Not pHraud but pHoolishness

By a curious coincidence, many climate sceptics are also ocean acidification sceptics. Some, for whom a rose by any other name would not smell so sweet, try to hide their rejection of reality behind semantics, arguing that ocean acidification should be called ocean neutralisation or ocean dealkalinisation. Others try to disprove ocean acidification with misremembered school chemistry, and yet others use dubious statistics.

There is an outbreak of the latter at WUWT, where Mike Wallace presents an analysis of ocean pH data that the ever gullible Anthony Watts finds “compelling”.

Wallace appears to have taken an objection to this figure by Richard Feely which shows atmospheric CO2 concentrations measured at Mauna Loa and ocean CO2 concentrations and pH measured in the nearby ocean.

Wallace’s complaint is that this figure omits 80 years of data on ocean pH and that this omission represents “pHraud” that “eclipses even the so-called climategate event.”

Wallace proceeds to compile all available ocean pH data from the World Ocean Atlas and calculate annual mean pH over the last century.

mwacompilationofglobalocean_phjan82014

Wallace’s naïve analysis

A global-ocean mean pH: what could possibly go wrong?

Consider what would happen if one simply took all available temperature data used this to estimate annual mean temperatures over the last 100 years, rather than calculating anomalies and gridding quality checked data. The result would obviously be nonsense. Changing geographical and seasonal biases in data availability, and incorrect data would corrupt the analysis. Wallace’s analysis suffers from exactly the same problems.

Geographical variability in ocean pH is large. Upwelling area have the lowest pH as the water upwelling from the deep oceans has high CO2 concentrations from decomposition of sinking organic matter. The geographical coverage of ocean pH measurement is extremely unlikely  to have remained constant over the instrumental period. Any analysis that fails to take this into consideration is doomed.

Geographic variability in ocean pH.

Geographic variability in ocean pH. Apologies for the rainbow scale.

Intra-annual variability in pH is also high. Intense photosynthesis during algal blooms can raise pH, and seasonal upwelling can lower it. If the seasonal coverage of ocean pH measurements has not remained constant over time, biases will result.

The data Wallace analysed are easily downloaded from the World Ocean Database, and the metadata examined for geographic or seasonal patterns in data availability. I’ve analysed the data on a per-cast basis. Each cast collects data from several different depths.

Location of casts by decade

Geographic patterns of data availability vary from decade to decade (and even more on an annual basis).

Season of northern extra-tropical casts by decade

The seasonal pattern of data availability in the northern extra-tropics (which represent the bulk of the data) also vary over time.

The changing geographic and seasonal patterns in data availability means that simply calculating the mean pH for each year will give all sorts of spurious trends in the analysis. Even gridding the pH data would be difficult. They are probably best used to validate model output.

Certainly, Wallace’s “compelling” analysis is junk. I hope the rest of his PhD is better than this pHoolishess.

UPDATE: I’ve replaced the figures after finding a glitch in my analyses.

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About richard telford

Ecologist with interests in quantitative methods and palaeoenvironments
This entry was posted in Fake climate sceptics, Silliness, WUWT and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

404 Responses to Not pHraud but pHoolishness

  1. Thanks. I did wonder what was going on here. Nice to see it laid out so clearly.

    • Thanks.

      The problem is that it takes no time at all for Watts and his ilk to promulgate this nonsense, but it takes me half a day to locate and process the data and then a couple of hours to write about it. Fortunately, Sou and others rebut most of the nonsense.

      • Brandon Gates says:

        Richard, I think I know the feeling. As a hobbyist, for me these are often good learning exercises and I generally rather enjoy chasing down the data and working through them myself. For folks like you with actual domain expertise I imagine that it seems a bit the chore to rebut this kind of naive non-analysis. I much appreciate that you took the time to lend a perspective I likely would not have been able to achieve on my own.

      • PeterK says:

        You mean homogenize the data, don’t you?

  2. dana1981 says:

    Would you mind if we re-post this on Skeptical Science?

  3. Furpecto says:

    Rich,

    Yours is the first response I’ve seen to Mike Wallace’s pHoolishness and I plan to use it in a response to a denier I often engage with. Howeverso far it’s only half a response. I’m also looking for information about the initial problem Mike Wallace tries to answer, namely why 80 years of data are ommitted. Does localized data for ocean pH exist prior to 1988?

    • It is simply not possibly to calculate a meaningful average of the ocean pH data due to the varying geographical and seasonal coverage.
      Beginning in the 1980s, there are continuous time series of pH at a few locations (eg. Hawaii, Canary Islands and Bahamas). It would make no sense to append a global mean pH (even if one could be calculated) onto these station data.
      I suspect there are also data quality issues. Some of the early data are given to only one decimal place, and there is a strange excess exactly pH 8. Data quality concerns would be obvious to anybody in this field, and probably wouldn’t be discussed in the literature very much – once the community has realised the data are of insufficient quality they will simply stop using them.

      • Eli Rabett says:

        Earlier methods used a pH electrode which, with luck and skill is accurate to 0.1 pH units. This is not sufficient to follow a trend of 0.02 pH units. This has been replaced by spectrophometric methods which are accurate to ~0.001pH units and better and now by more complex ion selective probes which are sensitive to 0.01 pH units and better.

        There is also a prize competition for a rugged instrument which can be deployed and used to improve pH mapping of the oceans.

      • Thanks, I had a feeling that the precision of the glass-electrode data was not impressive, but couldn’t find a good source.

      • Carrick says:

        Eli Rabbet: Earlier methods used a pH electrode which, with luck and skill is accurate to 0.1 pH units This is not sufficient to follow a trend of 0.02 pH units.
        Not true. Whether you can detect a trend of 0.02 pH units / (some time period) depends on the density of the measurements.
        An interesting counter example to Eli’s argument is a 1-bit sigma-delta converter.
        We can routinely achieve 24-bit single-sample resolution using a 1-bit digitizer.
        Note I’m not arguing the old data is good enough to resolve if (way outside of my specialization), just qualifying Eli’s argument.

      • Curious George says:

        Carrick – I wonder if I understand you correctly: To measure temperature with a 0.01 degree accuracy, I can use 100 thermometers with a 1 degree accuracy each?

      • No – you would need many more.

        If one thermometer has a precision of 1 degree (standard deviation = 1), the mean of 100 thermometers would have a precision of 1/sqrt(100) = 0.1 degrees. To get a precision of 0.01 degrees, you would need 10000 thermometers!

      • Eli Rabett says:

        Only true if the system holds steady for you

    • Carrick says:

      Curious George—as Richard Telford has said, for your example, the resolution goes up as the square root of the number of sensors. Symbolically:
      dT_error = dT_obs/sqrt(N_obs)
      dT_error = error of mean
      dT_obs = error of a observation
      N_obs = number of measurements (assumed independent)
      However, that’s for measuring temperature.
      For measuring trend (rate of change of temperature with time), the error in trend also decreases linearly with the inverse of the duration of measurements
      So if you have 15-years of data at resolution “dT_obs”, you need about 5*15 = 65 years of the same number of points of data at a resolution “5 dT_obs” to achieve the same resolution in temperature trend.
      Putting these together, if you are sampling data at constant measurement intervals (“fixed sampling rate”), the improvement in the error of the mean goes as the square root of the duration, and the improvement in the error of the trend goes as the duration to the 3/2 power (this is because both the number of measurements and the duration of the measurements is increasing).
      Thus if you have 15-years of data at resolution “dT_obs”, you’ll only need about (5)^(2/3) * 15 years ≈ 44 years to achieve the same resolution using an instrument with a measurement resolution of “5 * dT_obs”.
      In practice, for very long duration observation periods, there are likely to be confounding factors associated with change in equipment, measurement procedures, geographic and seasonal sampling bias, etc that prevent you from achieving this much improvement in accuracy (difference between measured and actual value).
      In other words, the sorts of factors Richard Telford was discussing.
      Hope this helps.

  4. Ocean pH can be measured directly, or calculated from total alkalinity and total inorganic carbon (together with temperature and salinity). For many of the pH measurements in WOA there are probably these other measurements – comparing the measured and calculated pH would give a good estimate of data quality.

  5. Latimer Alder says:

    ‘It is simply not possibly to calculate a meaningful average of the ocean pH data due to the varying geographical and seasonal coverage.’

    And yet there are 1.5 million records. That’s a lot of data. Of the same order of magnitude as temperature records for the first half of the 20th century I’d guess. They certainly suffer from differing seasonal coverage (winter/summer) No doubt there were ‘data quality’ issues with the older temperature records too…yet climatologists are confident that they could go back through them and reconstruct the temperatures from 1910 onwards very accurately.

    How can it be that one job (calculating Global Average Temperature from millions of records) is done routinely and the other (calculating a Global Average pH) rejected as meaningless/impossible despite apparently similar difficulties?

    And isn’t just relying on only three observation sites – with sy, 20,000 records between them over just 20 or 30 years, (while rejecting over 1,000,000 others taken over a century) to illustrate a supposed global problem much the same as me publishing my back garden thermometer readings as an illustration of global climate changes.

    I think I hear the word ‘cherry-picking’ echoing in my head.

    At the very least I think we should expect a better response from the scientists about their methodology and the reasons for it than we have heard so far.

    • So you think it would make sense to calculate the annual mean of the data, when the 1980s have a large number of casts near Japan and the 2000s have a large number of casts in the Baltic Sea? I would hope that it would be obvious, even to climate sceptics, that such an analysis would be absurd. I am sure that had the temperature data been analysed by Wallace’s method, that Watts and his crew would be complaining loudly. As I wrote above, and am sure you already know, global mean temperature is calculated from gridded anomalies not directly from the raw data.

      You are mistaken about the amount of data available for temperature. Even for SST there are almost 100,000 measurements per year in the 1850.

      It is not just three observations sites, there are also a set of transects that have been measured repeatedly. All give coherent results – see IPCC AR5 WG1 Chapter 3. It’s hardly cherry picking to discard inhomogeneous data.

      When foolish climate sceptic start throwing wild accusations of fraud, they don’t deserve much of a response.

  6. Latimer Alder says:

    Thank you for your reply.

    But I fear you may have misunderstood my point.

    I am not endorsing ‘Wallace’s method’. Nor am I making ‘wild accusations of fraud’. I am trying to understand the reason for ignoring 1,500,000 historical pH records in favour of a maximum of a few thousand recent ones.

    My question is simple…given that historical pH measurements and historical temperature/climate records seem to suffer from many of the same problems – variable quality, differing/changing instrumentation, seasonal variation and the whole host of other difficulties that real-world observations bring to both, how is it possible that climatologists can confidently reconstruct global average temperatures going back over a century, but that oceanologists can’t do the same for pH?

    There seem to be (to an order of magnitude) the same number of records available over similar timescales.

    What is it specifically about the pH records that means they are not amenable to the same analytic methods as temperature? And if there is no particular reason, then surely an historical global pH reconstruction would be of as much value as the historical global temperature reconstructions.

    I hope this makes my question easier to understand and to answer. Thanks again.

    • I am glad that you are not endorsing Wallace’s methods (unlike Watts) and are not alleging fraud (unlike Wallace).

      But you are wrong about the quantity of ocean pH data available – by orders of magnitude. The ~2 million data points quoted by Wallace (I find 1.6 million) is a little misleading as this is for the upper 200 m of the ocean. Only about 20% of these are within the top 10 m and could reasonably be called surface measurements, and duplicate measurements within the top 10 m cannot be considered independent. So rather than ~2 million data points, we effectively have ~250 thousand casts. This is about three years worth of SST observations at the rate at which they were collected in 1850. Only 30 thousand of these are from before 1960: there is about 3 times more data available for SST in 1850 than for the pH record for the 50 years 1910-1959.

      Data then become more abundant, but never more than 8000 casts per year. There simply isn’t enough data to make a global synthesis akin to the SST reconstructions.

  7. Latimer Alder says:

    Thank you for your reply.

    I’m glad too that we have been able to establish that you are Telford, I am Alder and neither are Watts or Wallace. It makes for easier discussion.

    But I’m somewhat puzzled by your remarks.

    1. Is the predicted pH change only to be seen in the top 10 metres? And so any measurements taken deeper are useless? I had understood the theory to be that all of the ocean, (top to bottom) would be affected. If it is really only the top 30 odd feet, why need we bother at all?

    2. Maybe we can’t make a global reconstruction in quite the same manner as climatologists have done for GAT, but is it really the case that 1.5 million readings can tell us nothing useful at all about ocean pH changes? I’m hard pushed to believe that they can’t, given the great store that is set by a few hundred readings taken at Manua Loa and similar numbers in only two or three other spots globally.

    Climatologists believed they could produce a record of global temperatures (the ‘Hockey Sticks’) with far fewer indirect readings of what they claimed was a temperature proxy by using a few thousand tree rings. Is this not a similar problem?

    3. If point 2 is indeed true, and the 1.5 million records are indeed useless, then what other empirical measured data do we have that the theorised pH change is really happening out there globally in the oceans? I’ve a background in theoretical chemistry and many lab-based theories stumble when the real world proves to be a lot more complex than our lab understanding would suggest. If there is only data for a few sites for the last 30 years, how do we know what the baselines are to calculate pH anomalies?

    • Ned W. says:

      Disclaimer: I’m not Richard Telford, and don’t speak for him.

      But until he or others respond, here are some thoughts:

      LA writes: 1. Is the predicted pH change only to be seen in the top 10 metres?

      No. But pH is in part a function of depth, so you cannot mingle pH measurements taken at varying depths to calculate a trend over time.

      Since you insist on drawing this analogy between calculating a global temperature trend and a global ocean pH trend, consider what climatologists do about the dependence of temperature on z (height/depth): For the ocean, they use sea surface temperatures. For land, they convert raw temperatures to temperature anomaly, which they are able to do because enough stations sit at fixed places long enough to characterize the normal seasonal cycle at their locations.

      If you wanted to calculate a “global ocean pH trend” correctly, from historical in-situ observations, you would need to use (1) spatial gridding and (2) anomalies, just like the surface temperature people do. In order to convert individual pH measurements to pH anomalies with a reasonable degree of accuracy, you’d need to have lots of places where there were repeated pH measurements taken at the same depth, at the same times of year, for multiple years. As Richard Telford has repeated explained to you, there are not nearly enough historical data for this. Most grid cells would be empty or undersampled in most months of most years.

      LA writes: is it really the case that 1.5 million readings can tell us nothing useful at all about ocean pH changes?

      Nobody said they “can tell us nothing useful at all”. The point of the post is that they can’t tell you anything useful the way Wallace and Watts are using them. You then tried to draw an analogy between what Wallace & Watts wrote about pH and the various global surface temperature datasets. But temperature data are very different from pH data, and Wallace’s methodology was nothing at all like that used to produce the global temperature analyses. You’re comparing a rotten apple (the pH post at WUWT) to a perfectly good orange (competently produced records of global surface temperature).

      LA writes: Climatologists believed they could produce a record of global temperatures (the ‘Hockey Sticks’) with far fewer indirect readings of what they claimed was a temperature proxy by using a few thousand tree rings. Is this not a similar problem?

      No, it’s an entirely different problem. You keep assuming that all that matters is the raw number of data points, and that everything else — the spatial and temporal distributions of those data — are irrelevant.

      Again, to stick with your analogy, what Wallace did with the historical pH database would be like measuring single rings from different trees growing on different continents in different years and calculating a simple per-year average. That’s not how scientists use tree rings. If you wanted to use historical ocean pH data like historical tree-ring data, you would need to have long series of pH measurements from the same location and depth across many years. But you don’t have that because ocean pH sampling is not analogous to tree-ring sampling.

      • Thanks. Regarding depth, the thin mixed layer in many parts of the tropics is an obvious problem for Wallace’s approach of taking all measurements from the top 200 m. Many of these will be from below the mixed layer, and so not in equilibrium with the atmosphere. it is the mixed layer is what we are concerned about, this is where the acidificiation will occur (if the whole ocean mixed on short time scales, acidification would not be a problem), and is where the coral reefs and many fisheries are.

      • Ned says:

        Thanks, Richard.

    • Eli Rabett says:

      This, is deja vu all over again. Someone without experience in a field tries to second guess those with experience in the field, assuming fraud or cherry picking or numerical hanky panky. Of course, this is where Watts got his start with the surface stations saying that most of those records should be tossed, and then, of course, curiously endorsed the Wallace approach of Ernst Beck who gathered all of the pre 1956 surface CO2 measurements and did a pre-Wallace Wallace. That these records had been previously evaluated by people with experience did not count. In that case all had to be retained

  8. Latimer Alder says:

    Thanks for your replies

    Ned says

    ‘Nobody said they “can tell us nothing useful at all”. The point of the post is that they can’t tell you anything useful the way Wallace and Watts are using them.

