 pH unit in over hundred of years since the start of the industrial revolution.
Most measurements before 1985 were done with glass electrodes with an accuracy of +/- 0.1 pH unit.
If not taken at the same place and over all seasons, any such trend will be invisible in the large noise of seasonal and latitudinal differences. Therefore we use a theoretical model which is confirmed by modern instruments on fixed places since 1985. The pre-1985 theoretical data are by far within the largely spread older measurements.
All older data are available, but can’t show the real pH trend of the ocean surface layer.

Actually, I don’t have much trouble with your response.
My main problem is, if the older data is too unreliable, then change the title of your paper to reflect what data you actually used. If your data only covers say 1985-2000, you can’t say “20th Century Trends”.
I think this is the basis for what a lot of people are expressing. Time frame indicated is much longer than what the “real” data represents.

Jim, I haven’t found a title like that. On the NOAA web site it is “Carbon dioxide and our ocean legacy” at Quest it is “Ocean Acidification and Marine Life”. They only show the real, measured pH and pCO2 data from 1988 on and the atmospheric CO2 data from Mauna Loa.
You can back calculate the pH of earlier years, because that is known CO2/buffer chemistry, if you have sufficient data over a sufficient period (which is the case), but they only give some general remarks on that point.


Ferd, the measurements prior to 1985 have a much wider swing than that (+/- 0.1), so it makes little difference

any such trend will be invisible in the large noise
but this is simply incorrect. old style thermometers were at best accurate to 1/2 a degree, yet climate science calculates global mean temperature to an accuracy of at least 1/10 of a degree using statistical techniques.
you can’t have it both was. What works for temperature must also work for pH. If it doesn’t work for temperature, then just about the entire body of climate science would need to be thrown out.

Latitude, the pH swings at Hawaii are +/- 0.5 pH unit, at Bermuda they are double that. That are seasonal variations which more or less level off after a full cycle. The real variability after a full seasonal cycle is around +/- 0.03 pH unit.
Wallace’s compilation shows a “global” pH change of +/- 0.2 pH units from one year to the next, not even counting the extreme outliers. That simply is impossible. There is no mechanism on earth that can change the average pH of the oceans surface that fast back and forth. It only shows the unreliability of the measurements: either accuracy, time of the year or place of sampling or a mix of all three.
So, if Wallace reads this: show the variability of the yearly data (and the number of samples for each year)…

ferdberple, I have my doubts about the “average” temperature too, but in the case of pH measurements it is much worse:
The sporadic pH measurements were at different places and different seasons. It is like trying to make a trend from temperatures during a few months in Norway in winter and adding the readings of Rome in summer over a few months, etc…
It is exactly the same problem as compiling historical CO2 measurements: accuracy, short data period, different places, local contamination,…


Ferd, what nonsense are you trying to argue? There’s not 10 measurements that all read 0.1 too high, or 0.1 to low… all averages out…..The only thing that Wallace showed is there’s a normal pH swing from about 7.9 to 8.2, centered on about 8.05….
….and that Sabine and Feely cherry picked their start date to show a perfectly normal decline…and tried to claim it wasn’t normalcomment image

As Wallace hasn’t (yet) shown the variability of all the measurements within the same year (and their distribution in latitude and seasons), you may have 90% measurements in summer at high latitudes and 10% near the equator or reverse. That makes a difference of near 1 pH unit when averaged…
There is no mechanism on earth that can change the full ocean surface pH with more than 0.01 pH unit per year. Not even (undersea) volcanoes or temperature changes…
Sabine, Feely and Bates only show direct pH measurements of a few places (Hawaii and Bermuda) over all seasons and several years. These show a real trend in pH, pCO2, DIC,… all consistent with increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Mike M.

Once again, Ferdinand gets it right. The older data are not sufficient to show the very small expected pH trend. The errors in the data are much larger than the change that has occurred.
The accuracy pf measurements of this type depend on both the accuracy of the instruments and the representativeness of the sampling. Both are much better for temperature than for pH. Since pre-industrial times, the average pH change is calculated to be about 0.1 pH unit, similar to measurement accuracy unless great care is taken in the measurements. The temperature change has been about 0.8 K, much larger than routine instrumental accuracy. Sampling is also an issue since pH, like temperature, varies with time and place. But the temperature has been measured continuously at a very large number of locations for a long time. Such systematic measurements of pH are not available, at least not until recently. The situation for pH is much more like ocean heat content than surface temperature.
Many people commenting on this site doubt the reliability of the long term temperature trends. There is some justification for that. But the pH data are far less reliable. So why would reasonable skeptics be willing to trust that data?
Mike M.


..and Sabine etc have not shown that they didn’t cherry pick a start date at an abnormal high….
and Wallace did

it’s better to say they hid the data and committed phraud.
then when you find the data wasnt hidden, its better to say.
LOOK they show their data, but dont provide clear enough warnings about not using it.


Mosh, if they had started around 1960 or 1920…..they would be saying that CO2 increases cause pH to rise


Most measurements before 1985 were done with glass electrodes with an accuracy of +/- 0.1 pH unit.
If not taken at the same place and over all seasons, any such trend will be invisible in the large noise of seasonal and latitudinal differences. Therefore we use a theoretical model which is confirmed by modern instruments on fixed places since 1985. The pre-1985 theoretical data are by far within the largely spread older measurements.

The graph presented by Latitude is really interesting. It shows a dramatic decline in pH after 1985. Isn’t that when they started to change the way they measure pH? Hmmm.

..and Sabine etc. have not shown that they didn’t cherry pick a start date at an abnormal high…
They didn’t cherry pick, they started the trend when more accurate measurements were established at a few fixed stations with frequent sampling.
That is like saying that Keeling Sr. “cherry picked” his CO2 data starting in 1958, when the accurate readings at the South Pole and Mauna Loa started…
Or that Dr. Spencer “cherry picked” his temperature data when the satellites started to measure them (indirectly) in 1979…


Fred said: “They only show the real, measured pH and pCO2 data from 1988 on…..”
Ferd, was the pH higher or lower 50 years before 1988?

Indeed the graph is interesting: Walker’s graph, reproduced by Latitude, shows a trend of near 0.3 pH units in the period 1985-currrent, based on glass electrode pH measurements.
The theoretical drop in pH by the increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, confirmed by modern, accurate equipment at a few places on earth over the same period is 0.04 pH units, that is the red line on the same graph…
Another proof that the compilation by Walker has no value at all for current or historical “global” pH trends…

Ferd, was the pH higher or lower 50 years before 1988?
Highly probable higher. Theoretically sure, but practically impossible to confirm from direct measurements. Maybe calculated pH values (which were anyway more reliable in early days) can confirm the early modeled values, or some non-coastal proxy (coasts are influenced by runoff and upwelling…).


Then we agree….all they did was cherry pick a time to show a linear trend between the rise in CO2..and the fall in pH
…and if you extend that trend backwards you end up with a pH that is higher than the buffer

…and if you extend that trend backwards you end up with a pH that is higher than the buffer
Have a better look at the graph of Wallace: the reproduce” trend from the theoretical pH from Feely e.a, is not linear, it gets near flat in the past…


Ferd, reducing pH with CO2 is not linear or proportional…or anything like Feely’s stupid chart
Feelys chart just screams his ignorance about buffers and reducing pH with CO2…
…and the same for anyone that falls for it
You can not reduce pH until you deplete the buffers…
…once you deplete all the buffer in solution…the pH crashes
What is showing up on those charts is the high end of ocean pH…..which is driven biologically…and by deep water upwellings
8.12 is the high end…….


Ferdinand Engelbeen says:
December 26, 2014 at 11:12 am
You haven’t addressed my observation that a sharp drop in pH happened at the same time that measurement technology was changing. You are, after all, the one who drew my attention to it.

Ferdinand – while I’m swayed by most of your arguments, I’m automatically suspicious of any modelled output that is “flat in the past”. The models are unable to replicate past temperatures and can only portray past temperature as having been flat (as in the hockeystick too). Therefore anything else that they portray as flat in the past – such as pH- is equally unreliable.

There is no sharp decline in pH after 1984, that is only what the compilation of Wallace shows. That still is based on glass electrodes only, not on any new measurement method. I doubt that glass electrodes performed better in the most recent period.
Anyway the data at fixed places show a steady decline of only 0.04 pH unit over the same period. My impression is that the glass electrode pH data compiled by Wallace comes from different places in different seasons…

Mike Jonas, the flat past in this case is simply the reaction of the seawater buffer capacity to any increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. If there is no increase, there is no influence…
Which doesn’t imply that the there were no changes, as the model only shows the influence of CO2, which is confirmed by direct measurements in the past 30 years.
On the other side, C chemistry in the oceans is quite predictable: with only two measured items and temperature, one can calculate all other variables…

Mike Jonas,
The model is flat in the past, as the model only takes into account the influence of increased CO2 in the atmosphere on the pH of the ocean surface. In the beginning there was no extra CO2, thus no influence…
Which doesn’t imply that there weren’t other influences at work. But the model anyway is validated over the past 30 years at several places.
On the other side, carbon chemistry in the oceans reacts quite straightforward: by measuring only two items (like Total Alkalinity and DIC) plus temperature one can calculate all other items, including pH…

But the theoretical model you postulate can’t be verified by current data because that will have been needed to train it – any theoretical model of ocean chemistry will be far too complex to simply set parameters by theory, so parameters WILL have been adjusted to match the available recent data.
You absolutely, without exception, CANNOT validate a model against the same data as it was trained by. So that only leaves either past (which they say is unreliable) or future (which doesn’t exist) data to validate against.
Which, eiter way, means that they’re presenting an unvalidated model without (as far as I can see, by reading either the NOAA article or the congressional testimony) giving any indication whatsoever that it’s unvalidated.
If that’s considered acceptable practice in the AGW world then, honestly, they need to hand back their Doctorates and look for jobs as road sweepers.



