Tiny shells reveal waters off California are acidifying twice as fast as the global ocean

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IMAGE: These colorful spots are tiny foraminifera shells taken from the mud of core samples as seen under a microscope. Credit: NOAA
IMAGE: These colorful spots are tiny foraminifera shells taken from the mud of core samples as seen under a microscope. Credit: NOAA

In first-of-its-kind research, NOAA scientists and academic partners used 100 years of microscopic shells to show that the coastal waters off California are acidifying twice as fast as the global ocean average — with the seafood supply in the crosshairs.

California coastal waters contain some of our nation’s more economically valuable fisheries, including salmon, crabs and shellfish. Yet, these fisheries are also some of the most vulnerable to the potential harmful effects of ocean acidification on marine life. That increase in acidity is caused by the ocean absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

100 years and 2,000 shells later

In the new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists examined nearly 2,000 shells of microscopic animals called foraminifera by taking core samples from the seafloor off Santa Barbara and measuring how the shells of these animals have changed over a century.

Every day, the shells of dead foraminifera rain down on the ocean floor and are eventually covered by sediment. Layers of sediment containing shells form a vertical record of change. The scientists looked back through time, layer by layer, and measured changes in thickness of the shells.

“By measuring the thickness of the shells, we can provide a very accurate estimate of the ocean’s acidity level when the foraminifera were alive,” said lead author Emily Osborne, who used this novel technique to produce the longest record yet created of ocean acidification using directly measured marine species. She measured shells within cores that represented deposits dating back to 1895.

The fossil record also revealed an unexpected cyclical pattern: Though the waters increased their overall acidity over time, the shells revealed decade-long changes in the rise and fall of acidity. This pattern matched the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a natural warming and cooling cycle. Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are driving ocean acidification, but this natural variation also plays an important role in alleviating or amplifying ocean acidification.

“During the cool phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, strengthened winds across the ocean drive carbon dioxide-rich waters upward toward the surface along the West Coast of the U.S.,” said Osborne, a scientist with NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program. “It’s like a double whammy, increasing ocean acidification in this region of the world.”

Scientists hope to build on the new research to learn more about how changes in ocean acidification may be affecting other aspects of the marine ecosystem.

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From EurekAlert!

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Marcus
December 17, 2019 10:06 am

…..20 shells per year ?

ResourceGuy
December 17, 2019 10:11 am

Add wind management to the policy agenda along with CO2 storage industries.

a happy little debunker
December 17, 2019 10:18 am

‘acidifying’ – as if any alkaline solution can magically become ‘more acidic’..

Reply to  a happy little debunker
December 17, 2019 11:01 am

Indeed, in my chemistry book it is called neutralizing, the ocean is a buffered solution. And geology does not agree with an extinction story correlating with high co2 levels (c.f. Cretaceous)

Mr.
Reply to  a happy little debunker
December 17, 2019 11:08 am

Exactly.
A genuine scientific research project would at least correctly describe from the outset exactly what the research was focused upon.
In this case, it would have been “sampling the pH of the waters off California and comparing with changes at other areas”

And what’s this about “average acidity of oceans”?
Averaging of seawater alkalinity is nonsense, “acidity” of seawaters is absolutely risible.

Philo
Reply to  Mr.
December 17, 2019 6:13 pm

They could at least use the correct term, pH, and the fact that it has changed perhaps from 8.25 to 8.2.
pH is highly variable in the oceans with depth, temperature, and winds. Their own research shows this.

Oddgeir
Reply to  Mr.
December 18, 2019 2:28 am

That would probably be “average alkalinity” i.e. carbonate alkalinity. Which is a very stable equilibrium of 90% bicarbonate, 9% carbonate, 0.9% CO2 and 0.09% H2CO3.

This equilibrium is impossible to move because it is just that, an equilibrium.

Always have been, is today, and always will be. A million year ago, today and in a million years from now.

Bicarbonate with its 90% fraction is the buffer. The pH of this buffer is 8.1. Which is why our oceans average pH is 8.1.

NOAA has removed all their material that CO2 + CO3– + H2O -> 2HCO3- (or if you will, converts to bicarbonate).

Why? Because you can NOT reduce pH of a bicarbonate buffer by strengthening the bicarbonate buffer…

Oddgeir

Max
Reply to  Oddgeir
December 20, 2019 10:48 pm

So what you are saying is that if you could burn all the known sources of carbon on earth and put them in the ocean at once it could almost make it to a neutral state? Any acidification that might take place would eat at 2000 feet of “tums antacid” calcium carbonate lime stone that litters the bottom of the ocean restoring pH balance. To acidify the ocean it would literally take up all the sulfur to make sulfuric acid, and also all nitrogen to make nitric acid and perhaps then… Ever tried to dissolve a seashell in carbonated water? It doesn’t work. You must use vinegar.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  a happy little debunker
December 17, 2019 12:33 pm

““By measuring the thickness of the shells, we can provide a very accurate estimate of the ocean’s acidity level when the foraminifera were alive,””

An accurate estimate of zero is still zero.