    Maybe so. As I previously stated

    ‘I am not endorsing ‘Wallace’s method’. Nor am I making ‘wild accusations of fraud’. I am trying to understand the reason for ignoring 1,500,000 historical pH records in favour of a maximum of a few thousand recent ones.’

    And I think its still a reasonable question to ask what they CAN tell us?

    You guys are the pros. Here’s a vast resource of historical pH data that seems to have gone unnoticed. What CAN you do to get something useful from it?

    • BBD says:

      Still tirelessly denying basic chemistry, I see, Latimer. Recall the last time you did this. You failed to explain why basic chemistry is wrong. That failure invalidated the rest of your skeptikoid rubbish at root. Nothing has changed since.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @bbd

        Nice (and completely unwarranted) adhom attack there, BBD.

        But I’m sure Messrs Telford and Ned will not be distracted from telling us what use the 1.5 million historical pH records can usefully be put too.

      • The pH measurements are very useful for understanding the basic spatial (including depth) patterns in pH. Are you interested in that?

        I suspect to still want trends, even though it has been explained that the data have little utility for this. We have strong prior knowledge of pH trends:
        1) Atmospheric CO2 concentrations since 1750 (and before) are well constrained.
        2) When atmospheric CO2 concentration rises, CO2 will be absorbed by the ocean, and will reduce the pH. This is school level chemistry.
        3) The details of how much and where the pH has decreased by are fairly well constrained by models.
        4) High precision continuous time series and repeat transects have been established covering up to 30 years and giving consistent results.

        On the other hand, we have a sparse and heterogeneous set of pH measurements where the precision is probably comparable with the magnitude of the trend. These data provide so little constrain on the pH trend that they are unlikely to change our prior knowledge. Any analysis would be a lot of work, with little or no gain. Sure you could set a PhD student to work on them – it will take a few hundred thousand Euro. There are more useful things to do with the money.

      • But Richard, public policy is being formulated that will impact even larger sums of money on the basis of the theory. We should be able to collate actual observations and verify or confirm the theory. Short term trends can be misleading whereas long-term trends will give a more accurate sense for the human-attributed component. Temperature series have a large number of issues too and these are all handled. In fact, anyone questioning the notion of a single global average temperature is ridiculed.

        The cost of collecting the observations shouldn’t go waste.

      • Which part of the above discussion of the inadequacy of these data for calculating trends didn’t you understand?

      • You have offered your post-hoc interpretations for why such a large amount of data have not been used or prominently presented. Temperature data which suffers from several of the same type of problems however have been tackled.

      • So you missed the bit about there being orders of magnitude more temperature data?

      • With instrumental temperature series, in fact, there are orders of magnitudes of difference in the number of stations reporting temperatures in the latter portions of the series compared to the earlier periods, i.e., the 1860s and 1870. Global average temperatures are nevertheless estimated. With paleoclimatic proxy series, the sparseness of observations is acutely exacerbated, but global and hemispheric average temperatures are nevertheless estimated.

      • And you appear not to have read what Ned wrote about palaeoproxies either.

      • BBD says:

        And we have another chemistry denier. Hello Shub. See the pretty pictures above? Contemplate them both and try using what passes for your brain for once.

      • Again, ned’s reasoning is post-hoc. Both proxy temperatures and pH are unitary. If tree rings provide a continuous record of a temperature effect at a single location, pH measurements at different time-points over a meaningful geographic area provide exactly analogous information, even if not from the exact same physical point.

      • I am beginning to suspect that you don’t know what “post-hoc” means. Certainly it is not appropriate in your text.

        Since you are not prepared to take advice that a search for a small trend in sparse, inhomogeneous low-precision data would likely be futile, why don’t you download the data from WOD and analyse them? You probably cannot do anything worse than Wallace did.

      • BBD says:

        Shub

        Please read the thread properly.

        If you wanted to calculate a “global ocean pH trend” correctly, from historical in-situ observations, you would need to use (1) spatial gridding and (2) anomalies, just like the surface temperature people do. In order to convert individual pH measurements to pH anomalies with a reasonable degree of accuracy, you’d need to have lots of places where there were repeated pH measurements taken at the same depth, at the same times of year, for multiple years. As Richard Telford has repeated explained to you, there are not nearly enough historical data for this. Most grid cells would be empty or undersampled in most months of most years.

        Emphasis as original.

        Please look at the pretty pictures and think. You are making a prat out of yourself again.

      • Ned says:

        SN writes: “If tree rings provide a continuous record of a temperature effect at a single location, pH measurements at different time-points over a meaningful geographic area provide exactly analogous information, even if not from the exact same physical point.”

        That is incorrect. You don’t understand the difference in spatial autocorrelation for raw temperature measurements vs. temperature anomalies or trends. The latter are autocorrelated over relatively long distances. The former are not.

        So even IF ocean pH were conceptually analogous in its behavior to temperature, your analogy would break down because you are not collecting and analyzing the pH data in a way that is equivalent to how temperature data are collected and analyzed. Specifically, you are not able to take advantage of the spatial autocorrelation among anomalies/trends, because you can’t calculate anomalies or trends. But it’s worse than that, because ocean pH is not in fact analogous to near-surface air temperature.

        It’s not just that you’re comparing apples and oranges. You’re comparing apples baked in a pie to oranges squeezed into orange juice.

      • Ned, oceanic pH trends will be auto-correlated in the same way as temperature anomalies if you calculate anomalies. The unit of measurement would be a region instead of a single point.

        Your rationalization of why substantial amounts of data should not be used are invalid.

      • “Since you are not prepared to take advice that a search for a small trend in sparse, inhomogeneous low-precision data would likely be futile…”

        Richard, thanks. I’ll take that as an admission that, if performed, it would have been difficult to distinguish linear trends in pH from noise, and that the problems not only lie in measurement but also in the magnitude of the change postulated.

      • An “admission”?
        This is the expected difference since the start of the industrial revolution.

        Of course this is going to be difficult to distinguish from noise in a sparse low precision dataset.

        I suppose that you think that failing to reject the null hypothesis is evidence that the null is correct. That is a common misconception. All it normally means is that you don’t have enough data.

      • “I suppose that you think that failing to reject the null hypothesis is evidence that the null is correct.”

        Failing to reject the null hypothesis could mean there is not enough data. It could also mean the null hypothesis is correct.

        In fact, collecting data without a rigourously defined a priori hypothesis and stopping collection as soon an alpha level of 0.05 is reached is an unfortunately common fallacy in analysis. It’s called fishing for p-values.

        Failing to analyse available data for the fear of failing to reject the null. I hope that’s not what we have here.

      • Since failing to reject the null hypothesis would mean nothing, the only thing I am afraid of is wasting my time.

        This conversation is becoming tedious. You seem to lack the ability to analyse the data yourself, and don’t seem to understand that weak data won’t cause us to update a strong prior.

        If you think there is something exciting in these data, go and analyse them. You can download them from the World Ocean Database.

  9. Ned says:

    @Latimer Alder:

    Taro Takahashi’s group at LDEO is the source for a vast quantity of the global ocean alkalinity and carbonate chemistry data. They probably have a couple of hundred papers published, with the most recent being 2014’s “Climatological distributions of pH, pCO2, total CO2, alkalinity, and CaCO3 saturation in the global surface ocean, and temporal changes at selected locations” (Marine Chemistry) and extending back decades, e.g., 1981’s “The alkalinity and total carbon dioxide concentration in the world oceans” (SCOPE vol. 16, Carbon Cycle Modeling).

    If you actually want to know about the measurement and modeling of marine carbonate chemistry, start by reading some of their papers. Or better yet start with a textbook like Steve Emerson’s one on marine chemistry.

    • Latimer Alder says:

      Thank you for your reference to the most recent work of Takahashi and his co-workers..

      But even looking only at the abstract, it too suffers from the same limitations I have previously noted:

      ‘The time-series data from the Bermuda (BATS), Hawaii (HOT), Canary (ESTOC) and the Drake Passage show that pH has been declining at a mean rate of about -0.02 pH per decade,’

      There are only *four* sampling points to cover the entire globe. And they are the same four that are perpetually cited in the literature. Furthermore they claim to be able to find a very small signal (-0.02 per decade is pretty tiny) in very noisy very short (the longest contains only about 400 points) datasets. Maybe they can …but to confirm the global hypothesis a lot more data and a lot more sampling points are needed.

      I noted elsewhere that when faced with similar problems, the IPCC took about a decade to look at between 10 and 100 million records before judging that any warming was actually taking place.

      The pH work so far, though no doubt excellent, is the equivalent of the IPCC looking at their once a month temperature records in their back garden, asking their mate Chuck in Texas to do the same, prodding Fred in Hawaii to send his data and finishing off with Alice in Darwin. And having collated those <1000 data points then to declare 'global warming is real, its happening now, its happening everywhere and we've got enough data forever'

      Very, very strange…

  10. woz says:

    It seems the argument boils down to this; ” is it better to measure the alkalinity trend of the world’s oceans by using data from one location in one ocean for about 20 years, or, is it better to use the data from hundreds of locations in all the oceans for about 100 years” which one is “junk” and which one not? Which one is going to have the best chance of giving some idea of what is happening? Problems with both surely, but, I know which one I prefer.

    • No, that’s not really the argument.

      The argument is are we going to compare apples to apples, or are we going to compare apples to anvils?

      A number of things go into determining the pH of ocean water, but these include the amount of inorganic carbon (some of which will be CO2), the total alkalinity of the water, and temperature.

      Remember, what Wallace has done is aggregate data from the top 200 meters of the surface ocean. That’s a pretty large spread. Those measurements were made in water ranging from fully oxygenated to very low oxygen. The amount of inorganic carbon in the water is going to vary as well, depending on if the water is being upwelled (deeper water generally has more inorganic carbon in it), or is in a summer bloom (potentially limited by carbon). Temperatures are also going to vary by quite a bit- I don’t know offhand the difference between surface temperatures in the western pacific warm pool off Australia and in the Gulf of Alaska, but there are large temperature differences, which will affect the amount of carbon dioxide in the water. Wallace also didn’t account for the fact that the data is unevenly distributed in time. Taking an average of this data without taking into account any of these factors is like averaging the August temperatures in the Sahara and Cape Town and concluding that Africa has a pleasantly temperate climate. This is patently ridiculous (apples to anvils).

      On the other hand, the Oceanographic Time-series sites can examine whether there is an actual trend, because you can determine anomolies, you can take out the seasonal signals, and so on. Additionally, these sites can give you the underlying trend in the oceanographic gyres or seas that they are situated in. The data from Hawaii is only one of the time-series sites, but sits in the north pacific subtropical gyre, and so it can give a trend for the whole gyre, because the same processes are acting throughout the gyre. Other oceanographic time-series are in the Atlantic, off Japan, in the Mediterranean, off the east and west coasts of the United States, and so on. The Hawaii one is 25 years old, but others are older.

      It’s true that it would be nice to have more open ocean time-series sites, but the cost is probably prohibitive. Remember that these pH measurements aren’t just a scientist in a rowboat. You need a deepwater ship, crew, scientific technicians and the infrastructure to support them on land. As autonomous gliders and floats get more numerous and more sensor heavy (including a pH sensor hopefully), the ocean will be better sampled in time and space, but I don’t expect those results to contradict the trends that have been established at the time-series sites.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @giovanni…..

        You rightly ridicule the idea of determining the climate of all of Africa by averaging the temperatures of Sahara and Capetown. Clearly a ridiculous thing to do.

        But then proceed to do exactly the same. You claim that pH observations in Hawaii are sufficient to cover all of the North Pacific. And there are only 4 ”time series’ sites to cover the whole globe, with fewer than 1000 observations in total. To claim proof of a global effect from such a paucity of data and sampling sites is stretching credulity.

  11. Eric Means says:

    Gents: the discussion is very interesting, but this interested layman has a basic question that I’m sure many of you could answer. How do I interpret the red/blue colors in the succession of plots which the author introduces as “Each cast collects data from several different depths.”? The caption to the series of plots reads “Location of casts by decade”. So, what do the colors mean?

  12. Latimer Alder says:

    Thanks to everyone who keeps on returning to school level chemistry. Always good to remid ourselves of the starting point.

    I think we all agree that if you we did a test tube experiment and put some pure neutral deionised water under an otherwise neutral atmosphere with 400 ppm of CO2 we would get a very small amount of carbonic acid.

    That is not in dispute

    But it isn’t the real world. Most particularly, seawater is not deionised water at pH7 but a complex alkaline ionic mixture at about pH8. And it’s a buffered entity in some form of equilibrium with the surrounding rocks. Many might think that the buffering effect would be sufficient to overwhelm any slight tendency to affect pH. The White Cliffs of Dover were still there last time I crossed the Channel.

    So the relevant question about ‘ocean acidification’ is not ‘does the lab experiment produce carbonic acid?’ but ‘does the real world behave in the way we predict from our lab experiment?’.

    And that’s a question that an only be answered by observations.. and lots of them taken in lots of different places. It can’t be simply modelled..because without the observations to check the models against there is no assurance that the models are anywhere near right.

    Seems to me that in rejecting 100 years of data – given its many limitations – a huge opportunity is being missed.. It’ll take maybe another 50 years to be able to gather enough real world data to answer the question.

    • Did you never blow through lime water and see the cloudiness appear and then disappear? What did you think was happening? Could it just be that CO2 is changing the pH?

      Now explain why a this is not analogous to what is happening in the ocean.

      If you want to analyse the data, go ahead. Download them from the World Ocean Database. Have fun!

      If 30 years of high quality pH measurements and solid chemistry theory are not enough for you, you need to put forward an alternative theory of why lime water pH can change but seawater cannot.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Hmmm… as the human exhaled breath CO2 is well in excess of 4,000ppm (just in case, I shall point out that that is over ten times the present atmospheric concentrations of CO2), I think your analogy is a bit suspect.

      • Obviously exhaled breath will drive the pH lower that 400 ppm CO2 will do. But the chemistry is otherwise the same.

        Or do you suppose there is a magic threshold below which CO2 has no effect on pH?

      • Latimer Alder says:

        ‘Lime water’ is an aqueous solution of Calcium Hydroxide.

        The reaction with CO2 is well understood

        Ca(OH)2 + CO2 –> CaCO3 + H2O

        The cloudiness you see occurs because Calcium Carbonate is insoluble and precipitates out. In geology you know CaCO3 as chalk or limestone or its close relatives.

        But seawater is not just an aqueous solution of Ca(OH)2. So it is not at all analogous to the ocean. I haven’t tried it (the nearest seawater is about 50 miles away) but I doubt very much if blowing into seawater would cause the production of chalk.

        Your analogy is, I think, suitably far away from the reality of seawater as to tell us little.

        I see Radical Rodent also notes that exhaled breath is over 10 times the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Source I have seen suggest that its nearer to 40,000 ppm (4%) which is 100 times greater.

      • You don’t know whether or not blowing into sea water will cause the production of chalk, but you feel qualified to argue about whether the oceans are acidifying or not!

        I recommend that we terminate this discussion until you have taken some remedial chemistry lessons.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Hey! To be fair, I did say OVER ten times. I just didn’t say quite how much over…

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Mr Telford, Mr Alder does NOT appear to “…feel qualified to argue about whether the oceans are acidifying or not” as he is not arguing that the oceans are acidifying or not; he is merely asking why known records are not being used in this research. That, I would have hoped, is quite a reasonable question, the answer to which you have dodged throughout this thread. Can you not answer it, or will you not answer it?

  13. Latimer Alder says:

    Just to add that when the IPCC were first asked to look into ‘global warming’ in the 80s/90sthey had to check somewhere between 10 and 100 million historic global temperature records taken from thousands of sites to satisfy themselves that anything was changing at all. And that effort took nigh on 10 years work.

    And yet the presented evidence for the hypothesis ‘ocean pH is changing with time’ seems to be only a few thousand (at most) records from about 5 locations taken over a very few years.

    The discrepancy in effort and evidence is huge. Something is not right here.

    • BBD says:

      Conspiracist ideation there, Latimer? Certainly you are denying the basic chemistry, which as RT points out above, is silly. This is exactly what you did last time and it will have exactly the same outcome. Which reminds me of something…

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @bbd

        1. Which bits of basic chemistry do you think my remarks above

        ‘I think we all agree that if you we did a test tube experiment and put some pure neutral deionised water under an otherwise neutral atmosphere with 400 ppm of CO2 we would get a very small amount of carbonic acid.

