Got Wood?

Coconut Wood In Java

Coconut Wood In Java

Original Image. And more than a few cubic inches per foot…

The Question

I was pondering a problem I’ve pondered before. How much wood sucks all the CO2 out of the air in a given area of surface? And how long does it take a given type of plant to do that?

This isn’t a trivial question. If the forests and swamps of the world can “suck the air dry” of CO2 in a year or so, then what does it matter if we add a bunch? Further, if plants can suck the air to a limit of their growth ability in a year or three, then the air WILL BE AT THAT LIMIT sans human action of burning old stored carbon. (Since plants have been around for a few years…) That would imply that historic low CO2 levels were not “optimal” but rather were just “plant starvation levels”…

So we have an interesting question: Can plants suck the CO2 out of the air in any reasonably fast way?

Plants. Potted or otherwise

Plants grow based on the availability of “stuff” they need. Water, minerals, sunshine. And yes, even CO2. For any plant, the question is “What is the limiting nutrient?” for any attempt to grow more.

Farmers try to answer this question all the time. No sense adding more Phosphorus if you are ‘rate limited’ on Potassium, for example. (That’s why fertilizers come in types with numbers like 10-10-10 or 20-10-5 so you can pick the ratio of Nitrogen to Phosphorus to Potassium that your plants need given how it grows and what your soil is like. )

OK, so is CO2 the limiting nutrient? I’d assert that it often was. Yes, for some lands and crops adding Nitrogen or Phosphorus increases growth (so they are the limiting nutrients). And farmers have gone out of their way to assure that their lands are not rate limited on those common fertilizer components. But… Greenhouse operators regularly add CO2 to the space to increase production. That strongly implies that CO2 is a rate limiting nutrient in many / most cases of farm lands as well. The CO2 “bump” in growth tends to work up to about 1000 to 2000 ppm of CO2.

Sidebar on MiracleGrow: The “MiracleGrow” fertilizer works in cases when others don’t because it contains the trace minerals that are sometimes the rate limiting nutrient in a given soil. Especially the mineral deficient soils sold for potting plants. Iron, copper, zinc, manganese, etc. While clay and sand in most soils (along with decaying wood and plant parts) typically release enough trace minerals that it’s not rate limiting, there are regions where particular minerals ARE limiting. A farmer would be well served to get a trace minerals check done and apply the particular missing nutrient. (or at least get the county soils map and see if they are in an area known to have a particular issue). This is often done indirectly via simply spreading manure, compost, or other natural fertilizers (where the implication is that since the source was alive, everything needed for life is inside). Even kelp is harvested from the ocean and used as a fertilizer. So one person puts ‘kelp meal’ on and gets little gain, as their soil is already in good condition; while the next person puts it on and suddenly they get dramatic improvement. They declare it a miraculous fertilizer, when they would have been just as well served by applying the iron, copper, or other missing mineral. When I’m having problems with a new plant or potting soil, I’ll apply a bit of MiracleGrow. If the plant perks up, I know I’ve got a soil fertility issue. Usually blending a bit of ‘bunny poo’ in with the bagged potting soils ‘fixes’ it longer term. Also, instead of using rocks in the bottom of pots for drainage, I use sticks and twigs. These slowly decay and give up needed nutrients to the potted plants long after the commercial potting soil has been washed clean of fertilizers…

Back to CO2

We are presently at about 383 ppm and we were at 200+ not so long ago. A few hundred years.

CO2 in Ice Cores

CO2 in Ice Cores

Original Image

In the more distant past of the planet (measuring in millions of years instead of thousands), we often had higher levels. 2000, even 3000 ppm and more.

Historic CO2 Levels

Historic CO2 Levels

(I’ve seen this chart in several places. In this case, I picked it up from this article: but they reference this article as their source: (a nice article, BTW). So I’m not sure who to credit / get permission from.)

Clearly throughout much of evolutionary history, plants had a much higher level of CO2 to work with, punctuated by periods of depressed levels near our recent ‘historical’ starvation levels. In particular, during the Carboniferous Era when plants were making all our coal, they clearly were growing fast enough to suck CO2 down to growth limiting levels.

So: many plants evolved to expect easier access to CO2 than at present. (Open field trials of CO2 enrichment have also shown growth increases, so it’s not just a greenhouse thing.)

Depending on the type of metabolism (called C3 for plants that make a molecule with 3 carbons in the first step, or C4 for those that make a 4 carbon molecule first) you have some plants that start ‘gasping’ for more CO2 earlier than others. C3 plants are much more common, but need higher CO2 to function well. C4 plants can thrive at lower CO2 levels, but are a more recent evolutionary step. Plants are adapting to astoundingly low CO2 levels, compared to the past… at less than 1000 ppm CO2… So the evolutionary evidence is that CO2 is lower than in the past to the point where plants are trying to find ways to thrive, and not just survive, in such low levels.

The evidence is that plants suck the atmospheric level down to the point where they ‘rate limit’ on CO2. They set the long term lower bound via sucking the air ‘dry’ to the limits of their ability. And it looks like at about 100 ppm to 150 ppm plants just can’t pull any more CO2 out of the air at all. So the historic 200 ish ppm levels argue for us being at ‘starvation levels’ for plants back then, with just a bit extra in transit from volcanos and other natural sources into plants.

And the Math Says?

I know, most folks glaze over at numbers. But I like them. What can I say? I also like sauerkraut and wieners and India Pale Ale beer and even taking 25 VAC or so through the palms of both hands…. (The tingle is, well, hard to explain ;-) but I’m not alone; I saw other folks lining up at the ‘test your strength’ arcade electric gizmo too…. Though, come to think of it, I haven’t seen one of them in a decade or two. Wonder if they have been lawyered out of existance? – he googles – Not quite but close. These folks are making one for home use: but the original arcade games look to be collectables now.)

So, some numbers. (For those who don’t like them, just assume that they are here for other folks to double check and toss rocks at, if I’ve got anything wrong, then skip on down to where I say this shows that plants are dominant in the world CO2 balance.)

I’m going to use various numbers as I remember them. I’m also going to use 40 year old “standards” as that is how I learned to do this stuff. If you are an S.I. units fanatic, just suck it up and deal with it. I’m more fond of older units as, despite their ‘issues’ (that I’m quite aware of), they are designed for easy grasp by folks without calculators and computers. “Joule” just doesn’t speak to me but warm a pound of water by 1 degree F? That’s a BTU and when I want to warm a pound of milk from 40 F to 100F I want about 60 of them. Those of us who have warmed baby bottles will recognize this example… and recognize the utility of “A pint is a pound the world around”. Just because milk is the liquid in question does not make it any less valuable a rule than if it were water…

Back to the air.

So, we have a square foot of air column. Each square inch weighs about 14.7 lbs. So a square foot is about 12 x 12 x 14.7 or 2116.8 lbs. Or a bit over an American ton (2000 lbs) and a bit under a metric or long ton (2200 lbs more or less) and English Ton (2240 lbs). So we have about a ton per square foot of “air”. How much of that is CO2? 384 ppm, more or less. (It varies a bit with the year, the season, and the ocean surface temperature.) That number is “by volume”. You can also figure it out “by mass”.

