Dr. Christopher Cornwall Responds to “Ocean Acidification: Trying to Get the Science Right”

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen

clip_image002

When I wrote “Ocean Acidification: Trying to Get the Science Right” , I sent Dr. Christopher Cornwall, lead author of Cornwall & Hurd 2015, a courtesy advanced copy of the essay, inviting him to comment. Dr. Cornwall was away doing field work at the time, but on his return has supplied the following: (his words in italics)

[ read more ]

Hi Kip,

…. I am not trying to defend the inappropriately designed or analysed papers, but feel that these points could be useful to your readers,

Cheers,

Chris

“The field of ocean acidification has a few logistical constraints (mentioned in the paper) that make it more challenging than many other fields of research. Other than appropriate replication and randomisation, there are many other components that make up the methodological merits of paper. For example, correctly measuring and manipulating carbonate chemistry, the ecological/environmental realism of the experimental conditions, and the utility of the prescribed treatments in testing the hypotheses posed. Therefore, while the majority of ocean acidification studies may be carefully designed in many of the aspects mentioned above, it is clear that not all studies are perfect in every facet. If any given field of research was examined in a similar way I would be surprised if the number of perfectly designed studies was high.

 

Many “classic” papers in the infancy of ecology were conducted using limited replication; future research then built on their findings to improve our knowledge. The same phenomenon is occurring here in ocean acidification research – and the same process of refinement will likely occur in other fields of research in the future if it has not already. The money spent by governments on ocean acidification was, in most cases, spent wisely. The same findings that appear in many of the first classic papers have been repeated using appropriate experimental methods. As well as in the laboratory studies we examined, these findings have also been represented in field experiments. It is now clear that ocean acidification will negatively impact marine ecosystems through alteration of the behaviour of many fish and invertebrate species, and through reductions in the calcification of many (but not all) calcifying species. The key now is for ocean acidification research to continue to improve and provide a benchmark for other fields of research.”

 

Subsequently, I wrote and asked Dr. Cornwall’s opinion on this question:

As widespread significantly lowered pH is expected only to take place gradually on a century scale, how predictive can we expect results to be from immediate-to-rapid (weeks or months) reduction of pH?  What is the thinking on this issue in the OA field?  What research procedures are planned or in use to find out now, without waiting the requisite 100 years?

His answer:

“Yes, there has also been discussion in the OA community about whether experiments represent initial shock responses or realistic responses.  There are a number of experiments that gradually ramp pH down to test the effects – the results so far are not clear cut, but this is definitely another aspect to be considered in future research.  Some of the short-duration research in my sub-field (macroalgae) usually show less dramatic effects than longer experiments, which indicates to me that responses generally are not an initial shock responses – but more research is required on this topic, and I cannot say for certain that the responses of some studies are not “shock” responses.

Also, there has been a number of studies examining whether organisms could adapt to OA, or whether organisms from habitats with high variability in pH could already possess traits beneficial to them under OA. The results of these studies are also not clear cut as yet unfortunately – though this is an avenue of research that is expanding currently.

Attached is a paper** looking at dramatic versus gradual exposure to low pH seawater.”

 

And while I am sure that Chris is fully aware that I do not share his certainty about the future negative effects of ocean acidification, it is a pleasure to be able to interact with him in such a collegial and professional manner. If only it were so with so many others who should be our colleagues in the various fields related to climate science.

For the future of OA?

For the research field known as OA, I would call for a full Cochrane-style review * of the research to date, using only the very best studies, those properly designed, carried out with correct chemistry, analysed with appropriate statistical methods and taking into account the proper time frames in order to estimate our actual current state of knowledge on the subject. Chris Cornwall and Catriona Hurd are already well positioned to do such a work.

In light of the acknowledged white hat and confirmation bias that exists in the field, I support John Ioannidis who suggests the following for all scientific fields: “large studies with minimal bias should be performed on research findings that are considered relatively established, to see how often they are indeed confirmed. I suspect several established ‘classics’ will fail the test.” (my italics)

It is so very easy to fool ourselves about science – medical research has shown this over and over: reversals of “givens” both in medical theory, clinical practice and hopeful looking cures and treatments are almost the norm when gold standard RCT trials are performed on treatments which are already widely practiced and/or popularly accepted. What “everybody knows” has seldom been sufficiently verified and is often found incorrect.

# # # # #

* — “Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. “

** — “Coralline algal structure is more sensitive to rate, rather than the magnitude, of ocean acidification” KAMENOS et al 2013 — Global Change Biology (2013) 19, 3621–3628, doi: 10.1111/gcb.12351

# # # # #

Author’s Comment Policy: This piece is mostly made up of Dr. Cornwall’s response to an earlier essay, his opinions and words. He has been notified of its posting and has received an advanced copy. He may choose to participate in comments.

I (Kip Hansen) will respond to comments directed specifically to me, such as : “Kip – Thanks for highlighting this work…can you tell us….?”. Of course, I cannot comment for Dr. Cornwall or answer questions about his opinions – he has stated them very clearly.

# # # # #

Advertisements

205 thoughts on “Dr. Christopher Cornwall Responds to “Ocean Acidification: Trying to Get the Science Right”

  1. Why does anyone worry about so-called OA, when all species, genera and families of organisms older than 2.6 million years possibly affected by any change in pH associated with higher atmospheric CO2 evolved under much greater levels of the essential trace gas and all organisms have survived lower levels since then?

    • Because evolution runs much in the time scale of 1000’s of generations, but we are witnessing a significant CO2 change in some decades.
      I’m not worried, but I understand how some are.
      Our guest, dr. Cornwall, please enlighten the possible pitfalls of marine ecosystems in the light of geologically recent CO2 fluctuations.

      • Hugs
        September 10, 2015 at 2:18 am
        Because evolution runs much in the time scale of 1000’s of generations, but we are witnessing a significant CO2 change in some decades……

        This is not always the case. See the following papers on:
        Rapid evolution marine
        Acclimation marine

      • Jimbo,
        I agree on selective pressure being capable of changing population’s average properties profoundly without destroying much genetic material in mere some generations, and thus giving the option to return via reserve evolution (or rather, reverse selection).
        However, if the pressure is too high or grows too long and fast in one direction compared to the gene pool you have, chances are you run out of time, gene pool, and mice (or whatever was your model).
        This is a matter of amount.

      • Hugs
        September 10, 2015 at 6:49 am
        ……
        However, if the pressure is too high or grows too long and fast in one direction compared to the gene pool you have, chances are you run out of time, gene pool, and mice (or whatever was your model).
        This is a matter of amount.

        See my reply to Kip here.
        [If the link does not work then it’s still under moderation – try again in 5 minutes]

      • Öman50,
        Volcanic eruption is a poster child of event causing extinction of a population due to a sudden change in environment.
        There are also two kind of extinctions – population and species. Volcanism usually kills local populations, but extensive eruptions can wipe away genera. Fingers crossed.
        Jimbo
        Thanks for your extensive bibliography.

      • Hugs,
        Here is something else quite interesting. Large PH changes over hours and days parts of the oceans.

        Abstract – 2011
        Will ocean acidification affect marine microbes?
        ……….Useful comparisons can be made with microbes in other aquatic environments that readily accommodate very large and rapid pH change. For example, in many freshwater lakes, pH changes that are orders of magnitude greater than those projected for the twenty second century oceans can occur over periods of hours. Marine and freshwater assemblages have always experienced variable pH conditions. Therefore, an appropriate null hypothesis may be, until evidence is obtained to the contrary, that major biogeochemical processes in the oceans other than calcification will not be fundamentally different under future higher CO2/lower pH conditions.
        http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v5/n1/full/ismej201079a.html
        ———————–
        Abstract – December 19, 2011
        Gretchen E. Hofmann et al
        High-Frequency Dynamics of Ocean pH: A Multi-Ecosystem Comparison
        ………. These observations reveal a continuum of month-long pH variability with standard deviations from 0.004 to 0.277 and ranges spanning 0.024 to 1.430 pH units. The nature of the observed variability was also highly site-dependent, with characteristic diel, semi-diurnal, and stochastic patterns of varying amplitudes. These biome-specific pH signatures disclose current levels of exposure to both high and low dissolved CO2, often demonstrating that resident organisms are already experiencing pH regimes that are not predicted until 2100……..
        …..and (2) in some cases, seawater in these sites reaches extremes in pH, sometimes daily, that are often considered to only occur in open ocean systems well into the future [46]. …..
        DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028983
        http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0028983

        People should note that ocean acidification is not necessarily a negative thing.
        Abstract – Gabrielle M. Miller et. al. – May 2013
        Increased CO2 stimulates reproduction in a coral reef fish
        ………We investigated the effects of near-future levels of pCO2 on the reproductive performance of the cinnamon anemonefish, Amphiprion melanopus, from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Breeding pairs were held under three CO2 treatments [Current-day Control (430 μatm), Moderate (584 μatm) and High (1032 μatm)] for a 9-month period that included the summer breeding season. Unexpectedly, increased CO2 dramatically stimulated breeding activity in this species of fish. Over twice as many pairs bred in the Moderate (67% of pairs) and High (55%) compared to the Control (27%) CO2 treatment. Pairs in the High CO2 group produced double the number of clutches per pair and 67% more eggs per clutch compared to the Moderate and Control groups. As a result, reproductive output in the High group was 82% higher than that in the Control group and 50% higher than that in the Moderate group. Despite the increase in reproductive activity, there was no difference in adult body condition among the three treatment groups. There was no significant difference in hatchling length between the treatment groups, but larvae from the High CO2 group had smaller yolks than Controls. This study provides the first evidence of the potential effects of ocean acidification on key reproductive attributes of marine fishes and, contrary to expectations, demonstrates an initially stimulatory (hormetic) effect in response to increased pCO2. However, any long-term consequences of increased reproductive effort on individuals or populations remain to be determined.
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12259/abstract
        The debate continues!

      • WPeszko
        September 10, 2015 at 2:29 am
        ” Because since then they evolved under much lower level of the essential trace gases.”
        ————————–
        How can you say that?
        As far as I can tell, the claim that oceans were more acidic then in the past , when the atmosphere was in higher levels of CO2 concentration, is simply an assumption……we do not have any actual measurements of the SEA water pH or the OA for that past period….or do we have such data?!
        So the impact of the OA in the sea water species hangs up in the big “if” of it really happening .
        If I am wrong…..and there is actually data about the actual ocean pH for the past periods in question, I will be very glad to be point it at.
        If not then the OA magnitude due to CO2 circulation in the system and the magnitude of C02 concentrations at any given time and period, no matter at what extent and variation of CO2 concentrations at any time, in a natural manner, naturally, may and could be really too insignificant, with no any real significance to sea water life…..
        So the matter does not really hang only in the point of how big the impact of a drastic and a significant OA variation will be to sea water life, but also it hangs in the point of it really happening or not, or it being a possibility as such in nature.
        To me the first approach should be that in nature, no matter what variation in atmospheric CO2 the impact in the oceans and the oceans pH should be really minimal and insignificant by any degree of comparison.
        To claim otherwise needs proving and evidence, especially when a lot of more and more money is expected to be thrown that way.
        when this can be said:
        ” looking at dramatic versus gradual exposure to low pH seawater.”
        and somehow considered reasonable
        this too can be said also:
        “looking at dramatic versus insignificant change of OA (pH seawater) due to the magnitude of CO2 concentration and its variation in nature”
        and somehow this too considered reasonable enough.
        The most significant handicap I get to experience generally is the inability of many to distinguish between the CO2 concentrations(ppms) and the CO2 emissions (not in ppms), and therefore a total confusion and complete mistake and misunderstanding in what concentration means and what the emissivity and (or) sinking of CO2 means…………
        cheers

      • 4 million years ago, ocean pH was substantially lower than today. On the order of 7.4. Coral thrived in the warmer, pre-ice-age conditions. In contrast, hard corals today are largely confined to a narrow band around the equator.
        corals reefs would greatly expand their range around the world if there truly was a warming of the oceans. corals have existed on the planet for 600 million years. through warm and cold periods, through high CO2 and low.
        this argues strongly that corals will still inhabit the oceans in extremely large numbers, long after the last climate scientists has long gone extinct.

