Ocean Acidification Study: CO2 Damages Algae

Diatom Algae
Assorted diatoms as seen through a microscope. These specimens were living between crystals of annual sea ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. By Prof. Gordon T. Taylor, Stony Brook University – corp2365, NOAA Corps Collection, Public Domain, Link

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to scientists who bubbled CO2 through a tank full of wild algae, we need to be concerned about the health of the world’s seas 80 years from now.

Acid oceans are shrinking plankton, fuelling faster climate change

August 27, 2019 5.59am AEST
Katherina Petrou Senior Lecturer in Phytoplankton Ecophysiology, University of Technology Sydney
Daniel Nielsen Casual Academic, University of Technology Sydney

Increasingly acidic oceans are putting algae at risk, threatening the foundation of the entire marine food web. 

Our research into the effects of CO₂-induced changes to microscopic ocean algae – called phytoplankton – was published today in Nature Climate Change. It has uncovered a previously unrecognised threat from ocean acidification.

In our study we discovered increased seawater acidity reduced Antarctic phytoplanktons’ ability to build strong cell walls, making them smaller and less effective at storing carbon. At current rates of seawater acidification, we could see this effect before the end of the century.

Read more: https://theconversation.com/acid-oceans-are-shrinking-plankton-fuelling-faster-climate-change-121443

The abstract of the study;

Acidification diminishes diatom silica production in the Southern Ocean
Katherina PetrouKirralee G. BakerDaniel A. NielsenAlyce M. HancockKai G. Schulz & Andrew T. Davidson 

Diatoms, large bloom-forming marine microorganisms, build frustules out of silicate, which ballasts the cells and aids their export to the deep ocean. This unique physiology forges an important link between the marine silicon and carbon cycles. However, the effect of ocean acidification on the silicification of diatoms is unclear. Here we show that diatom silicification strongly diminishes with increased acidity in a natural Antarctic community. Analyses of single cells from within the community reveal that the effect of reduced pH on silicification differs among taxa, with several species having significantly reduced silica incorporation at CO2 levels equivalent to those projected for 2100. These findings suggest that, before the end of this century, ocean acidification may influence the carbon and silicon cycle by both altering the composition of the diatom assemblages and reducing cell ballasting, which will probably alter vertical flux of these elements to the deep ocean.

Read more: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0557-y

Essentially they exposed algae collected from seawater to different levels of CO2, and observed those exposed to higher levels of CO2 appeared less healthy and less dense. The scientists are concerned this means the captured CO2 would not be dragged as quickly to the ocean floor when the algae died.

Though they admit that in the real world, there are a lot of uncertainties;

The future of oceanic carbon sequestration remains ambiguous because of the uncertainties associated with potential changes to the biological carbon pump25. Current predictions of climate-driven changes to ocean productivity are incomplete because many of the effects of these environmental changes on phytoplankton groups, on the interactions among lower trophic levels and on the feedbacks to climate change are poorly understood. The effect of ocean acidification on species selection and silicification and the consequences for carbon export may be mediated by exposure to coincident environmental stresses imposed by changing climate53,54,55,56 or higher trophic interactions. Yet, this study establishes that silicification is sensitive to ocean acidification, with potentially crucial consequences for both trophodynamics and elemental cycling in Antarctic coastal waters and beyond.

Read more: Same link as above

In my opinion the headline claim that CO2 is putting algae at risk seems far fetched. The Algae in question exist in vast numbers, and multiply rapidly, which implies the ability to quickly adapt to changed conditions.

Diatoms appear in the fossil record for at least the last 185 million years, so the ancestors of current species have thrived during periods of far higher CO2 levels than today.

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August 28, 2019 2:27 am

I haven’t yet noticed any CO2 bubbling through the waters of Sydney Harbour. If I do notice that I will certainly begin to be concerned.

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
August 28, 2019 5:28 am

…that’s because the only way this works….is you have to continue to add CO2 until you deplete the buffer….then and only then can you lower the pH

….this only works in the lab or in a closed container

Higher levels of CO2 makes plankton grow bigger, faster, and better….and makes it easier for them to deposit calcium

Phytoplankton calcification in a high-CO2 world.

Brent Hargreaves
August 28, 2019 2:41 am

“A wolf! Over there, a wolf! I swear I saw it. Yet again….”
I suppose that Professor X, lead researcher in a well-funded Lupine Riskology Faculty is hardly likely to say, “Nah, there are no wolves in these parts. Stand down, everybody. No need to worry. No need for my job, in fact.”

Ken Irwin
August 28, 2019 2:59 am

IIRC there is 50 times the amount of CO2 in the oceans (by mass) as there is in the atmosphere.

So if all the atmospheric CO2 suddenly, magically and fatally (to all land species) it would raise the oceanic content by 2%.

Pull the other leg its got bells on.

Mayor of Venus
Reply to  Ken Irwin
August 28, 2019 10:46 pm

Agreed! I once did a calculation of adding ALL the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide to the oceans, mixed to a depth of 1 kilometer. This amount of carbon dioxide is equivalent to adding a little chip of dry ice, 4 grams by weight, to a 500 liter tank of ocean water. Fatal to most life on land, the main effect you might expect in the oceans would be a little increase in algae growth.

