Ocean Acidification Doesn’t Lead To Species Die-Off, Surprising Scientists

Pia Heinemann reports in Die Welt today, Ocean Acidification Does Not Lead To Species Die-Off, on a new study appearing in the latest edition of Science. The study contradicts the assumption that ocean acidification leads to species die-off, surprising scientists.Abstract in Science here

Manmade emissions of CO2 are thought to be partly absorbed by the oceans, which in turn would acidify and pose a huge threat to calcareous organisms like corals and plankton. This is the horror story that has been widely circulating in the media for the last couple of years, and with ever-growing alarmism, at a time the dangers of global warming are turning out to be wildly exaggerated.

Italian and Swiss scientists have found answers by looking at 120 million year old sediment deposits. The team directed by Elisabetti Erba of the University of Milan describes new findings in the latest issue of Science.

It is not unusual for CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to surge after large volcanic eruptions. This has happened often in the past.

They examined microscopic fossils and nannoplankton from a time period just after large volcanic eruptions 120 million years ago, when the air’s CO2 content rose to about twice today’s level. Their studies contradicted their expectations. Die Welt writes:

Contrary to what was expected, no large-scale die-offs occurred among the organisms when acidification increased. The species simply adapted: They formed smaller shells and remained small.

They endured the changes far better than first thought.

Heinemann writes that the study also delivered yet another surprise:

Apparently, the oceans acidify with a delay. After the volcanoes erupted and the surface water pH value began to sink, it took 25,000 to 30,000 years longer for the CO2 effect to reach the sea bottom.

These new findings deal a massive blow to those hoping to exploit ocean acidification as the next disaster scenario to replace the discredited catastrophic AGW story. Expect the MSM to bury or spin the story.

Update/Note: Keep in mind that the plankton and coral studied were from 120 million years ago, meaning the species has since survived climate extremes and changes that were off the charts when compared to today’s mild natural changes. They’ve handled much colder and much warmer conditions with widely varying ocean chemistry.

Update 2: The Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany [Read here] is planning years of research on acidification, costing millions of euros, to study a bogus non-problem. They’ve teamed up with neutral Greenpeace, and so you can be sure they’ll come up with “catastrophic” findings and demand more money for reasearch. Whatever it takes to bilk the taxpayer out of money.

Explore posts in the same categories: Oceans

35 Comments on “Ocean Acidification Doesn’t Lead To Species Die-Off, Surprising Scientists”

  1. TinyCO2 Says:

    Does this also suggest that warnings that the oceans will be unable to absorb more CO2 (ie another tipping point) are also unfounded?

    • pgosselin Says:

      YES!
      Note that the period studied was 120 million years ago. Think about all the huge changes the earth has endured since that time – the hothouses, the meteor strike 65 million years ago, the huge tectonic changes, the 20 or so ice age/interglacial cycles over the last 2 million years, etc. etc. etc.
      Guess what? The plankton and coral survived all of it. They adapted every time. Today the warmists are screeching about a 1°C change. Utter hysteria. – PG

  2. DirkH Says:

    I have mentioned this already on a WUWT thread. Species usually have a variety of genes to choose from if they already survived according conditions; i.e. remnants of the varieties remain somewhere in the population and only become unused; often as recessive genes. Methylation patterns can switch off genes; epigenomics. Methylation can be controlled by environmental conditions via chemistry changes.

    And sexual reproduction gives you an advantage because of the combinations that can arise. Such species are rather well-equipped for a repeat of circumstances they have already survived once. They don’t have to rely on improbable positive mutations; they already have the genetic knowledge to adapt quickly.

  3. David Appell Says:

    You failed to note this sentence from the paper: “…however, past examples
    of ocean acidification occurred over tens of thousands
    of years, giving time for life to adjust to CO2
    concentrations as high as 2000 to 3000 ppm.”

    That’s significantly slower than today. Indeed, the very first sentence of the paper’s abstract is:

    “Ocean acidification induced by atmospheric CO2 may be a major threat to marine ecosystems….”