Most measurements before 1985 were done with glass electrodes …
… we use a theoretical model which is confirmed by modern instruments on fixed places since 1985.

You seem to say that ‘modern instruments’ were introduced starting in 1985.
Anyway, here’s a link to a paper that describes the introduction of spectrophotometric instruments starting in the 1980s. The NOAA data set shows a rapid decrease in pH starting at the same time that newer instruments started replacing the older ones.


Latitude writes “There’s not 10 measurements that all read 0.1 too high, or 0.1 to low… all averages out”
That’s an assumption that would need to be justified. There seems to be a general assumption for measurements that the errors are symmetrical around a mean. But that entirely depends on the source of the error.

george e. smith

Mike M.
December 26, 2014 at 9:29 am
Once again, Ferdinand gets it right. The older data are not sufficient to show the very small expected pH trend. The errors in the data are much larger than the change that has occurred.
The accuracy pf measurements of this type depend on both the accuracy of the instruments and the representativeness of the sampling. …..”””””
just what do you mean by “the representativenessof the sampling ?
Sampling of varying data; regardless of what the independent variable(s) is(are), is a very rigorous discipline of information theory, and the samples that must be taken, are not “representative” of anything.
The whole of our modern information (data) communication systems, are totally dependent on rigorous compliance with the Nyquist Sampling Theorem.
You either sample correctly (adequately), or your “samples” represent contaminated false information, and once improperly sampled, the original information is not recoverable by any known process. (from the improper samples).
As far as I am aware, there is no worldwide system of global temperature sampling, or ocean pH sampling, that comes even close to satisfying the Nyquist criterion. At least in the case of temperature, you have both spatial and temporal sampling requirements, and neither one is Nyquist valid.
A single core boring sample of a living tree, can’t tell you anything about the tree’s growth conditions history, except for its age.

James McCown

I agree with Lat. You have to exhaust the ocean’s buffering capability before the pH drops at all. I can recall having great difficulty in lowering the pH of a 30 gallon aquarium. I would add some acidic solution, and test the pH and noticed the decrease. A few minutes later it would be right back up where it started. It was simply going back to a stable equilibrium.

Joe, the model used by Sabine and Feely is based on well known ocean buffer chemistry, measured in laboratories and confirmed by real world data from better instruments since 1984.
It is a theoretical model, based on established kinetics between the different forms of carbon in the oceans and other influences like borate ions and total salt content, temperature, etc.

James McCown,
The oceans are rather weak buffers as Ca+ and Mg+ weak alkalis. Strong buffers resist the pH change much better than weak buffers.
A lot is known about ocean chemistry, here an overview:

The data provided by Sabine and Feely are exclusively based on the new, accurate instruments since 1984 at fixed places, so that the influence of seasonal changes (temperature, biolife) can be taken into account. That shows a small pH drop of 0.04 pH unit over the past decades.
The data compilation provided by Wallace is exclusively based on glass electrode measurements with unknown accuracy, taken at unknown places in an unknown time frame. That shows a drop of 0.3 pH units over the same time frame, which is theoretically and physically impossible.
Rather than accusing Sabine and Feely of “cherry picking”, Wallace should give the metadata of the sampling and the error bars involved…
About cherry picking: besides glass electrode pH measurements, the pH of seawater can be calculated from other variables which are far easier to measure (total alkalinity, total carbon) and do give more accurate results than direct pH measurements by glass electrodes.

Ferdinand, it’s fine to say that it’s a theoretical model that’s “based on well known ocean buffer chemistry” but are you seriously suggesting that model was developed entirely to completion without ANY requirement to alter a SINGLE parameter in order to match current observations?
Was every single constant, effect and feedback (both chemical and biological) resolved to its final form from first principles, in isolation from observations, before being compared to observations and found to be correct [i]on the first attempt[/i]?
Because, if not, if a single parameter has been adjusted to matc the model results with reality, then the model has been tuned to the data and that data becomes unacceptable for validation. So, are the theorists [i]really, hand-on-heart,[/i] THAT good?
Note that only one answer allows you to retain credibility at this point…..

James McCown

Ca+ and Mg+ are not alkalis at all. It is the carbonates, silicates, and phosphates in the ocean that give the buffering capability. And it is huge. Get a tank of seawater and try lowering the pH yourself. Even if you use very strong acids like HCl or H2SO4, you will find it very difficult.

Joe, carbon chemistry of the oceans was researched and calculations developed at least 50 years ago and probably much longer before, based on the chemical equilibrium reactions. There were some discussions about the dissociation constants in the early years and there was one mayor problem encountered in the early results: borate ions did interfere with the buffer capacity. After taking that into account, the chemistry was and is fixed and you can find a lot of calculation sites on the Internet where changing two items is sufficient to calculate all the other parameters of the ocean surface.
So the theoretical calculation was not correct at the first attempt, but with the addition of the borate ions and fine tuning of the resp. dissociation constants with real world data, the carbon chemistry is now fixed for over about 50 years. A good overview is here:
I made a mistake by assuming that the Bermuda station (BATS) used direct pH measurements (Hawaii did use a mix of direct and calculated measurements which give practically the same result). BATS used only calculated pH, based on TA, DIC, salinity and temperature. The standard deviation of the calculated pH was in average 0.02 pH unit. The trend 1984-2012 was about 0.04 pH unit…

James McCown
Of course, you are right about the buffering (too long ago for me!)…
But you need to make a distinction between the ocean surface (~1000 GtC against ~800 GtC in the atmosphere) and the deep oceans (~38,000 GtC). Any change of CO2 in the atmosphere equilibrates within 1-3 years with the ocean surface at 10% of the change in the atmosphere.

“So the theoretical calculation was not correct at the first attempt, but with the addition of the borate ions and fine tuning of the resp. dissociation constants with real world data, the carbon chemistry is now fixed for over about 50 years.”
But, hang on, this whole sub-thread started with the assertion that the real world data before about 1989 wasn’t reliable. Yet you now say that the models were validated against real world data by the 1960s or so.
Much as i’ve enjoyed this, in all honesty when the other person starts shuffling thimbles like that it’s time to walk away from the table and let other mugs lose their money!

Ferdinand, re “the model anyway is validated over the past 30 years”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t ease my suspicion, because the models were built on a 30-year period and it wasn’t enough. The models now think that the linear trend of those 30 years is going to continue for ever, and nature is right now in the process of demonstrating that they are disastrously wrong.

But, hang on, this whole sub-thread started with the assertion that the real world data before about 1989 wasn’t reliable.
The real world data measured by glass electrodes of any time, including current times, as compiled by Wallace, are not reliable. That is the point of discussion. The measurements are accurate to 0.1 pH unit, so far that is a relative small problem to show a trend of 0.1 pH unit over 160 years. A much larger problem is the distribution of measurements over places and seasons, as that may give differences of near 1 pH unit.
The accuracy may be enhanced by using only the historical calculated values, based on TA and DIC, but Wallace didn’t use them at all.
The distribution in place and time can be partly solved by comparing repeated measurements at the same place and same season years later. But that is a hell of a job to sort out.
Wallace lumped all glass electrode measurements together, no matter how they were distributed over place and time, which gives a yearly average of complete different places and periods for one year to the next year. Such a “trend” doesn’t tell anything about the real trend in pH…
The more I look at the ocean carbon chemistry “model”, the farther it goes back in time: already established over 80 years back and validated with the techniques of that time. Of course refining over the years when more data and better analytical techniques are getting in.
The calculated pH used in Bermuda has a an error margin of +/- 0.02 pH unit, showing a trend of 0.04 pH unit. The latest colorimetric techniques are reaching 0.001 pH unit, even difficult to confirm as the results are within the +/- 0.004 pH unit accuracy of the buffer solution used…
But as said before, the main problem is place and time of sampling: one need longer series on fixed places (or repeated measurements over the same ocean tracks and seasons) to have a better idea of the trends. Currently there are seven such places, widely distributed over the oceans, which all show similar pH trends:

Mike Jonas
Ferdinand, re “the model anyway is validated over the past 30 years”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t ease my suspicion, because the models were built on a 30-year period and it wasn’t enough.
The “model”, the calculation itself of carbon chemistry in the oceans, is already validated over the past (at least) 80 years. It is also validated over the past 30 years for the influence of increased CO2 in the atmosphere on the pH of the ocean surface.
They can be used to (back) calculate the theoretical pH from the past and the future, based on the same chemistry rules, but of course that depends of the future CO2 emissions.
Fortunately carbon chemistry “models” aren’t climate models and are as rigorous as chemical models may be after many thousands of calculations…


Did you note that this declaration did not actually state that the old data (either whole or in part) was not collected in the same places or over seasons. As it is written, your quote in bold is deceptive.
Just because a theoretical model is calibrated to fixed places since 1985, does not mean it will accurately reflect data pre-1985.
Even if we assumed some of the old data is invalid, there are several million records. These records could be filtered accordingly.
There are other ways to filter noise from raw data.