Mayor of Venus
Reply to  Ken Irwin
August 28, 2019 10:58 pm

Agreed! I once did a calculation of mixing ALL the atmospheric carbon dioxide to the oceans, mixed to a depth of 1 kilometer. This is equivalent to adding a small chip (about 4 grams) of dry ice to a 500 liter sea water aquarium. While this would be fatal for most life on land, the main effect in the oceans we could expect would be a small increase in algae growth.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Mayor of Venus
August 29, 2019 12:18 am

What is fatal to all life on land?

Mayor of Venus
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 29, 2019 1:43 am

The hypothetical absence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would mean no open-air photosynthesis…..all plants would die, except for those growing in greenhouses with carbon dioxide added to the enclosed air. I think some land-based life could survive….fish-eating birds come to mind. Some people could manage on a diet mostly of fish and other ocean species, and some farming using greenhouses.

Ken Irwin
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 29, 2019 2:45 am

Nicholas – “What is fatal to all life on land”.

All the atmospheric CO2 vanishing by (magically) dissolving into the oceans.

Would raise oceanic CO2 by 2% which would not harm the oceans in any way – but its absence from the atmosphere would be fatal to all terrestrial life forms.

Sorry not clear due to a missing bit from my earlier post.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Ken Irwin
August 29, 2019 12:15 pm

Oh, I see.
Yes, taking away the molecule that is the base of the food chain of the entire biosphere would be very bad.

B d Clark
August 28, 2019 3:07 am

Phytoplankton uses co2 amongst other things as its food,the article states “acidification of the oceans may influence the carbon and silicon cycle” what the extracts dont mention is the carbon cycle is heavily reliant on ocean temperature and el Nino events ,vertical flux in the carbon cycle relies on temperature, to state we took a bunch of phytoplankton put them in a tank and pumped it full of c02 the results were “less healthy and dense”well really how dense can you get, they the scientists used a theoretical amount of c02 which they *think* will be a ocean concentraction in 80 years time ,to poison the phytoplankton to prove what! They can poison phytoplankton with co2, yep put me in a tank with my favourite food and nothing else, I can predict with certainty at some point I will reach a toxic level I will be less healthy and dense,(dense may not be such a bad thing) essentially this is the car and hose pipe doom and gloom experiment, more predictions from the AGW agenda more, ifs, might be s, and uncertainties.

Carl Friis-Hansen
August 28, 2019 3:12 am

In our study we discovered increased seawater acidity reduced…

How can the oceans become more acidic when the average pH value is 8.1?
Why can these clever people not just say “less basic” – Oh, I understand, that does not make great headlines.
Reference to the ocean’s pH: https://sciencing.com/ph-salt-water-5098328.html

Rick Hillier
Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
August 28, 2019 4:29 am

The ocean is buffered so well precisely because of CO2. CO2 in water forms carbonic acid (And as you correctly point out this equation depends on temperature and partial pressures). H2CO3 quickly equalibriates to HCO3- and H+. PH of this reaction is around 5.6. The pH of rain water incidently. Also important to note is you need a pH below 4 to create ecological havoc (ie death) in water systems. Carbonic acid is too weak of an acid to get there. The rest of the equation that is conveniently forgotten is HCO3- equalibriates to H+ and CO3 2-. This has a pH around 8.3. Basically using CO3 2- , HCO3-, and H2CO3 is a great buffer for any pH in the 6-8 range, and once established it is incredible difficult to get the pH to change. To complicate it further cO3 2- is used to create calcium carbonate in shells and limestone deposits so this also helps pull the reaction sequence to the right keeping the pH closer to 8 especially in river systems like Calgary where we have significant limestone deposits. The deposition on calcium carbonate in the ocean also depends on temperature and pressure (and is also well studied). So no CO2 is not causing ocan of an acidification, and what blows my mind is how easily the people saying so ignore the full chemistry.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Rick Hillier
August 28, 2019 8:19 am

Should also be noted that only a tiny fraction of CO2 in water is involved in any of these reactions.
Most of the CO2 exists as a dissolved gas, not bound up as carbonic acid.
And carbonic acid is an extremely weak acid.
And the conjugate base of a weak acid is…wait for it…a STRONG base!

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 28, 2019 9:27 am

A critical point often missed in these “the ocean is acidifying” alarums.
Thank you, Nicholas.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Rick Hillier
August 28, 2019 10:21 am

Rick Hillier
Be prepared for Nick Stokes to come back with some obscure theory of chemistry to ‘demolish’ your facts. He has an uncanny ability to find ways to support climate alarmism, even if it is with a theory that no one uses and has been relegated to the dust bins of history.