LdB
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
December 17, 2019 4:31 pm

No it worse food availability, chemicals and predators are all known factors that change shell thickness. Ask what control studies they ran to eliminate other factors. We are already laughing now but in years to come these will be case studies in how bad science gives stupid answers.

Ron Long
Reply to  a happy little debunker
December 17, 2019 2:11 pm

Any “scientist” that labels an alkaline solution as becoming more acidic as it becomes less alkaline should have their degree suspended until they pass at least High School freshman remedial chemistry. a happy little debunker might straighten them out. By the way, what other environmental factors influence the original shell thickness in forams? How do they control this study for those other factors? Didn’t? Can’t No pasa nada!

Gerald Machnee
Reply to  Ron Long
December 17, 2019 5:16 pm

Correct. “acidic” is an abused and misused term.
May be good for grant money.

WXcycles
Reply to  Gerald Machnee
December 18, 2019 4:05 am

And media headlines.

Charles Higley
Reply to  a happy little debunker
December 17, 2019 3:32 pm

Better yet, they seem to think the waters off California ate static, when in fact, it is an area of upwelling, which is why the waters are so cold and nutrient rich. This report is bogus.

“Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are driving ocean acidification”

There is no evidence that CO2 can alter the ocean pH, as seawater is a complex buffer and the pH thus difficult to alter.

NOAA even reports that they have located no areas of ocean pH outside of the normal range.

Few people know that the pH in bays and estuaries can rise close to or above 10 on a sunny day, as photosynthesis is an alkalizing process. And water passing through a coral reef during the day leaves with increased pH from photosynthesis and leaves the reef with a lower pH at night as metabolic processes tend to release organic acids. Ocean pH is far from constant, for sure, which is totally against the rigid idea of what people think the oceans should do or be.

Richard G.
Reply to  a happy little debunker
December 18, 2019 10:33 am

Interesting, not once in either article did they state the actual pH. Not impressed, NOAA. Call me when pH actually drops into the acidic range.

“…caused by the ocean absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” There is no such thing as excess CO2 as far as the biosphere is concerned.

Paul
Reply to  a happy little debunker
December 19, 2019 2:12 am

Yes, that would be like saying that Texas is more South than New York, when both are in the Northern Hemisphere. Rediculous!

Newt Love
December 17, 2019 10:18 am

Raw unprocessed urine and feces from CA streets will acidify the local waters

Walt D.
Reply to  Newt Love
December 17, 2019 1:54 pm

Nancy Pelosi calls it The New Brown Deal.

oeman50
December 17, 2019 10:19 am

This is absolutely inane. pH from CO2 is hardly the single factor influencing shell thickness. Hmm, does this remind anyone of tree rings?

shrnfr
Reply to  oeman50
December 17, 2019 10:24 am

Pardon me, I have to find a bottle of carbonic acid and drink it straight.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  shrnfr
December 17, 2019 11:48 am

It’s called soda water. And you can drink it straight indeed. Very refreshing.

BillTheGeo
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
December 17, 2019 1:00 pm

Lace it with a little ethanol biofuel really feel good!

BillTheGeo
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
December 17, 2019 1:04 pm

Another NOAA shell game – or is it gag!

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  shrnfr
December 17, 2019 1:07 pm

Not without some ethanol.

Latitude
Reply to  oeman50
December 17, 2019 11:41 am

It’s worse than insane….this article is absolute fr @ ud…..no ocean’s pH has lowered enough to effect shell thickness…and the deeper the core, the more acidic..and that does dissolve them

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  oeman50
December 19, 2019 7:54 am

“does this remind anyone of tree rings?”– I’ve been a forester for 47 years and I say it’s absurd that tree rings can be a proxie for temperature- countless variables effect the growth of tree rings- temperature may be one of the least significant.

shrnfr
December 17, 2019 10:22 am

That’s the problem. The people in Kalifornica have been shellfish for too long.

John Shotsky
December 17, 2019 10:29 am

My table salt is becoming more acid as well, thanks to the CO2 in the air… 🙁

2hotel9
Reply to  John Shotsky
December 17, 2019 3:36 pm

You win the intratubesthingy for the day!

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  John Shotsky
December 17, 2019 6:57 pm

Ya wanna know how tough I am? I only eat salt that has chlorine in it, *chlorine* , choke, choke!

(Actually the very point that convinced Patrick Moore that his fellow Greenpeacers had become dumba$$, er, not so smart).

pochas94
December 17, 2019 10:40 am

Golly! What’s that ph got to now? 5? 6?

LdB
Reply to  pochas94
December 17, 2019 4:38 pm

Clearly a new Californian business opportunity to harvest ocean acid and sell it for use in batteries for renewable storage … With the science ability in this field I am sure we can get a grant and get that off the ground 🙂

December 17, 2019 10:40 am

Another -Twice As Fast- Headline

They’re hitting the news Twice as Fast as all the other headlines. 😉

Andrew

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Bad Andrew
December 17, 2019 11:01 am

Tony Heller recently did a i>”twice as fast” video exposé of this 2x propaganda meme.

