Liquid CO2 On The Ocean Bottom

I ought to add this to the article about CO2 isotope ratios… but it’s compelling in its own right. Maybe I’ll just add a link to this later…

Things happen in strange ways. On one thread you talk to someone about one thing, that leads to another, that leads to an article, that leads to a different thing… So it goes. In this case I started from posting about the deep ocean being cold. That lead to a comment from George about CO2 having natural cycles:

That sent me off to a bit of web searching where I found an article about a liquid CO2 lake on the ocean floor (more on that in a moment) which lead to another search…

White Smokers

No, not European guys with a tobacco problem. Most of us will be familiar with Black Smokers, those mineral rich vents near mid ocean ridges where the minerals deposit / precipitate out of the hot fluids as they meet the cold water. Turns out there are White Smokers too. They put out a white column of fluids and do not precipitate metals. Mostly you find references that say they precipitate white minerals like calcium compounds:

“White smokers” release water that is cooler than their cousins’ and often contains compounds of barium, calcium, and silicon, which are white.

No big deal, right? Except…

They can also precipitate blobs of liquid CO2.

I guess it’s correct to call that a “white mineral”, but it seems to me it’s not being totally honest about something that matters. Perhaps they just didn’t know when they wrote the article. Perhaps it’s news to them too. Perhaps not…

Oddly, the wiki does mention it:

Has a picture of a CO2 white smoker, but the description of one is a bit lacking:

White smokers are vents that emit lighter-hued minerals, such as those containing barium, calcium, and silicon. These vents also tend to have lower temperature plumes. These alkaline hydrothermal vents also continuously generate acetyl thioesters, providing both the starting point for more complex organic molecules and the energy needed to produce them, Microscopic structures in such alkaline vents “show interconnected compartments that provide an ideal hatchery for the origin of life”.

No space for “CO2” I see… probably would take up too many more bytes ;-) Also notice that these are ALKALINE vents, per the description. Golly, wonder what that will do to ‘ocean acidification’… FWIW, I searched the whole text of the article for carbon. Only the picture caption said “carbon dioxide”…

OK, the picture:

Liquid CO2 White Smoker "Champagne Vent"

Liquid CO2 White Smoker "Champagne Vent"

Original and larger sized image

The description of the picture at the media link does not point out it is a liquid CO2 vent, but it is.

({{Information |Description=White flocculent mats in and around the extremely gassy, high-temperature (>100°C, 212°F) white smokers at Champagne Vent. |Source= |Date=200)

I don’t know how long it will last, but the caption on the wiki page does say it is:

White smokers emitting liquid carbon dioxide at the Champagne vent, Northwest Eifuku volcano, Marianas Trench Marine National Monument

OK, that is nice background, but I looked that up AFTER I stumbled onto the following video. I was looking for something else and this was in the list of returned articles. It’s an article from Scientific American about life in extreme conditions. They are all excited about the point about 37 seconds in when a tiny shrimp swims past the camera. Excited that life can exist in this ‘extreme’ condition of liquid CO2 bubbles mixed with ocean water. While I’m glad to see that the shells of shrimps are not threatened even when the ocean is so full of CO2 that it makes a puddle, sticks to the equipment in blobs, and generally is looking like a lava lamp… the thing that struck me most was just the existence of a vent dumping untold thousands of gallons of CO2 LIQUID into the ocean… So, like, I ought to worry about 325 vs 340 PPM in the air WHY again?

The article:

Watch for them trying to shake the liquid CO2 off of one of the cameras. Seems like liquid CO2 likes to adhere to surfaces and also looks rather stable at that depth. Wonder how much could be ‘stuck’ in various permeable sands and rocks… The video:

If you look at a map of the ocean bottom, you will see that the mid ocean ridges kind of run everywhere (even under the Arctic) and are a gigantic feature. We’ve got various kinds of volcanic venting going on ALL OVER the place. Some of it will be hot black smokers. Some of it cold white smokers. Some will have CO2 getting stuck in sediments and not ‘smoking’ at all. Far from being rare, I think we will find these things pretty much everywhere, if we ever manage to actually see everywhere.

This picture of the ridges and spreading zones gives you an idea:

Sea Floor with age via color and spreading ridges

Sea Floor with age via color and spreading ridges

This tells me that we have a massive potential for alkaline injections of minerals and a similarly massive potential for liquid CO2 injection pretty much right around the world. These ridges tend, in most places, to be fairly deep. They are largely unexplored and largely a mystery.

So, about that “settled science” on ocean “acidification” (that is actually a change to lesser alkalinity and NOT acidification) and about that “settled science” on CO2 in the ocean coming from the air via our burning fossil fuels… Looking a bit moth eaten to me.

The Lake Of CO2 On The Ocean Bottom

There was another article that I referenced in my reply to George’s comment. One that described a “rare” lake of CO2 found on the ocean floor. They claim it is ‘rare’ not because of any survey or population count done. No, they claim it ‘rare’ due to the fact that at that depth, liquid CO2 usually floats away to “bubble to the surface and into the air”. But wait, I thought CO2 was supposed to be going the other way… If CO2 on the ocean bottom liquifies and floats in blobs to the surface, how can it also dissolve as a gas from the air and get transported down? I think these folks need to talk with each other and get their stories straight…

Further, how can it be ‘rare’ for CO2 to get trapped under a CO2 Clathrate deposit if all it takes is cold bottom water and CO2? Again it looks to me like folks found the first one, so are just PRESUMING it is rare as it’s the first one they found. Looks to me like any CO2 seep into modestly deep cold water ought to make a CO2 Clathrate in the mud at some point. Has anyone done any kind of ocean bottom CO2 Clathrate inventory at all? Do we even have a clue how much there is or might be? (Never mind the “CO2 Lakes” that might be trapped under them).

The article does point out that at greater depths the CO2 becomes more dense than water, and so sinks…

But wait… If it is clearly not dissolving into the water (don’t know if the water is saturated with CO2 or if the two liquids are just not miscible, but you can see it is hanging around in blobs) and becomes more dense than water at great depths, and can soak into sands and muds to make ‘lakes’ under clathrates: How do we know that there are not great stable lakes of the stuff in the deep abyssal trenches of the world? Perhaps just under the mud surface, perhaps in the low points of the trenches?

It is looking to me like we really don’t know a darned thing about the CO2 cycle in the deep oceans. How much, where, what happens, where it comes from, where it goes to, where it makes puddles and lakes.

So, with that, the article is here:

Rare Carbon Dioxide “Lake” Found Under the Ocean, Scientists Report
Richard A. Lovett

for National Geographic News
August 30, 2006

A team of scientists based in Japan and Germany has found an unusual “lake” of liquid carbon dioxide beneath the ocean floor.

Shallow Lake

Inagaki’s team found the lake while studying hydrothermal vents—undersea volcanic hot spots—in the East China Sea off the coast of Taiwan (map of Taiwan).

The lake’s presence was unexpected, because the seamount lies only 4,600 feet (1400 meters) below sea level. At that depth, liquid CO2 is lighter than water and will slowly rise, eventually bubbling into the air as gas.

Normally liquid CO2 has to be at a depth of 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) for it to be dense enough not to rise.

In this case, Inagaki’s team says, CO2 has been moving upward from a deep magma chamber.

As it nears the seabed, the CO2 encounters cold water in the top layer of sediment. It reacts with this water to form a type of ice called a carbon dioxide hydrate.

The hydrate creates a cap in the sediment that traps additional liquid CO2 beneath it.

The article includes a nice little graphic showing a volcanic vent, a liquid CO2 vent or white smoker on the side with the ‘normal’ CO2 liquid bubbles rising toward the surface, and the “rare” CO2 lake under a layer of CO2 clathrate on the bottom.

Carbon Dioxide Liquid Lakes on the Ocean Bottom

Carbon Dioxide Liquid Lakes on the Ocean Bottom

As a non-profit educational use, I believe that linking to their image from their site falls under fair use laws.

The Obvious

To me it’s a pretty obvious question to ask that if we KNOW the volcanic cycle is highly variable (at least on land) and we KNOW that CO2 comes from these volcanic related vents on the ocean floor, and we KNOW that the quantity of CO2 cycled by nature is vastly more than the amount we produce: Why in the heck is anyone not of the opinion that CO2 is largely prone to fluctuations from natural volcanic cycles? How could anyone ever justify asserting the human component matters, even a tiny bit, as it’s going to be well inside the natural variation of these volcanic sources. (There are vastly more volcanoes under the sea than on land. We’re talking powers of ten more…)

When we can see globs of CO2 on the ocean floor with shrimp swimming through the CO2 “smoke” and we can find lakes of the stuff on the ocean floor, how in heck can anyone say a few PPM of gas in the air will ever matter to the ocean? Or the life in it?

When we can find puddles of stuff on the ocean floor, and have literal geysers of the stuff too, how can we ever think that those quantities are not important to how much leaves the ocean and goes into the air?

It looks to me like the ocean is quite comfortable dealing with levels of CO2 flux that make our burning of fossil fuels look like a lit match in a forest fire. As much as it might hurt some folks ego, it looks to me like we just don’t matter.

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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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97 Responses to Liquid CO2 On The Ocean Bottom

  1. George says:

    The notion of the 500ky cyclical carbon maxima came from:

    Cenozoic High Latitude Paleoceanography: New Perspectives from the Arctic and Subantarctic Pacific

    Lindsey M. Waddell

    Click to access waddelin_1.pdf

    Which I found to be an extremely good read on ocean circulation over the past several million years.

  2. George says:

    Has anyone done any kind of ocean bottom CO2 Clathrate inventory at all?

    Considering that in that paper I reference above they mention that no sampling had ever been done of the sea bed where they took their samples in the South Pacific, I would say that you are safe in saying “no”. Our knowledge of the surface of the moon and its makeup is more accurate than our knowledge of the abyssal deep here on Earth.

    We know practically nothing about the bottom of our own ocean.

