Science -vs- PR hype doesn't hold up: Satellite images reveal ocean acidification from space

I’m a bit skeptical of this claim, “Satellite images reveal ocean acidification from space” but it may be mostly due to how the press release is written, for example, nowhere is the term pH used in the press release, though it is in the abstract. Curiously, the caption for the graphic provided with the press release says it is “total ocean alkalinity from space” which is actually correct, since the ocean pH is not below 7.0, and not acidic, it is simply less alkaline. Then there’s the statement “The new techniques use satellite mounted thermal cameras to measure ocean temperature while microwave sensors measure the salinity.” This makes the measurement appear more like a proxy for OA than direct measurement. Dr. Roy Spencer comments on this and the technology below.

This image depicts total ocean alkalinity from space. Credit: Ifremer/ESA/CNES

From the University of Exeter:

Pioneering techniques that use satellites to monitor ocean acidification are set to revolutionize the way that marine biologists and climate scientists study the ocean.

This new approach, which will be published on the 17 February 2015 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, offers remote monitoring of large swathes of inaccessible ocean from satellites that orbit the Earth some 700 km above our heads.

Each year more than a quarter of global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production are taken up by the Earth’s oceans. This process turns the seawater more acidic, making it more difficult for some marine life to live. Rising CO2 emissions, and the increasing acidity of seawater over the next century, has the potential to devastate some marine ecosystems, a food resource on which we rely, and so careful monitoring of changes in ocean acidity is crucial.

Researchers at the University of Exeter, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Institut français de recherche pour l’exploitation de la mer (Ifremer), the European Space Agency and a team of international collaborators are developing new methods that allow them to monitor the acidity of the oceans from space.

Dr Jamie Shutler from the University of Exeter who is leading the research said: “Satellites are likely to become increasingly important for the monitoring of ocean acidification, especially in remote and often dangerous waters like the Arctic. It can be both difficult and expensive to take year-round direct measurements in such inaccessible locations. We are pioneering these techniques so that we can monitor large areas of the Earth’s oceans allowing us to quickly and easily identify those areas most at risk from the increasing acidification.”

Current methods of measuring temperature and salinity to determine acidity are restricted to in situ instruments and measurements taken from research vessels. This approach limits the sampling to small areas of the ocean, as research vessels are very expensive to run and operate.

The new techniques use satellite mounted thermal cameras to measure ocean temperature while microwave sensors measure the salinity. Together these measurements can be used to assess ocean acidification more quickly and over much larger areas than has been possible before.

Dr Peter Land from Plymouth Marine Laboratory who is lead author of the paper said: “In recent years, great advances have been made in the global provision of satellite and in situ data. It is now time to evaluate how to make the most of these new data sources to help us monitor ocean acidification, and to establish where satellite data can make the best contribution.”

A number of existing satellites can be used for the task; these include the European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) sensor that was launched in 2009 and NASA’s Aquarius satellite that was launched in 2011.

The development of the technology and the importance of monitoring ocean acidification are likely to support the development of further satellite sensors in the coming years.


The research is published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Source: Eurekalert


Salinity from Space Unlocks Satellite-Based Assessment of Ocean Acidification

Land et al.

Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, 49 (4), pp 1987–1994
DOI: 10.1021/es504849s



Approximately a quarter of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that we emit into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. This oceanic uptake of CO2 leads to a change in marine carbonate chemistry resulting in a decrease of seawater pH and carbonate ion concentration, a process commonly called “Ocean Acidification”. Salinity data are key for assessing the marine carbonate system, and new space-based salinity measurements will enable the development of novel space-based ocean acidification assessment. Recent studies have highlighted the need to develop new in situ technology for monitoring ocean acidification, but the potential capabilities of space-based measurements remain largely untapped. Routine measurements from space can provide quasi-synoptic, reproducible data for investigating processes on global scales; they may also be the most efficient way to monitor the ocean surface. As the carbon cycle is dominantly controlled by the balance between the biological and solubility carbon pumps, innovative methods to exploit existing satellite sea surface temperature and ocean color, and new satellite sea surface salinity measurements, are needed and will enable frequent assessment of ocean acidification parameters over large spatial scales.

Dr. Roy Spencer, a remote sensing specialist himself, comments to me via email:

The technique for measuring salinity with low-frequency microwave

measurements is nothing new, although we haven’t had satellites to do it

globally until relatively recently.  But I’m not aware of how you get pH

from salinity and temperature…never heard of that before.

I did find this paper on satellite instrumentation designed to measure salinity:

So if they are using temperature and salinity to come up with pH, how can they determine that the “ocean acidification” they claim in the PR is truly a function of dissolved CO2, and not just part of the normal regional and seasonal salinity pattern? That concern is backed up by one of the images in a photo collage they present with the paper, which shows what seems to be a salinity image from the Aquarius instrument, note the arrow:

land-paper-ocean-acidificationI found NASA’s press release on the first full year of salinity measurements using the Aquarius instrument and an interesting image similar to what is presented in the Land et al. press release.

Putting that image next to the one they provide with the press release suggests they are simply measuring a a dominant effect of seasonal and regional salinity variation, and not CO2 driven “ocean acidification”:

Comparison of ocean salinity from NASA Aquarius 2012 and Land et al. 2015 alkalinity Credit: Anthony Watts

Note how similar the ocean regional patterns are. NASA writes of the salinity image:

One of the features that stand out most clearly is a large patch of highly saline water across the North Atlantic. This area, the saltiest anywhere in the open ocean, is analogous to deserts on land, where little rainfall and a lot of evaporation occur. A NASA-funded expedition, the Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS), traveled to the North Atlantic’s saltiest spot to analyze the causes behind this high salt concentration and to validate Aquarius measurements.

So it seems Land et al. (2015) isn’t actually measuring CO2 driven OA.

And more importantly, how did Land et al. (2015) calibrate the proxy for pH? Have they sent ships to do in situ sampling as NASA did? There seems to be no mention of it…except that calibration of their algorithms is sorely needed. From page 3 of the paper:land-paper-ocean-acidification-text

Wow. Their own paper emphasizes the need for in situ measurement, and that the algorithms aren’t calibrated.

It seems to me that they are still a long way from the claims made in the press release that they can reliably measure ocean pH via satellite remote sensing over time. I wonder if Dr. Land is happy with how the press release makes claims about the work?

Sadly, this press release seems to fit the hype pattern discussed yesterday: From #AAAS Why Some (Many?) Scientists Tend to Hype their Findings

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February 17, 2015 8:43 am

As long as a synopsis of a “paper” begins with emotive words like Acidic they should rightly consigned to the “round file cabinet” in the corner.
Sweeping statements like nn.nn% of all the CO2 emitted by mankind…
ALSO pH measurement of all the oceans at once?- absurd.

Reply to  cnxtim
February 17, 2015 9:41 am

When a description of paper begins “Satellites reveal …”, then it should be properly used and flushed. Wash yourself carefully afterwards, body and mind.

Reply to  cnxtim
February 17, 2015 11:36 am
Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 12:34 pm

This paper looks like a lot of double speak. It keeps talking about Alkalinity (waters ability to resist changes in pH) then referring to pH as if it is the same. pH in aqueous solution is a measure of available Hydrogen (Hydronium vs. Hydroxyl ions). Alkalinity (expressed in mg/L of Calcium Carbonate equivalents) is more akin to hardness. This paper seems to be deliberately confusing the two.

george e. smith
Reply to  cnxtim
February 17, 2015 11:49 am

I thought this was simply wunnerful
“””””…..Routine measurements from space can provide quasi-synoptic, reproducible data for investigating processes on global scales;……”””””
A shorter synonym for this is “gobbledegook.”
Like Dr Roy, I have some queries about this “new” capability.
They talk about “total ocean alkalinity from space.”
Now where I come from “total” means “total” as in everything; top to bottom, side to side, end to end.
So how do you read the salinityalkalinityacidity at 36,000 feet deep ??
And what effect does surface evaporation have on the pH right at the surface. I’d be surprised if surface and bulk salinityalkalinityacidity were exactly the same.
Also I’m a bit puzzled by the from space measurements of the ocean surface Temperature.
Since the ocean varies from very highly transmissive (lambda = 1E-4 cm^-1) to very highly absorptive (lambda = 1E+4 cm^-1) then you can hardly argue that the ocean is anything like a black body radiator; or at least the surface can’t be.
Konrad of course is constantly beating this drum.
But for the black body spectrum that is appropriate for 288 K BB Temperature, with 98% of the radiated energy lying between 5.05 and 80.8 microns, the 99% (of 98%) absorption thickness is less than one millimeter.
So the surface might be a fair representation of a Planck radiator at 288 K.
But I don’t think that is how satellites measure ocean surface Temperature; is it ??
PS I don’t doubt that the satellists really can measure ocean surface Temperatures; but it begs the question. Just how deep below that silly millimeter can they measure ??
Just asking. And yes the PR boiler plate on this publication is a complete mockery of factual reporting.
I’d rather they said “dealkalinity” instead of acidity, which is completely false. And the ocean and its pH is anything but well mixed. We now know from the satellite that the CO2 is not even well mixed in the atmosphere as has been tacitly assumed all these years. Well The agenda is not about CO2 uniformity in the atmosphere.

Reply to  george e. smith
February 17, 2015 12:19 pm

I think the term “ocean acidification” needs to be done away with. There can be varying levels of salinity/alkalinity – but something cannot become “more acidic” unless it’s acidic to start with. It’s my understanding that the oceans cannot become acid because they simply cannot do so.

Mike M.
Reply to  george e. smith
February 17, 2015 3:12 pm

george e smith wrote “They talk about “total ocean alkalinity from space.” Now where I come from “total” means “total” as in everything; top to bottom, side to side, end to end. So how do you read the salinityalkalinityacidity at 36,000 feet deep ??”
I have often seen budgets with a “total” at the bottom. Is that all the money in the world?
“total alkalinity” means the alkalinity resulting from all the bases in the solution. It varies from point to point in the ocean. The word “total” in this context has nothing to do with the amount in the ocean as a whole, as you would know if you new what what you are talking about.

Pat Frank
Reply to  george e. smith
February 17, 2015 5:09 pm

I’ve looked through the paper. The method requires assuming that the background oceanic salinity remains constant. That means sodium potassium, magnesium, and calcium (cations), along with chloride, sulfate, and bromide (anions); all the ions of concentration greater than or about equal to carbonate.
There may be a marine chemist out there who knows whether anyone has measured the variation in ion concentration and salinity across the ocean surface, but I’m unaware of such. Salinity certainly does not remain constant in any upwelling zone (all along the Eastern Pacific, for example), or within many kilometers of any significant river delta. It probably does not remain constant diurnally in the equatorial oceans, because of evaporation, and likewise probably varies annually in the temperate oceans for the same reason.
If the concentrations of all the backgrounds salts are thoroughly constant, then any change in water conductivity is due to the change in carbonate, presumably driven by dissolution of changing atmospheric CO2. They’re getting conductivity by the transmittance of 11 mM microwave radiance from the ocean surface. They suppose a 1 cm penetration depth, which is about 1 wavelength. I haven’t tried to calculate the mean free path (the attenuation length) of 11 mM radiation through saline but it’s likely pretty short because saline water is very lossy (very absorbent of microwaves). So, I’d wonder about the 1 cm depth.
The paper is more about the possibility of making the measurement, and setting forth what would have to be accomplished. The problem is with the communication, of course — the false color images of Earth that lend such superficial visual credence to what are extremely uncertain numbers. The same visually compulsive falsehood is common to false color presentations of global temperatures.
The NASA site doesn’t provide error bars, or make any statement about the uncertainty in the satellite measurements. Neither does the paper, nor about the expected error in the final computational methodology.
Generally, the paper seems like a lot of pie-in-the-sky at this point.