What is apparent is the “2x meme” is an encouraged climate communications, group tested propaganda device.

Clay Sanborn
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
December 17, 2019 11:32 am

The old newspaper headliner adage: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Global Warming is apparently a very bloody topic these days. 🙂

DocSiders
Reply to  Clay Sanborn
December 17, 2019 12:41 pm

The Press isn’t chasing headliner eye catching Climate news for ratings. Nobody cares about climate and sea shell thickness.

The MSM is the main tool used for the propagation of the Climate Change Fraud propaganda for the Globalist Socialists. The MSM is single minded about Climate…it’s a willing tool for acquiring political power.

StandupPhilosopher
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
December 17, 2019 2:58 pm

Every part of the world is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet!

Hugs
Reply to  Bad Andrew
December 17, 2019 11:52 am

Shells Hardest Hit.

It is unintelligent to dismiss papers from straight hand, but OTOH, this smells of fishy shells.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Hugs
December 17, 2019 1:57 pm

It is always correct to dismiss out of hand any EurekAlert! press release even tangentially touching on climate.

It’s to the point where I only need to read the headline to know that it will be EurekAlert! and ergo fallacious.

December 17, 2019 10:42 am

If the water PH and shell thickness vary with the PDO then most likely the observations simply reflect wholly natural warming since the Little Ice Age.
Nothing is shown which implies human causation. In fact, quite the opposite. A clear natural process is identified which adequately explains the observations.
One would expect more El Ninos relative to La Ninas during any natural warming period.
To prove their point one would need to have figures for shell thickness going back to the peak of the Mediaeval Warm Period.

Another Paul
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 17, 2019 11:01 am

“…most likely the observations simply reflect wholly natural warming…” I can see you’ll never get funded for a CAGW study. Such a killjoy.

goldminor
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 17, 2019 2:16 pm

They are making the assumption that the natural cyclic rise and fall can not explain what they see now.

Thomas Homer
December 17, 2019 10:43 am

From the article: “That increase in acidity is caused by the ocean absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

If the air masses blowing across the Pacific onto California were allowing its CO2 to be absorbed by the ocean, then there wouldn’t be enough CO2 in California’s atmosphere to support agriculture nor some of the tallest trees n the world. But California’s atmosphere does support agriculture and some of the tallest trees in the world. … therefore air masses blowing across the Pacific Ocean aren’t allowing its CO2 to be absorbed by the ocean?

Also, what is ‘excess’ carbon dioxide?

CD in Wisconsin
Reply to  Thomas Homer
December 17, 2019 11:16 am

Exactly what I was thinking Thomas. Considering that the Earth’s atmosphere has had much higher CO2 levels in its prehistoric past, how does Mother Nature know when there is “excess” CO2 in the atmosphere today?

I am not even a scientist, and this question leaves me suspicious.

Oldseadog
December 17, 2019 10:44 am

So the ph is going up and down, and a little more down than up.
How is this affecting the fish and corals?
Or hasn’t anyone thought of asking them yet?

LdB
Reply to  Oldseadog
December 17, 2019 4:42 pm

They did conduct a survey but they found they couldn’t read the results on the wet paper and the corals had trouble manipulating the pen. They are seeking a grant to research what to do about the problems.

sendergreen
December 17, 2019 10:45 am

Keep an eye on the Government Enviromental Agencies around the world, and see how many complain to their pliant media that their coastal waters are acidifying “twice as fast as the rest of the world”

Greg Freemyer
December 17, 2019 10:55 am

Ummm….

Cold water dissolves more CO2 than warm water.

So why are they surprised that when the PDO was cold the PH was lower, and vice-versa?

Robert W Turner
December 17, 2019 10:58 am

Fake science.

They weighed the tests and measured area (not volume?) to create a metric they called Area-normalized shell weight (scientific term is test not shell). So there’s some confusing “science” there already, foram tests are 3-D and they have estimated total carbonate density based on a cross-sectional area? Anyone with an elementary understanding of geometry immediately knows that the direction and place the cross section is taken will lead to wildly different results, even on the same test.

There are no mentions of post deposition processes which occur quite rapidly in carbonate sediments and effect both weight and area. The major processes are boring algae which use the tests as food, cementation, and recrystallization. Then when you go access the data and graph the empirical data yourself – because they only show the highly doctored statistically warped data – you can clearly see that there are no statistically significant trends in test weight, diameter, or cross sectional area. Only in their highly imaginative area-density that they have conjured via cross sectional area and diameter is there a trend, and it shows a difference of 0.00002 micrograms per micrometer – a 20 picogram difference.

Obviously the fake science methods is what have lead to the highly questionable results. And then they also contradict entirely empirical based and recent research that they didn’t even bother citing.

https://www.biogeosciences.net/9/1725/2012/bg-9-1725-2012.pdf

David Green
Reply to  Robert W Turner
December 18, 2019 9:08 am

Great analysis! Thanks

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Robert W Turner
December 18, 2019 11:25 am

They created the metric they needed to support their preconceived conclusions. “Climate Science” 101.

