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Topic Title: Annual Catlin Arctic Expedition in IET Mag Again
Topic Summary: What's it got to do with engineering & technology?
Created On: 02 July 2010 11:07 AM
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 02 July 2010 11:07 AM
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Ipayyoursalary

Posts: 265
Joined: 21 November 2009

It's that time of year again - time for Pen Haddow's annual expedition to the Arctic in search of publicity for climate alarmism. Publicity duly provided by Nick Smith's piece on page 7 of the June IET magazine. As usual, Haddow's team journeyed to the Pole on foot during the natural summer ice melt, posting press releases about melting ice and performing measurements over the tiny area they covered on foot. Considerably less entertaining than the Top Gear expedition... The first thing that strikes me is:

What the hell does this have to do with engineering and technology??

Putting that aside, it's good to see Nick's toned down the alarmism this year. Not one mention of impending doom from global warming or sea level rise. Could it be the ClimateGate email scandal and the Copenhagen farce have had an effect? No such luck. They've just moved onto the next eco scare: Ocean acidifcation. Bit of a misnomer really since sea water is actuallly alkaline and any changes are in alkalinity not acidity. (But acidification sounds more scary!).

So what's all the fuss about? Well, as I recall from my A-level chemisty, a neutral solution has a pH of 7.0. The higher the pH the more alkali. It turns out as you go from the tropics to the poles the water naturally becomes less alkaline, moving from a pH of 8.05 in Hawaii down to 7.65 in Alaska. Remember pH is a logaritmic scale so that's a 60% reduction in alkalinity. Furthermore, the pH inside natural lagoons can vary from 8.8 to 7.8 over the course of one day (see the graph at the top of page 239). A factor of 90% reduction in alkalinity. (Doesn't seem to bother the fish too much).

Meanwhile the alkalinity changes attributed to man-made CO2, measured in the top 800m of ocean over a 15 year period, amount to -0.012 pH. That's a measly 2.7% reduction over 15 years. So at this rate, neglecting mixing from deeper waters and assuming a fixed annual reduction factor, the tropical waters will have the same pH as today's Alaskan waters in 495 years.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that's nothing to worry about. Certainly no more worrying than the 0.6oC warming over the last century. Still, it'll be interesting to see what Haddow's team make of their results when they publish their report later this year. Their Arctic expedition is sponsored by Catlin insurance - who "recognise that climate change is creating a new set of risks for policyholders." It's a good job we have companies like Catlin to insure us against these new risks!! But gee - they'll be some fantastic profits to be made if those risks turn out to be overblown.

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