    Reply: The paper says it takes thousands of years for the CO2 effect to reach the sea floor. And in nature, life is always threatened -constantly. And believe it or not, life eventually ends. Really! -PG

    • Tim Whittle Says:

      Gee David, the paper quite clearly is talking of sudden changes in CO2 due to volcanic activity, which then surprisingly (not) take thousands of years to reach the sea floor. Interesting that you were unable to make that connection, after all, I’m just a dumb Aussie, and I figured it out pretty quickly…

      • Olaf Koenders Says:

        Onya Tim. Notably, they forget that undissolved Jurassic fossils of corals and shellfish annoyingly keep popping up in our museums. Will they ever learn? Sadly..

  4. cleanwater Says:

    Where is the world wide data showing that the atmospheric CO2 levels are really going up? We have only one long term location Maui and that’s only 50 years old and in the area of an active volcano? Give me a break. Lets get some real world wide data before we jump off the bridge.

  5. David Appell Says:

    Today CO2 levels are at about 400 ppm, increasing at 2-3 ppm/yr. At this rate, we’ll reach 2000 ppm in only about 600 yrs, hardly the “tens of thousands” of years that the paper discusses in historical terms. Many think we’ll reach it far sooner than that — you can work out the numbers of a geometric increase (about 0.6%/yr) for yourself…. let us know, OK?

    • Tim Whittle Says:

      Again, dumb Aussie pointing out the obvious here…

      “It is not unusual for CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to surge after large volcanic eruptions. This has happened often in the past.”

      These eruptions (vast, scary, massive, dwarfing anything we’ve seen recently, by the way) were SUDDEN. SUDDEN. Did you get that from the article, David? S…U…D…D…E…N. Certainly made 2-3 ppm look like a fart in a strong wind, eh?

  6. David Appell Says:

    > These eruptions (vast, scary, massive,
    > dwarfing anything we’ve seen recently, by the
    > way) were SUDDEN. SUDDEN.

    How sudden? You need to express this quantitatively.

    Because here’s what the paper says:
    “Throughout Earth’s history, there is evidence
    of large CO2 releases, greenhouse conditions, ocean
    acidification, and major changes in biota, particularly in marine calcifiers (7). In many cases, the geological record indicates that ocean biota can
    adapt to increased acidity; however, past examples
    of ocean acidification occurred over tens of thousands
    of years, giving time for life to adjust to CO2
    concentrations as high as 2000 to 3000 ppm (7).”

    That works out to a rate of (at minimum) 0.2 ppmCO2/yr.

    Current rates are about 10 times this.

    • Tim Whittle Says:

      Oh that’s right. Major volcanic events usually take thousands of years to happen. Silly me. Sort of like slow explosions. Yep, they happen all the time.


  7. David. Really. Are you listening? Good.

    No matter HOW fast our concentrations are increasing, the effect on marine life at the sea bottom will experience TODAY’S increases 25,000 years in the future.

    Still worried? Really?

  8. David Appell Says:

    Tim Whittle wrote:
    > Oh that’s right. Major volcanic events usually
    > take thousands of years to happen. Silly me.
    > Sort of like slow explosions. Yep, they happen all
    > the time.

    Do you want to debate seriously, or not?

    Of course volcanic events don’t take thousands of years to happen. The paper clearly referred to this period of time as that of carbon absorption in the ocean.

    The Science paper says that such carbon levels as 2000-3000 ppm take tens of thousands of years. That’s far smaller than today’s current trend.

    What exactly are you trying to say? Do you know? If so, can you be quantative about it?

  9. Allan Spear Says:

    For goodness sake David, how many times does that “dumb Aussie” have to explain it to you. It seems you have a reading comprehension problem.:-)

    But seriously, The eruptions happen SUDDENLY, difficult to quantify SUDDENLY, but it would be “a very short period of time”. This means that Co2 levels would rise “VERY QUICKLY”, certainly much faster than 2-3 ppm/year, but it still takes thousands of years for the effects of increased carbon to reach the bottom of the ocean. So, even an increase at the lightning fast rate of 2-3ppm/y will take thousands of years to reach the ocean floor

    The thing that realy gets me going though, is all these assumptions that everything is just going to carry on changing in the same way they are now for the next few centuries and even millenia. Making such extrapolations on this assumption is nuts! If we haven’t learned anything else, we surely have learned that the only certainty about climate (and almost everything else on this planet) is that it is always changing and adapting in a chaotic (read “unpredictable) manner.

