Thursday, January 10, 2008

Elevator trouble

Simon Donner at Maribo rushed into the elevator and started to show everyone pictures of his kids. Eli noticed another one that Simon had posted on his web site the implications of which will limit your kids and your futures soon. Go read it. Simon thinks that scientists don't know how to communicate danger. Eli thinks Simon and the coral scientists stepped on their lede. Simon noted that

"Scientists, alas, are not great marketers. The plight of the world's coral reefs is a tough sell at a time when most North Americans are "holiday" shopping and powering all manner of coloured lights, inflatable Santas and animatronic reindeer (though the review did garner some front page and radio attention the week of publication).The figure to the right is the first half"
But maybe it is much worse. The figure to the right is the second part of the one at Maribo. As you can when you increase atmospheric CO2 this has the effect of increasing the acidity of the ocean [H+] which in turn decreases the carbonate [CO3 2-] concentration. Carbonate is what sea life builds shells from, and in the end coral reefs. If carbonate decreases that means fewer shells on the beach, no huge deal, no coral reefs, bad, but worse it means that the biological pump could be weakened.

The biological pump is one of the major mechanisms through which excess CO2 in the atmosphere moves into the deep ocean where it is substantially diluted. Without the biological pump, carbon in the three shallow reservoirs, soils and veg, upper ocean and atmosphere pretty much would stay there for a much longer time which means that beyond 480 ppm and a couple of degrees C, we are could be stuck until Milankovitch cycles cool things off enough to drop below the line for forming carbonate shells.

Now this is an exaggeration, because if you go to Maribo and look at the other half of the figure, you will see that even at high CO2 concentrations, if the ocean temperature is low enough (think high latitudes), then carbonate shells can still form, and much of the biological pump is due to phytoplanckton at high latitudes and there are many other issues, but what is true for coral reefs must to some degree should also at some level be true for the biological pump

UPDATE: In the comments Hank Roberts points to work indicating that the biological pump may indeed be slowed down in northern waters such as the Bering Sea.

The scientists found that greenhouse conditions favored smaller types of phytoplankton over diatoms. Such a shift would ripple up the food chain: as diatoms become scarce, animals that eat diatoms would become scarce, and so forth.

“The food chain seems to be changing in a way that is not supporting these top predators, of which, of course, we’re the biggest,” Hutchins said.

A shift away from diatoms towards smaller phytoplankton could also undermine a key climate regulator called the “biological pump.”

When diatoms die, their heavier carbon-based remains sink to the seafloor. This creates a “pump” whereby diatoms transport carbon from the atmosphere into deep-sea storage, where it remains for at least 1,000 years.

While they discovered that increasing CO2 significantly increased the amount of photosynthesis in the smallest phytoplankton, this made little difference as the larger diatoms that feed off the nanoplankton formed much more slowly cutting the food chain and slowing the biological pump.

21 comments:

stevesadlov said...

Show me your ocean pH study, with 6 sigma gage R & R for both temporal and spatial variation. Post it here, show the world.

stevesadlov said...

Heck, I'd even take 2 sigma gage R & R. Show me.

Chris Wilkes said...

Now this is an exaggeration, because if you go to Maribo and look at the other half of the figure, you will see that even at high CO2 concentrations, if the ocean temperature is low enough (think high latitudes), then carbonate shells can still form, and much of the biological pump is due to phytoplanckton at high latitudes and there are many other issues, but what is true for coral reefs must to some degree shoulc also at some level be true for the biological pump

Is that one sentence with 86 words? Anyway I'm not sure if this is the type of "marketing" that you want that relies on exaggeration.

EliRabett said...

Chris Eli is trying to think through the implications to first order. After we get those you start to look at the details. Sorry, I trained as a physicist and the world is a sphere.

Anonymous said...

Steven Mosher,

Eli physics huh?, I trained as poet and even I know the world is an oblate spheroid. What has become of our science education.

EliRabett said...

Elephants are two grey spheres

Chuck said...

"if the ocean temperature is low enough (think high latitudes), then carbonate shells can still form"

Doesn't carbonate solubility increase with lower temperatures?

EliRabett said...

Chuck, gas solubility increases with decreasing temperature. Increasing temperature increases the solubility of ionic compounds. The equilibrium here is complex involving a lot of buffering and several steps.

Hank Roberts said...

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-01/uosc-gom011108.php

"... Carbon dioxide’s direct effects on the ocean are often overlooked by the public.

“It’s all a good start that people get worried about melting ice and rising sea levels,” he said. “But we're now driving a comprehensive change in the way Earth's ecosystem works—and some of these changes don't bode well for its future.”

The study examined how climate change affects algal communities of phytoplankton, the heart of marine food webs.

..."

Marion Delgado said...

This comment thread starts out with a couple of classic signifiers for sheer lunacy. Since I suspect most people not interested in the auto industry or industrial quality control had no idea what the troll was babbling about, it's "6 Sigma™" Gauge Repeatibility and Reproducibility, a trendy bit of Motorola crap for industrial gauges (no, really, industrial gauges) pushed by the Automotive Industry Action Group. It has f__k-all to do with any science data whatsoever, ever. And the troll seemingly has no idea of how utterly nutbar this entire line is.