Mike M.
Reply to  george e. smith
February 17, 2015 5:45 pm

Pat Frank,
No the paper does not assume that salinity is constant. The whole point is that measurements of salinity are needed. They also acknowledge, in section 2, that “The ratio between ions (the constituents of salinity) will tend to remain constant anywhere in the global oceans, resulting in a strong relationship between TA and salinity. Unfortunately, a universal relationship between TA and salinity does not apply in certain regions …”
It does seem that the paper is rather thin.

Reply to  cnxtim
February 17, 2015 4:29 pm

I suggest this paper is misleading nonsense.

Reply to  Allan MacRae
February 18, 2015 3:03 am

I agree, the Red Sea has much higher salinity, as does the Mediteranean, neither have very low pH.

richard verney
February 17, 2015 8:44 am

AND how much CO2 is out gassed by oceans?
If ocean temperatures rise, will oceans out gass even more CO2/

Reply to  richard verney
February 18, 2015 3:06 am

Yes, it is probably this that they assume drives down pH, so not a good paper.

Reply to  richard verney
February 18, 2015 11:46 am

Yes, I have always thought the acidifcation of the ocean under warming was impossible. Firstly, the partial pressures react as you say, becoming less soluble in water as temperature rises. Secondly, the ocean is buffered with phosphate and borate in addition to carbonate, and is a saturated solution of many ions such as calcium and magnesium. Addition of a CO2 molecule ends up as insoluble carbonate, not as soluble HCO3 acid. Or am I wrong? Please tell me my high school chem makes nonsense of this acification hype.

Peter Miller
February 17, 2015 8:48 am

If they can sell the idea of measuring ocean acidity, I want their help in selling this really great bridge I have.

Peter Miller
Reply to  Peter Miller
February 17, 2015 8:49 am

Oops, ocean acidity from space …………

Roderic Fabian
Reply to  Peter Miller
February 17, 2015 11:10 am

You just need a really long handle on your sampling dipper.

old construction worker
Reply to  Peter Miller
February 17, 2015 4:48 pm

“……..really great bridge I have.”
Is it in New York?

Peter Miller
Reply to  old construction worker
February 18, 2015 2:53 am

As a climate scientist, I do not have to disclose facts only my conclusions.
It is my bridge, it is in good condition and when I get paid I will tell you where it is.

Alberta Slim
Reply to  Peter Miller
February 18, 2015 11:29 am

Is that the bridge to nowhere? [UN IPCC?]
Never mind. I do not want a bridge. Have you got any good Florida real estate?

TImo Soren
February 17, 2015 8:49 am

They love their proxies with large errors so that they have ‘data’ to back up their claims of calamity. With clear mathematical statements as well: ” I am 99% sure that in the next 100 flips of this coin we could get more heads than tails.” Now we are in real trouble.

Reply to  TImo Soren
February 17, 2015 11:12 am

How accurate is the study’s satellite based ‘observation’? Have things improved much since 2012?

International Journal of Remote Sensing – 2012
Volume 33, Issue 23, 2012
Remote-sensing observations relevant to ocean acidification
3.2 The experimental Ocean Acidification Product Suite Satellite products provide us with an indirect way to derive the pH of seawater……
3.3 Errors for remote sensing of ocean acidification
Several important input variables, such as chl-a and SST, have been derived from satellite data for many years, and SSS is also now available. The SSS products derived from the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity Satellite (SMOS), which was launched by the European Space Agency in 2009, could reach a precision of 0.1–0.2 psu (Font et al. 2004). Remote-sensing algorithms giving ocean-acidification-related products are still being developed. The precision of these indirect observations are not as high as direct field measurements (table 2) but could meet analysis needs in regions where the algorithms are well developed……
4. Discussion
4.1 Sources of errors
Confounding factors may strongly affect the precision of the remotely sensed observations. In particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) algorithms, differences in water mass and particle types and mean changes in the background backscattering may affect the satellite-derived results……
Some remotely sensed products, including air-sea flux, PIC, POC, AT and calcification rate, could be indirectly observed for ocean-acidification study. These products are not so accurate compared to direct field measurements, and the validities of the algorithms used needs to be improved….

DD More
Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 2:33 pm

Jimbo here is another one to add to your extensive listing.
Adjustments galore. Went looking for accuracy and just what they are able to measure after Bob’s last post and had a real awakening. Seems that overall measuring of ‘sea surface’ has problems. Original bucket & thermometer (no depth control), ship intake (well below surface), buoys (seem to rock in the wave with depth resolution of a meter), then IR satellite (cannot get thru the clouds) to microwave (get thru the clouds, but not the rain & surface mist). Oh and did I mention one of the satellites was doing reasonable until they had to boost the altitude, then had problems with pitch, yaw and just what was the height. The number of adjustments to correct is staggering. Includes (but not limited to); wind speed, rain, cloud amount/percent and cloud water vapor, daytime diurnal warming, high latitudes, aerosols, SSTs 10C, columnar water vapor, higher latitudes show a slight warm bias, seasonal cycle wind direction for SST retrieval, fast moving storms and fronts, wind direction error and instrument degradation.
Still their abstract reads –
Errors were identified in both the MW and IR SST data sets: (1) at low atmospheric water vapor a posthoc correction added to AMSR-E was incorrectly applied and (2) there is significant cloud contamination of nighttime MODIS retrievals at SST <10C. A correction is suggested for AMSR-E SSTs that will remove the vapor dependency. For MODIS, once the cloud contaminated data were excluded, errors were reduced but not eliminated. Biases were found to be 20.05C and 20.13C and standard deviations to be 0.48C and 0.58C for AMSR-E and MODIS, respectively. Using a three-way error analysis, individual standard deviations were determined to be 0.20C (in situ), 0.28C (AMSR-E), and 0.38C (MODIS).

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 7:45 pm

“Salinity from Space Unlocks Satellite-Based Assessment of Ocean Acidification”
“Remote-sensing observations relevant to ocean acidification”
The titles of these abstracts/papers show an immediate bias. If they had say “Ocean PH” instead, then maybe I could begin to accept them as objective science, but it’s abundantly clear they are anything but objective.

February 17, 2015 8:51 am

The key word is “estimating.” The only way they can obtain a pH from salinity and temperature is to correlate them to real measurements based on real seawater. There is no causal relationship between salinity and pH, NaCl solutions are neutral and have no buffering capacity. Carbonate, bicarbonate and CO2 will affect the pH but they are not being measured. And if atmospheric CO2 is increasing, from whatever source, then the correlations between CO2 and salinity in seawater are being changed and therefore contain increasing amounts of error.

Reply to  oeman50
February 17, 2015 4:18 pm

And to make their algorithm work, they have to plug in “biological activity”—which is hardly a constant since it would vary, depending on available nutrients and environment. Don’t tell me methanogens and sulfur-based microbes would respond with the same level of biological activity to the same nutrients and environment as carbon-based organisms.
Without any validation of their algorithms, I’ll take their claims with a grain of salt.

Alberta Slim
Reply to  Katherine
February 18, 2015 11:34 am

Maybe BOX OF SALT………………;^D

February 17, 2015 8:55 am

How does pH vary with depth? … or does it?
pH measured from space seems like Star Trek fantasy, but I am willing to be surprised.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Slywolfe
February 17, 2015 10:21 am

pH declines below the euphotic zone (roughly first hundred meters) due to decomposition of organic matter. See essay Shell Games.

February 17, 2015 8:57 am

The algorithm also requires knowing biological activity. How is their satellite measuring that?
Hmm. Maybe they’ve used a formula such as implied below, and trying to derive pH from the other factors:
“The environmental influences that prevent individual organisms, their populations or multi-species communities from attaining as high rate of productivity as they could potentially achieve under optimal condition is called the limiting factors. Three of the most universally significant limiting factors are the temperature, pH and salinity.”

Reply to  AnonyMoose
February 17, 2015 11:23 am

There is a general assumption that being more acidic less alkaline is always a bad thing and critters don’t respond. ‘Observations’ should not only be done from space but from below the ocean surface.

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

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

Abstract – Morgan W. Kelly et. al. – 11 June 2013
Natural variation and the capacity to adapt to ocean acidification in the keystone sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus
…However, nearly all of this work has focused on the effects of future conditions on modern populations, neglecting the role of adaptation…..These results suggest that spatially varying selection may help to maintain genetic variation necessary for adaptation to future ocean acidification.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 1:27 pm

Here’s a chart from the Bethan M. Jones paper, with images of the Emiliania huxleyi algae and the coccolith disks they generate.

Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 3:25 pm

As soon as I saw “making it more difficult for some marine life to live”, I thought, “Evidence?”

William R
February 17, 2015 8:59 am

Mission achieved: more research (and grant money) needed

February 17, 2015 9:01 am

Some of their reasoning which is most likely flawed.
Will CO2 outgas as the oceans warm and decrease ocean acidification?
Basic: Increasing temperature decreases CO2 solubility in the surface ocean and might slow CO2 uptake by the ocean slightly. But the excess CO2 will still be present in the atmosphere and continue to cause warming and acidification.
Intermediate: The CO2 content of the surface waters of the oceans responds to both changes in CO2 content of the atmosphere and changes in temperature. For example, if ocean temperatures were not changing, a doubling of preindustrial CO2 levels (from 280 to 560 ppm) would cause an increase in the total amount of dissolved inorganic carbon in the surface ocean from about 2002 to 2131 micromoles per kilogram of seawater (assuming salinity = 35, temperature = 15°C, and alkalinity = 2300 micromoles per kilogram of seawater). If ocean temperatures warmed by 2°C over that period, then less carbon would be taken up (the increase would be from 2002 to 2117 micromoles per kilogram of seawater). Thus, a 2°C increase in temperature results in about a 10% decrease in carbon uptake in surface waters. The expected warming of the oceans also may alter ocean circulation, further reducing their capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, but the excess CO2 will still remain in the atmosphere and drive further acidification (and atmospheric warming). For pH, the net effects of climate warming on atmospheric CO2, CO2 solubility, and chemical speciation approximately cancel out. — S. Doney, J. Kleypas

Reply to  Salvatore Del Prete
February 18, 2015 5:57 am

But the excess CO2 will still be present in the atmosphere and continue to cause warming

The only measureable “warming” that CO2 causes is in the lining of the pockets of the Grant recipients.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
February 17, 2015 9:03 am

I only can agree with Dr. Spencer: while temperature and salinity do influence pH and pCO2, I don’t see how they can deduce these two parameters from only temperature and salinity. Salinity depends of evaporation and precipitation plus river discharge and ice melt. pH and pCO2 also depends of bio-life which does influence DIC (total dissolved inorganic carbon – CO2 + -bi-carbonates), independent of salinity but of course depending of temperature, but I don’t see that they measure bio-life directly or any other parameter which can be used to calculate DIC.

February 17, 2015 9:06 am

All things being equal this article tells me if the oceans cool going forward ph might actually drop (more acidic ) which would be in response to global cooling rather then global warming.

February 17, 2015 9:08 am

Boy just in the paragraph plus above they just pound away with “acidity”, “acidification”, OA, “ocean acidification” ad nauseum. Isn’t the proper scientific term alkalinity or change in PH? They sound like activists instead of scientists. More doom and gloom.