Andy Pattullo
December 17, 2019 11:00 am

Several problems with the logic. Oceans are not acidic or becoming acidic. They are basic with pH consistently above 7 (neutral pH). Oceans have substantial complex buffer systems which don’t allow recent changes in atmospheric CO2 to cause significant changes in actual pH likely to show up as altered growth. Studies have shown less alkaline sea water does not necessarily reduce shell formation and, as per geologic history, shell fish have survived much higher levels of atmospheric CO2 in the past many times without interrupting the high productivity of the seas. Finally – what is the evidence supporting the idea that shell thickness is a reliable proxy of minuscule changes in ocean alkalinity and not some fo the other significant changes that may well affect the health and growth of sea life such as the ocean cycles, food abundance, temperature changes, prevalence of disease etc.?

Latitude
Reply to  Andy Pattullo
December 17, 2019 1:19 pm

…you can’t lower the pH until you deplete the buffer

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Latitude
December 18, 2019 10:06 am

Latitude
That is not quite accurate. There can be small changes in pH, but not of the magnitude that would occur in the absence of a buffer. Once the buffer is depleted, then large changes can occur. However, it isn’t just the (bi)carbonate buffer system at play in the oceans. Borates also play a minor role in resisting the changes in hydronium ion concentrations.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Andy Pattullo
December 17, 2019 2:27 pm

Andy
Different organisms have different optimal pH ranges for calcification, which relates to the energy expenditure the creatures are burdened with. Only looking at on specie is only getting part of the picture.

Shoki Kaneda
December 17, 2019 11:09 am

California has several major sources of superheated CO2. Two are San Francisco and Sacramento. Until those sources are eliminated, nothing will improve in California.

Michael Jankowski
December 17, 2019 11:14 am

How long until we have reports from that oceans everywhere are acidifying twice as fast as everywhere else?

Mark H
Reply to  Michael Jankowski
December 17, 2019 4:28 pm

I’m sure it will happen … twice as fast as everything else.

HD Hoese
December 17, 2019 11:20 am

One of the most productive estuaries in the world, with pH variable, but much closer to real acid. Clams sometimes buried in real acid sediment. Otvos, E. G., Jr. 1978. Calcareous benthic foraminiferal fauna in a very low salinity setting, Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. Journal of Foraminiferal Research. 8(3):262-269.

This is what is going on there. “FEDERAL FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Regional Vulnerability Assessments for Ocean Acidification | Letters of Intent Due January 24th, 2020…..This funding opportunity will not support the collection of new chemical or ecological observations or species response data. Social science data collection is permitted.” Is their paper like that? Acid fisheries science settled? Not so!

https://oceanacidification.noaa.gov/

xenomoly
Reply to  HD Hoese
December 17, 2019 2:41 pm

Social Science data collection is permitted?! What does Social Science have to do at all with the study of ocean ph?

gmak
December 17, 2019 11:28 am

I’ll file this with all those stories and “research” showing how one region or country is heating twice as fast as the rest of the planet. And there is one of these for every region, it seems.

Patrick
December 17, 2019 11:28 am

What was the ocean acidity when CO2 was 7000 ppmv?

michael hart
December 17, 2019 11:32 am

About as reliable as measuring temperature with tree rings. You measure aqueous pH with a calibrated pH meter.

Wharfplank
December 17, 2019 11:33 am

So what? Go back 2000 years with the exercise and get back to me…

william matlack
December 17, 2019 11:40 am

What exactly does “a very accurate estimate mean?

DonM
Reply to  william matlack
December 17, 2019 2:20 pm

It means that every single time they do it, they make the same unvarying assessment of a specific situation.

Editor
December 17, 2019 11:44 am

Readers should look at the paper itself — this concerns the California Current and its real finding is that the PDO is the primary forcing factor with pH in this ocean current — modified (maybe, slightly) by atmospheric CO2.

Be aware that they are not measuring past pH — they are measuring something else and guessing at past pH.

Guessing at the past then allows guessing at the present’s relationship to the past, and then project a possible relationship in the future.

Latitude
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 17, 2019 1:17 pm

“Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are driving ocean acidification, but this natural variation also plays an important role in alleviating or amplifying ocean acidification.”

Kip, they said emissions were driving it

PeterT
December 17, 2019 11:44 am

Seltzer water (plain carbonated water) is slightly acidic (ph 3-4) has 5740 ppm of C02 in it, and lots of bubbles. Source: Google. I have a REALLY hard time believing an atmosphere containing 400 ppm C02 coming into contact with an ocean would have any discernible effect on its ph.

ghl
Reply to  PeterT
December 17, 2019 3:28 pm

A NOAA demonstration film on Youtube of shells at low Ph used Acetic acid. A CSIRO clip I saw on the ABC used dilute Hydrochloric. Calcium Acetate and Calcium Chloride are soluble. Calcium Carbonate is not. Carbon Dioxide is scavenged from air by bubbling through a Calcium Hydroxide solution which precipitates Calcium Carbonate. If Carbonic Acid dissolved any Calcium Carbonate it would immediately re-precipitate. High school chemistry.
BOGUS demonstrations of BOGUS science.