    • denis Says:

      While it is true that climate is always changing, we have a lot of history. For example, in just the past 1.3 million years there have been 13 ice ages, average length 90,000 years, each followed by a warming period, average duration 10,000 years. Our current warming period has been longer than average, and who knows how much longer it will go, but just on that relatively “short-term” review, if you’re a betting man, we’ll be experiencing another ice age in the not too distant future.

      The google doc provides a climate tutorial:

      http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddrj9jjs_0fsv8n9gw

  10. Bruce of Newcastle Says:

    Natural pH appears to range from tropics to temperate zone more than 0.5 of a unit. My own experience is that temperature has a large effect on pH (since it is affecting H+ activity). So the pH is probably swinging between low and high values in the higher latitudes as they go between seasons.

    Human measured pH change is about 0.02 of a unit over the last 15 years (I’ve not researched this but I’m quoting a WUWT post, see link below). At that rate we’ve got a few years before we go out of natural range, only about 4 centuries.

    Furthermore for carbonate skeleton animals the activity of protons rises proportionately with the activity of CO2/HCO3 since the two are linked (CO2 + H2O H+ + HCO3-). Carbonate skeletons will be a lot easier to grow if there’s more CO2 dissolved in the water. Atmospheric CO2 certainly works that way for trees.

    Or you could always do your pH experiments by adding HCl, then there’d be no extra CO2. I wonder how the pH adjustments are made?

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/06/19/the-electric-oceanic-acid-test/

  11. John Marshall Says:

    Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been much higher in the past, 8000ppmv during the Ordovicean is an estimate but limestones were formed in great volumes then. To say that the oceans are becoming acidic is a complete lie. The normal pH range is 7.9 to 8.3, though this has not been established for all oceans of seas, and their alarmist cry comes at a pH of 7.9 which is still alkaline not acidic. CO2 does not remain as dissolved gas in the oceans but is converted to bicarbonate which raises the pH so maintaining a balance between the above values This bicarbonate is removed by corals, shellfish and other marine life to grow shell or skeletal material. The more CO2 the better this cycle is and the better the growth in the oceans.

  12. pgosselin Says:

    ATTENTION: Some readers appear quite knowlegeable on the subject of acidity. Perhaps one with some expertise could submit a post by e-mail as a guest reader to inform us on: what is the normal pH range in the oceans, where we are today, how fast we are moving, where we have been in the past, etc.
    Again I FEEL scientists and activists are misusing the science to bilk the taxpayer, e.g. more than $100 BILLION have flowed into climate science – and what do we have to show for it? -PG

  13. Will Says:

    In the following link there is finally incontrovertible proof that the atmosphere is heated from the top down.

    “The Diurnal Atmospheric Bulge, giant 1200º bulge of rapidly heated and expanding gases circling the Globe 24/7.”

  14. David Appell Says:

    cleanwater wrote:
    > Where is the world wide data showing that the
    > atmospheric CO2 levels are really going up?

    Are you serious?

    Please do a bare modicum of research before asking stupid questions. Start at the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center:

    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/

  15. David Appell Says:

    pgosselin wrote:
    > Again I FEEL scientists and activists are misusing
    > the science to bilk the taxpayer,

    As you have admitted that you don’t know the facts, what are the basis for your feelings?

    Reply: Just this little topic that we call climate science, on which governments worldwide have spent over $100 BILLION. That money did not grow on trees. – PG

    • Tim Whittle Says:

      At least a billion of which has been supplied by those evil Oil Companies which are vilified for giving anti AGW thinktanks a measly million.

  16. David Appell Says:

    Allan Spear wrote:
    > …The eruptions happen SUDDENLY, difficult
    > to quantify SUDDENLY, but it would be “a very
    > short period of time”.

    It is simply not true that volcanoes emit significant amounts of CO2.

    Today, volcanoes emit an average of about 200 Mmt CO2/yr.

    Humans emit about 24,000 Mmt CO2/yr — 120 times more.

    Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earthtalks-volcanoes-or-humans

    • Tim Whittle Says:

      Hmmmm. While I don’t have the numbers, I do know that the type of eruptions talked about from 120 million years ago are the type you’d better pray we don’t get now. Thousands of times more powerful than in recent history.

      And if it wasn’t the volcanoes, what was it that elevated CO2 levels to twice today’s levels rapidly? Pesky darned Dinosaurs and their SUV’s. Or do you think it was caveman burning wood?

      Hint: Cavemen weren’t around then. Maybe it was Aliens?