Reply to  Rick Hillier
August 28, 2019 12:38 pm

Yes indeed, when the pH of my koi pond varies from 8.2, my first check is the expiration date of the pH test

Ron Long
August 28, 2019 3:14 am

I am positive that my college Chemistry Professors would have said “becoming more acidic” is incorrect, the term should be “becoming less alkaline”, and you are therefore sent to remedial chemistry, or you should change your major to Social Science, where ad hoc misstatements are openly welcomed.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Ron Long
August 28, 2019 4:33 am

Exactly correct.
I happen to have a chemistry degree, but you do not need one to know how wrong this usage is.
All you need is any dictionary in the entire world that has ever been published, and then to look up what the word “acidification” means.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 28, 2019 10:29 am

Nicholas and Ron
Several of us have been making this point for years, and the Alarmists With An Agenda stick their noses up in the air and ignore the arguments because it doesn’t serve their purpose of scaring the general public.


Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 28, 2019 12:05 pm

I have chemistry degrees plus spent time working with preventing deposition of Ca and Mg carbonate scales. I’ve been making comments about this fake acidification claim for more than a decade. Not sure I’ve made much of a dent in the pseudo chemistry of climate change.

Reply to  Ron Long
August 28, 2019 5:16 am

The phrase “ocean acidification” was literally invented out of thin air in 2003 by Ken Caldiera to enable liberal arts majors to sound sciencey when scaring the bejesus out of the scientifically illiterate masses. It used to be called carbonate geochemistry.

Margaret Smith
Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2019 7:28 am

A while ago I was watching a science programme for schools, put on early for teachers to record.
Incredible! After a preamble about how the oceans were changing we were taken to a table. There was a large cylinder of water and two beakers of water. The cylinder represented the sea (seawater/water with a pinch of salt? we weren’t told).

One beaker was acidic, the other alkaline and a drop of a liquid litmus was added to each. The alkaline one turned pink and the acid one turned green.

Litmus was dripped into the cylinder and it turned pink. Then CO2 was bubbled through it. Soon the bubbles utterly filled the cylinder, on and on it went. Eventually the pink turned green. Voila!!

As the cylinder was a micro droplet of a micro droplet of the ocean would we even be able to see our addition at the same scale?

This simple nonsense is what they are showing as proof to children! Children are not encouraged to ask searching questions.

Reply to  Margaret Smith
August 28, 2019 8:22 am

The pH is relatively unimportant. All that matters are the aragonite (Ωarg) and calcite (Ωcal) saturation states.

While the addition of CO2 to seawater will lower the Ωarg and Ωcal, increasing the temperature will increase the saturation states.  And temperature is more important than pCO2.  Global warming actually offsets Chicken Little of the Sea.

Almost every example of shells being “dissolved” by Chicken Little of the Sea comes from cold waters, usually in areas of upwelling.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2019 8:31 am

CO2(g) ⇔ CO2(aq)

CO2(aq) + H2O ⇔ HCO3(aq) + H+(aq)

HCO3(aq) ⇔ CO32–(aq) + H+(aq)

Ca2+(aq) + 2 HCO3(aq) ⇔ CaCO3 + CO2(aq) + H2O


If you add COto the system or lower the water temperature, CaCO3 dissolves.

If you add Ca2+ to the system and/or raise the water temperature, CaCOprecipitates.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2019 9:28 am

Thank you, David!

Ron Long
Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2019 11:23 am

David, the thing I discovered is that aragonite does not fizz in dilute HCl, whereas calcite does. Actually aragonite is an easily distorted crystal structure and is thought to collect Ba and Sr which are released upon recrystallization to calcite, and may even participate in sedex barite deposits.

Margaret Smith
Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2019 2:33 pm

Thank you David – exactly! But…a lot of children think they understand all about it (probably their teachers, too).

Reply to  Margaret Smith
August 28, 2019 12:01 pm

If they were using real litmus paper, then when it turned red the pH was below 4.5, blue is pH >8.3. Both outside the range of so-called ocean acidification but consistent with the demonstration you described.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Ron Long
August 28, 2019 8:23 am

Some basic science writing education wouldn’t hurt either.

The first two sentences are a waste of precious space. Diatoms do not go through silicification, that is the process of replacing a mineral with silica, diatoms biomineralize available Si ions into opal frustules.
” Here we show that …” In the abstract should be replaced with what they actually did. Tour guides show things, scientists are supposed to conduct experiments or make observations and present the data. But comparing the two is an insult, tour guides show you something and then tell you something about how and why it is, this paper however is CO2 + ? = Dead Diatoms.

They only mention pH and I wouldn’t doubt if they seriously did not even measure dissolved Si.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
August 28, 2019 2:22 pm

Or other nutrients that the diatoms would require to sustain healthy development.

August 28, 2019 3:19 am

As soon as they say “acidification” for pH approaching 7, I’m skeptical. The term I remember from chemistry is “neutralisation”

Reply to  Andy
August 28, 2019 6:11 am

Andy: “neutralisation”

Same here. I don’t recall off the top of my head any discussion of ‘acidification’ or ‘alkalinization.’ I suppose the reason was that we were always trying to neutralize a solution, regardless of which way we were going, to get the balancing quantity.

I’m only guessing here, but I’d imagine that ‘acidification’ or ‘alkalinization’ only came up when discussing a departure from the neutral state.

My 2¢ worth of memory of college chemistry.

