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Corals ask: "Ocean acidification? Are we bovvered?"

Some months back I mentioned a fascinating study about a coral reef that was thriving at pH levels far lower than predicted by the most morbid of global warming doomsters. Hot on the heels of that rather surprising work comes another paper that finds that healthy coral reefs exhibit spikes in acidity:

The researchers observed the chemistry of the water on the reef between 2007 and 2012. During that time, there were two sharp spikes in acidity – once in 2010 and again in 2011.

The team found that coral growth itself made the water more acidic as the corals sucked alkaline carbonate out of the water to build their skeletons. The corals also ate more food during these high-activity periods and pumped more CO2 into the water, increasing acidity further.

One of the study authors wonders if coral are even bothered about ocean pH.

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Reader Comments (29)

well if the coral aint bovvered then niver am I

Nov 9, 2015 at 9:00 PM | Registered CommenterDung


Nov 9, 2015 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

From the New Scientist article ...

Andreas Andersson of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, and his colleagues carefully monitored a coral reef in Bermuda for five years, and found that spikes in acidity were linked to increased reef growth.

Well, someone's gotta do it.

Nov 9, 2015 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

Anyone would think the CAGW mantra has skewed all forms of science over the years through the medium of grants for projects - follow the mantra and get the money.

It now appears that real science is starting to fight back and we are beginning to see scientists looking at real original data. The question therefore becomes - how long will it last before the green blob tries to fight back?

Nov 9, 2015 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Yes, it's a tough life spending 5 years in Bermuda - but somebody has to do it. perhaps after 5 years they forgot what the conclusion was supposed to be.

Nov 9, 2015 at 10:02 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Corals ask and the IPCC lay

Nov 9, 2015 at 10:34 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Does cooking and/or preparing shellfish with mild acids such as wine or vinegar cause the shells to soften or disintegrate?

Nov 9, 2015 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Does cooking and/or preparing shellfish with mild acids such as wine or vinegar cause the shells to soften or disintegrate?

I'd like to know that too. Where do I apply for funding?

Nov 9, 2015 at 11:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

graphicconception, I meant with the wine on the shellfish, not in the cook, as that causes carefully prepared recipes and menus to disintegrate, which can make a meal more entertaining than nutritious.

Nov 9, 2015 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Does cooking and/or preparing shellfish with mild acids such as wine or vinegar cause the shells to soften or disintegrate?

Take two pearls in a cup of Egyptian wine and call us in the morning.

Nov 9, 2015 at 11:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Any chemist can tell you about solubility products. When you increase concentrations of one of the ions, more material precipitates out. Carbonate and bi-carbonates do confound the equations some but that's why the the solubility of of calcium carbonate goes down as temperature increases. There is a reason why there are corals reefs only where the water is warm.

Nov 9, 2015 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean

There needs to be a website....Russell does NOT do biology...maybe VVVV. notVVussel .co,

Nov 9, 2015 at 11:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Is a bit like 5 veg a day until we "know" we should absolutely not eat more than 4 veg a day
Instead of the 5th veg we shall eat butter and drink full fat milk now.

Scientists is there Aaaanything they DONT rretract??

Nov 10, 2015 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterVenusCold


"...Russell does NOT do biology..."

Possibly understandable as traits are not biological, more likely of silicon-neuron derivation with an in-out-incompatible operating system?


Nov 10, 2015 at 12:25 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Good find. Confirms that the Australian Fabricious study from Milne Bay PNG constitutes arguable scientific misconduct, since her transects also involve hydrogen sulfide from those volcanic fissures. H2S has an LD 50 (lethal dose for 50% of organisms) of 30 ppb! for ocean organisms like coral, shrimp, and crab. The sole exception is blue mussels, where the LD50 is ~150 ppm. On her disastrous 'warming' transect, her own SI reported 153 ppm. Poison, not heat.
Essay Shell Games in ebook Blowing Smoke (with illustrations), foreword by Dr. Judith Curry.

Nov 10, 2015 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Speaking from experience ........

A sea urchin barb in the foot is painful, and hacking with a stanley knife blade only creates a bloody mess. The traditional technique amongst Mediterranean fishermen, is to soak the area for a few hours in olive oil, whereupon the barbs can be simply eased out. It works!

As olive oil does not soften calcium carbonate, I presume some kind of skin shrinkage is occurring? Osmosis?

I suggested this to a Doctor, when faced with a child in distress, sailing in the Med on holiday. She only tried it, because she had failed to extricate the barb using conventional wisdom. It worked.

