Scare: Unprecedented, man-made trends in ocean’s acidity

This new Nature Climate Change study debunks itself.

Moving past the ever-dubious computer modeling aspect of this study, the researchers say,

When Earth started to warm 17,000 years ago, terminating the last glacial period, atmospheric CO2 levels rose from 190 parts per million (ppm) to 280 ppm over 6,000 years. Marine ecosystems had ample time to adjust. Now, for a similar rise in CO2 concentration to the present level of 392 ppm, the adjustment time is reduced to only 100 – 200 years.”

So where’s the evidence that any of this has harmed any marine organism to date? There is none.

The University of Hawaii media release is below. Click here for the study.


Unprecedented, man-made trends in ocean’s acidity

Nearly one-third of CO2 emissions due to human activities enters the world’s oceans. By reacting with seawater, CO2 increases the water’s acidity, which may significantly reduce the calcification rate of such marine organisms as corals and mollusks. The extent to which human activities have raised the surface level of acidity, however, has been difficult to detect on regional scales because it varies naturally from one season and one year to the next, and between regions, and direct observations go back only 30 years.

Combining computer modeling with observations, an international team of scientists concluded that anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the last 100 to 200 years have already raised ocean acidity far beyond the range of natural variations. The study is published in the January 22 online issue of Nature Climate Change.

The team of climate modelers, marine conservationists, ocean chemists, biologists and ecologists, led by Tobias Friedrich and Axel Timmermann at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, came to their conclusions by using Earth system models that simulate climate and ocean conditions 21,000 years back in time, to the Last Glacial Maximum, and forward in time to the end of the 21st century. They studied in their models changes in the saturation level of aragonite (a form of calcium carbonate) typically used to measure of ocean acidification. As acidity of seawater rises, the saturation level of aragonite drops. Their models captured well the current observed seasonal and annual variations in this quantity in several key coral reef regions.

Today’s levels of aragonite saturation in these locations have already dropped five times below the pre-industrial range of natural variability. For example, if the yearly cycle in aragonite saturation varied between 4.7 and 4.8, it varies now between 4.2 and 4.3, which – based on another recent study – may translate into a decrease in overall calcification rates of corals and other aragonite shell-forming organisms by 15%. Given the continued human use of fossil fuels, the saturation levels will drop further, potentially reducing calcification rates of some marine organisms by more than 40% of their pre-industrial values within the next 90 years.

“Any significant drop below the minimum level of aragonite to which the organisms have been exposed to for thousands of years and have successfully adapted will very likely stress them and their associated ecosystems,” says lead author Postdoctoral Fellow Tobias Friedrich.

“In some regions, the man-made rate of change in ocean acidity since the Industrial Revolution is hundred times greater than the natural rate of change between the Last Glacial Maximum and pre-industrial times,” emphasizes Friedrich. “When Earth started to warm 17,000 years ago, terminating the last glacial period, atmospheric CO2 levels rose from 190 parts per million (ppm) to 280 ppm over 6,000 years. Marine ecosystems had ample time to adjust. Now, for a similar rise in CO2 concentration to the present level of 392 ppm, the adjustment time is reduced to only 100 – 200 years.”

On a global scale, coral reefs are currently found in places where open-ocean aragonite saturation reaches levels of 3.5 or higher. Such conditions exist today in about 50% of the ocean – mostly in the tropics. By end of the 21st century this fraction is projected to be less than 5%. The Hawaiian Islands, which sit just on the northern edge of the tropics, will be one of the first to feel the impact.

The study suggests that some regions, such as the eastern tropical Pacific, will be less stressed than others because greater underlying natural variability of seawater acidity helps to buffer anthropogenic changes. The aragonite saturation in the Caribbean and the western Equatorial Pacific, both biodiversity hotspots, shows very little natural variability, making these regions particularly vulnerable to human-induced ocean acidification.

“Our results suggest that severe reductions are likely to occur in coral reef diversity, structural complexity and resilience by the middle of this century,” says co-author Professor Axel Timmermann.”


8 thoughts on “Scare: Unprecedented, man-made trends in ocean’s acidity”

  1. When NEPA was signed into law it seems every university started offering Environmental Engineering degrees which had curricula that gave a student just enough information in a number of fields to make them dangerous. The trend seems to be bearing fruit now when one sees the crap that gets passed off as science. How many universities offer degrees in botany, zoology, or microbiology any more? Courses in these disciplines are stuffed away in fancy department titles like Environmental Sciences or Institute of Environmental Studies, etc. I’m not impressed.

  2. The pH of bottled Coke is around 2 (in the container at about 2 atm) As soon as the container is opened, gas evolves and the pH increases. It is far more important to understand the difference between pH and alkalinity or acidity. A buffered solution of a weak acid or base can resist changes in pH due to it’s alkalinity. People in universities are supposed to know this, but most of what falls into environmental studies is typically done by liberal arts people.

  3. Bob,

    You don’t think that it might have something to do with the Phosphoric acid that is a listed ingredient do ya?

  4. I dunno. My diet coke has lots of CO2 and its pH is much less than 7, so why can’t adding a few ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere make the ocean’s acidic? Is all that foam I saw this week at Atlantic Beach the ocean fizzing like my diet coke?

  5. sorry to hear about this .. but HEY! .. why don’t we jus’ equip our battle ships ‘n ocean liners with anode ‘n cathode, drop ‘um in the water ‘n run ‘um off electricity .. hell, we could electrify the whole country with an ocean full of acid .. solindra(sp?) move over, obama ‘z goin’ into the electrolyte business..

  6. Carbonic acid is a weak acid and in the presence of carbonate buffers the change in pH. Gamecock, you have it right. I guess this is the New Ocean Chemistry ????

  7. Outright lie:

    “CO2 increases the water’s acidity”

    Ocean waters are alkaline, not acidic. The mechanism they describe might
    reduce the oceans’ alkalinity (a tiny bit), but there is no acidity to increase.

    I should think that someone at the University of Hawaii knows that.

    Okay, that could be a radical assumption, I admit.

  8. No doubt some newspapers will dutifully crib from the press release without a second thought. Not realizing that those who compose university press releases are highly skilled propagandists.

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