  17. David Appell Says:

    Dave Stephens wrote:
    > No matter HOW fast our concentrations are
    > increasing, the effect on marine life at the
    > sea bottom will experience TODAY’S
    > increases 25,000 years in the future.

    It is not concentrations at the “sea bottom” (~5+ km) that are most worrisome, but those in the first few hundred meters.

  18. David Appell Says:

    Tim Whittle wrote:
    > Hmmmm. While I don’t have the numbers, I do know
    > that the type of eruptions talked about from 120
    > million years ago are the type you’d better pray we
    > don’t get now. Thousands of times more powerful than
    > in recent history.

    If, as you admit, you don’t have the numbers, how do you know that past volcanoes were “thousands of times” more powerful than today’s?

    It seems to me you’re both giving numbers while admitting you don’t have any?

    Which is it? Either take some time to do research and present numbers that mean something, or refrain from saying anything. Thank you.

    • Tim Whittle Says:

      May… could… might. Bit like the pot calling the kettle black, eh? Show me the irrefutable evidence of a positive feedback between CO2 and water vapour.

      If it’s OK for you to demand such from me, I have the right to demand same in return. Thanks for your permission.

  19. David Appell Says:

    Tim Whittle wrote:
    > Show me the irrefutable evidence of a positive
    > feedback between CO2 and water vapour.

    So, instead of answering legitimate questions, you are deflecting by asking yet more questions on which you have not done your research.

    I understand.

    Your question has been amply discussed in the scientific literature, esp in papers by Ben Santer, but if you need a review you can look in a review report just published:

    NOAA NCDC
    State of the Climate in 2009
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate/2009.php

    Especially, read ch 2 sec 3.

    Do people here still believe in actually reading scientific papers and reports?

  20. David Appell Says:

    Tim Whittle, if you need even more guidance, here is the exact reference:

    NOAA, State of the Climate 2009
    published June 2010
    BAMS June 2010
    Chapter 2 (Global Climate)
    section c (Hydrological cycle)
    subsection I (Total Column Water Vapor)

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/index.php?report=global&year=2009&month=jun
    This report was just recently published and is available at

    • Tim Whittle Says:

      “formally attributed to anthropogenic change” referenced to Santer. The alleged feedback loop on which everything AGW rests is not discussed here at all.

      The grim reality is that Climate Sensitivity has been vastly overstated. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, mighta.

  21. David Appell Says:

    Tim Whittle wrote:
    > “formally attributed to anthropogenic
    > change” referenced to Santer. The alleged
    > feedback loop on which everything AGW rests
    > is not discussed here at all.

    It is certainly discussed here, ref: Santer 2007.

    Proof of AGW does now depend on feedback loops. Natural forcings simply do not account for recent climate. This has been shown time and again, and is summarized in IPCC 4AR WG1 Ch 9 FAQ 9.2 Fig 1, p. 703 (bottom three graphs)
    http://tinyurl.com/27ocvp .

    The grim reality is that Climate Sensitivity has been vastly overstated. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, mighta.

    See all comments on this post here.

  22. David Appell Says:

    Tim Whittle wrote:
    > The grim reality is that Climate Sensitivity has
    > been vastly overstated.

    How do you figure?

    We’re now about 110 ppm CO2 above the preindustrial baseline (35%). In that time we’ve seen about 0.6 C warming. Even a simple linear calculation of this data puts climate sensitivity at about 2 C, within the bounds of what the IPCC reports predict. And feedbacks are only starting to kick in.

    So what is your reasoning?

    • Brian H Says:

      Drivel. The “pre-industrial” figure of 270 ppm was faked by Callendar who cherry-picked a few of the lowest records; the actual measurements over the 19th C. averaged about 335 ppm. The 0.6°C increase is exactly in line with what has been going on since the last Ice Age, nothing to do with CO2. And so on. So I repeat: drivel.

      • David Appell Says:

        Brian H wrote:
        > The “pre-industrial” figure of 270 ppm
        > was faked by Callendar who cherry-picked
        > a few of the lowest records; the actual
        > measurements
        > over the 19th C. averaged about 335 ppm.

        This is laughable. Even Keeling’s first measurements at Mauna Loa, taken in the last 1950s, showed atmospheric CO2 levels of about 315 ppm. You’re trying to claim that CO2 levels *decreased* between Callendar and Keeling, an absurd notion.


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