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New Findings Show Increased Ocean Acidification in Alaska Waters

Alaska’s oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, which could damage Alaska’s king crab and salmon fisheries, according to new findings by a University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist.

This spring, chemical oceanographer Jeremy Mathis returned from a cruise armed with seawater samples collected from the depths of the Gulf of Alaska. When he tested the samples’ acidity in his lab, the results were more acidic than expected. They show that ocean acidification is likely more severe and is happening more rapidly in Alaska than in tropical waters. The results also matched his recent findings in the Chukchi and Bering Seas.

It seems like everywhere we look in Alaska’s coastal oceans, we see signs of increased ocean acidification. The increasing acidification of Alaska waters could have a destructive effect on all of our commercial fisheries. This is a problem that we have to think about in terms of the next decade instead of the next century.

—Jeremy Mathis

The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, seawater becomes more acidic. Scientists estimate that the ocean is 25% more acidic today than it was 300 years ago.

Mathis’ recent research in the Gulf of Alaska uncovered multiple sites where the concentrations of shell-building minerals were so low that shellfish and other organisms in the region would be unable to build strong shells.

We’re not saying that crab shells are going to start dissolving, but these organisms have adapted their physiology to a certain range of acidity. Early results have shown that when some species of crabs and fish are exposed to more acidic water, certain stress hormones increase and their metabolism slows down. If they are spending energy responding to acidity changes, then that energy is diverted away from growth, foraging and reproduction.

—Jeremy Mathis

Another organism that could be affected by ocean acidification is the tiny pteropod, also known as a sea butterfly or swimming sea snail. The pteropod is at the base of the food chain and makes up nearly half of the pink salmon’s diet. A 10% decrease in the population of pteropods could mean a 20% decrease in an adult salmon’s body weight.

The cold waters and broad, shallow continental shelves around Alaska’s coast could be accelerating the process of ocean acidification in the North, Mathis said. Cold water can hold more gas than warmer water, which means that the frigid waters off Alaska’s coasts can absorb more carbon dioxide. The shallow waters of Alaska’s continental shelves also retain more carbon dioxide because there is less mixing of seawater from deeper ocean waters.

Mathis said that it is still unclear what the full range of effects of ocean acidification will be, but that it is a clear threat to Alaska’s commercial fisheries and subsistence communities.


Aureon Kwolek

This article makes the assumption that the CO2 in the air is the source of ocean acidification. That may or may not be true. There may be other sources causing ocean acidity to increase.

Have we totally mitigated acid rain? Or do we still have acid rain in some locations, particularly in developing countries burning coal without advanced technology? Have we totally stopped burning Garbage? How about the effects of burning fossil fuels?

Have we mitigated thousands of ocean going cargo ships burning dirty bunker fuel? These vessels are spewing Black Carbon Soot directly on the surface of the ocean. Add cruise ships, diesel pleasure craft, tug boats, fishing boats, etc. They are also spewing black carbon soot and increasing ocean acidity. Cars and trucks, long haul diesels, heavy industries, people burning heating oil and wood, airlines and air freight carriers burning jet fuel. Military burning massive quantities of jet fuel, diesel fuel, and bunker fuel. Add the military soot impact of all of our wars. Add burning garbage dumps, etc. Do this year after year for 100 years, and this is what you get. Rising ocean acidity.

The modest increases in CO2 levels in the air are probably not the main cause of increasing ocean acidity. Besides, that process is limited to absorption dynamics. Land and surface waters constantly being spewed directly with black carbon soot is unlimited. Spew as much or as little as you will.

Don’t automatically assume that a modest increased level of CO2 in the air is the cause of ocean acidity. We are producing an astronomical amount of Black Carbon Soot across the whole surface of the planet – most of which runs off into the oceans. Forget about CO2. What happened to the word “Pollution”?


Aureon Kwolek

The modest increases in CO2 levels in the air are probably not the main cause of increasing ocean acidity

First off, it is completely beyond me how you can call 38% a 'modest increase'.