      • @ferdberple
        Interesting fallacy. 1 billion years ago life evolved in atmosphere without oxygen, so removing it shouldn’t be an issue?

      • That’s reducto ad absurdum and you know it.
        If we were to go to unprecedented levels, then I might be concerned. However, we are returning to slightly lower pH levels that these same species are known to have survived in ages past. Levels in which current corals can live and even grow when exposed to by a shock change, and due to the fluctuations that exist in a normal ocean, routinely experience now. pH can vary by as much as a full point in a single day in a shallow, active coral reef. Given a hundred years of natural selection to evolve, why do you think they can’t survive?
        The claim that a reduction of 0.1-0.4 pH on a slow, multi-century scale will cause catastrophe just doesn’t make sense.

      • Here is something on corals and the Barrier Reef. I have been told time and again that coral bleaching (caused by warmer water and acidification) is causing coral loss. I got the impression that this was causing most of the losses. As usual upon further inspection I learn that it’s responsible for 10% of the decline over the past 27 years.

        Abstract – 2 October 2012
        The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes
        Tropical cyclones, coral predation by crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), and coral bleaching accounted for 48%, 42%, and 10% of the respective estimated losses, amounting to 3.38% y-1 mortality rate. Importantly, the relatively pristine northern region showed no overall decline. …
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3497744/

        AS REPORTED IN THE NEWS.

        “The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the last 27 years. The loss was due to storm damage (48%), crown of thorns starfish (42%), and bleaching (10%) according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today by researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in Townsville and the University of Wollongong.”
        http://www.aims.gov.au/latest-news/-/asset_publisher/MlU7/content/2-october-2012-the-great-barrier-reef-has-lost-half-of-its-coral-in-the-last-27-years
        “”There are three main sources for the coral decline, one is storms, however 42% is attributed to Crown of Thorns Starfish – and just 10% due to bleaching.”
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26183209

      • Reply to jimbo ==> (Let’s see if WordPress will put this reply in the right place…it is meant to reply to jimbo here).
        Jimbo — you have stepped in it — the Great Barrier Reef Wars, an ongoing ‘science war’ surrounding the issues of the fate of the Great Barrier Reef. This war has been being fought back-and-forth for the last ten years or so, mostly by Australian scientists but also among international advocates of various viewpoints regarding threats — natural vs anthropogenic mostly — to reefs (global warming, sea surface temperatures, human shore development, tourism, lack of tourism, over-fishing, under-fishing, improper fishing techniques and methods, non-native invasive species).
        The studies you mention are salvos fired by one side at the other — usually in learned journals.

      • Kip Hansen, who are you? You didn’t even flinch when it was made clear to you that Ocean Acidification is oxymoronic as a term and indefensible as a field of study. But here you are still, a Journalist full with paternalism and patronisation. Both capacities would suit you better in those fields concerned with compassion for the human condition. But here you are again, an apologist for liars.

    • reductions in the calcification of many (but not all) calcifying species.
      ================
      basic chemistry says otherwise:
      the main ingredient in shells is CaCO3. This is made up of lime (CaO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). if one could magically remove all the carbon dioxide from the oceans, shellfish would become extinct.
      http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=3622&cid=63809
      “We were surprised that some organisms didn’t behave in the way we expected under elevated CO2,” said Anne L. Cohen, a research specialist at WHOI and one of the study’s co-authors. “What was really interesting was that some of the creatures, the coral, the hard clam and the lobster, for example, didn’t seem to care about CO2 until it was higher than about 1,000 parts per million [ppm].”

      • Reply to ferdberple ==> The study being referred to is Ries et al 2009 “Marine calcifiers exhibit mixed responses to CO2-induced ocean acidification” (supplemental information here). It involved rearing various organisms under atmospheric CO2 concentrations 2, 3, and 10 times “pre-industrial” levels (+/- 280 ppm), for 60 days. There was no gradual introduction to changed conditions..
        No one in OA research actually expects atmospheric concentrations to reach 2,800 ppm…
        The basic result was “that 10 of the 18 species studied exhibited reduced rates of net calcification and, in some cases, net dissolution under elevated pCO2 . However, in seven species, net calcification increased under the intermediate and/or highest levels of pCO 2 , and one species showed no response at all.”

      • it involved rearing various organisms
        =================
        most organism do poorly in aquariums because they are poor imitations of their natural environment.

  2. My first thought, on confronting rising CO2 lo, these long years, was that the ocean is a huge buffer; it’s taken many of these long years to appreciate the biomic sink.
    ===================

  3. I think Dr Cornwall knows that the ocean pH generally is on the alkaline side of the scale. “Acidification” means a lowering of pH. It’s also easier to say than “dealkalination.”
    I would like to know more about why it’s not generally considered that gradually higher atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 might easily be adaped to by calcium carbonate-fixing organisms rather than being a calamitous event bordering on mass-extinction as is too-often hyped, and how the carbon cycle processes differ with lower vs higher atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    • Someone suggested that it be called ocean “neutralization,” which it seems is more technically correct, albeit less frightening.

    • Lowering the pH of a basic solution was never called acidification, unless the final solution wound up being an acid.
      “lowering pH” is not part of the definition of the word “acidification” in any dictionary or chemistry text.
      It is only used in the context of CO2 related catastrophism.
      It is less descriptive and harder to say than about a dozen other ways to describe the process of slightly neutralizing a weakly basic solution.
      Acidification has one, and only one, advantage meme: It sounds scary to the average non-scientist.
      [A typo has been fixed – mod]

      • Lowering the pH of a basic solution was never called acidification, unless the final solution would up being an acid.

        Unless you are a chemist, a biochemist, or a biologist.

        “lowering pH” is not part of the definition of the word “acidification” in any dictionary or chemistry text.

        Unless you are a chemist, a biochemist, or a biologist.
        Forever, people around here get so pedantic about the term “acidification”. Unfortunately, the more pedantic some people get, the more wrong they are. Back in the lab, we use “acidification” as tech-speak meaning to lower the pH of a solution. From any point to any other point. Without regard to whether we pass pH 7 on the way. For us old equilibrium chemistry guys, pH 7 is just another point in the great continuum of things.
        Example:
        Back in my undergraduate days, we were conducting a base catalyzed hydrolysis of protein at pH ~12. The lab instructions read in part, “after the catalysis is complete, acidify to neutrality“. Not one person in the lab was confused, or complained about the nomenclature in use.
        Please, for all of you who would belabor the issue:
        Stop It
        Stop It
        STOP IT!

      • Menicholas,
        As a PhD chemist with 25 years experience as a university chemistry professor, I agree with jstalewski, TonyL, and Kip Hansen. When you add acid to something, you are acidifying it, even if the pH is above 7.

        • If you add a base to an acid you are neutralizing it. Wouldn’t it be the same if you added an acid to a basic solution?
          “A neutralization reaction is when an acid and a base react to form water and a salt and involves the combination of H+ ions and OH- ions to generate water. The neutralization of a strong acid and strong base has a pH equal to 7.”
          It works both ways.

      • @ majormike1
        True, all true.
        But, as you say,

        The neutralization of a strong acid and strong base has a pH equal to 7

        the neutralization process has an explicit target of pH 7, by definition. This is not always what we are doing, and we want not to imply anything by accident.
        So neutralization is used for that one special case.

        • Until you neutralize an alkaline solution, you cannot acidify it. You can reduce its alkalinity until you reach pH 7, but until that point is reached, you have an alkaline solution. Once neutralized, it can be acidified.

      • We’re not talking about the science of acidifying a solution by adding acid here (which, as a PhD organic chemist, I did many times).
        We’re talking about the attempted generation of another vile, medieval, monastic chant for parrots, climate liars, useful idiots and useless idiots. Climate change, climate weirding, climate policy, war on women, ocean acidification – all tools to get stupid people to vote for tools.
        STOP IT may be your choice but sorry, no I’m going to call out the climate liars at every opportunity on this one.

      • The earliest use of the terminology that I found is from 2002 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/297/5582/833.full that used the terminology, “seawater to become more acidic” once in the article without any context to determine if the author was referring to any particular part of the ocean like by a river outlet.
        This terminology was not in use , that I could find, prior to the green movement’s demonizing of CO2. Previously, the most common terminology was lowered pH, pH decrease, lowered alkalinity, and acid-base balance. Lowered pH was used even when looking at acidic solutions instead of saying more acidic.

      • Brad, do I have to post scans from my undergraduate chemistry textbooks? You are being ridiculous and arguing about meaningless definitions.
        To “acidify” means to lower the pH. Period. If it is basic at the time, then you can also use the term “neutralize” until you get to pH 7. However, that does not mean “acidification” is wrong. You can argue that it is unecessarily alarming terminology. However, it is not wrong.
        That is the end of the discussion. Any other argument is just trying to dance around the simple, black and white definition of the word.

    • Reply to jstalewski ==> Duh! He is a PHDd chemist….and, yes, you have this exactly right “Acidification” means a lowering of pH. It’s also easier to say than “dealkalination.”
      Some commenters here who have not got this message by now (after reading my original essay and comments) are choosing to remain intentionally ignorant.

      • Regardless of what chemists call the process, the term “Ocean Acidification” is a political term in the public domain not a scientific one. The purpose of language is to communicate so one person can correctly understand another. Any deliberate choice of language that also deliberately conveys something other than the facts is not a scientific use of language. It is not the responsibility of the public to understand jargon presented to them, it is the responsibility of the scientists to make their jargon understandable to the public when presenting to them!

      • It matters not one jot what Kip or TonlyL say, the term ‘acidification’ may well have been used by chemists for many, many years, but none of them seem to have told the Oxford English Dictionary, or the Cambridge one, or any of the others. I am indebted to wickedwenchfan for paraphrasing what I was going to say, and also verdeviewer – and his/her request to Kip remains open: anything before 2005?
        But as I said, it doesn’t matter anyway. Chemists cannot alter the English language which is defined in dictionaries. If the solution is changed toward acid, it is NOT acidification. Acidification is to make something an acid, whether Kip thinks so or not. If it hasn’t become an acid then it has NOT been acidified. If you don’t like that, Kip (and TonyL, MikeM and others) then contact the Oxford English Dictionary.
        [I had ‘left’ WUWT, not wishing to make any more comments, but I just had to come back to make this, as some here just cannot understand the English language. English is quite rare, in that rules aren’t set down as such, but the language is defined in dictionaries. People like Kip cannot alter it, and Menicholas is 100% correct.]

      • Kip, when I was learning this stuff, in 1960, towards neutral was the honest term. Acidify would have cost a mark or a rebuke. We also knew what Orwell was writing about, first hand. We see no reason to tolerate it now. Ignorant? Stop it? Get away wi’ ye.

      • When I studied Chemistry at Uni the term for making something more neutral was neutralisation.
        The term for making something more acidic was acidification.
        But more usually it was just “raised the pH ” or lowered the pH”. Because it often doesn’t matter whether it’s neutral or not.
        The choice of words is important emotionally. “Acidification” sounds scarier than the accurate descriptive term “neutralisation”.
        But practically the choice of words is irrelevant. Practically the questions are “Will this change affect marine ecology and will the effect be harmful?”
        And the answer is, “Don’t know. But it won’t be catastrophic as if it was it would have happened in the past “.

      • Ok, I’m just arguing semantics here, but don’t chemists acidify something by adding an acid to lower the pH? So the terminology is technically true in that case.
        But there is not an acid being added to the ocean. Although perhaps the CO2 is mixing with the H2O to form carbonic acid, which then reacts with calcium in the water to become neutralized, lowering the pH.
        On another topic, there are thousands of reef aquariums running that inject CO2 into calcium reactor to lower the pH which strips more calcium out into the water for better coral growth. Isn’t there a lot of limestone and calcium that will be taken out of the rock and made available to organisms to use to grow? I use lime(kalkwasser) in my reef tank, if we can seed the ocean with iron to make algae grow, why not spread lime out over the reefs?