  3. Scarlet Pumpernickel says: Good list of underwater volcanoes.

    People are stupid, the volcanoes stretch the length of the planet, but nooooooooooooo they have zero effect. They keep using a 1992 recycled article recycled this year to discredit the importance of underwater volcanoes

  4. Verity Jones says:

    Clarification of the two hydrothermal fluids at the Champagne Hydrothermal Site

    The Champagne site was found to be discharging two distinct fluids into the ocean: a) several small white chimneys were emitting milky 103° C gas-rich hydrothermal fluid with at least millimolar levels of H2S and b) cold (< 4° C) droplets coated with a milky skin were rising slowly from the sediment. These droplets were later determined to consist mainly of liquid CO2, with H2S as a probable secondary component. The droplets were sticky, and did not tend to coalesce into larger droplets, even though they adhered to the ROV like clumps of grapes.

    As for the whole thing, wow. Just wow.

  5. gallopingcamel says:

    “As much as it might hurt some folks ego, it looks to me like we just don’t matter.”

    You just skewered humanity’s hubris.

  6. gallopingcamel says:

    The big surprise seems to be finding liquid CO2 at depths where it should be less dense than water. However, CO2 can be captured in great quantity even in relatively shallow lakes:

  7. adolfogiurfa says:

    Not only CO2 but (aaargh!), much worse CH4 (methane),….then “fossil fuels” are being massively produced:
    CO2+ 2H2O /__\ CH4+ 2O2

    Click to access hidratos_emilio_vera.pdf

    Buaaaah! No global warming and no scarcity of “fossil fuels”!

  8. adolfogiurfa says:

    Note to the above: It did not appear the two arrows showing the reversible reaction between CO2 and water and Methane and oxygen under special conditions.

    [ WordPress steals them as it things they are html markers. I’ve approximated the angle bracket arrows with slash and underscore. There’s probably a better way using complex meta tags… -E.M.Smith ]

  9. kakatoa says:

    A couple of questions come to mind given the article-
    1) How many underwater co2 vents are there around Hawaii?
    2) What is the accumulated flow rate of 1) that end up in the atmosphere?
    3) If 1 and 2 are fairly large how would that effect the reading at Mauna Loa Observatory?

  10. R. Shearer says:

    CO2 and H2O are lower in energy than CH4. They cannot react to form methane without input of energy. This would be like 2H2O = 2H2 + O2.

    More likely, H2 + CO react to produce both CO2 and CH4 (and H2O) going downhill in enthalpy, as nature likes.

  11. It seems that a change in magma plume structure/position, or even sub-seabed circulation of water from other fault activity, would warm up currently cold regions, changing the liquid CO2 density. As that CO2 leaves, more warm replacement fluid is then drawn in from below. So pockets of CO2 expulsion seem likely to happen from time to time.

    There are enough of these, and enough new bits of volcanic activity, to make this a rather dynamic process it seems.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  12. This image seems to show large amounts of CO2 being generated by the non-industrial southern portion of South America — and perhaps (depending upon wind direction) by the North Atlantic and the (ocean? land?) area of the Pacific Northwest. It’s absorbed by other oceans, it seems (i.e., between Africa and South America).

    Note that this is CO2 at altitude, not at the surface. The snapshot was taken in July: the CO2 picture changes radically through the year, as the Earth absorbs more CO2 than is produced for about five months out of each year. Here’s the article, which does not talk about these issues of course:

    It refers to carbon dioxide as a “culprit” — but it also refers to “the respiration of plants” as a major source of carbon dioxide.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  13. Odd; the image link got modified during the post. I wonder if I can link it as an image:

    At least the article link above will get you there, followed by clicking on “Enlarge” under the image thumbnail.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

    [I’ve fixed it… special characters needed to be escaped… -E.M.Smith]

  14. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

  15. E.M.Smith says:


    Maybe they need to dump some mentos in the lake to de-fizz it ;-)


    Neat link. Looks like Chile not only has enormous clathrate deposits ( a couple of orders of magnitude more than consumption rates of gas!) but is looking at ways to get it out. I suspect precision horizontal drilling and a gentle warm water wash will do it, but pressures will have to be controlled to prevent ‘blow outs’ from that shallow a well…

    @Keith de Havelle:

    It also looks to me like a lot is over the open southern oceans… Also, last time I looked, Kazakhstan was not a major industrial center… nor was the Gobi Desert. Must be a ‘teleconnection’ with the oil field flairs in Saudi… ;-)


    Yeah, ‘wow’ was my reaction too. “Worried about ppm at the surface, liquid by the cubic meter at the bottom, not so much” is just so whacky…

  16. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    <1% explored.

    80,000km long chain of volcanoes the mid ocean ridge

    Click to access Leybourne_Oceans_Fin.pdf

    Interestingly, the East Pacific Rise has a 1:1 correlation between earthquakes on it and El Nino. Thus this important fault in a way determines the planet’s weather….

  17. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    This underwater fire is 80,000 km long!!!

  18. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    Sorry this should be right video the other one was a bit weird

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    @SP: I thought both of them were pretty good… BTW, link on a line by itself gets turned into a picture, on a line with other text or not starting in character position one (as near as I can tell) shows up as a link with underline… Why? Don’t Ask Why…

    But, yeah, 80,000 km of volcanic venting with untold gigatons of CO2 and with completely unknown cyclicalities – though we do know continental drive changes dramatically from time to time – but it doesn’t matter. Only my using the ‘wrong’ kind of light bulb matters…

  20. George says:

    I just watched the first 14 minutes of “Drain” and I am a bit disappointed. They show the Monterey Canyon but say that unlike the Grand Canyon there is no river and they don’t know what made it.

    That points to some serious lack of competence from the “expert” from the research institute and the aquarium. We know EXACTLY what cut that canyon. If you follow the canyon the main branch ends at Moss Landing at what is now Elkhorn Slough. But that USED to be the main course of the Salinas River until the 1906 quake changed the course of the river to its current outlet. The canyon was cut by the Pajaro and Salinas rivers during glacial periods when sea levels were hundreds of feet lower than today. It is also likely that the area has generally subsided over time.

  21. R. de Haan says:

    This fact about undersea volcanic vents, volcano’s etc. emitting CO2 in massive quantities is generally ignored by the established geological society.

    How often did they tell us volcanic Co2 emissions make up only a small part of atmospheric CO2 compared to anthropogenic emissions?

    From the USGS website:

    “Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for a projected 35 billion metric tons (gigatons) of CO2 emissions in 2010 (Friedlingstein et al., 2010), release an amount of CO2 that dwarfs the annual CO2 emissions of all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes (Gerlach, 2011)”.

    In the mean time we have totally different reports from Europe (Italy) 2011

    Central and southern Italy are affected by an active and intense process of CO2 Earth degassing from both volcanic and non volcanic sources as revealed by recent studies focussed on the quantification of both CO2 fluxes
    by point emission and soil diffuse degassing, and on the quantification of deeply derived CO2 dissolved by the groundwater.
    Regional scale studies in non volcanic areas of central and southern Italy, based on mass balance of carbon dissolved by groundwater, highlights the presence of two large CO2 degassing structures (Tuscan Roman
    degassing structure, TRDS, and Campania degassing structure, CDS) that, for the magnitude and for the geochemical-isotopic features, were related to a regional process of mantle degassing. Quantitative estimates
    provided a regional CO2 flux of about 9 Gt/y affecting the region (62000 km2), an amount globally relevant, being ∼ 10% of the present-day global CO2 discharge from subaerial volcanoes.
    In addition to the large amounts of carbon dissolved by regional aquifers, the TRDS and CDS are also characterised by the presence of many cold gas emissions where the CO2 is released by both vents and soil disuse degassing. Both anomalous soil CO2 degassing and CO2 rich groundwater are different manifestations of the same process.
    In fact when the deeply produced gas is able to rise toward the surface, it can be dissolved by groundwaters or emitted directly to the atmosphere from gas emissions, depending on the magnitude of the gas flux rate and on the geological, structural and hydrogeological settings.

    The report concludes:

    Measurement performed by the accumulation chamber shows soil CO2 fluxes of order of magnitude higher than the typical biogenic CO2 fluxes, characterise different sized areas which extension and shape are mainly relate to tectonic structures. The first on-line catalogue of Italian gas emissions recently realised, reports on the existence
    of about 270 gas manifestations. Even if for only a limited number (about 50) of such manifestations quantitative estimations of CO2 fluxes are available considering that these contribute for fluxes in the range of some tenths of
    a some hundreds tons per day, it is likely that the cumulative contribution of the 270 manifestation would be large, and highly significant to the total CO2 budget.
    Large amounts of CO2 is also discharged by soil diffuse degassing at the quiescent volcanoes. Specific surveys on the Campanian volcanoes pointed out the relevance of this process that in the case of Solfatara of Pozzuoli
    volcano, provide a CO2 flux comparable to an erupting volcano.
    The estimations of the fluxes of deep CO2 in Italy points out the relevance of non-volcanic CO2 degassing and of soil diffuse degassing from volcanoes, suggesting the actual underestimation of the Earth degassing process at
    global scale, arising from the lack of specific and systematic studies in the numerous “degassing areas” of the world.

    Click to access EGU2011-7778-1.pdf

    And this study is only limited to land area’s during volcanic inactivity.

    What’s also ignored is how Tamborra and Laki scale eruptions can affect our ecology

    Instead of wasting our time with the CO2 non issue we should enjoy our lives
    and focus on real problems that are in need of a solution.

    Our current political and scientific elite now has become one of those problems.
    Tar and feathers from an historic point of view offer a good and well tested solution.

  22. @George:

    I noticed that “ignore canyons cut by rivers” effect when I saw the show when it came out.

    There seems to be a concerted effort to downplay the fact that our sea level has been hundreds of feet lower than today about ten times in the past million years — all during the time of relatively modern hominid, and the last time was when humans were making tools and pieces of art. This is not dinosaur time, it’s recent. It’s climate change on a grand scale, yet life has survived quite nicely. We seem to be poised right before a substantial decline of sea level, and that will not be a good thing as has been discussed here before. Not an extinction event, but it will be disrupting.

    Ice ages are tough on polar bears, which most environmentalist seem unaware of. Polar bears cannot live at the pole during a glaciation, and must move south. We’ve found fossils from a colony of polar bears in Portugal and Spain from the last glaciation. They like open water; they cannot eat ice nor dig through it to eat what’s below.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  23. George says:

    I watched a video of a deep volcano off Guam. Great big blobs of liquid CO2 coming out (not little droplets).

    We get enough cold CO2 emission at Mammoth Mountain, California that it kills the trees.

