Rate of ocean acidification the fastest in 65 million years

Feb 15, 2010
Sediment core spanning the Paleocene-Eocene green- house warming event 55 million years ago. The sharp transition from carbonate-rich shell sediments (grey-white) to pure clay (red) indicates the dissolution of carbonates due to ocean acidification. Photo by Daniela Schmidt on board the JOIDES Resolution Drill Ship.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new model, capable of assessing the rate at which the oceans are acidifying, suggests that changes in the carbonate chemistry of the deep ocean may exceed anything seen in the past 65 million years.

The model also predicts much higher rates of at the ocean’s surface in the future than have occurred in the past, potentially exceeding the rate at which plankton can adapt.

The research, from the University of Bristol, is reported in this week's issue of Nature Geoscience.

The team applied a model that compared current rates of ocean acidification with the greenhouse event at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary, about 55 million years ago when surface rose by around 5-6°C over a few thousand years. During this event, no catastrophe is seen in surface ecosystems, such as plankton, yet bottom-dwelling organisms in the experienced a major .

Dr Andy Ridgwell, lead author on the paper, said: “Unlike surface plankton dwelling in a variable habitat, organisms living deep down on the are adapted to much more stable conditions. A rapid and severe geochemical change in their environment would make their survival precarious.

“The widespread extinction of these ocean floor organisms during the Paleocene-Eocene greenhouse warming and acidification event tells us that similar extinctions in the future are possible.”

The oceans are currently absorbing about a quarter of the CO2 released into the atmosphere, forcing the pH of the surface ocean lower in a process called ‘ocean acidification’.

Laboratory experiments suggest that if the pH continues to fall, we may start to see impacts such as the dissolution of carbonate shells of marine organisms, slower growth, muscle wastage, dwarfism or reduced activity, with knock-on effects throughout the ecosystem.

Dr Daniela Schmidt, also an author on the paper, explained: “Laboratory experiments can tell us about how marine organisms react, but experiments cannot tell us whether marine organisms will be able to adapt to ocean acidification via migration or evolution.

“Therefore, a lot of attention has recently focussed on looking at known and biotic reactions in the geological record. Various types of geological evidence - the spread of warm water organisms towards the poles and the dissolution of carbonate sediments on the sea-floor tell us there was simultaneously both extreme warming and acidification at this time - the hallmark of a massive greenhouse gas release.”

On the basis of their approach of comparing model simulations of past and future marine geochemical changes, the authors infer a future rate of surface-ocean acidification and environmental pressure on marine calcifiers, such as corals, unprecedented in the past 65 million years, and one that challenges the potential for plankton to adapt.

They also argue that for organisms which live on the sea floor, rapid and extreme acidification of the deep ocean would make their situation uncertain. The occurrence of widespread extinction of these organisms during the Paleocene-Eocenegreenhouse warming and acidification event raises the possibility of a similar extinction in the future.

Explore further: Hurricane Edouard right environment for drone test (Update)

More information: Past constraints on the vulnerability of marine calcifiers to massive carbon dioxide release by Andy Ridgwell and Daniela N. Schmidt. Nature Geoscience, published online: 14 february 2010, doi:10.1038/ngeo755 .

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User comments : 26

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freethinking
1.6 / 5 (13) Feb 15, 2010
now that global warming is proven to be a myth, now its acidification of oceans is the reason they need to limit co2.

fourthrocker
3.5 / 5 (11) Feb 15, 2010
The proof that global warming is real gets stronger every day (just like evolution), no one has proven it a myth. Also, like evolution, more scientists become believers every day. Also, like evolution disbelievers, no amount of proof nor the word of every scientist will ever convince many of the global warming skeptics they are wrong. They are the same people who think we never went to the moon, that the world is flat, men co-existed with dinosaurs less than 10,000 years ago, the apocalypse can't happen soon enough, everyone should have 10 children, all religions are false except theirs, yada, yada, yada.
fourthrocker
3.8 / 5 (8) Feb 15, 2010
Yeah, it's a crying shame that there are consequences to using the ocean as mankinds toilet, someone should find the flush lever. Like a crapper that can't be flushed, the crappee will be flushed out sooner or later.
toyo
2.6 / 5 (10) Feb 15, 2010
By the way, all kudos to Dr Daniela Schmidt who emphasizes that we DO NOT know how organisms will adapt, making the point that there is a difference between laboratory experiments and real-world outcomes in an open-ended system as large as the Earth!