Air is mostly Nitrogen (about 80%) as N2. Nitrogen is atomic weight 14, so a molecule is 28 units. It’s about 20% Oxygen. (the exact percentage changes over the years, and changes even more over geologic time scales). At an atomic wt of 16, that’s a 32 unit molecular weight. Average those together (and ignore the 1% or so of Argon and the other trace gasses) and you get about a 28.8 average molecular weight of the air. CO2 is 12+16+16 or 44 mol wt so it’s heavier. Take those weights and make a ratio ( 44 / 28.8 or about 1.527 ) that is how much the CO2 volume counts in mass. Or about 585 PPM Mass of CO2 (as it’s heavier, so the amount of mass is higher than the amount of molecules). I found one reference that claims it’s 583, so my estimate is somewhat close. (And that reference was not an official source either).

Now take that weight of air, at 2116.8 lbs, and adjust it for the CO2 fraction of .585 parts per thousand (notice how I took 1/1000 out there? ;-) and you get 1.2386 lbs per square foot of CO2 for ALL the CO2 in that air column.

So how big is a pound and a quarter of CO2 in wood? Got a chunk of wood that size?

Got Wood? About 1 1/4 pounds of CO2 worth?

This site has wood densities:

They range from 7 lbs / ft^3 for balsa to 83 lbs / ft^3 for Ebony, more or less, but with 50 or so being very common. (These are for dry weights).


But that’s a carbo-hydrate. How does CO2 relate to carbohydrate? Well, pretty directly.

Take the molecular weights and compare them. 12+16+16= 44 vs 12+16+1+1 or 30 for carbohydrate (COH2 more or less – yes, I know I’m ignoring the ends of the chains, we’re not working out to 4 decimal places here…) So we have about 30/44 of mass to hold the same amount of carbon… so that 1.25 lbs of CO2 takes about 0.8445 lbs of wood to store it.. because we throw away one of the “O” Oxygens in the process of making wood (and we are all glad for that as we like to breath!)

OK, so we don’t have 1 1/4 lbs of wood, only 0.85 lbs. But it still makes me happy ;-)

How big is that, in volume? Using a 50 lbs / ft^3 figure, we get about 3.1 inches on a side. Call it 7.8 cm on a side. Pretty darned small. ( or a cylinder of about 1 1/4 inches in radius and 6 inches long. Did I say “darned small”? Sorry, I meant large. Very large. Gigantic. Enormous even!…)

So let me get this straight: A 12 x 12 inch square of dirt with a 3.1 x 3.1 x 3.1 inch cube of wood on top of it has removed ALL the CO2 from the air column above it? Or a cylinder of, er, “enormous proportions” has, er, um, spent it all too? Yup.

(I’ll be making pictures of this in the next couple of days… The cube, damn it, the cube!)

So what is that in tons per acre?

About 16.7 tons.

(43,560 square feet per acre x 0.85 lbs per square foot / 2200 lbs/ton)

[ There are three common tons. The “short” at 2000 lbs, the “metric” at 2205 lbs, and the “long” at 2240 lbs. To be precise in the 4th decimal place, one would need to use the specific ton in question. But since we’re just looking for “about how many whole tons”, you can ignore the 4th and even the 3rd decimal point. It works out to 18.5 short tons, 16.5 long tons, and 16.8 metric tons. In all cases, about 17 tons +/- a bit. ]

But don’t we get about 50 tons / acre of wet wood or about 25 tons dry? (E. Grandis in the 2nd year of growth produces 63 tons / acre at )

Yes, we do, for very fast growth species like poplar and eucalyptus. So a fast species completely drains the air above it of all CO2 in one year AND most of the acre next to it. Given that plants can’t suck CO2 out below about 100 ppm, it’s more like they drain twice the area they occupy down to the limit of survival. In one year.

Got Grass?

Ordinary hay runs about 2 tons dry weight per acre. Switchgrass runs 10 to 15 tons dry mass per acre.

Bamboo? A bit more at 15-50 tons / acre commonly and up to 100 tons / acre for a 5 year stand for some species with special care.

The yield of dry wood varied from 17 to 54 tons per acre, depending on the species.

Cutting in 10-foot strips every 5 years produced a yield of 18 to 45 tons of dry wood per acre. The 4-year average yield was 28 tons per acre.

That 28 tons per acre (dry tons, given the context) would be about 56 wet tons / acre / year.

I have a ‘timber bamboo’ in my back yard and each year I must cut down a bunch of stems to keep it in check. I’ve now got about a cord ( 4 foot x 4 foot x 8 foot ) of old stems that have dried but not yet composted back into the soil. And that is with me trying to make them go away… When it starts to push up a new stem, it comes out of the ground at full diameter (about 3 to 4 inches for this species) and rises at an astounding rate. To about 40 feet tall in one season. Then it grows all the side shoots and leaves. An amazing growth factory. If I needed fuel from a small area, I’d get a chop saw and plant bamboo.

So a stand of bamboo will take ALL the CO2 out of 2 to 4 times it’s surface area. In one year.

And algae (pond scum) can grow even faster, so it’s not just a ‘land’ thing…

(For more, and for reference links on things like the logarithmic growth rate of plants with CO2, see the earlier posting: )

In Conclusion

So we’ve got examples from wood to grasses that all drain all the CO2 from the air above them inside a season or two. And stuff grows all over the world.

We have historical levels of CO2 that are only modestly above the level where a plant simply can not pull any more CO2 out of the air, which strongly implies that the 200 ish level of CO2 is at an equilibrium level where plant growth and death balance (and not an optimal level, a starvation level).

Plant growth enhancement with CO2 up to 1000 ppm is strong, and up to 2000 ppm is measurable, meaning that plants know how to use more, expect to have more, and are rate limited at the low levels of today.

And perhaps most importantly, even a small standing mass of wood represents more CO2 than in all the air above that chunk of ground. So a standing forest will not only pull a great quantity out of the air, but will hold a great quantity for as long as the forest stands. We don’t need to cover the whole planet with trees, only a small part of it, to have pulled CO2 levels down to that starvation balance level.

(A corollary to this would be that cutting down the forests of Europe and North America did a heck of a lot to the CO2 balance of the planet and the continued burning and felling of forests in South America, Asia, and Africa continue to have this leveraged impact. It would be interesting to calculate the tons of CO2 released into the air from all that forest destruction and compare it to the growth rate of CO2. Perhaps it’s not the oil that matters most after all…)

Basically, the rate of growth of wood makes it pretty clear that the extractive side of the ledger is able to beat the generation side while the logarithmic growth curve of plants says that as CO2 increases, their ability to capture it increases for at least 5 times the historic levels of 200+ ppm. The plant balance is very important to the CO2 level.

That same log curve says that as CO2 levels drop, plants rapidly reach a point where they survive, but do not thrive, and growth is limited. A stabilization level is reached.

My assertion is that the historic levels of CO2 represent that lower bound of growth, and not some optimal level for life on the planet.

Sidebar on Degree Days: Plants need a certain number of days above a lower bound of temperature to grow. Each plant reaches maturity and maximum growth based on the number of ‘degree days’ of warmth it gets. To the extent that the planet warms up, more plants get more ‘degree days’ faster, and so grow more quickly. Any ‘global warming’ is balanced by ‘global greening’ and ever faster rates of CO2 extraction into wood. So if you are worried, go plant a tree or some bamboo. If you are not worried, harvest some corn to go with your grass fed beef steak and fire up the BBQ by the pool; taking pleasure in the fact that you are feeding the next crop. The plants will find a balance point in either case.

Update: Well mixed?

