JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Thin sunscreen layer to *save reef from bleaching* for first time in twenty million years

Scientists are suggesting that a thin layer of floating calcium carbonate can cut sunlight over reefs by 30% and save some high value reefs from bleaching.

This should work well on all the reefs that evolved in the last fifty years and which don’t have moving water.

But half of the coral genera around today have been around since the Oligocene (23-34 million years ago) and for most of that time the oceans were warmer.  (Lucky human civilization evolved just in time to save all these reefs from extinction.)

Bleaching has probably been going on for millions of years longer than we have been scuba diving with cameras to film it. We only discovered coral bleaching in the 1980s. Not surprisingly, marine life has ways to adapt to heatwaves by chucking out the symbionts that don’t thrive in higher temperatures and replacing them with new inhabitants that do.

Yes, let’s  cover our most diverse and important reef systems with an artificial layer that cuts incoming sunlight by a third — What could possibly go wrong?

Ultra-fine film possible saviour for Great Barrier Reef

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Biology say tests of a floating “sun shield” made [...]

Scientists “thrilled”: fish cope with acidification if tanks mimic normal large daily CO2 swings

The real story here is that past scares claiming that ocean acidification would create reckless fish were most likely an artefact of an inadequate experiment. There are big swings of CO2 and pH in shallow water environments, and the normal day-night cycle turns out to be good for fish. Putting them in a laboratory tank without these daily changes may create fish that behave badly. So ocean acidification is not only natural, but a good and necessary thing.

New hope for reef fish living in a high CO2 world

Chemical changes in the ocean, as a result of climate change, are leading to a more acidic environment, referred to as ‘ocean acidification’ (OA). In a laboratory setting, these changes have been shown to lead to a range of risky behaviours in the affected fish, with some fish unable to flee from their finned foes effectively.

But, when researchers recalibrated experiments to adjust for natural daily changes in concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary chemical driver of OA, they found that the fish were less affected than previously thought.

“Shallow water habitats where reef fish live can experience substantial natural fluctuations [...]

Farmed fish doing alright at CO2 levels twenty, fifty, seventy times higher than today

The World Wildlife Fund tells us that global CO2 is bad for global fish stocks, but ponder that professional fish farms can reach levels of CO2 twenty or even seventy five times higher, and the fish appear to be doing OK. Current guidelines for fish farms even suggest that “safe limits of CO2 range from >5000 to >30 000 µatm*” which are “12.5 to 75 times higher than current atmospheric levels”.

So in another few thousand years we might really get into trouble with fish farms and climate change then? (Or maybe we won’t. James Hansen estimates if we burn every last barrel of fossil fuel on Earth we’ll get to 1,400ppm. The experience of fish farms all over the world is that fish can apparently adapt to levels ten times higher even than this worst case scenario.)

We have a situation where there are scores of reports fish suffering from ocean acidification and high CO2 levels, but they don’t mesh with the reality that fish farms have been dealing with for decades.  A new paper tries to figure out why this is so. The study doesn’t prove that there are no bad effects from higher CO2, but [...]

NOAA scientists admit in private that they can’t name any place affected by ocean acidification

There’s the truth, then there’s the whole truth.

From a climate expert at NOAA, the study of ocean acidification is so young “they don’t have any data sets that show a direct effect of OA on population health” and they can’t name any place in the world that is definitely affected by it.

Steve Milloy at Junkscience.com FOI’d emails among NOAA scientists discussing a NY times op-ed draft.The editor was serving up an apocalyse:

…and he wanted all the dirt:

Can the authors give us more specific, descriptive images about how acidification has already affected the oceans?

Tony Thomas writes that Dr Shallin Busch, who works for NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program discussed the draft of the article with fellow scientist Ms Applebaum. She warns that they can’t say that OA (Ocean Acidification) was definitely a problem anywhere at the moment:

Unfortunately, I can’t provide this information to you because it doesn’t exist. As I said in my last email, currently there are NO areas of the world that are severely degraded because of OA or even areas that we know are definitely affected by OA right now. If you want to use this type of [...]

Life adapts — fish evolved from salt to fresh water in just fifty years

In 1964 an earthquake made some parts of the Pacific into ponds on a few islands. Fifty years later and the fish in those ponds are now freshwater fish. Apparently the genes for dealing with that sort of wild extreme change are held by some of the fish in the crowd and natural selection can work its wonders in a decade.

In terms of ocean acidification, this is as catastrophic as it gets, not only did the ocean become “more acidic” but it stopped being an ocean.

I can’t get much worse than this for a fish, and yet somehow life on Earth had the answer.

What’s the pH of those ponds — The ocean pH is 8.1, rain is 5.5. Those ponds will be somewhere in between.

And some people think a man-made “ocean acidication” that’s smaller than this and slower, will devastate the ocean.

 

Science Daily

Evolution is usually thought of as occurring over long time periods, but it also can happen quickly. Consider a tiny fish whose transformation after the 1964 Alaskan earthquake was uncovered by University of Oregon scientists and their University of Alaska collaborators.

The fish, [...]