February 17, 2015 9:16 am

If I had submitted this as a college research paper my professors would have graded it as incomplete speculation at best. All they really do is suggest that satellites might be used for global assessment that so far has been deficient for some parameters such as salinity. It’s tied to “acidification” to make it sound more important. Yawn.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Gary
February 17, 2015 11:32 am

I can do you one better.
The EPA requires me to test both pH and conductivity of water streams in my units. If I submitted a stack test with conductivity and temperature as a surrogate for pH, it would be rejected wholesale at best, even if I had a strong correlation curve.
If it didn’t have a strong correlation curve with minimal deviation, they wouldn’t just reject it. I’d be arrested.

Winnipeg Boy
February 17, 2015 9:16 am

Anybody else notice the new addition to the mantra lately?
“Each year more than a quarter of global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and CEMENT PRODUCTION are taken up by the Earth’s oceans.”
This resembles the gun control strategy. If you can’t take the guns, make ammunition difficult to find/afford. So the green shirts want to take away our roads.

Reply to  Winnipeg Boy
February 17, 2015 10:06 am

lotta “CEMENT PRODUCTION” in bases of bird and bat beaters, but that doesn’t count

Reply to  Winnipeg Boy
February 17, 2015 10:27 am

I rarely ever see cement roads anymore. But we do use a lot of cement in bridges, buildings, and houses. It may be time for me to go stake out a good cave to live in.

Reply to  Winnipeg Boy
February 17, 2015 12:51 pm

China used more cement in the last 3 years than the US did in the entire 20th century.

Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 9:16 am

“nowhere is the term pH used in the press release, though it is in the abstract. Curiously, the caption for the graphic provided with the press release says it is “total ocean alkalinity from space” which is actually correct, since the ocean pH is not below 7.0, and not acidic, it is simply less alkaline.”
I think people are missing the meaning of the words. They aren’t measuring pH. They claim to measure total alkalinity. That is defined as the total acid that you would have to add to get the pH down to 4.5. It is a measure of the total effect of reactive basic ions, offset by the tiny amount of H+. I don’t know how they measure it, but TA is a standard measure from the past, since it is stable and involves fairly abundant species. So it is certainly more plausible that they could infer it from space observations.

Peter Miller
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 10:07 am

Ah, at last, a man who wants to buy my bridge.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 10:09 am

As usual, defending the indefensible.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 10:45 am

So you’re not defending the research or the research paper. Just defending an abstract concept as ‘possible’, maybe, sure…
Posit a straw man and then defend the straw man?

Nick Stokes
Reply to  ATheoK
February 17, 2015 11:17 am

I don’t see how anyone can usefully discuss the research without knowing what they are actually trying to measure. And perhaps, even, reading the paper…
I haven’t read it, so I don’t know if they have been successful. Nothing abstract about that, I just don’t know. But I can read what they are trying to measure.

Reply to  ATheoK
February 17, 2015 10:31 pm

Well hooves, your reading skills ain’t to good obviously.
They use the term “ocean acidification” instead of “ocean neutralisation”.
That right there sums up the likely quality of the contents and definitely answers the purpose of the paper. Propaganda.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 11:29 am

Nick Stokes: “I think people are missing the meaning of the words”
Nick, I think these capable, articulate scientists understand the meaning quite well.
Now, let’s talk about your ability to understand, shall we?

Robert B
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 4:41 pm

“Pioneering techniques that use satellites to monitor ocean acidification” is in the press release.
How else am I supposed to read this, Nick? They write their own press release and it clearly implies a measure of how much the pH has dropped (below 7!).
And while it might be plausible to infer TA from space, a scientist is more concerned with how useful any results might be. This would require considerable effort and skill to assess so if you’re a little lazy, you look at the paragraph
“Each year more than a quarter of global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production are taken up by the Earth’s oceans. This process turns the seawater more acidic, making it more difficult for some marine life to live.”
and decide that they are probably talking out of their arse.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 10:01 pm

Nick, you have to titrate to get TA, whether it be total (titratable) acidity or alkalinity. They are sooo not titrating.

Reply to  gymnosperm
February 17, 2015 10:34 pm

But, but titrating is soooooo tiresome. (That’s why I dumped chemistry for physics).

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 10:23 pm

“How else am I supposed to read this, Nick? They write their own press release and it clearly implies a measure of how much the pH has dropped (below 7!).”
No, as the post notes, the PR does not mention pH. The graphic shows TA.
“You have to titrate to get TA”
Their claim is that TA is associated with salinity, since ratio of ions tends to be constant. pCO2 comes from SST and air concentration. They only need two to determine the carbonate chemistry, but they look for another in DIC, which is associated with chlorophyll activity.

Robert B
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 18, 2015 6:25 pm

The PR says “monitor ocean acidification”. Now you’re getting even more absurd when you claim that a reduction in total alkalinity without a drop in pH is “ocean acidification’.

February 17, 2015 9:18 am

It’s impossible to measure pH or alkalinity from temperature and salinity……
..and deriving pH is a lot more complicated than just measuring alkalinity

February 17, 2015 9:22 am

You know, with the proper adjustments this could be a nice little money maker!

February 17, 2015 9:23 am

When is the memorial service for Science to be held? Based on this paper, it’s clearly dead.
“But I’m not aware of how you get pH from salinity and temperature…never heard of that before.” –Dr. Roy Spencer
This is Globular Warning Psiunts. You simply make it up, then send out press releases and wave your hands about.

Mark from the Midwest
February 17, 2015 9:25 am

If Land,’s, assumptions were true the Great Salt Lake would just be a big acid pit by summer, since its temperature and salinity are extremely high compared to oceans, but the Salt Lake is about as alkaline as anything on the planet.

Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
February 17, 2015 11:45 am

Exactly. People float in the Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea all the time just to experience the weightlessness that kind of salinity causes. None of them get acid burns from doing it.

James Bull
February 17, 2015 9:27 am

My first thought was “what happens next year and the year after when the results don’t follow the script”.
Also how does this tie in with the satellite readings of CO2 in the atmosphere (or am I being too skeptical)
James Bull

Reply to  James Bull
February 17, 2015 10:02 am

It’s easy you adjust past ph upwards and present ph downwards. Like the temperature stuff only opposite. What a joke.

February 17, 2015 9:35 am

This was just on local Seattle TV last night.
The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE

Reply to  Brad
February 17, 2015 10:18 am

Brad: It seems to me the CAGW crowd have decided the “warming” wasn’t scaring folks enough and needed to find something scarier. My first thought this morning when I saw this post was, two days in a row for the OA drumbeat. This link was the front page story yesterday (2/16) in the print edition.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  W
February 17, 2015 10:59 am

W, don’t trust Seattle Times on this. Their whole series on ocean acidification is based on bad papers (including academic misconduct. I wrote the paper and reporter Welch, providing the evidence. See essay Shell Games in ebook Blowing Smoke. Pretty stunning the extent and depth of the misrepresentations.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 17, 2015 11:12 am

thanks Rud, maybe they will listen to you. Not holding my breath on it ….

Rud Istvan
Reply to  W
February 17, 2015 2:49 pm

Never got the courtesy of a reply. So put that fact in a footnote to the essay before sending the book to the publisher. Also, Prof. Cliff Mass U. Washington picked up on the oyster part I test posted over at Judith Curry. He checked my references for himself, then started pestering Seattle Times. For his efforts, he got banned from their comments sections. So he blogged his ban. Don’t trust the Seattle Post or anything written by Welch.

February 17, 2015 9:39 am

“This makes the measurement appear more like a proxy for OA than direct measurement. Dr. Roy Spencer comments on this and the technology below.”
Spencer doesnt measure temperature directly. It’s an indirect measure.
“Satellites do not measure temperature. They measure radiances in various wavelength bands, which must then be mathematically inverted to obtain indirect inferences of temperature.[1][2] The resulting temperature profiles depend on details of the methods that are used to obtain temperatures from radiances. As a result, different groups that have analyzed the satellite data have produced differing temperature datasets. Among these are the UAH dataset prepared at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the RSS dataset prepared by Remote Sensing Systems. The satellite series is not fully homogeneous – it is constructed from a series of satellites with similar but not identical instrumentation. The sensors deteriorate over time, and corrections are necessary for orbital drift and decay. Particularly large differences between reconstructed temperature series occur at the few times when there is little temporal overlap between successive satellites, making intercalibration difficult.”
1. Not a direct measurement.
2. Inhomogeneous data with adjustments for changing location, changing sensor,
3. Relies on Radiative theory
[REPLY: Mr. Mosher in his irrational anti-satellite trash talk mode for all data that that aren’t his beloved and highly adjusted, and highly uncertain surface “BEST” temperature record fails to notice that the OA remote sensing claim is a product of TWO indirect measurements, making it even less reliable. The surface temperature has far more problems than the satellite record, IMHO, but of course, Mr. Mosher thinks he’s always right, much like Gavin Schmidt. -Anthony]

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 10:35 am

Steven, any time someone wants to adjust data collected by competent, dedicated observers, I think politics. If the data isn’t suited to purpose, then get better data.

Reply to  pochas
February 17, 2015 11:39 am

UHA has done adjustment to their series in 1994,97,98,98,2003,2004,2005.
The fact of adjustment tells you nothing.
right now, Leif Svalgard is fixing the SNN record.
we adjust data all time.
One most famous way of adjusting data was pioneered by Dyson and Happer.

Reply to  pochas
February 17, 2015 12:31 pm

Mosh, there is a big difference between the scientific adjustment of data..
… and the adjustment of data to purposely create a trend.

Reply to  pochas
February 17, 2015 6:21 pm

Steven, there is a big difference between the original authors making revisions to their data in a timely manner and outsiders jumping in to rewrite history.

Mike the Morlock
Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 11:45 am

Steven, do you know what “New Horizon” is? Or perhaps Voyager 1&2. They seem to work quit well,
Nasa can keep 35 year old space probes operational on other planets and at the outer reaches of the Sol system. I think the minor system tweaking that is needed to to keep satellites operating properly is not a factor in their temperature measurement collections. After all, the satellites that provide you and I with internet, cable TV, and cell phone communication operate under the same detriments. As long as they function A-OKAY so will the temperature gathering satellites. I hope this calms your apprehensions about satellite measurements.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 11:50 am

A thermometer does not measure temperature directly. It measures the thermal expansion of some material, often mercury.
An electrical temperature sensor does not measure temperature directly. It measures the thermal change of the electrical resistance of the sensor
1. Not direct measurement
2. Inhomogeneous data with adjustments for changing location, changing sensor
3. Relies on several realms of physical theory

george e. smith
Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 1:39 pm

So satellite sensing is NOT a DIRECT measurement of Temperature.
Now that is a cool concept.
I’m not aware of any kind of measuring equipment that is capable of DIRECTLY measuring Temperature, by any means.
ALL known “thermometers” INFER the Temperature from some proxy, such as the Temperature coefficient of expansion of Mercury for example, or the Temperature coefficient of frequency of that unique doubly rotated quartz crystal cut that has a linear Tc. or from the non linear but rather well characterized electrical resistivity of Platinum, as a function of Temperature.
It’s been a while since I checked the latest and greatest exact SI definition of precisely what Temperature is, but I know it is not easy to measure directly, rather than by proxy.
I’m with Anthony, in being queasy about the reliability of satellite temperature sensing of ocean surfaces. I’m sure they do what they can, but it sounds iffy to me.

Robert B
Reply to  george e. smith
February 17, 2015 5:46 pm

“Proxy” is used where the exact correlation is unknown. You can’t calculate an average temperature for the growing season from a tree ring but you might assume that any trends in tree rings reflects trends in the average temperature (which means cherry picking is a big no-no).
They can’t measure the TA but they will assume (insist) that any pH trend will be reflected in some function of SST and salinity. This will then confirm the Law of Government Grants.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 5:04 pm

But he’s fun to watch and has something useful to do about harmful insects, I’m sure. Yay, Mosh!