Flight Level
August 28, 2019 3:20 am

While somewhere at a secret meeting of an unnamed NGO:

-“And to save the algae from whatever they had endured during that many hundreds of millions of years, we will lobby for a new energy tax so we can finance bringing more sand to Sahara.”

August 28, 2019 3:33 am

Phytoplankton account for about half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. link

CO2 is plant food.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  commieBob
August 28, 2019 5:30 am

“CO2 is plant food.” … and since CO2 feeds phytoplankton as well …

CO2 feeds life.

Carbon Based Life Forms participate in the Carbon Cycle. The Carbon Cycle cannot complete without CO2.

CO2 is necessary for life.

Reply to  commieBob
August 28, 2019 6:07 am

Yes, CO2 accounts for 100% of photosynthetic activity.

August 28, 2019 3:47 am

I believe Dr. Soon addressed this paper in a recording of a talk he gave at a think tank.

Sorry, I’m short on specifics, but (if this is the same paper) the experiment introduced acid directly to water, vis-a-vis introducing higher concentrations of CO2 to air surrounding the tank.

According to Soon; increased concentrations of CO2 resulted in growth of crustaceans.

Reply to  RobR
August 28, 2019 6:32 am

The Dr. Soon talk can be seen on YouTube using the search words: Global warming fact or fiction.

At 20 minutes, he mentions experiments that bypass carbon cycles by placing acid directly in the test water.

This appears to be a different study but I’m guessing used the same short cut.

HD Hoese
Reply to  RobR
August 28, 2019 7:07 am

Maybe this had something to do with it. From the paper, here’s the problem —“Diatoms lose their ballast” therefore don’t sink as fast not carrying their carbon to the bottom where it belongs. (OOPS) Does that give the carbon longer to escape on the surface? (OOPS AGAIN) “However, external pH could affect the speciation of the PDMPO dye (protonated versus non-protonated) and thus its ability to diffuse through cell membranes. The pKa of the first protonation of PDMPO is unknown but has been estimated at 6.78 (ref. 60).” Nevertheless, “ Yet, this study establishes that silicification is sensitive to ocean acidification, with potentially crucial consequences for both trophodynamics and elemental cycling in Antarctic coastal waters and beyond.”

Yet, it’s not the algae problem, it’s jellyfish. Was watching a fascinating Animal Planet show on jellyfish last night when they degenerated to showing a floating algal pig-sty that will benefit jellyfish who will take out all the fish. I had already read the paper— Graham, W. M. 2001. Numerical increases and distributional shifts of Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Desor) and Aurelia aurita (Linné) (Cnidaria: Scyphozoa) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Hydrobiologia:451:97-211.
Those are sea-nettles and moon jellies. Hasn’t happened yet.

Reply to  HD Hoese
August 28, 2019 8:32 am

HD, Interestingly back in the late 1980s and 1990s there was an attempted for commercial fishermen to harvest, process and sell jellyfish to the Asian markets. There had been an abundance of jellyfish for several years. There was a market. Two things killed the fishery a sudden lack of jellyfish and the manpower needed to process the jellyfish after they were caught. Jellyfish populations “bloom” and decline because they are sensitive to the natural environmental conditions and pretty profound population fluctuations.

But back to the subject, the idea that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, even with the wildest predictions of how much it will increase unless we kill the capitalist system, are just ludicrous. What it tells me is how little real education the authors received. Somebody could at least work out just how much carbon dioxide would be required to actually acidify the world’s oceans, a extremely well buffered system, enough to lower the pH under 7.

August 28, 2019 4:28 am

How do they get away with this complete and utter tripe!

So despite the whole history of the science on the subject showing that algae bloom in ocean upwelling waters that are rich in dissolved CO2, that have a naturally lower pH than the surface water replaced. These are the same nutrient-rich waters that support diverse populations of marine life that are the very source of the Southern Ocean’s fecundity:

Antarctica is isolated from the rest of the continents by the Circumpolar Current, which swirls clockwise around the landmass. This current pulls up cold, nutrient-rich waters from the deep sea to the surface, a process known as upwelling. The nutrients cultivate blooms of phytoplankton and ice-algae, which feed a super-abundant supply of Antarctic krill, small shrimp-like crustaceans. Large animals, like penguins, whales, and seals all feast on the krill. – Smithsonian, 2018

So, they draw down CO2 from the atmosphere and bloom in low pH, CO2 rich waters but please don’t throw them into the brier-patch – where they were bred and born!*

Like other plants, they[Algae] use the energy of sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen…In addition to being the base of the food web on which essentially all other marine organisms depend, phytoplankton play a significant role in influencing global climate. The Southern Ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas. This is largely due to the uptake of carbon dioxide by phytoplankton. – Australian Antarctic Division (AAD)

In direct contradiction to the paper, the particular diatom flora that are significant to the atmospheric carbon draw-down are yet to be fully documented; according to the AAD.

*See Br’er rabbit!

August 28, 2019 4:29 am

Gee, don’t you have to wonder why those “experimenters” ignore basic biology in their haste to get the “results” that they want?