        That is not in dispute’

        are denying?

        It is not denying basic chemistry to point out that the reactions discussed aren’t the only bits of chemistry going on. Seawater is a complex solution of a whole set of inorganic ions with a whole set of complex reactions. And though the test tube experiment with pure water and CO2 can tell us something about one of the mechanisms, it emphatically does not tell us about the nett effect of all of them acting together. To do that you need real world measurements.

        2. No ‘conspiracy ideation’ here.

        Just pointing out that when faced with a similar sort of problem (a suggested mechanism for one part of a complex system) the IPCC – to their credit – did not rush to a sudden judgement that the particular effect was actually influencing the real world – but spent a lot of time analysing millions of temperature records before the were confident enough to declare that it was. The standard of proof that global warming (whatever it’s cause) was actually occurring at that time was high

        For ocean pH changes, however, that standard of proof is nowhere near being achieved. We have a mechanism for one part of ocean chemistry. And a very few records form a even fewer number of places that – if taken with a lage pinch of salt, might show a very gradual decline in pH with time. But instead of tens of millions of records, there are hundreds only.

        Seems to me that to take the ‘ocean acidification effect’ as a real nett effect we need a lot more data taken over a lot more sites and for a lot longer. We already know that ocean pH varies hugely with (among others) seasons, depth, temperature and position. Unravelling those as well as the relatively small effect of CO2 – and showing that it is a worldwide consistent effect – needs more than a few hundred records.

      • BBD says:

        Latimer

        Don’t just wave your arms around and burble. Explain in sufficient depth for credibility why the well-understood chemistry of ocean acidification is not operating.

        You are the one making the extraordinary claim. You must back it up with something solid.
        Otherwise, this is how it works:

      • BBD says:

        Since your denial of basic chemistry is derailing this discussion, let’s consider another approach. What happened in the past?

        To help you address this, here are a couple of useful references:

        Hönisch et al. (2012) The geological record of ocean acidification

        Zachos et al. (2005) Rapid acidification of the ocean during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

        When CO2 increases, the ocean acidifies. It is not speculative. But no doubt you will now attempt to deny the paleoclimate evidence as well as basic chemistry. If you do, the same conditions apply: you must provide a solid, detailed argument ideally supported by references to the relevant published literature. Nothing less will do.

        And Latimer, this is getting tedious.

      • catweazle666 says:

        BBD says: “When CO2 increases, the ocean acidifies.

        What a simple, one-dimensional soul you are!

        If only it were that simple!

      • It is that simple, with the proviso that the rate of CO2 increase is fast so the slow buffering systems described by Ned above don’t have time to stall the acidification. Of course there are some details that affect regional rates of change etc,

        If you think otherwise, you should provide evidence. With references.

  14. BBD says:

    Lest we forget:

    And:

    Equals:

    • Radical Rodent says:

      Oh, dear. Latimer Alder is making no claims, whatsoever, BBD, he is merely asking a reasonable question: why are so many records of the oceans’ acidity being ignored? I do not understand why that should get you into such a high dudgeon; it does not strike me as “waving his arms around and burbling,” whereas you… Well, where is your proof that any of that pretty (grim) picture is happening?

      Are you aware that the atmosphere has had considerably greater concentrations of CO2 in the past? What were the oceans’ pH values then? I suspect that you will find that they were still well over 7.2. Oh, yes – as the pH scale is logarithmic, that straight line will soon curve to a flat line, or as close as dammit.

      • BBD says:

        RR

        Are you aware that the atmosphere has had considerably greater concentrations of CO2 in the past? What were the oceans’ pH values then? I suspect that you will find that they were still well over 7.2.

        You need to read the recent comments. Links and all.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Actually, BBD, I have. There are some facts there, linked by an awful lot of inferences and suppositions. Not a bad start from which to base future study on, but not a good thing to draw a conclusion from, surely?

        I do notice that, no matter that a lot of the graphs cover hundreds of millions of years, with CO2 concentrations many times those of the present, the causticity of the oceans never really comes close to neutral, never mind acidic.

      • BBD says:

        RR

        I repeat:

        When CO2 increases, the ocean acidifies. It is not speculative. But no doubt you will now attempt to deny the paleoclimate evidence as well as basic chemistry. If you do, the same conditions apply: you must provide a solid, detailed argument ideally supported by references to the relevant published literature. Nothing less will do.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        When CO2 increases, the ocean acidifies.

        Where have I argued that that is not the case? (Though, to be pedantic, it should read, “When CO2 increases, the ocean becomes less caustic.”) I am merely pointing out that, even when the atmospheric CO2 concentrations were many time those of the present, the oceans never actually became neutral, let alone acidic. It is feasible that there is not enough CO2 to ever make the oceans acidic. However, as the oceans contain many substances other than CO2, it is all rather moot. Getting back to Mr Alder’s point: why is so much empirical evidence being ignored? And, why are you getting in such a high dudgeon that such a question should be raised?

      • BBD says:

        Getting back to Mr Alder’s point: why is so much empirical evidence being ignored? And, why are you getting in such a high dudgeon that such a question should be raised?

        Read the thread. What is irritating is that you refuse to even read the explanations and links provided and continue to repeat yourself. Presumably the point is to piss everyone else off until they stop talking to you so that you can claim “victory”. That isn’t a victory.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        The point is, BBD, is that there have been no explanations, other than ad homs (many from yourself, by the way – you don’t hold back, do you?). And, no, contrary to you odd claims, I am not seeking “victory”, merely the answer to quite a simple question – why are 1.5 million records being ignored in the ocean (surface) “acidification” argument?

        A reasonable answer to a reasonable question is the only victory I seek.

      • If you cared to read the post and the comments you would find that your question had been answered multiple times. That you chose not to do so, makes it reasonable to ask if your are attempting to honestly engage in a debate.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Mr Telford: let’s have a look at some of the information you have given:

        Geographical variability in ocean pH is large.

        A reasonable observation, and one I doubt anyone could, or would, contend.

        Upwelling area have the lowest pH as the water upwelling from the deep oceans has high CO2 concentrations…[sic]

        Again, cannot be contested.

        The geographical coverage of ocean pH measurement is extremely unlikely to have remained constant over the instrumental period.

        Again, a point that cannot be contested.

        Intra-annual variability in pH is also high.

        Who can argue with that one?

        Intense photosynthesis during algal blooms can raise pH, and seasonal upwelling can lower it.

        Or this.

        If the seasonal coverage of ocean pH measurements has not remained constant over time, biases will result.

        Yep. All makes sense to me (though, what do I know?). Finally:

        The changing geographic and seasonal patterns in data availability means that simply calculating the mean pH for each year will give all sorts of spurious trends in the analysis.

        Another one that makes scientific sense, to my, perhaps warped, scientific perception.

        However, despite presenting all these quite reasonable arguments, you start the discussion with an implied slur upon those whom you choose to call “ocean acidification sceptics” (as if scepticism is not a good thing in science – or, your science, at least). You then proceed with the “acidification” of the oceans as being a known, and to doubt that is a reprehensible as being a “climate denier sceptic”. You start with a presumption (that the oceans are definitely “acidifying” – “Others try to disprove ocean acidification with misremembered school chemistry…”), then proceed to argue all the cases as to why there is not yet enough data to draw any conclusions, then you start scoffing at those who wonder why a large set of data is not being used. You have quite demonstrably refuted your original suppositions in your opening paragraph, yet get annoyed with those, like Latimer Alder, who, basically, agree with you.

  15. Ned says:

    RR writes: Are you aware that the atmosphere has had considerably greater concentrations of CO2 in the past? What were the oceans’ pH values then?
    Come on. You are wasting everyone’s time by bringing up stuff that every marine geochemist understands perfectly well. You don’t know even the basics of this field and yet you think you’ve discovered a flaw that somehow people who spend their whole careers studying geochemistry have overlooked.
    If you want to prove that you’re seriously looking for understanding and not just being a troll, then go read a textbook and come back and explain why ocean pH responds differently to an atmosphere that holds 1000 ppmv CO2 for millions of years, vs an atmosphere that rises from 400 to 1000 ppmv CO2 in a century. If you manage to explain that, and thus answer your own question, I might be willing to take you more seriously.

  16. Radical Rodent says:

    … rises from 400 to 1000 ppmv CO2 in a century.

    But it hasn’t risen that much. Where did you get that figure from? My understanding is that it has risen from about 280 to about 400 ppmv in TWO centuries. Why are you making up numbers?

    • Ned says:

      Who said it had risen that much? I was talking about the hypothetical future, not the past.

      Stop dodging and try to answer your own question. You wrote:

      RR writes: Are you aware that the atmosphere has had considerably greater concentrations of CO2 in the past? What were the oceans’ pH values then?

      That was a foolish thing to say, because it suggests that you really don’t understand the geochemistry of the ocean at all.

      The fact that ocean pH was not lower in the distant past when atmospheric CO2 was high is not at all contradictory to the fact that ocean pH will drop due to high CO2 in the next century and beyond. There are very clear, straightforward reasons why your implied “gotcha!” is irrelevant.

    • Radical Rodent says:

      That was a foolish thing to say, because it suggests that you really don’t understand the geochemistry of the ocean at all.

      As I am making no claim to understand the geochemistry of the ocean, do you not consider it impolite to call a question raised that might help me understand, “foolish”? You are being very rude to those who profess no knowledge but seek to correct that problem; do you not wonder why they take umbrage at your responses?

    • Radical Rodent says:

      Thank you, BBD, for proving my point – none have you have even attempted to answer the very simple question, having immediately resorted to ad hominems such as with pictures like this.

  17. Latimer Alder says:

    @BBD

    You say

    ‘When CO2 increases, the ocean acidifies. It is not speculative.’

    Excellent. Then no doubt a wide range of real world samples/observations will not only unequivocally demonstrate that to be actually true in practice as well as in the lab but also provide some answers to the next set of interesting questions we should be interested in.

    Here’s a few – how much (=sensitivity), how has it changed in the past? is it uniform? (global or local), varies with seasons? varies with depth, varies with temperature? How might it change in the future?

    These would seem to be very fruitful areas for further research using primary data, and I have to admit to being somewhat baffled why so many here seem so resistant to the idea of using the existing historic data to start the process. They are also exactly the sort of questions that the IPCC has been asking about climate and temperature for the last 30 years.

    Why the difference in approach? I have never before encountered a bunch of serious scientists fro whom extra data seems to be a hindrance, not a treasure trove.

    • BBD says:

      From denial to evasion. Content-free still.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        I am not sure that you are reading what is being written (or typed). There is no content in Mr Alder’s posts just as there is no denial nor is there any evasion. He is just asking a quite simple question: why is so much empirical evidence being ignored? The responses to that question, however, have been riddled with denial and evasion. I am beginning to suspect that you are replying to the wrong posts, BBD, else you are inferring from the name of the commenter what is likely to be said, and basing your replies upon that, rather than what is in front of your eyes.

      • BBD says:

        I am not sure that you are reading what is being written (or typed).

        Oh my sides.

      • Ned says:

        There is no content in Mr Alder’s posts

        That’s correct. Alder is trolling, and everyone here understands that.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Forgive me disagreeing with you, Ned, but Mr Alder has asked what seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable question; a question that no-one has yet attempted to answer: why is so much empirical data being ignored in this study?

        Now, if someone would answer that question without resorting to belittlement or ad hominems it would make this discussion considerably more pleasant. So far, Mr Alder has had nothing but denial and evasion, which has to make an independent reader (i.e. me) somewhat suspicious, while I, in my innocence, have had an unusual amount of vilification poured upon me, and accused of statements that I have never made. If such simple curiosity is how trolling is defined, then perhaps I am a troll. Who knew?

      • BBD says:

        You are a sealion.

  18. Ned says:

    Upthread, RR wrote the following: Are you aware that the atmosphere has had considerably greater concentrations of CO2 in the past? What were the oceans’ pH values then?

    This is a common misconception. If you go back tens of millions of years in the past, it’s true that atmospheric CO2 levels were much higher (1000 ppmv or more, versus 400 today). It’s also true that those high CO2 levels did not (usually) result in ocean acidification. RR takes this as evidence that high CO2 does not lead to ocean acidification, with the unstated corollary that marine geochemists must all be ignorant or lying.

    The point that RR is missing is that a rapid rise in CO2 has very different effects than a long period of high-but-stable CO2.

    Over long time periods (many thousands of years) the dissolution of CaCO3 in ocean sediments provides a negative feedback on the acidification process, stabilizing pH. But the timescale for this process is much longer than the timescale at which the modern rise in atmospheric CO2 is occurring. There’s a nice non-technical explanation of this from Woods Hole:

    “This takes place on timescales of ~10,000 years, and has the effect of removing CO2, via the (simplified) reaction: CO2 + CaCO3 + H2O => Ca2+ + 2HCO3-. On geological timescales this reaction acts to increase ocean pH and [CO32-] back towards the levels they were prior to an initial CO2 addition, and also causes an extra increase in CaCO3 saturation state (Ω; a key parameter in biomineralization), due to the addition of Ca2+ (as Ω = [Ca2+].[CO32-]/ksp); see Honisch et al. (2012). In contrast, today’s CO2 addition is happening too quickly for this buffering reaction to occur, so pH and Ω in surface ocean waters are falling more rapidly, and by a larger amount, than in the geological past. ”

    Or, to use a non-chemical analogy: RR is arguing that it can’t hurt you to get hit by a speeding train, because passengers on the train have been traveling at your post-impact velocity all along without experiencing any harm.

    • Radical Rodent says:

      RR takes this as evidence that high CO2 does not lead to ocean acidification…

      Am I? Where have I said that? You do seem to making a lot of suppositions on very little information. I was merely pointing out the apparent disconnect between CO2 levels and oceanic causticity; if you could correct my errors without belittling me, I would be grateful.

    • Latimer Alder says:

      Thanks for that.

      But why does the buffering reaction take place ‘too slowly’? Where’s the proof? How was it measured?

      You can be as technical as you like.

      I think I still remember enough reaction kinetics from my university days to follow the argument.

      • Read the link that Ned gave.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        ‘Read the link that Ned gave’.

        Thanks. I did.

        It says something along the lines of ‘the chalk/limestone is too deep down and the ocean isn’t well enough mixed for the buffering reaction to keep up for about 10,000 years. Which is all a bit handwaving and data free for me. I couldn’t find much evidence beyond this. If there is some, please guide me to it.

        Of course it may be that the absence of carbonate may be a factor in some places. But I regularly cross the English Channel between Newhaven and Dieppe. On the English side we have the Seven Sisters and on the French le Cote d’Alabtre. Both stunning white cliffs of limestone. No shortage of CaCO3 there. Nor of waves and storms to keep on battering them and mixing the waters. There’s a lot of cliffs and only a tiny amount (recall that even 400 ppm is still only 4 parts in every 10,000) of CO2. Absence of carbonate or water material will not be the limiting factor in this reaction.

        So I doubt very much that observations off the warm waters of Bermuda can tell us very much about the pH to be encountered off the shores of Seine-Maritime. Nor indeed of the North Sea or the other waters off UK. We have plenty of limestone and pretty well-mixed waters.

        It would be fatuous and unscientific to argue (for example) that UK waters are ‘acidifying’ based on the meagre real data resources that we have.

        Outside of academia,(where we get brownie points for being right, not just for publishing papers) we spend a lot of time on ‘due diligence’. A lot of it isn’t very interesting or sexy or career enhancing. But it has to be done to make a solid case.

        And whatever other good things the oceanographers may have done, they seem to have dropped the ball bigtime on due diligence for real observational evidence of ‘ocean acidification’.

  19. Latimer Alder says:

    ‘You don’t know whether or not blowing into sea water will cause the production of chalk, but you feel qualified to argue about whether the oceans are acidifying or not!’

    What a strange comment! It seems that you have completely failed to grasp my simple point.

    For the avoidance of misunderstanding, let me make it one more time. It is pretty basic to anything that calls itself a science.

    I am not arguing about whether the oceans are ‘acidifying’ or not. I don’t know. You don’t know. The Man in the Moon doesn’t know. Nobody knows.

    There are simply not enough observations to draw sensible conclusions about the state of the oceans. The oceans are big places. Conditions vary. pH already varies hugely across them. Some people are pretty dedicated to the hypothesis that they are ‘acidifying’. I guess that you may be among them. It’s clear that you have strong opinions on the subject.