Man Bearpig

hmm Sabine may have opened a can of worms. If the empirical data is not of good enough quality and only modeled results are good enough, then what is the point of the measurements? Is this not a waste of money?
Also, how would any such model be calibrated if the raw data is not of good enough quality in the first place ? and, how can any current or future changes in pH be verified if the historic data is questionable?
If Sabine’s fantasy model world is taken as fact, then the amount of ‘Acidification’ can only be what he says it is.

Also, how would any such model be calibrated if the raw data is not of good enough quality in the first place ? and, how can any current or future changes in pH be verified if the historic data is questionable?
I’ve been asking similar questions about the highly questionable historical temperature records (US 1880) for the past 10+ years and no one wants to talk about or discuss them.

Sorry MBP, the models give the theoretical value for known chemical/buffer reactions of CO2 in seawater. The glass electrode measurements of the past are not accurate enough to validate the data, but modern instruments in use since 1985 (Bermuda) and 1990 (Hawaii) and more places since then confirm the theoretical model. Thus quite logical that they use only the most recent data and use the model for the pre-1985 levels…

Sorry MBP, the models give the theoretical value for known chemical/buffer reactions of CO2 in seawater.
that doesn’t consider ocean vertical circulation. it is established fact that ocean pH is not uniform. It varies by depth. Thus what may be observed can be explained by changes in the vertical circulation of the oceans.
Thus, one cannot rely on a theoretical model to calculate surface pH, without knowing the vertical mixing rate of the oceans. What modern ocean pH may be measuring is simply the current phase of the 65 year quasi cyclical ocean oscillations.

Fred, you are right for upwelling places (as is the case for many coastal places), but upwelling and downwelling is at about 5% of the total ocean surface each. For most of the oceans there is very little exchange between the ocean surface and the deep oceans…


Most excellent point, Fred Be role.
I would make the additional point that this ocean pH matter is part of climate science and climate science is theory based on a string of unverified assumptions. From comments by Engelbeen, I sense that we are getting more of the same in the ocean pH matter: Engelbeen comes and spins theory without ever hinting that there is any doubt about the matter.

mpainter, I see a lot of jumping to conclusions here when the story is hitting the AGW meme, without questioning the data or the story. In this case again: why should one use unreliable data from the past which can’t show the (theoretical 0.1 pH unit over more than a century) trend one is looking for? Only because you like the result, even if that is complete nonsense?
Sorry, but I am as critical for such stories from the warmist camp as from the skeptical side. In this case it is a non-story, be it that the reaction of Sabine is not very helpful, but I don’t know the evolution in style of questioning him on this topic…
I see a lot of similarities with the historical CO2 data: some still believe that these were correct and that there were large swings in the past. These large swings magically disappeared once more accurate measurements at uncontaminated places were performed…


Ferdinand, the subject is ocean pH not CO2.
My take on you is that theorectical partial pressure of atm. CO2 is the motivator in your science and therefore ocean pH MUST be increasing. Observations for supporting this are hard to come by so you rely on more theory to support your science- this time theoretical calculations of ocean pH.

mpainter, there are lots more pCO2 and DIC measurements done in the oceans than pH measurements. As these measurements are far more reliable than GEpH measurements, it is far easier to reach the conclusion that CO2 in the oceans everywhere is increasing and that the average flux is from the atmosphere into the oceans, not reverse.
If the average flux was from the oceans to the atmosphere, DIC should decrease due to higher temperatures or lower pH (undersea volcanoes…). If more CO2 enters the oceans from the atmosphere, DIC will increase and cause a lower pH. That is what is observed.

Jaakko Kateenkorva

The pH measurements of the brackish Baltic sea cannot be completely false. The Northern rivers run off from peat swamps surrounded with pine forests – both have an acidifying effect.
On the other hand, in the Southern regions of the Baltic Sea shore the ground has significantly more limestone and salt pulses from the Atlantic, which both buffer the pH.
In Finland the groundwater is far softer than in the Northern Germany, say Hamburg for example. A bit astonishing to see the sea pH to be the same in these two areas.


That the coverage this problematic is not an unexpected issue , for it is in many areas of this ‘settled’ science, not that that has ever stopped them making great claims on the back of this problematic data when it suits them.
However , I think the issue hear is that you need to define what ‘better data ‘ is , on one hand you could call it that which has greater accuracy on the other that which supports what you are trying to achieve. In this case your can look at the authors own history to gain an insight into which approach would be taken and consider which approach is more likley lead to further grant cheques , the nice scary claim or the one that reflects reality but fails to match what the authors wanted to ‘achieve ‘
Although to be fair to the authors they are merely following the ‘rules ‘ of climate ‘science’ , in this case rule one , which is when reality and models differ in value its reality which is wrong .

Man Bearpig

I wonder if Sabine would be so kind as to provide the calibration certificate for one or more of their pH probes ?
He may have a problem doing this, as I suspect there are none available.

Crispin in Waterloo

“I wonder if Sabine would be so kind as to provide the calibration certificate for one or more of their pH probes ?”
I would be just as interested in the calibration certificate for the model used to generate inputs to the… (model of the ocean?).

The historical glass electrode measurements were +/-0.1 pH unit…
The historical accuracy of glass thermometers was +/-1 0.5 degree. That doesn’t stop climate scientists from using then to calculate global mean temperature to 0.1 degree 150 years ago.
How is it that glass thermometers are good enough when it proves dogma, but glass electrodes are not good enough when they contradict dogma?

Whatever the quality of the data, either they are better than the model output or both are meaningless.
If you don’t know, you don’t know. You may suspect that the figures are unreliable (but if so you have a responsibility to say why you think they are unrelliable) but that is never a justification for applying guesswork and saying “these are the facts”.

Chris in Hervey Bay.

Didn’t “Harry” Harris say something along the same lines, didn’t know what was going on so “I just made it up” !
I could pull out the text file and get it exact and in context, but you know what I mean.
They call this “science” ??

Atmosphere and oceans are more stable and stabilized than we think, otherwise we wouldn’t be here to celebrate Christmas.

If the empirical results are not useful, what FFS is the model supposed to be based on? Or did Sabine simply make it all up?

General rules of CO2 buffer chemistry…

those rules are for a static solution in a beaker. nothing like the oceans.
they do not allow for the fact that the oceans are full of life which consumes and releases CO2, has rain water added regularly. is twice daily stirred by the tides, and has long term mixing and overturning on scales of decades and centuries. and is contained in a porous rock container which are part of the buffering mechanism, with a flame burning on the bottom.


Right again. CO2 is a nutrient for plant life, including phytoplankton. The pH of the oceans is dynamic. Increase atm. CO2, and you will increase the availability of CO2 to phytoplankton.
No wonder scientists like Sabine and Feely have to rely on models to show increasing pH of the oceans. But it is the same as fabrication, by my standards.

If you measure pH at the same place at high frequency, you measure all influences on pH from every side, including summer/winter temperature and biolife. That is what Feely and Sabine did report. They didn’t report the theoretical pH decline, but allude on that decline as if you back calculate the average decline at Bermuda and Hawaii (and meanwhile several other places), you find the theoretical decline caused by the increase in CO2 over the past 160 years.
The decline is for the surface layer only (average 200 m depth), not for the deep oceans, which exchanges with the atmosphere are much slower and buffering capacity is enormous.


Hello Eric.
It is obviuos that Sabine simply made it up.
At least he did resolve to “cherry picking”, as many others before and after him have done, in the quest to prove or support a given point in the climate change subject.
As far as that goes he is not more or less “guilty”, so to speak, than most who were so persuaded to commit “fraud” in their line of work.
But in the case of Sabine, the “fraud” is more sinister and damaging.
For example, in the case of M. Mann hockey stick, we have some one trying to exagerate, dramatize and create a lot of noise with the intent to effect and affect a point of view and the belief in a given subject.
While M. Mann through his fraudulent work was trying to effect a perception, in the case of Sabine, his pH “HOCKEY STICK” is an attempt to prove a perception.
So if M. Mann can be seen as someone who is trying to manipulate the facts and the data in an attempt to persuade and effect a jury verdict by exagerating and dramatazing the line of the story, Sabine actually is manifacturing proves of “guilt” by manipulating the facts and the data with the intent to force a jury verdict.
Simply put……..while M. Mann’s hockey stick does not acually prove or disproves AGW or even the case of a GW caused due to CO2 emissions, the Sabine’s hockey stick is actually a proof of AGW, if it happends to be true, which as the case is, it seems to have no chance.
And Sabine knew very well what he was doing, as in the case of M. Mann, but by being more careful at it.
Apart from the point that we are guilty of destroying the oceans, so to speak, the Sabine’s work is more significant in proving the AGW. Is one and the only served proof up to now that the GW is caused by CO2 emissions, and the sharpness of the pH drop proves beyond doubt that we are in a very certain AGW path.
Now if that happends to be constracted and distilled through manipulation and intricate methods (as it seems) then it becomes a case of manifacturing a false proof with intent. Far much worse than in M. Mann case.
The best question that Sabine must be subjected to it will be, i think:
“If the reality is very much different and contrary to what your work tries to show and imply (the oceanic pH drop) , will you then accept that AGW (or the GW caused by CO2 emissions) stand a very very high chance of been only a myth?”