      • Acidification is to make something an acid, whether Kip thinks so or not.
        ====================
        a·cid·i·fy
        verb
        make or become acid.
        “pollutants can acidify surface water”
        Noun 1. acidification – the process of becoming acid or being converted into an acid
        Lost of people, even pHD chemists use sloppy language. Back before chemistry became “Politically Correct”, we were taught that the correct term for adding acid to a base was “neutralization”.
        In the case of “Acidify”, the verb is describing the effect, not the action. for example, consider this sentence: “his actions aggravated the situation.” “Acidify” is similar to “aggravate” in the example.
        for example: his action (adding CO2) aggravated (acidified) the situation (distilled water).
        the sloppy language is the misplaced use of acidified in place of CO2.
        for example: his action (acidification) aggravated (acidified) the situation (distilled water).
        Clearly the term “acidification” is misplaced in chemistry, because “adding CO2” is more precise.

      • Kip, thanks for the reference to a 2013 paper that equates acidification with a slight lowering of pH and raises concern for the “…approximately 1 million tons of fossil fuel CO2 per hour now being transferred from air to sea…”.
        That paper references a 2005 paper from UCAR “Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs and Other Marine Calcifiers: A Guide for Future Research” by Kleypas et al, which claims that:
        “As the major IPCC Special Report on Carbon Capture and Storage was proceeding greatly increased awareness of the impacts of what is now known as ‘Ocean Acidification’ was increasing.” (my bold)
        The IPCC Special Report references a 2005 paper from the Royal Society “Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
        The only reference to acidification in the Royal Society paper is to a 2004 paper: “Comparison of the lethal effect of CO2 and acidification on red sea bream (Pagrus major) during the early developmental stages” by Kikkawa et al.
        “Acidification” in that paper refers to bringing pH down to 6.2 and 5.9 with hydrochloric acid. Addition of CO2 is referred to as “seawater equilibrated with CO(2)-enriched gas mixtures.”
        The research seems to show that CO2-equilibriated is worse than HCl-acidified. But “equilibrated” doesn’t cut it if your aim is to scare people.

      • ferdberple September 10, 2015 at 7:08 am
        Acidification is to make something an acid, whether Kip thinks so or not.
        ====================
        a·cid·i·fy
        verb
        make or become acid.
        “pollutants can acidify surface water”
        Noun 1. acidification – the process of becoming acid or being converted into an acid
        Lost of people, even pHD chemists use sloppy language. Back before chemistry became “Politically Correct”, we were taught that the correct term for adding acid to a base was “neutralization”.

        In which case your teacher was wrong, ‘neutralization’ refers specifically to adding exactly enough acid to exactly balance the base (or vice versa). It does not refer to: e.g. adding enough acid to change the pH from 8.2 to 7.8, that is properly described as ‘acidification’.

      • So what is it called, in your make believe language land, when ammonia is added to an acidic solution. and it become less acidic?
        I am trained as a chemist too, BTW.
        And the opposite word of acid is almost always considered to be base, not alkali, or alkaline.
        That is just dumb.
        Find me one chemistry text with a section on Acid-Alkaline Chemistry.
        Show me one which does not have a section titled Acid-Base Chemistry.
        Anyway, not one single person quoted a textbook definition to back up the assertion that acidification refers to anytime you add an acid to a solution. That is just ridiculous to say, and if you are a PhD chemist with 25 years experience, that makes it worse…it does not make you correct.

      • Well Mr. Hansen, you are pretty hard to nail down, re your view on this, considering that last week when I made this comment:
        “Mr. Hansen,
        In the past I have found it necessary to quote the definition of the word “acidification” from numerous chemistry texts, and also from a collection of regular dictionaries, in order to counter the sophistry of the CAGW alarmists, who claim the acidification is a common term for a situation in which a basic solution is becoming more neutral.
        It is not, and it never was.
        It is only used in that context in the alarmist memes of impending disaster.
        BTW, I shall repost if you wish, or you may wish to prove me wrong by finding such a definition is a chemistry text, scientific or medical or regular dictionary, from any time period you may happen to find convenient, unless it is one which makes direct reference to “ocean acidification”.”
        …your reply was this:
        “Reply to Menicholas ==> No amount of being right will change the actuality of how the word is being used in this modern context.
        For better or for worse, we appear to to stuck with the name for now.”
        Link back to the good old days:
        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/09/04/ocean-acidification-trying-to-get-the-science-right/#comment-2022040
        As someone who appreciates a consistent point of view…thanks a heap.
        From what I consider to be a far more enlightening conversation on the subject:
        “If the idea was to dispel alarm, rather than incite it, the phrase everyone would use would not be “ocean acidification”.
        The oceans are not being transformed into acid.
        The are becoming more neutral, less basic, less alkaline, less caustic.
        Take your pick.
        Webster Dictionary
        1.Acidification(noun)
        the act or process of acidifying, or changing into an acid
        Origin: [Cf. F. acidification.]
        Princeton’s WordNet
        1.acidification(noun)
        the process of becoming acid or being converted into an acid
        Wiktionary
        1.acidification(Noun)
        The act or process of making something sour (acidifying), or changing into an acid.
        Oxford
        Definition of acidify in English:
        verb (acidifies, acidifying, acidified)
        Make or become acid:
        [with object]: ‘pollutants can acidify surface water’
        Derivatives
        acidification – noun
        Cambridge Online
        (Did not contain entry for acidification, but did have the verb form, acidify)
        acidify
        verb [I or T] uk /əˈsɪd.ɪ.faɪ/ specialized us
        to become an acid or to make something become an acid”
        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/06/10/astonishing-finding-coral-reef-thriving-amid-ocean-acidification/#comment-1960346
        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/06/10/astonishing-finding-coral-reef-thriving-amid-ocean-acidification/

      • For Phil.:
        “3 Neutralization
        Acids and bases react with one another to yield two products: water, and an ionic compound known as
        a salt. This kind of reaction is called a neutralization reaction.
        Na+ + OH¡ + H+ + Cl¡ ¡! H2O + Na+ + Cl¡
        K+ + OH+ + H+ + NO¡
        3
        ¡! H2O + K+ + NO¡
        3
        These reactions are both exothermic; although they involve di®erent acids and bases, it has been
        determined experimentally that they all liberate the same amount of heat (57.7 kJ) per mole of H+
        neutralized. This implies that all neutralization reactions are really the one net reaction
        H+(aq) + OH¡
        (aq) ¡! H2O (1)
        The \salt” that is produced in a neutralization reaction consists simply of the anion and cation that were
        already present. The salt can be recovered as a solid by evaporating the water.”
        (apparently some HTML glitch causes the minus sign superscript to present as an I subscript)
        http://www.chem1.com/acad/pdf/c1xacid1.pdf
        Perhaps you could quote us a passage from the text that says it is only called a neutralization reaction if the exact endpoint is a perfectly neutral solution, Phil.?
        Most people I know call such a reaction a titration, though.
        -Nicholas(Period)

    • There have been periods with more CO2, and there presently are parts of the ocean with huge amounts of volcanic CO2. The lab studies are much more isolated than what will happen in the ocean, where average pH will change gradually in an environment where many organisms will be moving around and changing.
      For that matter, the intense pH changes which frequently happen in upwelling areas seem to have been poorly studied for acidification effects and organisms which can handle large pH changes.

      • I vaguely recall that some corals became widespread during a time of higher co2 in the atmosphere.
        Can corals make it through all this ‘acid’? Will their be corals in 2100? You betcha!

        Abstract
        Rapid acclimation of juvenile corals to CO2-mediated acidification by upregulation of heat shock protein and Bcl-2 genes
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mec.13021/abstract
        =============
        Abstract
        Symbiodinium Community Composition in Scleractinian Corals Is Not Affected by Life-Long Exposure to Elevated Carbon Dioxide
        http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0063985

        http://deforestation.geologist-1011.net/PhanerozoicCO2-Temperatures.png

      • Coral will do great, and will be able to grow faster. Why?
        Because:
        “Coral is rather analogous to a lichen: The coral polyps that secrete the calcium carbonate skeleton that forms the structure that most people think of as coral, exist in a thin skin layer, built up upon the previous skeletons which have been excreted.
        The polyps, in turn, obtain their nutrients from symbiotic algae that reside within the polyp, as do very many marine organisms.
        Sponges, flatworms, mollusks, and even jellyfish…many have symbionts residing within them, mostly a variety of dinoflagellates, the most common genus of which are called, appropriately enough, symbiodinium.
        The coral itself is composed of a gazillion little animals, of the phylum cnidaria.”
        More CO2 for the symbiodinium, more food for the coral, faster growth.
        In addition to having more carbonate for their exoskeletal growth.

    • FWIW, my comment was intended to be a reply to Marcus’ post attempting to perpetuate the ignorance… I neglected to click on “reply” on his post – my bad…

    • Isn’t it strange that plants have adapted to differing levels of co2 and yet oceanic organisms, which have been around much longer, are thought to be unable to deal with the historically varying levels of co2?

      • Reply to Dahlquist ==> The chemistry difference is that CO2 in the atmosphere generally is just another trace gas, well mixed — and of course, plants “breathe” in CO2 — and for them, generally, more is better.
        CO2 dissolved in water however creates carbonic acid (carbonic acid is a chemical compound with the chemical formula H2CO3 (equivalently OC(OH)2).) This happens when atmospheric water mixes with atmospheric CO2 as well (which is why rain water is very slightly acidic) even without pollution.
        Adding more carbonic acid to the oceans at the surface (gas/water mixing) is called Ocean Acidification — the “more” coming from increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2.
        It is not that “oceanic organisms, which have been around much longer, are thought to be unable to deal with the historically varying levels of co2”, it is that we don’t know what the response to today’s ocean biota will be to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 (even after all this research, which is the subject of Cornwall and Hurd 2015).

    • Attached is a paper** looking at dramatic versus gradual exposure to low pH seawater.”

      Something I have often complained about – the dramatic ramping up as opposed to gradual leading to acclimatization / adaptation and even rapid evolution!

      Stanford Report, April 9, 2013
      Stanford seeks sea urchin’s secret to surviving ocean acidification
      Ocean research reveals rapid evolutionary adaptations to a changing climate. Genetic variation is the key to this ability to deal with higher acidity.
      http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/april/urchins-ocean-acidity-040813.html
      http://www.pnas.org/content/110/17/6937.full.pdf
      ===============
      Abstract
      Signs of adaptation to local pH conditions across an environmental mosaic in the California Current Ecosystem.
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23980118

      • Reply to jimbo ==> Thank you for the links .. OA research is all over the place — benefits, harm, surprising results, worrisome results.
        Cornwall and Hurd and some others are trying to make sure that the research results presented actually mean something useful and predictive.
        OA research is trying to answer a question about a predicted future — atmospheric CO2 will rise to double the current concentrations, what will this mean for ocean organisms and thus for mankind?

      • Kip Hansen
        September 10, 2015 at 7:02 am
        ………………..
        OA research is trying to answer a question about a predicted future — atmospheric CO2 will rise to double the current concentrations, what will this mean for ocean organisms and thus for mankind?

        I don’t know what the future holds. What I do is to look at the past. Maybe there are some pointers here based on the fossil records. Some people argue there was a mass extinction event. Others beg to differ.
        Alarm! Chicken or the egg comes to mind.

        [Un]Think Progress
        following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years. Scientists previously thought this process happened over 10,000 years.
        “We’ve shown unequivocally what happens when CO2 increases dramatically — as it is now, and as it did 55 million years ago,” Wright said. “The oceans become acidic and the world warms up dramatically.
        http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/10/08/2750191/petm-co2-levels-doubled-55-million-years-ago-global-temperatures-jumped/

        Differing views.