Phytoplankton are the bottom of the oceanic food chain. They live on (among other things) CO2. Zooplankton feed on them, and other critters feed on zooplankton, and so on up the food chain to tuna fish, sharks and whales. Sometimes you get bioluminescence, which is too cool!

So how is this a panic attack kind of thing? I”m just mystified by it all, by what seems to be a desperate need to pull a fast one to get attention. Isn’t that what little kids do?

Nicholas McGinley
August 28, 2019 4:29 am

Everything I have seen indicates that when they check the actual ocean, they have found that populations of various species of phytoplankton are exploding higher.
And it would be remiss to make a comment on this without pointing out the scientific illiteracy of referring to a decrease in alkalinity of an alkaline solution as an increase in acidity. If a solution is not acidic, it does not take a grammarian, or a chemist, to understand that it cannot become “more acidic”. Most especially not when at no time will it ever actually be acidic, even after 80+ more years of supposedly becoming “more acidic”.
The fact that these people cannot even be shamed into using proper terminology for the discipline they are purporting to be experts in, says all you need to know about their commitment to honesty and professionalism.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 28, 2019 7:25 am

“The fact that these people cannot even be shamed into using proper terminology for the discipline they are purporting to be experts in, says all you need to know about their commitment to honesty and professionalism.”

Their commitment is not to honesty and professionalism as much as it is to funding.

Say the right words and funding materializes; Say the wrong words and you will be driven out of your profession.

August 28, 2019 4:47 am

The abstract states without equivocation that the process is “poorly understood”, and yet somehow the study “establishes” that silicification is sensitive to ocean “acidification”.

These kids need to learn English, and take a course or two in logic and critical thinking before they are allowed to play with their science sets. They are an embarrassment to higher education.

August 28, 2019 4:59 am

Algae survive well enough in reservoirs where there is a pronounced diurnal pH variation as CO2 is consumed during daylight hours and released overnight.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  DaveS
August 28, 2019 8:14 am

The ocean also has a huge diurnal pH cycle, which is larger than the claimed “acidification” caused by CO2 increasing in the atmosphere.
There is also a huge variance between the surface and subsurface waters a few tens of feet down, and an even larger variation with latitude.
Turns out oceanic pH is also temperature dependent.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 28, 2019 8:53 am

That’s why pH is usually calculated from dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA). Salinity, temperature and pressure all affect pH.

August 28, 2019 5:18 am

They probably killed the algae simply by sudden changes in it’s water concentration and water temperature. Just because they’re “scientists” doesn’t make them competent.

You have to control ALL the variables. If I bubbled *pure* CO2 through a day-care it would likely kill all the children too. I sincerely doubt they used a chamber and simply doubled atmospheric CO2.

Any basic chemistry student knows that pushing straight dry CO2 through water will create an unbelievably strong effect and turn otherwise negligible chemicals into deadly toxic waste. Not even trees will survive that kind of abuse. (You can kill them by putting CO2 into the ground).

Given the exceptionally low caliber of these “scientists” who obviously weren’t, I’m gonna bet that they didn’t even bother to warm the gas up in the first place.

August 28, 2019 5:40 am

Marine plankton didn’t like the Oligocene Epoch…

As a result of the cooling trend prevalent throughout the Oligocene period, the lives and habitats of many organisms were directly affected. In the oceans, marine biotic provinces became more fragmented as sea dwellers capable of withstanding cooler temperatures congregated to places further from the warmer equator, where other species could better survive. The cooling trend was also responsible for the reduced diversity in marine plankton, the foundation of the food chain.


The mid-Oligocene period was marked by a worldwide marine regression, this included the decline in the total number of marine species.

UCMP Berkeley

The Oligocene Epoch was a period of global cooling…

Collapsing atmospheric CO2 concentrations…

And ocean “basification”…

The thing is that phytoplankton like lots of CO2 in their diet…

Iglesias-Rodriguez et al., 2008

Fig. 4. Average mass of CaCO3 per coccolith in core RAPID 21-12-B and atmospheric CO2. The average mass of CaCO3 per coccolith in core RAPID 21-12-B (open circles) increased from 1.08 x 10–11 to 1.55 x 10–11 g between 1780 and the modern day, with an accelerated increase over recent decades.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2019 6:50 am

“Basification…” Hahaha, you’re killing me David!

Howard Dewhirst
Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2019 5:17 pm

David, Do we know who ‘peer reviewed’ the paper?

Reply to  Howard Dewhirst
August 28, 2019 5:25 pm

I would guess… “peers” reviewed it. Peers of what, I don’t have the foggiest.

Howard Dewhirst
Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2019 5:44 pm

One of the issues that wasn’t explored here was that – according to a ‘real’ climate scientist I know – “adding CO2 to the ocean causes its carbonate ion concentration to change, which makes deep ocean water sufficiently acidic to dissolve deep ocean carbonates, thus causing the carbonate compensation depth (or CCD) to rise (by amounts of 1000 m or more during the last glaciation). During the PETM, that is what happened, wiping out most of the deep water benthic organisms.”
That he says ‘acidic’ speaks volumes but are his comments about CO2 driving the CCD meaningful or wrong?