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 10:17 pm

Surface temperature record:
1. A thermometer in a box, about human nose height (usually).
2. Inhomogeneous data with [and without] adjustments for changing location, changing sensor.
3. Relies on systematically biased locations.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 10:53 pm

Sorry Mosh, that pig won’t fly.
Your link to wikipedia discussion trying to criticise satellite sensing of microwave emissions from oxygen molecules has been edited by the Wiki Weasel,William M. Connolley. (AKA the Winston Smith of Wikipedia).
The Wiki Weasel has the reverse Midas touch. You can’t polish whatever he’s touched, but you can try rolling it in glitter.
Smelt your smeared hands recently Mosh? We can 😉

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 18, 2015 2:17 pm

and this is what the WMO say about ground stations, well apart from giving urban stations a zero for quality-
“A station that is or will be affected by the growth of vegetation, including even limited tree growth near the sensor, growth of tall crops or woodland nearby, erection of buildings on adjacent land, or increases (or decreases) in road or air traffic (including those due to changes in the use of runways or taxiways) will provide neither broadly representative nor homogeneous data”

Reply to  richard
February 18, 2015 2:19 pm

and more from the WMO for Mr Mosher-
“The nature of urban environments makes it impossible to conform to the standard guidance for site selection and exposure of instrumentation required for establishing a homogeneous record that can be used to describe the larger-scale climate”

Reply to  richard
February 18, 2015 2:21 pm

from the WMO-
“The aim of the homogenization procedures is to detect the inhomogeneities and to correct the series. In practice there are absolute and relative methods applied for this purpose. However the application of absolute methods is very problematic and hazardous since the separation of climate change signal and the inhomogeneity signal is essentially impossible”

February 17, 2015 9:41 am

Thanks, Anthony, Dr. Spencer.
NASA continues to sink into a hole of their own making. How sad.
In their way science is morphed into a propaganda machine that no one can trust.

John M
Reply to  Andres Valencia
February 17, 2015 9:58 am

I wouldn’t pin this one on NASA. There seem to many other bad actors pushing this.

Reply to  John M
February 17, 2015 1:00 pm

A global agenda ABSOLUTELY relies on there being a warming trend.
The 18+ year NON-warming trend is killing them !
You can imagine the immense pressure on Gavin, Hadley Centre, Best etc to actually find SOME warming from SOMEwhere, SOMEhow !!
The coming cooling trend will really make their job very difficult.
but I’m sure that Gavin, Phil and especially Richard .. will find a way.

February 17, 2015 9:42 am

From the graphics, looks like that started with, “when salinity is lower, ocean pH is more acidic”. Oh wait, when freshwater mixes with salt, salinity goes down and so would the pH as the intruding water is more acidic. Correlation Causality and they missed it? And funny, I thought the Mississippi outflow would show up on the salinity map a bit more (as less of course).

Reply to  g3ellis
February 17, 2015 6:33 pm

And the fresh water signature from the Amazon is much smaller in area than I expected.

Reply to  scarletmacaw
February 17, 2015 6:55 pm

Figure 1: Area of interest. The northwestern Tropical Atlantic. On land, the Amazon River and its major tributaries within our region of interest are shown, as are the Orinoco, Xingu and Tocatins (Toc.) Rivers. The location of the Obidos, Brazil discharge gauge is indicated as a solid circle. In the ocean, major currents are indicated: North Brazil Current (NBC), Northern Equatorial Current (NEC), North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC), Guyana Current and Caribbean Current. The small flow vectors show the mean surface current direction and relative velocity during September. These were created from climatological drifter float trajectory data
Amazon water enters the Western Tropical Atlantic near the equator (Figure 1) and is carried northwestward along the Brazilian Shelf by the North Brazilian Current (NBC), (Muller-Karger et al., 1988; 1995). Although some of the Amazon’s water continues northward into the Guyana Current (Hellweger and Gordon, 2002), a sizable fraction reaching 3-10ºN is carried eastward by the North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC) (Muller-Karger et al., 1998; 1995; Fratoni and Glickson, 2002), which reaches maximal velocities during the boreal summer-to-fall period (Fonseca et al., 2004; Richardson and Reverdin, 1987). Along the Brazilian shelf, up to 200km offshore, the plume formed by the Amazon’s discharge lies at the surface with a depth ranging from 3-10 meters (Lentz and Limeburner, 1995). Beyond the shelf, freshwater within the plume gradually attenuates with depth as it travels away from the source, with a penetration depth of 40m to 45m as far as 2600km offshore (Hellweger and Gordon, 2002; Hu et al., 2004). Along with the freshwater, the Amazon provides the largest riverine flux of suspended (1200 Mt y-1) and dissolved matter (287 Mt y-1), which includes a dissolved organic matter (DOM) flux of 139 Mt y-1 (Meybeck and Ragu 1997). These fluxes can have a dramatic effect on regional ecology as they represent potential subsidies of organic carbon, nutrients, and light attenuation into an otherwise oligotrophic environment (Muller-Karger et al., 1995).
Satellite remote sensing data is known to provide several means to visualize the wide surface dispersal the Amazon plume, with ocean color data being the first to illustrate its reach to well beyond 1000 km (Muller Karger et al., 1988). Since these first observations, the application of ocean color, altimetry, and SST satellite mapping in this region has increased in its sophistication, showing the ability to track surface plume area (e.g. Hu et al., 2004; Molleri et al., 2010), fronts along the shelf to the NW (Baklouti et al., 2007), and northward propagating eddies or waves shed near the North Brazil Current (NBC) retroreflection region, the so-called NBC rings (Ffield, 2005; Goni and Johns, 2001; Garzoli et al., 2004). In each case, the satellite data are able to provide time-resolved information on advective processes up to certain limits that include cloud cover, limited/weak SST and ocean color gradients, non-conservative dilution processes for the ocean color to salinity conversions (Salisbury et al., 2011), and baroclinicity and subgrid variability for the altimetry SSHA tracking of the NBC rings. The new sea surface salinity products from satellite plateforms such as SMOS allow to gain a significant insight into the advection paths of the freshwater Amazon plume by surface currents. The SSS product derived from SMOS data for year 2010 is described in detail in a previous news here.
In the present post we tentatively illustrate the strength of these new satellite products to bring added value information on the freshwater transport in this important ocean area. The SMOS estimate for SSS evolution along with geostrophic surface currents estimate from altimeters from April to December 2010 is shown in the animation here below:
Another schematic diagram of flow from this page:
Which has several plots, and this interesting gif of floating sensors:
I’m skeptical: The initial sharp bright blue “plume” of 100% fresh water expected to be present by those who watch the Amazon seems matches this paper, but the long current of almost-no-salinity out into the Atlantic is … well, missing.

Kevin Kilty
February 17, 2015 9:53 am

I often read that ocean pH has been relatively constant at 8.2 for the past 300 million years. The data I encounter covers only the past 30 million years or so and takes a consistent pattern, looking much like the data from Pearson and Palmer, but it is scaled vertically and shifted up and down in various ways. All variations combined, pH seems to vary from 8.05 to 8.45. The shifting up and down and scaling make me uncomfortable about how the data presentation. If one goes about looking for the current ocean pH, what one finds is one graphic after another in which the pH is “estimated.” No where do these graphs quantify the error of the estimate. There are, here and there, time series of actual measurements, which shows substantial variation from one measurement to another. About all I can conclude is that the current state of knowledge here is less than it is for atmospheric CO2 content.
However, the authors of this paper are suggesting that they can determine ocean pH from temperature (which affects CO2 solubility), pCO2, and “salinity” which must act some proxy for carbonate alkalinity. Yet, we know that pCO2 has been very much higher than present at times in the past. I would then conclude that ocean surface pH must have varied greatly in the past. There is an enormous amount of buffering capacity in the deep oceans, but mixing between deep and shallow ocean takes perhaps a thousand years or more. If there truly is a problem is it more one of time scales than anything else?

February 17, 2015 9:57 am

Confused – first image shows akilinity in umol/kg? umol of what?

Nick Stokes
Reply to  steveta_uk
February 17, 2015 10:06 am

TA=[CO3–]*2 + [HCO3-] – [H+]+borates etc
[Nick, try not to be dense, just for once? This doesn’t matter, they aren’t actually successfully measuring what they claim, be it pH or Alkalinity. NASA points out that at least for the Atlantic, the process that drives the change in salinity, and thus the derived change in Alkalinity, is rainfall and wind patterns. The posited CO2 driven change in ocean acidification isn’t the process. Logic fail. – Anthony]

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 17, 2015 6:44 pm

Nick (and Anthony) it seems to me that the assumption by the authors is that the relative concentration of NaCl and CaCO3 is constant, so they just mapped the salinity and rescaled it as alkalinity. There is no pH measurement there, and whoever wrote the press release was either scientifically illiterate or a liar.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 18, 2015 10:47 pm

“There is no pH measurement there, and whoever wrote the press release was either scientifically illiterate or a liar.”
No. As the head post said:
“nowhere is the term pH used in the press release”,/i>
The problem is that, as I said above, people see the term Total Alkalinity and think it refers to pH. It is different.
The paper does suggest that the ratio of dissolved ions (not CaCO3) is fairly constant, so TA and salinity should vary together. The thing about TA is that it is unaffected by adding CO2 (that’s why they titrate to pH 4.5), so what measures that is DIC, which they seek through chlorophyll, and the known gas concentration pCO2. I don’t know how well it will all work, but that is what they are saying.

Reply to  steveta_uk
February 17, 2015 10:16 am


Reply to  Bubba Cow
February 17, 2015 10:55 am


Reply to  Bubba Cow
February 17, 2015 2:19 pm

sorry – Colour – how could I? My spell check says that’s wrong, but I’ll give it to you.

Reply to  steveta_uk
February 17, 2015 11:08 am

As per the label of the graphic, alkalinity. Alkalinity is defined as all basic species, in this case, bicarbonate, carbonate and hydroxides summed together, and then expressed as the equivalent amount of CaCO3.
I make no comment as to what the graphic actually shows vs. what it is purported to show.

Alan the Brit
February 17, 2015 9:57 am

“This process turns the seawater more acidic, making it more difficult for some marine life to live”.
So settled science once again, clearly the oceans by default of this statement are already acidic, & our emissions are merely making them “more acidic” than they already are! Therefore al you clever cloggs out there who keeping droning on abouth the oceans bein alkaline clearly no nothing! (Sarc-ometer off!)

Reply to  Alan the Brit
February 17, 2015 10:22 am

Don’t be so cynical, this is going to revolutionize everything. We may be able to test the water quality of our hot tub from space. The applications are endless.

Reply to  Unmentionable
February 17, 2015 5:08 pm

So is academic inanity, I guess.

Reply to  Alan the Brit
February 17, 2015 11:57 am

“This process turns the seawater more acidic, making it more difficult for some marine life to live”
Firstly some marine life will thrive as I mentioned above with references (here).
Secondly they don’t know whether the “some” will find it more difficult to live over long time scales. Most of the tank experiments pump in huge amounts of co2 over short time scales. Adaptation / acclimatisation and evolution did not stop in the 21st century.

Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 12:27 pm

I’m not sure who it was (Dr. Tim Ball?) that pointed out in one interview that ocean ph can vary greatly throughout the day.