        Abstract
        Carlos Jaramillo et. al – Science – 12 November 2010
        Effects of Rapid Global Warming at the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary on Neotropical Vegetation
        Temperatures in tropical regions are estimated to have increased by 3° to 5°C, compared with Late Paleocene values, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56.3 million years ago) event. We investigated the tropical forest response to this rapid warming by evaluating the palynological record of three stratigraphic sections in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast to speculations that tropical ecosystems were severely compromised by heat stress.
        doi: 10.1126/science.1193833
        —————-
        Abstract
        Carlos Jaramillo & Andrés Cárdenas – Annual Reviews – May 2013
        Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
        Global Warming and Neotropical Rainforests: A Historical Perspective
        There is concern over the future of the tropical rainforest (TRF) in the face of global warming. Will TRFs collapse? The fossil record can inform us about that. Our compilation of 5,998 empirical estimates of temperature over the past 120 Ma indicates that tropics have warmed as much as 7°C during both the mid-Cretaceous and the Paleogene. We analyzed the paleobotanical record of South America during the Paleogene and found that the TRF did not expand toward temperate latitudes during global warm events, even though temperatures were appropriate for doing so, suggesting that solar insolation can be a constraint on the distribution of the tropical biome. Rather, a novel biome, adapted to temperate latitudes with warm winters, developed south of the tropical zone. The TRF did not collapse during past warmings; on the contrary, its diversity increased. The increase in temperature seems to be a major driver in promoting diversity.
        doi: 10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105403
        —————-
        Abstract
        PNAS – David R. Vieites – 2007
        Rapid diversification and dispersal during periods of global warming by plethodontid salamanders
        …Salamanders underwent rapid episodes of diversification and dispersal that coincided with major global warming events during the late Cretaceous and again during the Paleocene–Eocene thermal optimum. The major clades of plethodontids were established during these episodes, contemporaneously with similar phenomena in angiosperms, arthropods, birds, and mammals. Periods of global warming may have promoted diversification and both inter- and transcontinental dispersal in northern hemisphere salamanders…
        —————-
        Abstract
        ZHAO Yu-long et al – Advances in Earth Science – 2007
        The impacts of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM)event on earth surface cycles and its trigger mechanism
        The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) event is an abrupt climate change event that occurred at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary. The event led to a sudden reversal in ocean overturning along with an abrupt rise in sea surface salinity (SSSs) and atmospheric humidity. An unusual proliferation of biodiversity and productivity during the PETM is indicative of massive fertility increasing in both oceanic and terrestrial ecosystems. Global warming enabled the dispersal of low-latitude populations into mid-and high-latitude. Biological evolution also exhibited a dramatic pulse of change, including the first appearance of many important groups of ” modern” mammals (such as primates, artiodactyls, and perissodactyls) and the mass extinction of benlhic foraminifera…..
        22(4) 341-349 DOI: ISSN: 1001-8166 CN: 62-1091/P
        —————-
        Abstract
        Systematics and Biodiversity – Volume 8, Issue 1, 2010
        Kathy J. Willis et al
        4 °C and beyond: what did this mean for biodiversity in the past?
        How do the predicted climatic changes (IPCC, 2007) for the next century compare in magnitude and rate to those that Earth has previously encountered? Are there comparable intervals of rapid rates of temperature change, sea-level rise and levels of atmospheric CO2 that can be used as analogues to assess possible biotic responses to future change? Or are we stepping into the great unknown? This perspective article focuses on intervals in time in the fossil record when atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased up to 1200 ppmv, temperatures in mid- to high-latitudes increased by greater than 4 °C within 60 years, and sea levels rose by up to 3 m higher than present. For these intervals in time, case studies of past biotic responses are presented to demonstrate the scale and impact of the magnitude and rate of such climate changes on biodiversity. We argue that although the underlying mechanisms responsible for these past changes in climate were very different (i.e. natural processes rather than anthropogenic), the rates and magnitude of climate change are similar to those predicted for the future and therefore potentially relevant to understanding future biotic response. What emerges from these past records is evidence for rapid community turnover, migrations, development of novel ecosystems and thresholds from one stable ecosystem state to another, but there is very little evidence for broad-scale extinctions due to a warming world. Based on this evidence from the fossil record, we make four recommendations for future climate-change integrated conservation strategies.
        DOI: 10.1080/14772000903495833
        http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14772000903495833

  4. Seems the OA guys assume that the oceans will acidify as CO2 increases in the atmosphere so they are busy studying the effects on animals in near neutral and actually slightly acidic conditions. This initial assumption is almost certainly incorrect. Thus ALL of the studies that currently look at the effects under these conditions are a total waste of money. History has already proven that even at 3000ppm CO2 the oceans were NOT neutral or acidic due to the carbonate readily available in the oceans, so investigating what effect pH of 7.2 or 6.8 with CO2 at 500-600ppm is junk science in the real world.

  5. KIp. It looks to me like some of the things you intended to italicize don’t get italicized in all browsers. e.g. “In light of the acknowledged white hat and confirmation bias that exists in the field, I support John Ioannidis who suggests the following for all scientific fields: “large studies with minimal bias should be performed on research findings that are considered relatively established, to see how often they are indeed confirmed. I suspect several established ‘classics’ will fail the test.” (my italics)” No italics in Opera, but they are there in dillo. No clue what’s going on. I’ve never encountered this before. FWIW, your html looks reasonable.

    • Reply to Don K ==> Nice to hear from a web head — someone who knows HTML from a hole in the ground.
      Alas the problems experienced here are Word Press’ translation of .docx files to WP HTML.
      In the Ioannidis quote, the following words should ahve appeard in italics (they do in Firefox) “research findings that are considered relatively established,”

      • Kip,
        Take a chill pill dude. If these posts irritate you so much, quit answering them… Or reading them. Everyone has an opinion and these posts concern the politics as well as the science. Try to look at it that way and deal with it.

  6. Try this experiment: insert a pH probe into a freshly opened bottle of ‘club soda’ (aka ‘soda water), Perrier water or Pellegrino and see what happens. You will be shocked and amazed!

  7. Using accelerated or shock exposure on adaptive organisms because of a presumed reduction in the alkalinity of a well buffered ocean seems to be a compounding of errors. Here on the West Coast we have one of the richest marine life areas on the planet because of strong cyclical upwelling of cold, nutrient rich waters near our shores, with accompanying lower pH. Before the studies of adaptation to reduced alkalinity are pursued with increased zeal, it would be beneficial to determine past ocean pH levels and the effects on marine organisms. The development of oysters in Chesapeake Bay with its long-established relatively lower pH probably could be studied covering a period of millions of years. The robust history of abalone and sea urchins along the Mendocino County coast, California, given the strong upwelling and lower pH, should also be of interest. It would seem that a lot could be determined from what has already been, without the need to suppose an unknowable future.

      • The graph showing pH fluctuation in Monterey Bay for two months of 2009 was interesting – it shows the very large variances in pH over a very short time period – but the article itself basically illustrated the difficulties, even today, of creating a large body of pH observations. The focus on testing organisms in a short-term, laboratory setting, rather than investigating what has happened over a long time span and adaptive responses, seems to be ignoring past periods of natural climate change, warmer alkaline oceans, and higher atmospheric CO2. The scientists may be developing outstanding methods to achieve mediocre or questionable conclusions. Their study observations may not match the realities resulting from natural processes.

      • And Kip, a reasonable look at the history of the MB Aquarium pH is that it fluctuates a lot and the creatures of the Aquarium get along OK.

      • I wrote to the monterey Bay Aquarium research Institute about using the term acidification back in 2012-
        their reply-
        Kim Fulton-Bennett
        11/29/12
        Yes, “less basic” would be a more appropriate term. However, it would also be very confusing for members of congress and the general public.

      • Reply to Richard ==> Kim Fulton-Bennet is a/the Public Information Specialist at MBARI.
        It would be more informative if we knew the exact question to which Kim gave that answer. You don’t happen to have a copy of the original email, do you. My guess would be “very confusing for members of congress and the general public” because of its use for the ten proceeding years, by that time.

      • “It would be more informative if we knew the exact question to which Kim gave that answer”
        Acidic Vs Less base- i rest my case!!
        “Yes, “less basic” would be a more appropriate term”
        “less base” does not get the dosh!!

  8. So I’m trying to read this article but of your ads, a video on Mobilityas a service keeps forcing the screen to scroll to the video. I try to scroll back and the screen flashs as the ad fights to keep scrolling back to the ad. So the video finally finishes running and I think I can read it now and the video is on a loop and does it all again and again…
    So I don’t know is it a mistake a silly quirk of the code or is it intentional. Is the ad more important now than the content of your blog? Did you know these ads do this?

    • Reply to gonewiththewind ==> I will field this question for Anthony. The behavior of ads is outside of his control — the ads do however return funds to offset the expenses of operating WUWT.
      If readers would each hit the Donate button, and chip in a hundred bucks or so,

    • right click on the ad and go to “inspect element” (firefox) then on the inspector find the node of the Ad and delete it. you can do this for most ads. it’s an on the fly solution for any annoying Ad.

  9. Something I think missing in the discussion of ocean acidification is the serpentinization of the oceanic crust at spreading centers and subduction zones. This process is very alkaline chemically and occurs in deep water. Surely, someone has studied this process and how it affects ocean surface chemistry.

    • Dissolved CO2 cannot do what they say to the complex buffer of seawater. There are, as you allude to one, other mechanisms that raise pH, but the alarmists would not get further funding to examining factors that go against their needed results.

    • Yup, the ocean floors are basalts i.e. most of the world’s surface. Neutralisation is just a lunatic (and desperate) idea.

    • Kieth ==> My understanding is that serpentinization occurs within the mantle, not in the ocean. The the alkaliinity is due to the fact that magmas derived from oceanic crust rocks are more basic than the less dense, silica rich, continental crust rocks. Even if the phenomena did occur at the water, crust boundary, it is generally happening a great depths below a number of layers of water that mix poorly. Atmospheric CO2 would take a long time to get to the reaction zone I should think.
      Caveat. I do not think I am in the running for the title of World’s Greatest Geologist. Could be dead wrong.

      • Serpentinization occurs at spreading centers, subduction zones, and any location where sea water can move down to mafic and ultra mafic zones. Faulting is a good mechanism for this later method. There is an interesting paper by Alt et. al. called The Role of Serpentinites in Cycling Carbon and Sulfur: Seafloor Serpentinization and subduction Metamorphism. They estimate 0.35 – 064 X 10(11) mol C y (-1) is captured during these serpentinization processes. Sorry, can’t do upper powers.
        I ran across several papers a number of years ago which provide the chemical processes in serpentinization, unfortunately, I cannot recall just how alkaline these processes are. Serpentinization occurs across a vast area of the ocean. It would be nice to see this incorporated into any ocean acidification discussion.

  10. Lady Gaiagaia
    September 9, 2015 at 4:40 pm
    100+. You can’t just turn biochemists or biologists loose to determine such things as the effect of OA without collaboration without geologists. Indeed, geologists should be consulted in most climate studies. The bios are mainly here and now scientists and in the main don’t know their own subject when it comes to biology from millions of years ago. Lady G’s comment indicates what should be the backdrop of any and all such ‘what if’ studies. Why is ignorance of this subject acceptable to OA scientists or biologists, biochemists or climate scientists in general.
    We have an unbroken chain of life that has survived since the beginning certainly 1.5 billion years ago and maybe 2 billion or more. Nothing is better represented in the fossil record than invertebrate carbonate shell clad species – mollusca, that stretch back to the Cambrian half a billion years ago and most of these are easily recognizable as related to modern varieties. This covering a range of CO2 in atmos of ten times or more the present levels and from freezing ice ages to ages with no polar ice.
    I’m sure Dr. Cornwall is a very talented researcher when it comes to designing OA experiments. However, if he hasn’t made himself thoroughly aware of the Billion year experiment under widely swinging ambient conditions, then he is in need of such an education to do justice to his studies. I would ask him to explain how he thinks these now fossilized creatures survived the conditions of the past. I would ask him how he can feel so certain that we are in danger of ending this Billion year chain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mollusca
    “Around 85,000 extant species of molluscs are recognized. Molluscs are the largest marine phylum, comprising about 23% of all the named marine organisms. Numerous molluscs also live in freshwater and terrestrial habitats. They are highly diverse, not just in size and in anatomical structure, but also in behaviour and in habitat. The phylum is typically divided into 9 or 10 taxonomic classes, of which two are entirely extinct. Cephalopod molluscs, such as squid, cuttlefish and octopus, are among the most neurologically advanced of all invertebrates—and either the giant squid or the colossal squid is the largest known invertebrate species. The gastropods (snails and slugs) are by far the most numerous molluscs in terms of classified species, and account for 80% of the total. The scientific study of molluscs is called malacology.”