Keep this always in mind when you are confronted by "incontrovertible scientific proof" that CO2 alone, and not only that, but the small fraction of CO2 which is human-generated, is solely responsible for...Global Warming, Ocean Acidification, the-next-catastrope-whatever-it-may-be, take your pick.

Also, remember that MODELS are based on ASSUMPTIONS. They cannot tell you what you don't know. In other words one wrong assumption, one missing parameter and you've got a WRONG conclusion.
AND, in an open system, you generally cannot control all the variables, so you cannot prove your model works!

deatopmg
1.7 / 5 (12) Feb 15, 2010
Global warming may not be a myth but, surely from the predominance (or should I say "consensus") of evidence not the belief, AGW IS a myth. The only AGW is due to an increasing percentage of "official" weather stations being located in heat islands while up to 90% of the stations at higher elevations and latitudes, sine ca. 1990, been selectively removed from the overall measurements. http://scienceand...temp.pdf

From a chemist point of view (I was originally worried about this too), this acidification of the ocean by CO2 absorption appears to be blown way out of proportion, possibly because the AGWers need another falling acorn to claim the sky is falling, to replace the first, now discredited, one.

Note; nowhere does anyone (ever) talk about the actual pH reduction due to this acidification. The reason; it is insignificant because the system is strongly buffered due to the huge surface area of exposed CaCO3
freethinking
1.9 / 5 (13) Feb 15, 2010
AGW myth...
World may not be warming, say scientist
http://www.timeso...6317.ece

Professor Phil Jones, conceded there has been no rise in temp since 1995
http://www.dailye...w/158214

Mesafina
2 / 5 (3) Feb 15, 2010
freethinking, are you a religious individual?
freethinking
2 / 5 (13) Feb 15, 2010
Being religious is irrelevant on this topic, unless you you count AGW believers. There are scientific illiterate religious people who believe in AGW just as there are non religious scientific illiterate people who believe in AGW.
LenSteenkamp
3.8 / 5 (11) Feb 16, 2010
To all the Anti Global Warming activists: You have GOT to be kidding me! Do you _really_ want to tell me that you believe that the past decades' unprecented human activities are not having ANY influence whatsoever on the environment? I just cannot understand how you can be so illogical! Yes, I completely agree, we have been through periods of change in the past millennia, but SURELY you must agree that we are in some way interacting with the environment, in all probability negatively? Forget about your own selfish agenda and just THINK: logically we are changing things faster than happened in the past! It does not even take a scientist to figure it out - a school child can follow the logic. I am flabbergasted. Words escape me.
Birger
4.8 / 5 (5) Feb 16, 2010
Ocean acidification is a well-known phenomenon and cannot be dismissed as spurious data -anyone can take a sample of water and test the pH level !!
A conspiracy to misrepresent pH values is physically impossible.
freethinking
1.1 / 5 (10) Feb 16, 2010
LenSteenkamp we are having an influence on the environment. What we are not having is an influence on the weather. Spending massive amounts of money to solve a problem that doesnt exists takes away from the resources we can spend on solving real problems. Not only that the progressives that are pushing AGW are also taking away rights and will lead the majority of us into poverty. So following the AGW crowd will not solve any problems, but instead will lead to slavery and a worse world. Why people still follow the AGW crowd shows the truth in the statement if you repeat a lie often enough...
dachpyarvile
1.9 / 5 (7) Feb 16, 2010
Ummm...no. Fastest in 65 million years? Perhaps for a particular region. People should take a look at the sharp changes in pH in the relatively unstable South China Sea. The last, very fast change from 8.1 to 7.8 or so began hundreds of years before mankind emitted enough CO2 to do anything. That change was much more rapid than the above article discusses.