February 17, 2015 9:57 am

” But I’m not aware of how you get pH from salinity and temperature…never heard of that before.”
Seems like a straight-forward research task, perhaps even worthy of a dissertation or two. First collect some sampled salinity and pH data, along with some metadata for conditioning any hypotheses. Then compute the correlation and try building some models which predict pH from salinity, or vice-versa, perhaps conditioned by the metadata, where necessary. (But don’t cheat by depending too much on metadata)
I would be surprised if this has not already been tried. For starters:

Why doesn’t ocean salt buffer away ocean acidification?
Basic: In the laboratory, when you mix a strong acid and base, salt and water form, and the fluids are neutralized. But ocean salt comes from rock weathering, which carries weak acid and base ions to the ocean. Over thousands of years these ions accumulate and make seawater “salty.” Ocean acidification is happening over decades to centuries, which is too fast for rock weathering to overcome.
Intermediate: When acids and bases neutralize each other in a laboratory experiment, salt and water form. But in the ocean, the major ions that make seawater “salty” (like sodium, chloride, and magnesium) are derived from rock weathering, which provides a balanced amount of positive and negative ions to the seas over many millennia. Weak acids and bases, like bicarbonate or borate, control variations in ocean pH on shorter time scales of decades to centuries. Of these weak acids and bases, the dissolved inorganic carbon species—carbonic acid (H2CO3), bicarbonate (HCO3-), and carbonate (CO32-)—have the largest impact on global ocean pH variations because their concentrations are changing quickly relative to other chemical species in the ocean. — C.L. Sabine

Reply to  Johanus
February 17, 2015 11:55 am

Not criticizing your comment Johanus, just criticizing the funny idea about borates controlling ph variations in sea water.
Nick Stokes makes the implied claim above that borates a major component of the sea water ph formula. Part of that concept is because boric acid can act as a weak buffer.

“…Weak acids and bases, like bicarbonate or borate, control variations in ocean pH on shorter time scales of decades to centuries…”

The reality is that boron is a minor constituent of sea water, unless local conditions, (e.g. volcano, wastewater), changes the availability of boron.
Boron concentration in sea water is about 2.5 atoms of boron per million atoms of sea water. A frequency of availability that greatly limits boron interaction with carbonic acid.
Salt water is typically neutral ph 7.0. Given the huge amounts of salts, (e.g. sodium chloride, potassium chloride) in sea water it would take massive amounts of carbonic acid to materially change the overall ph. This is without taking into account the buffers available throughout ocean basins.
Borates are a misdirection when discussing sea water.

Reply to  ATheoK
February 17, 2015 12:35 pm

So when building a “pH predictor” model I think you would then have to consider borate concentration, if any, disjunctively as a conditioning metadatum (“feature”) in the model, along with with many other kinds of metadata, e.g. temperature, which all are available to condition the relationships between pH and salinity.
These seem to be complicated relationships, so the resulting model would be a lot complex than just finding some weights to fit a curve. I would be included to build a piece-wise linear regression model using something like Cubist/M5, because it helps you learn and understand the relationships in the training set, where the metadata are the training features. Cubist generates rules which partition the feature space into multidimensionsal hypercubes, each containing a linear predictor.
The training proceeds recursively decomposing the problem space into sufficiently small hypercubes with acceptable error rates. Or the researcher may learn that the training set does not support the prediction accuracy desired. Either way it seems like a useful endeavor.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  ATheoK
February 17, 2015 3:21 pm

“Nick Stokes makes the implied claim above that borates a major component of the sea water ph formula”
No, my implication was that borates are minor, as with phosphates, and indeed hydroxide. But they affect the TA titration so are usually mentioned.

Reply to  Johanus
February 17, 2015 3:00 pm

Those dissertations would be wasted. You’d never be able to get the accuracy down to a viable level with such paltry information. It’s a simple matter of attempting to use a howistzer for ice sulpting. An extremely crude measurement such as that is not viable for measuring alkalinity on such tiny perturbations.

Reply to  benofhouston
February 17, 2015 4:24 pm

If the research is conducted in a sufficiently data-rich environment, then quite a lot will be learned while trying to build such a model, perhaps enough to publish a paper and contribute to knowledge of the domain. And the researcher is given the opportunity to demonstrate some mastery of the domain, which is the essential criterion of a MS thesis.

Reply to  benofhouston
February 17, 2015 5:13 pm

Unfortunately, Johanus, academia is a BS-rich environment, and research there often results in learning a lot of things that simply aren’t true.

Reply to  benofhouston
February 17, 2015 6:33 pm

I cannot refute that.

Paul Westhaver
February 17, 2015 10:05 am

Dr Spencer,
Both the temperature data and the alkalinity data is from a surface measurement? Microwaves being the in the inch too foot wavelength roughly suggests limitations in depth resolution?
So the satellites measure microwave absorption at the surface of the oceans and IR measures temperature of the ocean surface. Correct?

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
February 17, 2015 12:00 pm

Exactly…and temperature data at the same place on the ocean can vary up to 6C in just a 24 hour period. And then there are seasonal variations in salinity and ocean surface temps as well. So, are these measurements taken by satellite over a given spot in the ocean just once, or are they taken repeatedly AND at the exact same time of day AND year?

February 17, 2015 10:12 am

As usual, Anthony easily deconstructs this grant-trolling paper.
WRT satellite measurements vs other measurements, when we compare them we see that they are all just about the same:
Satellite measurements are no more different than measurements between non-satellite data. They are all slightly different from each other.
The criticism of satellite data falls flat. And unlike some of the others, it measures most all of the planet, not just SST, or land temperatures.
I doubt that the government would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to launch a satellite if the measurements were no good. Some folks just don’t like what the satellites are telling us.

Reply to  dbstealey
February 17, 2015 11:50 am

“The criticism of satellite data falls flat. And unlike some of the others, it measures most all of the planet, not just SST, or land temperatures.”
No data is perfect. So you have to remain skeptical of everything rather than blindly believing in just one thing.
Yes, satellites “measure” the whole planet.
1. clouds
2. Sensors change
3. Time of observation changes over the life
4. location changes ( orbital decay)
BUT, For the sake of argument. Lets grant that satillites measure the truth.
Correlations would be 1, except where satellites see clouds
And the Arctic?
NOTE: from AIRS I get the surface temp AND the air temp at 2m
So agreed, Satellites measure the truth and since we agree with them…..
petard. hoisted.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 18, 2015 2:29 pm

yea, yea Mr Mosher and the problem with ground stations from the WMO-
“The representativeness and homogeneity of climatological records are closely related to the location of the observing site. A station sited on or near a steep slope, ridge, cliff, hollow, building, wall or other obstruction is likely to provide data that are more representative of the site alone and not of a wider area”
“These changes can also occur to weather stations that are still in rural locations and are often harder to detect. For instance, the growth of trees around a farmstead that maintains a weather station alters the local wind flow and temperature patterns, and so reduces extreme wind speeds and the incidence of frosts (where they occur). The trend in the observations reflects the changes in the microclimate of the farmstead while the general climate may not have changed”

Reply to  dbstealey
February 17, 2015 12:07 pm

“As usual, Anthony easily deconstructs this grant-trolling paper.”
but if they get more money, your logic would say, that the government would only spend the money because it gave them accurate results.

Curious George
Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 1:19 pm

Steven, you always know perfectly what other people would say. Awesome.

February 17, 2015 10:14 am

wait, I’m lost:

Satellites are likely to become increasingly important for the monitoring of ocean acidification, especially in remote and often dangerous waters like the Arctic.

(my bold)
I read here yesterday that temperatures around the poles aren’t good because satellites can’t “see” those regions and land based are otherwise whacked.

Reply to  Bubba Cow
February 17, 2015 11:28 am

I caught that too. +5

Mike the Morlock
Reply to  Bubba Cow
February 17, 2015 12:04 pm

Its very difficult to maintain a satellite in geosynchronous orbit over the poles. Also if I remember there were some treaties & understandings between us and the Soviets (now Russian Fed) about placing satellites over the Arctic; some silly thing about them being used for ICBM course corrections.

Reply to  Bubba Cow
February 17, 2015 12:05 pm

Satellites have been over the Arctic in the 1960s. See the Nimbus satellite.

Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 12:09 pm

“NASA launched Nimbus-1 50 years ago, the agency’s key goals were to test instruments that could capture images of clouds and other meteorological features
There was Nimbus 1,2,3 and 4.

Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 12:39 pm

While it is certainly possible to put a satellite into a polar orbit it happens to be impossible to do it if you want a sun-synchronous orbit, i e a orbit that passes the same places at the same time every day, which is essential for long-time monitoring. The best possible sun-synchronous orbit has 98 degrees inclination which leaves two “pole-holes” about 1000-1500 km across, depending on how obliquely your measurements can be.
Also there is ice-cover, darkness in winter and a lot of clouds and fog in summer. Monitoring arctic seas from space is often quite impossible.
[98 degrees inclination? Or 88 degrees? .mod]

Mike the Morlock
Reply to  Jimbo
February 17, 2015 1:03 pm

Jimbo true there have been many satellites that could do pole to pole orbits, but certain orbital profiles were frowned upon. We were concerned with anything that match a F.O.B.S. orbital profile
I spent way to much time taking “Nation Security Policy” classes in college. Was fun .

Reply to  Jimbo
February 18, 2015 8:54 am

[98 degrees inclination? Or 88 degrees? .mod]
98 is correct. It is possible to have inclinations from 0 to 180 degrees.

Reply to  Jimbo
February 18, 2015 2:36 pm

hell, the Norga airship flew over the North pole in the early 20th century and flagged up open waters. Who needs satellites.

Coach Springer
February 17, 2015 10:17 am

An aquarist would never, ever rely on temperature and TDS / conductivity as a measure of ph. But there is a general correlation between soft and acid on one hand and hard and alkaline on the other. I’m afraid they’ve picked on a rather complex set of variables when they pick on water chemistry and their proxies are new and poorly defined. In addition, the front-loaded topic of “acidification” is a hat tip to too narrow a perspective with too wide a conclusion.

Rud Istvan
February 17, 2015 10:51 am

Read the paper. There is a third proxy the say they need, chlorophyl (relative biological activity) measures by greenness. Then they fit a statistical model to guesstimate the favtors that lead to the carbonate system pH. This makes no sense for three reasons.
1. They admit the salinity data is very noisy.
2. pH also changes with upwelling. Along the US Pacific Coast, from 8.1 down to 7.7.
3. Biological activity is not as simple as surface chlorophyll. There are, for example 8 Pacific ‘biospheres’ with measured seasonal pH variations ranging from 0.1 to 1.43. Hoffmann One 6: e28983 (2011)
It seems Dr. Spencer is right on this one. Any proxy model they develop is going to be awful.

Mac the Knife
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 17, 2015 11:31 am

Doesn’t pass the litmus test – aye!

Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 17, 2015 12:01 pm

Since they are talking about future possibilities, I would not be over certain about it “awefulness” . That would be like guys who looked at the moon and said we will never get there. After all if it showed no change in Ph
some people would be less skeptical.. Kinda like the way attitudes toward RSS changed over time.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 12:54 pm

On this I agree with Steven Mosher.
The proxy isn’t calibrated. It doesn’t measure very deep below the surface. And it won’t ever tell you about pH or its drivers.
But it is a new proxy of “something” real on a global scale.
OK. It is a work in progress that has been over-hyped by the press release. But the paper seems to be working towards something of significance. Why scorn it because it isn’t fully developed yet?
It’s in Environmental Science and Technology after all. It isn’t in the worthless Nature Climate Change.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 1:08 pm

A change in pH……. since when ??? (not Ph.. that changes when I change address)
The system isn’t even functional yet. And requires many years of empirical validation.
(Unless its going to be treated like a climate model . of course)
It will be many many years before it can see a change (if any).