    But strong opinions that something ‘should’ be happening is not evidence that is. Science is about observations not opinion. And – in this case – there are precious few of them.

    One day if we have enough observations taken from all around the world over a long enough time, maybe we’ll be able to see if your opinion is right. Or if it’s wrong. But right now we don’t know.

    As I’ve described elsewhere that’s what the IPCC did when asked to investigate ‘global warming’. They may all have had strong opinions but they were careful to avoid any premature pronouncement without the observations to back it up. They felt that they needed somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more temperature observations to be sure than there have been in all the published pH time series. That’s a huge difference. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to a) point it out and b) wonder why.

    I was hoping that – as the pro in the field – you might be able to give an answer. Looks like I’m going to be disappointed. Maybe ‘the community’ feels that fewer than 1000 observations from only 4 sites is enough to prove the case one way or another?

    If so, I’d be interested to see their justification. I doubt if many serious DPhil examiners would let such a paucity of data and survey sites go past without some adverse comment for a phenomenon that is supposed to be global.

    As to seawater chemistry please note that I am applying the same standards to my own opinion as I do to the pH data. All my instincts as a chemist tell me that if I were to do the experiment,of blowing into the sea it would be negative. The seawater would not turn cloudy. And my best guess is that there simply aren’t enough hydroxyl (OH-) ions in seawater for the reaction to occur. My exact words were ‘I doubt very much if blowing into seawater would cause the production of chalk’. That’s my opinion.

    But plenty of experience of real world chemistry – and a few ‘uh oh’ moments – tell me not to be too premature in my judgement. Hence the remark ‘I haven’t tried it’. Next time I go on a beach holiday (end of next week) I will make a point of doing so and report back here. Maybe I’ll be surprised and have to rethink my idea. But at least it’ll be based on data,not just instinct/opinion. That’s science.

  20. What amuses me most about the activist wing of climate science is the sheer tactical incompetence. Richard has just been on twitter complaining about sealions. LOL.

  21. Jaime says:

    So Richard Telford maintains that 1.6 million historic pH records cannot be used basically because they occur over a depth of 200m. Is there not in existence a reasonable model of depth vs. pH for ocean water, or is such a model not viable because of large regional variations in mixing/upwelling? If a reasonably accurate and applicable model of pH vs. depth is available or can be assembled, then is there any logical reason why those 1.6 million pH records cannot be used to construct a depth-corrected trend?

    • The observations being spread out over the top 200 m is part of the problem – pH increases with depth because CO2 from decaying organisms has accumulated there. This effect would vary by location and by season as the depth to the thermocline varies. You would need to know how this varied over time before a model could be used to correct the data for depth. It would become a data assimilation problem, where a model is run and nudged so it fits the data as well as possible. If the data were precise, this would be a possible means to solve the problem. As, however the old data are of low precision (the uncertainty is about 0.1 pH units) and sparse, they would provide very little constraint to the model, and the result would look practically the same as the existing models of ocean pH over time.

      If you use the data but they don’t affect the result, was it worth the considerable effort?

      • Jaime Jessop says:

        Thanks for replying. The bulk of the data appears to comes from the 60’s to 80’s and I wonder what level of precision this data presents and whether or not it would be sufficiently accurate in order to construct a model as outlined by your ‘nudged so it fits’ method above. Researchers might then be able to construct a trend for at least part of the period from the 60’s to 80’s, which might be instructive if the uncertainties were able to be constrained within reasonable limits.

      • I don’t know when more precise pH meters became standard. It might be possible in principle to run data assimilation on the more recent data, but these types of analysis take enormous amounts of expertise to set up and super-computer time to run. If the data are not sufficiently precise they won’t constrain the model. This isn’t a quick and simple analysis and the results won’t satisfy fake climate sceptics because there is a model in it,

  22. We are all supposed to believe that all of this data is next to useless and that it’s collection over a great many years was a total waste of time. I find this extremely hard to believe.

    On the other hand we are supposed to accept that the oceans are “acidifying” based on 35 years of data. Sorry, but 35 years is not long enough to imply any kind of statistical significance.

    The ocean is a massive buffer and I find it very hard to believe that a proportional rise in atmospheric CO2 of 0.00175% is going to do anything measurable, either to ocean PH or atmospheric temperatures (which indeed has not been measuered – Phil Jones, CRU East Anglia).

    • If you had read the thread, you would have seen that the data are not useless. They can be used to map ocean pH. Your personal incredulity won’t help calculate a trend from these sparse low precision data.

      35 years not long enough? Let me guess, you also think there was a pause in the increase in temperature since 1998?

      If you don’t believe the pH trend is statistically significant, download the data from http://hahana.soest.hawaii.edu/hot/products/products.html and test it for yourself.

      Whether you believe that the ocean will acidify happens to have remarkable little effect on reality. That you have chosen to portray the CO2 increase as only 0.00175% rather than 50% suggests that you are not being honest with yourself. The expected pH change for the rise in atmospheric CO2 is easily calculated. And if you don’t like sums, you can measure it experimentally.

      • “They can be used to map ocean pH.”

        Then why all the fuss and why was the data not used.

        “Let me guess, you also think there was a pause in the increase in temperature since 1998?”

        This is commonly referred to among climate scientists as “the pause” or “the hiatus”. That you are a denier of it is your own problem and has zero effect on reality and completely undermines your own credibility.

        “35 years not long enough?”

        No, it’s not. You have nothing to compare it with.

        “That you have chosen to portray the CO2 increase as only 0.00175% rather than 50% suggests that you are not being honest with yourself.”

        Not at all. You need some tutoring in comprehension. Please read again what I wrote. You talk about honesty but at the same time say that CO2 has increased by 50%. If we accept the pre-industrial level at 280ppm that gives us an increase of only 30%, or 0.012% proportional increase.

        Now, we are looking at PH “measured in the nearby ocean” (to Mauna Loa). Do you see a problem with this? Firstly it can in no wise be taken as representative of global PH levels. Secondly, Hawaii has numerous active under sea volcanoes and we all know what effect that can have on PH levels.

        Sorry, but the Feely & Sabine paper is essentially worthless.

      • Marco says:

        Clearly, according to backslider, <20 years is enough, and 35 is not.

        I'll leave it to others to decide whether they attach any value to backslider's comments.

      • “Clearly, according to backslider, <20 years is enough, and 35 is not."

        Clearly, according to Marco, 20 years out of 100 years is not enough (we have something to compare with), but 35 years out of 35 years is enough (with nothing to compare with).

        I'll leave it to others to decide whether they attach any value to Marco's comments.

    • Ned says:

      thebackslider writes: We are all supposed to believe that all of this data is next to useless and that it’s collection over a great many years was a total waste of time. I find this extremely hard to believe.

      I’m glad to hear that you find that hard to believe, because it’s all nonsense. Over the past half-century or so, geochemists and ocean scientists have learned a vast amount about the marine carbon cycle from hundreds of cruises in every ocean on the planet. Some of the best research institutions in the world have been involved in this work — in the US alone, that would include Scripps, Woods Hole, and Lamont-Doherty just off the top of my head.

      Some people will try to tell you that unless that work has produced some specific result X, it’s all “a total waste of time”. Those people have typically not read a single paper written by a marine geochemist, they know nothing whatsoever about the work that’s actually been done, and their only interest is in pushing their propaganda line.

      It’s striking to me that you don’t see these people employing the same deceptive arguments against other fields that share many of the same characteristics as climate science — say, fields like plate tectonics or astrophysics. What these fields have in common with global climate science is that they involve the study of processes that are too large and too slow to be directly observed and reproduced in the laboratory.

      So why are there no Radical Alders and Latimer Rodents out there tirelessly attacking the work of geophysicists who model plate tectonics, or astrophysicists who model stellar evolution? I think the best explanation is a sort of politico-cultural tribalism. Vociferously opposing climate science (and now marine geochemistry as well) isn’t about science, or about money, it’s an identity.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @ned

        The most interesting part of your remarks was this:

        ‘What these fields have in common with global climate science is that they involve the study of processes that are too large and too slow to be directly observed and reproduced in the laboratory’

        Which was exactly my starting point. We agree entirely. Whatever the theory tells you and the test tube experiments say, the only way to show that the oceans are really ‘acidifying’ is to go out an measure them over time. Using real data, not conjecture, or theory or wishful thinking or faith or predictions is surely what distinguishes science from philosophy or religion.

        And there are pitifully few (<1000 measurements, 4 sites) actual measurements to cover the world's oceans.

        The nearest site to me in England is Bermuda, 3450 miles away. The local geology is different, the temperatures are different, the underlying pH is different. I don't believe (though you might persuade me otherwise) that pH observation showing a very small trend in very noisy data in Bermuda can tell us much at all about (say) the pH history off the Isle of Purbeck. Nor about coral reefs in Australia. Or that you can confidently extend from a very slight 25 year trend to make useful predictions about future global pH regimes. It stretches the data even further than my credulity to believe it so.

        Maybe you're of the opinion that those 1000 points are enough to settle the matter on 'ocean acidification' forever and a day. I'm not. 1,000,000 across 1000 well-separated sites? Starting to get there.

        As to the rest of your remarks, you are, if I may suggest, being very and unnecessarily sensitive. And this may lead you and your colleagues interacting with the public in ways that do not always inspire their confidence. By focussing on the questionner, not the question you can appear shifty.

        The field of 'ocean acidification' regularly bobs up on the environmental worry list and in the public discourse. It's only to be expected that interested non-academics will take an interest in understanding the subject. Neither astrophysicists nor plate tectonicists appear on Breakfast TV warning us of imminent doom from their special field of study so the public profile of their subjects is much lower.

        But 'OA' is predicted to have dreadful negative consequences for all life on earth, Even the name (better 'ocean neutralisation') seems to have been chosen to cause general concern. You can hardly be surprised that people take an interest in understanding it. Nor that maybe they don't phrase their questions with the 'politesse' that you are used to. I'm afraid that outside academia, such niceties don't count for much. Maybe you see that lack of 'proper form' as an attack? You shouldn't. Its just real world discourse.

        And in my case, being a well-trained chemist with a bachelors and a masters in the subject a while back, the first thing I did when I came to this subject was to look for the base data on what the ocean pH is actually doing over time. And I kept on looking. I'm still looking. There's still only 1K records. That's pathetic.

        Thanks for your help.

      • BBD says:

        Latimer

        Somehow, amid all the noise, two key points have been obscured. These are the *rate* of pH change and the equally rapid warming of the upper ocean. As the century progresses, both will continue to change – rapidly – and their combined impact will become increasingly pronounced. We are only in the early stages of the process. This is yet another reason why the last ~30y of measurements are more informative than those from still further back in time.

        Ecosystems are vulnerable to *rapid* environmental change as they can neither adapt nor migrate fast enough to compensate. This is where the trouble starts. This is where food webs begin to unravel and where extinctions begin to cascade.

        Remember, this is about rapid and sustained environmental change. Rapid and sustained. Key concepts for the newcomer to this topic. Keep repeating them to yourself.

        * * *

        Finally. let’s not forget that almost everything you and your fellow sealions have said here is invalidated by the conjoined logical fallacies of argument from personal incredulity and from ignorance. You have written a great many words but said almost nothing.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        BBD: how do you know that the *rate* of pH change is a key point, when you are ignoring a whole swathe of older data, preferring instead a rather paltry number of readings from a pitiful few sites? As for “equally rapid warming of the upper ocean” – is it? My understanding is that the upper ocean temperatures are NOT rising rapidly; I have seen reported that they may actually be reducing. You make very confident predictions for the future, yet cannot give reasonable arguments for the present, especially when you choose to ignore so much information from the past. *Rapid* environmental change happens in every eco-system, surely, such changes occurring twice a day. You tell us that it is rapid and sustained, yet cannot, or will not, give us any empirical evidence to back that claim.

        I am sorry if my recalcitrance offends your sensitivities, but I live in a real world, with real problems, and can be rather blunt and brusque in my quest for information, information that you seem rather reluctant to surrender, though you seem somewhat more enthusiastic in belittlement and vitriol against me and others who question, people who annoyingly refuse to fawn over whatever oracle that you might have constructed.

        You, and your mentor and cohorts, have ducked, dodged and swerved around the issue, resorting almost immediately to ad hominem attacks on the questioner, with little reference to the question; you have piled insult on top of invective, reviled questioners for saying “almost nothing”. You ignore that we freely admit to not having anything to say, but merely want to know why you are ignoring so much of the information that is available, and leaping to quite outrageous conclusions based upon such a miniscule amount of information that you have. You have written a great many more words, BBD, and said ABSOLUTELY nothing.

        I do hope that you are, like me, and enthusiastic amateur, and do not consider yourself a scientist – or, even worse, are employed as a scientist – as you whole approach strikes me as totally unscientific.

        Ned: if by “attacking” you mean asking questions while seeking explanations, then yes, I have no qualms about attacking geophysicists or astrophysicists about their work. When I have done, their response, while they may well have rolled their eyes to the ceiling, was to patiently explain the processes and point me to the empirical evidence that has been garnered, and show how their models have been carefully constructed to fit the evidence that they have – and the success of such modelling is tested by comparing future projections with reality. Mind you, they are not having politicians basing the spending of vast amounts (hundreds of billions, to date, with the apparent aims of taking it into the trillions) of tax-payers’ money (i.e. my money, which makes this so much more personal than plate tectonics or astrophysics) in attempt to mitigate what might not actually be a problem, as its study is still in its infancy.

      • BBD says:

        RR

        <blockquote.*Rapid* environmental change happens in every eco-system, surely, such changes occurring twice a day.

        If you are unable to distinguish between diurnal (or seasonal) variability and unidirectional environmental change then you should not be attempting this discussion. If you *can* then you have just revealed yourself to be playing stupid games.

        BBD: how do you know that the *rate* of pH change is a key point

        If you are so ignorant of ecosystems science that you do not know that rapid environmental change outpaces species’ ability to adapt by migration or evolution and so causes extinctions, you should not be having this discussion. If you do know this, then you are being intellectually dishonest.

        You make very confident predictions for the future, yet cannot give reasonable arguments for the present, especially when you choose to ignore so much information from the past.

        Now you are projecting. You are the one ignoring information from the past demonstrating that increases in atmospheric CO2 drive shifts in ocean pH: see Hönisch et al. (2012) The geological record of ocean acidification and Zachos et al. (2005) Rapid acidification of the ocean during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, linked upthread.

        You tell us that it is rapid and sustained, yet cannot, or will not, give us any empirical evidence to back that claim.

        How can the response to a rapid and sustained increase in forcing not be rapid and sustained? If you don’t understand that natural variability will overprint the forced trend on shorter time-scales then you should not be having this discussion. You have homework to do. Or perhaps you are denying everything from radiative physics and basic chemistry up to the surface temperature record? Would that be it?

      • “Neither astrophysicists nor plate tectonicists appear on Breakfast TV warning us of imminent doom from their special field of study so the public profile of their subjects is much lower. ” – Latimer.

        Perhaps they should. While alarmists squark “sea level rise” we know in fact that the Carteret Islands and Florida (and many other places) are in fact sinking.

      • “Remember, this is about rapid and sustained environmental change.” – BBD

        What rapid and sustained environmental change? There is at this point in time zero evidence of “ocean acidification”. None.

        There is no statistically significant difference between the warming rates of the late 1800’s, early 1900’s and between 1997 and 1998 (Phil Jones, CRU East Anglia). We saw a massive warming of 0.3 degrees between 1978 and 1998. Wow! Between 1940 and 1975 the planet cooled. There is no significant difference between these warming rates and previous warming rates during the Holocene. Nothing “rapid” to see here folks, move along….

        1/4 of anthropogenic CO2 emissions since The Industrial Revolution have occurred since 1998, yet temperatures remain flat. Empirical evidence trumps AGW/CO2 theory. Next time try looking at the sun and ocean cycles, cosmic rays etc etc.

      • There is at this point in time zero evidence of “ocean acidification”.

        There are none so blind as those who will not see.

      • “As the century progresses, both will continue to change – rapidly” – BBD

        Could I please borrow your crystal ball? I want to see the next winning Lotto numbers.

      • BBD says:

        Could I please borrow your crystal ball?

        You are arguing that when this happens, there is no consequent increase in radiative imbalance. That’s physics denial. It is the intellectual equivalent of jumping off a cliff and insisting that you will not fall.

        Or perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps you are unusually optimistic about the prospects for global emissions controls over the next several decades? Do let me know if this is in fact the case.