In response to a comment from Malaga View about the degee of mixing of the CO2 in the air, here is a NASA image of CO2 via the infrared sounder:

NASA CO2 Levels Globally

NASA CO2 Levels Globally

Original from this source

It’s pretty easy to see that the major forested areas of the world are busy pulling CO2 out of the air. The south pole and Greenland being deep blue leads me to think there is some ‘cold water stripping’ of CO2 from the air via rain and snowfall.

Update 2

OK, I’ve got a couple of pictures for “illustration purposes”. In each picture, there is a 1 foot square white ceramic tile. That is the area of ‘air column’ that would be depleted by the object on the square. Behind each target item is a tree, just to give a bit of perspective… There are three pictures. In more or less reverse order, they are:

One is an oak block of 13 ounces. The amount of CO2 over a square foot ought to be about 13.6 ounces, so you will need to imagine the oak about 5% larger. (In other words, it would look exactly like it does now ;-)

There is also a “stick” from some kind of fast growth light weight weed like bush that keeps taking over part of my front yard. I don’t know what it is, but it goes from “nothing” to 6 foot tall 2 inch diameter in a couple of years. I keep chopping it down, it keeps coming back. The stick is very low density. Maybe 1/2 that of pine. So for pine, imagine it about 1/2 size, and for oak, figure about 1/3 or less. The stick is 13.6 ounces, so darned close to exact.

The third picture I took is of a corn stalk. It’s a scrawny one that didn’t make hardly an ear at all (and the possums got that…). It was about 18 ounces when I picked it up, (it’s been pulled for a couple of days now and had already dried off the cob and the leaves). I pulled off just about all the leaves and cobs I could and got it down to 15.8 ounces. Then again, it’s probably still got a couple of ounces of water in it. At any rate, you could have two of them in the picture and still not have anything.

So, have a look. This is the CO2 over the square, when sucked out by a plant.

A corn stalk

Corn Stalk 15.8 ounces on 1 foot square tile

Corn Stalk 15.8 ounces on 1 foot square tile

How about a soft light wood stick?

Stick of light brush 13.9 ounces about 1/2 pine density

Stick of light brush 13.9 ounces about 1/2 pine density

An Oak Plank

An Oak Board, 13 ounces on a 1 foot square tile, orange tree background

An Oak Board, 13 ounces on a 1 foot square tile, orange tree trunk

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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68 Responses to Got Wood?

  1. Malaga View says:

    Wonderful posting… wonderful thinking… it’s just amazing what can be calculated on the back of a fag packet… this is the way I do “reality checks” on my computer programs.

    If only a few more AGWers smoked cigarettes or did something useful like gardening or farming… although I do understand it is hard to do anything really useful when your head is in the pig trough or stuck in the place where the sun don’t shine.

    So what about the Amazon forest… is it more sensitive to a 10% reduction in rain or a 10% reduction in wind that brings in all that extra CO2 it needs.

    Or how about measuring CO2 levels in the middle of the Amazon forest… perhaps a little different from measuring CO2 over barren rock on an active volcano in the middle of the ocean.

    And as to the theory that CO2 is a well mixed gas vertically, laterally and seasonally – just don’t get me started.

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @Malaga View: Thanks! Glad you liked it. I’ve added an image of CO2 around the planet. “well mixed”? Riiighhht….

    I like to call this “Kitchen Science”. It is stuff anyone can do with no budget at all using only what is found around the place. Sometimes I’ll call ti “reality checks” too. In high school chem and physics were were taught to do this as a ‘sanity check’; then again, we were taught to use slide rules then and keep track of the decimal point in parallel to assure you didn’t have a major screw up. Something calculator jockeys don’t do any more (and the “climate science” computer gamers don’t even think about near as I can tell..)

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    This paper has interesting time of day and vertical distribution of CO2 in the Amazon:

    Click to access Vertical%20Profile%20of%20CO2%20in%20Caxuana,%20Amazon.pdf

    Looks like the sun comes out and the canopy sucks CO2 down to lows, but at the darker ground level things ferment…

  4. oldtimer says:

    Nice post!

    How long, I wonder, before the AGW thought police decide it is time to ban the use of greenhouses?

    To really depress you, the President of the Royal Society recently warned us about the dangers of a rise in CO2!

    On the subject of seaweed as a fertiliser, this was, indeed is, used quite widely around coastal areas here in the UK – and in Brittany in France where it is said to be good for growing potatoes. In South Wales and the Orkneys in Scotland, sheep that feed on the shoreline produce especially succulent, flavoursome meat.

  5. DirkH says:

    “The south pole and Greenland being deep blue leads me to think there is some ‘cold water stripping’ of CO2 from the air via rain and snowfall.”

    The area around antarctica has winter in that picture; the solubility of CO2 in water is higher with colder water temperatures. That could explain the slightly lower CO2 concentrations.

  6. Verity Jones says:

    ” “well mixed”? Riiighhht…. ”

    Ah – but did you look at the scale on the map. It runs from 382ppm (blue) to 390ppm (red).

    Fascinating presentation on the linked PDF. Especially slide 12.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Oldtimer: Well, I’m sure they will not be happy about the use of natural gas heaters in greenhouses to both warm them up and raise the CO2 level… and the Diesel / heating oil heaters will send them right up the wall…

    Oh GAK! “The Dangers!” Horrors! We might actually be making plants all over the planet happier and increasing the yields of food and fiber… and if we’re really really lucky we can ‘peak clip’ a bit of the cold excursions in winter to not be so lethal. Yeah, “danger” like that I can take all day…

    City Folks don’t usually understand about meat flavor. “You are what you eat” extends all the way to the animal in the field. My Dad used to get some vealers and we’d feed them for a few weeks (4? I think?) on rolled oats, then we’d swap them to rolled oats and molasses for 2 weeks. The result was a red meat, like adult beef but a bit lighter pink, with the lower fat level and the more gentle texture of veal (though with some marbling beginning so you didn’t have the ‘dry veal’ problem), yet with a hint of a rich molasses undertone. Impossible to appreciate in a description, really needs to be tasted to understand it. I still think about it from time to time and wish I had 5 acres of pasture and a barn somewhere like when I was a kid… (We lived ‘in town’ but had 5 acres and a barn ‘in the country’ all of about 3 miles away…)

    I’m not even sure how one would look for such a commercial product (if one exists anywhere) as it doesn’t fit in either the veal or the beef category.

    I wonder what lamb would taste like if fed mint and apple jelly with a side of avocado?… ;-)

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    Yeah, I saw the scale. But that image does not see to places like the canopy and the floor of the Amazon. The reason I sought out the article in the link… The image basically shows modestly mixed at altitude and not much clue about the surface, but with clear sources and sinks.

  9. DirkH says:

    Verity; the measurements collected by Ernst-Georg Beck show wide fluctuations up to 400 ppm before 1950. Beck took this as proof that there were historically much higher concentrations; others like Anthony Watts have pointed out that the measurements, most of them taken in W Germany, were contaminated by local industrial CO2 sources. The accuracy of the measurements as such is not disputed. So locally (meaning, close to the surface, in a range of dozens of kilometers) there can be wide swings.

  10. Adrian Camp says:

    ” A pint is a pound the world around.” It isn’t you know. Here in England we used to say “a pint of water is a pound and a quarter.” We have a 20 ounce pint, which is why our gallon is bigger than yours, but weighs a nice round ten pounds.