Reply to  Howard Dewhirst
August 28, 2019 6:10 pm

The thing is that deep water has always been sufficiently acidic to dissolve deep ocean carbonates, that’s why there’s a CCD. The PETM briefly shoaled the CCD enough that it left a mark in the stratigraphic record… But the funny thing is that many of the benthic forams recovered from extinction.


Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  David Middleton
August 29, 2019 12:23 am

Funny how things that have managed to hang around pretty much forever, have a way of keeping on doing that.

August 28, 2019 5:48 am

So, they gave an “instant” CO2 level change rather than a slow 100 year gradual change and they say “see” it is harmful!


Reply to  JohnWho
August 28, 2019 7:22 am

That was going to be my observation as well. In my experience, if I start plants in my porch in February under a lamp, and move them straight to my garden in March, they die do to the shock even though the temperature is within their normal growing range.

ANY SUDDEN ONSET CHANGES CAN CAUSE DEATH IN PLANTS AND ANIMALS!!!!! (whether it is sudden changes in temperature, salinity, atmospheric concentration of various gases or other factors within the normal living range of the creature – some survive to adapt, thus why there is life on earth at all)

August 28, 2019 5:54 am

“Essentially they exposed algae collected from seawater to different levels of CO2, and observed those exposed to higher levels of CO2 appeared less healthy and less dense. The scientists are concerned this means the captured CO2 would not be dragged as quickly to the ocean floor when the algae died.”

Are you sure about that? The full publication is paywalled, so I can’t read it, but nowhere in either the abstract nor the conversation.com article does it say they increased the CO2, just that they increased the acidity. I suspect they probably poured HCl into the seawater.

August 28, 2019 5:59 am

The ocean is a highly buffered system, unlike the lab Petri dish. They should re-run this experiment in a limestone bowl.

These geeks should look at Soda Bay in Clear Lake. (California). There is bubbling CO2 continuously rising from volcanism. The lake is the greenest cesspool of many algaes I have ever seen.

Reply to  Mark
August 28, 2019 6:13 am

Fascinating, I’d like to visit there in person some day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfUQ4BXRxWg

Reply to  Mark
August 28, 2019 7:37 am

Those do look an awful lot like algae mats to me.

August 28, 2019 6:02 am

seems far fetched


This is the year of rabid alarmism, after all.

August 28, 2019 6:14 am

By definition, there is no such thing as “ocean acidification”, given that the oceans are basic. The average pH of the world’s oceans is 8.1. Given that the present pH is the result of hundreds of millions of years with a functioning biosphere and a stable CO2 recycling system which featured far higher atmospheric concentrations of CO2 than today, it would seem exceedingly unlikely that the oceanic pH will ever drop below 7.0, at which point the climate alarmists would be justified in talking about “ocean acidification”.

We should never concede the language of science to the science-denying climate alarmists.

Samuel C Cogar
August 28, 2019 6:23 am

by Eric Worrall

Diatoms appear in the fossil record for at least the last 185 million years, so the ancestors of current species have thrived during periods of far higher CO2 levels than today.

Eric, …… now ya just gotta quit confusing the claims of those expert studies by presenting contrary scientific facts.

August 28, 2019 6:38 am

The paper is paywalled (for me anyway) but from the supplementary information it appears that the
expt was carried out between pH range of 8 to 7.4, As they say:

-“*Predicted ocean pH by 2100 based on IPCC RCP8.5 is ~7.77
Predicted ocean pH by 2200 based on IPCC RCP8.5 is <7.4"-

The basis for prediction of the future oceanic pH seems then to be based on a model, RCP 8.5 which I thought was generally discredited or thought the least probable of the RCP forecasts.
Even with using the most pessimistic forecast the change rates from the graphs in the suppl info. seem less than dramatically bad.

August 28, 2019 7:16 am

Some of the largest deposits of diatoms are in Cretaceous Diatomaceous Earth formations (hundreds of feet thick)…when CO2 levers were high enough (1000 ppm) to be blamed (by Alarmists in Wikipedia) for the Cretaceous Optimum (very warm period).

Diatoms (and other cabonaceous organisms) flourished abundantly during the Cretaceous…so much so, that atmospheric CO2 levels declined continuously during the Cretaceous from oceanic cabon sequestration by dying cabonaceous organisms falling to the ocean floors. Diatoms were amongst the most numerous of those organisms evidenced by the huge diatomaceous earth deposits formed during that period.



Closer to home, every time we get a big rain (which draws down alkalinity of pool water and shifts the pH downward), I have to do a chlorine shock to prevent the predictable algae bloom that turns a pool green within hours. Pool algae loves pH levels well below 8.1. (These guys are first cousins to the silicateous diatoms.)


I’d need to see some more details of this study…and at least a few good replications (which science of late does very poorly, and climate science does NEVER) before I’ll believe the results or the conclusions of this study.

Bubbling CO2 through water is not at all the same as increasing the CO2 content of the air above the water. Localized carbonic acid concentrations from bubbling CO2 through the water (momentarily adjacent to the bubbles) are certain to be orders of magnitude higher than you’d ever see in any ocean ever in earth’s history.