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 3:13 pm

I posted three separate reasons why I think this effort will never produce something useful.
More background info from essay Shell Games.
AR4 got the ‘acidification’ scare BAU pH 7.8 wrong because it missed buffering. The Station Aloha pH (MLO and PMEL) is deceptive because the ocean is very ‘barren’ there. Taking chemical buffering alone into account, the BAU pH by 2100 at Station Aloha would be on the order of 8.0, down around 0.15. The seasonal variation in the Southern Ocean (Pacific side) is 0.5 around roughly 8.15. Coastal Pacific seasonal variation is on the order of 1.0 to 1.4. And In the Florida Bay, it ranges from 5.8 offshore Everglades mangroves winter, to 9.8 near Key West summer. The maximum separation is 90 miles, the average just 25. Yet sea life thrives.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 7:27 pm

Mosher, like many AGW supporters, you have no intuition for the measurement.
Lets say over 20 years this measurement shows a trend in “pH”. Was it really a trend in pH or was it a trend in biological function since colour is crucial to the proxy measurement? Or upwelling? or rainfall since they directly impact the pH as measured at the surface? Or windspeed since surface roughness introduces the largest error?
This proxy is close to worthless for measuring trends, Mosher.

Neil Jordan
February 17, 2015 10:59 am

A WUWT commenter on oceanic pH some time ago brought up an important but overlooked point about deep scattering layers, or the diurnal vertical migration of zooplankton from the daytime depths to the nighttime surface, and then back down again at sunrise. This migration takes place through pH changes that are much greater than those foretold by the doomsayers.
Today’s California Water News has added a Climate Change section, and posts this item:
“Quick, go visit the ocean one last time before it dies”
There is a collection of climate scare stories, including ocean acidification.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Neil Jordan
February 17, 2015 3:29 pm

Neil, Read essays Shell Games and No Bodies as antidotes. Gift copies to your local politicians (Amazon has the ebook currently on sale). They will also get a wake up call out of essay California Dreaming concerning the CPUC response to the crisis the state faces thanks to its renewable mandate intermittency. Then go justify Ivanpah, other than a get rich at other’s expense scheme. Essay Solar Sunset.

February 17, 2015 11:04 am

[REPLY: Mr. Mosher in his irrational anti-satellite trash talk mode for all data that that aren’t his beloved and highly adjusted, and highly uncertain surface “BEST” temperature record fails to notice that the OA remote sensing claim is a product of TWO indirect measurements, making it even less reliable. The surface temperature has far more problems than the satellite record, IMHO, but of course, Mr. Mosher thinks he’s always right, much like Gavin Schmidt. -Anthony]
1. Not anti satellite. Just the facts. a) they are highly adjusted b) they dont measure temperature directly
c) they rely on radiative theory. d) the two major groups differ greatly from each other. In other words, one cannot rely blindly on them. Like any data. e) you dont measure reliability by counting the number of
indirect measurements.
2. Always right? nope. I used to think that RSS was better than UHA, now since they differ so much
I dont know which satillite dataset is more reliable. Roy thinks RSS has a big problem. Monckton
doesnt. Who to believe?
3. Compare RSS, which Monckton claims is most precise, with UHA.
Listen to RSS team leader who writes
“As a data scientist, I am among the first to acknowledge that all climate datasets likely contain some errors. However, I have a hard time believing that both the satellite and the surface temperature datasets have errors large enough to account for the model/observation differences. For example, the global trend uncertainty (2-sigma) for the global TLT trend is around 0.03 K/decade (Mears et al. 2011). Even if 0.03 K/decade were added to the best-estimate trend value of 0.123 K/decade, it would still be at the extreme low end of the model trends. A similar, but stronger case can be made using surface temperature datasets, which I consider to be more reliable than satellite datasets (they certainly agree with each other better than the various satellite datasets do!). So I don’t think the problem can be explained fully by measurement errors.”
In other words the man in charge of RSS notes that UHA and RSS dont agree with each other.
one is less reliable that the other. which one? and why do you think that.
There are documents folks can read before you use satellite data. Basically explaining the theory of how the data product is created. I suggest people read them. I do.
Lighter reading is here
“Our MSU/AMSU products use data from 14 different satellites. The data need to be intercalibrated before being merged together. This is a complex process, as shown in the flow chart below.
First, adjustments are made for changes in local measurement time (diurnal adjustment) and Earth incidence angle.
Then, intercalibration is performed by comparing measurements from co-orbiting satellites, yielding a set of “merging parameters”.
Uncertainty that arises earlier in the process (e.g. from the adjustments for local measurement time) can cause uncertainty in the merging parameters, which adds to the uncertainty in the final results.
Because of the complex nature of the errors, they are difficult to calculate and describe using simple statistical methods. Instead, we use a Monte Carlo technique to produce a large number of possible realizations of the errors that are consistent with the sources of error that we have studied.”

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 11:56 am

Mosh, I’m not trying to pile on. But the fact is that satellite measurements differ from each other. So do other measurements. No database tracks another perfectly. They are all different from each other. Satellite measurements are just as accurate as any others, and they are probably more accurate. The government would not waste hundreds of $millions on satellites if they weren’t accurate.
There is too much being made of tenth and hundreth of a degree differences. Those tiny fluctuations generate lots of hand-waving, but not much else. The elephant in the room is the fact that global warming stopped many years ago. That is the big deal, not some tiny blips on a chart.

Reply to  dbstealey
February 17, 2015 12:05 pm

“Mosh, I’m not trying to pile on. But the fact is that satellite measurements differ from each other. So do other measurements. No database tracks another perfectly. They are all different from each other. Satellite measurements are just as accurate as any others, and they are probably more accurate. The government would not waste hundreds of $millions on satellites if they weren’t accurate.
1. The amount of money spent is no predictor of accuracy.
2. Agreed. all measurements differ.
3. A blanket statement about which is more accurate will get you in trouble. For example,
That would prove that Cowtan and Way are right.
There is too much being made of tenth and hundreth of a degree differences. Those tiny fluctuations generate lots of hand-waving, but not much else. The elephant in the room is the fact that global warming stopped many years ago. That is the big deal, not some tiny blips on a chart.
1. Global warming is not a descriptive term. You need to be more specific

Reply to  dbstealey
February 17, 2015 7:30 pm

Mosh, whether or not satellites are more accurate, combining satellite measurements with surface measurements has no guarantee of improving either. Cowton and Way were using things that measure two different regions of the atmosphere.
Surface measurements have the problems of being poorly distributed, almost totally lacking in ocean coverage, failure to accurately account for UHI, and poor homogenization methods in general which result in numerous ridiculous local adjustments (e.g. Darwin). Satellite measurements have problems with combining data from multiple satellites, and problems measuring over ice vs. water. The satellite measurements also started from a very cold period in recent history, although the Winston Smiths of CliSci have rewritten history eliminating the 1970s cold spell.

Reply to  dbstealey
February 17, 2015 11:10 pm

no mater how you thrash and flex, there is no way out. Satellites are our best global temperature record. Surface station data is hopelessly corrupted by micro and macro site changes. It is unfit for purpose.
Your BEST effort is a total waste of time. Trying to use surface station data and making adjustments without reference to individual station meta-data speaks to motive. More time in the blender could never unscramble the egg.
But to answer the AGW question you don’t need to fumble around with corrupted data from any source. You only need to answer two very simple questions –
1. Are the oceans a near blackbody as climastrologists claim, or an extreme SW selective surface?
2. Given 1 bar pressure, is the net effect of our radiative cooled atmosphere warming or cooling of the oceans.
The oceans cover 71% of our planet’s surface. Get the right answer to those two questions, and you will know that AGW is a physical impossibility. Not too hard is it?

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 12:43 pm

Mosh, would you please name a temperature measuring technique that does not measure temperature indirectly based on a variety of physical theory.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Mosher:” Not anti satellite. Just the facts. a) they are highly adjusted b) they dont measure temperature directly”
There are no devices anywhere on Earth or in space that measure (quantitatively) ‘temperature’ directly. Temperature is a man-made abstraction which always requires some kind of numerical model as a ‘proxy’. e.g. mercury expanding in a calibrated (i.e. “adjusted”) capillary, current flowing in a calibrated resistor etc. These models generally tend to be wrong and are useful (i.e. with acceptable errors) only within narrowly defined constraints. For example, you can’t measure the temperature inside a blast furnace with a weather thermometer.
You might say: “I don’t need no stinking calibrated models. When water freezes, that’s a ‘direct measurement’ of 32F exactly!”
No, that’s only true for distilled water. Sea water freezes at 28.4F, so not really that accurate, enough even for climate science.
Q: And how would you measure other, arbitrary, temperatures with your water thermometer? Ans: Perhaps 212F could be crudely estimated by observing boiling. Otherwise your “direct read” thermometer is quite limited and virtually useless.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Steven Mosher
February 17, 2015 4:59 pm

A suggestion. This thread is about claimed remote sensing of ocean pH, NOT subpart temp (one of three proxies for the pH statistical model, the third missing from the paper’s abstract but essential in the text–poor form, since it reveals immediately the futility of this approach). Take your temp arguements outside, and come back in when any of you have something interesting on ocean pH or its possible remote sensing. JEEZ. I learned this stuff in a couple of self education years, you can learn it from me in minutes by reading a fun essay–and still crosscheck every reference used.

Gary Pearse
February 17, 2015 11:13 am

With an apparent difficulty in even measuring pH reliably and accurately enough with instruments designed for the job, I have to say I’m going to need a lot of convincing to buy this. Apropos of this, scientific reporting should be done with a strong awareness of a vigorous sceptical environment into which they are releasing their news that can slap them in the head before the ink dries. This wary sceptical atmosphere is the one positive creation of the CAGW plunderers after the unmonitored free-for-all they enjoyed for a couple of decades. I’m waiting for more info and an explanation that will get by sceptical chemists in this community.

February 17, 2015 11:23 am

Anti satellite? Hardly.
as always you need to understand the satellite dataset you are using and how it was created.
Here is a small sample of an “anti satellite” guy using satellite data. In fact, more than
half of my work is dependent on satellite data.
There are many more.
The point is one doesnt blindly trust or blindly condemn.

February 17, 2015 11:31 am

Come on, some climate-botherer just wanted to publish a pic of the planet with a big smudge of red on it (even if the red represents the nice pH, which doesn’t pickle fish on the fin).
By the way, David Jones of Australia’s BoM has some fab new colours for climate scares. The Extreme Heat Purple is to die for. What a colourist!

Reply to  mosomoso
February 17, 2015 5:24 pm

Yeah, that’s pretty much the whole story, here.

February 17, 2015 11:37 am

pH by definition is the log of the reciprocal of the hydrogen ion activity in aqueous solution. It can be approximated by the concentration of [H+]. The definition is based on the MEASUREMENT of the potential between a reference electrode and a second electrode (Nernst equation.) To estimate pH you have to measure either the hydronium ion concentration or the hydroxyl ion concentration. To know the pH you have to measure it. Absent dragging an electrode pair from the satellite, it isn’t going to measure pH. All other discussions on what affects pH aside, to know what it is get out your electrode with the glass membrane.
This is the stuff in very basic chemistry books.

February 17, 2015 11:38 am

at one time it was said;
“Dip your finger in the water and then lick it. If it tastes salty it is British”

Stephen Richards
February 17, 2015 11:41 am

Am I reading those images correctly? It looks like the most saline/acidic regions are those with the highest evaporation. Shock & awe !!

February 17, 2015 11:57 am

back in 2012 the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute were pushing stories about the seas becoming more acidic. I wrote to then and said would a better term, if this was happening, be becoming less base.
They replied-
“Yes, “less basic” would be a more appropriate term. However, it would
also be very confusing for members of congress and the general public”
So I responded that perhaps as a scientific organisation it would be
better to educate the public and congress that the seas are not
becoming acidic but less base,
his or her response,
“Thanks for trolling me”

February 17, 2015 12:09 pm

Somewhat related – there was an article in yesterday’s Seattle Times about the testing of some 14 designs for measuring ocean pH as part of prize challenge.
The description of the science was on par for someone who last had chemistry in the 9th grade.