Perhaps soaking climate scientists in olive oil, will extricate them from the messy barbs of undamaged coral.

Nov 10, 2015 at 12:41 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I despair of ever seeing a rational treatment in the MSM of the chemistry with respect to coral reefs and pH .

It is as much a matter of kinetics as thermodynamics: The Great Barrier Reef is sitting on millions of years of accumulated carbonate buffer. It is not going anywhere significant any time soon. And neither is the pH

As a crude analogy: A penguin sitting either at the Antarctic coast or the South Pole would have to wait an awful long time to give a flying f*#$k about melting ice. They sit on the fricking ice, for chrissakes. Where the ice is melting, it is always zero degrees Celsius (or slightly less in sea water).

The same physico-chemical principles apply where solid carbonate reef meets the ocean. Imagine a coral polyp is a penguin sitting on the ice shelf: the ice shelf moves a fraction, so does the penguin.
Jesus wept.

Nov 10, 2015 at 3:11 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

golf charlie:

I think soaking climate "scientists" in hot olive oil would do wonders.

IF rising CO2 raises the global temperature, then it would reduce the solubility of CO2 in water, so the Gullible have to stop claiming it is all one way to doom.
Most CO2 is dissolved in water not reacted, and not going to react, to form bi-carbonic acid. Further that react is pH dependent and reduces as the pH goes lower.
Carbonic acid is a weak acid, not a strong one. Every time I hear that "rising CO2 will acidify the oceans" I remember my chemistry, climb up on my hind legs and shout Bull S**T. No conceivable level of CO2 will acidify the oceans. 4000 ppm won't do it. on the other hand sulphur di- and tri-oxides, hydrogen sulphide and even hydrogen fluoride (Laki eruption 1783) from volcanic activity will act as strong acids and as toxic materials as well (as Rud Istvan points out above).

Nov 10, 2015 at 7:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

How acidic are dead corals?

Nov 10, 2015 at 8:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Aila, I don't think dead coral is acidic, otherwise my teachers at school would have risked acid burns everytime they tried writing on a blackboard.

Nov 10, 2015 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

@Aila may have just pointed out that there is a self correcting part of CO2 caused PH fall ie that if a piece of coral dies then as the piece next to it sees increasing ph as its dead neighbour dissolves.

Nov 10, 2015 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterstewgreen

stewgreen, so nothing to change the solubility of shellfish cooked in a white wine sauce?

Nov 10, 2015 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I think I am right in saying that once you have taken the trouble to soak a climate scientist (a what???) in olive oil for a few hours, you are obliged to cook them.

Nov 10, 2015 at 11:36 AM | Registered CommenterDung

"coral growth itself made the water more acidic"
So if acidity is de-facto bad then we need to get rid of coral? This is a bit like the Hansen argument that manmade aerosols supposedly saved us from the CO2 warming: If true then mitigation causes warming.

Nov 10, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

'Ocean acidification' - ah, yes....

Conjures up pictures of concentrated sulphuric acid (as I'm sure its meant to)...

What it ACTUALLY means is pH reduced from (say) 7.4 to (say) 7.39.....

No - I'm sure corals aren't in the least bit 'bovvered'....

Nov 10, 2015 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

I once did an estimate of the area underlain by coral, which led to an estimate of the tonnage of CO2 that would be absorbed by the coral's growth is the oceans rose by 1cm - if it happened all at once, the CO2 levels in the atmosphere would drop to about 340ppm. It's called negative feedback, an important feature of dynamic systems unfortunately ignored by the IPCC.

Nov 10, 2015 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe_Iceman_Cometh

The_Ice_Man_Cometh, the IPCC ignore all data that leads to negative revenue feedback.

Nov 10, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Expect the alarmish suddenly not to be interested anymore in coral reefs..they will drink their kool-aid elsewhere now.

Nov 10, 2015 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenusCold

Russell, you clearly need some remedial education-
1) Most wine pH's fall around 3 or 4.
2) Seawater has a pH of around 8
3) pH is measured on a logarithmic scale so a pH of 3 is 100,000 (10 ^5) times more acid than seawater- no wonder your pearls dissolved.
4) "Worst case" scenarios for seawater pH change is about 0.4 pH units in about 150 years.
5) Do you really believe organisms won't be able adapt to a gentle change in pH of about 0.03 PH units per decade?

If so you are even more gullible than I thought possible.

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

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