    • Reply to Gary Pearse ==> If the worry was “What will happen 1,000 or 10,000 years from now, how will the oceans’ biota be different under increasing atmospheric CO2?”, then we could call for the geologists.
      The past can inform us about the past — I don’t think we know with any detailed accuracy how today’s oceans and its biota is different from that found 10,000 years ago (name any distant past date). The thing is that we like our current version of coral reefs, and like the fish we eat, we like tuna, and oysters, and lobsters, and King Crab, and salmon, and shrimp — the whole seafood menu — there is worry about how the current mix of things might change.
      Under the current general environmental mind-set, any change from the way things were 50 years ago (or are today) is automatically bad.

      • Kip Hansen ===> Our current versions of coral reefs will be totally gone in the next, soon to be here, glacial period, just as they were in the past half a dozen glacial periods of the last million years. The Great Barrier Reef did not exist 20,000 years ago, and neither did the thousands of coral atolls that grow and persevere even as sea levels rises hundreds of feet in thousands of years.
        We like our current mix of things, and the good people of the Eemian interglacial 125,000 years ago probably felt the same about their environment, just before it got a lot colder and sea level fell about four hundred feet rapidly. They had the same power that we have to prevent such natural climate change. They may even have coined the phrase: “Climate change – it’s what climate does.”

      • Lion fish in the Caribbean are considered a menace, but are easy to catch and are great to eat.
        Basically, the basic nature of seawater and all the limestone submerged in it means that pH cannot be reduced over a broad span of ocean. So what are we talking about…..

      • Reply to HARRY GALE ==> Yes, Lion Fish make great eating and are fished commercially in the Florida Keys and else where, both with spear fishing and as a by-catch in fish and lobster traps.
        Ocean pH is altered as atmospheric CO2 mixes at the surface, and surface water mixes with deeper waters.

      • Reply to majormike1 ==> It is not that simple. Gas Law applies but ocean carbonate chemistry involves more bits. There are good explanations of ocean carbonate chemistry under rising atmospheric CO2 in the EPOCA booklet — skip past the politically motivated introductory summaries.

        • “Reply to majormike1 ==> It is not that simple. Gas Law applies but ocean carbonate chemistry involves more bits. There are good explanations of ocean carbonate chemistry under rising atmospheric CO2 in the EPOCA booklet — skip past the politically motivated introductory summaries.”
          Kip Hansen===> How do you get past this? OA an undisputed fact? Human activities only add 3% to the atmospheric CO2 from natural causes, and most of that in the past two decades; very little from the early years of the industrial revolution. And where do they get their observations to use 18th century surface ocean acidity as a basis for a claimed 30% increase? What does it mean “the level of ocean acidity will increase to three times the preindustrial level”?
          I hope that somewhere in their booklet they explain how the sheer difference in mass of the ocean and its huge buffering capacity stacks up to the tiny mass of human-contributed CO2. Since CO2 is only 0.039% of the atmosphere, and the human contribution is only 3% of that, the human component is minuscule. The oceans are 0.022 percent of the Earth’s mass; the atmosphere is one millionth, giving the oceans a mass of over two hundred times the atmosphere. Where does that leave human-produced CO2? Where do I find that many zeroes? Can you hear a gnat break wind in a hurricane?
          From the preface of the EPOCA booklet: “Ocean acidification is an undisputed fact. The ocean presently takes up one- fourth of the carbon CO2 emitted to the atmosphere from human activities. As the CO2 dissolves in the surface ocean, it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid, increasing ocean acidity and shifting the partitioning of inorganic carbon species towards increased CO2 and dissolved inorganic carbon, and decreased concentration of carbonate ion. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, surface-ocean acidity has gone up by 30%. The current increase in ocean acidity is a hundred times faster than any previous natural change that has occurred over the last many millions of years. In the case of unabated CO2 emissions the level of ocean acidity will increase to three times the preindustrial level by the end of this century. Recovery from this large and rapid perturbation will require tens of thousands of years. While our understanding of the possible consequences of ocean acidification is still rudimentary, both the scientific community and the society at large are increasingly concerned about the possible risks associated with ocean acidification for marine organisms and ecosystems.”

      • Pure water responds to dissolved CO2 with lowered pH as carbonic acid goes to equilibrium with bicarbonate. However, seawater is a complex buffer and dissolved CO2 is going to have very little effect on this buffer system. Even a doubling of CO2 would cause an almost undetectable change in pH.
        Do not forget that photosynthesis is an alkalizing process that can raise the pH two or three whole pH units on a sunny day. Pretending that life will be endangered by small changes in pH is simply alarmism. Currently, ocean pH remains entirely inside the historical pH. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

      • Kip ==> 10,000 years is an instant in geologic time. A faunal assemblage from 10,000 years ago is not likely to be observably different from an assemblage from a nearby modern setting with similar climate and ocean conditions. Or indeed from an assemblage from 100,000 or 1,000,000 years ago. Of course, every now and then, there are dramatic changes in the faunal mix. i.e. extinction events — although those often seem not as clear cut as many try to make them. Refer to Gould and Eldredge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium.
        The question then is, can increased atmospheric CO2 result in significant changes to marine faunal/floral mixes? I suppose it could. But I’m very skeptical that it will. Take this article by Willis Eschenbach http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/01/02/a-neutral-view-of-oceanic-ph/ which shows a difference in pH of nearly 0.5 between typical pHs in the tropical Pacific and in Alaskan waters. That’s a factor of around three difference in hydrogen ion concentration, right? Since atmospheric CO2 is “well-mixed” (nearly the same anywhere on the planet) and ocean acidity isn’t, the affects of increased atmospheric CO2 are likely to be different everywhere — and to be least where the waters are already most acidic.
        I’m fine with studying OA. And I’m pleased that workers in the field have recognized that much of the previous work was seriously flawed — something that was in some cases obvious to anyone who took and passed a first year Chemistry course. Would that the climate modelers were equally introspective. I am concerned however that the climate alarmist clique — who seem seriously deficient in both manners and analytic skills — is going to sum up the serious work as “The oceans are turning to acid and we’re all gonna die.”

      • Off topic rant
        “Human activities only add 3% to the atmospheric CO2 from natural causes”
        …which has been enough to increase CO2 from 280 ppm to the present 400 ppm. The whole skeptic conversation is riddled with sidepaths to different wrongly understood claims that keep appearing in all threads, namely
        * CO2 is not anthropogenic
        * CO2 does not warm, it is against thermodynamics
        * It has not been warming at all (it is all f-raud)
        I’d rather like it when people kept these topics only in where they belong to. I believe like Watts himself that CO2 is largely anthropogenic, it warms a little, and it is warming, if we look at 30 or 100 year scale back. I also believe 30 years is about the shortest timeframe you can expect to see well a difference between no warming and warming of 0.015 C/a. Now I’m going to be back on topic, thanks for your patience.

      • Thanks for the EPOCA link. Most interesting but complex too. I’d like to ask one simple question. If we want to lower the pH of seawater by 1 unit, what should the atmospheric CO2 concentration be everything else being constant?

    • Gary Pearse,
      “We have an unbroken chain of life that has survived since the beginning certainly 1.5 billion years ago and maybe 2 billion or more. … This covering a range of CO2 in atmos of ten times or more the present levels and from freezing ice ages to ages with no polar ice. ”
      At the transition from the Paleocene to the Eocene, CO2 rose by something like a factor of 2 or 3. That rapid increase caused a mass extinction among some groups of marine organisms. “Rapid” means thousands of years; that is slow compared to what we are doing.
      The rate of change is critical. It is not CO2 per se that is the issue. It is the balance between CO2 (and acid) and carbonate (a base) that determines the pH. There is a lot of carbonate present as CaCO3 on the ocean floor. But mixing of the oceans is slow, taking thousands of years. So on short time scales (centuries) that CaCO3 is not available to neutralize CO2 in the surface ocean, which is where most of the life is.
      There is no question that life in the oceans will survive however much CO2 we dump into the atmosphere. In 100,000 years or so, the oceans will be thriving. But the organisms may be quite different from the ones there now, with a mass extinction event preserved in the fossil record. And should such an event occur, it won’t be much fun for the people trying to live through it.
      This does not mean we should panic. As Kip Hansen points out “Under the current general environmental mind-set, any change from the way things were 50 years ago (or are today) is automatically bad.” That environmental mind set is surely an overreaction that lacks any long term perspective. But that overreaction does not mean that there is nothing to be concerned about. This is an area that needs careful study.

      • “At the transition from the Paleocene to the Eocene, CO2 rose by something like a factor of 2 or 3. That rapid increase caused a mass extinction among some groups of marine organisms.”
        Er, there is no evidence that increased CO2 caused any extinctions. It is much more likely that there was a major event, such as a wave of volcanic eruptions, a sudden change in temperature, or an asteroid strike. CO2 is harmless and it is the propagation of junk science that leads people to think CO2 is toxic. It is most certainly not toxic.
        Our office buildings generally have 5000–8000 ppm CO2 in them. Submarines are typically maintained at the upper end of this range. We breath out 20,000 ppm and do not even feel any effects until a room goes above this concentrations. As long as oxygen is present we are fine. A rock concert can easily be at 15,000 ppm CO2.
        And, 800 to 1200 ppm mentioned above is simply not a danger to any life on Earth, It would assuredly green the planet and provide more food for a thriving burst of life.

      • Reply to higley7 ==> No one here has said that CO2 is toxic. But your figures seem quite a bit off on Indoor Air Quality.
        American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 62 recommends that indoor CO2 concentrations be maintained at—or below—1,000 ppm in schools and 800 ppm in offices. ASHRAE recommends indoor CO2 levels not exceed the outdoor concentration by more than about 600 ppm.
        At the levels you suggest, 5000–8000 ppm CO2, the air would feel very “stale”, some people might report feeling drowsy.
        5000 ppm is OSHA ceiling limit for industrial settings.

      • Kip and Higley ==> Wikipedia has a section on CO2 toxicity that seems consistent with other sources. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide#Toxicity Basically most people can tolerate exposure to several thousand ppm of CO2 for extended periods of time. However it is not known which individuals are the most sensitive to CO2, or why they are sensitive, or what the safe levels are for the most sensitive individuals. My impression is that published LCDs etc are WAGs. BTW, I have no faith whatsoever in estimates of paleo CO2 levels. The seem to me to depend on proxies that no sensible person would give much credence to except as VERY broad indications of relative level. In the one case I once came across where two different proxies were available for the same sediments (leaf stomata size and soil calcification), the resulting CO2 estimates differed by a factor of two.

      • Still, shouldn’t one in the field steep himself in the study of the history of the oceans and their carbonate fauna before alarming everyone over a change from 8.3 to 8.2? I didn’t mention something we all know, that our mollusca friends have relatives in fresh water that varies in pH:
        http://www.h2ou.com/h2wtrqual.htm#pH
        “Most fish can tolerate pH values of about 5.0 to 9.0, but serious anglers look for waters between pH 6.5 and 8.2. The vast majority of American rivers, lakes and streams fall within this range…”
        Mollusca are also living in these waters.