    These people arrived at these natural CO2 emission rates by rectal extraction. That is quite obvious.

  24. kuhnkat says:

    Using deep oceans to sequester CO2 where it will be denser than water and stay down is being considered. Of course the Champagne Geologic field shows why that could be useless. It is apparently an area where geothermal activity is heating the clathrates or other CO2 reservoir creating beautiful champagne bubbles of mostly liquid CO2.

    Interestingly enough there is little trace of this enormous CO2 release on the surface or even a mile down current!! All the CO2 is apparently absorbed. The question of what it does to the PH and biologic effect would seem to be quite little. The ocean is simply too danged big for the gigatons that impresses us to have any noticeable effect!!

    Here are some interesting links:
    “The discovery of such a high CO2 flux at the Champagne site, estimated to be about 0.1% of the global MOR carbon flux, suggests that submarine arc volcanoes may play a larger role in oceanic carbon cycling than previously realized.”
    Good site for ocean CO2 issues

  25. P.G. Sharrow says:

    HUMmmm, The southern hemisphere is mostly ocean and the north land.
    The CO2 levels are greatest in the south and least in the north hemisphere.
    By far the greatest industrial activity is in the north and least in the south.
    Somehow, I have a hard time seeing this as a good thing for the AGW CO2 “team”. pg

  26. gallopingcamel says:

    Plimer has taken a great amount of flak over his assertion that underwater CO2 emissions are significant. Should he be getting some apologies?

  27. Chuckles says:

    Some fascinating stuff here, both in the post and the comments. Much to think on, not least how little we know about the world we live in.

    I think it’s also important to keep an eye very firmly fixed on the pea under the thimble – annusal human CO2 ’emissions’ are completely dwarfed by the ‘natural’ ones – human 35 Gtonnes or so, natural 750Gtonnes or so.

    But it is absolutely crucial to the whole edifice that we understand that the ‘natural’ emssions are in perfect equilibrium, and have been for millenia. And I’m sure they can change up nd down as much as they like without any danger at all.
    It is ONLY the foul human generated ’emissions’ that are dangerous and are upsetting this delicate balance, and threatening our very existence.
    Yeah. Right.

  28. George says:

    “The CO2 levels are greatest in the south and least in the north hemisphere.”

    The reason for that is deep water ventilation. If you start with the North American Deep Water (NADW), it goes from up between Iceland and Norway all the way down to Antarctica where it then wells up to the surface. On that trip along the bottom of the Atlantic, it becomes increasingly rich in CO2 from both geological sources and decay of stuff that falls to the bottom. This upwelling at Antarctica causes it to equalize with the atmosphere. The longer the water remains in contact with the atmosphere, the more CO2 it gives up.

    So the Northern Hemisphere is more sinking water than upwelling and and the Southern Hemisphere is more upwelling than sinking. This is mainly driven by wind. This is also one reason why CO2 lags temperature change. During a glacial period, the ice sheets expand over more of the ocean and that reduces air contact and reduces impact of winds over a huge surface of the polar regions. Also, as sea ice freezes it goes through brine exclusion where the salt is shed and the ice freshens over time. This excluded brine is very salty and very cold (often less than 0C). Ocean circulation slows or even stops in some places. A pool of very cold, very salty, very stagnant water builds on the floor of the South Pacific and sits there for a very long period if time.

    There is also evidence that winds in the North Atlantic change. There are ample scours on the bottom shelf off the coast of New Jersey all the way down to South Carolina that show evidence of large ice bergs being blown inland and impacting shore. This would mean the bergs were blown from the North Atlantic to the Southeast against the Eastern coast of the US. That is pretty much a different direction than the dominant wind direction these days. So that might act to shut down the Gulf Stream circulation. Over 90% of the energy from Northern Hemisphere ocean circulation is from wind. If those winds change in their patterns, so does the circulation.

    So we have large amounts of ocean water sitting stagnant at the bottom accumulating CO2 during glacial periods. As we come out of the glacial period, ocean circulation starts to ramp up again. It probably takes a while for it to really get going. In fact, the Younger Dryas might be a result of that circulation starting up and the upwelling of that very cold, very dense water might have actually cooled the ocean surface and resulted in a temporary decline of air temperatures. But in any case, once that circulation gets going, this water that is now very rich in CO2 from having sat stagnant on the bottom for some tens of thousands of years begins to dump its CO2 to the atmosphere and so some time after we come out of an ice age, we see atmospheric CO2 climb.

  29. George says:

    A little corroborating point about the 800 year lag between CO2 and atmosphere is that it generally takes about 600 years currently to ventilate the deep ocean today. If the deep water currents were greatly attenuated during glacial periods, as it appears that they are, it could take 800 years or so to ventilate. Add to that the natural CO2 increase that is going to come from thawing of things and the creation of peat bogs as the ice retreats, etc.

  30. Pingback: Ocean Carbonate From Rocks « Musings from the Chiefio

  31. E.M.Smith says:


    Nice link on carbonates and the ocean… and I got to read it just after hitting post on my carbonates posting ;-) Well, I can always do an update …


    I’d say so. And maybe make him Sir Ian in the process…

    But he has such nerve, being a geologist and all, thinking that makes him qualified to talk about geology… /sarcoff>


    What, CO2 coming out of the ocean? Say it isn’t so! Every good AGW’r knows it only goes in and causes acid to dissolve life ;-0

    @Chuckles and Keith DeHavelle:

    Yes, a very concerted effort that starts with the very definitions. When I was a kid and learned about climate, we learned things like “Mediterranean Climate” and “Desert Climate” and that it took thousands of years to change as it was based on altitude, latitude, and distance from the sea.

    Now the “brave new world definition” is a 30 year average of weather. Just wrong from the get go.

    That change did not happen by accident. It was for a reason, IMHO. Can’t get anyone excited about ‘climate change’ if it takes thousands of years and can’t get folks to think ‘we did it’ if they see that over thousands of years it changes a lot more all on its own…

  32. George says:

    Yeah, sea water collects CO2 the longer it sits at the bottom and then undergoes gas exchange with the atmosphere where it picks up oxygen end dumps CO2. The ocean inhales in the arctic and both inhales and exhales in the Antarctic.

  33. E.M.Smith says:

    Hmmm…. that then implies that we need to know what the winds and subocean volcanoes were doing a few hundred years ago to know what our CO2 loading will be now. Wasn’t there a whole lot more volcanic activity back, oh, I don’t know, about 1200-1800 AD? Especially in that 1500-1800s part? If that were reflected on the ocean floor too, then we have a CO2 bolus to arrive in the air about, oh, now…

  34. George says:

    Well, it is estimated that on AVERAGE it takes 600 years so I don’t know what that means considering we don’t have rates of currents from 600 years ago. What the Gulf Stream looked like in 1411 is anyone’s guess.

    There is evidence that the Gulf Stream might have slowed during the LIA. First of all, since wind is the great driver and a lot of that wind is in the North Atlantic, the polar ice sheet extended to South of Iceland for several years and they lost half their population during that time. There is evidence that the weather patterns changed and the Westerlies were greatly weakened. This would have reduced the wind pushing the currents farther North weakening the Gulf Stream. Further evidence of this is a warming of the water and an increase in salinity during the LIA in the Dry Tortugas. This would seem to indicate a slackening of the currents there causing the water to become warmer and saltier as the circulation declined.

    So we might be seeing 700yo water or 800yo water just now coming to the surface. And if that circulation DID slacken, the water would have picked up more CO2 from sitting on the ocean floor longer. So a good bit of the CO2 we are seeing might be from natural sources from CO2 that was stored in the ocean during the LIA and has been belched into the atmosphere since coming out of the LIA. That might also indicate in another way but we don’t have the CO2 readings to show it. If you notice the warming since the 1800’s it seems to warm for 30 years, drop off, warm for 30 years drop off. Those might be reflecting natural circulation changes but I can’t find any long term data on gulf stream rate.

    I did notice a report from a ship captain in 1907 reporting that the gulf stream was slack and the water was cold. 1907 is also during a cooling period from 1879 to 1911.

    So I would say that there is some basis for speculation that when temperatures cool, ocean circulation slows and this reduces ocean ventilation which reduces atmospheric CO2 in addition to the colder water taking in more CO2 at the surface due to its colder temperature also reducing CO2 even more. When the Earth warms, ocean circulation speeds up increasing the amount of CO2 brought to the surface initially until that is totally ventilated then the CO2 reduces as the water brought to the surface as been submerged for a shorter period.

    This may also explain the 800 year energy cycle seen in that Chinese analysis of temperature records. Circulation speeds up, CO2 increases which increases temperatures slightly reinforcing the warming. Then CO2 drops removing that reinforcement.and things generally cool. As they cool, circulation slows bringing less CO2 to the atmosphere reinforcing the cooling until very water very rich in CO2 starts coming to the surface, and kicks the warming again. I would expect to see an 800 year carbon cycle signal if that is the case.

    That could explain why we see CO2 lag temperature change coming out of an ice age by 800 years, too. It takes 800 years to dump the accumulated CO2 once circulation ramps up as we come out of a glacial.

    That would take a huge amount of CO2 but I am guessing the abyssal deep can probably hold a lot of CO2 and when things start to move after an ice age, I have to wonder if that water didn’t almost fizz CO2 as it welled up to the surface after being sequestered on the bottom for tens of thousands of years.

    In fact, I almost wonder if it can become super saturated with CO2 and once circulation starts and it begins to be moved to lower pressure, we might get an explosion of CO2 once the water crosses the pressure threshold where it can’t keep the CO2 anymore. The pressure at depth is much greater than the pressure in a coke bottle. If you have water sitting down there for 10,000 years accumulating CO2 and you suddenly begin to move it to lesser depth, I could see the thing basically exploding.

    I wonder if we could see bubbles of CO2 in these places in the Southern Ocean where this upwelling from the NADW takes place.

  35. Pascvaks says:

    @George (11:27:22) :”We know practically nothing about the bottom of our own ocean.”

    So true. In fact, we ‘know practically nothing about’ anything. Really!

    @R. de Haan (01:22:04) :”Our current political and scientific elite now has become one of those problems. Tar and feathers from an historic point of view offer a good and well tested solution.”