More samples are needed and more study also is needed before making such claims as the title of the above article states.
powercosmic
5 / 5 (5) Feb 16, 2010
now that global warming is proven to be a myth, now its acidification of oceans is the reason they need to limit co2.



Ha! Good one! Global Warming is no myth, and you will soon know this for yourself.

The radiation absorption characteristics of C02 are well-understood at a very fundamental level, and there is NO DOUBT as to what the consequences will be on our very precariously balanced climate, once it swings out-of-balance we are all along for the ride (that means YOU too, regardless of what you "believe" or not)

freethinking
1.4 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2010
powercosmic. What facts do you have to show global warming? We have had no warming for at least 15 years and any temperature variance has been within normal for the last 1500 or so years.
dachpyarvile
1.8 / 5 (10) Feb 16, 2010
Actually, freethinking, there has been warming over the last 15 years. It just has been statistically insignificant.

Conversely, there has also been a cooling trend at the latter end of the decade, but this also was statistically insignificant.

I was pleased to see Phil Jones finally admit that fact in a public forum. In any case, it certainly was unexpected when the predictions of the temperature models fell flat yet again. The truth is that the science certainly is not settled by any means even though the mantra of the masses has been that it was.
toyo
1 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2010
To all the Anti Global Warming activists:...Do you _really_ want to tell me that you believe that the past decades' unprecented human activities are not having ANY influence whatsoever on the environment? ...


Firstly, I don't call myself an Activist. I got into this when Hollywood 'celebrities' started publicizing the 1990 predictions of the first IPCC report of impending doom, most of which has now been toned down. There's your 'Activists' Len.!

Secondly, you miss the point completely.
There is a major difference between saying that anthropomorphic CO2 ALONE has created an impending GW disaster, and saying what you're saying.
Nobody denies that humans aren't having SOME effect on the planet, the whole issue is about understanding what that effect is, and NOT sowing seeds of panic before the science is settled, WHICH IT ISN'T!
So calm down, read, then read some more, and think things through Len. :-))
Caliban
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2010
I commend you all to the resources, painstakingly compiled over many years, of the WorldWatch Institute. Many will suspect a bleeding-heart liberal bias, but still, an invaluable compendium of information regarding the main inputs that feed into the present state of affairs.
An excellent brief of the big picture is summarized in their annual "State of the World" publication, which is available at most libraries, used book sellers, and Amazon(of course). After a few hours of digging, a modified -if not new- perspective may arise.
We live in a small world, and it is the only one we've got.
ArtflDgr
1 / 5 (5) Feb 22, 2010
The AGW people claiming its not a myth, and that acidification is the new crisis of which the only solution is state slavery... (funny how that always seems to be their one soltuion to everything, like MSG, or Adobo - makes everyting better just because).

they sound EXACTLY like the lysekoists!!!!

of course they probably were not taught about lysensko, and consensus science... that would have explained to them on facet as to the reason their ideological aims are not realizable and result in abject poverty and really really slow painful attritive death...

their basis of choices is founded in the peoples incompetence.

that in order to fulfill the words of the prophet marx, and bring about utopia early (as if we could make prophecy true, and not only true but arrive early by carco cult behaviors), they have to prove that your to stupid to govern yourself and accept distributive personal power over state slavery and control.

if you fall for it i guess you are stupid
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (5) Feb 22, 2010
...WorldWatch Institute...


Different political leaning; same editorial methodologies. I would no sooner go to this group than I would to the people who publish for Lyndon LaRouche. :rolleyes:

I clicked the link that led to the "Dateline: Copenhagen page" and was greeted by a blog post entitled "News Media Partially to Blame for Recent Climate Skepticism." They assigned at least partial blame to the Media for growing climate skepticism.

In a sense, they are right. After all, people get fed up with "the sky is falling" nonsense and then end up only with disappointment when predictions of gloom and doom fail to come to pass and find that groups of trusted scientists actually used exaggeration factors and fudge factors when publishing the data.

The full brunt of the majority of the blame falls squarely on the IPCC for failing to live up to their own much-vaunted principles of peer-review, etc.

