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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Anthony Watts and his illiterati at WUWT deny ocean acidification

Sou | 3:37 AM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts in referring to a post in which William Connolley at Stoat expresses frustration with the uncertainty monster Judith Curry, for her lack of understanding of basic chemistry among other things:

"Is is just me, or does professionalism and f-bombs not go together? Sheesh."
Sheesh, is right, coming from Anthony Watts.  He might frown on "f-bombs" but he's not shy when it comes to ad hominems rather than science.

Not that Anthony would recognise science when he saw it.  He ridiculously quotes a sentence from this study in PLOS One (my bold, not Anthony's):
This natural variability has prompted the suggestion that “an appropriate null hypothesis may be, until evidence is obtained to the contrary, that major biogeochemical processes in the oceans other than calcification will not be fundamentally different under future higher CO2/lower pH conditions".
I wonder does Anthony know what calcification means?  And I wonder why he didn't quote this sentence:
For all the marine habitats described above, one very important consideration is that the extreme range of environmental variability does not necessarily translate to extreme resistance to future OA. Instead, such a range of variation may mean that the organisms resident in tidal, estuarine, and upwelling regions are already operating at the limits of their physiological tolerances (a la the classic tolerance windows of Fox – see [68]). Thus, future acidification, whether it be atmospheric or from other sources, may drive the physiology of these organisms closer to the edges of their tolerance windows. When environmental change is layered upon their present-day range of environmental exposures, they may thereby be pushed to the “guardrails” of their tolerance [20], [68].

Or this one:
In contrast to more stochastic changes in pH that were observed in some sites, our coral reef locations displayed a strikingly consistent pattern of diel fluctuations over the 30-day recording period. Similar short-term pH time series with lower daily resolution [69], [70] have reported regular diel pH fluctuation correlated to changes in total alkalinity and oxygen levels. These environmental patterns of pH suggest that reef organisms may be acclimatized to consistent but moderate changes in the carbonate system. Coral reefs have been at the center of research regarding the effects of OA on marine ecosystems [71][73]. Along with the calcification biology of the dominant scleractinian corals and coralline algae, the biodiversity on coral reefs includes many other calcifying species that will likely be affected [74][77]. Across the existing datasets in tropical reef ecosystems, the biological response of calcifying species to variation in seawater chemistry is complex (see [78]) –all corals or calcifying algal species will not respond similarly, in part because these calcifying reef-builders are photo-autotrophs (or mixotrophs), with algal symbionts that complicate the physiological response of the animal to changes in seawater chemistry.
He seems to think the study was another "nothing to worry about" study.  He's wrong.

I won't bother with the dozens of ad homs in the WUWT comments.  Nor with the ignorant comments about acidification, pH and the like at WUWT (or Curry's blog).  It's very basic high school chemistry.  Or about the idiotic comments about corals and fish not being sensitive to pH.  That's very basic aquaculture that anyone who's owned a fish farm or home aquarium would dispute.  Sure, some species are more tolerant of a wider range of pH than others.  Some are very intolerant of any change beyond a narrow band.  Same with tolerance to temperature as has been widely observed in the ocean.  (And temperature can trigger or prevent breeding.)  An even bigger issue, which was brought out in the PLOS study quoted above, is the impact on the ecosystem as a whole, given the interdependencies.

Frankly, the more I read WUWT the more I see that what I snipe about them being illiterati is quite true. It would be hard to find more people gathering together who have such a disdain for knowledge as you'll find at WUWT.  Or such a large gathering of people who take so much pride in their ignorance.


  1. Sadly, ocean acidification in coastal and polar seas has been gravely underestimated. I'll be writing a fair bit about this at Skeptical Science over the coming months.

    Wonder what lame excuse will be trundled out to explain the marine critters being corroded away, and/or killed, taking place in the oceans as I write? The observations will pretty much speak for themselves

    1. I look forward to reading more of your articles, Rob.

      About the Antarctic, here's another quote from the PLOS paper:

      Biologically speaking, the Southern Ocean is a region expected to experience acidification and undersaturated conditions earlier in time than other parts of the ocean [47], and calcifying Antarctic organisms are thought to be quite vulnerable to anthropogenic OA given the already challenging saturation states that are characteristic of cold polar waters [53]–[56]. Short-term CO2 perturbation experiments have shown that Antarctic calcifying marine invertebrates are sensitive to decreased saturation states [51], [57], although the number of species-level studies and community-level studies are very limited.


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