It’s probably OK to bubble CO2 through ocean water, and THEN maintain elevated levels, AND THEN INTRODUCE THE ORGANISMS to avoid the possibility of local toxicity. Dr. Soon cites studies that demonstrate very elevated growth of cabonaceous organisms (with bigger, stronger shells) when CO2 levels are elevated properly and pH reductions are done properly.

Mike McHenry
August 28, 2019 7:24 am

In a 18 April 2008 Science paper Rodriguez et al showed that CaCO3 based coccoliths thrived in an enriched CO2 environment.

August 28, 2019 8:15 am

Aargh!! This is a big world. They should try taking a look at it.
Like this:

One of the explanations for this bloom was increased nutrients from the Amazon River flowing into the Atlantic. The pH of the Amazon at its mouth is about 6….

Michael H Anderson
August 28, 2019 9:32 am

Does it really need to be said again? The Cambrian, the Ordovician, the Silurian, the Devonian, hundreds upon hundreds of millions of years of the earth’s history, all with far greater concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, right up through the Cretaceous. I learned this in one minute of looking at Wikipedia for crying out loud! This pseudoscientific trope about ocean certification needs to be stopped dead in its tracks and removed from the narrative by any means necessary.

Michael H Anderson
Reply to  Michael H Anderson
August 28, 2019 10:06 am

Oops, stupid voice to text – acidification, not certification obviously. 😁

Ron Reece
August 28, 2019 10:11 am

Apparently they didn’t “bubble up” some Iron molecules, as well a the other trace minerals that phytoplankton rely upon in order to produce Chlorophyll and conduct photosynthesis.

The late Dr. John Martin did extensive research on what has essentially become the “extended Redfield ratio” showing that High Nutrient/Low Chlorophyll regions of the oceans are due primarily to an Iron deficiency (Chlorosis). His acolytes actually proved his theory by adding Iron Sulphate (and I believe Iron Silicate) to HNLC zones and resulted in large blooms of phytoplankton.

I can’t find any research on the issue of coral zooxanthellae algae, but I bet if the proper protocols were followed, we might find that iron deficiency has an impact on coral bleaching as well.

My personal “gut feeling” is that zooxanthellae get expelled from corals because they become a liability to the coral, because they are unable to produce the necessary energy the coral relies upon.

Given the proper nutrients, most forms of life are able to adapt to changing conditions, thickening their shells, reproducing.. etc, etc.

CO2 is plant food.. ;0)





Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Ron Reece
August 29, 2019 12:31 am

Anything that causes stress to the corals can cause bleaching.
It is ell understood that this is an adaptive response by the coral, and they almost always reacquire new symbiodinium that are better adapted.
It has been known for many decades that about 10% of all corals in the world bleach in a given year, on average.
But like average rainfall or average temp, everything being exactly average may be the rarest thing to ever happen.
Coral bleaching is just another hair on fire fake emergency.

Reply to  Ron Reece
August 29, 2019 2:05 am

You know the Redfield Ratio ? 😉 This is a very important ratio of N and P to coral propagators and somewhat unknown to ‘academics’. However, Fe is toxic to corals.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Streetcred
August 29, 2019 5:00 pm

No, but I once knew a guy name Red and he had a field behind his house.
I do not know how often he listened to the ratio though.
I think maybe he was an album guy.

August 28, 2019 10:23 am

It should be noted that the places highest in CO2 in the ocean is upwelling areas where water that has been down in the deep ocean for 1,000 years or more and has been depleted in oxygen and enriched in CO2 comes back to the surface.

When this nutrient-rich water comes up into the photic zone there is a great bloom of phytoplankton (algae, broadly speaking), which are the basis of nearly all food chains in the ocean. Those “acidic” waters are the biologically richest parts of the ocean, the best fishing waters and have most seabirds, whales and seals.

A map of ocean pH, the bluer, the more “acidified” the ocean is:


And a map of chlorophyll concentration in the ocean, the bluer, the less life there is in the ocean

comment image

Notice something? What is blue in one map is yellow in the other and vice versa.

So, the more “acidic” the ocean is, the more algae there is in it.

And of course these “scientists” know that perfectly well. It is Oceanography 101.

Reply to  tty
August 28, 2019 10:35 am

And of course these “scientists” know that perfectly well.

Actually, I sincerely doubt that they do know this. It is the sworn duty of most universities these days to misinform their students. As Reagan said, “So much of what they know isn’t so”.

Reply to  tty
August 28, 2019 12:13 pm

It is as if the real world does not exist for them. If their models or over-simplified lab exercises say it is ‘x’, it must be ‘x’, everywhere, under all circumstances. If the actual world shows ‘y’ to be the case, it is a travesty. The data must be rejected.

How has the science community degraded to this extent? Do any of them know how to do research anymore? Is researching other relevant research no longer required?

August 28, 2019 10:30 am

“According to scientists who bubbled CO2 through a tank full of wild algae, we need to be concerned about the health of the world’s seas 80 years from now.”

