By Rud Istvan,
Italian physical chemist Daniele Mazza recently sent WUWT a draft of his new ebook on seawater chemistry, seeking WUWT input. Charles asked me to review, since he knew I had previously published on ‘ocean acidification’. I have now done so, and my thinking follows. For those wanting a deep dive on ocean physical chemistry, this new ebook is a much better and more detailed explanation than I could ever hope to provide (started college intending to be a chemistry major, rapidly switched to economics with an emphasis on all forms of mathematical models, not just in economics). But it perhaps lacks nuanced secondary and tertiary ‘Jim Steele’ ocean biological perspectives. For those wanting an oversimplified laymen’s overview of those, see my essay ‘Shell Games’ in ebook Blowing Smoke, especially the paragraphs concerning Florida Bay seasonal ocean chemistry concerning ocean chemistry parts 1 and 2.
Ocean Chemistry (1)
Ocean acidification is a deliberate misnomer, since the oceans are basic and will always remain so thanks to igneous rock chemical weathering and rivers. A slight reduction in basic pH never gets close to true acid (pH<7)– although there are special small locality exceptions thanks to volcanism. The Bubble Bath off Dobu Island is the example in essay Shell Games.
Ocean pH chemistry is very complex, because the oceans are highly buffered. This obvious fact was ignored in IPCC AR4, which reached a grossly wrong (by factor >2x) ‘acidification’ conclusion. Mazza’s new ebook does a very good job of simply explaining the ocean’s buffered chemistry complexities, and thus AR4’s unforgivable basic ocean chemistry science mistakes.
Another basic physical chemistry consideration is oversaturation of seawater in respect to both the aragonite and calcite forms of CaCO3. The precipitation of these crystalline solids is the final chemical/biological outcome of seawater-dissolved CO2.
Ignored by Great Barrier Reef Catastrophists.
Ocean Chemistry (2)
But in the photic zone (roughly the first 100-150 meters where light can penetrate to enable photosynthesis), ocean chemistry and pH is much more driven by biology than by basic physical chemistry. Photosynthesis consumes dissolved CO2 and produces hydrocarbons, carbohydrates, and calcium carbonates like coccolithophore exoskeletons. The entire ocean food chain depends on photic zone photosynthesis, which naturally slightly raises ocean surface water pH.
And for a few hundred meters below the photic zone, biological decomposition of this ‘rain’ of photosynthetic plant matter naturally slightly lowers pH while recycling nutrient ‘fertilizer’. Which is why upwellings of this colder, nutrient rich, lower pH water produce visible phytoplankton blooms on the surface until the nutrients and dissolved CO2 are again consumed by phytoplankton, which raises the photic zone pH. For example (illustrated in my essay), along the US West Coast thanks to wind driven Eckman transport currents. Like at Netarts Bay, Oregon (see below).
Ignored by Great Barrier Reef catastrophists.
Ocean Chemistry (3)
At least all shallow water (estuarine) marine organisms have evolved with this ‘pH knowledge’. The Miyagi oyster did; the Netarts Bay Whiskey Creek oyster hatchery problem arose because it is not an estuary, and was improperly not managed to mimic one. Its much ballyhooed ‘ocean acidification’ problem was warming the naturally lower pH upwelling ocean water to induce Miyagi spawn WITHOUT also increasing pH to what naturally incurs in summer estuaries where and when Miyagi oysters naturally spawn. Whiskey Creek hatchery has othing to do with CO2 emissions and ‘ocean acidification’. The gross error arguably comprises inexcusable academic misconduct (knew or should have known) from PMEL and U. Oregon.
Even more relevantly, Jim Steele has provided WUWT much biological evidence that coral polyps manage their internal calcification pH to minimize surface reef pH fluctuations. Else how could corals have survived for so many millions of years despite experiencing fluctuations in sea level and seawater pH?
This observation also explains why corals reproduce two different ways: asexually via budding, and once a year sexually via spawning. Buds carry the epigenetics of locally adapted polyp variations to repopulate a local bleached reef. Polyp spawn carry their underlying DNA to newly populate a distant reef sometime later, and then eventually develop there a new locally adapted epigenetics. Nature is amazing.
For a learning digression on epigenetics, see my 2017 essay concerning the agricultural development of Mesoamerican dry beans at Climate Etc: “ A beneficial climate change hypothesis”.
Ignored by Great Barrier Reef catastrophists.
Regards to all. My cryptic review comments are meant to facilitate your own research, not to retrace my own very meandering learning journey on this topic.