Doubting Rich

The data cannot possibly be of sufficient quality: they do not fit the model!
Remember, in post-normal science if the real-world data do not fit the expectations of the model then they are wrong. If there is disagreement between model and reality then reality should not be taken as representative.


Is ‘fake’ a quality?


Most definitely, in the same way that bad taste is a taste too.

Everybody knows NOAA is adjusting everything to fit the fraud, which you also are paying for.

Using model outputs as data saves a lot of time and uncertainty and you get the answer that you want every time. The results are also a lot more robust and pass peer review. Also if you have to make ‘adjustments’ to the data, you can just tweak the model and run it again.


AGW activists use increasingly the same tactics as 6 day creationists. One is to question all historic and especially palaeo geological data, and call it unreliable. This is the creationist argument Sabine is using.
Another is what is called the “Gish gallop” after a certain over-enthusiastic creationist, and it means the practice of trying to overwhelm a debate with a deluge of “micro-points” – numerous argument of mixed quality which the opponent has no time to refute. The famous example is “101 reasons for a young earth”.
The activist media and scientific journals are the new exponents of the Gish gallop, with the constant drumbeat of alarmist articles about one disaster after another due to global warming, amounting to “101 reasons to act now on CO2 emission”.
(FWIW I don’t consider evolution and a 13 billion year old universe incompatible with Christian faith.)


Perhaps we should start calling these guys “Climate Creationists”

Dean Bruckner

This comment is nonsense. Soft tissues found in dinosaur fossil bones is a data point that doesn’t fit the old earth model, but what is the response? Ignore the data and stick with the model. Ignorance is bliss.

Steve Reddish

When Dr. Duane Gish was debated on the question of evolution vs. creation it was assumed that it would be a debate of science versus belief. When Dr. Gish presented copious scientific evidence supporting creation his opponents were unable to refute his data during those debates, or after. The time limit of the debates was not the determining factor, it was the irrefutability of the evidence. Dr. Eugenie Scott coined the phrase “Gish Gallop” because she had no scientific counter arguments. Instead, she presented the consensus among scientists that evolution was true and resorted to ad hominem attacks on Dr. Gish.
The AGW activists are using her tactics: reliance on a consensus and ad hominem attacks on those who offer counter evidence.
The 6 day creationists use the same tactic as CAGW sceptics: sharing evidences contrary to a consensus.
Phlogiston, did Dr. Gish ever present “101 reasons for a young earth” during a debate? Or do you mean “101 evidences for a young age for the earth and the universe” published by Don Batten June 4, 2009?


“rigor of the scientific method” – that will be a first, at least he has a sense of humour although I do not find this funny
Doesn’t this remind people of paleoclimatology where the workers exclude data that they do not like (i.e. gives the wrong answer).
Is there any part of climate “science” which is worth the money taxpayers have to contribute.

David Chappell

“As a public servant that must stick to the funding of the scientific method and only cherrypick data that is of sufficient quality to address the question”


Saline writes “As a public servant that must stick to the rigor of the scientific method and only present data that is of sufficient quality to address the question, I am obliged to report the best evaluation of ocean chemistry changes available. ”
You are mistaken, as a scientist you are obliged to disclose all assumptions, all uncertainty and all the reasons you might be wrong so that the scientific community can decide what weighting to place on the result. In your case that turns out to be none due to the obvious bias you’ve introduced.

Crispin in Waterloo

One is often tempted to say, ‘You just can’t make this stuff up!” It is a reference to those situations which border on the fantastical.
In reply to ‘can’t make this stuff up’ we are hearing, “Well, yes you can!”
We have a model output which uses as input “data” the output of a model that disagrees with readings taken in the oceans.
Criticism the ‘quality’ of the measurements requires clarification. Is any individual measurement of poor quality? Was the instrument not calibrated correctly. Too few readings?
Methinks the mental model of “what should happen” is where the defects lie, not in the real oceans. Two misconceptions that prevail are that ocean pH must drop if the atmospheric CO2 rises and that the oceans are not the major source of atmospheric CO2.
If the oceans are warming then the CO2 should be departing them and the pH should be dropping, yes? What are the observations telling us?
It seems to me the ocean pH guys should be talking to the ocean heat guys. Both cannot be right.
As for Sabine, it’s models all the way down. In principle I am OK with that but only when the reference is real measurements.

Crispin. the oceans were warming, which increases the pCO2 of the oceans (~6 μatm) and thus the possibility of increased outflux. But the CO2 increase in the atmosphere is much higher (~110 μatm) than the pCO2 increase in the oceans. Thus increasing quantities of CO2 are pushed into the oceans…

That is a theoretical result. You cannot build a model based on the theoretical result and then claim the model verifies the theory, except in the land of climate science. It is a circular argument.
You need observations to confirm the result. Observations over a time scale large enough to confirm what you are measuring is not simply short term fluctuation due to ocean cycles.

No matter if the result is “theoretical”, the difference in pCO2 increase due to a temperature increase is so small compared to the measured increase, that you need over 12°C warming of the ocean surface to reach the same pCO2 in the atmosphere as is observed. That is as good the case for a static as for a dynamic ocean. Here for the dynamic oceans (assuming some 40 GtC/year exchange between deep oceans and atmosphere):
Further, at the same stations (buoys, sea ships) as where pH was measured, far more frequently pCO2 and DIC (total inorganic carbon) is measured. That shows an increase of DIC (and pCO2), which follows the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. That shows that the increased ocean surface carbon content is caused by the atmosphere, not reverse.
The increase in the ocean surface is about 10% of the increase in the atmosphere, due to the Revelle/buffer factor of chemical equilibria in seawater.


Hello Ferdinand.
“…the oceans were warming….”
That actually what Sabine tried to prove…the assumption that the oceans were warming……to an extent that supports the AGW.
The extent of pH drop shown by the Sabine work proves that the oceans were warming since the start and during most of the period of (what we call) the GW.
That will prove that the atmosphere has contributed a significant amount of energy towards that oceanic warming, therefore the atmospheric warming was caused by CO2 emissions.
But strangely enough, the expected pH drop, which actually may be considered now as the missing pH drop suggests the opposite…… that the oceans have being in a cooling trend for most of the GW period, therefor the oceans seem to have being contributing significantly to the GW, THE ATMOSPHERIC WARMING.
Simply….with such little oceanic pH drop (as per the linear trend), during GW, in a period of very high CO2 emissions, the cause of that GW could be anything but not the CO2 emissions, so to speak.
No observation of the expected pH drop, is equal to the not observed expected warming of the last 14 years.
Is another expected effect of AGW, clearly missing.
Missing heat…..missing pH drop…..missing AGW.

You have it rather upside down…
If the oceans warm, CO2 escapes (if the atmosphere started at equilibrium) into the atmosphere. That makes that total carbon (DIC) decreases and the pH increases.
If more CO2 is pushed into the oceans (as the atmospheric CO2 is far above equilibrium), total carbon in the oceans increases and the pH drops.
That is what is observed, even during the past 18 years where the ocean surface temperature didn’t change at all…

Thus increasing quantities of CO2 are pushed into the oceans…
Yup, and those increasing quantities of CO2 that are pushed into the oceans ….. exacerbates horrendous amounts of algae and phytoplankton “blooms” in the surface waters of all the world’s oceans …… thus decreasing and sequestering those aforesaid increased quantities of CO2.
And how much CO2 is being sequestered by the above?
Who knows, ……. but I’m sure they have an “estimate” that perfectly fits their “model”.


Yes, Samuel, those pestiferous phytoplankton eat up the CO2 and that us why they have to invent data in order to find the “signal” because it is the “signal” that fetches the loot.
Englebeen is just pushing the usual type of climate science although he tries had to hide the fact.