Joel Snider
December 17, 2019 11:50 am

Must be all that human waste washing into the ocean.

December 17, 2019 11:50 am

This recent study says too much is being made of a local situation.

From Autonomous seawater pCO2 and pH time series from 40 surface buoys and the emergence of anthropogenic trends published at Earth System Science Data.
https://www.earth-syst-sci-data.net/11/421/2019/

Conclusions

This product provides a unique data set for a range of users including providing a more accessible format for non-carbon chemists interested in surface ocean pCO2 and pH time series data. These 40 time series locations represent a range of ocean, coastal, and coral reef regimes that exhibit a broad spectrum of daily to interannual variability. These time series can be used as a tool for estimating climatologies, assessing natural variability, and constraining models to improve predictions of trends in these regions.

However, at this time, only two time series data sets (WHOTS and Stratus) are long enough to estimate long-term anthropogenic trends. ToE estimates show that at all but these two sites, an anthropogenic signal cannot be discerned at a statistically significant level from the natural variability of surface seawater pCO2 and pH. If and when that date of trend detection is attained, it is essential to seasonally detrend data prior to any trend analyses.

Even though the ToE provided are conservative estimates, data users should still use caution in interpreting that an anthropogenic trend is distinct from decadal-scale ocean forcing that is not well characterized. Future work should be directed at improving upon these ToE estimates in regions where other data, proxies, or knowledge about decadal forcing are more complete.

https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2019/12/17/2019-ocean-ph-spin/

Ed Zuiderwijk
December 17, 2019 11:51 am

They use shell thickness to measure acidity? I smell a model here. Why not have actual pH measurements?

Rich Davis
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
December 17, 2019 2:27 pm

Because those wouldn’t be changing twice as fast as expected

Editor
December 17, 2019 12:17 pm

The paper is absurd, since the ocean waters already have 99% of free CO2 of the ecosystem immersed in it.

jaymam
Reply to  Sunsettommy
December 17, 2019 3:55 pm

All of the ten sources that I have found say that over 99% of all near-surface carbon is now, after 500 million years, contained in limestone and sediments. It got there from the CO2 dissolved in sea water. Why is everybody ignoring this, which is the most important carbon cycle?

December 17, 2019 12:17 pm

Is this yet another study that stinks of knowing the results you want and creating the data to support the results?

Asking instead of stating.

Regards,
Bob

Not Chicken Little
December 17, 2019 12:21 pm

Pray tell, just how “acid” are these waters now? Why don’t we get some measurements and reveal the numbers?

Oh I forgot we don’t need any stinking measurements – we’ll use a model instead…never mind that the ocean water was alkaline before, is alkaline now, and probably will remain alkaline for billions of years until our Sun becomes a red giant and expands its diameter out to where Earth’s orbit is now, and all water will be boiled away…

Editor
December 17, 2019 12:23 pm

The fossil record also revealed an unexpected cyclical pattern: Though the waters increased their overall acidity over time, the shells revealed decade-long changes in the rise and fall of acidity. This pattern matched the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a natural warming and cooling cycle. Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are driving ocean acidification, but this natural variation also plays an important role in alleviating or amplifying ocean acidification.

“Unexpected”? Horst schist!

Flinders Reef is part of the GBR.

DocSiders
December 17, 2019 12:31 pm

I saw a talk by Willie Soon once where he showed photographs of the results of an actual side by side comparison of ocean flora and fauna growth rates under 2 different atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Two tanks held the same plants and bivalve shell creatures and crabs and lobsters, etc. One of those tanks was in a 400 ppm CO2 environment and the other was under DOUBLE @ 800 ppm CO2.

Results: The growth in the high CO2 tank was nearly twice the rate as in the low CO2 tank…similar to terrestrial growth rate increases seen with elevated CO2 levels in greenhouses. These plants and animals are mostly MADE out of cabonaceous materials, so those results should be expected. More CO2 = more food.

I have another problem with the study in this article. Look at maps showing ocean pH levels, and you will see coastal ocean pH levels that are all over the place…showing especially low pH near river outlets. This study was in coastal areas.

Editor
December 17, 2019 12:32 pm

Too fracking funny! Here’s the Nature Geoscience paper:

Decadal variability in twentieth-century ocean acidification in the California Current Ecosystem

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0499-z

The emphasis is on the decadal variability.

Osborne, E.B., Thunell, R.C., Gruber, N. et al. “Decadal variability in twentieth-century ocean acidification in the California Current Ecosystem”. Nat. Geosci. (2019) doi:10.1038/s41561-019-0499-z

Editor
December 17, 2019 12:37 pm

The data are available here:

https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.909101

Neo
December 17, 2019 12:43 pm

A new “tipping point”.
Clearly, California must be evacuated and cleansed with fire.
With “The Big One” seemingly at their doorstep, this should save dozens of lives, but surely one life is enough.

astonerii
December 17, 2019 12:48 pm

20 shells per year to tell you the PH of the entire ocean.
Man, how many millions of dollars did this study cost us?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  astonerii
December 17, 2019 3:03 pm

astonerii
It sounds like a self-funded senior project.