    I think you’re being too kind by far to our “elite”, and I do place more guilt at the feet of Joe and Jane Plumber & Co. Are voters being ‘brainwashed’ into voting for these fools? You bet! But I still can’t give “We The People” a pass. We bought into the lies all by ourselves and we’re (collectively) too timid to cut bait and walk away from the polluted and dying little fishing hole we’ve been sitting at for the past 50 years. Do we really think our kids are going to do “what’s necessary” when we can’t? No way!


    I still think that Volcanic Activity, and CO2 pulses from The Deep (and The Hill), and Milankovich Cycles, and Ice Ages, and plagues, and droughts, and vineyards in the UK and Denmark are somehow caused by something BIG. Don’t quite have my finger on it, yet;-)

  36. E.M.Smith says:


    Having made 2 CO2 postings at about the same time, we’ve got bits scattered between them…. so, take a look at:

    where there is a reference to a paper that claims to find a couple of hundred year scale time lag (i.e. shorter / faster) over a very long time scale. It has an interesting way of measuring things too, that may be generally useful… Does a pretty good job of showing isotope ratio variation with rock weathering along with CO2 being counter cyclical or uncorrelated with warm / cold cycles (though wimps out in the conclusion when the graph clearly shows it…)

    Germain to the discussion in this thread… Especially as weathering will tend to vary with the, er, weather… that varies with the winds and ocean currents…

    Here is the paper that I comment on in the above link:

  37. kuhnkat says:


    there is evidence that the deep oceans ventilate just a bit more haphazardly. One team found that water downwelling in the Arctic showed up in various places around mid Atlantic!!

  38. George says:

    Yes, kuhnkat, those numbers are just averages and the dominant flows by no means comprehensively apply to the entire ocean. And these circulation patterns change so what someone notices now with floats may not be the case in 50 years time as the patterns can change considerably with changes in persistent circulation patterns of the atmosphere. The prime activating mechanism for these ocean circulation flows is wind (about 99% due to wind, the remaining 1% due to other natural forces like Earth’s rotation, moon, etc).

    If the winds change, the circulation patterns change.

  39. wayne says:

    George (08:59:22): “So I would say that there is some basis for speculation that when temperatures cool, ocean circulation slows and this reduces ocean ventilation which reduces atmospheric CO2 in addition to the colder water taking in more CO2 at the surface due to its colder temperature also reducing CO2 even more. When the Earth warms, ocean circulation speeds up increasing the amount of CO2 brought to the surface initially until that is totally ventilated then the CO2 reduces as the water brought to the surface as been submerged for a shorter period.”

    Best explanation I have heard to date. Great summary of this entire thread. Must admit that information of co2 lakes is new though. Seems if all of that is more or less accurate then since ERB/ACRIM1 showed about 1370 TSI around 1980, ACRIM3 at 1366 near 2000 and SOURCE showing about 1361-62 today we should start hearing from some researchers of slight slowing of some currents soon as we cool, and it is that slowing that will round over the co2 curve eventually as I think you were saying. It does makes some real sense.

    Speaking of lags, that leaves a question in my mind whether the 2001-2007 approx. six year lag to maximum polar ice loss was not how long it took the maximum ocean heat content point to make its circulation way to the arctic pole. I have always kind of felt that was what happening. If it takes ~600 for the entire circuit where would be the warmest water six years prior? Indian Ocean?

    If anyone thinks like me, I see little effect on temperature from co2, actually close to zero, I’m one that thinks Miskolczi pegged it and it was external, the sun. And since even doubling co2 from here is nothing but beneficial to both mankind and nature, no problem there.

    Guess we will just have to patiently wait. In fact, we will probably not see the full effect but our kids and grandkids will. ( going to explain it to them tomorrow to keep an eye on it for me ;-p )

  40. E.M.Smith says:


    There was a presentation I saw in Chicago where the evidence basically showed an 18 year lag from hot spot in the central Pacific to it arriving at the Arctic Ocean. To the extent that holds, we’re about 5 years from the Arctic starting a fast refreeze… (Until then it’s just the air that gets froze ;-)

    There is another paper (in a comment here somewhere and in the top few stories right now on WUWT) that finds a ‘1 sunspot cycle’ lag between solar changes and weather changes. Given that the sun went all sleepy about 1999 too, that puts it at 2010… which is just about when we all started feeling cold…

    Since sunspots plunged for several years after that, we have a set of years ahead of us of ‘way cold getting colder’… largely due to the sun and the natural patters of ocean currents…

  41. George says:

    If anyone thinks like me, I see little effect on temperature from co2, actually close to zero,

    I see at least 3 periods of roughly 30 years duration with about the same amount of temperature rise over each period. Each period has a 30 year hiatus showing a total 60 year cycle.

    There is ample evidence for a longer 800-ish year cycle. My personal speculation is that it is a 700 year +- 100 years. So we should be roughly at the same point now on the 800 year cycle as we were in 1211. In the LIA, Arctic pack ice began to grow at about 1250. This corresponds well with the paper put out by the Norwegians where they are expecting winter temperatures at Svalbard in 2020 to be about 6 degrees colder than today.

    Everything we have seen so far indicates a climbing out of the LIA in 30 year steps. If there is anything to an 800 year cycle or if is related to more random solar activity, we should see a climbing back down as in any case we are at the end of the late 20th century 30 year warming cycle.

    As wind slackens, evaporation declines, too, making the water less salty and keeping it on the surface longer before it sinks. Also, as the ice cap expands when cooling takes place, it covers more of the ocean surface insulating it from the wind. This increased sea ice does generate a rather significant amount of very cold, very salty water through brine rejection as the sea water freezes, though. That water would go directly to the bottom but maybe not in the standard location where the Gulf stream dives. That water would get spread out over a wider area of sinking under the entire edge of the ice pack. So it could be that the NADW changes character in extremely cold periods becoming a more generalized North to South flow across a wider area.

    If you look at this flash movie most days in winter:

    You cat see the wind pattern that has a large impact in the Gulf Stream. There is a persistent High that sits anywhere from Iceland to the Azores which you can see the Western edge of today (this is a live link so it will change from day to day). As precipitation comes off the East coast, though, it freshens the Gulf Stream a bit. It is speculated that if you get too much rain coming off the East coast that it can greatly slow or shut it down by preventing it from sinking. This was the old “pull” model where it was thought that the sinking of the stream pulled more water up behind it. I think today the consensus of the field is that it is a push model where winds are what push the stream. The winds can “pull” water up from depth, though, through upwelling when they push the surface water away. For example in La Nina conditions the increased trade winds cause an increase in upwelling of cold water on the West coast of South America.

    Anyone, the idea currently is that about 99% of the activating energy in the circulation models is wind.

  42. George says:

    “anyway” that is, not “anyone”

  43. P.G. Sharrow says:

    The astrological clock is 780 years. The time it takes the sun, moon and planets to return to their original positions.
    The Egyptians used 780 years for an era and would shift their capitol city north or south every 780 years. pg

  44. George says:

    780 years is exactly 13 60-year cycles. Wonder if that is how 13 became an unlucky number. Bad things would have happened roughly every 13th cycle.

    Many cultures were apparently aware of the 60-year cycle. It is even seen in ancient Chinese calendars.

  45. George says:

    1250 (when pack ice began to grow at the start if the LIA in the Arctic) + 780 = 2010.

  46. E.M.Smith says:


    So much to think about, so little brain… (Wonder where I can get an upgrade? ;-)

    Now you’ve got me thinking about currents.. Just HOW does a surface wind cause a deep water current? It ought to cause a ‘skin drag’ over a large area. Like air stagnating on a wing, only in reverse… The Gulf Steam is a core of velocity with slower water around it… Something doesn’t add up.

    Maybe an electric current drives it ;-)

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    Oohhh! Good one!

    Guess I’m off to look at Egyptian history of capitol movements ;-)

    OK, so we have a 780 year “solar system cycle”, 2 x that is 1560. Yet Bond Events are supposedly about 1470 (+/- 250 or so!) the difference being 90 years. There is a known 60 year weather cycle and there is a 179 or so year solar cycle, with 1/2 that being about 90 …

    Methinks I smell resonance…

    Just like the sunspot cycle is an average of 11, but rarely IS 11, preferring to be a bit on either side, 10 or 12 are more common. So if we have 1560, but with a 180 ‘jitter’ from it, we ought to see 1380 and 1740 year periods too. So those need to be looked for / checked. If it is 780 +/- 60, then we ought to look for nodes at 720 and 840 points.

    I think I need a FFT on those Greenland ice cores …

    Alternatively, we just have a 179 year general solar ‘wobble’ with a 780 ‘return to exact restart of pattern’ with the individual 179 year cycles a bit ‘variable’… Time to re-read the SSB papers with an eye to the shape of the whole pattern…

  47. George says:

    While variable, the winds along the coastal Atlantic blow generally to the Northeast along the coast. This drives the Gulf stream. As the stream moves North it cools and evaporation causes it to become saltier. That is, the water gets progressively denser the more it travels. At some point it becomes so dense that it sinks. Once It sinks to the bottom in the fairly shallow region, it begins to flow down hill and becomes part of a generally southerly flow. At the other end, cold Atlantic Ocean water is pulled up to the surface due to strong circumpolar winds. About half of it gets pulled up and mixed with other waters and exposed to the surface, the other half gets mixed with very cold/salty water from Antarctica and heads up the East coast of Africa into the Indian Ocean along the bottom.

  48. George says:

    Another example. Strong trade winds blowing to the West off of the West coast of South America pushes the surface water West. Cooler deeper water wells up to replace it. This provides nutrients that is reflected in good fishing during normal and “la nina” years. During El Nino years, the trades go slack, the upwelling stops, and the fish go away.

    La Nina is an interesting thing because when the winds are strong, there is a lot of evaporation that cools the surface but there is a lack of clouds because the towering thunderstorms can’t form in the strong shear conditions. So you have sunny weather in the equatorial Pacific. This actually results in an INCREASE in energy accumulation by the ocean. During La Nina conditions the temperature of the far Western Pacific and Indian Ocean increases as the warm water is all pushed that that side of the ocean.

    During El Nino years the winds go slack, there is less evaporation, the sea surface warms, evaporation increases due to temperature change, clouds form and the equatorial region is cloudier than usual. In this case the ocean is actually shedding heat to the atmosphere on the net.