And why should I believe you, you do not show any evidence, no reference whatsoever to research that shows there might be another cause of ocean acidification. Do you actually have any of such evidence, or are you merely trying to sow doubt?

Acid rain only theoretically contributes to ocean acidification, but it is more a problem over land, where the emissions are. Acid rain is a localized phenomenon, limited mainly to the area where the sulfur emissions take place. Most sulfur emissions take place over land, where the industry is.

Add cruise ships, diesel pleasure craft, tug boats, fishing boats, etc. They are also spewing black carbon soot and increasing ocean acidity.

Since when is black soot is responsible for ocean acidification? This is of course nonsense. Do you know what you are talking about?

Aureon Kwolek

Acidification can happen to any body of water, and it’s not limited to acid rain. The emissions are not just over land. They are everywhere. There are massive sulfurous emissions also being spewed directly over the ocean and also migrating from land to sea.

Sulfurous chemicals bond with Black Carbon Soot, and wherever that soot falls, it can cause acidification. Kimberly Prather, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego “showed that jagged bits of fresh soot quickly become coated with a spherical shell of other chemicals, particularly SULFATE, nitrate, and organic carbon, through light-driven chemical reactions.” See: “Sulfate Lens Enhances Climate Warming Properties of Atmospheric Soot” (Green Car Congress).

“…We are seeing that SULFATE is commonly mixed with SOOT in the same particles.” (Kimberly Prather).

If acidification can happen to a lake, it can happen to an ocean. There are numerous ways that sulfurous soot can cause ocean acidification. It can stay suspended in the air for up to 2 weeks, and it can migrate in the wind and fall on land or water. Sulfurous soot can first fall on land and then be carried off in runoff water that empties into rivers that empty into the ocean. Or it can fall as a form of acid rain. Or it can fall directly onto the surface of the ocean - especially where precipitation or fall-out occurs over shipping lanes.

See: “Primary Cause of Global Warming Discovered, According to Dr. Peter L. Ward (MarketWire). Acid Rain is not a phenomenon. We have a good understanding of it. In fact, we reduced acid rain from coal burning power plants in the late 70’s, by switching to coal without sulfur, or by removing sulfur from coal exhaust. We are just now getting the engines produced to use low-sulfur diesel fuel. We are nowhere near finished eliminating sulfur from all fossil fuels, implementing the engines to use low-sulfur fuels, or removing sulfurous particulates from their exhaust. Sulfur is the problem, but it bonds with the soot, so the soot is the carrier that causes fall-out. New coal burning power plants are being built in India and China that may be causing more acidity falling on offshore waters - either falling as acid rain, or falling as sulfurous chemicals bonded to black carbon soot. That’s only part of the problem.

We are still producing massive amounts of sulfurous soot by burning sulfur laden diesel, jet and bunker fuels over land and sea.

The assertion that sulfurous acidification is just a problem over land is false. See: “Commercial Shipping Emits Almost Half As Much Particulate Pollution as Total Released by World’s Cars” (Green Car Congress). Since 75-80% of the surface of the earth is ocean, that’s where sulfurous black carbon soot, produced by commercial shipping, falls. This is based on the work of NOAA and the University of Colorado at Boulder, where researchers examined the exhaust from over 200 cargo ships, tankers and cruise ships:

“Ships emit sulfates…Sulfate emissions from ships vary with the concentration of sulfur in ship fuel, the authors found.” (Green Car Congress)

Sulfur in diesel and bunker shipping fuels was recently regulated. The newer ships are low-sulfur compatible. But a large percentage of military and older commercial ships are still burning high-sulfur fuels. This is no theory. We have physical evidence that thousands and thousands of ocean going ships have been spewing sulfurous black carbon soot onto the oceans for many years.

"Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary, it makes crops and forests grow faster. Economic analysis has demonstrated that more CO2 and a warmer climate will raise GNP and therefore average income. It's axiomatic that bureaucracies always want to expand their scope of operations. This is especially true of EPA, which is primarily a regulatory agency. As air and water pollution disappear as prime issues, as acid rain and stratospheric-ozone depletion fade from public view, climate change seems like the best growth area for regulators. It has the additional glamour of being international and therefore appeals to those who favor world governance over national sovereignty. Therefore, labeling carbon dioxide, the product of fossil-fuel burning, as a pollutant has a high priority for EPA as a first step in that direction." - S. Fred Singer, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia



It isn't sulfate driven. If it was then simple chemical analysis of the water would show elevated sulfate and sulfide levels. Same with nitrous compounds. You would know the kind of acid.

It must be also remembered that levels of these compounds are somewhat controlled. Or don't you support the Singer excerpt that you quoted. If they weren't to the extent they were in the past then this would have been recorded in past events. No such thing has occured. We have recorded deep level upwelling acidification, not surface which also doesn't support your supposition.

Then you have to ask the other thing which is that it's alaska. It's not next to a major polluting country. It would be affecting other places before it affected alaska.

It should also be noted that the paper's author has described the source of the acidication is due to the CO2 emmitted from organic life and that the water temperature holds the gas better and the geographical nature of alaska mitigates mixing.

PS. It's fairly obvious that you support the claims of people like Singer of the innoculous nature of CO2. It is legally defined as a pollutant. It is a waste product of life and our industry. Just because it can be used by plants doesn't mean much. I don't see the same arguements used for human garbage or of similar things. You don't think that you can kill lakes with plain fertilizer and not having it called it a pollutant?

The paranoid ramblings of Singer don't impress me. As an opinion piece, he gets to say what he feels. Not what is science, which requires peer reviewed observations and analysis. Biased blogs are not the place to get science. At the very least, start off with peer reviewed sites like sciam. It can hardly be said that the site you posted was unbiased or scientific. Op-eds aren't. Also the same scientists over and over? Just by posting that you lost any credibility.

Aureon Kwolek

What the researcher in the article is finding is from much more concentrated sources of acidification, which may or may not be sulfate driven. That’s not the issue. There are other sources of ocean acidification. A concentrated, localized source would be measurable, while widely scattered, diluted sources would not cause alarm. But over the course of hundreds of years, they are gradually contributing to the acidity of the ocean, along with the more concentrated sources.

Sulfates, nitrates and organic carbon bonded to black carbon soot – is causing gradual ocean acidification – as it precipitates out or falls onto land and sea. These are not going to be concentrated levels by the time they precipitate or fall-out. They will be diluted by run-off water, by wind currents, by water currents, and numerous other factors. They will also be diluted when they hit the water and are churned by waves and currents. They will not always occur in the same location, on a consistent bases, because of these shifting dilution factors. But they add-up over time.

“Scientists estimate that the ocean is 25% more acidic today than it was 300 years ago.” (from the above article) This didn’t happen over night. It probably happened as population increased, burning wood and oil increased, and especially since the industrial revolution ramped-up with fossil fuels, then the internal combustion engine, and uncontrolled industries, factories, power plants, cars and trucks, ships, aircraft, trains, etc., etc.. Add all that up, and you have a serious problem. We have more pollution today, in more forms, than we ever had. It’s not under control. Far from it.

“Somewhat controlled” – That’s weak but true. If you’re referring to the EPA. We have a long long way to go before we even get our own sulfurous bonded black carbon soot pollution totally under control. That’s because oil interests are embedded in the EPA, and because the EPA is politically involved in shifting the focus from localized pollution to global CO2, a universal control mechanism. They want to regulate everything with CO2, which is in the causal chain, but not the main cause.

