Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

On Top Of Sea Ice Death Spiral, Ocean Acidification Poised To Radically Alter Arctic

By Joe Romm on May 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

"On Top Of Sea Ice Death Spiral, Ocean Acidification Poised To Radically Alter Arctic"


google plus icon

The Arctic is the fastest changing place on earth. The most obvious and important change is the staggering loss of sea ice (see “CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed“).

In addition, “the Arctic marine waters are experiencing widespread and rapid ocean acidification,” a new study finds. This first-ever Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment, commissioned by the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), explains that the “primary driver of ocean acidification is uptake of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by human activities.”

We knew from a 2010 Nature Geoscience study that the oceans are now acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred. We are risking a marine biological meltdown “by end of century” as a 2010 Geological Society study put it.

As the lead author of a 2012 study on acidification in Science explained, “if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about—coral reefs, oysters, salmon.”

Here is a video from AMAP on Arctic Ocean acidification:

The Key Findings of the AMAP study are here.

Related Posts:


May 8 News: Washington Post On The ‘Elegant’ Tax Reform Policy That Also Cuts Pollution

It’s Official: $1 Invested In EPA Yields $10 In Benefits

40 Responses to On Top Of Sea Ice Death Spiral, Ocean Acidification Poised To Radically Alter Arctic

  1. john atcheson says:

    Yet another story that should be page 1, top of the fold and headlined in the broadcast media.

    But you won’t hear much about this, amid the cacophony of political food fights and Hollywood non-news.

    What a curious species we are.

    • Sasparilla says:


      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        The widespread superficiality you see is one of the effects of forcing a purposeful species into purposeless lives, ME

        • David Goldstein says:

          M.E.- your comment really, REALLY connects with things I have been thinking about lately…we, as a species, have been ‘telling a story’ for, what, 300,000 years? 2 million years? The story of ‘Filling the World’ in the quest for security, development, exploration and invention in the name of curiosity, creativity as well as greed and exploitation. As you say we are ‘purposeful’ beings. BUT- the story of ‘Filling the World’ has come to an end. It is time for a new story. But we have not noticed. We still try to tell the old story. The problem, of course, is that THE WORLD IS (OVER)FILLED. It’s on the verge of ‘breaking’ (as far as life support systems are concerned). We are connected to a story that has run out of power or vitality of purpose…if we do not acknowledge the ending of the old and then begin telling the new…well you know the rest. The ironic thing is we could (and still can) use what we developed along the way in the old story (technology, science, engineering) to help usher in the new.

          • Merrelyn Emery says:

            David, we told one story for at least 60,000 years and now, since the industrial revolution, we are telling another very different story. The old cultures did not ‘fill the world’, they respected the Earth as their mother, learnt her laws and lived within them. Her laws include the law of cooperation. We have defied that by organizing people into hierarchies of inequality of status and competition. The results are as you see, ME

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      There is more than one human species. The dominant type in the world under capitalism, Homo monstrum, don’t give a stuff.

      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        Now you are really taking it too far Mulga. The people you refer to are created by the design principle that underlies dominant hierarchies and their allied stupid corporate laws that have the single goal of maximizing shareholder value, plus all the allied mechanistic evaluations such as GDP. We have been taken over by a design principle, part of a world hypothesis which we can change, ME

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          I just have to disagree. These people have certain inherited character traits, many plainly genetically based, as well as epigenetic, and patterns of behaviour learned in the family and in education, religious and other institutions. There are numerous studies now that show that the psychological traits associated with psychopathy and sociopathy are vastly over-represented in the upper ranks of business. I would certainly add Rightwing politics and the MSM to that group. And it is this type who create the hierarchies of dominance that you so correctly identify, and which structures reciprocally reinforce and enforce the powers and privileges of those who created them. The principal such hierarchies, in my opinion, are the patriarchy, capitalism and Western civilizational supremacism. There are other, in my opinion lesser, ones, too. I think that you are in danger of putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps it is a dead-heat, a poor pun in the circumstances, with a dead horse lying in a burning cart.

  2. Paul Klinkman says:

    The Arctic Ocean is undergoing plenty of simultaneous changes. The ocean is getting hotter fairly quickly. The open ocean is devoid of ice cover, which changes the dynamics of survival for most species. For example, orca whales can get into the Arctic Ocean because they can come up to breathe. Polar bears will have to survive near human garbage dumps, on islands that the Alaskan brown bears can’t reach and in zoos.