  49. E.M.Smith says:

    Hmmm… OK, interesting… I need to add a dynamic over time element and the whole salty thing… ;-)

  50. P.G. Sharrow says:

    @ EM Smith; you don’t need a brain up grade, you need a clone!
    Actually, sea, sun and atmospherics is what “Tallbloke’s Talkshop” is all about. You need to get out more. 8-) pg

  51. wayne says:

    @ E.M.

    Yeah, I agree with each of your points. Back around the time you wrote that “Frostbite Falls” post there was some talk of it being currents under the pole, not air temperature, and I wholly agree with that aspect. Since the Atlantic is now cooling I was just guesstimating how long cooler water around the African cape would have its less-warm effect at the north pole and growth. Seems it must be something like two to four years for each year is gaining more that 2007 minimum. I agree, this or next year should show a noticeably big recovery.

    But I sure would like to get a handle on just how far either cooler or warmer deep currents move along their trek each year. Seems that could be a good metric. Above I was trying to get there going backward in time.

  52. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    If you go to the USGS website, Gerlach 1991 is their support article why volcanoes don’t produce much CO2. And if you read the article, he just measured a couple volcanoes and then said that the 3million + volcanoes under the sea plus the ones on land produce X amount of CO2.

    I think 2010 or 2011, the same guy just recycled his article to “update” it.


    I have included the full text of Gerlach’s 1991 paper concerning volcanic carbon dioxide emissions because so few people who cite Gerlach’s work have actually read it. This is hardly surprising, considering that until now, this paper has not been available online. Contrary to the claims of Monbiot, the USGS, and many other authors, Gerlach (1991) includes no measurement-based carbon dioxide emission estimates of any submarine volcanoes, makes no attempt at modal representation, and Gerlach’s global volcanic emission estimate is based on carbon dioxide emission measurements taken from only seven subaerial volcanoes (Gerlach, 1991, §4, ¶1) and three hydrothermal vent sites (Gerlach, 1991, §3, ¶3). Yet the USGS (2010) stated that:

    Scientists have calculated that volcanoes emit between about 130-230 million tonnes (145-255 million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (Gerlach, 1991). This estimate includes both subaerial and submarine volcanoes, about in equal amounts.

    Dare I point out the fact that although a hydrothermal vent site might be one of many features of a submarine volcano, a hydrothermal vent site is most definitely not a submarine volcano. Notwithstanding such inconvenient details, suffice it to ask how seven subaerial volcanoes is roughly equal to three hydrothermal vent sites? This statement of the USGS (2010) may have something to do with the claim, put forward by Tony Jones, that the carbon dioxide emissions of submarine volcanoes are counted in the USGS figures:

    Can I ask you a question about that, if you don’t mind? Because one British journalist whom you quoted those exact figures to went back to the US geological survey after you told him about this 85 per cent figure, and asked he them to confirm their claim that actually 130 times the amount of CO2 is produced by man than volcanoes. The volcanologist Dr Terrance Gerlach confirmed that figure and said furthermore that in their counting they count the undersea volcanoes. So your response to that.

    Tony Jones
    ABC Lateline

    “In their counting, they count the undersea volcanoes.” I wonder how this might be possible if no-one can quote the carbon dioxide emission for even one submarine volcano predating Tony Jones’ statement? There are certainly no submarine volcano emission estimates listed in Gerlach (1991), which up until April, 2010, was the sole source for the USGS claim. In spite of this, George Monbiot went on to say:

    Yeah, sure. I mean, it’s, again, straightforward fabrication. Ian produces no new evidence to suggest that the USGS figures are wrong. He keeps citing this statement that they don’t include submarine volcanoes. It’s been pointed out to him many, many times that the USGS figures do include submarine volcanoes. And actually, it’s the height of bad manners Professor Plimer to lie on national television about something that you know to be plain wrong.

    George Monbiot
    ABC Lateline

    The facts of the ABC interview suggest that George Monbiot knows all about the various and diverse altitudes of “bad manners”. But more importantly, did he know the following? A measurement-based estimate of a hydrothermal vent site’s carbon dioxide emission is a completely different thing to a measurement-based estimate of a submarine volcano’s carbon dioxide emission. Although Gerlach (1991) does mention submarine volcanoes, there is not even one single submarine volcano’s carbon dioxide emission estimate in the entire paper. The point of republishing Gerlach (1991) is so you may verify this for yourself. This paper not only confirms Plimer’s (2009, p. 207) assertion that we do not measure the carbon dioxide emission of submarine volcanoes, it reveals a disturbing contrast between reality and the above-quoted statements of prominent and respected journalists such as Tony Jones and George Monbiot. Gerlach (1991), which is the putative academic source for the assertions of both Tony Jones’ and George Monbiot’s above-quoted statements, includes measurement-based carbon dioxide emission estimates of only seven subaerial volcanoes, three hydrothermal vent sites, and not one single solitary submarine volcano. Dare I ask if Jones or Monbiot actually bothered to check their sources? George Monbiot’s attack on the character of Australia’s best known geoscience professor on national television, hinges on the unavailability of Gerlach (1991) to the typical Lateline audience. This entire episode, regarding volcanic carbon dioxide emission, speaks to a conspicuous lack of caution in the assertions of those seeking to blame human beings for the cycles and seasons of climate.

    Moreover, I draw your attention to Gerlach (1991, §1, ¶4) where Gerlach telegraph’s his emphasis on the fact that the data available at the time was woefully inadequate to a global estimate. Although Gerlach (1991, §3, ¶3) does mention some proxy measurements for mid oceanic-ridge degassing, he also demonstrates that these are nonetheless doubtful as the degree of fractionation remains unknown (Gerlach, 1991, §3, ¶4). About persistant submarine volcanoes, Gerlach (1991, §3, ¶1) asserts “There are no estimates for off-ridge volcanos”. In fact, Gerlach (1991, §6, ¶5) had sufficient foresight to caution his readers as follows:

    The adequacy of seafloor spreading rates as a predictor of mid-plate volcano degassing rates is less clear, and it is possible that CO2 degassing at mid-plate volcanos is outside the conceptual framework of the current carbon cycle models. The high CO2 degassing rates for Mount Etna underscore the need to ensure that mid-plate volcano degassing is satisfactorily represented in models of the carbon geochemical cycle.

    Although Gerlach’s foresight may seem prophetic, the large number of active seamounts had already been documented (Batiza, 1982), and even this figure was later found to be somewhat conservative with the latest estimate of submarine volcanoes standing at more than three million (Hillier & Watts, 2007 – See for details). Moreover, it has been known for more than seven years now that the global volcanic carbon dioxide emission figures put forward by the USGS are long out of date and quite clearly wrong, as the figures of Morner & Etiope (2002) show. Perhaps, if not for Monbiot’s campaign of interruption, Professor Plimer might have been afforded the opportunity to cite sources such as Morner & Etiope (2002) and explain the empirical limitations of Gerlach’s study. The text of Gerlach (1991) would suggest that Monsieur Monbiot’s fraud allegations against Plimer, regarding the content and basis of Gerlach (1991), are specious and without foundation. Moreover, I challenge anyone taken in by those specious allegations to name so much as a single submarine seamount CO2 emission measurement in any of the peer-reviewed literature to date.

  53. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    This one is opposite, saying they cool, but in fact they are probably warming too LOL

  54. George says:

    If you read the article very carefully, the last paragraphs and particularly the last sentence of the article basically says “we might have no idea what we are talking about and everything above is total speculation and possibly completely bogus”

    “Right now we don’t have enough reliable knowledge to say which of these factors would be more important than the other,” he said.

  55. George says:

    The article is making a bet that the increase in nutrients results in a removal of CO2 greater than the amount that the volcano itself emits resulting in a net reduction. Trouble is, it might be 600 years before those nutrients make it into the food chain. They (deep waters) also tend to well up in pretty nutrient rich areas anyway where the nutrients emitted by many volcanoes accumulate. Upwelling is also at the mercy of the wind. Increase the amount of Antarctic sea ice and you reduce the amount of the Southern Ocean that is exposed to the wind reducing the upwelling. Have an El Nino and you reduce the upwelling along the Pacific coast of South America and in the Indian Ocean.

  56. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    I think I also remember something that it takes a glacier like 40-50 or more years to respond to a warming?? So essentially the glaciers melting today are more likely to be from the 1930s warming? Have to find an article about it again.

    BTW Looks like the article doesn’t take into account the CO2 formation above with nutrients. So then can we blame this plumes of sea creature on volcanoes. Like the ones that effected the salmon runs recently? :P Their work also shows that the release of CO2 from the deeper mantle to the Earth’s atmosphere, at least in certain parts of mid-ocean ridges, is much higher than had previously been imagined.

    Given that mid-ocean ridges constitute the largest volcanic system on Earth, this discovery has important implications for the global carbon cycle which have yet to be explored.

  57. Tim says:

    This is a really cool finding…

    But I think the parade of “Ha! AGW is false!” needs to be rained on a little. We know how much fossil fuel mankind is burning (since we keep track of the amounts of coal, oil, gas that are used internationally), and we know that the atmospheric accumulation rate is less than would be occurring if all the anthropogenic CO2 stayed there — ergo some is being taken up by the land and oceans. Humans are more than responsible for the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since pre-industrial.

    And just because we know less than we thought about volcanism doesn’t mean we suddenly know nothing at all. Ice core CO2 records tell us that variation in atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the past hundreds of thousands of years have been much slower than what we’re seeing today. This acts as a powerful constraint on the potential magnitude of the volcanic CO2 source (including outgassing to the atmosphere from undersea volcanoes or CO2 ‘lakes’), or more relevantly, the volcanic source-weathering sink imbalance.

    Furthermore, a present volcanic CO2 source also would have no reason to deplete atmospheric O2, which has been observed to decrease at a rate consistent with a fossil-fuel burning CO2 source.

    If you want to argue that AGW is false, saying that we didn’t put the CO2 there is the wrong fight. Natural variability in atmosphere/ocean/cryosphere dynamics, and/or low climate sensitivity, are far better fights to wage.

  58. E.M.Smith says:


    You are a new poster here, so I’ll give you an open mic for a while. Please read the ABOUT box and realize that Trolls get put into moderation rather quickly. If not a troll, just mislead; or better yet, raising generally good counter points: comments ‘against the grain’ are quite acceptable.