      • I am in agreement with you Gary P. I change the PH of my fish tanks by adding CO2 for the live plants in the tanks. The PH change is from 7.8 to 6.9 every day. This change takes less than an hour. I turn the CO2 on 1/2 hour before the lights turn on and shut the CO2 off one hour before lights off. All of the fish, shrimp, snails and plants in the tanks are doing great. In my 125 gallon tank I remove about 2lbs on excess plant material every week. You can actually see the photosynthesis in action as the oxygen bubbles up from the plants. So due to facts of my personal experience and the buffering effect of the ocean environment I don’t think that ocean acidification will be a problem

    • Corals and crustaceans too date back to the Cambrian.
      Forams (shelled protists) probably arose after the Permian mass extinction.
      Calcareous organisms have seen and survived it all.

  11. “Neutralization,” is an excellent term for the process that may be occurring in the oceans. However it will not catch on with the Warmist/Alarmist crowd as it is not nearly so alarming.

    • Reply to Andres Valencia ==> You are welcome. Many scientific fields are being adversely effected by what is often referred to as Advocacy Science — in which scientists not only act publicly as advocates of some action or inaction (climate change, vaccines, GMO, etc) but begin to change the science they do to serve their advocacy needs. Judith Curry often addresses this issue at her blog.

  12. yes, easy acidification: ocean assassination even more.
    by the way:
    climate change shortend to climatch –
    easier climatch (klaɪmətʃ)
    than climate change (klaɪmət tʃeɪndʒ).
    easy speaking.

    • Reply to johann wundersamer ==> I am guessing that you are a speaker of one of the Germanic languages.
      I have been guilty of using CliSci for climate science — a play on the standard American university use of PoliSci for political science.

      • Linguists would call English a Germanic language but “acidification” is pure Romance.
        It’s all true that ‘acid’ is very sinister for most people but I agree it’s not worth hammering on about, especially to thousands of people here, who are totally aware of the trivial political aspect.
        I am interested in ocean carbonate chemistry etc as a layperson and I find it frustrating that we just nibble at the edges here.
        This thread is a case in point; ostensibly about encouraging “better” experimental procedures, there is actually no substance at all.
        Paraphrasing Dr Chris, paragraph 1 says “Studying ocean chemistry is tougher than other stuff, and other disciplines are full of crappy experiments, too.”
        Para 2 says “old studies, that weren’t that great, have been expanded by more recent studies, which are also not that great; prolly get good pretty soon. At least we know it was money well spent and the fish are in big trouble.”
        Why do we always hear that molluscs need carbonate to build their shells when they mostly appear to use bicarbonate to produce carbonate in the extrapallial space, where it meets up with calcium ions in a protein matrix according to the organism’s wishes, instead of random precipitation of CaCO3 because the pH is favourable?
        How about those pesky protons that got spat out? Are they gobbled up by NH3 secreted by the mollusc?
        I don’t know the answers but I’ve read that this is so.
        And why do all the dissociation stories of carbon in the sea manage to leave us with both dissolved carbonate from shells and increased free hydrogens? No bicarbonate?
        You mean it’s not like in our blood-stream where CO2 is continuously buffered?

      • Reply to mebbe ==> I am not attempting to teach a class in oceanic chemistry here in this essay or in the original essay in this series.
        If you interest is studying ocean carbonate chemistry, you could get a good start by reading the papers linked in my two essays and in the subsequent comments.

      • Yes, Kip, I know you couldn’t teach a class in any kind of chemistry, but there are a number of knowledgeable people on the board.
        If one doesn’t know the chemistry one is not going to be well-placed to set standards for experiment.

  13. I would really like to see the experiments that he is talking about regarding “gradual acidification” … that remotely mimics a change over a century. I would venture to say that they don’t even have an experiment that spans a decade, let alone a century. Gradually lowering the pH in a controlled aquarium over 10 years would be one hell of an experiment, and frankly, I think it would be impossible.
    In-field observation is retrospective, As noted in the OP, in the Medical Sciences, [where I live] retrospective often times gets overturned by prospective.

    • Reply to Bubba Cow currently in Maine ==> “What do we know about natural variability in seawater pH?” More than is usually admitted in the alarmist versions of OA.
      See the graph of Monterey Bay pH in Martz et al.2010 “Testing the Honeywell Durafet ® for seawater pH applications” Figure 10.
      Cornwall is primarily a macroalgae man — he studies seaweed.

      • Kip ==> Cornwall is primarily a macroalgae man — he studies seaweed.
        Yes, but I get the impression that he works with coralline algae which have a calcareous “skeleton” and don’t look much like plants.

      • Kip Hansen == > “Corals as we know them are symbiotic.”
        They are indeed. But corals are (I’m pretty sure) unrelated to Corraline algae which are common marine plants with a hard Calcium Carbonate “skeleton”. Coralline algae are presumably likely to be influenced by acidity in somewhat the same way as mollusks, corals, bryozoa and other critters that fix Calcium Carbonate. That’s different than, for example, kelp which doesn’t have a shell or hard body to worry about. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coralline_alga

    • Reply to Charles Nelson ==> Changing salinity does affect ocean carbonate chemistry. Yes, it is complicated. But there are known relationships between the elements involved.

  14. Seawater is a complex buffer solution and carbonic acid a very weak acid that simply cannot overcome the buffer. Buffers resist pH changes. Regardless, as CO2 has been much higher during most of the preceding 600 million years, life has no problem with high CO2 and any effects it might have on pH. It’s simply a non-issue and pretending that marine life cannot handle it is ingenuous and purposely ignores the past altogether.
    And, photosynthesis is an alkalizing process such that the pH in a bay or estuary can go from 8 to almost 11 and back again in the course of a sunny day. This is caused by living things that clearly have more resilience and metabolic strength than warmists want to admit.
    And lastly, CO2 to carbonic acid to bicarbonate to carbonate to calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is one long equilibrium that would be pushed towards more CaCO3 deposition as CO2 rises. Ocean water is already being essentially saturated with CaCO3, more CO2 would favor more CaCO3 coming out of solution. Also, the protons (or acidity) released by carbonic acid to form carbonate can have no effect on itself. The products of an equilibrium cannot change that equilibrium. Only an outside source of protons can do that, such as sulfuric or hydrochloric acid.
    The Cliffs of Dover, 100s of feet high and solid calcium carbonate, were built by living organisms when CO2 was 5 to 10 times higher than now. Life thrives on high CO2. It’s PLANT FOOD. There is no downside to CO2.
    And, by the way, warming oceans would mean more deposition and more coral reefs as CaCO3 is less soluble in warm water than cold water, the reverse of the way most salts behave. It is cooling oceans that threaten the reefs, as they would begin to dissolve instead of tending to concrete together as they do today.

    • Reply to higley7 ==> There are good explanations of ocean carbonate chemistry under rising atmospheric CO2 in the EPOCA booklet — skip past the politically motivated introductory summaries.

    • would be pushed towards more CaCO3 deposition as CO2 rises.
      ==============
      agreed. this is basic chemistry
      2Ca + O2 + 2CO2 === 2CaCO3
      adding more CO2 to the oceans (on the left) favors more shell (limestone) coming out of solution.

      • The fear (or at least, the propaganda) of the alarmists is that very high levels of CO2 will result in the formation of bicarbonates, which are soluble whereas carbonates are not, and this will make crustacean shells dissolve. Though, the levels required to do this are so high that they would never be reached in practice.

      • very high levels of CO2 will result in the formation of bicarbonates
        ===========================
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicarbonate
        “Bicarbonate (HCO3−) is alkaline, and a vital component of the pH buffering system[3] of the human body (maintaining acid-base homeostasis). 70-75% of CO2 in the body is converted into carbonic acid (H2CO3), which can quickly turn into bicarbonate.”

      • ferdberple September 9, 2015 at 10:22 pm
        would be pushed towards more CaCO3 deposition as CO2 rises.
        ==============
        agreed. this is basic chemistry
        2Ca + O2 + 2CO2 === 2CaCO3
        adding more CO2 to the oceans (on the left) favors more shell (limestone) coming out of solution.

        No it doesn’t, your ‘basic chemistry’ is far from correct in solution.
        This is the ‘basic chemistry’:
        CO2(g) ⇌ CO2(aq) + H2O ⇌ H2CO3 ⇌ HCO3- + H+ ⇌ CO3– + H+
        As a result: \scriptstyle[H^+] \simeq \left( 10^{-14}+\frac {K_hK_{a1}}{k_\mathrm{H}} p_{CO_2}\right)^{1/2}
        ferdberple September 10, 2015 at 5:34 am
        very high levels of CO2 will result in the formation of bicarbonates

        No almost any amount of CO2 will result in the formation of bicarbonate. Very high levels of CO2 will lead to a higher ratio of CO2 to bicarbonate and an even lower ratio of carbonate to them both:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bjerrum_plot#/media/File:Carbonate_system_of_seawater.svg

      • Phil.
        As I understand it, the Bjerrum plot indicates the ratios of the different species at equilibrium, so doesn’t that mean that, as CO2 is added and the reactions settle down, nothing changes except the total inorganic carbon in the water?
        If pH changed as a result of H2SO4 from ARD or some such, then the plot intersections would shift to the left, but adding CO2 should dissolve CaCO3 , creating bicarbonate rather than hydroniums, so pH wouldn’t go down except briefly. ?

      • mebbe September 10, 2015 at 9:40 am
        As I understand it, the Bjerrum plot indicates the ratios of the different species at equilibrium, so doesn’t that mean that, as CO2 is added and the reactions settle down, nothing changes except the total inorganic carbon in the water?

        No, the position of the equilibrium will change with an increase in pCO2, as the equation I attempted to link would have shown.

    • It does not look like higley7, who is spot on, needs the alarmists’ booklet. Pity they will never read his succinct explanation, it would not fit their false narrative.

  15. I previously commented on WUWT (Neil Jordan July 2, 2015 at 12:30 am “Don’t forget borate, the orphan buffer.”) I repeated a comment I made on WUWT, “IPCC on acid. . .”, September 25, 2013:
    Neil Jordan September 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm
    Re Sabertooth says: September 25, 2013 at 11:43 am
    The pH ceiling of 8.3 is explained in Emerson & Hedges Chemical Oceanography, which also explains a pH floor of 7.6, also alkaline:
    http://courses.washington.edu/pcc588/readings/EH_IV_CarbSys.pdf
    This reference also includes borate buffering in addition to the carbonate and bicarbonate buffering that are customarily used to describe seawater buffering. According to Frankignoulle (1994):
    http://www.co2.ulg.ac.be/pub/frankignoulle_1994.pdf
    borate buffering accounts for 30% of the global buffering effect in seawater.

    • Reply to Neil Jordan ==> Perhaps you can explain this a bit more….there are in situ measurement of ocean pH far above 8.3. For example, see the graph of Monterey Bay pH in Martz et al.2010 “Testing the Honeywell Durafet ® for seawater pH applications” Figure 10.

  16. It would be nice if there was actually some long term rigorously collected & collated field observations on more than a pittance of the worlds oceans. From what I have observed, the data is much more sparse and anecdotal than the terrestrial temperature “data” set (which is simply pitiful). The data we do have demonstrates that variance swamps any “signal” and sample size is too small.
    So, just as is the case in terrestrial temperature data set, how would you separate the purported ‘acidification’ signal from the noise ? To put it bluntly, pulling data from your posterior is the same as no data at all. So how about we start at the beginning instead of at the end and determine the behavior of the natural ocean systems with some reliable numbers ?