Ferdinand Engelbeen
December 27, 2014 at 11:06 am
Hello Ferdinand.
You say:
“You have it rather upside down…”
Of course what you say could be very probable, but for the sake of the argument lets just get a bit farther.
You also say:
If the oceans warm, CO2 escapes (if the atmosphere started at equilibrium) into the atmosphere. That makes that total carbon (DIC) decreases and the pH increases.
Is very hard to argue with that yes………….but you see the short period that Sabine cherrypicked as to present a rather longer period of pH drop (the GW period), shows a significant pH drop for that period but not good enough as to show an observable pH drop for the whole GW period as the period in question not long enough ,………… that was the trick.
But the beauty of it is that actually most of that pH period is associated with the missing heat in the atmosphere and an observable oceanic warming. Is a period during which the atmosphere has being contributing to the oceans warming
So contrary to what you say the warming oceans for that period have being absorbing CO2 instead of outgassing it.
Another point will be, when considering what you say above, that actually Sabine work was showing that GW was not due to the CO2 emissions and he simply did what he did, just for the sake of showing that our CO2 emissions are damaging the oceans and in the way he did not care that he was debunking the AGW.
I have a very hard time to beleive that.
Besides there is a graph far up above which clearly shows that from 1990 to present there is a very clearly observable and significant pH drop…..and that is the period of the oceans warming, a warming that the likes of M. Mann lately are using it to support AGW through that glob’s warming new theory, the Hiroshimas going in to it and all that….if you know what I mean……… of the reasons why and where the missing heat.
From this point of view, for me it becomes more clear the error of your aproach while considering what you say next:
“If more CO2 is pushed into the oceans (as the atmospheric CO2 is far above equilibrium), total carbon in the oceans increases and the pH drops.
That is what is observed, even during the past 18 years where the ocean surface temperature didn’t change at all…”
Now everything suggest that while considering the Atmosphere/oceanic equilibrium and the atmospheric missing heat for almost the whole last 18 years then the oceans have being through a warming trend, sinking heat (energy) from the atmosphere, as explained above.
So from this point of view the warming or cooling of the oceans is related to the Atmosphere /oceanic budget balance, meaning that when the balace is off in the favor of oceans being warmer than supposed in accordance to the atmosphere warming, then the oceans will be contributing heat (energy) to atmosphere and outgas also.
As far as I can tell the energy direction points to the CO2 direction, as being one and the same direction. In that case the direction of the oceanic trend will be that of cooling till it gets to the acquired Atmosphere/oceanic balance or equilibrium.
Maybe wrong, but the atmospheric CO2 being far above equilibrium while it may favor and impose a higher possible pH drop is not that significant while compared to the energy transfer between atmosphere and oceans as due to the atmosphere/oceanic energy equilibrium.
That far above equilibrium CO2, has a much less effect and role in the oceanic pH drop than the actual energy direction in the oceanic/atmosphere coupling
Besides unless AGW considered the nature is still in a fair enough equilibrium even while the CO2 considered.
After all this, I still would not argue that you are definitely or considerably wrong when you say that I have it rather upside down. That still is very probable.
Thanks for your reply.
Sorry that your reply can not change my mind, at least not yet, but never the less appreciated, honestly, thanks.:-)

@Witten 1:35pm
Maybe wrong, but the atmospheric CO2 being far above equilibrium
Say again? Wouldn’t “equilibrium” [CO2] be at least 22% and [O2] essentially zero?
We have photosynthetic live to thank for our disequilibrium.

@ mpainter: December 27, 2014 at 1:27 pm
…. those pestiferous phytoplankton
T’was good I wasn’t taking a slurp of coffee when I read that. :) 🙂


December 27, 2014 at 1:27 pm ….”Yes, Samuel, those pestiferous phytoplankton eat up the CO2………..”
pH = buffer = calcium carbonate = CO2 + phytoplankton/cyano

Samuel C Cogar,
The amounts of CO2 removed by the algal blooms (several per year recorded in spring at Bermuda) should (at least temporarily) reduce the amount of dissolved carbon (DIC) in the ocean surface, which is noticed in a strong spring reduction. But it seems that the exchange of CO2 with the atmosphere is fast enough to replenish that in other seasons, so that the average DIC increases over the years…

Sabine’s excuse for using modeled data over real data? – ‘earlier data is not of “sufficient quality.”‘
What a headline! It is a perfect definition of modern science in general and climate science in particular. Don’t like measured data? Then record whatever you want to record and claim anything that goes against your beliefs is “bad data”. Yes! You can toss out whatever data you don’t like now! Decades ago when I was going though university that was called cheating. Now it is science! The kids must be making much better grades now.
Now the sad part is that the general public tends to believe this sort of nonsense.

The title in this case is a false accusation by the writer: Sabine only reported real, measured data since 1984. That is all. He didn’t use older data, because these are proven unreliable to measure the theoretical trend. He is not obliged to use unreliable data from the past (which still are available), as good as Keeling was not obliged to use the pre-Mauna Loa data or Dr. Spencer to use pre-satellite data…

@ Ferdinand:
Sabine only reported real, measured data since 1984. That is all.
Now Ferdinand, everyone knows that was an untruth ….. so quit trying to defend the indefensible ….. because “the proof is in the pudding/”, …. to wit:
Excerpted from:
Feely’s four-page report: Carbon Dioxide and Our Ocean Legacy, offered on the NOAA website, contains a similar chart. This chart, titled “Historical & Projected pH & Dissolved Co2,” begins at 1850. Feely testified before Congress in 2010—using the same data that shows a decline in seawater pH (making it more acidic) that appears to coincide with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
And, as Wallace determined, there is real world data. Feely, and his coauthor Dr. Christopher L. Sabine, PMEL Director, omitted 80 years of data, which incorporate more than 2 million records of ocean pH levels.

Ferdinand, iffen Sabine was coauthor of “Feely’s four-page report” …. then he (Sabine) sure as hell was …. reporting on historic ocean pH data dating back to 1850.

Feely and Sabine should have made it clear that the whole curve in the NOAA writing were based on a calculated pH, based on the CO2 emissions since 1850, not measured ones, and CO2 emission estimates for the future. But that has nothing to do with “hiding the data” or any form of “ph”raud, as that is better defendable on theoretical grounds than what Wallace has done.
The compilation of Wallace can’t prove or disprove the earlier part of the theoretical curve for the simple reason that the glass electrode pH measurements have an accuracy of 0.1 pH unit for a theoretical 0.1 unit pH drop since 1850 to current of which near halve the change since 1984, when the fixed stations started their more accurate measurements.
Moreover, Wallace did lump all glass electrode measurements together (while more accurate calculated pH measurements were available), no matter the place and season when the sample was taken. As place and season can make a difference of up to 1 pH unit, his whole compilation is worthless. That he didn’t show the spread of the measurements for each year is a red flag.
Bates does show a spread of 0.02 pH unit for the (calculated) measurements at Bermuda. What is the spread of the glass electrode measurements?
While there are large seasonal changes at all fixed stations, the year to year variation in general is very small, in the order of a few hundredth of a pH unit.
Wallace’s compilation shows frequent drops and rises of 0.2 pH unit from one year to the next, including a 0.3 pH unit drop during the overlapping period since 1984, where all fixed stations show a drop of around 0.04 pH unit.
The large drops and rises from one year to the next as compiled by Wallace are chemically and physically impossible, as that needs enormous quantities of acid (CO2) or base (or CO2 release( to cause such swings in 200 meter of ocean surface waters (about 200 ppmv CO2 in the atmosphere back and forth within a year…).
Thus in my informed opinion, before accusing Feely and Sabine of fraud, one should ask Wallace for the spread in glass electrode measurements and the weight of sampling towards seasons and latitude…

Ferdinand Engelbeen: December 28, 2014 at 11:18 am
Feely and Sabine should have ………
Yes, Ferdinand,
Feely and Sabine should have, ….. could have, …. would have ….. but they didn’t.
Ferdinand, … testify, ….. testify, ….. by telling us why you are such an avid opponent against the use of those questionable ocean pH records that were recorded between 1850 and 1984 ….. but an avid proponent for the use of those highly questionable surface temperature records that were recorded between 1880 and 1984
Ferdinand, are you simply choosing to support the use of the highly questionable surface temperature data because your claims and assertions are “root” based therein/on said data ……….. while at the same time simply choosing NOT to support the use of the questionable ocean pH data because it might/would prove contrary to/for your claims and assertions?
Something funny with your science when you approve the use of the “highly questionable data” but not the ”questionable data”.

Samuel, I take all historical data with a grain of salt: temperature, CO2 (lots of salt needed) and pH alike… As far as I remember, I never defended the accuracy of the surface temperature data.
Temperature data had the advantage of being taken at fixed places, but even time of the day for reading out, moving and new instruments all give a lot of problems…
pH data as compiled by Wallace are much worse: he lumped all GEpH data of one year together, regardless of sampled areas or seasons. That is as worse as averaging the temperature records with the weight of the number of samples above 60N in one year and the next year the weight of the stations between 30S and 30N. You seem that gives a warming “trend”.
Have a look at the spatial distribution of the cruises in the different decades, as compiled by Richard Telfort:
And have a look at the seasonal distribution too…
And that doesn’t affect the “trend” of Wallace’s compilation?
For the Southern Oceans, there was a compilation of all pH data over different cruises:
That shows a pH decline of -0.03 +/- 0.03 pH unit in the period 1972-2011, based on pH measurements: 31700 glass electrode, 41800 calculated from other measurements.
There are more calculated pH data (which are effectively more accurate) in that ocean than directly measured ones. Should we accuse Wallace now of fraud, because he is hiding more than halve the pH data and mainly the better ones?


Since when does “…the rigor of the scientific method…” mean using made up data?


Good work, Peter Gadiel
In my view data produced in this fashion is tantamount to fabrication. Science has been corrupted by government in this country.

I think it’s pretty much that way with governments worldwide.


It is entirely possible that the data was not of “sufficient quality”‘ because of equipment failure or some other innocent “whoops” event. Now if that is the case, the ocean pH is, well, unknown.

This post badly needs some clarity.
“using modeled data over real data”
When and where did Sabine use modeled data over real data?
“refusing to include all the data on ocean acidification that is available”
What does that refer to? All I see is a plot where he shows an annual average post-1988. And hydrologist Wallace says, but there were readings taken in various places before 1988.
Well, yes. But did they have the coverage (in any one year) to get a reliable global average? I haven’t seen anyone look at that at all. Now you can compute some sort of average – Wallace has done that. Well, that’s Wallace’s estimate. Sabine is under no obligation to accept it, at least until Wallace explains how he calculated the average, and inbvestigated the adequacy of the global coverage.

Although we do not agree on a lot of points, I totally agree on this point!