Alaska is a polluting state, just like every other state is. It has a fishing industry that burns dirty fossil fuels – bunker and diesel fuels. It has burning garbage dumps, especially in rural areas. Because of its cold climate, it has a disproportionate amount of fossil fuels, heating oil and wood being burned for heat and power. It has oil industry pollution and flaring. It has ocean dumping. It has military and commercial aircraft flying overhead, dumping sulfurous soot from burned jet fuel. It has industries, power plants, cars and trucks, tractor trailers, locomotives – just like other states. ‘Depends on water currents and wind currents too. Don’t assume that the source has to be in Alaska. It could be migrating from Russia or somewhere else. ‘Even old offshore dumps are time capsules coming of age, with barrels of industrial wastes leaking into the ocean.

Even so, Alaska is only a small part of the problem, when you look at the massive global problem of sulfurous black carbon soot. And if you don’t believe there is any, stand on a hill overlooking a busy interstate, or watch an older diesel truck or locomotive or military transport plane go by, or an older ocean going ship burning dirty bunker fuel, or an older military vehicle getting 3 mpg on sulfurous diesel, or a community of people burning wood stoves in the dead of winter.

I don’t have issues with what the researchers found, the high concentrations at deep levels. I doubt that what’s being measured in Alaska is a universal effect, rather a regional physical effect, that may also be occurring in some other areas. Mainly, I have issues with the article’s assumption: “The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, seawater becomes more acidic.” (the above article). This may be contributing, but in my view, this is not the main cause of universal ocean acidification.

I don’t necessarily support all the views of Singer. I support his view of CO2 as a natural component of nature that is vital to our existence – not a pollutant. So do thousands of scientists and scholars. Labeling CO2 as a pollutant is absurd. Without it, our world wouldn’t exist.

What I get out of your biased blog is that - all these scientists and scholars who don’t blame CO2, in your view, are idiots and not based in science, because they don’t support your views and your slash and burn tactics.

That’s the problem with this whole global warming / climate change debate. This hasn’t been scientifically proven with complete and factual information. It was started by spin doctors and politicians like Al Gore. You call that scientific? When spin doctors make universal claims based on 1 out of 10 glaciers receding, when the other 90% of them are actually advancing. When they claim that the earth is warming, when it’s actually cooling. When even the President of the United States tries to instill fear in us, claiming that sea level is rising at an alarming rate. When the actual rate is 1/8 of an inch a year or less. One hundred years from now, at that rate, sea level would rise 13 inches. And by that time fossil fuels will be obsolete. There’s too many twisted studies with omissions and misinformation flying around, often paid for by special interests, even for the best of scientists to make accurate universal conclusions.

There is no unanimous concrete proof of indirect land use change or global warming based on CO2. What we have is inconclusive and conflicting information, skewed by hidden agendas, Cap and Trade politics, and those who stand to profit or control. Science is seriously being skewed by politics and greed. The EPA and the UN have also “cherry-picked” the data, in order to steer us toward CO2 as the cause of global warming or climate change, when the main cause is still what we used to call it - pollution.

You claim that only a “peer review” is accurate – That’s False. What happens is, the EPA and the UN stack the deck with peer reviewers who have the same views. Then “peer review” is biased in itself, depending on who is participating. An example of that is the recent “peer review” conducted by the EPA for regulating biofuels with unproven indirect land use change theory. Where the EPA recommended all the peer reviewers that were used. The “peer review” group included the author of the unproven and controversial indirect land use change theory, who was also an attorney, lobbyist, political activist and biofuel critic. Several of his co-authors were also on the “peer review”, and so were several other anti-biofuel political activists. The majority of them had conflicts of interest. The real experts on this would have been drawn from the USDA, but they were mysteriously not invited to participate. The EPA arrogantly claimed that the “peer review” process was fair, balanced, and grounded in science – when in truth, it was Not fair; it was Not balanced; and it was Not grounded in science.

Referencing a Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences from a major university does not damage anyone’s credibility. ‘Nor does a list of scientists and scholars stating their intellectual views.