Gerald Machnee
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 17, 2019 5:24 pm

It’s off the shellf.

Right-Handed Shark
December 17, 2019 1:06 pm

It’s a long time since I was at school, but I’m pretty sure that I was taught that shellfish grow their calcium carbonate shells by absorbing CO2 from the water. But now, increased availability makes it harder to make shells? Who’d a thunk it…

Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
December 17, 2019 1:47 pm

Not exactly. All other factors held equal, increasing the CO2 saturation will reduce the calcite and aragonite saturation states. Increasing CO2 saturation in water causes more calcium carbonate to become soluble calcium bicarbonate.

CaCO3 + CO2 + H2O → Ca(HCO3)2

However, if you add calcium, CaCO3 precipitation will increase. If you raise the water temperature, CaCO3 precipitation will increase.

A lot of factors affect this process.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  David Middleton
December 17, 2019 3:10 pm

David
You said, “A lot of factors affect this process.” Indeed! Not the least of which is that calcifiers can change the pH at the growth face with the expenditure of energy. That is why they have an optimal range of pH for growth, which probably reflects the prevailing pH at the time the organisms evolved. After growing their shells, they can inhibit dissolution by coating the shell with mucous, and with organisms, like gastropods, also add chitin to protect the calcite/aragonite when they live in upwelling coastal environments.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 17, 2019 3:52 pm

The funniest thing is that the only calcifier that empirical experiments indicate might be challenged by 1,000 ppm CO2, appears to be nearly indestructible in the fossil record… The soft shell clam.

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/06/13/the-total-myth-of-ocean-acidification-part-deux-the-scientific-basis/

Gumnut
December 17, 2019 1:14 pm

Seek and ye shall find.

And the things most sought in such science are more funding and fifteen seconds of fame.

Carl Friis-Hansen
December 17, 2019 1:59 pm

Don’t be too hard to the researchers, as they had come to suffer from shell-shock.

richard
December 17, 2019 2:26 pm

“Table 3 shows the different range of pH some countries are implementing. Generally, all
countries use an average range of between 5.0 and 9.0 in freshwater, and 6.5 and 9.0 for
marine, all of which are within the limits of optimum fish production”

http://www.aquaculture.asia/files/PMNQ%20WQ%20standard%202.pdf

Clyde Spencer
December 17, 2019 2:36 pm

From the NOAA link in the article: “Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, …”

Ocean acidification: Two words, 18 characters
pH reduction: Two words, 11 characters

It is more economical to use the term “pH reduction,” and it is more accurate as to what is happening. Is there any doubt that alarmists are playing word games intended to scare people?

Clyde Spencer
December 17, 2019 2:44 pm

“By measuring the thickness of the shells, we can provide a very accurate estimate of the ocean’s acidity level when the foraminifera were alive, ..”

That claim is not substantiated. The thickness is a proxy for pH, but may be affected by other things such as available nutrients and temperature; the article does acknowledge temperature has an effect. As is usual, I don’t see any statement about the uncertainty between test thickness and inferred pH.

Clyde Spencer
December 17, 2019 2:53 pm

“California coastal waters contain some of our nation’s more economically valuable fisheries, …”

That is because upwelling brings nutrients to the surface where photosynthesizers can utilize them. The upwelling, of water that is hundreds of years old, also brings rapid and strong changes in pH and dissolved oxygen. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has lost specimens from anoxic water and water with pH approaching neutrality within a matter of minutes. The aquarium now monitors all the intake water to avoid such problems.

Don K
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 17, 2019 3:54 pm

If I Recall Correctly, the last “It’s turning to acid — and we’re all gonna die” incident in the Eastern Pacific had to do with mass mortalities in oyster beds in the Pacific Northwest and was eventually attributed to increased upwelling of acidic organic debris.

Don K
Reply to  Don K
December 18, 2019 2:43 pm

I got curious about this and spent an hour or two on the Internet. The chemistry is a bit complex and I haven’t used mine for about six decades, but I think what might be happening is something along the line of. Dead organic material settles to the ocean bottom in an anoxic zone. Microbes then slowly combine any Iron in the detritus to form Iron Pyrite (FeS2) using Sulfur from Sulfate ions which are reasonably abundant in sea water. If upwelling then moves the Pyrite to a region where there is some free Oxygen, a different microbial community can convert the Pyrite,Oxygen, and some water molecules to form insoluble Iron hydroxide and Sulfuric Acid. The Iron Hydroxide precipitates and the Sulfuric Acid stays in solution. Result: decreased pH with no involvement of CO2.

That could easily be wrong, but it’s probably worth considering.