Do you yourself accept oceanic pH data that is “theoretically” derived? I seem to recall your saying so recently with respect to Bermuda and Hawaii, claiming that it is more accurate than direct measurement.

mpainter, if some calculated pH value, based on other, more accurate, measurements is better defined than pH measurements themselves, then there is no reason to not prefer the calculated values over the direct measurements.
In the case of pH, both are used and overlap each other in the past decades (but less in the past before that…). As more accurate (colorimetric) methods are getting in, that can change the future data sampling again to direct measurements.
What one shouldn’t do, but Wallace did, is totally rely on inaccurate historical pH readings by glass electrodes, as these can’t show a trend of -0.1 pH unit over 100+ years in the large latitudinal and seasonal variability.

in the large latitudinal and seasonal variability.
Ah, and here we have it. pH shows large natural variability. yet we are to believe that minute changes in this natural variability are not happening. that what we are seeing must be caused by humans. and we have a model to prove it.
the large natural variability in pH tells us that small changes in pH are entirely possible and nothing to be feared or alarmed about. it is like worrying about a 1 C change in temperature over 100 years, when the daily change in temperature is 10C and the seasonal change is 30C.


Your claim that theoretical calcutions are to preferred over measured pH is suspect. How is this theoretical data verified or confirmed if not by measurement? By more theory?


Yes and here we are at the crux of the matter, because by relying on the right theory one can dispense with all that bothersome “seasonal and latitudinal variation” . Good spot.

Ferdberple, the problem is adequate sampling.
One can average temperature measurements from a lot of fixed stations which measure temperature continuously or at high frequency over years. But one can not average temperatures from one station in winter up in Norway with a few months of data from the midst of Rome in summer and the next year reverse and then insist that the average temperature did drop…
That is what happened with pH sampling of the oceans: too few samples at the same place over all seasons. That was getting better with the start of a few fixed stations in 1985, including better equipment for pH measurements.

Your claim that theoretical calculations are to preferred over measured pH is suspect.
The calculations are based on known chemical equilibria of the CO2-bicarbonate-carbonate system in seawater, including salt/borate, pressure and temperature influences. Proven at laboratory scale over 80 years ago…
Here an online calculation:
You only need two titrations and the temperature to calculate the rest of the parameters…
Of course, one can’t prove or disprove an alternative method with a method of worse performance…

@ Nick Stokes & Ferdinand Engelbeen
Well, that’s Wallace’s estimate. Sabine is under no obligation to accept it, at least until Wallace explains how he …. etc.,
That was typical rhetoric that one expects to hear from the proponents of CAGW whereby they are always claiming that ….. “you have to provide evidence that my “junk science” claims are wrong before I have to provide evidence that they are correct”.
In other words, ….. you first have to prove that Flying Spaghetti Monsters don’t exist …… before the aforesaid proponents have to prove their claim that a Flying Spaghetti Monster caused ‘the problem’.

Sabine only did show the real, measured/calculated pH data after 1984. That shows a drop of 0.04 pH unit since then. Wallace did show a compilation which shows a drop of 0.3 pH unit since 1984, which is theoretically, chemically and physically impossible (except if there was a 300+ ppmv rise of CO2 in the atmosphere since 1984).
Feely (and Sabine) did show the theoretical decrease in pH since 1850 and till the future, based on CO2 levels in the past and CO2 emissions estimated for the future. He doesn’t need to defend them, as that are calculations based on established carbon chemistry of the oceans. He only should have explicitly said that this were theoretical pH values for the pre-1984 past and past 2014 future.
In contrast, the compilation of Wallace shows impossible variability for the whole period and a large deviation from far more accurate fixed station results since 1984. Thus it is Wallace who should defend his figures…

Ferdinand Engelbeen: December 28, 2014 at 11:37 am
Feely (and Sabine) did show the theoretical decrease in pH since 1850 and till the future, based on CO2 levels in the past and CO2 emissions estimated for the future.
Yes, Ferdinand,
But I was conversing with the Flying Spaghetti Monster and he told me those theoretical decreases in pH, ….. the interpolations of past CO2 levels …..and thu guesstimated estimations of future CO2 levels posited by Feely and Sabine were definitely an exaggeration of their percentageations with a 75% error factor.
To me, science is …. black or white ….. and there are no “shades of gray” for one to use to CTA. And I detest half-truths, un-truths and excuses consisting of little more than piffle & tripe verbiage.


So….he cherry picked a high point in pH……..1988… show a decline
….just like temp where they cherry picked to show an increase
Should be the first thing you look for……..

Just like Keeling Sr. cherry picked a low value in 1958 to show a CO2 increase?
Or Dr. Spencer cherry picked a high value in 1979 to show a flat temperature?

Did you thunk that up all by yourself?
Just how was it possible for Keeling Sr. to have cherry picked a low value in 1958 ….. given the fact he didn’t have a clue what the 1957 value had been …. or what the 1959 value was going to be?

Samuel, there were lots (900,000) of CO2 measurements in the atmosphere by chemical means before 1958, with results all over the scale, just like the pre-1984 pH values by Wallace. Keeling did make a lot of measurements already in the begin 1950’s, which did show to him that he needed to find a place where there was little CO2 contamination from the environment and that he needed more accurate, maintenance free equipment.
Feely, Bates and Sabine did make a lot of ocean measurements pre-1984 too and compiled a lot of data from research ships, but realized that they needed fixed places to have an impression of the seasonal variability, which is far larger than any theoretical trend.

Ferdinand Engelbeen: December 28, 2014 at 11:50 am
Keeling did make a lot of measurements already in the begin 1950’s, which did show to him that …….. yada, yada, yada
But Keeling didn’t interpolate his “stable baseline level of CO2 ppm” back to the year 1880.
Ferdinand, tell me something I don’t already know, to wit:
Excerpted years ago from:
A Scandinavian group accordingly set up a network of 15 measuring stations in their countries. Their only finding, however, was a high noise level. Their measurements apparently fluctuated from day to day as different air masses passed through, with differences between stations as high as a factor of two.
Charles David (Dave) Keeling held a different view. As he pursued local measurements of the gas in California, he saw that it might be possible to hunt down and remove the sources of noise. Taking advantage of that, however, would require many costly and exceedingly meticulous measurements, carried out someplace far from disturbances.
Keeling did much better than that with his new instruments. With painstaking series of measurements in the pristine air of Antarctica and high atop the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, he nailed down precisely a stable baseline level of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Ferdinand, do you comprehend what “as different air masses passed through” …. actually means?

But Keeling didn’t interpolate his “stable baseline level of CO2 ppm” back to the year 1880.
He could have done that without problems: the CO2 sinks are a linear function of CO2 pressure (ppmv) in the atmosphere and the pCO2 of the oceans, which is a function of its temperature. If you back calculate with the estimates of human emissions, you get about 300 ppmv in 1850…
as different air masses passed through
If the different air masses show different CO2 levels, they can’t be used for “bulk” CO2 measurements, only to estimate local in/out CO2 fluxes. As good as pH measurements at upwelling places make no sense to show a trend in pH, but may of high interest for oyster hatcheries…

Ferdinand Engelbeen: December 29, 2014 at 4:20 pm
He could have done that without problems: the CO2 sinks are a linear function of CO2 pressure (ppmv) in the atmosphere and the pCO2 of the oceans, which is a function of its temperature. If you back calculate with the estimates of human emissions, you get about 300 ppmv in 1850…
Ferdinand, that was pure BS with an extra raunchy smell …. as you well should know it was.
First of all, you are mimicking Henry’s Law, which, if I remember correctly, you once told me that Henry’s Law was not applicable to my claim that the seasonal temperature change in the surface waters of the oceans in the Southern Hemisphere was the “driver” of the average 6 ppm bi-yearly cycling of atmospheric CO2 … nor to my claim concerning the average 2 ppm yearly increase in atmospheric CO2.
Are you now agreeing with me, …… or what? Obfuscating maybe?
Secondly, Keeling didn’t have a clue, let alone any estimations, as to what human emissions of CO2 were or was. And iffen the facts be known, neither do you, ESPECIALLY for the pre-1958 emissions. And your post-1958 estimations are probably off by a minimum of 30%.
And thirdly, iffen Keeling had not established his “CO2 baseline” for 1958 then he would not have been able to determine said “average 2 ppm/year increase …. nor the average 6 ppm bi-yearly cycle” in atmospheric CO2 via his measurements for year 1959, 60, 61, 62, etc. DUH, that 2 ppm yearly increase and/or the 6 ppm bi-yearly cycle don’t reveal themselves in individual years, …. but requires multiple sequential years for conformation.
And fourthly, Ferdinand, without that 1958 ppm baseline and that 2/6 ppm/year variance, there is no way in ell anyone could have performed their “reverse mathematic” trick to calculate their REQUIRED estimate of human emissions that were needed to support their claims about CAGW.
They first had to know how many gigatons/year the atmospheric CO2 was increasing ……. before they could estimate how many gigatons/year of CO2 that humans were emitting. Thus they converted said 2 ppm/year to 10 gigatons/year, to establish their estimated baseline for human emissions of CO2. T’was then when they “back calculated” via use of said human emission estimates and their questionable average temperature increases to establish their baseline for atmospheric CO2 in 1880 at 280 ppm.
Then everything jived. Human CO2 emissions increased each year, … atmospheric CO2 ppm increases tracked right behind the human emissions …… and the average temperature increases tracked right behind the atmospheric CO2 ppm increases.
And everything was great in La La Land ……. until “the pause” occurred. T’was then when the average temperatures “jumped track” and stalled out on a siding and is still resting there.