      • “You are arguing that when this happens, there is no consequent increase in radiative imbalance. That’s physics denial. ” – BBD

        The “back radiation” from CO2 (and othe GHGs) has a net cooling effect, not warming as you so mistakenly believe:

        “Fluxes across the sea-atmosphere interface: Heat exchange between ocean and atmosphere is a product of a number of processes: solar radiation heats the ocean; net long wave back radiation cools the ocean; heat transfer by conduction and convection between the air and water generally cools the ocean as does evaporation of water from the ocean surface” – http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/climate/lectures/o_atm.html

        Perhaps instead you should learn about what you are talking about.

      • Please, this is irrelevant to topic – ocean acidification. it is also a blatant misinterpretation of the text. Keyword “Net”.

      • “Please, this is irrelevant to topic” – Telford

        Oh really? So temperatures have nothing to do with PH? Interesting…….

        I don’t think you will find many geochemists who will agree with you.

        Are you aware of recent peer reviewed studies showing atmospheric CO2 levels during the 1800’s as high as 380ppm? Are you aware that plant stomata studies are far more accurate than ice core studies in this regard?

      • “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” – Telford

        Where is the evidence then?

      • Radical Rodent says:

        BBD: are you suggesting that environment system cannot or should not change, or that humans should endeavour to prevent any change?

        Now, what is this rapid environment change, and where is your evidence of it?

  23. BBD says:

    Are you aware that plant stomata studies are far more accurate than ice core studies in this regard?

    So a model derived from a statistical analysis of proxies is more accurate than actual samples of paleoatmosphere? That’s a door you don’t want to push too hard. Perhaps you should take RT’s advice and get back on topic.

    • “So a model derived from a statistical analysis of proxies is more accurate than actual samples of paleoatmosphere?”

      What are you talking about “paleoatmosphere”? We are talking about the warming since The Little Ice Age. However, yes indeed, it has been shown that what you refer to as “actual samples” are no such thing. It is possible to detect rises and falls from them, yes, however not actual levels. Notice how they always lag temperature rise? Why do you suppose that would be?

      • BBD says:

        (With apologies to RT for being off-topic)

        What are you talking about “paleoatmosphere”?

        I was thinking of the latest, annually resolved chronology emerging from the WAIS Divide Core (Marcott et al. 2014, Fig 1a WDC blue curve) but we can look to the high-resolution analysis from the Law Dome cores for the last millennium:

        However, yes indeed, it has been shown that what you refer to as “actual samples” are no such thing.

        No, it hasn’t. Please try to remember that this is not WUWT.

        The WDC CO2 reconstruction in M14 stops at ~9ka, but this is well into the Holocene. Taken along with the CO2 reconstruction from the Law Dome cores the gas analysis evidence is strongly suggestive that Wagner’s stomatal proxy model is incorrect.

      • “I was thinking of the latest, annually resolved chronology ”

        Sorry, but you really do need to study this. Try to find out what might happen to the “sample” over time, pressure etc.

      • BBD says:

        Sorry, but you really do need to study this. Try to find out what might happen to the “sample” over time, pressure etc.

        #EvidenceDenial

        No, that is an exercise for you, Backslider. And you will not find the facts on WUWT. I would deeply appreciate it if you stopped telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about btw. The irony is becoming too painful.

  24. RickA says:

    I found this thread very interesting.

    After carefully reviewing this thread I was left with the opinion that it would be very worthwhile to actually attempt to obtain data for pH in the same locations at the same depth all over the world’s oceans.

    With GPS data, the date and time and a whole bunch of data, gathered over 60 or 120 years, I would think we would be in a much better position to provide gridded anomaly data which take seasonality into account – and track how worldwide pH mean is changing over time (or perhaps per basin rather than worldwide).

    Yes it will be expensive and yes it will take time.

    Since climate change is such an important issue, it seems worthwhile to throw some money at designing some instruments which would gather a whole host of climate data, both temperature over land, over the ocean and in the ocean, along with pH, salinity, humidity (in the air) and other parameters which bear on climate change.

    Design, build and depoy – and gather the data wirelessly, publish, wait and analyze.

    Eventually, uniform data gathered worldwide over a long period of time will be very very useful – so why not start now.

    ARGO times 1000.

    Maybe we can design nanobots or microbots which would be very cheap to deploy in the air (drones) or in the ocean, so they would be cheaper than the ARGO instrument platform.

    Don’t bother collecting them – just gather the data wirelessly and keep deploying them.

    How about von Neuman climate probes? That would be fun.

  25. Jaime says:

    On the subject of past CO2 levels, it looks increasingly likely that, contrary to the popular belief that atmospheric CO2 has remained relatively stable at 280ppm for 800,000 years, then shot up to 400ppm in the last 150 years, CO2 levels have in fact varied by 100ppm or more over a matter of decades. This has obvious implications for the assessment of the impact of the modern rise in CO2 in relation to its supposed global impact upon ocean pH.

    • Nobody thinks that CO2 has been stable for 800,000 years. Concentrations fell to ~180 ppm during the glacials and rose to ~270 ppm in the interglacials. This is well constrained by measurements of atmospheric gas trapped in ice.
      There are some estimates of CO2 concentration based on stomata that show very variable concentrations of CO2 in the Holocene. I don’t trust these data – it is easy to imagine how other factors could influence stomatal density, and difficult to imagine physical processes that could cause such wildly varying concentrations, and while other processes keep the ice core concentrations fairly stable.

      • “it is easy to imagine how other factors could influence stomatal density”

        Yes, it’s very easy to imagine. Warming alarmists are very good at that.

        Now, unless you can find a peer reviewed paper showing what you imagine, we will all be happy.

  26. Jaime says:

    “Nobody thinks that CO2 has been stable for 800,000 years.”

    Granted, though I did say “relatively stable”. The notion is promoted that for that entire period, CO2 levels have remained within 180-280ppm approx. and never risen to the present levels. The following study found that they actually rose as high as 426ppm at one point during the last Termination. You say you do not trust stomatal studies but the potential for them to provide much greater resolution of the Holocene atmospheric CO2 record is real I think.and may put the ‘unprecedented’ modern rise into a more balanced perspective.

    http://www.academia.edu/2949675/Stomatal_proxy_record_of_CO2_concentrations_from_the_last_termination_suggests_an_important_role_for_CO2_at_climate_change_transitions

    • Writing a review of the stomatal data is something I vaguely plan to do when I have time. I understand the principle, but am sceptical of the precision.

      • Jaime says:

        As this paper says:

        “With more accurately dated, high fidelity stomatal based-[CO2] records emerging, the absolute timing of [CO2] vs. AMOC strength changes and the separation of global versus local events should be within reach. With [CO2] emerging as a major component in rapid climate change, not least including the current climate change, the need for high-resolution [CO2] records recording short-term oscillations as well as longer-term trends is undeniable.”

        Most definitely worth further looking in to I would have thought, from people on both sides of the debate.

  27. Laws of Nature says:

    Your numbers seem to be at odds with the diagram posted at WUWT

    There it would seem, that the ocean mean pH is at about 7.3
    Do you really mean ocean surface pH, when you write about ocean pH (repeatedly)?
    Please clarify and correct your article, it is very misleading.. either you ignore more than 95% of the ocean data or you are really talking about a very tiny part of the oceans.

    • Ocean acidification is an ocean surface problem. It is the surface that is in contact with the atmosphere that we have polluted.
      The terminology is “ocean acidification”. “Ocean surface acidification” would be more descriptive, but only help readers coming across the term the first time. Thereafter is it verbage.
      There are numerous scientific terms that have a precise meaning that differs from a natural reading – “Greenhouse effect”, being an obvious one.

      • Laws of Nature says:

        Sounds like you are admitting, that your blog post is incorrect, but you are unwilling to correct your mistake. Indirectly referring to higher authorities, who also not seem unable to describe this phenomena correctly, does not free you from your responsibilities here. Are you responsible for your post and errors within or not?
        Would you agree that it is unclear in some comments to your post, if the poster refers to the ocean or just the ocean surface pH as a direct consequence of your false presentation? (As a direct consequence of your wrong discription)

      • Arguments about what scientists should call phenomena tend to indicate that the complainer is unable to argue about the substance.

        This blog assumes that readers have a certain basic level of knowledge – most readers are either scientists or have come via a link on another climate blog.

        Use wikipedia if you want to know what words mean.

      • “It is the surface that is in contact with the atmosphere that we have polluted.” – Telford

        So what “pollution” exactly is, according to you, causing ocean acidification?

        Are you implying that 97% of atmospheric CO2 emissions, which are natural emissions from the biosphere are pollution? Or is there something different about the 3% anthropogenic CO2 that makes it pollution?

      • Marco says:

        Indeed, backslider, it is that 3% extra. After all, everyone who has paid attention to the science knows it is the *increase* in ocean uptake of CO2, caused by the *increase* in atmospheric CO2 due to anthropogenic actions, that causes ocean acidification.

      • “Indeed, backslider, it is that 3% extra.”

        Sorry, but you find that 3% is well within the bounds of natural variation. It is far to little to make any noticeable impact.

      • Citation please. And a credible one would be preferred.

  28. Latimer Alder says:

    ‘There are numerous scientific terms that have a precise meaning that differs from a natural reading’

    Indeed there are.

    But when a topic moves from being ‘inside baseball’ (and of interest to only a few professionals in the field) out into the wider realm of regular political and social discourse, do not the professionals have a responsibility to make sure that the general public are not misled by the difference in terminology?

    Medicine too has many technical terms that have different technical meanings from their

  29. Latimer Alder says:

    ..oops ..sorry …dog walking on keyboard (!)

    …common usages. ‘Chronic’ and ‘spastic’ are two that spring to mind. But responsible medics are careful to explain the difference to their patients lest misunderstandings happen. When they use a potentially ambiguous term they are careful to clarify their meaning.

    As far as I can remember I have never seen the qualifier ‘surface’ used in any general article about ‘OA’. And only once in this whole blog.

    To use commonly and repeatedly ‘Ocean Acidification’ instead of ‘Ocean Surface Acidification’ is surely incomplete and misleading.

    • You will be delighted to know that the Wikipedia page on ocean acidification uses the word “surface” a few times. Perhaps you should have read and tried to understand first. It should be obvious to anybody who thinks for more than a few seconds that it is going to be the surface that acidifies first – the surface is in contact with the atmosphere and mixing of the deep ocean is slow.

      • Laws of Nature says:

        “It should be obvious to anybody who thinks for more than a few seconds that it is going to be the surface that acidifies first”
        Are you trying to imply with this sentence, that there actually is enough anthropogenic CO2 to have a measurable impact on the pH-value of oceans? (That would be a bold disagreement with established science!)
        I did not argue about how a phenomena should be called, but I stated, that your diagrams are incorrect! The Ocean pH value is different than stated in your graphs.
        This is a real factual error, not a naming issue!
        (A small effect gets blown up out of proportion, that is very typical for alarmism, isnt it?)
        Rather than belittle me and my knowledge, you could actually be grateful, that I spotted this mistake and put an effort into notifying you, so you could correct it!
        What is a blog with factual errors worth?
        BTW, could you give a definition, for the “ocean surface” if you plan to use that in your diagrams? (There seems to be disagreement in literature about it’s thickness)

      • “You will be delighted to know that the Wikipedia page…..”

        Wow, nice to see you referencing such august scientific journals! Let me guess, William Connolley, the infamous climate change/global warming re-writer, is one of your mates….

      • Latimer Alder says:

        Thank you for the link to wikipedia.

        But I think its very first sentence exactly illustrates my point.

        ‘Ocean acidification is the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans’.

        No qualification there. In judicial terms. it may be telling the truth. But it is certainly not telling the whole truth. And it would only take one omitted word to correct the misleading impression.

        Re: ‘ It should be obvious to anybody who thinks for more than a few seconds that it is going to be the surface that acidifies first – the surface is in contact with the atmosphere and mixing of the deep ocean is slow.’

        But the perils of ‘being obvious’ is exactly what I was discussing earlier. Things that may ‘be obvious’ in theory don’t necessarily turn out that way. And the only way we find out is to go and measure them. Science is at heart an observational/experimental pursuit.

        And in this case, the graphs above from Clivar, posted by ‘Laws of Nature’, appear to show the exact opposite of what you and I might reasonably have expected. Rather than increasing with depth and distance from the ‘acidifying’ source, the further away from the atmosphere, the *lower* pH the ocean water becomes.

        This observation is pretty counter-intuitive. On the simple CO2 causes nett ‘acidification’ model, we would expect the exact opposite. to occur. We would expect the waters nearest to the surface to have the lowest pH and the deeper ones to have higher. But when we look, it’s the other way round.

        Clearly the simple model has a major failing…the observations do not match its predictions.

      • BBD says:

        #EvidenceDenial

        Things that may ‘be obvious’ in theory don’t necessarily turn out that way.

        But on this occasion, they do. Once again I direct your attention to Zachos et al. (2005) Rapid acidification of the ocean during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum.

        You are still denying clear scientific evidence. It’s nuts, Latimer. Rational, objective people do not behave like this.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @BBD

        One day perhaps your content : snark ratio will improve enough that people will take notice of your remarks.

        Until then your deliberately bullying, unpleasant manner is a major obstacle to many bothering with them at all.

    • BBD says:

      Latimer

      The evidence that (relatively) rapid increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the past drive ocean acidification is substantial and persuasive. It’s instructive that your response to the evidence is to channel your inner sealion.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        Thank you for your reply.

        The instruction you should take from my ‘channeling my inner sealion’ is that I am firmly a ‘show me’, not a ‘trust me’ sort of guy. But you knew that already.

        And fascinating though it is to see how cleverly Zachos et al were able to tease some information out from events in the P-ETM, they aren’t a huge amount of help when the point at issue is events and effects of the last 55 years, not the last 55 million. Zachos’s work might lead one to have an increased expectation that the effect may occur. But it is not, of itself, any more than peripherally circumstantial ‘M’lud, we think there may be some indirect evidence that the accused may have done something vaguely similar in the long-distant past’

        For more contemporary events rather than drawing shaky analogies with long ago and different circumstances, it is not unreasonable to expect to see a large corpus of real-world measurements before declaring any effects to be definitely present. As discussed above, the IPCC reviewed between 10 and 100 million temperature records before giving their opinion on ‘global warming’. For ‘ocean acidification’ we have fewer than 1000.

        Given that you do not find this a problem and claim to be convinced by Zachos’s paper, we’ll have to agree to differ, You are a ‘Trust Me’ person and I a ‘Show Me’.

        In case you missed it, there were some interesting discussions at

        http://achemistinlangley.blogspot.ca/2015/01/further-thoughts-on-type-i-and-type-ii.html

        I’m sure you will find them instructive.

        Meanwhile I’m off to feed my inner sealion. I have a nice bit of smoked fish for dinner. I’ll enjoy it and maybe the sealion will too.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        So… where is your evidence?

      • BBD says:

        Zachos’s work might lead one to have an increased expectation that the effect may occur. But it is not, of itself, any more than peripherally circumstantial

        #EvidenceDenial

        And absolute cobblers.

        The laws of physics and basic chemistry did not change during the Cenozoic. Rapid atmospheric CO2 increase = ocean acidification during the PETM and during the Holocene. There is no getting around it, Latimer. All the denialist rhetoric in the world won’t do it.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        #EvidenceDenial

        So, to ask for evidence and to ask why so much evidence is being deliberately ignored is “evidence denial”. What a strange dictionary you seem to have, BBD.

        Let’s have a guess, BBD: the paltry amount of evidence from the pitifully few sites give evidence to support your theories, but the considerably greater evidence from considerably more sites does not. It would be interesting to find out how close to the truth that is.

      • BBD says:

        The laws of physics and basic chemistry did not change during the Cenozoic. Rapid atmospheric CO2 increase = ocean acidification during the PETM and during the Holocene. There is no getting around it, Rodent. All the denialist rhetoric in the world won’t do it.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @BBD

        But we aren’t really interested in events in the Cenozoic. They are, to coin a phrase, academic. We are interested in those of the last 50 years. And perhaps the events of the next 50.

        Your theory says ‘because of the work of Zachos et al it is reasonable to expect that as CO2 increases, the ocean pH will drop’

        Fine. I can follow the logic. I have no problems with it. I do not ‘deny’ it. I would likely draw the same inference and the same expectation.

        But then I’d go and test it by going out and measuring the real world today. You seem to be happy to omit this vital step entirely. And to deride and insult with your usual intemperateness those who think that going out and testing it it is *the* key component of the scientific method.