    Yes, I like the way the old system relates to people, and strives to give easy numbers and clear derivations. You can’t tell a SI fan that though.Why a gram and a metre? They aren’t even in the same scale, a cubic meter of no known thing would weigh a gram (OK, at some temp and pressure any gas would, but you know what I mean.)

  11. Adrian Camp says:

    Oh yeah, despite my unitary quibble, nice analysis. Common sense ain’t so common.

  12. Verity Jones says:

    Having just eaten a roast dinner of a wonderfully tasty local chicken, I know the value of well flavoured meat. Your father’s ‘young beef’ sounds wonderful.

    There is a chef in the UK, Heston Blumenthal, who is reknowned for “molecular gastronomy”. Here he is in action planning to feed geese a pine scented diet for an OTT Christmas feast.

    And here is the result:

    There is actually a scientific paper entitled by one of the scientists with whom he collaborates “Molecular Gastronomy: A New Emerging Scientific Discipline”

  13. Verity Jones says:

    thanks to Tonyb and WUWT I am well acquainted with Beck’s work ;-)

  14. Verity Jones says:

    I was thinking I might tackle your wood calculation this evening, but I can’t get my head around the imperial units after two glasses of wine.

  15. Brian H says:

    Prezactamundo! We are in a CO2 famine. Time to bake all the available limestone with coal furnaces and drive it back up to healthy levels!

  16. Rob R says:

    Makes one wonder about the CO2 levels measured in ice cores. This is sup[posed to represent the global mean level about the last 800,000 years. But the ice sheets appear to be sites of rather low atmospheric CO2 concentration. There may be a bias of as much as to 10 ppm in the ice cores relative to the actual global average? Would that relationship be constant back through time?

  17. DirkH says:

    Adrian Camp
    “[…]a cubic meter of no known thing would weigh a gram (OK, at some temp and pressure any gas would, but you know what I mean.)”

    A cubic meter of water weighs a metric ton or 1000kg.

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    OK, I’ve added some pictures of “representative” samples of plant sequestered “1 square foot columns” of CO2. Kind of a nice visual, I think …

    Oh, and Verity, try it on 473 ml of wine instead… ;-)

    @Adrian Camp: But I thought the British Imperial Pint was only used for beer, where it’s extra size is greatly appreciated ;-)

    The “old units” generally have somethings that’s close to a ‘single thing’ for what you want. A pound of butter, a gallon of milk, a pint of beer, an acre or a section or a ‘square chain’ of land. Then the subdivisions are generally of a form that makes doing arithmetic in fractions easy (and doing fractions in your head is a lot easier than doing decimals to decent precision…) So split a quart into 4 servings? You each get a cup. Split 946 ml into 4 servings and… even making it 1000 ml gives 250 ml servings, so now you get to find something graduated in ml… A 1/6 yard? 6 inches. 1/6 of a meter? 100/6 ths… 16.66666666… cm. The old units are ‘factor rich’ in many cases. (That’s why we still keep them for time. 60 base and all.)

    If anyone has not read the PDF about the Amazon, it’s well worth a look. Nice graphs and not too long. The graphs show a very high ground level of CO2 (like 500 ish) and near 200 at canopy level. Then we know it rises to the place where the satellite sees it as 385 or so. Thus my “well mixed” sneer. IMHO, Beck’s measurements are an accurate representation of what happens near the ground, with all sorts of sources and sinks. It’s the notion that what is happening up on a mountainside somewhere that’s Very Important that I find hard to accept…

    Well, I have a nice red calling my name. I need to do my duty and sequester some of that bottled CO2 via ethanol as added “girth” for my eventual sequestration in a metal box… 8-}

    For the Planet! Cheers!

  19. Brian H says:

    It’s not so much bias as physics. CO2 dissolves in cold water — which is what the bubbles are lined with. It migrates out of the trapped air, leaving it CO2-depleted, and giving low readings.

  20. crosspatch says:

    I believe it is the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere which has resulted in the decline of gymnosperm species and the dominance of angiosperm species in many areas. A study at Duke University showed that doubling the ambient CO2 in a forest setting resulted in a 10 times increase in the production of viable seed and a 2x annual biomass production by pine species. Almost the entire family of Araucariaceae have gone extinct with only one genus remaining as far as I know (Araucaria). These trees were once dominant over much of the planet and began to die out at about the same time the dinosaurs did.

    Deciduous trees are interesting because they go dormant in winter which reduces their CO2 requirement. They also drop their leaves in the fall which builds up a large amount of decaying biomass which enriches the forest with CO2. So if a winter storm takes out several trees (or even “prunes” many be removing branches), the leaf matter (and the trunks/branches) from those dead trees will still continue to decay and produce CO2 for those remaining. The leaf litter acts as a CO2 reservoir.

    I might suppose that Norfolk Island pines and Monkey Puzzle trees would be doing better now than they have in a very long time if CO2 is the limiting factor in the success of those species.

    Some time ago I was watching one of the populist science channels (I don’t remember which one, Science Channel, Discovery Channel, Public Television, whatever, pick one) but was amazed when they had a research on who said that the demise of life on Earth would likely be due to CO2 depletion. Over time the plants would have a harder and harder go of it, once they begin to disappear, the animals that depend on those species will fade with them, until both plants and animals will be gone.

    The CO2 will be locked up in limestone, marble, coal, and oil and once Earth cools to the point where plate tectonics ceases and these reservoirs of CO2 are no longer subducted and erupted back into the air (every oil and coal field on this planet is subject to being subducted and erupted through a volcano or having one erupt through it … scary if you look at how close some volcanism is to oil fields in the Middle East).

    The people who complain about current CO2 levels don’t, in my opinion, have the slightest clue what they are wishing for. If anything, our ability to mine limestone, marble, coal, and oil and bring it back up to the surface and release that CO2 again has given Earth a (temporary) reprieve from a slow death.

  21. crosspatch says:

    And another thing, I am always tickled over how some people believe that recycling paper “saves trees” when actually it does just the opposite.

    Trees for paper production are farmed just like any other crop. You don’t cut down an old growth redwood forest to chip it for paper.

    The trees are generally fast growing species selected especially for paper production. When paper is recycled, it reduces the demand for new pulp. When a paper producer experiences less demand for trees, they simply do not replant after harvest and sell the land for other use, maybe to a developer or some other sort of farmer. The bottom line is that as acreage is taken out of paper production, it is put to other uses and fewer trees are planted as a result. The net is fewer trees growing because people are recycling more paper and you are contributing to an increase in atmospheric CO2 by recycling paper.

    If one wanted to remove CO2 they would send their phone book to the landfill to be buried and kept out of the atmosphere for probably a bazillion years and cause a new tree to be planted to replace the pulp that is now sequestered by their town.

    The other thing that mildly amuses me is how people believe that an “old growth” forest removes CO2, it doesn’t. A mature forest is a net zero when it comes to CO2 removal. When a forest is young, it is adding biomass at a great rate. Once the forest reaches maturity, the amount of living biomass stabilizes and you end up with about as much CO2 being released from dead decaying biomass as you have being absorbed.

    In other words, by cutting DOWN the old trees and replanting with young ones … and taking those old trees out and using them for something that prevents them from immediately decaying and releasing that CO2 (such as lumber for a house or something) you turn that land back into a carbon sponge. By opposing logging and “protecting” old growth forest, they are actually preventing the removal of the gas they claim is so harmful.