Gunga Din
December 17, 2019 3:31 pm

She measured shells within cores that represented deposits dating back to 1895.

Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are driving ocean acidification, but this natural variation also plays an important role in alleviating or amplifying ocean acidification.

Assuming facts not in evidence.
(Or is she saying what Man does falls under what is “natural”!?)
She’ll acknowledge that shell thickness has varied over geologic time, but, suddenly (geologically speaking) Man’s, and only Man’s CO2, since 1895 is responsible for this tiny bit of the thinning cycle?
I think Grrrreta said she’s taking a break from “Climate Activism”. Maybe she should too?

2hotel9
December 17, 2019 3:41 pm

They had me till” caused by the ocean absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”. Wow. Any of these Rocket Surgeons ever operate a saltwater aquarium. Hell, cut them some slack, any of them ever run a freshwater aquarium? A gold fish bowl? Just, wow.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  2hotel9
December 17, 2019 4:55 pm

2hotel9
Back about 1970 I had a cold, 15-gallon salt-water aquarium in the garage. It was stocked with just about everything you could find in a California tide pool. It was doing well until I introduced a small octopus. It quickly ate virtually everything in the tank. Eventually, there was only a small monkey-faced eel and the octopus in opposite corners. It was just before finals and I didn’t have time to go to the coast to re-stock everything so I gave it to a friend who was a diver and had a larger tank. The bottom line is that it was harder to maintain a biological balance than a chemical balance.

Don K
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 18, 2019 1:25 am

Those who think assume that constructing a stable, sustainable artificial environment is a solved problem should look into the late 20th century Biosphere-2 experiment. While it wasn’t a total failure, it wasn’t exactly a rousing success. Not only were there sustainability problems, it turns out that they mis-estimated what they needed to do to maintain a life sustaining atmosphere. They eventually had to breach the containment so the folks in the biosphere could breath.

But if we couldn’t build a truly self-sustainable environment on a three acre site in Arizona, doesn’t that suggest potential problems for Moon bases (which can probably be resupplied on an emergency basis from Earth) and especially Mars bases (which mostly can’t)? Well yeah, it might.

There are many articles on-line about the project. Here’s one of the more optimistic. https://dartmouthalumnimagazine.com/articles/biosphere-2-what-really-happened

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Don K
December 18, 2019 10:12 am

Don K
We do have some experience with the effort in the form of running a large fleet of submarines, and the moon missions. But, we should be prepared for some surprises.

Bud
December 17, 2019 4:47 pm

Lack of nutrients from all of the dammed rivers would be my guess.

ATheoK
December 17, 2019 4:55 pm

Tiny shells of foraminifera?
Over 100 years?

No mention of their error bounds; which I assume are very large.

Of course, the gross assumption that whatever changes NOAA detected were all mankind’s fault for acidifying the oceans…
Yeah, this fits right in with their ocean joules and using shipboard temperatures to ‘correct’ surface temperatures…

Chaamjamal
December 17, 2019 5:15 pm

“NOAA scientists and academic partners used 100 years of microscopic shells to show that the coastal waters off California are acidifying twice as fast as the global ocean average”

Proof that ocean acidification is an agw thing. Effects of the atmosphere on the ocean would be more uniform. There are significant hydrocarbon seeps off the coast of california. Two links.

https://tambonthongchai.com/2019/08/27/carbonflows/

https://tambonthongchai.com/2019/12/14/ocean-acidification-2019/

The problem with climate research is the need and the presumption of agw effects in research – a form of circular reasoning into which climate science is trapped by their reliance on climate models.

Paul Johnson
December 17, 2019 8:21 pm

“During the cool phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, strengthened winds across the ocean drive carbon dioxide-rich waters upward toward the surface along the West Coast of the U.S.,” said Osborne

If increased CO2 absorption in the atmosphere causes “acidification”, why are the deeper waters “CO2-rich”?

Carl Friis-Hansen
Reply to  Paul Johnson
December 18, 2019 2:47 am

“why are the deeper waters “CO2-rich”?”

Higher pressure with in deep waters. Not sure what the propagation delay for out gassing is from the deep ocean to the top, but you you are likely to always have more CO₂ concentration the deeper you go.
So, my question could be if the pH is falling (less alkaline) with depth and does the vents on the bottom influence that?

As with the atmosphere, the hydrosphere is with so many factors involved, it seems to me like approaching stupidity to isolate everything to plant food (CO₂) dependency.

It is like a biology student I once knew. At the exam he was asked for the definition of a worm. His response was: “A worm is longer than it is round.” 🙂

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
December 18, 2019 10:21 am

Carl
It is more than just pressure. As the constant rain of dead organisms move from the surface to the bottom, the material is oxidized, to a large extent by bacteria. What is produced is CO2, which is dissolved in the cold, pressurized water. So, the environment allows the CO2 to stay where it is generated, instead of bubbling up to the surface. However, it is the decomposition of organic material that creates the CO2. Thus, the deep water invariably has a lower pH than the surface waters that upwelling replaces. Krauskopf has remarked that is it rare to find oceanic water that even achieves a pH of 7, and then usually in dead zones rich in hydrogen sulfide. However, that observation was made before the discovery of Black Smokers.