        And until you’ve done that for a decent sampling of space and time, the proposition ‘Increased CO2 is leading to lower ocean pH’ is still just a hypothesis.

        Feynman, of course, said it better:

        He was, among his many other attributes, the Father of Sealions.

      • BBD says:

        Your theory says ‘because of the work of Zachos et al it is reasonable to expect that as CO2 increases, the ocean pH will drop’

        No. It’s simpler and much stronger than that. Because the laws of physics and basic chemistry have not changed during the Cenozoic, rapid increases in atmospheric CO2 will still cause ocean acidification, just as they have done in the past.

        No amount of denialist rhetoric can get around this, Latimer.

        But then I’d go and test it by going out and measuring the real world today. You seem to be happy to omit this vital step entirely.

        And now you are lying. First you spend days simply ignoring everything explained here concerning modern measurements and now you claim that they are omitted entirely and I am “happy” with this. Enough, Latimer. You’ve crossed the line now.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @BBD

        Calm down, sunshine. You’re getting vastly and needlessly overheated.

        Firstly I do not say that measurements have been omitted completely. But there are pitifully and inadequately few of them to make any determination of whether ‘ocean acidification’ is happening at all.

        Please recall the comparison between OA and the IPCC.

        The IPCC looked at somewhere between 10,000,000 and 100,000,000 temperature records from over 5,000 sites before determining that there was any global warming *at all*. And this despite Arrhenius’s greenhouse theory having been around since 1907. They did a thorough job.

        By contrast pH has only been measured consistently at 4 places. And nowhere for more than 40 years. The total number of records is not 100 million or 10 million or 1 million or 100 thousand or ten thousand. It is fewer than 1000. It is four or five orders of magnitude less than the IPCC used.

        If I am mistaken and there are indeed many more measurements than I am aware of please guide me to them. But, I’d note that I’ve been asking this question of various people for five years now and none have ever unearthed any more.

        As to my careful remark ‘you seem….’ etc. I fear it is your own approach that gives that impression. When asked repeatedly for evidence that ‘OA’ is occurring now, you do not do what an experimental/observational scientist would do and point us to contemporary measurements. Instead you repeatedly point to a paper about events 56 million years ago with (presumably) the belief that it happened then, *and therefore it must be happening now. and there is no need for observations*.

        It is the ‘and therefore’ which is non-scientific IMO. Science doesn’t really work on ‘and therefore’ until its confirmed by experiment. If the effect is really occurring now, we should be able to observe it now. If it is a big effect we should be able to observe it now in many different sites. And measuring pH is not a difficult task. Simple pH meters are available for 50 bucks. This is simple stuff, not rocket science. But it hasn’t been done.

        I may be wrong. You may be sitting at your keyboard inwardly weeping at the paucity of realworld contemporary ‘OA’ measurements. But I can only report on the impression you give (hence the frequent use of ‘seem’)

        As to my having ‘crossed the line’…which line is it? Did I know it was there? Is it like walking on the cracks in the pavement? Will a big bogeyman rise up and swallow me up? Or throw me into an acidic ocean?

      • BBD says:

        When asked repeatedly for evidence that ‘OA’ is occurring now, you do not do what an experimental/observational scientist would do and point us to contemporary measurements.

        You refuse to accept the validity of the contemporary measurements Latimer.

        You effectively refuse to accept the validity of the argument that neither physics nor chemistry has altered over the Cenozoic.

        Your default mode is evidence denial. Consequently, you are incapable of rational discussion.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @bbd

        Do you even bother to read what I write? If so, do you bother to understand it. Continually accusing me of positions I do not hold and/or have explicitly discussed is counter-productive.

        I do not ‘refuse to accept the validity of contemporary measurements’. I’m quite content to believe that the few measurements that exist are valid.

        But I don’t believe that 800 measurements from only 4 sites are enough to demonstrate the existence (or otherwise) of a supposedly universal phenomenon.

        If you believe that they are, please explain why. With especial reference to the comparison I drew with the early work of the IPCC on ‘global warming’.

        As to ‘You effectively refuse to accept the validity of the argument that neither physics nor chemistry has altered over the Cenozoic.’

        I’m content that both those have stayed the same. But whether the conditions pertaining 56 million years ago are the same as today is a very moot point.

        Here are some differences taken from your favourite paper (Zachos et al)

        The event supposedly began with a methane release which then oxidised. There has been no similar release.

        Sea surface temperatures rose by between 5 and 9C. Deep sea temperatures by 5C. We have not seen changes of anything like those amounts. Sea surface temperatures have changed by less than a degree. And observationalists are struggling to find any change at all in deep sea temperatures.

        The discussed phenomena took place over periods of 10,000 years and more. Even the most ambitious ‘OA’ theory assumes that it would only have begun to take place over the last 100 or less.

        The two circumstance (then and now) are not really very analogous at all. It would be foolish (and unscientific) just to assume that they are.

        And as I keep on saying, the way to find out is by collecting a decent amount of contemporary data over space and time. This has not been done. The case is not proven.

      • BBD says:

        But I don’t believe that 800 measurements from only 4 sites are enough to demonstrate the existence (or otherwise) of a supposedly universal phenomenon.

        Argument from personal incredulity, still. It’s a formal logical fallacy just like the last several times you did this.

        If you believe that they are, please explain why. With especial reference to the comparison I drew with the early work of the IPCC on ‘global warming’.

        Basic chemistry. The specious guff about the IPCC is irrelevant.

        The event supposedly began with a methane release which then oxidised. There has been no similar release.

        CH4 oxidised into CO2 is CO2. Don’t waste time with weak diversionary rubbish like this.

        The discussed phenomena took place over periods of 10,000 years and more. Even the most ambitious ‘OA’ theory assumes that it would only have begun to take place over the last 100 or less.

        The rate of CO2 increase is much higher today than during the PETM (~10x). The rate of ocean pH change will be relatively accelerated.

        Despite protestations to the contrary, this is just more evidence denial. We’ve moved nowhere. All the denialist rhetoric in the world will not alter the laws of physics or basic chemistry. You have no argument, hence the stultifying drone of evidence denial. On and on and on. It’s not an argument, Latimer. It’s a noise.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @BBD

        ‘The specious guff about the IPCC is irrelevant’. Not at all. It is a recent highly relevant example of how another scientfic body went about demonstrating a supposedly global effect. And the contrast is striking.

        Perhaps you can explain why they went to all the unnecessary trouble they did? They ain’t stupid. They felt it was necessary to prove their case.

        Or maybe you can explain why you think only 800 measurements from 4 sites is sufficient to prove the case. If so would 80 be enough? Or 8? Why? Is there a formal method that gives the minimum number of observations needed? What is it?

        The IPCC were able to show a graph of worldwide temperatures over the last 100 years. And much debate has ensued about the details of that graph.

        Can you show a similar one for ocean pH? If I wanted to know (for example) how much the pH has changed in say, The English Channel over the last 50 years and so what changes the limestone cliffs have undergone can you do that? Or if I attribute ‘coral bleaching’ to pH changes, might I not want to know what the changes have been?

        Maybe it’d be an interesting question whether pH changes are greater in warm waters or cold. Shallow or deep?

        All of these things need observational data.

        Forgive me if I;m wrong but the prospect of it arriving seems to give you the jitters. Why? Why the totally unscientific reluctance to measure today’s real world?

      • BBD says:

        Latimer

        I objected to your first lie:

        But then I’d go and test it by going out and measuring the real world today. You seem to be happy to omit this vital step entirely.

        Now I object to the second lie:

        Forgive me if I;m wrong but the prospect of it arriving seems to give you the jitters. Why? Why the totally unscientific reluctance to measure today’s real world?

        Stop it.

        * * *

        The recent like-with-like measurements indicate falling pH. Basic chemistry would make this inevitable and paleoclimate evidence confirms that it has happened before, many times. All this has been explained over and over again on this thread. Your sustained refusal to acknowledge these explanations prevents the discussion from developing, which is clearly why you are doing it.

        You have so far provided not one single substantiated reason why ocean pH will not fall as atmospheric CO2 concentrations rise rapidly. Not one. You, who are supposedly so interested in evidence, have argued from ignorance, from personal incredulity and without a shred of evidential backing throughout this entire exchange. No equations, no observations, no references – nothing.

        This isn’t scepticsim, it is denial. You aren’t interested in evidence because you are already committed to denying it wholesale. And you will go on and on, sealioning to the end, never listening, never learning. And you will be wrong.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @bbd

        Congratulations

        You must be the first ever purely armchair chemist.

        You can sit and contemplate and think and the answers will just pop up. No need for observations. No need to go anywhere near a laboratory with all those nasty complications and unpleasant smells and experiments that don’t do what you expected. Because actual real evidence might contaminate your simple world view.

        And you must be a breeze on jury service:

        ‘Guilty, m’lud. He might have done it before. Don’t bother with any evidence for this time. Don’t even bother with showing me a crime has been committed at all. Just string the bastard up’.

        As I keep on saying and you keep on ignoring (perhaps because it gives you another opportunity to get your kicks from typing words beginning ‘deni…’), maybe one day there’ll be enough data to demonstrate the case that ‘ocean acidification’ is actually happening as your theory predicts.

        But until sufficient data in time and space has been collected it’s still ‘not proven’. Real data is what demonstrates things.. Not armchair theory. And 800 observations from 4 sites are not enough to demonstrate a global effect.

        Now – I’m away on my holidays for a few days where I will attempt to see if the waters of the North Atlantic are swimmable at this time of year.

        Toodle pip.

      • BBD says:

        And 800 observations from 4 sites are not enough to demonstrate a global effect.

        So you assert, but never demonstrate. And these are observational data – evidence of the kind you keep calling for but invariably reject when shown. You also wave away very well understood chemistry, the physics of ocean/atmosphere gas exchange and paleoclimate evidence. About half of anthropogenic CO2 goes into the ocean, yet you argue that seawater pH does not fall. Perhaps you need to stir in your armchair and think a little harder.

        I repeat: you have produced *nothing* in support of your claim that rapidly increasing CO2 concentrations will *not* lower ocean pH. Given that this claim directly contradicts well-established chemistry, the laws of physics, a substantial body of paleoclimate evidence and modern observations, nothing is not enough.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        … you have produced *nothing* in support of your claim that rapidly increasing CO2 concentrations will *not* lower ocean pH.

        BBD: Mr Alder has made no such claim. Why do you say that he has? Where are your observational skills? Or are you wholly reliant upon your (mental) model that Latimer Alder will make such a claim at some point in this thread, therefore he must have said it, even if there is no evidence of it?

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @BBD

        Yet again you fail to read – or perhaps just to understand – my not very difficult point. I begin to wonder if it is deliberate.

        And you are making things up about what I have argued.

        You say

        ‘you argue that seawater pH does not fall.’

        I have not made that argument. Nor have I made the opposite. I am agnostic on the issue. I await evidence..

        You say

        ‘you have produced *nothing* in support of your claim that rapidly increasing CO2 concentrations will *not* lower ocean pH’

        I have not made that claim. Nor have I made the opposite. I am agnostic on the issue. I await evidence.

        You can have all the theories and analogues in the world….but – especially in chemistry – until you have shown in practice that it is actually happening, your hypothesis is just that.

        There are 361,000,000 square kilometres of ocean. And we know that the natural background pH for the oceans varies by at least 0.4 units. The pH has been measured in 4 places only and with only 800 actual observations. The datasets are noisy and the supposed ‘acidification’ effect is very small. (0.02 units per decade). That works out a one observation site per 90,000,000 square kilometres. To put it in land terms there would be only one and a half observation sites for all the land on Earth. Say 300 observations only.

        BBD – you may think the case is proven. But I’d submit that until a lot more data from a lot more places is observed over a much longer time, this is just lazy ‘trust me’ ‘science’. You’re half way through the job…but there’s still a long way to go to prove the case ot this – or any other ‘show me’ chemist.

      • “natural background pH for the oceans varies by at least 0.4 units”

        Citation please. Or are you confusing spatial variability with temporal variability.

      • BBD says:

        Shorter Latimer:

        ‘I deny that I am denying it but believe that you are too stupid to notice my dishonesty’.

        Enjoy your holiday.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @BBD

        Whatever.

        But thank you for your good wishes for my holiday. While I’m away if I see any vacancies for Witchfinders-General, I’ll be sure let them know you’re free and very qualified to bring evidence-free prosecutions. It is one of your fortes.

      • BBD says:

        Latimer

        You don’t appear to understand your own position.

        There is a considerable amount of fundamental evidence (chemistry, physics, paleo) showing that seawater pH *does* fall as CO2 rises. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that it does not. You cannot be ‘agnostic’ about something *unless* the evidence is equivocal. But it is not. It is entirely on one side.

        What you are doing is denying the evidence while pretending to be agnostic which is why I am giving you a hard time. As I said earlier, you need to think.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        @BBD

        I understand my position perfectly well. And I have described it to you and everyone else reading this blog on numerous occasions.

        You are the only one with comprehension difficulties.

        Cheeribye the noo.

      • Eli Rabett says:

        It’s more complicated than that. A really huge methane release wipes out the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere, so the methane stays around longer. Since methane is per molecule lots more effective than CO2, the planet gets really hot until the HO builds back.

      • BBD says:

        Eli

        Sure, but there’s so much debate about the rate of CH4 release (eg. Cui et al. 2011 [doi:10.1038/ngeo1179] vs Bowen et al. 2014 [doi:10.1038/ngeo2316]) that it’s not clear (to me, at least) whether or to what extent this occurred. Whatever the case, presumably the pH shift in seawater would only occur after the CH4 oxidisation process was well under way? If so, is it really relevant to the core argument that a relatively rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations drives ocean pH down?

  30. BBD says:

    do not the professionals have a responsibility to make sure that the general public are not misled by the difference in terminology?

    […]

    common usages. ‘Chronic’ and ‘spastic’ are two that spring to mind.

    […]

    But responsible medics are careful to explain the difference to their patients lest misunderstandings happen.

    Thank goodness for the internet. Overworked physicians the world over can sort this out in seconds:

    Chronic

    1) very high-quality weed, generally with red hairs on it.
    2) pertaining to a long-lasting medical condition.

  31. Elmer Fudd says:

    Great! It is so good to see the most belligerent and strident denialist here. LTNS BBD, my old meatball!

    Latimer, what we have here is the bind. The IPCC investigated temperatures and, after all the work was done, they realised they had painted themselves into a corner already painted by we sceptics – nothing much is happening. They are surely not going to make the same mistake with ocean “acidification”. instead they rely on true believers such as BBD and Prof Telford to claim that measurements are not needed. You just need to believe the “physics”.

    Of course, in the real world, the fact that GCMs incorporate the simple physics and produce such laughably implausible results might be seen as an obstacle. But in the land of BBD, reality is wrong and needs to “up its game” to match what the models suggest they ought to show. A denialist such as BBD cannot envisage that the models, which incorporate KNOWN PHYSICS, could possibly be out of kilter with reality.

    What makes it amusing is that the likes of Telford and BBD do not realise that their strident ad hominem trumpeting and hostility adds more and more followers to the non-alarmist side. Trebles all round!

    • Latimer Alder says:

      @Elmer Fudd

      Gotta say that ‘Ocean Acidification’ is beginning to seem like the Dark Matter of astrophysics. Many, especially Big Bad Denier, believe it ‘must exist’ because their reading of theory and ‘the literature’ tells them so. But actually finding it and demonstrating it in practice is proving to be a bit harder.. It must be among the most blamed, but least observed phenomena in recent history.

      I’m also reminded of my girlfriend’s diplomatic response when her 7 year old granddaughter asked

      ‘Granny, have you ever seen a fairy?’

      ‘I think I almost saw one once’.

      Lots of people have ‘almost seen OA once’. But tracking it down in reality with hard data in time and space, not so much.

      But what is most concerning about this whole episode is the unscientific insouciance of the practitioners in the field to their paucity of primary evidence. There are probably more oceanographers than observations (800). And they’re all content to just assume that ‘OA’ is occurring and is to blame for all and any ills of the ocean anywhere.

      It may be that one day they’ll be proved right, but right now the theoretical cart is galloping a long way ahead of the observational horse.

      Without a lot (i.e. several orders of magnitude) more measurements, it is impossible to answer any quantitative questions about the phenomenon..like ‘what is the actual pH sensitivity of the oceans?’, ‘how does it vary with time? with temperature? with space? with depth?’. One might think that these are all interesting questions. But oceanographers give me the impression that they aren’t bothered about them.