    “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter” — Winston Churchill

  22. Keith Minto says:

    That NASA image is an infra- red image. Is this heat image a true representation of CO2 levels?

    A time series video (seasonal) is here

  23. Malaga View says:

    The people who complain about current CO2 levels don’t, in my opinion, have the slightest clue what they are wishing for. If anything, our ability to mine limestone, marble, coal, and oil and bring it back up to the surface and release that CO2 again has given Earth a (temporary) reprieve from a slow death.

    Sounds about right to me… I am keeping my fingers crossed that all that limestone et al gets sub-ducted and can be recycled as Abiogenic oil…

    Personally, this all beginning to sound like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy to me… because mankind after all might actually have a purpose…we are needed by our planet to release all that buried CO2 back into the atmosphere.

    So when the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42 what it really means is:


    42 cigarettes every day


    42 pints of beer every week

    Make Love 

    42 times every month


    42 vacations every year

    It might not save the planet… but it might put a smile on your face.

  24. Malaga View says:

    This paper has interesting time of day and vertical distribution of CO2 in the Amazon:

    Thank you… very interesting presentation… seems like someone else has been taught “Kitchen Science”…

    Some of the things that standout for me:

    Page 6
    The morning range of CO2 concentrations for that 34 metre column of air: from less than 400 ppm to over 650 ppm.

    Page 7
    The way all the CO2 profiles have hit a brick wall by 10 metres… and this brick wall varies from about 460 ppm down to 390 ppm during the day

    Page 12
    The way the canopy sucks CO2 out of the air column during the morning… amazing.

    Page 17
    The way H2O content rises as CO2 decreases during the day… so do natural processes replace one greenhouse gas with another more powerful one… that should keep a few modellers busy for a while…

    Page 21
    As the canopy wind speed increases during the day does all that wind and turbulence suck down extra CO2 from the higher air column…

    Page 22
    Made me smile: CO2 levels decrease as the temperature goes up… or is it temperatures goes down as CO2 levels increase… either way is seems to run counter to the AGW settled science :-)

    I just love this study… it just shows how complex and variable this 34 metre air column really is… and how do you establish a meaningful average daily CO2 level for the air column… I have no idea… or perhaps I mean: I have no idea what an average daily CO2 level really means… or perhaps: an average daily CO2 level is really meaningless…
    and so it goes with temperature at el…

    The concept of calculating an average based upon a daily maximum and minimum reading seems exceedingly simplistic to me… if the sampling rate is too low then the average cannot be meaningful… ask the pollsters… if the sampling sites don’t give a balanced cross-section of the population then the average cannot be meaningful… ask the pollsters again… which leads me to the conclusion that the majority of climate science should be filed under fiction.

  25. Alex Heyworth says:

    Nice couple of posts, crosspatch. I have always believed we are doing the planet a favor by burning coal and oil.

  26. Brian H says:

    You just restored my faith in recycling! Since we’re actually suffering a CO2 famine, the more paper and cardboard etc. I send to the reprocessers the fewer greedy new trees will be planted to suck down our valuable atmospheric CO2 into the soil.
    Just as an aside, here’s my email sig (which has roused a few CAGWers to fury):
    Help keep the planet Green! Maximize your CO2 and CH4 output!
    Global Warming=More Life; Global Cooling=More Death.

    :) ;) >:)

  27. Pascvaks says:

    Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity, I just knew we were doing something useful for the environment. From now on I’m going to take regular sized breaths and exhale twice for every inhale. I always knew Al Gore was an idiot. Thanks again!

    PS: I get the impression the EPA has been less than honest with us about CO2 being a “problem”; do you think it’s another ponzi-thing to put us in the poor house? Bet it is. I ain’t as dumb as I look, I ain’t.

  28. Paul Hanlon says:

    The concept that the stable levels we see in the ice core records represent the starvation level of plants is just brilliant. I never looked at it that way before, but now that I see it here written down and calculated, it is just so obvious.
    So what we’re going to find is that Nature will put plants in places where no plants grew previously, like the south of the Sahara desert, which is happening now.
    Over time, this extra vegetation will suck up the extra CO2, and if allowed to carry on unchecked, will stabilise and even reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, without any human intervention, other than to keep pumping up CO2 into the atmosphere to feed it.
    So, even conceding that man is responsible for all of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere, all we’re really guilty of is releasing it faster than Nature has been able to adapt to it. It also means that the ice core records probably have the CO2 levels right after all.
    I wonder if the lower levels of CO2 at the poles is an artifact of the solubility of CO2, i.e. the CO2 gets absorbed by the oceans in those areas.

    PS I had to read your calculations a few times before it dawned on me why the cylinder is enormous. Very funny. Man, I’m slow.

  29. cementafriend says:

    Nice post EM but you have something wrong with your units. An English ton is 2240 lbs, a USA ton or short ton is 2000lbs. The Americans (US) just wanted to achieve more output. A crusher of 500 t/h from US may do 440 t/h when new but 360 (British)t/h after 6 months. Buy a 500 t/h crusher from Germany and it will probably have an output of 550 (British)t/h after 6 months (they build in reserve capacity and garantee the output). The same applies to gallons -an English gallon is 10 lbs while the US one is 8 lbs. A US pump of 40 gallons/min actual only has an output of 32 gallons/min.
    If you are really into US units what about a “slug” which is a unit of mass which when accelerated by 1ft/sec2 gives a force of one poundal. I started with British units and SI units but the quickly preferred the latter when I realised pump power in kw =QxP/eff.
    where Q is flow in m3/s and P is pressure in kPa (101.3 kPa is one atmosphere=14.7 psi and roughly 10 m of water- a tyre has a pressure of 200kPa)

  30. Pascvaks says:

    Ref – Paul Hanlon, on October 11, 2010 at 5:15 am

    How about Manhattan, LA, Moscow, Peking, Tinbuktoo? We need something that grows on concrete, steel, glass, and plastic to knock down the UHI wherever people have decimated the natural environment with… uck.. things.

    Wait… maybe not. Less is more right? More is greener right?

    This really is getting complicated!

    Well I still wouldn’t do anything to the Sahara.

  31. Larry Geiger says:

    Coconut trees aren’t really wood in the usual definition of wood, though they do have cellulose, which is sort of wood. Palms are really more related to grass than trees. Palm logs are used whole but don’t work very well as boards when sawed. Palms don’t have a cambium layer like trees. I don’t think that distinction would affect your analysis.

  32. GregO says:

    Did a rather aggressive trimming of a tree in my side yard last spring. I really whacked that thing because it was growing all around my roof and chimney. Felt kind of bad for pruning it back so far so I watered it plenty and went and got two baby citrus trees for the same area.

    Time goes by…citrus trees doing poorly but still hanging in there. Aggressively trimmed tree? It has exploded with growth and low and behold it has spawned eight, count them eight baby trees. Must have shook loose some tree-seeds or something and then the added watering did the rest. (I live in the arid US Southwest – where currently it is in the low 80 F and brilliantly clear).

  33. Verity Jones says:

    I have always been a big fan of green roofs (especially the traditional Scandinavian ones (e.g. There is big interest in using various sorts of green roofs to mitigate UHI, although I have some reservations about the additional uses for them.

    A comparison of three green roofs used as weather stations.