Your comment on CO2: “It is a waste product of life and our industry.” For us, it’s a waste product, but for plants, forests, agricultural crops, algae and seaweed, etc., CO2 is food. They are converting CO2 into the oxygen we breathe. You say: “Just because it can be used by plants doesn't mean much”. That remark shows the caliber of your thinking. You are the one with the credibility problem.


You are making conjectures on your beliefs not on the observations.

The paper stated the source. Yet since you don't believe in it, you are spinning it. Period. Chemical analysis pointed out CO2, not sulfer. It can't be any simpler.

You say it's can be migrating. Good where's the study or empiracal evidence? Where's the reading offshore Russia or wherever? Where's the chemical analysis of the water? So because you believe it, it must be sulfer? That's complete conjecture and not science.

CO2 is not a food. It is a raw material that phototrophs use to create an energy storage material - suger. They, like animals, transform gluclose and oxygen into CO2 and water to process ADP to ATP for metabolic processes. And there are herterophic plants. Only in the broadest sense can CO2 be considered food. In the case of man made CO2 from industry and cars, it fits the description of pollution as a waste product that contaiminates the environment from our viewpoint since we are not plants.

And you forget the context which was that in high enough contration it's a pollutant just like anything else. Unless you are going to start calling your garbage fertilizer or some other crap stop using euphanisms. And you totally ignored fertilizer induced destruction of ecosystems.

Your rant against global warming shows a lot of misinformation. It shows many myths perpetrated by various denialists and their blogs. It's fairly obvious that you didn't get this information from peer reviewed sites. It certainly didn't start with Al Gore. As for the rant, it sounds more like a version of "it said", by which I mean it was probably from someone else's opinion of what happened. In other words a second hand interpretation at best and most likely from someone who had bias in the first place. I don't accept heresay information. It's far too easy to just lie.

The USDA supports CO2 induced AGW and has stamped it's approval on many papers like the US CCSP.

Peer review is the methodological basis of scientific evaluation of observations and hypothesis. Without it we have conjecture and supposition. Worse we have evaluation by people who have no training, skills or credentials. Like evolution, the peers who have passed through similar evaluations, review and evaluate it so that it meets quality standards. Those with merit survive. It doesn't mean those that survive are absolutely correct. It might still has bias. But over time as observations and theories get re-evaluated and tested, we get rid of bias and weed out the incorrect theories and better explain our observations.

Prof Singer is and does strain credibility. The handful of scientists that are used by the "denialists" are extremely small compared to the overwhelming support of AGW by every recognized scientific organization in the world. Virtually unpublished, they demand equal time for their unsupported views. The only support are unreviewed papers that they make themselves. And using a quote to imply that AGW is somehow just a power grab based on some paranoid logic rather than proof. Appealing to distrust of gov't without any proof? Why would that sway the science?

The credibility problem is yours. The fact that you disdain peer review means that your viewpoint has no basis in science. The peer review process hasn't been co-opted or anything else by environmental causes. It is the same process that has used in every other field. Paranoia of the scientific process? Right. It can't be that the denialists are wrong. You believe them, so they must be right. That's abserd.

The various claims denialists put out have been debunked. They have had over 20-30 years to change scientific opinion. That opinion did not start out with AGW on top. It does not garner support from governments, who do not wish to spend or tax for it. It is something that needs to be dealt with that everyone wishes we didn't but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. AGW got to the present state by the presentation of thousands of independently produced, reviewed, tested, supporting papers over a large area of different subjects.

Those with merit win. AGW has been and is winning.

Aureon Kwolek

OK so you have CO2 without evidence of sulfur. Fine. That does not prove that raw CO2 came out of thin air and entered the ocean to cause excess levels of acidity. That would be an assumption. That also does not prove that there are no other sources of acidity or causal factors, especially a source that adds minute amounts of acidity over time, that don’t display as unusual concentrations. We know that there are massive amounts of black carbon soot bonded with sulfate, nitrate, and organic carbon constantly being spewed into the atmosphere. It precipitates and falls out onto 20% land and 80% sea. These elements could very well break-up and become redistributed in seawater. Now prove to me that the CO2 came out of the air – you can’t.