    When the ice cap was solid it had little oxygen in the water. Now wind-driven waves are forcing large volumes of mixed air into the ocean.

  3. Superman1 says:

    “We are risking a marine biological meltdown “by end of century””. Irrelevant! At our present rate of fossil fuel use, BAU, the global climate models without feedbacks predict 5-6 C by end of century. According to Lynas and others, those temperatures mean extinction for myriad species, including us. With feedbacks, come forward a generation or two, depending on the strength.

    • David Goldstein says:

      Hey Supe et.al.- here is my ‘provocative’ climate article I mentioned the other day- now published, and relating very much to galloping ocean acidification, etc.: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidgoldstein/burn-baby-burn-a-climate-_b_3224411.html?utm_hp_ref=climate-change#comments

      • Superman1 says:

        David, Your article is well written, but I don’t agree that the concept would have much impact if it were to happen. I discussed that in a posting a couple of days ago; it doesn’t address the foundational problem.

        • Superman1 says:

          But, your article validates a point I have been repeating constantly. Your article was posted two days ago at 1415; it has garnered 24 comments. An interview with Jody Arias posted on HuPo yesterday at 2031 has garnered approximately 4,000 comments.

          • Superman1 says:

            Similar comment numbers can be found for other meaningless postings. The media viewers could care less about climate change; sensationalism is their highest priority. That’s the main reason that the media does not feature more climate change articles; their readers could care less. This illustrates why blaming the media for climate change coverage is missing the point.

          • Superman1 says:

            Will this stop the political ideologues here from their incessant blaming of the media, politicians, etc. for inaction on climate change? Are you kidding me? Focus on anything and everything but the central cause of the problem; ‘we’ could care less and ‘we’ don’t want to change, irrespective of the downstream consequences!

          • Tom L says:

            Speaking of meaningless postings…

          • Superman1 says:

            These comment ratios for climate change and sensationalism also hold for Salon. So, if climate change articles on what passes as progressive media garner such limited attention, what does that say about interest in the larger MSM? The electorate doesn’t care about climate change, and the people they elect also don’t care, as one would expect from the peoples’ representatives.

    • Joe Romm says:

      This is getting tedious, Kal-el. The 5-6C by 2100 is WITH feedbacks. The “marine biological meltdown by end of century” isn’t irrelevant. Find more productive comments to make.

      • Superman1 says:

        Joe, It seems to me you made this ‘with feedback’ comment a few days ago, and, in response, I quoted your golden words of a few years ago saying these models that predicted 5-6 C by end of century omitted at least the two major feedbacks. If ‘we’ go by 2100, the end of ocean life is not relevant at all to ‘us’.

        • Superman1 says:

          I have submitted three quotes from Joe substantiating my statement above; they should be displayed shortly.

          • Joe Romm says:

            No you haven’t. This is tedious.

            You really think I don’t understand what I wrote about. It is you who don’t understand. You are treating something that was clearly presented by the authors as a worst-case scenario as if it were a prediction of the likely outcome. Also you continue to ignore the fact that the additional warming of the permafrost has been modeled by others. It certainly makes the situation worse, but again, not what you have been saying.

            I don’t generally approve of people posting what I said out of context so they can misinterpret them. Try including links to the original so people can see for themselves.

          • Superman1 says:

            “I don’t generally approve of people posting what I said out of context so they can misinterpret them.”. In all three cases, I provided a full paragraph quote, not a snippet, and I provided the reference so people could check the full article for themselves. I agree with the statements you made, and the context in which they were made.

          • Joe Romm says:

            If you agree with them than you disagree with yourself. References are of little value when links are available..

          • Superman1 says:

            “You are treating something that was clearly presented by the authors as a worst-case scenario as if it were a prediction of the likely outcome. “Unfortunately, as Dirix et al concluded in a recent article in climate policy, “emissions have ‘continued to track the average of the most carbon-intensive family of scenarios put forward’ by the IPCC”

          • Superman1 says:

            In fact, in the January issue of Nature Climate Change, Peters et al conclude: “This indicates that the space of possible pathways could be extended above the top-end scenarios to accommodate the possibility of even higher emission rates in the future.” In other words, using observed emissions data and real-world projections to predict future emissions scenarios rather than wishful thinking, and including ALL the major feedbacks in the models, 6 C by the end of the century could be optimistic!