February 17, 2015 12:16 pm
February 17, 2015 12:17 pm

Don’t the ARGO buoys measure pH? Wouldn’t they provide the in-situ calibration?

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  rokshox
February 17, 2015 12:50 pm

No. Argo measures-records conductivity (salinity), pressure, and temperature profile as it slowly rises from 2000m to surface. At the surface, the newer Argo acquire a GPS position-time solution, and then transmit all data to satellite.

George Steiner
February 17, 2015 12:27 pm

Aren’t computers and satelites wonderful. As I remember in process control here on earth pH is notoriously difficult to measure accurately. But now that we have satelites no problem.

February 17, 2015 12:28 pm

Now I has read the paper, it certainly didn’t take long and wasn’t intellectually taxing. Essentially it is 100% pure waffle. In short they piously hope that ift they measure SST, salinity and chlorophyll in sufficient number of places they will somehow be able to figure out algorithms that give them the alkalinity. However these algorithms don’t exist yet, and they do admit that measuring chlorophyll has some “challenges”, particularly in the Arctic (I suppose they are thinking of darkness, clouds and ice).
Actually coverage is rotten as can be seen here:
Essentially there is no data at more than 45 degrees latitude in winter in both hemisphere and coverage is very spotty along the Equator too (probably due to the ITCZ). Amusingly the coverage is only good in the areas with the lowest chlorophyll concentration (the mid-latitude doldrums)

Mike the Morlock
February 17, 2015 12:36 pm

This is a link to some of the information on the “Aquarius Satellite” and its capabilities as well as some of the people involved with the project.

February 17, 2015 12:49 pm

Is this really measurement, or another model?

Reply to  Gregory
February 17, 2015 12:59 pm

It is measurement. But of what is not quite clear.
It is a combination of real measurements of attributes of the Oceans.

Reply to  MCourtney
February 18, 2015 8:58 am

It is measurement of temperature, salinity and chlorophyll. From which they hope to model alkalinity from which they hope to model pH, but they don’t know how yet.
So this is measurement that may sometime be used to model something.

February 17, 2015 1:17 pm

There is a reason the pH of the oceans is that high…and it’s not from a lack of buffers
Buffers are in saturation…that’s the way it works, and has to work that way
Biological processes (denitrification, ammonification, nitrification, etc) produce an unimaginable amount of acids (CO2 included) and would have crashed the oceans making them unworkable as we know them.
…and it’s the biological processes that replenish the buffers
It’s a circle…..

Reply to  Latitude
February 17, 2015 1:18 pm

…in addition, adding CO2 will only increase the buffers

February 17, 2015 1:19 pm

I am sure there is nothing to worry about.
pH (Marine) – Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines
The pH of marine waters is usually quite stable (between. 7.5 and 8.5 worldwide) and is similar to that of estuarine … Cell aggregation of sea urchin embryos.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  richard
February 17, 2015 3:38 pm

Exactly. Estuarine pH varies more than coastal, which varies more than deep ocean. Even the Southern Ocean seasonally varies 0.5. See more detailed posts upthread.

Gunga Din
February 17, 2015 1:20 pm

Nitpick Alert!!

Curiously, the caption for the graphic provided with the press release says it is “total ocean alkalinity from space” which is actually correct, since the ocean pH is not below 7.0, and not acidic, it is simply less alkaline. Then there’s the statement “The new techniques use satellite mounted thermal cameras to measure ocean temperature while microwave sensors measure the salinity.”

While water being alkaline (basic) or acidic is tied to a pH above or below 7.0, the term “alkalinity” is not.
“Alkalinity” refers to the capacity of the water, because of the compounds dissolved in it, to resist a change in pH. The pH may be above or below 7.0.
Here are a couple of references.
(PS Knowing the salinity of the water will not tell you the water’s ability to resist a change in pH. You’d have to know what the salts are. Not all salts will buffer pH.)

Reply to  Gunga Din
February 18, 2015 9:59 am

You could study science or you could have a saltwater pool to learn things like this.

February 17, 2015 1:20 pm

“The pH of marine waters is usually quite stable (between
7.5 and 8.5 worldwide) and is similar to that of estuarine
waters because of the buffering capacity provided by the
abundance of strong basic cations such as sodium,
potassium, and calcium and of weak acid anions such as
carbonates and borates (Wetzel 1983). Higher pHs are
usually found in near-surface waters because of solar
radiation. The effect of solar radiation on pH is twofold: it
promotes photosynthesis and increases surface temperatures, both of which decrease the amount of free carbonic
acid and consequently raise the pH”

Reply to  richard
February 17, 2015 3:29 pm

. Higher pHs are usually found in near-surface waters because of solar radiation….
Also aeration/exposure to air…….

February 17, 2015 1:23 pm

As far as I can tell, much of the anecdotally-reported instances of “ocean acidity” events appear to be caused by local acidic water emissions. Curiously, none of the reports of problems with oysters, lobsters, corals (the new global warming poster-children?) relate the nature of the acid substances allegedly responsible for the demise of all those edible/cute little critters.
It would be an almost perfunctory task to obtain and analyze samples of the offending seawater. So the fact that this data is not reported, or not done suggests that the results would not be in keeping with the AGW story line. If the culprit is any acid other than carbonic acid, CO2 is off the hook, and the torch & pitchfork crowd should look elsewhere for scapegoats for their own poor husbandry,
The universal use of the term “acidification” to describe decreased alkalinity is also a sure sign of journalistic hyperbole. Offenders say it’s the same thing, but I never heard of weak alkaline solutions dissolving oyster shells.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Miner49er
February 17, 2015 3:49 pm

There is also much deception bordering on, if not actual, academic misconduct. The Milne Bay stuff is litterally poisoned by volcanic hydrogen sulphide. See essay Shell Games. Australia’s BGR and Florida’s Atlantic reef have been poisoned by pollution (mainly just runoff containing organic matter) which when decomposing also produces hydrogen sulfide, to which many sea organisms are exquisitely sensative. Works like cyanide on humans
Fix pollution. Fix overfishing. No need to fix CO2..

February 17, 2015 1:52 pm

So… we should believe that satellite observation is the most correct way to determine the oceans’ alkalinity, but we should not be so quick to believe the satellite derived land surface temps over the other data sets? Takes a long ladder to pick cherries that high up.

Laws of Nature
February 17, 2015 1:58 pm

Hi there,
I did read all the comments (yet), just wanted to point out two clear errors:
– not the oceans, but the ocean surface water is changing it’s pH-value, thus the title is wrong
– the caption under the figure is incorrect, since the image seems to show the CO2-concentration in the surface sea water not alkalinity

Leo G
February 17, 2015 1:58 pm

So if they are using temperature and salinity to come up with pH, how can they determine that the “ocean acidification” they claim in the PR is truly a function of dissolved CO2, and not just part of the normal regional and seasonal salinity pattern?

Firstly, acidification does not have the same meaning as “increase in acidity”. Acidification refers to a transition, not a measurable, net reduction in pH.
Secondly, the pH of a solution is temperature dependent, even without change in concentration of solutes. So if the surface pH is to measured by satellite, assisted by salinity information, then the surface temperature should be used to adjust pH to a that at a nominal standard temperature. My impression is that the proposed method involves the converse operation- in which case it it designed to mislead.

Gunga Din
February 17, 2015 2:01 pm

The universal use of the term “acidification” to describe decreased alkalinity is also a sure sign of journalistic hyperbole.

Why don’t they ever call it “causticness”?
An caustic comment is not as bad as an acid tongue?

Gunga Din
Reply to  Gunga Din
February 17, 2015 2:05 pm

Small typo.
A caustic comment…”

Reply to  Gunga Din
February 17, 2015 3:44 pm

A caustic comment is more effective when the humor is dry, my friend.
An acid tongue is more empowered by a rain of ire.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
February 17, 2015 3:52 pm

I should have realized that!

February 17, 2015 2:19 pm

Yet another reason why scientists who claim to be client scientists are losing credbility. Is anyone projecting that the oceans will become acidic? Then why present findings as ocean acidification instead of ocean alkalinity? Oh, I know, acids are much scarier than alkalis. Battery acid has a pH of 1.0, Coke about 2.5, Coffee about 4.0, fresh milk about 6.7, pure water 7.0, and the oceans? About 8.1, a decrease of 0.1 over the last 200 years.

Reply to  Robber
February 18, 2015 9:03 am

“pure water 7.0”
Should be distilled, de-gassed water 7.0. Pure rainwater is about 5.0-5.5.

February 17, 2015 2:29 pm

Just the sheer volume of bs papers (which are usually followed by the media report: “scientists say”) makes me wonder if we will ever have time to debunk them all. It’s like trying to get rid of an infestation of tiny ants in homes here in Australia. No sooner have you stopped them at one place than they have wriggled their way through another tiny opening.

February 17, 2015 2:33 pm

One satellite image makes you larger
And one image makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask ESA
When it’s ten meters tall
And if you go chasing funding
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah-smoking alarmist
Has given you the call
Call ESA
When it was just small …

February 17, 2015 2:39 pm

“Pioneering technique” or “kludge?”
Choices, choices…

masInt branch 4 C3I in is
February 17, 2015 2:42 pm

Maybe the AuthorNaughts will have their “Sparta” moment on camera! Ha ha 😉

Mark Nutley
February 17, 2015 3:15 pm

There is no such thing as “ocean acidification” And if is past time we stopped using that pointless term

Reply to  Mark Nutley
February 17, 2015 3:34 pm

It’s not at all pointless- but effective recruiting propaganda helping to swell the ranks of the zombie apocalypse of CAGW believers and activists.

February 17, 2015 3:25 pm

The paper seems to expand on a previous study that it cites as reference 18:
Global relationships of total alkalinity with salinity and temperature in surface waters of the world’s oceans
Kitack Lee, Lan T. Tong, Frank J. Millero, Christopher L. Sabine, Andrew G. Dickson, Catherine Goyet, Geun-Ha Park, Rik Wanninkhof, Richard A. Feely and Robert M. Key
Article first published online: 5 OCT 2006 | DOI: 10.1029/2006GL027207
From the abstract of that paper:
A simple function of sea surface salinity (SSS) andtemperature (SST) in the form AT= a + b (SSS – 35) + c (SSS-35)^2+ d (SST- 20) + e (SST -20)^2 fits surface total alkalinity (AT) data for each of five oceanographic regimes within an area-weighted uncertainty of ±8.1 micromol kg^(-1).
So they don’t really measure pH — only changes in buffer capacity.

February 17, 2015 3:29 pm

Yea – maybe they should send up a satellite to image pH , detecting all those high speed protons radiating out to space from the sea surface. Real data might tell them something unexpected – like the results they got from the OCO orbiting carbon observatory. But hey – it doesn’t even matter if such real world data contradicted their chattering class pseudoscience dystopia. Just write it off as another lying eye in the sky. Like OCO that showed that more CO2 is emitted by forests and deserts than cities. Or Envisat that showed sea level is falling.

