Are The Oceans Going to Boil?

Haven’t ever said much here about the issue of ocean acidification. The theory is that even if rising CO2 levels don’t lead to Thermageddon, it will nonetheless change ocean chemistry by making the ocean more acidic, threatening coral reefs, etc. My chemistry is so rusty that I don’t have much of an opinion about this hypothesis, and it does seem that a lot of the carbon dioxide that goes “missing” each year (that is, the accumulation of ambient CO2 is about half what the simple emissions models say it ought to be) is ending up absorbed by the ocean.

NOAA offers up this chart as evidence of the phenomenon:

NOAA Chart 1 copy

Right away two obvious things should be said about this chart. First, the exact visual parallel between rising CO2 levels and oceanic CO2 content is an artifact of fiddling with the separate vertical Y-axes on either side of the chart. Sometimes compressing an axis, or displaying a curve on a logarithmic scale, is reasonable. Most of the time, however, you should view this kind of visual neatness with skepticism—especially in a two-axis chart such as this one. (My own default charting practice is to display items starting from 0 on the vertical axis, and offering a blowup of a sub-segment only if is necessary to illustrate the relevant dynamic changes in the data.)

Second, this chart begins its oceanic CO2 data around 1988. Are there any data before that? Can we reconstruct ocean CO2 data from proxies? After all, the climatistas are otherwise very talented at giving us estimates going back centuries for which we have no direct data at all.

Actually there apparently are direct data on oceanic pH levels going back 100 years, and a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, apparently heedless of his academic prospects for defying the Climate Establishment, says the complete data reach a different conclusion. Marita Noon reports the larger story:

Mike Wallace is a hydrologist with nearly 30 years’ experience, who is now working on his Ph.D. in nanogeosciences at the University of New Mexico. In the course of his studies, he uncovered a startling data omission that, he told me, “eclipses even the so-called climategate event.”

Feely’s work is based on computer models that don’t line up with real-world data—which Feely acknowledged in e-mail communications with Wallace (which I have read). And, as Wallace determined, there are real world data. Feely and his coauthor Dr.Christopher L. Sabine, PMEL Director, omitted 80 years of data, which incorporate more than 2 million records of ocean pH levels.

Feely’s chart, first mentioned, begins in 1988—which is surprising, as instrumental ocean pH data have been measured for more than 100 years — since the invention of the glass electrode pH (GEPH) meter. As a hydrologist, Wallace was aware of GEPH’s history and found it odd that the Feely/Sabine work omitted it. He went to the source. The NOAA paper with the chart beginning in 1850 lists Dave Bard, with Pew Charitable Trust, as the contact.

Wallace sent Bard an e-mail: “I’m looking in fact for the source references for the red curve in their plot which was labeled ‘Historical & Projected pH & Dissolved Co2.’ This plot is at the top of the second page. It covers the period of my interest.” Bard responded and suggested that Wallace communicate with Feely and Sabine—which he did over a period of several months. Wallace asked again for the “time series data (NOT MODELING) of ocean pH for 20th Century.”

Sabine responded by saying that it was inappropriate for Wallace to question their “motives or quality of our science,” adding that if he continued in this manner, “you will not last long in your career.” He then included a few links to websites that Wallace, after spending hours reviewing them, called “blind alleys.”  Sabine concludes the e-mail with: “I hope you will refrain from contacting me again.” But communications did continue for several more exchanges.

There’s a lot more to Marita’s report and it is worth reading the whole thing, but you can see where this is headed. Meanwhile, here is Wallace’s chart of ocean acidification with earlier ocean pH data plotted. It is a little hard to make out at a glance, but Wallace says it means “there is no global acidification trend.”  (Yes, the vertical axis here is also compressed, but there is only one axis, measuring everything together.  It’s when you have two-axis charts that mischief creeps in.)

Ocean Chart 2 copy


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