It’s not that simple. Not when massive quantities of the same or similar soot pollutants that cause acid rain are continuously being absorbed by ocean waters. Perhaps you are the one denying that sulfurous black carbon soot is also a source of ocean acidification.

I didn’t say that all ocean acidity had to be sulfurous. That’s you reading into it. There is more than one source of ocean acidity, and we shouldn’t assume where it comes from, without factual evidence. I don’t deny the findings – the high concentrations of acidity found in the water by the researchers. Now show me the studies to prove that CO2 is absorbed out of the air by seawater.

There’s no concrete proof of where the acidification originated and where the CO2 originated. Simply taking a reading, and saying we have acidification at that location, and it came from CO2 from the air is only an assumption. That is, until there is factual evidence of where and how it originated. Look who’s making the conjectures.

I don’t deny that there may be some forms of regional warming or climate change. So far, there is not enough factual evidence to prove that it is occurring everywhere on a consistent basis. I challenge the false assumption that CO2 is the main cause. And so do a growing number. I see it only as a contributing factor, not the major player. Compare it to methane for example, which is as much as 22 times more potent than CO2. Then why aren’t we first mitigating methane, instead of regulating CO2? And why aren’t we regulating bonded black carbon soot, which is much more dangerous than CO2? Politics and Cap and Trade has a lot more to do with it than you will admit. This CO2 priority is not all about “peer reviewed” science. Besides - that can be bought and sold.

CO2 is not a pollutant. It’s only been classified as a pollutant, so it can be universally regulated, and through that regulation, whole industries would be manipulated. Cap and Trade will be defeated in the Senate. If we let environmentalists over-regulate industry and energy, then the cost of everything goes up across the board, we deficit spend into oblivion to cover the cost of bureaucracy, and we lose jobs, competitive advantage, and whole industries to countries like China and India that don’t implement. What a great idea.

You claiming that I ignored fertilizer is like me claiming that you ignored pesticides and a multitude of other things. Again, I’m not a denialist as you erroneously claim. There are higher priorities to address than atmospheric CO2. That’s oversimplification:

Sulfurous chemicals bond with Black Carbon Soot, and wherever that soot falls, it can cause acidification. Kimberly Prather, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego “showed that jagged bits of fresh soot quickly become coated with a spherical shell of other chemicals, particularly SULFATE, nitrate, and organic carbon, through light-driven chemical reactions.” See: “Sulfate Lens Enhances Climate Warming Properties of Atmospheric Soot” (Green Car Congress). “…We are seeing that SULFATE is commonly mixed with SOOT in the same particles.” (Kimberly Prather).

So tell me – are you a denier of this?

You say you: “don't accept heresay”. Then why do you make it up when it isn’t true. You don’t know me, and you don’t know what I know. So stop making false assumptions about where the information comes from.

I don’t distain peer review. I actually agree somewhat on your excellent description of it. It can be the ultimate tool. But then you go and make over generalizations that all peer review is squeaky clean and grounded in science, when some of it is not. Especially when the participants are stacked for or against a controversial issue. Again, peer review is only as effective as who sits on the review and whether they have a conflict of interest or not. The mess the EPA made out of their peer review of indirect land use change theory, in their attempt to restrict biofuels, is a disgrace. And I will carve that in stone for you. We do have proof that EPA is using false assumptions that cannot be supported by scientific fact, omitting vital information, underestimating and overestimating data, using outdated, unreliable information, following the agenda of the UN, and so on.

What is unacceptable is the use of scare tactics, false assumptions, and theoretical projections that will never come true. And then for government agencies or major universities to embrace them and then release the information as if it were fact.

Again, the words are yours. I don’t believe the denialists. But I don’t ignore them. I listen to both sides of the debate. You are making false assumptions about what I believe. You really don’t know. Also you are overconfident about global warming. Explain to everyone why the term climate change has been creeping in to take its place.

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