And the IPCC did not cite a study. They cited WWF propaganda.
Caliban
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2010
I recommended the WWI as a resource for obtaining data- not as another media link. Look at the site map- there are links to tons of information that has been accumulated over many years. How you interpret it is entirely up to you. Additionally, there is "The State Of The World" publication. The information is there, and it covers a lot of ground. With this, as well, you can form your own judgement.
substanti8
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2010
There are hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies like this one:

One-Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Elevated Extinction Risk from Climate Change and Local Impacts
by Kent E. Carpenter (Old Dominion University) and 38 others

Science | 25 July 2008

http://dx.doi.org....1159196

ABSTRACT:

"The conservation status of 845 zooxanthellate reef-building coral species was assessed.... Declines in abundance are associated with bleaching and diseases driven by ELEVATED SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES, with extinction risk further exacerbated by local-scale anthropogenic disturbances. The proportion of corals threatened with extinction has increased dramatically in recent decades and exceeds that of most terrestrial groups.... Our results emphasize the widespread plight of coral reefs ..."
substanti8
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2010
Ocean acidification creates an ominous positive feedback loop for global warming:

Iron and the Carbon Pump
by William G. Sunda (Beaufort Laboratory, National Ocean Service, NOAA)

Science | 5 February 2010

http://dx.doi.org....1186151

"The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth's atmosphere has risen by 38% since the start of the industrial era as a result of fossil fuel burning and land use changes; if current trends continue, it is projected to increase further by at least a factor of 2 by 2100. About a quarter of the CO2 emitted through human activities has been absorbed by the ocean....

Shi et al. show that the resulting acidification of ocean surface waters may decrease the biological availability of iron, which could in turn reduce the ability of the ocean to take up CO2."

Effect of Ocean Acidification on Iron Availability to Marine Phytoplankton
by Dalin Shi (Princeton University) and 3 others

http://dx.doi.org....1183517
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (3) Feb 25, 2010
All of this, of course, is completely dependent upon whether the assumptions made in constructing the Mauna Loa series were correct. I have seen CO2 data that may call that into question.
DachpyarviIe
1 / 5 (3) Feb 28, 2010
Like everything else, I have 'seen' data but I'm not telling you where it is :)
yoron
1 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2010
Don't know what to say here:)

Well I do, but I get sort of tired. Just because you can read the article doesn't make you a climate scientist does it?

And denying a climate change doesn't make it go away. Accepting that there are a lot of unknowns to Earths system doesn't mean that we don't already know a lot. The young and the *stupids* will always tell you that they *know* It takes experience and brains to realize how little we really know.

Doesn't mean that we haven't already evidence for Global Warming, we do. We have evidence for man made CO2 too. Yes, it may be chock to some *know'ers* here but we do have that kind of evidence. Just look at the statistics and ice cores.

So?

While you *know it alls* discuss we are closing in to a 'tipping' again. Earth has done at least 20 such abrupt climate changes over the past 110,000 years. "The 11,000 years of modern climate is the "Holocene" era. But "Normal" climate for Earth is the climate of sudden extreme jumps--like a light switch.
dachpyarvile
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 12, 2010
Climate change always is happening and has happened for millions of years.

It is true that there have been at least 20 'tipping points' but man was not responsible for any of those. Are we so sure man will be responsible for the next one? The science is not settled. Let's see, roughly a few thousand scientists who support the AGW hypothesis vs. 51,000 who don't.

Statistics? Ice cores? Numbers can be played. Ice cores tell interesting stories, not all of which are readily told the public.

Mann et al. want so desperately to make the MWP go away that they invert data that says the opposite of what they want it to say and misinterpret data that lends a global aspect to the MWP (i.e., Tasmania, New Zealand, Vostok, GISP2, etc) and try to make the MWP into the MCA, etc.

Evidence for manmade CO2? What, delta-13C/12C? Several volcanos which recently have been sampled and retested have shown that they emit many tons of 13C depleted CO2. Yes, we know all we claim with certainty... :)