Researchers astonished: Coral reefs thriving in a more “acidic” ocean

Palau Islands

The researchers at Woods Hole have spent four years doing a comprehensive study at Palau Rock Islands in the far Western Pacific, where pH levels are naturally “more acidic” (which is  big-government speak for less alkaline). Because of laboratory experiments Barkley et al [1] expected to find all kinds of detrimental effects, but instead found a diverse healthy system they describe as “thriving” with “greater coral cover” and more “species”.

A new study led by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that the coral reefs there seem to be defying the odds, showing none of the predicted responses to low pH except for an increase in bioerosion — the physical breakdown of coral skeletons by boring organisms such as mollusks and worms. The paper is to be published June 5 in the journal Science Advances.

‘Based on lab experiments and studies of other naturally low pH reef systems, this is the opposite of what we expected,’ says lead author Hannah Barkley, a graduate student in the WHOI-MIT joint program in oceanography.

Experiments measuring corals’ responses to a variety of low pH conditions have shown a range of negative impacts, [...]

Does ocean pH shift with the PDO cycle?

The man who uncovered the 80 years of missing empirical data on ocean pH is Mike Wallace. That hidden data suggested the ocean had been getting slightly more alkaline in the 20th Century –the opposite of the man-made acidification theory — but that pH change hasn’t been a linear shift. The pH has been cycling up and down, and on his blog back in February Wallace suggested that the pH of the ocean was varying naturally as the PDO cycled*.

It’s an interesting theory. He’s used the PDO index and his global ocean pelagic zone pH time series chart that was based on 1.5 million pH readings.

It’s nice to watch a real scientist at work. His blog is worth a look.

..

 

*PDO means Pacific Decadal Oscillation – the 15 – 30 year long cycles of warmer or cooler sea surface temperatures in the northern Pacific. In a positive phase the western side is cool and the east is warmer, it rains more in California and less in Australia. The negative phase is the opposite.

Oceans not acidifying – “scientists” hid 80 years of pH data

Co-authored James Doogue and JoNova

Empirical data withheld by key scientists shows that since 1910 ocean pH levels have not decreased in our oceans as carbon dioxide levels increased. Overall the trend is messy but more up than down, becoming less acidic. So much for those terrifying oceans of acid that were coming our way.

What happened to those graphs?

Scientists have had pH meters and measurements of the oceans for one hundred years. But experts decided that computer simulations in 2014 were better at measuring the pH in 1910 than the pH meters were. The red line (below) is the models recreation of ocean pH. The blue stars are the data points — the empirical evidence.

James Delingpole on ‘Breitbart’:

NOAAgate: ‘ocean acidification’ could turn out to be the biggest con since Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick

 

[CFACT] Marita Noon:

The alleged fraud was uncovered by Mike Wallace, a hydrologist with nearly 30 years’ experience now working towards his PhD at the University of New Mexico. While studying a chart produced by Feely and Sabine, apparently showing a strong correlation between rising atmospheric CO2 levels and falling oceanic pH [...]

Look out! Climate change makes fish reckless

AIMS researchers found that fish near a natural CO2 vent were not as scared of predators as their colleagues from more alkaline water: “Ocean Acidification robs reef fish of their fear of predators”.

They compared populations in reefs with normal pH levels with those near the vent. I note this line in the abstract didn’t make it to the press release:

“Contrary to expectations, fish diversity and community structure differed little between CO2 seeps and nearby control reefs.”

So the natural laboratory of the vent has biodiversity and a community, despite the “acid” (which is not acidic of course). Milne Bay, I gather, has pH of 7.7.

The abstract points out that there might be a reason why fish are bolder:

“Our results suggest that recruitment of juvenile fish from outside the seeps, along with fewer predators within the seeps, is currently sufficient to offset any negative effects of high CO2 within the seeps.”

Less predators, anyone?

So these might be well adapted little fish that suit the natural environment around them? Call the press…

If warming were politically correct, then people might say the fish became more confident. : -)

Indeed shouldn’t we worry that fish in higher [...]

What the CSIRO State of the Climate report forgot to tell you

The CSIRO decided to leave out some information about the state of our climate in their  State of the Climate Report CSIRO.

CSIRO published these “Fast Facts” in bold. I’m publishing the things they didn’t say, but could have, in points in between.

UPDATE: The CSIRO budget is $1.2 billion a year and the BOM’s is $300 m. Why is it left to unfunded volunteers to provide the full story?

Fast Facts from the CSIRO and BOM “Australia’s climate has warmed by 0.9°C since 1910, and the frequency of extreme weather has changed, with more extreme heat and fewer cool extremes.” The CSIRO-BOM team could have said: Scientifically, extreme weather measures are lousy indicators. They’re noisy and not very meaningful. They are however useful for getting newspaper headlines. It depends on what your aim is… Australia’s had extreme hot days for as long as we’ve been measuring the temperature. Charles Sturt recorded 53C in 1828 which seems fairly extreme. Thomas Mitchell did it too in 1845 and are many others (see the map below, check Trove, ask the BOM — no don’t ask the BOM). The records prior to 1910 seem to have gone down the memory hole, [...]