  34. Got wood for next winter?, that’s the real question. Your next winter will be impressively cold, just consider the fact of equatorial water temperatures, see:
    And this is only the beginning…

  35. Pascvaks

    ….. I always knew Al Gore was an idiot. Thanks again!

    However HE will be preaching on the next October 13th, at Lima, Peru ( the safest possible place in the City), about policies to be applied to prevent Global Warming! (he is being sponsored and paid by Telefonica del Peru-Movistar, a branch of the spanish telephone Co. Telefonica, which is a member and supporter of the “Club of Rome”).

  36. Malaga View says:

    This paper has interesting time of day and vertical distribution of CO2 in the Amazon:

    Thank you… very interesting presentation… seems like someone else has been taught “Kitchen Science”…

    Some of the things that standout for me:

    Page 6
    The morning range of CO2 concentrations for that 34 metre column of air: from less than 400 ppm to over 650 ppm.

    Page 7
    The way all the CO2 profiles have hit a brick wall by 10 metres… and this brick wall varies from about 460 ppm down to 390 ppm during the day

    Page 12
    The way the canopy sucks CO2 out of the air column during the morning… amazing.

    Page 17
    The way H2O content rises as CO2 decreases during the day… so do natural processes replace one greenhouse gas with another more powerful one… that should keep a few modellers busy for a while…

    Page 21
    As the canopy wind speed increases during the day does all that wind and turbulence suck down extra CO2 from the higher air column…

    Page 22
    Made me smile: CO2 levels decrease as the temperature goes up… or is it temperatures goes down as CO2 levels increase… either way is seems to run counter to the AGW settled science :-)

    I just love this study… it just shows how complex and variable this 34 metre air column really is… and how do you establish a meaningful average daily CO2 level for the air column… I have no idea… or perhaps I mean: I have no idea what an average daily CO2 level really means… or perhaps: an average daily CO2 level is really meaningless… and so it goes with temperature…

    The concept of calculating an average based upon one or two daily readings seems exceedingly simplistic to me… if the sampling rate is too low then the average cannot be meaningful… ask the pollsters… if the sampling sites don’t give a balanced cross-section of the population then the average cannot be meaningful… ask the pollsters again… which leads me to the conclusion that a lot of climate science should simply be filed under fiction in the childrens section.

  37. crosspatch says:

    I get the impression the EPA has been less than honest with us about CO2 being a “problem”

    I believe they honestly think it is a problem but not the sort of problem they pretend it is.

    There is a reason why “developed” economies are under stringent CO2 regulations and why “developing” countries are not. CO2 is being used in a global redistribution of wealth project where it becomes impossible or very expensive to expand industry in developed countries forcing that production to move to China, India, Brazil, etc.

    In the meantime a “green industry” of mitigating CO2 emissions in the developed world is created in order to effect an additional “tax” on business development in those places with the side benefit of moving that money generated by that “tax” to the “correct” hands.

    Who is the largest benefactor in most “green” jobs initiatives? I believe you will discover that it is China. If you wish to build 1000 generating wind turbines, where will they be built? Where will the copper come from in the windings of the generator? Who refines that copper and turns it into wire? Who winds those generators and sends the assemblies to the turbine manufacturer? Where are the blades built? Who makes the spare parts? None of those jobs are made in the West because they are highly polluting manufacturing operations that have been either regulated out of existence of priced out of existence with labor costs.

    Climate Change is simply the mechanism they have created to effect a global “redistribution of wealth” and get the people to buy into it.

  38. Tony Hansen says:

    Anyone know how much of the plant resides below the soil surface?
    For pastures I have been told that the above ground/ below ground ratio is about 1.
    Of course this does not include the wee critters in the soil that feed and feed off the roots, nor those that are involved in breaking down organic matter.

  39. Tony Hansen says:

    And I should add to that the bugs that feed on the wee critters, and so on down the line.
    Is it possible that the harvestable amount from any crop accounts for less than half of the total amount of CO2 taken in?

  40. E.M.Smith says:

    OK, I go to a movie and look at all the comments that roll in ;-)

    @Larry Geiger: On coconut vs ‘real wood’: It’s all carbohydrate, so no impact, but the coconut wood is really only ijn the picture at the top (selected because I liked the way it looks).

    Once tried to burn “Banana Yucca wood” in the fireplace. The stuff is like a foam sponge. Discovered it was about 80% water. (At least, that’s how it acted in the fire…). Even after a season or two of drying it didn’t burn well. I think it has a high mineral to fiber content (or something…). But yeah, “wood” can vary…

    @Crosspatch: Hadn’t considered that. I knew those “old trees” were different from teh “newer trees” but hadn’t put it together… But yes, we need to “Set the CO2 Free!”, for the planet…

    @Pascvaks: I’d also point out that the transpiration of water from trees cools the land under them dramatically. Planting trees in the city would have a direct impact on UHI.

    EPA? Honest? Wow, that’s a good one ;-)

    @Paul Hanlon: My initial expectation was that it would probably take something like a couple of decades, or maybe even centuries, to suck out the CO2 over a patch of dirt. When I ran through this the first time, I was sure I had slipped a decimal point somewhere. After the 6 th time through, I accepted it. The Log CO2 response is indicating that plants suck the CO2 down to where they are unable to handle it any lower. Plants beat the geological cycle at CO2 turnover. Our felling the forests and tilling the prairie are the more likely reasons CO2 can rise now.

    And yes, there is a reason olives come in medium, large, and jumbo… and “Jumbo shrimp” too… ;-)

    @all: Per Ice cores. I’ve not got into it much, but the way they seem to ignore all the solubility of CO2 issues and water migration issues and… it just seems like a bit of a leap to me. I’d like to see some kind of confirmation before I bite on that one…

    @GregO: It’s also possible those were root suckers. This weed thing I’ve got will sucker from the roots if you cut a main stem. Redwoods do that too. There are ‘fairy rings’ in the redwoods where a main tree fell over and in a 30 foot circle around where it had been, there is a ring of new stems, sprouted from the roots. Magical and spooky both.

    Citrus has always been finicky for me. Takes a long time and TLC.

    @Verity: I’d love to have a sod / garden roof… but my present one will not support the idea. My “dream home” would be a largely underground concrete thing with a picture window south facing (from a berm) and with the lawn / garden sloping up to just seamlessly become the roof. I’ve seen homes like that, and I want one. Never happen though…

    @Adolfo: Is that sea surface temp chart for real? If it is, we’re screwed!

    @Crosspatch (again): Yeah, the “free pass” for China and India made it pretty clear to me it wasn’t about any real problem. You don’t say “One More GRAM of Cyanide and we ALL DIE!!! – except his, he can dump a few more and it’s OK.)

  41. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tony: It varies with the species. IIRC, Pine is about 1/3 or 1/4 ? Something like that. There were folks working on a gizmo to pull up the main stump for pulp… Redwoods have notoriously shallow roots and blow over easily if not in a grove. By inspection, (of fallen trees) I’d put it at about 1/8 or less. All of those ignore the ‘hair roots’ and smaller bits, though.

    Then there is an odd desert tree that’s almost 100% below ground. Only a really big “rosette” on the surface gives it away…

    Nature is a strange thing…

  42. tckev says:

    Excellent posting! Puts the thing into human sized values that makes it easier to visualize and understand. Thank-you.

    BTW your reference graph from –
    is an original from
    here there is a very small explanatory note on it of the two sources used to make geocraft’s composite graph. These were –

    Click to access Geocarb_III-Berner.pdf


    Hope this helps with giving credit / getting permission.