    • BioBob ==> You might want to check Willis Eschenbach’s several essays on ocean pH here at WUWT. He’s managed to find a fair amount of data — millions of observations as I recall. You’re correct that the coverage is less than great, but there appears to be enough to strongly suggest that inshore waters have a lower pH than the high seas, and that pH decreases toward the poles.
      wattsupwiththat.com/2015/01/02/a-neutral-view-of-oceanic-ph/
      wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/27/the-ocean-is-not-getting-acidified/
      wattsupwiththat.com/2014/12/30/ph-sampling-density/

  17. Animals who are oxygen deprived can become quite euphoric with a little added O2.
    Plants who are CO2 deprived can become quite euphoric with a little added carbon dioxide.
    Can’t you hear their whistles blowing, Gaia blow that corn.
    ===========================

  18. “reversals of “givens” both in medical theory, clinical practice and hopeful looking cures and treatments are almost the norm when gold standard RCT trials are performed on treatments which are already widely practiced and/or popularly accepted. What “everybody knows” has seldom been sufficiently verified and is often found incorrect.”
    Head Start is a perfect example. A feel-good, reasonable idea with a variety of different small studies finding what they went looking for. But once the government weighed in with a gold standard, randomized controlled study (the Head Start Impact Study), it found zero evidence that Head Start had ever delivered a lasting educational benefit to any child.
    The political response was predictable. Those who liked Head Start and bringing extra money into the teachers unions responded that we should now enact universal Pre-K, rather than dismantling a 40+ year $150+ billion program that was proven to be ineffective by rigorous science.

  19. He is a nice sort of guy who loses me at the the name he gives his area of study, OA. If it was serious science it would be called “Ocean pH studies”.
    But a proper name would not yield career making steady grants to feed on. The “A” in “OA” does not nor ever will exist no matter how many grants he gets.
    And the lack of studies that show any trend in ocean pH that is beyond the typical fluctuations of ocean pH that are well documented.
    Frankly he could have named this area of study “The search for the Holy Chalice” for all the actual results he will get.

  20. Kip’s reluctance to complete the mantra he repeats is interesting.
    It implies he does not understand that CO2 mixing with water to form “carbonic acid” has gone on since there was CO2 and water.
    It also skips over what happens when the water at the surface which absorbs CO2 mixes and moves around an ocean filled with and lined with buffering agents. The oceans hold many times the CO2 held in the atmosphere and do not show, either chemically or physically that they are anywhere near their carrying capacity.
    Life has demonstrated in experiments and historically that it is adaptable to wide ranges in ocean pH.
    Areas like the NW US where periodic undersea surges of lower pH deep ocean water come to the surface and have throughout history shows that the local marine environment adapts just fine.
    The best thing would be perhaps to stop even acknowledging that the term “OA” is legitimate. It is not.
    It is a marketing term with no science behind it.
    “Ocean pH studies” is more descriptive and challenges the climate obsessed to actually think- something that is sorely lacking in nearly all areas of climate related or CO2 obsessed studies and policies.

  21. OA reminds me of New York attorney general Eric Schneidermans crusade against herbal supplements. I do not understand why herbal supplements are so popular since there is no proof of their efficacy but I digress.
    Schneidermans crew of crack scientists “proved” that 79% of the supplements tested did not contain the herbs listed on their bottles. The problem was their measuring and testing procedures were not appropriate and mis-applied. After much public fanfare, flamboyant posturing and threats to the industry the scientific results were thrown out. None the less Schneiderman claimed consumer victory by reaching a settlement. The “victory” settlement included admission of no wrong doing, fines, or any other penalties and the same herbal products would continue to be sold in the same way. The only concession was signs would be posted explaining the difference between plants and processed extracts, ironically which only the scientists in Schneidermans crusade were confused about.
    Anyways in any field there is a certain number of incompetents and fools, science is no exception. The issue is when you mix politics and science it seems the incompetents and fools rise to the top.

  22. The thread I am commenting on (re the term acidification) has gotten so tangled that I gave up figuring out where to reply, so I will just start a new thread,
    The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley wrote: “Chemists cannot alter the English language which is defined in dictionaries”.
    Totally wrong. Scientists alter the English language (and every other language in which science is done) all the time. It is a *requirement* of science since the language does not come pre-equiped with technical terms. Technical terms mean what the experts in the field say they mean; if a dictionary disagrees, then the dictionary is wrong.
    wickedwenchfan wrote: “Regardless of what chemists call the process, the term “Ocean Acidification” is a political term in the public domain not a scientific one.”
    It is used by scientists, therefore it is a scientific term. Unfortunately, it is a term that has become politicized.
    wickedwenchfan wrote: “The purpose of language is to communicate so one person can correctly understand another.”
    So “acidification” is really the only term we have, since the public does not know what “reducing pH” means and would be completely incapable of correctly interpreting the term “neutralization” (far more misleading than acidification).
    rick wrote: “But there is not an acid being added to the ocean.”
    Wrong. As any chemist can tell you, CO2 is an acid. It is a Lewis acid. Such acids are not always discussed in introductory courses, which are often limited to Arrhenius acids (an essentially obsolete concept) and Bronsted acids (very useful in aqueous solution).

    • Reply to Mike M. (period) ==> It is an odd phenomena — all this hub-bub about the nomenclature — those beefing about the name adopted by the field of scientific research are wasting their time and efforts — it is unlikely, at this stage of the scientific game, that the name of the field of endeavor will be changed, even if we (they) don’t particularly like it or feel that there would be a better name if we could turn back the clock and start over. It gets pretty ridiculous.
      I wrote an essay here on Propter Nomen, a logical fallacy which bases an argument simply the name of a thing — in this odd case, an argument against a field of research because they don’t like the name — hardly a word about the science of it all.
      “Chaos Theory” is another example — it is not a theory and is not really about chaos — but we are stuck with the name. Efforts have been made to change the research field into “Non-Linear Dynamics” and other things, but popularly, Chaos Theory is used, even among the non-linear dynamic researchers.

      • When I was working on my thesis ‘Chaos Theory’ was an unknown term, we used ‘nonlinear dynamics’, ‘chaos theory’ came later.

      • Reply to Phil ==> Ah — Modern Chaos Theory, as you probably know, derives from the nonlinear dynamics involved in computerized weather prediction (Edward Lorenz). I have written about it here (an essay that was received with very mixed response). Chaos Theory is a bucket containing a lot of things.

  23. Where does half our oxygen come from? Let’s let the alarmist side tell us:
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/0607_040607_phytoplankton.html
    “Half of the world’s oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis.”
    Kip Hansen and Dr. Cornwall, do the experiments measure how much CO2 is divided to form O2 that his returned to the atmosphere from the activity of plankton. Do researchers know how much O2 is produced in this process thereby removing that proportion of CO2 and sequestering the C? Maybe a simple answer: What percentage of a given amount of CO2 dissolved in seawater in a year is used up to produce oxygen? Not only is acidification resisted by buffering but significant proportions are sequestered by splitting off oxygen, by formation of conches of shells and by simple precipitation of inorganic carbonates.
    Does Ferdinand Englebeen, Dr. Cornwall and others adequately account for these factors? Henry’s law which is trotted out in these discussions from time to time is a weak authority to appeal to in such a dynamic system. Are researchers still surprised that Henry’s Law is ‘out’ by a factor of 50% in actual ocean uptake (ocean takes up more than Henry would be comfortable with)?
    Are they aware that below 500m the ocean hasn’t yet begun to absorb what CO2 it can? An overturning (La Nina, thermohaline conveyor, etc).
    A paleo history tells us that CO2, at a multiple of our present levels has not killed the ocean or even interrupted the hundreds of millions of years of the family tree of mollusca – this stuff is still sequestered in rocks – removed from the cycle.
    Now having said all this, I fully support the necessarily crude efforts we are stuck with for now in exploring changes and trying to evaluate effects of higher CO2 on the oceans. I note that elevated CO2 is unequivocally beneficial to the plant kingdom – even hundreds of billions of tonnes of evil coal are internments of former plants. Good science would at least investigate the null hypothesis that CO2 is good for the oceans, too. Include Le Chatelier’s principle in your deliberations – it is much more powerful a law than its namesake ever dreamed of – he was basically stating the a system acts in a direction to resist an agent of change in chemistry – he didn’t think it also anticipated Newton’s Laws of Motion, back EMF of motors, behavior of supply and demand to price changes, etc. Know that your cubic metre samples of seawater and titrations and chemical changes, etc are half way between ridiculousness and hopefulness.
    I’ve suggested earlier that maybe a few dozen km square ocean plots, selected from around the world for their abundance of molluscs should be monitored, submersibles surveying with cameras the ocean floor and physical samples take to estimate the tonnage and number of molluscs every 5 years, 3D grid of temperature, pH, biota and chemistry of water samples. This is a mining engineer/metallurgist/ geologist’s suggestion. It automatically takes into consideration the minutiae of complications in the real world.

    • Reply to Gary Pearce ==> What competent OA researchers are actually investigating is the question of what changes will take place with the oceans’ carbonate chemistry under increased atmospheric CO2 and what effects this might have on the oceans’ biota and thus on mankind.
      There are, of course, and as you suggest, many very interesting questions to be asked of and about the seas.

      • Since we know that at several times the CO2 ppm of today the oceans did OK, perhaps a less alarmist and less prejudicial approach would actually yield science?

      • As a basis for comparison, I am interested in knowing what the pH sensitivity of plain, sterile, well aerated seawater would be to a doubling the of pCO2. Who can point me to this information?

    • Gary Pearse September 10, 2015 at 7:28 am
      Where does half our oxygen come from? Let’s let the alarmist side tell us:
      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/0607_040607_phytoplankton.html
      “Half of the world’s oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis.”
      Kip Hansen and Dr. Cornwall, do the experiments measure how much CO2 is divided to form O2 that his returned to the atmosphere from the activity of plankton. Do researchers know how much O2 is produced in this process thereby removing that proportion of CO2 and sequestering the C? Maybe a simple answer: What percentage of a given amount of CO2 dissolved in seawater in a year is used up to produce oxygen? Not only is acidification resisted by buffering but significant proportions are sequestered by splitting off oxygen, by formation of conches of shells and by simple precipitation of inorganic carbonates.

      You are laboring under a misapprehension about photosynthesis, CO2 is not ‘divided to form O2’, the O2 produced by splitting H2O, CO2 is used to form carbohydrates.
      See:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis#/media/File:Thylakoid_membrane_3.svg

      • I see I was simplistic, but, re my larger point, still the C was sequestered and wouldn’t change my CO2 mass balance – pretty much the same as sequestering carbon in plants.

  24. Corals originated in the Cambrian period [atmospheric C02 up to 7000ppm] and became widespread in the Ordovician [atmospheric CO2 around 4400ppm].
    I think Chris Cornwall might find the experiments have been done already

    • Reply to GregK ==> Such oversimplifications miss the important issues involved. See my reply to Gary Pearse, just above.
      Scientific inquiry is about asking questions of and about the world around us.
      Simplistic answers to strawman questions are the stock-and-trade of propagandists worldwide — and certainly of the propagandists on both sides of the Climate Wars.
      It is ever so-easy to chant “CO2 heats the atmosphere!” or “CO2 is plant food!” as if these assertions were answers to the scientifically serious and important questions (they are not, by the way, neither of them).