      ‘Ocean acidification’ has been described as ‘climate change’s equally evil twin’. Since real observations over the last 20 years appear to show that ‘climate change’ has run out of steam, I wonder if ‘OA’ has done the same?

      And without the data we’ll never know..

      Watch this space….tho’ it might be a long and tedious wait.

      Toodle pip

      • Eli Rabett says:

        Tiddle bull.

        The equilibrium kinetics of the oceans wrt CO2 and carbonates is a solved problem. See Revelle, Roger for starters. If you increase the atmospheric CO2 mixing ratio the pH of the ocean decreases.

    • Who said the measurements were not needed? There are measurements, they concord with theoretical expectations.

  32. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Latimer Adler writes (regarding pH falling due to increased atmospheric CO2): “‘I have not made that argument. Nor have I made the opposite. I am agnostic on the issue. I await evidence.”

    No, you are NOT awaiting evidence. There is plenty of evidence for the decrease in ocean pH due to increased CO2 emissions. Since you must have read something on the topic, it is only reasonable to conclude that you simply DENY that the evidence exists.

    It exists in textbooks, hundreds of scientific papers, and is a simple fact of chemistry.

    Does this schtick work with your regular melange of readers/listeners?

    • Latimer Alder says:

      @kevin o’neiil

      T’here is plenty of evidence for the decrease in ocean pH due to increased CO2 emissions.’

      Excellent.

      Please show the measured ocean pH data that shows this to be a widespread and universal effect.

      Reminder: The IPCC used about 5,000 sites and between 10,000,000 and 100,000,000 individual measurements before opining that ‘global warming’ was actually taking place.

      • Marco says:

        Perhaps Latimer Alder can tell us what number of measurements he considers sufficient to establish a dropping pH of the oceans.

        At least then we know he will reject anything less than that and that there is no use in any further debate with him about ocean acidification until we reach that number, regardless of whether we or anyone else considers significantly fewer measurements sufficient.

        In the meantime, some may be interested to read the following nice overview:
        http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es405819p

      • Why did the climatologists (hint it wasn’t the IPCC) use so much data?

        Because the data were available.

        Imagine the noise at your favourite fake climate sceptic blog if it was discovered that some records had been omitted and that they showed cooling.

        The other reason why so many records are used is because the data are not homogeneous. Measurement techniques change, stations move or their environment changes. With large amounts of data many of these problems can be fixed.

        Relatively few homogeneous, well located, time series would perform as well the mass of data used (at least for temperature). The Earth’s temperature has relatively few degrees of freedom. You don’t need many stations before you can capture this information.

        Temperature, at least on land, is very variable on a day to day basis, so needs many records to get an accurate estimate. Ocean pH is less variable, so you need less data.

        All four ocean pH time series show almost exactly the same trend. How likely do you think this is to happen by chance is by some magic CO2 does not cause acidification? And these four time series are not the only data – as I’ve written above – there are also repeat transects, and these give the same result.

        The observations concord with the theory. Both are solid.

        Demands for impossibly large amounts of data are a classic tell of a climate change denier rather than an honest discussant. If you don’t want to be mistaken for a duck, don’t quack and waddle.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        How many measurements would I consider adequate?

        Considerably more than the puny total of 800 measurements from 4 sites only that are currently used as the only evidence of a supposedly global phenomenon.

        Note: If I took the max and min temperature at my garden thermometer each day for a year, I would have about the same number (730) of temperature measurements as there are in total throughout history of time series of seawater pH.

        Maybe 500 well spaced sites and 30 years data from each would start to do the job…..enough where the tiny signal (if there at all) could be distinguishable form the considerable background noise…and from a widespread and varied enough selection of sites to show that any effect wasn’t just local.

  33. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Latimer Adler writes: “Please show the measured ocean pH data that shows this to be a widespread and universal effect.”

    You don’t need *any* pH data from the oceans to know this is what happens. That’s the whole point of understanding basic science. It’s why we teach chemistry, physics, etc. This is not a controversial topic at the cutting edge of science where dedicated scientists may disagree – it’s chemistry 101. I’m guessing most H.S. students could perform an experiment to confirm it without much fuss.

    To wit: this is known science, “When carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH.” You either agree or you’re ignorant, stupid, insane, or acting in bad faith (i.e., a troll).

    There is no ‘evidence’ to wait for – you simply deny basic science and claim agnosticism. Sorry, a rose by any other name ….. is still a denier.

    • Latimer Alder says:

      ‘You don’t need *any* pH data from the oceans to know this is what happens’

      Wow!

      Chemistry by Cogitation! Wish they’d invented that in my day. Would have saved many years of boring afternoons in the lab doing that old-fashioned stuff called ‘practical chemistry’, which the degree examiners seemed to think was rather an important part of the topic. And they wanted me to have done *a lot* of it before dishing out the degrees and the scrolls. How quaint!

      Maybe we could try it in the law as well? Could save a lot of time and effort with this idea. No need for juries or defence counsel.

      All that needs to happen is for the prosecutor to stand up and say ‘M’Lud..everybody knows the scumbag in the dock is a bad ‘un and he did whatever he’s accused of. It is so self-evident I shan’t even bother to tell you anything about it. Just bang him up’

  34. Ron Gooley, Ph.D. says:

    For God’s sake — why do so many of you wonder why the data prior to 1988 were omitted? The obvious answer is two-fold: (1) As NOAA has reported, any data prior to about 1990 has associated uncertainties that are probably larger than the variations that are trying to be shown, i.e., the data are essentially worthless. (2)If you look at the report by Feely et al, you will note that they were simply reporting results from a time-series study performed off the coast of Hawaii that began in1988. They were not reporting average ocean pH measurements for all over the world. Obviously, there were no data results available from a study before it began!!

    • Radical Rodent says:

      Of course, you could always look at other persons’ results. But… maybe not – I suspect that they will have reached conclusions completely at odds with yours; therefore, they are wrong, and so can be quite easily be dismissed without troubling yourselves with reading.

      • The page you linked to has precisely zero relevance to the discussion we have been having here. Whether the ocean acidificiation is occurring and what the biological affects of acidification would be are different questions.

      • BBD says:

        The Idsos are industry shills, RR. Not the most reliable source of unbiased information even if it had actually been relevant to the discussion, which as RT points out, it is not.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Of course. Silly me. Anyone who has an opinion and evidence that is contrary to your belief has to be a “shill”, don’t they, BBD? You, however, will quite happily ignore facts without any need for remuneration. How noble.

        Interesting how you regale us with all sorts of pictures of how ocean acidification affects the biology of the oceans, but when someone suggests otherwise… well – that doesn’t count, ’cos they’re shills!

      • BBD says:

        Of course. Silly me. Anyone who has an opinion and evidence that is contrary to your belief has to be a “shill”, don’t they, BBD?

        #EvidenceDenial

        The Idsos are shills. Read the link.

  35. Radical Rodent says:

    So, an ocean acidification database has nothing to do with ocean acidification. What interesting logic you have, Mr Telford. As part of your cohorts’ premises for ocean acidification is the harm that it would do to species in the oceans, surely it has at least some relevance to the discussion?

  36. Latimer Alder says:

    For anyone who wants to see the real data, the EPA have helpfully provided this graphically summary of ALL the ocean time series data. Not just SOME. But ALL.

    http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/oceans/acidity.html

    It won’t take long to grasp some essential points and limitations.

    1. Basic ocean pH varies a lot more than just these sites – which all conveniently start at pH =8.10.
    The map below shows a big variation between 7.95 and 8.20. Our three sampling sites are all in the yellow zone and aren’t necessarily representative of other places whose starting pH point is clearly different.

    2. They are all in the same narrow 11 degree band of latitude: Hawaii 21N, Bermuda 32N, Canaries 28N. And its reasonable to assume that they have roughly similar water temperatures.They aren’t necesasrily representative of colder or warmer waters elsewhere to their south or north.

    3. They are all islands. Two out of three of them are volcanic. They are not necessarily representative of coastal waters where so much of the wildlife supposedly affected by pH changes lives. Nor are any of them near limestone or chalk deposits which are the main source of chemical buffering which may serves to dampen the theoretical effects observed if CO2 is dissolved just in pure water.

    Sorry to have to point out all this fundamental stuff. I kind of assumed everybody had studied the paltry amount of real data available and was already intimately familiar with its limitations. Maybe I was wrong.

    So the best that can be said with any real scientific confidence from the observations is that

    ‘near two volcanic islands in warm water between latitude 21N and 32N we may have been able to discern a small pH change in the last 15 years’

    …which is a heck of a long way from proof of a global universal phenomenon.

    Thank you to all who wished me a happy holiday. I had a great time in the alkaline seawaters at latitude 32N. And I conducted the ‘blow in seawater’ experiment as promised. The water did not turn cloudy. It is irrelevant to the topic of ocean pH change.

    But, I’m sure you’ll all agree that there is no substitute for doing real observations rather than just sitting in an armchair and doing chemistry by cogitation.

    • Radical Rodent says:

      You either misunderstand or misconstrue, Mr Alder, and I suspect this could be deliberate: this is blatant #DenialEvidence, and should be removed from all media immediately. How dare you impinge reality into our cosy little ivory towers, where we can share our brilliant minds with the likes of Lewandowsky, Mann, Gore and Parncutt; minds that cannot consider any deviation from the consensus.

      • Kevin O'Neill says:

        I will repeat myself:

        To wit: this is known science, “When carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH.” You either agree or you’re ignorant, stupid, insane, or acting in bad faith (i.e., a troll).

        Passersby will note that neither Latimer Adler nor the rodent can deny this. Lack of data does not change basic chemistry. If they believe it does – then they should write the paper that will win them a Nobel.

        We can debate whether they are ignorant, stupid, insane, or acting in bad faith – but there’s no debate that this is *known* science.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Kevin O’Neill: hopefully, passers-by will have the observational skills to note that neither Latimer Alder nor I make any attempt to deny it. All we do want to know is why is so much data on the subject being ignored? As a codicil, I am interested in why Mr Telford contradicts himself in his own article: for example, he states that, “Geographical variability in ocean pH is large,” then promptly uses less than 1,000 observations from four – 4! – sites. He then states: “Upwelling area have the lowest pH as the water upwelling from the deep oceans has high CO2 concentrations…”[sic] and: “The geographical coverage of ocean pH measurement is extremely unlikely to have remained constant over the instrumental period,” yet clings to this paltry number of readings from such a pitifully few sites.

        Intra-annual variability in pH is also high,” yet about 1.5 MILLION readings, taken over the best part of a century, are not considered, just these <1,000 readings from 4 sites over a few years.

        Intense photosynthesis during algal blooms can raise pH, and seasonal upwelling can lower it,” which certainly points to the fact that perhaps, maybe, well, you never know, possibly… CO2 is NOT the only factor involved in oceanic pH values.

        Finally: “The changing geographic and seasonal patterns in data availability means that simply calculating the mean pH for each year will give all sorts of spurious trends in the analysis.” A valid point ,which he then carries on and ignores, using a pathetic number of observations to basically calculate the mean pH value for each year.

        The information Mr Telford is using is certainly a good start to ongoing research, but it is woefully inadequate to reach any kind of conclusion.

      • So let’s see your power analysis of how many locations are needed. And some hint of a theory as to how the oceans can absorb huge amount of CO2 derived from fossil fuel burning yet not undergo acidification, a reaction demonstrated by millions of school children every year, and every day by scientists working on mesocosms testing the effect of acidification.

        Or is it just personal incredulity?

        Oh, and a geographic variability in pH makes Wallace’s methods junk, but has little influence on time series from one station.

        For some reason, you keep forgetting about the repeat transects. Are they too difficult to dismiss, so better ignored?

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Mr Telford, you do appear to be contradicting yourself again. Earlier, you posted:

        Whether the ocean acidificiation [sic] is occurring and what the biological affects [sic] of acidification would be are different questions.

        Now, you bring in the biological effects of acidification:

        …every day by scientists working on mesocosms testing the effect of acidification.

        Please do not move the goal posts so.

        For a start, the number of locations would have to be considerably more four. Ideally, they would be laid out in a grid pattern covering the entire ocean surface, but that would be impractical, as well as horrendously expensive (but how much more expensive than what has already been spent on “fighting” climate change, I wonder…?). Without a doubt, better results could be achieved by using perhaps a few dozen sites: a range of sites where it was known that the pH varied considerably – say, for example, the tidal reaches of estuaries. Then, sites where the pH range can be assumed to very little, finishing with a few sites assumed to be in between. (Assumptions will have to be made, initially, until enough data is gathered to confirm each selection.) I am sure that it would be feasible for each site to have a vertical array of sensors every, say, 5 metres, depending on available depth – any deep-sea sites could extend down a few hundred metres off a buoy. Modern communications could give a constant satellite feedback to the laboratory. The array could include sensors measuring pH, temperature and salinity, for a start; others could be added from the beginning, or as study reveals other aspects to study. This would not be cheap, but it could prove to be a lot, lot cheaper than what is presently being wasted on what might prove to be a non-existent problem (£Billion$, to date, rapidly approaching the £Trillion$).

        Before all that is set up, though, it might be sensible to gather ALL the data so far garnered, and try to make some sense of what is going on. At present, it does look as though you have carefully selected data that neatly fits your hypothesis.

      • I am not contradictiing myself, but you are yet again demonstrating your unwillingness to think logically. I argued that the experience with mesocosms shows that it is easy to change seawater pH by changing the CO2 concentration. This basic chemistry is independent of the biological effects.

        I asked for a power analysis. This is not a power analysis. It also depends on sensors that don’t currently exist.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        I argued that the experience with mesocosms shows that it is easy to change seawater pH by changing the CO2 concentration.

        A fact that I have never contradicted, either outrightly or by implication. However, as seawater is composed of more than just water and CO2, how much atmospheric CO2 is required to change the pH level significantly? Also, not even the most rabid of alarmists claim that humans are producing ALL the CO2 increasing in the atmosphere, a lot of it supposedly being from out-gassing from the warming oceans; surely, one is counteracting the other? The only points that I have trouble with in this is that: a) the oceans are “acidifying” at dangerous rates; b) all the “acidification” is caused by man-made CO2; and, c) whether or not the oceans are “acidifying” to any degree at all, anyway!

        Your work is an excellent start for further research, but I moot that we do not yet have enough information to draw any realistic conclusion.

        (If the sensors suggested do not currently exist, what is being used to determine ocean pH, at present? A lab assistant with some litmus paper?)

      • So the only points you have trouble with encompass the whole of the acidification problem: whether it is happening, whether it is anthropogenic, and whether it is dangerous! Yet you have no evidence or argument beyond personal incredulity, which you are resolute in maintaining.

        Fossil fuel burning and land clearing is not producing _all_ the CO2 increase in the atmosphere, but about _twice as much_.

        See http://oceanhealth.xprize.org/about/overview for more on sensors.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        As you have pointed out, Mr Telford:

        Geographical variability in ocean pH is large.

        Upwelling area[s] have the lowest pH…

        The geographical coverage of ocean pH measurement is extremely unlikely to have remained constant over the instrumental period.

        Intra-annual variability in pH is also high.

        Intense photosynthesis during algal blooms can raise pH, and seasonal upwelling can lower it.

        With such a range of unknown variables, how can you be so sure that acidification is actually happening? Oh, yes – you link to another site where the acidification of the oceans is taken as a given, with no justification of it other than, “Because it is”! (“Rising levels of atmospheric carbon are resulting in higher levels of acidity. Without one jot of evidence to support the claim. Scientific? I think not. Good money to be made if you can give them what they want to hear, though.)

        Any analysis that fails to take this into consideration is doomed.

        Yet you are determined to fail take any of it into consideration.

        One reason I have no evidence to support my argument is that it is not possible to prove a negative. As an analogy: I may have the theory that there is no other life in the universe other than that on Earth; Evina Larf may say there is. My theory is impossible to prove, yet easy to disprove; Evina’s would be impossible to disprove and might be impossible to prove; which is the better theory?

        Yes, CO2 dissolved in water, sea or otherwise, will decrease its pH value; however, is there enough CO2 in the atmosphere to make a noticeable, let alone significant change to the oceans’ pH values? That hypothesis will be disprovable, but will require long and extensive measurements; you have given us the start of such research, but it cannot be a conclusion.

    • Latimer Alder says:

      @kevin o’neill

      ‘…this is known science, “When carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH.”

      Which ‘seawater’ do you have in mind?

      There is no one individual thing as ‘seawater’. It varies a lot. In temperature, in pH, in its recent history. Look again at the pH chart I posted earlier. Seawater is not uniform.