Oh, goody; another badly designed, mismanaged salt water aquarium research project.
No mention of how they;
A) Validated the aquarium was stable and healthy.
B) Controlled all possible variables, including Lighting, salt, O₂ and CO₂
C) Established an identical control portion of the experiment where separate aquariums are never identical.
D) Got CO₂ levels to reach equilibrium and exactly what those levels were and at what temperature and salinity.
E) Fed the algae and dealt with dead algae.
F) Listed nitrate and ammonia levels throughout the experiment.
G) Listed and controlled aquarium rocks, coral, bottom of the tank media (rocks, sand, CaCO₃ and the aragonite form of CaCO₃.
H) How did the researchers control for NaCl solution PH of 7.0? Compared to a PH of 8, adding NaCl to their aquarium reduces the alkalinity.

Experienced folks will testify that keeping a salt water aquarium clean and viable can be tough. Keeping several synchronized is very tough.

From the abstract: data availability

Based on the results of a previous study, a natural community of Antarctic marine microbes from Prydz Bay, East Antarctica were exposed to a range of CO2 concentrations in 650 L mesocosms to simulate possible future ocean conditions up to the year ∼2200. Diatom silica precipitation rates were examined at CO2 concentrations between 343 to 1641 micro atm, measuring both the total diatom community response and that of individual species”

1361ppm CO₂? 3.4 times current atmospheric concentration?
650 liter (171 gallons) aquariums, in Antarctica, during a short summer? Were the tanks put right on the ice?

One suspects these researchers aren’t playing with a full set of marbles.

Michael Jankowski
August 28, 2019 10:31 am

Greenhouse gas-driven climate change is being blamed for algal blooms…but it is supposed to do the opposite?

August 28, 2019 10:38 am

‘At current rates of seawater acidification, we could see this effect before the end of the century.’

GREAT! I had expected to die around 2050, when I will be a hundred years old.

August 28, 2019 12:42 pm

Slightly off topic, but I just spent $1,500 to get the algae removed from the carburetor of my motorcycle. The algae flourishes in ethanol, which, of course, is in all gasoline on the market today. And all of this, not for the environment, or to get better mileage, but to mollify the corn farmers.

Steven Franchuk
August 28, 2019 1:08 pm

They probably didn’t add any macro and micro nutrients to the water. If you don’t add macro and micro nutrients, a lot of CO2 and light. the algae will starve from lack of N, K, Ca, Mg, P, S, Cl, Fe, Mn, B, Zn, Cu, Mo, and Ni elements. Now if they had provided more macro and micro nutrients in addition to the light and CO2 they would have gotten a lot more healthy looking algae.

Howard Dewhirst
August 28, 2019 5:32 pm

Whoever peer reviewed the paper should all be defrocked.

Reply to  Howard Dewhirst
August 28, 2019 6:30 pm

It passed peer review because they stayed with the correct narrative.

August 28, 2019 10:30 pm

As many here have noted,sea water measured in the open ocean is basic with a pH of about 8.2.
The oceans will never be acidic.
What these scientists are talking about is a fear of impacts from a reduction in alkalinity.
According to computer models, doubling of atmospheric CO2 would decrease ocean pH to about 7.9, still basic but less so.
I am indebted to Steve Goreham in his book for these lucid thoughts and also for a reference to Hoffman et al ( 2011).
“A December 2011 study by scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography found large variations in ocean pH by month, week and even time of day. Dr. Gretchen Hoffman led a team that measured pH at 15 locations in the Atlantic,Pacific and Antarctic Oceans.
They found that pH changes were large, from 0.1 to 1.4 units over a thirty day period. They also found that pH changed by as much as 0.35 units over a course of days!
The study concludes that ‘climatology-based forecasts consistently under estimate natural variability’ and that ocean residents ‘are already experiencing pH regimes that are not predicted until 2100’ by the climate models.”

Nicholas McGinley
August 29, 2019 12:17 am

The alarmists would have everyone believe that life is exquisitely fragile and exists on a knifes edge.
The truth is far from that.
How can I be so sure?
Lots of reasons and many specifics.
We have many examples, and here is one of them:

August 29, 2019 1:58 am

In a marine aquarium, algae thrives in a lower pH environment. Serious marine aquarists would laugh at these clowns.

When the clowns can demonstrate that they are able to firstly sustain healthy growth of marine macro algae for 6 months prior to their ‘experimentation’ then I’ll read beyond their alarmist clickbait.

August 29, 2019 7:49 am

Eric ==> What is wrong with this study is that they have not followed the very specific recommendations of either Cornwall and Hurd (https://academic.oup.com/icesjms/article/73/3/572/2458712) or even the earlier EPOCA “Guide to best practices for ocean acidification research”.

According to the methods section of the highlighted paper, only ONE mesocosm tank was used for each experimental condition (five variable and one control). There were no tank replications — in my opinion, invalidating the entire project.

Refer to Cornwall and Hurd (2015) with link above on acceptable tank designs. Without even a basic acceptable tank replication design the results mean (almost) nothing.

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