    Some points about your points:

    To point out that we do not know the level of CO2 production is NOT saying “Ha! AGW is false”. It is saying “Ha! Claiming knowledge of CO2 levels and production is false.” Please be careful about asserting that which is not asserted. I.e. don’t put words in folks mouths… With that, you have an obvious non sequitur in your first paragraph.

    Yes, we know the human production of fuels, and from that a good estimate of CO2 production (some goes into plastics, so no CO2, some CO2 comes from things like burning forests, still man made, but not from fossil fuels). We have measured CO2 rise in the air SOMEWHAT, but really rather poorly. Hawaii is not the globe and the recent addition of satellite measures shows atmospheric CO2 is NOT ‘well mixed’ nor uniform. Neither in time nor in space. That makes the Hawaii CO2 graphs a bit pointless.

    Now, even if we assume that the data can be trusted, the fact that it rises more slowly than would be expected if ALL the burned CO2 was kept in the air says very little. Is that CO2 from fuels going into plants? The Ocean? Is the “rise” due to THAT CO2 not being absorbed sufficiently (i.e. in excess of absorption capacity) or due to OTHER CO2 swamping the system? (Greater outgassing on the ocean floor, or from volcanoes, for example). Is the shortfall of absorption due to an increase in the saturation of the water coming up from the deep ocean in a ‘long cycle’ overturning process? We just don’t know. (No, you don’t know either.)

    It is eminently possible that the human produced CO2 does nothing. IF it were not being produced, the degree of out gassing from an ocean overturning could easily end up at the same total concentration. (Why? Gas saturation moves to equilibrium. Basic chemistry.) So the air will reach some equilibrium with the oceans. Doesn’t matter if the CO2 is from burning fuels or from volcanoes. A similar issue exists with erosion rates of carbonate rocks. We have loads of carbonates washing into the ocean. It would not take much “river acidification” from REAL pollution (such as acid rain) to cause excess outgassing of THAT carbonate source. Another simple bit of real chemistry.

    So it’s pretty easy to show that the “leap” from CO2 is rising to “it must come from fuels” is broken.

    Personally, I think that some significant part of it DOES come from fuel burning. Maybe 20%, could be up to 50% even. But that is a BELIEF, not science nor a proof. Most likely, in my opinion, the biggest influence has been our cutting down of forests (there’s a posting here on that showing that plants can essentially scrub the air to pre-industrial levels in just a few years – it is the lack of plants that’s the problem). But that, too, is an OPINION.

    Again, though, we just don’t KNOW if the CO2 ramp (if it really exists) is from FUEL burning, or from forest cutting. Forest cutting also has a large impact on O2 levels, so that the CO2 rise matches the O2 drop is pretty much not a surprise. Again, a bit more care needed in jumping from correlation (CO2/O2) to causality (fuel burning) needed… (A similar point can be made about O2 in the ocean and changes in the ocean populations; also volcanic emissions of O2 consuming compounds could be an issue – note that is COULD, we just don’t know what happens at those volcanic vents at the bottom of the sea)

    All of that makes your leap to “Humans are responsible” a bit broken (well, in the case of forest cutting, it is correct, but as the general assertion you made at the start was ‘fuel burning’ and not ‘forest cutting’, I’m interpreting your conclusion to be in the context of fuel burning.) I’d be less ‘picky’ about the loose logic were it not for the large amount of such that looks to have been deliberately used on the ‘warmers’ side to cook the books / science…

    Next, your assertion about Ice Cores is, as near as I can tell, equally flawed reasoning. Ice cores only collect an AVERAGE sample over a pretty big band of time, and that sample has a wider band over time. Gasses do diffuse through snow, and even through water. So you can say NOTHING about the short term rates of CO2 change (and in geologic time scales, hundreds of years are nearly nothing) from ice cores. Add to that the fact that the satellites show us the poles are consistently depleted in CO2 relative to the equator, and they can say even less about Hawaii rates of change. Basically, ice core CO2 data does nearly nothing to constrain rapid pulse changes at the equator. Different tools measuring different things.

    Why this behaviour toward ‘dissenting voices’? For the simple reason that there is only one of me.

    I have no time to engage in pointless troll wars or deal with “assigned zealots” distracting me from searching for truth. (Yes, both of those things happen). I started off with giving folks an open forum. The Troll Wars ensued and I rapidly realized I could be a megaphone for the Warmist Agenda via a hoard of Trolls, or I could manage things differently. I’m happy with the results.

    Welcome are folks willing to learn, folks with legitimate questions, folks who think I’ve got something wrong AND present a polite and well reasoned case for their point.

    Not welcome are folks unwilling to learn, folks with troll talking points and distraction questions designed to deflect discussion away from productive paths (i.e. time wasting as a tactic), folks who just want to chant “You are wrong!!” (often as a reputational propaganda ploy) or that present a negative and argumentative style OR have very badly reasoned cases.

    I just don’t have the time to do all the “cleaning up” that requires. (For example, your text was short, my response had to be long. Couple of folks doing that and all my time goes into ‘defending against poor arguments’ and not much new gets made or learned.)

    Is that ideal? Not at all. If I had a staff of 2 or 3 moderators and a half dozen folks willing to ‘remake the same arguments and spank the Trolls’, then I could have open access for all folks. Since I don’t, I can’t. So folks get a ‘free run’ for a while and if they can ‘play well with others’ then the mic stays open.

    If they can’t handle the responsibility, the first step is they get added to the moderation hold queue. The second step is they go to “Carping comments” (though their text still gets posted, it’s after a long wait when I have time to explain what’s wrong with it). If folks can’t accept that, they can either leave or end up in the SPAM queue. No, this is not an “open scientific debate forum”. It’s more like my personal notebook were folks can help out or learn; but not slow down the process too much nor annoy the staff.

    Dissent IS WELCOME, provided it leads to better understanding of truth; not if it is just repeating the warmers talking points and the broken ‘science’ they have done (as evidenced by their ‘managing’ the peer review process and ‘agenda driven papers’ seen in the Climategate emails.) To the extent the science is correct, I don’t care who it came from, but the ClimateGate 2 emails show The Team is not likely to be a good source of understanding.

    Being a ‘newby’ or uneducated with the occasional ‘dumb question’ is also welcome, as long as the purpose is to learn. If the pattern shows the purpose is not to learn, well, that starts to look Trollish. Again, I’d rather not have to run things this way, but the March Of The Trolls and the clear intent of some folks to be disruptive and/or time sinks means I must defend against those tactics. (Yes, there are folks who practice InfoWars and there are folks who use propaganda techniques deliberately. I do not allow that.)

    With that, welcome. Feel free to comment and make your case, but do it with a bit more care and depth of thought. If you can find topics on which to add to truth and understanding, all the better. Try to avoid a negative style and attacking; better yet. I like to run a pleasant place where folks do not feel attacked nor threatened, and where they are free to bring up other interests and topics as well.

  59. George says:

    I’m going to comment on what Tim said because I think some of it could be educational.

    Humans are more than responsible for the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since pre-industrial.

    Well, maybe. The problem is that our “pre-industrial” number is more or less a guess. We didn’t have the instruments then that we have now. Also, it is rather well known fact that the “pre-industrial” just happened to end just as we were emerging from the Little Ice Age and that CO2 increases from natural sources as things warm up. For example, as we come out of the LIA, peat bogs that were frozen now begin to thaw and decomposition starts again releasing CO2. Also, as we warm out of the LIA the oceans warm and they begin to release CO2 as they warm up. Even things like the Great Lakes will begin to warm up and hold less CO2 as they warm. Water holds less CO2 the warmer it gets. As we emerge from the LIA, this warming ocean will release more CO2.

    Also things such as coal seam fires have increased since we started mining it. It is currently estimated that the global CO2 emissions from coal seam fires is equal to the CO2 emissions of all automobile traffic on the face of the planet. Now how do you tell the difference between CO2 emitted from a coal fire and CO2 emitted from a coal fired power plant? You can’t.

    More importantly, the response to CO2 is not linear, it is logarithmic. So if you say we are going to get X degrees of warmth from a doubling of CO2, lets say 2 degrees according to the IPCC estimate (which has now been shown in peer-reviewed literature to have been too high, it is actually about 1.2 degrees C). We use 280ppm as our “pre-industial” number but it was actually probably higher than that during the Medieval Warm Period. the 280 ppm is a Little Ice Age number. But lets just accept that. A doubling would mean 560ppm. We are currently at 390.20ppm. Due to the logarithmic response, we have already seen most of the warming that would occur. Most of the warming happens with the start of the increase, each additional increase adds less warming. For example: Going from 280 to 560 would add 2 degrees. To add another 2 I have to go to 1120ppm. We will never get there. The reason is that we will run out of fossil fuel before we get to 1120 ppm or it will become too scarce and valuable for other purposes to burn. Anyway, we have already experienced more than half of the warming that would come from a doubling of CO2

    So figuring the actual number, 1.2 degrees, if I took CO2 up to 1120ppm, the current global temperature would be just about what it was 6000 years ago. when temperatures were about 2C higher than today and sea levels were about 2 meters higher.

    It would not cause a severe problem for the environment. We know that with absolute certainty. We know that because every single species alive now survived that very condition 6000 years ago. We would only be at risk of harming species that have only emerged since then. I’m not aware of any of those. Also, the last Interglacial was warmer than this one. Every species on Earth that I am aware of survived TWO periods that were much warmer than today. Most survived many more than two because this interglacial is the coldest one in 400,000 years and most species have existed for more than 400,000 years.

    In fact, it is just as valid to say that warming is undoing the environmental damage that has been done over the past 2000 years by global cooling. Earth has been cooling rather quickly over the past 2000 years.

    Why is only “warming” damage?

    Every species has experienced massive global warming on steroids. The exit from the last glacial period to modern temperatures took only about 50 years. We warmed up for a few hundred years and went back into near glacial conditions (younger dryas) over a period of 50 years, stayed there for 1500 years and came roaring back to temperatures warmer than today in another 50 year period. Seriously. Climate is NOT stable. Our climate history is extremely unstable and over the past 2 million years it has become increasingly more unstable. Ice ages are colder. Temperature swings wildly and often by several degrees in only a few years.