  43. crosspatch says:

    I happened to see this today:

    10,000 a year killed by jet exhaust. Can one of those 10,000 be named? Exactly who was killed by jet exhaust? Apparently they can be pretty sure that it has killed 500,000 over the past 50 years, but can they name any of them? Can they produce a single person and say with certainty that “this person was killed by jet exhaust”?

    Who will be the first to step up and claim their ailment was caused by jet exhaust and attempt to hit the litigation lotto?

  44. Larry Geiger says:

    I also like to get into arguments with the state park folks who freak out when someone picks up wood from the ground and burn it in their campfire. They get very upset because people who do that are destroying the environment :-(

    So I tell them that the wood that is getting burned is just air. Campfires are just putting the air, back into the air. Cellulose is C6 H10 O5, which is just basically carbon dioxide, water vapor and oxygen. The constituents of air. Trees are made of air! That always really freaks them out. Aren’t there a lot of exotic, fancy chemicals in wood that makes it strong and stuff. Nope. Just air.

    But, even so, don’t pick up anything from the ground and burn it. Stop by the camp store and buy some nice bundles of split campfire wood.

  45. E.M.Smith says:

    @tckev: Thanks! Now I know where to ‘follow up’!

    @Crosspatch: GAK! Another “computer model” bit of “research”… And it has the obligatory “western guilt” angle and with India as the most aggrieved party.

    Since there is still a load of work to do to get home cooking on to something clean like Gobar Gas, and off of cow dung where the smoke causes a lot of blindness and respiratory failure: I suspect that jets cruising at 30,000 feet are not much of the problem (if at all). (And the article does go out of it’s way to say the ‘problem’ is from emissions at cruise.)

    Looks to me like another bit of Agenda Driven “Science”.

    @Larry Geiger: It’s even more nutty in California. IFF you can have a fire at all, they don’t want you to burn the stuff on the ground… that is the cause of the campfire risk in the first place. So if we had herds of Boy Scouts out there camping and burning up the limbs on the ground (and using dry grass / needles for kindling as we did when I was a kid) you would rapidly end up with the fire risk mitigated in the area… I remember my kid camping days, and it was sometimes a LONG hike to find downed wood. Especially late in the season.

    BTW, don’t forget the ashes. It isn’t all air. A small percentage is phosphorus and potassium et. al. and gets returned to the soil as tree food.

    As near as I can tell, the major impact is that there is less mold on the forest floor if you burn the wood and the ground bugs / beetles / scorpions tend to stay out of the camp area.

    Oh, and Redwood is a fairly fast growth species. My neighbor planted 3 of them as saplings about 15+ years ago. They are now a few feet in diameter and about 50+ feet tall ( I’d actually guess about 70 foot, but don’t want to be over the top…) Lifting my fence out of the ground (that WAS a few feet away from them…) But the California Coastal Redwood Commission owns all redwoods in the state. You can plant one, but not remove it without their permission…

    That neighbor moved away some decade ago. The present neighbor is eying the trees that are now tall enough that if they fall over, he loses a roof (and maybe a kid or two…). Since Redwoods are very shallow rooted, they depend on being in a large grove to not blow over in strong winds. (Tour Big Basin or similar areas, you frequently see trees that blew over.) These are not in a grove. Just three singletons (that in about 15 more years will be merging with each other at the base.)

    But the good news is that the prevailing winds are away from my house. They hit the trees from a North West cornering angle…. His home is directly South East of the trees…

    I’m sure the Commissar will be understanding….

    Net result: Very Few Folks EVER want to plant a redwood once they find out the consequences.

    Minor result: Some folks can be very sloppy when putting roundup on the weeds under the trees….

  46. E.M.Smith says:

    @CementAFriend: OK, I mis-labeled the American Ton as an English Ton. I’ll fix it. But since it’s all in the context of a ‘less than 3 digit’ approximation it doesn’t really matter much. The whole point is: It’s about a TON (be it long, short, metric, English, American, whatever).

    Part of the problem with being an American with an English mum is that it’s very hard to keep straight which bits are English, which are American, and which are English after the Americans got through with them ;-) I just thank God that I don’t have to keep the metric stuff in the mix day to day too 8-)

    For the other references to “ton”, I’ve not sorted out if they are short or long tons. But it isn’t particularly germane to the point being made. FWIW, I typically assume a 2200 lb ‘long ton’ since it is darned close to the metric, English, and American Long Ton so I expect most science papers will be using one of them.

  47. crosspatch says:

    “the California Coastal Redwood Commission owns all redwoods in the state. ”

    It is pretty bad in some towns, too. In Saratoga, for example, the town basically owns all the trees. You must get permission to cut anything larger than 6 inches in diameter. Anyone, someone not even your neighbor, can appeal your removal permit and stop your removal of the tree pending a hearing. It is just nuts, particularly when the they are junk trees planted by the developer.

  48. crosspatch says:

    Now that China is buying up US oil reserves:

    I would expect drilling restrictions to be eased.

  49. crosspatch says:

    Oh, and here we have it:

    “The Obama administration, under heavy pressure from the oil industry and others in the Gulf Coast, lifted the moratorium on deep water drilling that it imposed in the wake of the disastrous BP oil spill.”

  50. Ian Beale says:

    Re Tony Hansen

    For pasture a ratio of 1:1 for above ground:belowground is a reasonable start but it varies with species. e.g. buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliarus) can be 1:2 – 1:3.

  51. Brian H says:


    The starvation hypothesis is very interesting, but needs to take into account the millions of years of higher levels. This to me implies two basic stable states: high vulcanism and low vulcanism. When the atmosphere is saturated/overloaded by heavy outgassing, the CO2 rises to the ‘000s ppm. When vulcanism is low for extended periods, the plants take over and eat as much as possible till the atmosphere is depleted.

  52. ROM says:

    Apparently corn with it’s phenomenal growth rate [ phenomenal at least for this old retired Australian cereal grain farmer who spent his life farming in the second driest continent on Earth. Antarctica is the driest continent.] on a calm day is known to deplete the CO2 levels above it’s canopy to such an extent that it’s growth rate slows down very substantially almost to a stop by about late afternoon.
    When there is some wind, it keeps the air above the corn crop canopy stirred and mixed enough that there is sufficient CO2 to maintain the normal growth rates.

    Back somewhere in about the 1980’s when carbon was just starting to get some air time [ ?? ] and when the Scientific American still had a smidgin of respectability there was a paper in the Scientific American that showed that the Long Prairie Grasses actually sequestered more carbon than a similar area of native forest over the same time span as the forest’s life.

  53. E.M.Smith says:

    Malaga View

    This paper has interesting time of day and vertical distribution of CO2 in the Amazon:

    Thank you… very interesting presentation… seems like someone else has been taught “Kitchen Science”…

    Don’t know why this comment got stuck in the SPAM queue. WordPress does odd things sometimes. At any rate, I found and freed it.

    @All: It’s a couple of pages back up stream and makes some good points.

    @Brian H: Interesting idea… Wonder if we have a “CO2 vs Vulcanism” graph anywhere on the internet for millions of years time spans…

    @ROM: Grasses, especially C4 grasses, are phenomenal CO2 suckers!

  54. crosspatch says:

    Fires act to sequester large amounts of carbon for long periods of time. Charcoal from fire is very stable and can exist for a very long time under the surface of the soil. We can find charcoal that goes back tens of thousands of years and it is often used for dating such events as earthquakes long ago.