  25. When the price of oysters changes for the worse for more than one or two seasons, then we will know that the oceans have been substantially altered. This has not occurred yet, at least not here in Chicago.
    Measuring “the Ph of the oceans” is a Herculean task. The oceans are substantially buffered. Anti-industrialists we will always have with us, although few of them adopt Thoreau’s lifestyle.
    Whenever someone tells you the oceans are being acidified, reply, “But the oceans are not acid, they are caustic/basic.” Watch the bewilderment this produces…

  26. Kip Hansen,
    This might be something you could ask Dr. Cornwall.
    It occurs to me that the tank studies start out with specific organisms and specific conditions. Presumably the latter are conditions for which the former are well adapted. To put it another way, each organism has evolved so that the conditions in which it is found tend to be the optimal conditions for that organism. In that case, any significant change in conditions is likely to be unfavorable.
    But that does not mean that the conditions will remain unfavorable. Within limits, organisms (especially simple ones) can evolve fairly rapidly to adapt to changing conditions; we see this all the time with antibiotic resistant bacteria or pesticide resistant insects. Thus, a change that occurs too fast to allow for adaption will have a bigger negative impact than the same change occurring at a much slower rate. I would think it unlikely that lab experiments can properly account for that. So I expect that the real world impacts would be less than those observed in the laboratory.
    Open ecosystems, such as in the oceans but not in laboratory tanks, can adapt independent of the organisms in them. The balance of species in a given location can shift and the ranges occupied by species can move. Many such changes would likely not be noticed by anyone other than an expect making a close study, since they would involve the simplest organisms for which there are many nearly interchangeable species. So again I expect that the real world impacts would be less than those observed in the laboratory.
    So, can we really extrapolate from even the best designed lab studies to the real ocean?
    I suspect that in answering Dr. Cornwall would make the reasonable point that we can’t do such studies in the lab and we should not do such an experiment on the only ocean we have. But that still leaves open the question of what the real effects might be. And provides little guidance to those of us disinclined towards the “all change is bad” philosophy.
    Of more fundamental importance is the phrase “within limits”. What worries me is that we might push things beyond the point where simple tuning of organisms or ecosystems can compensate. Based on exhaustion of surface ocean buffering capacity, I am inclined to think that double CO2 is probably not a big problem but quadruple CO2 would be a big problem. But is there any way to determine that without doing the global experiment?

  27. Reply to Mike M. (period) ==> You’ll see (text of the main essay here) that in my email conversation with Dr.. Cornwall I asked a very similar question, which he answered.
    There are ongoing experiments in the open oceans with CO2 perturbations whose results will not be known for some time, and a quite a few studies investigating the biota in places where CO2 concentrations are naturally higher (such as near ocean bottom CO2 vents).
    Quite a few experiments (quality unknown) have pointed to the rate of change being more important than the quantity of change.
    You are asking the very questions that are the basics of almost all current OA research — they are trying to answer those questions with their research.
    If you formulate a precise question, 50 words or less, I will ask Dr. Cornwall to answer for us.

  28. Here is a precise question for Dr. Cornwall: “If an increase in atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm to 400 ppm in 55 years has not altered the price of oysters, what increase in how many years WILL change the price of oysters?” This is not an oversimplification, this is the heart of the matter after all, the oceans are the source of life.
    Incidentally, the price of lobster is really really low right now, less than half what it was ten years ago…

  29. Reply to Michael Moon ==> I will field this one for Dr. Cornwall.
    The Law of Supply and Demand — along with the economic factors involving value of the local currency vs. commodities (price of bread) — will determine the price of oysters.
    This answer does not change with or without changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The factors are unrelated.
    The same is true of lobsters…..that’s why the price is down.

  30. While corals have indeed been around since at least the early Paleozoic, the Paleozoic rugose corals made calcite shells and did not survive the Permian extinction. Modern corals show up in the mid-Triassic and make aragonite shells.

  31. True that dictionary definitions—including Stedman’s Medical—are:
     Alkalization: make alkali
     Neutralization: make neutral
     Acidification: make acid
    And there were apparently plenty of papers hypothesizing effects of CO2 on seawater that didn’t use the term “ocean acidification” prior to the “International Symposium on Stabilisation of Greenhouse Gas Concentrations—Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change” and publication of the 2005 Royal Society paper. The term was almost certainly coined to influence political decisions and—judging from glut of “ocean acidification” studies—attract grants.
    Too late to do much about it, though. It’s being taught indoctrinated in elementary school.
    http://www.cisanctuary.org/ocean-acidification/hands_on_activities.php
    Have you taken the pledge?

    I pledge to help the planet by:
    Riding my bike to work as much as possible; dirving[sic] less; voting for clean energy; and talking about ocean acidification to anyone, any time…

    — Carol Blanchette,
      Research Biologist, UC Santa Barbara Marine Science Institute

  32. “Back in my undergraduate days, we were conducting a base catalyzed hydrolysis of protein at pH ~12. The lab instructions read in part, “after the catalysis is complete, acidify to neutrality“. Not one person in the lab was confused, or complained about the nomenclature in use.” Really? Amazing. I’m quite sure Dr. Sunny (his name, can you remember your INSTRUCTORS NAMES?) in my Analytical Chemistry course would have said, “Add acid to bring pH to 12.” Probably with a caveat to monitor continuously with stirring to assure the pH change was obtained throughout the sample. Until the bogus “climate” game, I’d never heard the term, “acidifying” a solution. In point of SEMANTIC FACT it would strongly imply or DEMAND that the solution achieve a pH < 7 to ACIDIFY it. I presume, however, that the above commentator would have different meaning than I, base on what he thinks the meaning of "is", is! ("My words, mean precisely what I want them to mean….nothing more and nothing less", said the Red Queen to Alice. Where much semantic debating is allowed, unlike in engineering… (This could all be moot, if the person with a semantic confusion is "ESL". In that case we'd have to "throw mama from the train…")

    • Reply to Max Hugoson => Boy, that’s a lot of all caps words over something as simple as a piece of new nomenclature. Another of our commenters has threatened to scan and post a copy of his school-days chemistry text making the exact opposite point to yours.
      I have never experienced someone claiming that something was a “semantic fact” or that use of certain words “demand” certain, specified outcomes. You should be careful that you are not seen to be an example of the very thing you are complaining about.
      I will repeat for those who still have not quite grasped the point: “Ocean Acidification simply refers to the adding of carbonic acid to the oceans, through the natural process of atmospheric CO2 dissolving/mixing into the water — under conditions of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, more CO2 is taken up by the oceans — which action tends towards decreasing oceanic pH.”
      Having been established, rightly or wrongly, as the simple definition for use in their field of research, we can then use the term without remorse — as it is clearly defined nomenclature within its own field.
      The rest of us can grant that it is a term that lends itself to propagandistic use, which is an unfortunate aspect of advocacy science in so many scientific endeavors in our modern day. Many of us would have rather seen them adopt a different name, an alternate name, which would be, on its face, less prone to misuse. The same fight is fought over terms such as global warming, climate change, organic foods, alternative medicine — the list is nearly endless.
      We can also grant that the field of OA thrives on the steady drumbeat of propagandistic alarmism from within its own ranks and the greater field of climate change. That alarmism has been a literal gold mine of research dollars for hard-strapped oceanic labs and academic departments — and, pragmatically, it is unrealistic to think that they will give us up either the alarmist-tone or the funds so raised anytime soon.

      • “pragmatically, it is unrealistic to think that they will give us either the alarmist-tone or the funds so raised anytime soon.”
        Did you mean to say “give up”, rather than “give us”?

      • oops == yes, “give up either the alarmist-tone or the funds so raised anytime soon.”
        Thank you.
        Moderator: can you fix my comment to show “give us up either the alarmist-tone” …. Thanks.
        [done -mod]

  33. Epilogue:
    A big thank you to all who read my essay and contributed to the comments. Some commenters supplied interesting links to further studies for those who are curious. Several tried to track down the earliest journal articles that used the name Ocean Acidification. I am still interested in that aspect — any finding early papers than 2003 that use the phrase to describe the field of study or the effect of CO2 on ocean pH is invited to post it here in the comments, I will check back periodically.
    Dr. Cornwall was unable to join the discussion this week — he is moving from one office/building to another, a massive undertaking for research scientist — and, best of all, has been blessed with a new baby at home.
    I have on the workbench a follow-on article concerning OA — which will add to this discussion and the three recent essays by Eschenbach.
    Thanks again,
    Kip Hansen

  34. The OA papers I have seen read as if they were written by someone that has no experience in carbonates, micropaleontology, or Earth history. Overall ocean chemistry is controlled by the rate of sea floor spreading, with high spreading rates increasing the Mg:Ca ratio and greatly affecting overall chemistry. The Mg:Ca ratio is what marine calcifiers care about, not whether the pH is 7.8 or 7.6.
    http://openearthsystems.org/data/readings/FridaySeminars/2012-02-10-Linda-Carbonates/StanleyandHardie1998-Secular%20oscillations%20in%20the%20carbonate%20mineralogy%20of%20reef-building%20and%20sediment-producing%20organisms%20driven%20by%20tectonically%20forced%20shifts%20in%20seawater%20chemistry.pdf
    Every shell building organism has a mechanism for protecting itself from the oft diurnal swings of pH by over a whole unit. This protection is usually a mucus that buffers the organism from the surrounding sea water. CaCO3 sediment and inorganically precipitated CaCO3 do not have these protections from dissolution.

  35. Let’s be clear. Ocean Acidification is a propaganda term. How it may have been used in the past is not relevant. To the masses it’s purpose is singular … to scare people. Therefore, anyone using this term has forfeited their rights to being considered a scientist. They are now an activist.
    These people should keep in mind that if skeptics turn out to be completely right the chances for a witch hunt become high. Anyone using propaganda words like this will be front and center when the trails begin. It will not be a question of who is right or wrong on some technical level. I’d suggest real scientists should think about the consequences of their use of propaganda terms.

  36. The oceans have had four billion years to absorb CO2.
    Why are they not acidic yet?
    Not enough time?
    In fact, the oceans are permanently slightly alkaline.
    Limestone / coral / shells etc. are insoluble in water.
    They react with carbonic acid (H2O + CO2) to make Ca(HCO3)2 called calcium bicarbonate.
    This is SOLUBLE in water and is alkaline.
    It compensates for any extra acidity caused by extra dissolved CO2.
    If the Earth ever runs out of limestone, coral, shells, etc., then the climate change cult can start doomsaying about the oceans.
    Can someone tell me when the Earth will run out of rocks?
    Based on computer games, depending on who programs those “confusers”, ANYTHING can happen to the oceans in a digital fantasy world — they could become acidic, start boiling, freeze solid, or turn pink — computer games are not data, so they are not science, and they certainly can not predict the future.

    • Limestone is made from coral and shells (of other shell forming organisms), and time.
      So before there was any limestone, what was the state of the ocean?
      Another mineral high in carbonate is dolomite.
      The difference between the limestone minerals, calcite and aragonite is merely one of crystalline form, whereas dolomite differs in chemical composition…it contains magnesium.
      Dolomite and dolomitic limestone are widely used as buffers in soil. Since there are vast amounts of this mineral all over the Earth, you can add it to the limestone as preventing the oceans from becoming acidic..

  37. Interesting dialogue on the term “acidification”. I’m firmly in the camp that thinks that this is misuse of language with an intent to deceive. I admit that I only skipped through most of it but I don’t recall having come across the term “buffer” or “buffering” effect. Surely that plays a role as well in controlling pH? It did in my days as a student. Would we accept an insurance company determination that a vehicle has started to reverse when in fact it was only decelerating? I don’t think so. One last thing. I have read various papers that clearly show that pH varies with time of day in some reef pools and also that there is a variation of pH between various oceans and seas in the range 8.2 to 7.9 or thereabouts. So what are we measuring and where?

  38. “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 (Skirrow 1965; Wetzel
    1983)”

  39. I’ve read enough!
    Anthony, admins who is this Kip Hansen? Every word he says is irrational given a moments thought. What is going on? He authors posts then manages to patronise every commenter. But the premise is a joke. He is here because of his bonafides I guess but are your sure about them?

  40. “One of the major discoveries of the mid-nineteenth century was Michael Faraday’s demonstration that aqueous solutions of salts and some acids would conduct an electric current. In this unit we take a close look at the nature and behavior of ions in aqueous solution, with special emphasis on the electrical conductance of such solutions.” http://www.chem1.com/acad/webtext/solut/solut-7.html

  41. Ocean acidification is another one of those misleading terms like “climate change” or “carbon pollution”.
    Can someone tell us even just one location where the sea is turning acidic (excluding deep undersea volcanoes and other places where human concentrated acidic filth is being dumped in the sea)? I haven’t seen it in the Mediterranean, or in the Indian Ocean, or in the Caribbean, or in the Atlantic or in the Pacific. Is it happening in theArctic or the Antarctic? Nope. For people hear to even be using the term, here, is a disgrace because on the ph scale the sea is alkaline.

Comments are closed.