I put Sabine’s responses into a number of computer models and have forecast a future Sabine quote, “We are eliminating all direct observation since it is too hard and too expensive and in the spirit of saving tax payer dollars are only using modeled data. Thank you in advance for your support.”

There is an old saying in industrial process control instrumentation. Close counts in pH and horseshoes. This is a very hard parameter to measure accurately especially in a continuous process application. (can we all agree the earth’s oceans are a continuous process?) Absolute precision in this area is the pursuit of the foolish, Those who massage the data (which will always be questionable) to fit their conclusions forget the first rule of data. You have to take the dogs with the cats.


Why in this day and age, when you have incredible graphics capabilities, do they insist on showing things on mercator style maps? Perhaps its a convenient way to display(and stretch) dodgy data.

Silver ralph

All projections distort the map-image in one way or another. The mercator is probably useful, because you can plot lat and longs accurately – that is the whole readon it was invented.

the mercator projection preserves compass bearings, which was/is important for navigation. it also preserves longitude, which can be used to measure distance.
the mercator projection does not preserve latitude, which can be a source of error when using it to calculate distance.

actually I have lat long reversed. you use the lat scale to calculate distance.

Silver ralph

Sorry, Berp, the Mercator preserves lat and long, which is why you can use it for accurate plotting. The fact that the scale between longitudes changes, is allowed for by using the lattitude scalar markers to calculate the distance.
No 2-dimensional map can preserve all the original features.

Bruce Cobb

I see that some have gotten their shorts in a knot over use of the word “acidification”. but it is simply misplaced pedantry. The phrase “acid rain” for example was coined in 1872 by Robert Angus Smith, even though clean rain, with a pH of about 5.7 is already an acid. If we want to blame someone for an abuse of the english language, I suppose we could blame him. Later, the words “acidify” and “acidification” were used in soil biology, to describe lowering the pH. So, like it or not, it is now an accepted use, and instead of throwing a tanty about it, we should move on to what really matters, which is the bad science surrounding “ocean acidification”.

imprecise language is the difference between science and politics.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

John F. Hultquist

On the WUWT 2014/12/23/touchy-feely-science post this same sort of acid commenting was going on. My comment to Eric Worrall (see his 1st comment at 6:57) derived from having a discussion with my Blueberry plants. They claimed when they said they wanted me to acidify the soil, I had not done so. I put various things in and on the soil. Tough, they said. Either acidify it or we’re leaving. Word games are fine but you cannot fool Blueberry plants.


Acidification does not have a misleading denotation, but it has a misleading connotation. What to do? Put “acidification” inside quotation marks.

‘earlier data is not of “sufficient quality.”‘
So, instead, let us use modelled “data” based on the insufficiency of that early data.

Please have a look at the data: Sabine, Bates and Feely only published really measured data after 1985, which are of sufficient quality to show a trend.
They have a model which back calculates the theoretical pH value before 1985 based on basic theories of CO2 buffering in seawater, confirmed by the data after 1985, which is largely in between the large error band of the early measurements.
The model is not based on the older data…


So…just means the basic theories of CO2 buffering in seawater is wrong…which made their hindcasting models wrong…and they cherry picked their start date 1985 to show a decline in pH…just like was done with temps to show an increase starting in 1979comment image

Latitude, as said in a previous comment: that graph shows how unreliable the glass electrode measurements are: the red line are real measurements at a few fixed places, which fit the theory (a drop of 0.04 pH unit), the faint blue line is the moving 10 year average of the glass electrode pH measurements: a drop of 0.3 pH units in about 30 years. No process on earth can do that within the massive buffer capacity of the oceans, even not in the surface alone.


Ferd, extend your magic red line backwards……
They picked a point about 8.12 to show a decrease….that’s about as high as sea water in the ocean can be buffered…it can only go down from there

Latitude. If you go back in time, the CO2 emissions and uptake by the ocean surface would be less and less and near zero around 1850. Feely shows a pH of 8.16 in 1850 with zero extra CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans. See:
Again, they didn’t pick anything up, they measured a (yearly averaged) pH of 8.12 in 1984. Nothing theoretical, nothing modeled (Fig. 5):


Feely shows a pH of 8.16 in 1850…
Which is not a real measurement……8.12 is your ceiling in the real world…..all Feely did was “if this trend continues”
they measured a (yearly averaged) pH of 8.12 in 1984….
Which is your ceiling for pH……who’s stupid enough to think pH was constant through all of history prior to that….they started at a peak in pH

Seawater carbonate chemistry was established some 80 years ago and still is used up to today without any important change. One can even use that to calculate the pH, etc. during a glacial period (pH: 8.367):


pH = buffer = calcium carbonate = CO2 + phyto/cyano
That ain’t chemical…..can’t be calculated by some stupid formula

To paraphrase Feynman: “A scientist is obliged not only to say what was done, but also what was considered to be done and then decided against.” I am willing to wager that Mr. Sabine ran the trends with the data before deciding it was not of “sufficient quality”.

How do you know a trend of -0.1 pH unit over 100 years with glass electrodes accurate to +/- 0.1 pH unit in oceans which changing pH of over 0.5 pH unit for different latitudes and seasons?

Excellent question. The answer is that they cannot know the pH trend. It’s not just hard; it’s impossible.
Yet they make assertions that the ocean is ‘acidifying’ — based on computer models that were programmed to produce that outcome.

yet we claim to be able to calculate a 0.7C trend over 100 years, with glass thermometers accurate to +/-0.5C, in an atmosphere with changing temperatures of 150C for different latitude and seasons.
you can’t have it both ways. if the ocean data isn’t good enough, they for sure the thermometer data isn’t good enough.

Paul Aubrin

Sabine’s pH figures represent his hypothesis, observational data, only, can come to confirm its validity.

Sorry boys, but that only is the case for glass electrodes used as sole measurements by Wallace (while there are more accurate calculated values available).
There are better direct measurement techniques available now and used since 1984 at Bermuda and later at Hawaii and other fixed places.
That is what Sabine and Feely published. These short (30 year and less) series fit the theory. If back calculated to 1850, the theoretical data are largely within the high variability of the glass electrode data.


“As a public servant that must stick to the rigor of the scientific method and only present data that is of sufficient quality to address the question, I am obliged to report the best evaluation of ocean chemistry changes available.”
My experience in giving presentations or interacting with management, one must present the entire story including conflicting data or experience when trying to convince an organization to make an investment or to take steps to correct a problem. Failure to present the entire picture ends in the loss of credibility when someone else in the room raises such a question even if the conflicting data can legitimately explained away. Having conflicting or missing information later can be fatal for your career.
Mr Sabine’s omissions of important data without an explanation and he subsequent attitude when caught leaves him in a position that no real scientist will ever trust or believe any of his works.
As a government employee he owes us much more.


Wishing WUWT and everyone here a happy christmas and New year.
Things we always knew-


Wow! The core of the scientific method is verification of results. His response is the opposite. “Trust me. I’m a scientist. So you don’t need to verify anything. “


Obviously the data was of poor quality. It didn’t match the theory he was trying to prove.

The explanation is so simple, you silly’s.
Any data which show that the Ph of the Oceans is dropping (ie, moving towards the magical 7.0 marker) is of “sufficient quality”.
Any data which do not Support the Narrative are NOT of “sufficient quality”.
That’s really all that there is to it – and note the very nicely planned built in defense – if you, or any scientist, re-analyzes the situation with the missing data, well, he can be discounted because that will just be a shoddy study based on data of “insufficient quality”. They’ve already neutralized any competing opinions before they’ve even been rendered. This isn’t just cherry picking, this cherry is on top of a big pile of whipped cream with chocolate sprinkles!

Mike in Chile

Here’s how you keep money flowing in your direction:
1) Note acidic trend starting in 1988
2) Even though this is probably cyclic, pH should go down for quite a few more years (Still plenty of years of funding while trend continues)
3) Leave out the data before 1988 and claim that it is not of “sufficient quality”. You could, say, reference some new pH instrument or method that happened to come out around 1988. That way, you technically aren’t telling a lie, even though the pre-1988 data is still accurate enough for your study. If someone asks you why just say “I’m a scientist who studies and believes in global warming! How dare you question me! You must want children/animals/everything to die because you don’t agree with me!”
4) If another scientist questions you answer in vague and nonspecific emails. Don’t give any details
5) If you continue to be asked questions by that scientist and start to get nervous be sure to bring up his imaginary relationship to the Koch brothers
6) Ride trend until it reverses, then move on to another truncated trend curve
7) Repeat steps one through six until you retire on a fat NOAA pension

Mike in Chile

oops! I meant ‘money’ flowing, of course…

Anything is possible

Another example of post-normal climate “science” :
If the data does not fit your theory, the data is “not of sufficient quality.”