          • Joe Romm says:

            It could be too low, but not “optimistic”. When you understand the difference, you’ll understand why you are wrong. And again, links are needed.

          • Superman1 says:

            “You are treating something that was clearly presented by the authors as a worst-case scenario as if it were a prediction of the likely outcome.” We have been following a worst case scenario for decades, as many authors have shown. Is it so far fetched to assume we will continue to follow such a scenario into the future, or even go beyond such a scenario?

          • Superman1 says:

            “You are treating something that was clearly presented by the authors as a worst-case scenario as if it were a prediction of the likely outcome.” One of Kevin Anderson’s major contributions was identifying MANY climate scientists who continually underestimated projections of CO2 emissions, in some cases including underestimating emissions that had already been reported for a year or two; think about what that means.

          • Superman1 says:

            Postulation of ‘most likely’, ‘worst case’, is very subjective; in my view, it goes hand-in-hand with the deliberate underestimation described above. Given past history, ‘worst case’ should probably be re-categorized as ‘most likely’.

    • Raul M. says:

      Becoming aware that there is a problem.
      Deciding the parameters of the problem.
      Acceptance of the problem.
      Knowing that one doesn’t have the power to change all of nature for the better or to change the laws of nature allows one to be human within the natural world.
      I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to be something I’m not and have no chance to become. I wouldn’t do as a Superman____….

      • Raul M. says:

        I think that accepting that the forces interact to make up the laws of nature helps one to choose ways that help people to evolve, mitigate and adapt to the collective realities of our natural situation.

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Not just the Arctic and not just the chemistry. Currents are also changing all over the world destroying whole ecosystems, ME

  5. Solar Jim says:

    What else would one expect from the geologically instantaneous introduction of a couple trillion tons of carbonic acid gas?

    H2O + CO2 = H2CO3 (carbonic acid)

    Welcome to the global gas chamber (and the commerce chambers that support it). Is it getting dark in here or is it just me?

  6. Joan Savage says:

    There’s an eye-catching pair of statements in AMAP’s Key finding 3 “The Arctic Ocean is especially vulnerable to ocean acidification.”

    “Owing to the large quantities of freshwater supplied from rivers and melting ice, the Arctic Ocean is less effective at chemically neutralizing carbon dioxide’s acidifying effects, and this input is increasing with climate warming. In addition, the Arctic Ocean is cold, which favors the transfer of carbon dioxide from the air into the ocean.”…

    Neither of those statements are a surprise in terms of bench chemistry, but they are writ large across the newly open Arctic.

    Some inferences could be made – and questions asked – for other sectors of ocean with other outcomes. Are estuaries and deltas and bodies of fresh water acidifying faster than open ocean? What is the atmospheric CO2 concentration over warm ocean as compared to cold? I haven’t delved into the literature but these are aspects of understanding better what is likely to happen sooner rather than later.

    Acid rain killed off fish in freshwater lakes in the Northeast, and it has taken a lot of work, time, and regulation to achieve partial recovery from the SOx and NOx, so we already have a bitter taste of how abrupt and radical a crash can be.

    • Raul M. says:

      If there is a way to read the concentrations of co2 in the air at various altitudes then the change of co2 absorption could be noticed. For example with the oceans absorbing co2 then the air co2 concentration at the very near surface of the warer would be different from the higher altitudes by the amount absorbed by the ocean? And the difference would change depending on the surface heat of the water and wind speed etc. observations might be easier to start with than models. Seems like a Yellowstone project.

      • Joan Savage says:

        NASA’s been experimenting with LIDAR measurements of the CO2 concentration column.
        As I admitted I haven’t delved into this.
        With enough vertical data, I’d agree it could be a job for the Yellowstone computer.

        • Raul M. says:

          Thanks Joan,
          Right down to the water where the absorption of the co2 happens. Yet with higher waves maybe higher wind and more chance of absorptions.
          Chance of absorption- will the common person learn to live?

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Joe -
    2 Points -
    7 billion people.
    How many burn gas ?

  8. Bruce S says:

    Today research based on volcanic Co2 ventilating into the ocean and the resultant lowered pH showed a view into our near term future. Foraminifera are projected to begin a repeat of extinctions experienced 55 million years ago. They were the only fossil victims of the PETM. This extinction event starts within 80 years. If we continue BAU the list will grow to a larger list.