ATheoK
Reply to  Paul Johnson
December 19, 2019 4:35 pm

“Paul Johnson December 17, 2019 at 8:21 pm

If increased CO2 absorption in the atmosphere causes “acidification”, why are the deeper waters “CO2-rich”?”

a) CO₂ solubility has an inverse relation to temperature. The colder the water, the greater the level of dissolved CO₂.

b) Once deeper than the level of significant sunlight penetration, chlorophyll is not functioning. Lots of consumers of O₂ that emit CO₂; virtually none that emit O₂.

knr
December 18, 2019 1:33 am

Acidifying is a scaring sounding word, and that is the point of using not because of scientific validity . And that is all you really need to know about the claim.

Oddgeir
December 18, 2019 4:08 am

Pretty good correlation to Pacific (multi-)Decadal Occilation which fits perfectly with Sunspot observations since 1980’s.

Not a perfect fit further back, probably based on bad PDO-data and bad shell-dating.

Oddgeir

Robert of Texas
December 18, 2019 7:55 am

Groan… Another proxy that they likely do not understand.

Their could be more than a single factor affecting shell thickness. Pollution, temperature, pH, the availability of other chemicals, the removal (locally) of salt, shorter life expectancy…any of these could effect shell thickness, and many of them probably do. Until you control for every other possible cause, it is ridiculous to assume that pH is the only or even most important factor – but because they already believe this they won’t go looking.

I think I’ll go increase the acidity of my Tums by swallowing one.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Robert of Texas
December 18, 2019 10:28 am

Robert
It is like a blacksmith taking a glowing, red-hot piece of steel out of the forge, and noticing that it is losing heat, remarks that it is becoming “more frigid.” Only someone who wants to obfuscate the truth would resort to such grammatical contortions.

David Green
December 18, 2019 9:03 am

I’m not very educated on this subject, but my rudimentary understanding is that colder water absorbs/holds more CO2 and therefore sea shells dissolve more readily in cold water. This is supported by observation of more sea shells and more sea shell based sands in warm seas than in colder ones. If this is true, wouldn’t movement to a more basic state be evidence of a cooling trend? Or is this more complex based on whether a body of water has reached its capacity to absorb CO2?

Clyde Spencer
December 18, 2019 9:57 am

One of the problem with the careless, and politically-motivated, use of the term “ocean acidification,” is that it introduces ambiguity into discussions. As an example:
“His research over the last decade has focused on correlating flood basalts with the other major mass extinctions, and also with periods of oxygen-depletion and acidification in the oceans.”
[ https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/earth-has-had-more-major-mass-extinctions-than-we-realized/ar-BBY7WOF ]

It isn’t clear from the above quote whether the oceans actually became acidic, or whether the pH just declined some unspecified amount, and the oceans remained alkaline. These are important distinctions because they speak to the magnitude of the changes, and the biogeochemical consequences of marine life being immersed in an acid! Those who are promoting climate alarmism are willfully trading off precision in language for hoped-for alarm among laymen. Thus, it ceases to be science and becomes political propaganda.

J. M. S. Martins
December 18, 2019 10:26 am

“Twice as fast as the rest of the world” is for me a sign of alarmism, unreputable or unreliable “science”, or of plain mystification.

As a consequence, when I come to this expression, my reading stops right there right then!

DayHay
December 18, 2019 10:40 am

So the ocean water off Santa Barbara is not exactly like ocean water everywhere else? That is real science right there. The water and the paper could be full of Schiff…..

Steve Z
December 18, 2019 11:10 am

[QUOTE FROM ARTICLE]”“During the cool phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, strengthened winds across the ocean drive carbon dioxide-rich waters upward toward the surface along the West Coast of the U.S.,”

If the CO2-rich waters are driven UPWARD toward the surface, they must come from the deep ocean further away from the coast. Since the ocean depths are not in contact with the atmosphere, a buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere would not affect the CO2 content of the deep ocean. So what is the source of the CO2 in the ocean depths?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Steve Z
December 18, 2019 12:07 pm
Samuel Prentice
December 18, 2019 3:38 pm

Just as water in a stream moving downwards from a temperature of 48 degrees to 44 degrees is becoming more frozen, so does an alkaline PH moving downwards yet remaining alkaline become more acidified. What a bunch of nonsense, and this is coming from people who call themselves scientists. More like scientologists.

Just Jenn
December 20, 2019 4:34 am

Wait so the CA coast is going to turn into soda soon?

I’m off to send off a grant to the government to subsidize my new business, selling Ocean Soda! It’ll be a world wide hit!! Its just the opportunity I’ve been waiting for! Who’s in with me? We can write a grant proposing that by bottling Ocean Soda it will be taking the excess CO2 from the oceans and distributing it to a safer CO2 processing plant. The world might now smell too good, but dang, we’ll have processed all that dangerous CO2.

/sarc.

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