This being the case, the chance that any human anywhere, anytime, has applied this absurd shite to, say, coral bleaching or ocean acidity is of course zero. Just as they don't measure phlogiston or unicorn droppings.

By the way, since it was touted as a cure-all, it's been UNIVERSALLY PANNED even for its ostensible purpose of quality control, by Fortune, Business Week, The Wall St. Journal, etc. etc. People were fired for following it blindly.

Hint to future trolls - not the clinically insane ones such as the first commenter here, but simply the normal run of furious and incompetent right-wing paramedia talking point refractors:

Scientific data has the accuracy it has. Analysis of scientific data has the confidence it has. Statistical inferences have the confidence and accuracy THEY have. These are derived from the conditions under which the data is gathered as well as the methods.

To bring up a standard such as "we want your numbers to go out to 6 standard deviations according to calculations that don't even apply (hence the troll's bizarre use of inapt buzzwords) because Jack Welch at GE said so 15 years ago, and if not, we have the preemptive right to pollute the atmosphere and destroy as much ocean and land as we feel like" simply tags you as a downer troll with probable Troll Spongiform Encephalopathy.

guthrie said...

I assumed he was being sarcastic, because of the obvious stupidity of the question.

Lazar said...

Intimidating the impressionable and uninformed with cut-n-paste stats, misapplied, is the way CA works.

Thanks, Marion, for the clear explanation.

Steve Bloom said...

No, guthrie, he's a quite serious nutbar troll. He is, OTOH, representative of a class of denialist commenters who believe that climate science is falsified unless it can be explained to engineers in engineering terms, which in turn is somewhat reflective of an apparently-common belief among engineers that they are really smarter than those know-it-all eggheads.

Eli said we "could be stuck until Milankovitch cycles cool things off enough to drop below the line for forming carbonate shells." And we have how much confidence that the hoped-for +2C wouldn't be enough to trigger a PETM-like event? In that case, the next and probably the next couple of glaciation signals won't be a problem.

BTW, inspired by Paul Ehrlich's coining of "Arbustocene" for the present ramp-up, I'm flogging "Inhofian" for the name of the new PETM-like climate era. It seems prudent to name it in advance.

Steve Moolb said...

Steve Bloom,
You said this about UAH in 2006:
"UAH is a rather different story. Their peer-reviewed pie in the face was one of the most spectacular come-downs in the history of science. Don’t tell me you missed it? If so, everything you know must have come from skeptic/denialist sites, since those are the only sources that managed to ignore or downplay it. See this for the gory details with links."
http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=777#comment-40602

.....one of the most spectacular come-downs in the history of science?

Spurious warming from RSS?

The gory details with links:
http://climatesci.colorado.edu/2008/01/01/important-new-paper-using-limited-time-period-trends-as-a-means-to-determine-attribution-of-discrepancies-in-microwave-sounding-unit-derived-tropospheric-temperature-time-by-rmrandall-and-bm-herman/

Care to revise and extend your remarks?

hapa said...

wait, i'm confused. diatoms have silicate shells. glassy not gassy.

hapa said...

ah, ok, got my answer. they're glassy, and because of that, they cycle fast, so they move organic material around faster than other critters who're more organic but shop at more reliable hardware stores.

Simon Donner said...

Thanks for keeping this discussion alive. I'll be posting more on this soon.

There's an ongoing debate among the coral reef science community about how to best communicate the urgency of the CO2 and temperature (ie. bleaching) problems: argue for global action to reduce emissions or/and argue for decreased local pressure (fishing, sediments, etc.) to increase resilience to the global threat. The fear among many seems to be that emphasizing the global threats too much may make people in the tropics conclude they have no control over reef futures, thus hurting conservation initiatives that could increase resilience to the climate/chemistry threat.

Steve Bloom said...

So you think it's smart to correct the sats from the sonde data, Mr. Troll? I think that would be a mistake. Recall what the CCSP report had to say about the sondes. Also, while I don't know who Randall is, Ben Herman is a second-rater emeritus. While I'm sure C+S appreciate his loyalty, don't you think it was a bit unscientific of him to have announced his results over at RP Sr.'s before having had a chance to look at RSS's most recent version? It's a bit sad.

Oh, and sweetie: Those who pay the most attention generally get the last laugh (and/or a carrot). Do your homework.

Anonymous said...

Marion,

You are correct.

Wikidpedia has this to say about 6 sigma engineering standards:

"In particular, processes that operate with six sigma quality produce at defect levels below 3.4 defects per (one) million opportunities (DPMO)[3]."

Presumably, what Sadlov is suggesting is that the uncertainty of a scientific result would be known to within 3.4 parts in 1,000,000 or, in other words, with
99.99966% certainty.

With a standard like that applied to climate science, is it any wonder that these people deny that global warming is real?

It is kooky, but most of the people who push this crap have no clue how kooky they sound.

Chuck said...

Expecting manufacturing-level uncertainty from Earth sciences makes perfect sense provided that one believes that the Earth was created by an intelligent designer...

Chuck said...

Also, half a book chapter on carbonate saturation in the oceans...
http://books.google.com/books?id=Xt5T8LtPjBgC&pg=PA283&lpg=PA283&dq=lysocline+latitude&source=web&ots=acON1IopT4&sig=eUta3mjo8yTsPxPshZg74VF3b0A#PPA281,M1