      And how do you know? Where have the measurements been made? Are they representative of all the sorts of seawater, pH and temperature that exists? If so, then your contention ‘this is known science’ has a chance of being true. But until then it is ‘not proven’.

      Unless of course, you are employing the well-known technique of Armchair Chemistry.

  37. Rodent

    Mr Telford also says in a comment that ocean pH is not very variable, therefore readings at four sites are sufficient. I am loving the consistency here.

  38. EliRabett says:

    Oh dear, it’s Ernst Beck on pH. Beck found millions, zillions of measurements of CO2 which were ignored.

    Yeah, they were crap. It took Guy Callendar and Charles Keeling who had gone through them years before to figure out which were taken in the middle of cities (crap) which were taken in the middle of ag areas at different times so the plants were photosynthesizing for some readings and repirating for others (crap) and to dig out a few that made sense.

    Oh, and yeah, ocean pH is not very variable, pH is logarithmic. Hydrogen ion concentration in the oceans has increased significantly.

  39. Kevin O'Neill says:

    I will await Adler & Roden’t refutation of Henry’s Law in the next issue of Science. Chinese Bulletin or otherwise. whocoodanode?

    • Latimer Alder says:

      You’ll have a long wait. Henry’s law is fine with me.

      But you can use your spare time usefully by investigating the elementary chemical concept of a ‘buffer’

      Here’s an introduction

      http://chemistry.about.com/od/acidsbase1/a/buffers.htm

      You might then consider how the carbonate/bicarbonate systems in seawater might act as such. and how you might investigate (by practical experiment/observation, not from your armchair) whether they have any affect on CO2 and its soluble products.

      And you could give further consideration to how that might be affected by temperature/pH/history variations of the seawater involved.

      Once you’ve made the observations, you’ll be in a position to state ‘xyz is known science’.
      Until then, its unknown.

      • Are you so arrogant in your wilful ignorance that you think that chemical oceanographers are not aware of the carbonate/bicarbonate buffer system? If you had read a single book or paper on the chemistry of ocean acidification you would know that this is well understood chemistry both from a theoretical perspective and from the practical experience of using CO2 concentrations to manipulate pH experimentally.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        Richard asks

        ‘[Do]……you think that chemical oceanographers are not aware of the carbonate/bicarbonate buffer system?’

        No. But Kevin O’Neill’s reliance upon Henry’s Law suggested to me that it might come as surprise to him. Hence my remark.

        ‘this is well understood chemistry both from a theoretical perspective and from the practical experience of using CO2 concentrations to manipulate pH experimentally. ‘

        Excellent. You have a theory. You have done some work in the lab.

        Now all you have to do to finish the job is to show by diligent and continuous observation that it really happens in the big wide world. And that its pervasive. Maybe even look at enough different sites to get a handle on how much it happens…and which real world factors (pH, temperature, history etc) affect it. What my research supervisor used to call ‘science’

        Or as Radical Rodent so graphically puts it;

        ‘ The information we have to date is a mere shard of a bone; we cannot construct the full animal until more pieces of bone are uncovered.’

        Is this simple point really so hard to understand? Do the staffwork. Fill in the blanks. Do a proper job. Because right now your theory has got just about as far as ‘early positive indications’. But there’s a long long way to go before the case is proved.

    • Radical Rodent says:

      I will await Adler & Roden’t refutation of Henry’s Law… [sic]

      Why?

      Where have either Mr Alder or I questioned any known scientific law? While I cannot speak for Mr Alder, I have seen nothing he has written that differs from my own understanding based on what Mr Telford wrote in the original post: variability of ocean pH can be large, geographically and intra-annually; and, yes, CO2 will dissolve in water, forming a weak acid. However, to date, there is NO evidence whatsoever that the slight rise in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere has made any detectable difference to ocean pH values.

      Mr Telford has made a commendable start to research to determine whether or not this is actually happening, but considerably more study is required.

      • “NO evidence whatsoever”

        Nonsense. There is ample evidence of ocean acidification, as is expected by theory and experiment.

        What you mean is that if you refuse to read any books, papers or the IPCC report, you can claim to be unaware of any evidence whatsoever.

        That is not quite the same thing.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Mr Telford: if the evidence that exists is similar to that which you have presented, then I shall stand by what I said – i.e. we do not have enough evidence to draw a proper conclusion. You have already stated that variability of ocean pH can be large, geographically and intra-annually, as well as bathymetrically. As we now both agree that there can be a large variability in pH, how can it be stated with any confidence that there has been a noticeable decrease in pH? You have stated that there is intra-annual variability; could it not be feasible that there are variations that occur over longer periods of time, say, intra-decadal, intra-centurial, or even intra-millennial? The information we have to date is a mere shard of a bone; we cannot construct the full animal until more pieces of bone are uncovered.

        You have also stated that there are, as yet, no instruments for continuous, remote measurement of oceanic pH, so how can you be sure that the spot checks that are being made are truly representative of that particular piece of water?

        Finally, if you do get evidence of a reduction in oceanic pH, how can you be sure that this is solely from atmospheric CO2 dissolving in the water? Are you taking into account the known (and probably even more unknown) deep-sea volcanic vents, some of which are introducing intensely acidic compounds into the oceans (and around which, perversely, life is still thriving), as well as the many other possible sources that could exist?

      • Underwater volcanoes? Why don’t you just claim that Ernst Beck’s CO2 reconstruction is the most credible, then someone can shout BINGO, and we can end this tiresome discussion. You clearly have no interest in the theory or evidence for ocean acidification.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        Richard says

        ‘What you mean is that if you refuse to read any books, papers or the IPCC report, you can claim to be unaware of any evidence whatsoever.’

        H’mmm

        Even the IPCC agrees with Radical Rodent and me that real life data is scant

        From AR5, WG2

        ‘The few existing field data of sufficient duration, resolution, and accuracy (WGI AR5
        Figure 3.18) show that trends in anthropogenic OA clearly deviate from
        the envelope of natural variability (Friedrich et al., 2012). OA presently
        ranges between –0.0013 and –0.0024 pH units per year’

        And that’s our point in a nutshell. There’s a big old theory out there and very little data to actually confirm it.

  40. Eli Rabett says:

    For anyone interested in the buffering of the oceans, Revellation, as in Revelle and Suess, is the place to start with lots of links

    http://rabett.blogspot.no/2013/09/revellation.html

    It is truly amazing how Adler and the Rodent are following the late Ernst Beck and Willard Tony Watts down the bunny hole.

  41. Eli Rabett says:

    Should have added that the buffering of pH in the oceans has been settled science since about 1955. It is complex in the sense that there are many ions involved but it was a system amenable to the analytical chemistry of the time,

  42. Radical Rodent says:

    You might consider yourself scientific or even a scientist, Mr Rabett, but your observational skills do not seem to be very good; either that, or you can make quite extraordinary conclusions based on absolutely no information whatsoever. Whichever it is, neither are particularly good indications of scientific rigour.

    Perhaps you should put more effort into analysing the information in front of you more dispassionately, and without allowing your own personal prejudices and desire to laud your own genius to cloud your judgement.

  43. Eli Rabett says:

    Cmon, oh mousey. First of all equilibrium thermodynamics is a settled area since Gibbs. Planck at the latest. Second, the equilibrium thermodynamics of sea water has been well studied since the year dot, and certainly since Revelle. Settled science as it were, a bit of Google Scholar will yield lots of papers with lots of details. Would you like Eli to google that for you, just use seawater buffering or Revelle factor

    Third, numbers are numbers. Not very important or informative or interesting until they are evaluated which includes calibration, instrumental uncertainty and precision, confounding factors and more

    Fourth, and most important, your comment was a wonderful empty set, full of froth and vigor but not much information.

  44. Radical Rodent says:

    Okay, Mr Rabett; but where have I or Mr Latimer cast any doubt on “equilibrium thermodynamics”? Your scientific credibility can also be questioned in your fourth sentence: when is this mythical year dot?

    The start of one of the links on your linked-to site also starts in a rather unscientific way: “Anthropogenic CO2 emitted to the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans, causing a progressive increase in ocean inorganic carbon concentrations and resulting in decreased water pH and calcium carbonate saturation.” The assumption being that it is only human-generated CO2 that is causing the “problem”. As anthropogenic CO2 is but a small proportion of the actual increase in CO2, how can they be sure it is this small amount that is causing the “problem”? Is anthropogenic CO2 more insidious than “natural” CO2? Then, of course, there is the point that, do we have definitive proof that the oceans are actually “acidifying”? If it is, then what evidence do we have that it is only because of CO2, let alone anthropogenic CO2?

    Surely any TRUE scientist would agree that to start a scientific investigation with preconceived ideas, would very likely to get the results that are wanted.

    While, regrettably, my posts do not contain much in the way of constructive information, your revelling in it being an “empty set” does ring a little hollow from one who claims to be scientific.

    • Marco says:

      “As anthropogenic CO2 is but a small proportion of the actual increase in CO2”

      If I get a salary of 50,000 dollar a year and spent 50,000, and then someone nice decides to give me 2,500 dollar a year, guess what happens? You are telling me that the slow increase in my bank account is mostly due to my salary, and has very little to do with that annual gift…

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Marco: you seem to be getting things a bit confused. What you might be better saying is that you have an annual income of $30,000 and an annual expenditure of $30,000; you then get a raise of $180, and a gift every year of $20. Would you be rubbing your hands in glee at the raise? And, which part of the increase gives you the more significant rise in savings?

      • Marco says:

        I see I made things to simplistic.

        So, let us make it all more realistic:

        We have bank account of a company, let’s make it two toyshops, one small one and a big one. The balance on that account is the analog of the atmospheric content of CO2,

        Toyshop 1 (the big one) has credit from sales, and debit from acquiring stock (more toys to sell). Let’s take that as a model for outgassing and uptake of CO2 from the ocean.

        Toyshop 2 (the small one) has credit from sales, and debit from acquiring stock, too. Let’s take that as a model for uptake and release of CO2 from the remained of the biosphere (plants and soil aspiration).

        An philanthropist steps in and transfers a small amount of money to the bank account every year. Let’s make it 10,000 dollar. That’s the anthropogenic CO2 emission.

        The accountant notices that the amount on the bank account increases every year by about 5,000 dollars.

        So, what causes that increase? A close look at the various flows shows that toyshop 1 has increased its stock, because they noticed there is more money on the account to buy stock. With more stock has come more sales, but less than the increase in stock. Toyshop 1 has also made some changes in sales and stock, but here it is a bit more variable.

        So, would you claim that this philanthropist only has a small contribution to the bank account? Note that it does not matter how big the flows from toyshop 1 and 2 are: in the end the contribution of the philanthropist is the prime factor that there is now more money on the bank account than there was a year earlier. It also does not even matter whether toyshop 1 or 2 has a positive balance or not, the combination clearly has a negative balance, or otherwise that 10,000 dollar of the philanthropist would have translated in 10,000+ annual increase on the account.

        We can go to your underwater volcanoes suggestion later. First I need to make sure you agree that the philanthropist is the prime reason that the bank account has become more positive.

  45. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Rocky the Flying Sceptic apparently has bought the old undersea volcano canard. RR, do you know what a ‘zombie idea’ or ‘zombie lie’ is?

    It’s a wrong idea or falsehood that simply won’t die. You can’t kill them – there’s always a new generation of airheads just waiting to be filled with whatever nonsense comes their way.

    The notion that undersea volcanoes are responsible for the increase in atmospheric CO2 is one of these zombie ideas. One factor, among many to consider, is that humans emit 300 times more CO2 than do undersea volcanoes.

    Next.

    • Radical Rodent says:

      Once more, Mr O’Neill, you put your scientific credibility to the test. Where have I stated that undersea volcanoes are responsible for any increase in atmospheric CO2? I was merely pointing out that there are other sources of “acidification” of the oceans than just man-made CO2. As for your penultimate sentence, are you aware that the largest volcano yet discovered on Earth has only recently been discovered, in the North Pacific? To declare what you have with such confidence when such a vast amount of the Earth’s surface has yet to be explored has to be questioned.

      Of course, underwater volcanoes are emitting CO2, but what proportion of the increase in CO2 can be attributed to them has to be questioned. Most do acknowledge that the human contribution to the increase is between 1 and 5%, the rest being from natural sources, such as thawing permafrost or soil disturbed by squirrels or outgassing from the heating oceans. Even if it were 10%, why is it ONLY the human-produced CO2 that is doing the harm? Is other-sourced CO2 more benign, in some way? (BTW, have you seen the pictures from a CO2-observing satellite recently launched? Guess where the greatest concentrations of CO2 were?)

      There is the final point that, given that investigation of this has only recently begun, and accepting Mr Telford’s observations that variability of ocean pH can be large, geographically, intra-annually and bathymetrically, how can you be so sure that any acidification is actually occurring? (Note: “Because it is! ” is NOT a valid scientific answer.)

      • Radical Rodent says:

        Okay, correction wrongly located. For the sake of continuity: LINK (A pity there is no edit facility; ‘twould make posts like this redundant.)

      • eli says:

        There would be obvious patterns of pH changes with depth and location which are not observed. Your rejection is act is only semi amusing

      • Radical Rodent says:

        I am sorry, Eli, but your comment makes little sense to me. How can there be obvious patterns of anything that have not been observed? Your second sentence makes even less sense.

      • “Would” – if undersea volcanoes were contributing substantially to the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration, we WOULD be able to detect this from the changes in the vertical structure of carbon content in the oceans. We cannot detect this change. Underwater volcanoes are not important and no-one has any credible evidence that they are.

        But you are the opposite of a sceptic: as eager to dismiss all the evidence for ocean acidifcation as you are to make the ridiculous claim that underwater volcanoes are responsible for rising CO2 levels.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        MR Telford: If you go to the corrected link, you will find that underwater volcanoes are having an effect on local pH values of sea-water; NOAA is actively engaged in studying the phenomenon. Alas, they continue to make the same mistake as many others, with the assumption that “acidification” is happening over ALL the oceans, seemingly on the basis of very, very few observations. It is how this conclusion can be reached, when a large number of observations are being ignored, that puzzles me. Then, to blame the reduction in pH (though it really has not been determined that it is actually reducing – reference all your points made before about the wide range of natural variability) solely on CO2 seems somewhat disingenuous to me. It smacks to me of adjusting the data to fit the narrative.

        My point is NOT that there is no acidification, it is just to question whether we truly do have enough information to come to the conclusion that there is; sadly, I do not think less than 1,000 observations over 4 sites is enough. Also, I do not consider it particularly scientific to say, “Let us measure how much the oceans are acidifying,” – i.e. starting with a biased premise. Surely, it would be more scientific to say, “Let us collect information to see if general oceanic pH values are changing significantly.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of logistical problems associated with that; perhaps it is these that need to be addressed first (developing a “pH-o-meter” seems a good start), before a commonly-accepted method of data-collection can be established. Once that is done, I suggest that it would take many, many years – decades, even – before meaningful results may be realised.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        By the way, please read my comments more carefully: I did NOT say that underwater volcanoes are responsible for rising CO2 levels; such a claim would be, as you rightly say, ridiculous. What I said was: “Of course, underwater volcanoes are emitting CO2, but what proportion of the increase in CO2 can be attributed to them has to be questioned.” In other words, while underwater volcanoes are emitting CO2, we have no idea if this is having any noticeable influence on atmospheric levels of CO2. Another area for study, perhaps?

  46. Radical Rodent says:

    Ooops! Link no good. Try this.

  47. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Rocky the Flying sceptic writes: “As anthropogenic CO2 is but a small proportion of the actual increase in CO2…”

    Wrong. Fossil fuels are responsible for essentially *ALL* of the increase. You’ve just repeated another zombie lie.

    Why do you keep repeating falsehoods that have been debunked over and over again? Have you no shame?

  48. Kevin O'Neill says:

    We should never ignore millions of data points …… or should we? A cautionary tale.

  49. Radical Rodent says:

    Fossil fuels are responsible for essentially *ALL* of the increase.

    Riiiight. Which is why the NASA CO2 photograph shows most of the CO2 over… oh. Well, it’s not Europe, or North America, that’s for sure. I wonder what RealClimate would say about that?

    At least your cautionary tale is quite valid.

    • Fossil fuel and land use change are responsible for all the increase in atmospheric CO2. I discussed the OCO2 data in another post: it does not contradict this statement.

    • Marco says:

      You might want to look through my expanded explanation, RR. Not that I have any great hope you will then get it.

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