Monckton responds: the economics, the creatures, the acidification!

UPDATED with another reply (See below)

Across my desk came another one of Christopher Monckton’s many analytical entertaining parries, which I see SPPI has published already. Monckton and SPPI have supporting information in the documents linked from the images. – Jo

Dear Professor Bada,

You reply to my earlier email as follows (with some ad-hominem instances of the ignoratio elenchi fallacy removed):

“OK so you accept global warming but say from an economic standpoint we would destroy our societies by trying to mend our ways. What about all the other creatures on the Earth? Do they have any say in your economic based claims we should to do nothing? What about ocean acidification from increasing CO2 and its affects on photosynthetic organisms?”

Let me deal with your three points seriatim.

First, mitigation economics. You may like to look at the attached reviewed paper that was published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the World Federation of Scientists. The analysis is in line with the reviewed literature in concluding that attempted mitigation today would be 1-2 orders of magnitude costlier than adaptation the day after tomorrow. The calculation, which is simple and survived unchallenged after 90 [...]

One vulnerable coral type adapts to ocean acidification in just 6 months

Credit: S. Ross et al., UNCW

We already know that pH varies naturally across the oceans of the world. In some sites, it varies more in a single day than global oceans are likely to face in a century.

But cold water corals live in deep water, are slow growing, and hard to study.

Six years ago, experts in cold water corals were telling us how they would be likely to fall victim to ocean acidification first, and that they believed this for good reasons but with little experimental data. But about a year ago data came out (by one of those same experts) showing that rather than being the badly affected, cold water corals adapted to effectively very high levels of CO2 and possibly even increased their calcification rates. Eight days after the pH was changed suddenly, the corals did worse. But when the experiment was continued for six months, the results turned right around. The researchers pointed out how useful longer studies are: “This is the first evidence of successful acclimation in a coral species to ocean acidification, emphasizing the general need for long-term incubations”. The paper is called “Acclimation to ocean acidification during long-term CO2 exposure in [...]

Scripps blockbuster: Ocean acidification happens all the time — naturally

There goes another scare campaign.

Until recently we had very little data about real time changes in ocean pH around the world. Finally autonomous sensors placed in a variety of ecosystems “from tropical to polar, open-ocean to coastal, kelp forest to coral reef” give us the information we needed.

It turns out that far from being a stable pH, spots all over the world are constantly changing. One spot in the ocean varied by an astonishing 1.4 pH units regularly. All our human emissions are projected by models to change the world’s oceans by about 0.3 pH units over the next 90 years, and that’s referred to as “catastrophic”, yet we now know that fish and some calcifying critters adapt naturally to changes far larger than that every year, sometimes in just a month, and in extreme cases, in just a day.

Data was collected by 15 individual SeaFET sensors in seven types of marine habitats.  Four sites were fairly stable (1, which includes the open ocean, and also sites 2,3,4) but most of the rest were highly variable (esp site 15 near Italy and 14 near Mexico) . On a monthly scale the pH varies by 0.024 to 1.430 [...]

The chemistry of ocean pH and “acidification”

The ocean acidification threat is a big can of worms. I asked Professor Brice Bosnich to help create a quick reference page on the chemistry and was pleased he could find the time to help. Here’s everything you wanted to know about the basics…

He explains what pH means, and points out that:

Ocean pH varies by 0.3 naturally. Claims of acidification since 1750 are based on dubious models and few observations.

There are reasons to assume that marine life will not be overly affected by an increase in ocean acidity due to atmospheric carbon dioxide:

Ocean life evolved and survived far higher levels of CO2 for millions of years in the past. Marine organisms actively create carbonate shells (using energy) which means crustacea, corals and molluscs aren’t automatically prey to pH changes in the same way that say a limestone rock would be. The world’s oceans may have warmed a mere 0.17C since 1955, hardly a significant threat to marine life.

We also find out that acidic water is added to the ocean from rainfall and floods (and he explains why raindrops will always be acidic).

There are more pressing threats. — Jo

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Guest Post by Professor [...]

Ocean Acidification — a little bit less alkalinity could be a good thing

In Brief: The oceans are not acidic, and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future. Many of the fears and alarming scenarios are based on models. Many scary headlines are based on studies of extreme pH values beyond the range of anything realistic.

Incredibly, hundreds of studies show that for pH changes that we are likely to encounter in the next 100 years, there is arguably a net benefit to underwater life if the oceans became a little less alkaline.

Alarming fears about unrealistic ocean pH’s

“Some ocean pH’s studied were so extreme they are only seen on Star Trek”

Studies of how marine life copes with less alkaline conditions include many experiments with water at pH values in a range beyond anything that is likely on planet Earth — they go beyond the bounds of what’s possible. There are estimates that the pH of the ocean has shifted about 0.1 pH unit in the last 200 years, yet some studies consider the effects of water that is shifted by 2 or even 4 entire pH units. Four pH units means 10,000 fold change in the concentration of hydrogen ions). That’s a shift so [...]