    Tim … climate is not stable and any changes we have made it it are slow and minor compared to what nature does. And it is nothing that species on this planet have not seen before.


  60. peter geany says:

    This has been a most interesting post and series of comments. More so as it tends to support ideas that I have held about the inadequacies of how we measure the CO2 budget and the sweeping conclusions that have been accepted for so long without adequate scientific data backing them up. It seems to be a prerequisite to being a climate scientist that you don’t work with data that has been gathered by rigorous application of the scientific method. Just imagine if our aeronautical engineers worked in this appalling manner; would you still be prepared to get on a 747?

    I often thought back when everyone was arguing about whether CO2 caused warming or not, that it may have been easier to properly quantify all the CO2 emission. I have always felt that the figures from Hawaii were just too convenient by half, and didn’t represent the globe. And I seem to recall some 18 months or is it 30 months ago some satellite data was leaked onto WUWT showing that the tropics seemed to produce more CO2 than the industrial areas. I couldn’t understand at the time why it didn’t get more exposure.

    Anyone that says Volcanoes have little or no effect on global CO2 level compared to man just hasn’t spent any time at all reading up on the subject. The warmists have known that the general population walk about in ignorance of this subject and have felt able to dismiss out of hand leading experts such as Ian Plimer and others, in a way they rage about we we mere sceptic question their own work.

    Slowly but surely the general public are taking more of an interest in these subjects, not because they have suddenly become sexy to talk about, but because they relate back to how we are currently governed and ultimately to the unholy mess that is being made of economic governance in the West due to the same flaw thinking, and ignoring of facts. People are really feeling the strain now and this is causing them to quest much that has been received wisdom.

  61. Tim says:

    @E.M. Smith — not trying to be a troll, sorry if I came across as one.

    We’ve actually measured the CO2 concentrations at a number of places in situ since 1975, and they all agree in terms of the global trend … see The Hawaii plot is just shown most frequently since it goes back an extra number of years.

    You’re right that CO2 isn’t really well-mixed, especially factoring in the planetary boundary layer, where concentrations can be highly elevated by fires/volcanoes/human activity, or depleted by photosynthesis. Also, regarding satellite measurements of CO2 — since the atmosphere is not perfectly well-mixed, especially going into the stratosphere, where the air may be tropospheric air from several (~5) years ago, the tropopause height is a confounding factor in satellite measurements of column amount. Places with a high tropopause — like the tropics — will tend to have more column CO2 than places with a low tropopause — like the poles, other things equal.

    You’re also right that forest cutting is essentially indistinguishable from fossil fuel burning — both involve burning/oxidation of biological material, and will deplete atmospheric O2 and have a similar isotopic signal. I should have bundled the two together into my assertion of human responsibility for at least the amount of extra CO2 that is in the atmosphere. That was my core point, and an Occam’s razor argument is that we’ve seen an increase in atmospheric CO2, on the order of magnitude of what we’ve emitted by burning/deforestation. It’s not absolute proof (nothing really can be), but it is a solid argument — if this is the sort of thing that is unwelcome here, then I’ll leave.

    Ice core measurements do represent an average over a certain amount of time, but that time frame depends on how rapidly the pore-connected ice near the surface closes off into ice with bubbles. This timescale depends on the accumulation rate, so a Vostok record might not tell us a lot about really short-term variability, but other ice cores (Law Dome, tropical glaciers with high accumulation rates) tell us more, and are not suggestive of large fluctuations in CO2 concentrations during interglacials.


    Our pre-industrial CO2 measurement can be a direct measurement of air from glaciers, if that’s how one defines it. But it’s not a direct atmospheric measurement, that’s true. In any case, I agree with you overall — forcing is logarithmic (art least near current concentrations), and a doubling of CO2 is not necessarily catastrophic — a halving of CO2 would be much more worrisome! The concern for natural systems is really more about rate of change than magnitude. We may be (or maybe not, depending on what climate sensitivity turns out to be) performing a glacial-interglacial magnitude climate change experiment on a timescale of a tenth to a hundredth of the normal glacial-interglacial transition. Evidence that it took place in only 50 years is certainly not global, and while I’d be willing to entertain it, I’d at least like a citation. I agree that climate is not stable, but exactly how abrupt historical changes have been is a hugely open subject. Also, I’m fairly relaxed about climate change — I think solar may render the fossil fuel economy moot in a few decades. Anyhow, the real question is whether climate changes will be too abrupt for human or natural systems? My inclination, like you, is to think ‘probably not,’ and that maybe it doesn’t matter for ecosystems as much as other human disruptions to habitat extent and the distribution of species is much more important. But it might matter, and that ‘might’ is enough to justify some action, or at least to justify action for someone with a precautionary worldview.

  62. George says:


    Our pre-industrial CO2 measurement can be a direct measurement of air from glaciers

    And the accuracy of that is in question, too. They aren’t really sure how much gas exchange goes on with that ice. It’s still a guess. But it doesn’t matter anyway.

    From 1911 to 1940 we saw pretty much the same rate of rise in temperatures as we saw from 1975 to 2000.

    There was also a similar period of warming of about the same duration and amount in the late 19th century. All three of those periods are simply recovery from the Little Ice Age.

    What these discredited “scientists” have done is taken one single period of that rise and attempted to correlate it to CO2 and have chosen to ignore the other periods of similar rise because those periods can’t be explained by their models or their hypothesis.

    It is like watching a tide come in at a beach and coming to the conclusion that the reason the water is rising is because people are entering the water to swim. Yes, a person getting into a body of water will make that body rise but in this case they have greatly misunderstood the sensitivity of the ocean to that rise and ignored that there was also a high tide the night before when there were no swimmers in the water.

    Halving CO2 would be catastrophic. Global CO2 levels are near their all time low in geological history. They are near the bottom edge of what plants need in order to survive. During the past glacial period they came very close to that limit. At the LGM, plants were probably not putting on much biomass because CO2 levels were so low.

    Solar is never going to take the place of fossil fuel. Nuclear will though. How many solar panels does it take to run just one electric arc blast furnace for steel 24×7? How many solar panels does it take to power 40 such steel mills? Why would you use generation capacity that can be destroyed in a hail storm?

    We could replace every single coal power plant right this minute. China is working on a massive nuclear electrification program. But even that assumes CO2 is some sort of problem. It isn’t.

    But in any case, the latest period of warming ended in about 2004. We probably have about 30 years of cooling going forward. Enjoy.

  63. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Back in 1976 I calculated the needed 10 year increase in national electrical power in solar panels, 800 square miles!! I was in solar energy business at that time. Nuclear is the only solution for real power generation needs. The burning of carbonaceous fuels just seems wasteful to me. Wind mills are a very bad joke for real energy needs and they DAMAGE the climate and are very undependable as they self destruct when used. Are very difficult and expensive to work on. Oh yes, I once had interests in an Alamont Pass wind farm. 40 years of alternative energy of all kinds, bottom line. For real energy needs, “alternative energy” is a scam that is driven by government and can NEVER supply modern civilization needs. Only choice is Civilization or not. Nuclear power or nothing. And high temperature fusion won’t work for real energy needs. The very last thing high temperature particles want to do is fuse. LENR may well be the solution as that is the way GOD powers the universe. pg

  64. Tim says:

    @P.G. — annual global production of solar is currently about 10-15 GW peak; at ~10% efficiency on ~1000 W/m^2 of (peak) sunlight this translates to about 40-60 square miles of global panel production a year ( I’d revisit the numbers a little bit if you haven’t been looking for a while.

    Nuclear could be a silver bullet, especially due to the relative insensitivity to fuel prices, and the ultimate potential for seawater U extraction, but the regulatory challenges, human capital (# of Nuclear Engineers), and financing/ unit cost issues seem like major hurdles for getting a large annual growth rate (unless you can clobber those with a command and control government as George is suggesting). Anyhow, clearly some strong beliefs here on energy supply — I’m happy to entertain a nuclear future but that’s not the way things seem to be trending right now.

    @George — looks from Wikipedia like one electric arc blast furnace for steel takes about 35 MW of power to operate. There are a number of solar power plants bigger than this, some in construction as much as 10 times or more this size; I’m not sure that the “number of solar panels” required is very meaningful. Running it 24/7 with solar would obviously require a lot of storage capacity (battery or otherwise), and would be an inefficient use of the solar power resource — it seems like electric arc blast furnace can operate intermittently and still be economical. Anyhow, you’d use solar because it gets cheaper than other sources, not for other reasons. Time will tell, and it’s quite possible I’m wrong. I’d be happy to live in a nuclear future.

  65. George says:

    35 MW

    How does a solar plant produce 35mW of power, day and night, rain or shine in Binghamton NY which gets 200 overcast days a year?

    Solar is not “cheaper” at all. It is one of the most expensive sources of power you can produce. Do you understand the mining and processing of the raw materials required to go into solar panels? The manufacturing process isn’t environmentally friendly either. If you want to add batteries you will need even more mines and more processing. Lead smelters, anyone?

    Then when you place solar panels you completely destroy the environment under them. Depriving acres of land sunlight completely changes that ecosystem as does the water and detergents needed to keep those panels clean.

    Then we have the fact that the panels degrade at about 10% per year and the actual individual physical failure rate of cells within a panel is also pretty high. Delamination of cells is a major problem. Who wants to install a generating capacity that needs to be completely replaced every 10-20 years?

    How do you dispose of all of these old discarded panels that will begin to make their way to disposal sites in a decade or two? You can not recycle the semiconductor material. The plant itself can’t be built in areas that experience hail or high wind or they will be destroyed.

    The people that push solar do not take all costs into account.

  66. George says:

    Solar makes perfect sense for application where the power grid does not reach. It makes no sense at all as currently deployed. I could design a system that could use solar more efficiently but it would be more environmentally damaging that the CO2 we are trying to mitigate and there is no reason to mitigate it. Nobody has ever shown atmospheric CO2 emissions to be harmful to anyone or anything in any way. All of this is based on the “It could happen” principle, not the “it is happening” principle.

  67. E.M.Smith says:


    You didn’t come across as one. It’s just very hard on the fist comment to tell the “Subtle Troll” from the “Read a lot of Warmista Stuff” folks; and I figured better to put the terms out there clearly and up front.