    While the fire will release large amounts of CO2, the remaining charcoal can remain out of the atmospheric cycle for a very, very long time.

    The prairies would have experienced regular burns as would most of the West. It would not surprise me to lean of absolutely gigantic fires on the East Coast before the arrival of Europeans. In cases of regional drought, it might have been possible for fire to sweep the Eastern seaboard of the US.

    But the forests were different then in the East. The dominant tree was the American chestnut which is often called “the redwood of the East”. It was high in tannin, fire resistant, it was an absolutely huge tree whose canopy was probably high enough off the forest floor to escape a lot of damage.

    In fact:

    @E.M. Smith you might enjoy looking into the project to restore the American chestnut to its original habitat. What they have done is started with a cross with the blight resistant Chinese chestnut and then backcross with American chestnut. They select the offspring with blight resistance for another backcrossing. They are now at the 15th backcross and have a tree with American chestnut characteristics but with the blight resistance of the Chinese chestnut.

    One problem: since the chestnut was wiped out by the blight they don’t live in most of those forests anymore. Various bureaucracies are giving them a hard time in re-introducing it saying it isn’t a native species!!!

    The American Chestnut Foundation:

  55. E.M.Smith says:

    I followed it a bit in the early days. Nice to be reminded of it. IIRC, they would do a cross. Grow out the results. Deliberately infect them via injection. The survivors were then re-crossed with American (increasing the American percentage). The results planted out, deliberately… repeat until done.

    At each generation the percent of American genes goes up, and the resistance trait is preserved. Nicely thought out breeding plan.

    Per stupid Commissars: Well, maybe there will be a Johnny Chestnut Seed come along ;-)

    The whole “non-native” thing is another way over the top overly controlling reaction. Yeah, some introduced species are horrible problems. OTOH, we had a beautiful giant Eucalyptus cut down on Treasure Island just because it wasn’t a native. Not exactly going anyplace, and stuck between the two halves of the S.F.Bay Bridge is not exactly pristine wilderness…. (It is was the tree under which I proposed…) and a very nice long shady walk to a ‘model farm’ is now a hot barren mile or three of dust… because the giant Gums that lined the way were all cut down by zealots. This is a FARM, dammit.

    I think it is the result of folks with too large egos and too small lives looking for meaning; and since they can not create, they destroy.

    Maybe we could get them all fired up about Fire Ant eradication… Now THAT would be something worth doing…

    The Fire Ant is an introduced species in the South of the USA that has a fierce sting and kills / eats just about everything in it’s way. As long as the Fire Ant spreads, a lot of the rest of this stuff just doesn’t matter… It looks like they have made it to California, too:

  56. @E.M.Smith
    @Adolfo: Is that sea surface temp chart for real? If it is, we’re screwed!
    Check it everyday, bookmark it.
    Yes, we are, well rather you….next winter…. but you have your big beans stock. anyway.

  57. adrianvance says:

    CO2 is a trace gas in air, insignificant by definition and a poor absorber of IR from sunlight. Water vapor is seven times better an absorber between 1 and 16 microns, and has 200 times as many molecules for 1400 times the heating effect. Water vapor is responsible for 99.9% of all atmospheric heating.

    Carbon is 84% of petroleum and even more of coal. Control and taxing of carbon will give the elected ruling class more power than anything since the Magna Carta. It is just that simple and corrupt.

    If anything we need more CO2 in the air as man is filling a need that the biome has. We are a positively impacting factor in the environment. Eco-freaks are the problem.

  58. Brian H says:

    Hear, hear! Help end the CO2 famine, sez I.

  59. GregO says:


    Root suckers! I was hoping for carbon credits and now you tell me trees just grow naturally on their own??! /sarc off

    Here in Az peppers are growing great, weather (climate?) is fine, business is good, people are great, life is wonderful.

  60. Brian H says:

    Oh, beautiful!
    In an SA article subtly dissing Judith Curry, “Iconoclast” posts the following:

    14. Iconoclast 05:06 PM 10/23/10

    The proposition that the average temperature of the earth’s surface is warming because of increased emissions of human-produced greenhouse gases cannot be tested by any known scientific procedure

    It is impossible to position temperature sensors randomly over the earth’s surface (including the 71% of ocean, and all the deserts, forests, and icecaps) and maintain it in constant condition long enough to tell if any average is increasing. Even if this were done the difference between the temperature during day and night is so great that no rational aveage can be derived.

    Measurements at weather stations are quite unsuitable since they are not positioned representatively and they only measure maximum and minimum once a day, from which no average can be derived. They also constantly change in number, location and surroundings. Recent studies show that most of the current stations are unable to measure temperature to better than a degree or two

    The assumptions of climate models are absurd. They assume the earth is flat, that the sun shines with equal intensity day and night, and the earth is in equilibrium, with the energy received equal to that emitted.

    Half of the time there is no sun, where the temperature regime is quite different from the day.

    No part of the earth ever is in energy equilibrium, neither is there any evidence of an overall “balance”.

    It is unsurprising that such models are incapable of predicting sny future climate behsviour, even if this could be measured satisfactorily.

    There are no representative measurements of the concentration of atmospheric csrbon dioxide over any land surface, where “greenhouse warming” is supposed to happen.

    After twenty years of study, and as expert reviewer to the IPCC from the very beginning , I can only conclude that the whole affair is a gigantic fraud

    Every paragraph a gem, typos and all.

  61. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    But the plant stroma studies say that CO2 much higher then 200ppm in the past, it went to 400ppm just a few hundred years ago!!

  62. Pingback: Moonbattery » CO2 Reparations: Not Such a Bad Idea After All

  63. Pingback: CO2 is plant food…part 66, for those who doubt | pindanpost

  64. adolfogiurfa says:

    CO2 has nothing to do with the climate and a lot to do with our survival on earth. Perhaps if we succeed in lowering the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, at the same time we will be achieving the most cherished dreams of Malthusians: To reduce global population to only 500 million bee-workers and a few Queen-bees (“they”, of course).

  65. bwdave says:

    In your last paragraph before “And the Math Says?”, you say “They set the long term upper bound via sucking the air ‘dry’ to the limits of their ability.”

    Shouldn’t that be the lower bound?

    [ I was seeing it as plants limiting how much they can suck from the air over time, so an ‘upper bound’ on their ability to pull out CO2; but in the context of how plants limit to the low side on concentration it would read better as “lower bound”, so I’ve changed it. The reality is “relative to what” matters on bounds; so it could be either “upper bound” of their ability to suck CO2 or “lower bound” of CO2 left in the air. I ought to have been more clear on what was being bounded… -E.M.Smith]

  66. bwdave says:

    Thanks. Now how do we get folks to realize that trying to limit anthropogenic CO2 makes about as much sense as unplugging their refrigerators?

  67. Pascvaks says:

    @BWDave –
    I think we’re just going to have to wait for our Glorious Leaders to pull the plug — not that people are going to believe it was they who done it. I’m sure we’ll be told it was the Chinese, because they wouldn’t give us another $10Trillion loan. People are funny! They really will believe anything.

  68. E.M.Smith says:


    I’m with Pascvaks. It will take those clueless folks ‘in charge’ finding out that enough folks are not ‘buying it’ and giving up on that strategy. Either that, or massive snow in Florida ;-)

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