Steve Oregon

Will Sabine admit he knew that including the earlier data would contradict his work and show no “acidification trend”?
He had to know it . Many others too.
Moreover, when he saw the WUWT reaction, here, to the omission why didn’t he offer more of an explanation?
Why would’t someone “working hard for us” provide a more rigorous justification for omitting what contradicts his thesis?
IMO, his apparent pretending as though the earlier data has no impact on his work and that there is nothing more to say is a tell tale sign of wishful thinking from a guy who know’s he’s effectively busted.
Perhaps he is collaborating with others on how to better spin how the earlier data was rotten?


Sabine is taking a legal stance, not a scientific stance. He will seek to justify his fabrication as scientifically and professionally correct, however. Remember, he conned the wife of the John Kerry out of $100 grand and so he cannot correct himself without incurring all sorts of liabilities.


because climate scientists have elevated Peer Review….to final qualification
They can control the peer review process…but not the qualification….so they are trying to eliminate it

Sometimes it helps if one asks politely to explain why they didn’t use the old data. The way you ask it makes a hell of a difference in the kind of answer you may receive. I asked Dr. Tans for the detailed minute measurements of CO2 at Mauna Loa and the calculation methods used. I was promptly served with several days of data, so that I could recalculate the published hourly averages and spread…
In this case, Sabine answered the question: the old (and modern) glass electrode pH data are simply too unreliable to be used for the trend we are looking for. But its seems that that doesn’t satisfy people who call themselves “skeptics”, but are never skeptical if they like the story told, even if it is only a story based on bad data…


If the historical data does not/ cannot reveal “the trend we are looking for”, then one must turn to other means, right Ferdinand? And that other means? Is it theoretical calculations based on sea water chemistry which varies seasonally and latitudinally and which may have the same problems of reliability?

All what Sabine and Feely have done is using the best available data, which show since 1984 that the theoretical trend is right, even in a large variability over the seasons (at Bermuda). They have no proof that the theoretical trend is right for the years before 1984, but (Feely) only indicated a possible trend in the past and future, based on the theory and the fit of the theoretical trend over the past 30 years with real life data.
On the other side we have Wallace, who lumped all available glass electrode pH data together, without any warning for the (lack of) accuracy of the measurement, the place and date of sampling. Without any error bars (which are probably very huge). Even if more calculated pH’s were performed with better accuracy than direct measurements.
The weight of scientific evidence is against Wallace.

He might not be as bad as Phil Jones.
Didn’t Jones just somehow lose historical temp data? ppfftt – gone.


They get exactly the data and results they want from their models, why should they want to use actual real world data ?

Sabine may have done a valuable thing here. He has rejected readings taken from pH meters produced before modern, more accurate technology. If he named his chart “Ocean pH since 1988, but before that we have no idea!” it would represent his opinion.
If temperature specialists said the same thing we would be free of so much nonsense. Yes I am talking to you BESTies. No self-respecting “Scientist” ever publishes any data without error bars, and all scientists know this. Wallace’s chart does not have them either but does show a spread of readings. Clearly accuracy improved sometime around 1960.
But Sabine didn’t name his chart this way. He shows a close correlation between atmospheric CO2, oceanic CO2, and ocean pH. He does this by neglecting decades of data, at least 28 years of which shows good accuracy. For shame, “Cherry Pick of the Year!” New award I just invented.
Concerning the use of the word “acidification” who cares? People who studied enough chemistry to understand the pH scale know what is going on. People who didn’t will react to the scare word “acid.” Can’t be helped, and banging on about it here will not change MSM policies.

Michael, Sabine’s chart shows the years of good data and nothing else. He is not obliged to use data which are certainly not good enough to show any trend as small as the measurement error, let it be the huge sampling error due to latitude and seasonality.
Wallace only used glass electrode pH measurements. I doubt if there was much improvement in that type of measurement over time. But more important, there is no information over sampling places and dates in his compilation, where these two points have an enormous influence on pH…

Engelbeen, are you an apologist? This information has not been presented to show reality. Easy, big fella, just say it, you know it’s true, “Yes he is trying to make a normal situation look dire by taking advantage of a short trend and new sensors.” We all know already.

Come on Michael, I only look where the best data are. I am not interested in alleged motives, neither by Feely and Sabine, nor by Wallace.
Glass electrode pH data don’t perform good enough to show a trend of 0.1 pH unit over hundred en more years and sampling frequency and place is a huge point if pH has a huge seasonal and latitudinal component. Both are underestimated in Wallace’s compilation, as the overlap over the common period 1984-current show.
The CO2 increase in the atmosphere 1984-current is about 55 ppmv, that is as much as the increase between 1850 and 1984. As the exchange with the ocean surface is very fast and the increase in the ocean surface is directly proportional to the increase in the atmosphere, half of the CO2 increase in the ocean surface is in the past decades.
The influence on the pH drop is even more than halve the total drop since 1850, as the buffer capacity gets more exhausted with increasing neutralization.
Thus the shortage of the trend is of no interest here…

It has been claimed that the primary reason why “ocean acidification” due to higher CO2 levels will cause mass-extinctions of the oceanic biospheric in the near future, though it didn’t during past climates (when CO2 levels were 2,000 ppm or more), is because the 20th/21st century increase in CO2 concentration (from 300 ppm to 400 ppm) is “unprecedentedly” rapid. Corals, for example, just can’t handle so fast an increase (100 ppm in 100 years) in CO2 levels. But yet, according to these papers (below), when corals were assessed for response to exponentially increasing concentrations of CO2 (from 285 ppm to 4,568 ppm) over a 4 week period in one study, and from 430 ppm to 3,247 ppm in a 6 month period in another, the authors found that “growth and calcification did not stop in any of the concentrations of pCO2,” and “the life cycle of living assemblages varied markedly during the experimental period, but was largely unaffected by the pCO2 treatments applied.” The authors could therefore conclude that corals “could still survive well in mid-term ocean acidification conditions expected by the end of this century.”
This study investigated the response of the gorgonian coral Eunicea fusca to a range of CO2 concentrations from 285 to 4,568 ppm (pH range 8.1–7.1) over a 4-week period. Gorgonian growth and calcification were measured at each level of CO2 as linear extension rate and percent change in buoyant weight and calcein incorporation in individual sclerites, respectively. In general, growth and calcification did not stop in any of the concentrations of pCO2… These results highlight the susceptibility of the gorgonian coral E. fusca to elevated levels of carbon dioxide but suggest that E. fusca could still survive well in mid-term ocean acidification conditions expected by the end of this century, which provides important information on the effects of ocean acidification on the dynamics of coral reef communities.
Calcifying foraminifera are expected to be endangered by ocean acidification; however, the response of a complete community kept in natural sediment and over multiple generations under controlled laboratory conditions has not been constrained to date. During 6 months of incubation, foraminiferal assemblages were kept and treated in natural sediment with pCO2-enriched seawater of 430, 907, 1865 and 3247 [ppm] μatm pCO2. The fauna was dominated by Ammonia aomoriensis and Elphidium species, whereas agglutinated species were rare. After 6 months of incubation, pore water alkalinity was much higher in comparison to the overlying seawater. Consequently, the saturation state of Ωcalc was much higher in the sediment than in the water column in nearly all pCO2 treatments and remained close to saturation. As a result, the life cycle (population density, growth and reproduction) of living assemblages varied markedly during the experimental period, but was largely unaffected by the [ppm] pCO2 treatments applied.
We found that pH did not have a significant impact on the composition of associated microbial communities in both coral species. In contrast to some earlier studies, we found that corals present at the lower pH sites exhibited only minor physiological changes and no microbial pathogens were detected. Together, these results provide new insights into the impact of ocean acidification on the coral holobiont.

But, how did the formations react to modeled CO2 concentrations?

In modeled concentrations, the formations fell victim to spontaneous combustion—-just like the great forests did in the 1980s due to…um…acid rain.

you will need to throw those observations out, they don’t match model predictions.

Dave in Canmore

“If temperature specialists said the same thing we would be free of so much nonsense. ”
My first thought as well. I would love to see GISS use the same standard of quality in the surface temperature data!


What about BEST?

Reg Nelson

To quote Mosher: “Raw data is crap data.”
Pretty much all you need to know on that.
The BEST paper, after an extensive PR campaign, ended up being published in a pay-for-play Indian web-based, start up “Science” journal.

I sense there might be some confusion between “modeling” and “statistical constructs,” i.e. “curve fitting” and “data smoothing.” Taking three significant figure raw data +/- 1% uncertainty and mathematically creating five significant figures w/ +/- 0% uncertainty.

Pamela Gray

“As a public servant that must stick to the rigor of the scientific method and only present data that is of sufficient quality to address the question, I am obliged to report the best evaluation of ocean chemistry changes available.”
LOL! His response was a perfect rendition of a cool-aid bender complete with red mustache and morning sugar hang over. This has to be boiler plate prose lifted right out of talking points. Substitute “ocean chemistry” for any other climate change metric and you have a pat, repeatable, on-message response good for any and all inquiries.

Steve Oregon

He is “obliged”? That is so rich. What an abuse of the concept of obligation.
Why didn’t he feel obligated to reveal his omissions and subject his rationale for doing so to critiquing?
I’ll suggest he did feel that obligation but dispensed with it in favor of the more useful report without it.
The omission of integrity is the decider.


“[we]only present data that is of sufficient quality to address the question”
And ‘we’ thought up the question of ‘ocean acidification’ so naturally only ‘we’ are qualified enough to determine what is quality data and what aint in order to answer our question stoopids!