Mike M.
February 17, 2015 3:37 pm

Lots of uninformed nonsense in these comments. As several have correctly noted, akalinity is not pH, it is the capacity of a solution to neutralize acid. As such, total alkalinity is the sum of all weak bases in the solution. For seawater, that means 2*[carbonate] + [bicarbonate] + a number of minor contributors.
You can not calculate pH from total alkalinity. You can calculate it if you know the alkalinity, the relative amounts of the various weak bases, the salinity, the temperature, and the vapor pressure of CO2 in the seawater. If you want to calculate the effect of CO2, you would need the other items on the list, as well as the extent to which CO2 vapor pressure in solution differs from partial pressure in the atmosphere. I have only glanced quickly at the paper; it seems to be an effort to get global data on some of these parameters, which is perfectly reasonable. It does look like there is a lot of hype in the press release.
The relative amounts of the various salts in seawater are quite constant. So if you measure salinity, you can get pretty good numbers for total alkalinity and the distribution of that alkalinity among the various bases. We have measurements of temperature and CO2 partial pressure. So if the degree of CO2 disequilibrium can be estimated, pH can be calculated. The CO2 disequilibrium is, I think, mostly due to biological activity, and the authors seem to think that can also be determined remotely. In that case this might be useful for taking the measurements made at places like Station Aloha, and extending them globally. Of course, any such methodology would have to be validated by in situ measurements; a point the authors appear to appreciate.
Scientific papers should be judged by their contents, not by hype in a press release. That is a point that most of the commenters here seem to have overlooked.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Mike M.
February 17, 2015 4:06 pm

See above. Everything you say is directionally correct. But Station Aloha cannot be extended globally because ocean biology is not just on the surface, where chloropyll ‘greenness’ can also be sat measured. Aloha is barren. Surface relects what is below. Almost nothing. Not true in many other ocean regions.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 18, 2015 9:25 am

It’s rather more complex than that. For one thing satellites measure the “skin temperature” of the sea and the surface salinity, while the chlorophyll measurement is a (depth-skewed) average over the photic zone, the depth of which varies a great deal, mostly due to the local transparency of the water.
Also the CO2 disequilibrum is not only due to the current biological activity, but also to the past history of the watermass. For example upwelling deep water has a very high CO2 content because it has been isolated from the surface for up to 1000 years or more and biological activity has consumed much of the dissolved O2 and transformed it int CO2.
Now, I don’t say that it is impossible to model ocean pH, as a matter fact I rather think it probably is possible, but it will require an enormous number of direct pH measurements from all parts of the oceans over a period of many years to create and validate the required algorithms.
And even then it will be useless for major parts of the ocean much of the time. Chlorophyll measurement can only be done by reflected visible light, so it is impossible at high latitudes (>45-50 degrees lat) in winter and also in ice-covered and cloud-covered areas. The latter incidentally includes the entire northern Indian Ocean during the monsoon season.

February 17, 2015 3:51 pm

As our oceans are basically saturated with CO2, (they absorb more when cold and outgas when warm) any decrease in PH must mean ocean cooling.
Baby oysters prefer estuary’s, no place does salinity change more wildly than an esturary, twice a day with tides and hugely during floods and droughts, I cannot imagine how they can be sensitive to PH if they like estuary’s.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  stuartlarge
February 17, 2015 4:36 pm

Yes. See essay Shell Games for how NOAA PMEL deceptively manipulated that simple fact into evidence of global warming ocean acidification alarm in a published paper AND to this day their US government website.

February 17, 2015 4:52 pm

“Satellite images reveal ocean acidification from space”
that one line is the whole and only ‘value’ of this paper , as that is what the press will run with,
the rest is merely in-fill for further grants .

Dan Easterling
February 17, 2015 4:58 pm

Its the usual par for the course, creation of so-called fact out of thin air. The facts don’t matter, the science doesn’t matter, all that matters is that they prove global warming yet again threatens the catastrophe to end mankind.
I don’t know about everybody else that I am catastrophed out right now.
The sheer audacity is enlightening. To be this audacious at this point of so many things showing that climate change is really a natural process without much to do with man, it shows the desperation of the climate change alarmist.
But notice they never say anything about their failed current predictions they only now point to 50 years in the future. To one with even a minimal statistical education predicting anything that far in the future with any certainty is patently impossible.

February 17, 2015 6:11 pm

When they actually show some chemistry, it might be worth commenting on. But probably not.

James at 48
February 17, 2015 7:29 pm

Seems to be a function of precip and to a lesser extent influx of fresh surface waters. The Horse Latitudes are the most alkaline, and the tropics and parts of upper latitudes are less so.

February 17, 2015 9:11 pm

Another man-made fabrication… ocean acidification.
I challenge anyone to show me even one location around the globe where the sea has turned acidic, excluding situations like humans intentionally and unintentionally discarding acid in the sea.

February 17, 2015 9:19 pm

Is this going to be the new battleground? And will they change the silly label they’ve given it from “Ocean Acidification” to something like “Ocean Change”, as more learned professionals take issue and blow their PR-language out of the water (so to speak).

February 18, 2015 1:36 am

This “ocean acidification ” nonsense completely misses the point.
“Furthermore, increased atmospheric CO2 from whatever cause is clearly beneficial to humanity and the environment. Earth’s atmosphere is clearly CO2 deficient and continues to decline over geological time. In fact, atmospheric CO2 at this time is too low, dangerously low for the longer term survival of carbon-based life on Earth.
More Ice Ages, which are inevitable unless geo-engineering can prevent them, will cause atmospheric CO2 concentrations on Earth to decline to the point where photosynthesis slows and ultimately ceases. This would devastate the descendants of most current life on Earth, which is carbon-based and to which, I suggest, we have a significant moral obligation.
Atmospheric and dissolved oceanic CO2 is the feedstock for all carbon-based life on Earth. More CO2 is better. Within reasonable limits, a lot more CO2 is a lot better.”
I see two problems for humanity and the environment in the next very few thousand years:
1. Another Ice Age
2. CO2-deficiency (if not in this next Ice Age, then in the following ones).

February 18, 2015 3:17 am

Not sure whether anyone already pointed this out but the graphic associated with this paper seems to show an inverse relationship to the high-CO2 regions recently mapped by NASA.

February 18, 2015 5:18 am

The red areas on the graph correspond with areas where the oceans are releasing CO2 and the blue areas correspond with areas where the ocenas are absorbing CO2.
This confirms the data from NASA’s CO2 observer. CO2 is being released by the oceans with negligible contribution from industrialized nations.

February 18, 2015 5:22 am

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:

Hype without data, without explanation, is sad.
You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest to fool. It seems the folks involved with such papers are either fools fooling themselves, or they are shysters hoping to fool us.

February 18, 2015 8:20 am

It’s worse than we thought, the state of climate science that is. I have no idea how microwaves determine salinity and to what depth they do this, or if it is a measurement of the surface, but infrared based satellite temperatures are only measuring the surface and do not show temperature at depth. I assume they infer a conductivity from the salinity and then infer a pH of the surface from the temperature and conductivity. So what is surface pH going to tell us? Jack sh!t. The data is going to be contaminated by rain and evaporation and it isn’t an accurate representaion for the pH just under the surface. It’s like trying to describe atmospheric conditions at the earth’s surface by collecting data on the tropopause.
But it doesn’t matter anyways, because chemistry. The oceans are not a closed system, they do not have a fixed amount of carbonates like in a beaker back at the lab. If CO3 ions are depleted by increased CO2 ions then solid CaCO3 from the unlimited CaCO3 sediment supply simply goes into solution. Much of the CO2 will simply remain as dissolved CO2 anyways and increase photosynthetic efficiency.

February 18, 2015 8:51 am

“This process turns the seawater more acidic, making it more difficult for some marine life to live”
Bogus claim as seawater is a complex buffer system and very resistant to a weak acid such as carbonic acid from CO2. But, dissolved CO2 will push the carbonic acid, bicarbonate, carbonate, calcium carbonate to the product side, causing deposition of calcium carbonate.
The map shown is not pH change, it’s just pH measurement. They cannot show and pH decrease. Ocean pH remains within its normal range.

Gunga Din
Reply to  higley7
February 18, 2015 2:41 pm

I don’t understand your first paragraph. In lime/soda softening water treatment we introduce CO2 to change calcium carbonate that hasn’t settled out yet or is still dissolved back into bicarbonates so they won’t settle out or scale in the distribution system.
Did I misunderstand what you meant?

Reply to  Gunga Din
February 19, 2015 7:57 am

There’s a big difference between the chemistry of freshwater and seawater.

February 18, 2015 4:44 pm

Ben of Houston
Damn skippy!! If I submitted cooling tower blowdown with surrugate and correlative data, I’d be in prison along with my plant manager and maybe supervisor. Hell, for that matter if I dump a cooling pond and conduct all the biomonitoring, temperature, pH, oil and grease, TSS, flow, etc. data and it all passes. The fleas, ticks, and fish (as my plant manager calls them) propagate spectacularly and fart rainbows.
But…. If I fill the pond back up from the receiving stream two weeks later and decide I forgot to fix a spray support standard and dump it right back and have neither circulated the water or put anything in it, and don’t conduct all that testing all over again…… yep, NOV/fine/bad publicity in the press/etc. so forth ad nauseum

Tom O
February 19, 2015 7:51 am

I have to love this type of “scientific research.” Use an instrument designed for one specific thing and another designed for something else and try to cobble a process that gives peripheral information that supports a totally different process. Sort of like going to the paint store and getting the color swatches to determine how dirty the wash water really is.

February 19, 2015 12:43 pm

Maybe if we filled the Oceans with Universal Indicator Solution
Then the Satellites could see what colour it turned
Have they any idea about the innate carbonate buffering is built into the oceans.If this wasn’t the case – and in our own cellular processes with a carried ocean – we wouldn’t be here.

February 19, 2015 12:48 pm

Doh! – just realised…. it would be Blue

Gunga Din
Reply to  Dave A
February 19, 2015 1:35 pm

At least there’d be no more red tides. 😎

Dr. Strangelove
February 19, 2015 9:15 pm

Here are the chemical reactions and content of seawater that determine average pH = 8.1
H2O + CO2 H2CO3 H+ + HCO3-
CO2 = 1 mole, HCO3- = 1.2 mole, H+ = 1/256,000 mole
Obviously there is an oversupply of bicarbonates relative to hydrogen ions. by Le Chatelier’s principle, equilibrium shifts to the left side of the reaction favoring the formation of carbonic acid over formation of hydrogen ions.
The world’s proven oil reserves equal 1.48 x 10^12 barrels. If we burn all that, it will produce 6.36 x 10^14 kg of CO2. One-fourth of that is believed to be absorbed by the ocean. It will only increase dissolved CO2 in the ocean by 1% or in the above equation from 1 to 1.01 mole of CO2. The effect is negligible. It will not shift the chemical equilibrium. pH will change from 8.10 to 8.08

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
February 19, 2015 9:18 pm

The double arrows disappeared. Here it is again.
H2O + CO2 = H2CO3 = H+ + HCO3-
Equal sign represents double arrow or reversible reaction

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
February 19, 2015 9:19 pm

Dr Strangelove

The world’s proven oil reserves equal 1.48 x 10^12 barrels. If we burn all that, it will produce 6.36 x 10^14 kg of CO2. One-fourth of that is believed to be absorbed by the ocean. It will only increase dissolved CO2 in the ocean by 1% or in the above equation from 1 to 1.01 mole of CO2. The effect is negligible. It will not shift the chemical equilibrium. pH will change from 8.10 to 8.08

Yeah, well there you are again.
Bringing numbers to a knife fight.

February 21, 2015 11:04 pm

Ocean acidification? Really? Where? Only in mythical research!

March 1, 2015 8:53 pm

The popular version used by Scientific American and originates with Brian Kahn, Senior Science Writer at Climate Central, (MA in “Climate and Society” from Columbia) experienced in producing “multimedia stories and managing social media campaigns”.
“The depressing task of monitoring ocean acidification..” and “….global warming’s evil twin at work”
are of course sober scientific speak which only Scientists can understand. No fingerprint of spinmeisters can be detected.