    As I said, genuine interest is welcome. IF it ends up degenerating into a shouting match of “he said / they said” things will get shut down. If it goes to “How best to understand this mess”, fine with me. Or put another way: ‘Solid arguments’ welcome, time sinks not so much… petty bickering not at all.

    FWIW, I have a 1/2 done posting on the history of CO2 measurement. It’s much more variable than The Team likes to admit ( or admit into the pal-reviewd literature). Since the CO2 topic seems to be catching interest, I’ll try to finish it up today or tomorrow. There are a LOT of older measurements showing wide variation and higher levels. The “baseline” used of 288 or so is a bit of a cherry pick. Once the past is in doubt, any comparison becomes difficult. So what it looks like, to me, is that they throw out real instrumental data done by good scientists showing higher levels, and substitute proxy ice core data that is smeared, compressed in range, polar low biased (and more).

    That, then is problematic for saying what true change of trend has been.

    You end up in the same “Hocky Stick Trick” world of grafting early proxy data onto current instrumental data (and from divergent geographies with different CO2 levels, per the satellites). to form the ‘rising trend’. I think that is a problem. A big one. And all the hand waving (or gum flapping) about how great ice cores are will not change that fundamental problem.

    Per “rate of change”: Remember that the planet has been REGULARLY hit with rocks from space that cause nearly instant ‘climate change’ (and not just the monster that did in the Dinosaurs). We also get a degree or two out of even minor volcanoes. Life just doesn’t notice a couple of C wobble even in a year or two time frame. Look at the 100,000 year graph of temperature changes. Our last century hardly shows up as a movement at all, even with the cooked data from Jones et. al.

    I also note that you end with “The Precautionary Principle”: It is a terribly broken argument. That something MIGHT be an issue is a reason to DO NOTHING while you study it. When lost in a snowstorm the first thing to do is STAND STILL, not go running off in some direction. When a patient comes into the ER, the first thing done is to stabilize the patient, not start shooting them up with drugs in the hope that you got it right. Jumping too fast kills far more people that taking the time to gain understanding.

    Basically, we all “might” kill someone, but we don’t put all of us on Death Row.

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    You too, eh? Yeah, I owned a tiny bit of a wind farm once. Still own a bunch of other small bets on ‘alternative energy’. A fellow can dream….

    FWIW, we can run about 400 years at present rates on fossil fuels, then we need to go nuclear. (Well, it is possible to do it with various other things, like solar thermal and ocean currents, but the costs and environmental impacts are way high compared to nuclear). So we have lots of time to figure out the best nukes. I think the passive safe smaller sized Toshiba likely has it right. Also a Thorium fueled CANDU.

    None of that solves the problem of ‘reducing agent’ or cement. You need a lot of carbon to be consumed to reduce iron ore to steel, and a lot of raw heat to make cement. We’ll be using coal for a very long time.

    But I’m all for solar. California is sprouting “roofs” over parking lots like crazy (or was, until our economic meltdown). GREAT idea as it also shades the cars and saves your paint / upholstery while taking no more land area. Only issue is the amazing cost…


    Do a search on ULUM Ultra Large Uranium Miner ship. I did an article on that a bit ago. We can power the entire world on seawater uranium for the life of the planet. No more impact than the present fleet of ships hauling crude oil around the planet.

    FWIW, solar THERMAL has a very easy time doing a 12 hour storage in eutectic salts. Solves that ‘sunset’ problem ;-)


    Don’t get me started on the Indium Telluride toxicity and problems in disposing those panels…

    Clearly one would put the solar blast furnace in somewhere like the Mojave, not in the North East. Those folks would continue to use Canadian Hydro, coal, or nuclear.

    A mixed grid is a happy grid, and one type does not fit all ;-)

    We built a couple of great White Elephant large scale solar thermal plants near Boron California. Sucked up oceans of cash. Worked pretty well, too. Their present status I’m not too sure about. IIRC, one was shut down for a good while. The major problem they face is Palo Verde nuclear facility in Arizona… Reliably cranks out megawatts 24x7x52 … at dirt cheap prices and with very little labor.


    The amount of labor and skill it takes to build the volume of nuclear capacity needed to run the place would be far less than that needed to do it with solar. Just look at the number of electricians needed to wire up 1,000 MW of solar panels vs what s needed for one nuclear plant.

    The big problem for solar, IMHO, is the battery. To displace oil, you need to displace transportation fuel. (Transportation is almost entirely oil based). That is very hard to do. How do you get your electricity into airplanes and ships at sea? Batteries are not going to cut it.

    You could electrify the rail system, but that cost is horrific. Just look at the number of kilotons of copper needed for the tens of thousands of miles of track in the USA alone. The environmental damage of that much mining makes me shudder.

    Buses and cars have some hope, but a slim one. A hybrid that can go 50 miles on batteries, then swap to fuel, gets most of the fuel use moved.

    But then you have the Generate: transmission losses, battery charger losses, battery chargING losses, battery self discharge losses, battery discharge inefficiency losses, controller / inverter losses, powertrain losses. By the time you are done, it is not nearly as efficient as folks like to think. About on a par with fuel driven engines (sometimes worse…)

    This is why looking at real costs, and NOT subsidizing things, is so important. People will believe a lot of BS, but the actual cost does not lie.

    Until you crack the transportation fuels / costs issues, solar doesn’t do anything to reduce oil consumption. It can only partly reduce coal usage.

    So I’m “all for it”, but not expecting it to be economical any time soon. AND ‘being economical’ can not be fixed by a subsidy, that just damages some other part of the economy to hide the waste and damage of an inefficient choice. (For example, a subsidy to sell electric cars damages the sales of high efficiency Diesels that are cleaner than gasoline and can reduce fuel usage by 30% or so.)

    Economics can not be legislated.


    You would likely also like:

    which has a picture of an Earthship in it. One day I’d love to live in an Earthship… preferably made of beer bottles, some personally supplied in the making ;-)


    which pretty much goes through the massive energy options available to us.

  68. George says:

    Tim, just answer me one question:

    Why is the 0.174 C/decade rise from 1917-1944 not anthropogenic while the 0.176 C/decade rise from 1976-2000 *is* anthropogenic?

    Two rises of the same amount for the same length of time separated by only 30 years yet one is supposed to be due to CO2 and the other is not.

    Please explain the differences and why the first rise is not related to human emissions while the second one is. I will post the link here again so you don’t have to flip back and forth:

  69. Tim says:

    George: the short answer is that I don’t know, and that it’s a good question — that was roughly the question I was suggesting to be more uncertain than the origins of the atmospheric CO2 anomaly in my first post here.

    One explanation is that both are to some extent anthropogenic. With preindustrial CO2 levels ~280 ppm, and 1940 CO2 at ~310 ppm, there is about a 0.5 W/m^2 radiative forcing from CO2 above preindustrial, even in 1940 (3.7 ln(310/280)/ln(2)~0.54 W/m^2), as compared to a ~0.94 W/m^2 forcing in going from 1940-2000 (up to 370 ppm). CH4 and N2O were also above preindustrial by 1940, though they’re more minor players. Then you can wave your hands and fudge things with aerosols to get comparable forcings in the two periods if you want, but the key point is that the radiative forcing from LLGHGs was not zero in 1940. One problem with saying the 1910-1940 rise was anthropogenic is that our measurements of the climate were much sparser and noisier then, so I think most people just don’t say it.

    Another explanation is that both are mostly natural variability. It’s certainly possible (along with small implied climate sensitivity to CO2), especially given the last decade of quiescent warming.

    As you’ve pointed out, the explanation that one is natural and the other anthropogenic seems fishy. I agree. But a short point about trends: the relation (if it exists) between d/dt(temperature) and d/dt(radiative forcing) is expected to be much noisier than the relation (if it exists) between temperature and radiative forcing, because the time derivative amplifies short-term noise (and even decadal-scale natural variability) in the climate system relative to long-term trends. And really, the physically based relation is between d/dt(temperature) and the radiative imbalance, but that’s a lot harder to quantify than radiative forcing, at least until the satellite era. So it’s probably easier to avoid signal/noise problems in using integrated amounts of change, rather than rates of change.

    @ E.M. Smith: Wasn’t saying that the precautionary principle was right. I was saying that ideology explains a great deal of attitude towards the issue of climate change, rather than perceptions of validity/invalidity of the science (though the two may correlate well), and that it’s important to understand the role of ideology in the ‘debate’. Even if you think that, hypothetically, a cap-and-trade policy is unjustified by a scientific argument that stands a 25% chance of being correct (I’m guessing you think it’s lower, but bear with me), others might think otherwise, and they shouldn’t be laughed out of the room — their beliefs represent personal values in the face of uncertainty and telling them they’re wrong will do no more good than an attempt at rhetoric and persuasion between a pro-lifer and a pro-choicer.

    Standing still may be the right option in the snowstorm case, but the global economy does not stand still — and exactly what the “do-nothing” option is, remains unclear. The question of ‘what to do’ becomes inherently political, rather than scientific, when uncertainties are large and values are not shared, as is clearly the case for this question. Anyhow, I appreciate your willingness to tolerate dissent.

  70. George says:

    The explanation is pretty simple (and there was an earlier rise of the same rate and duration that ended around 1879).

    They are both simply manifestations of the recovery from the Little Ice Age. We are still recovering and have not yet reached temperatures seen in the Medieval Warm Period as is obvious from today’s climate in where crops were routinely grown then and can not grow today as it is still too cold.

    That recovery was interrupted by a roughly 30 year cool spell. That 60 year cycle is evident in dendrochonologies, ice cores, sediment cores, pollen surveys, etc. It seems to be related more to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, more than anything else.

    It does look as though we are now headed into another 30 year hiatus of warming. It might be worse this time, depending on what the Sun does. Periods of extremely low activity have generally been correlated with periods of cool temperatures.

  71. kakatoa says:

    E. M. Smith says…….”Economics can not be legislated.”

    I concur, but it sure seems like an evaluation of costs can get screwed up-

    “Renewable Energy Adoption and the Increasing Cost of Electricity in the U.S.”

    The article above was reposted with a comment by at think progress with this comment-
    “The findings presented here show quite clearly that states with high volumes of wind and solar PV have seen well below average cost increases. When this fact is considered in conjunction with the various health, environmental, energy security, and job creation benefits of renewable forms of generation, it helps to form a compelling argument in their favor. The next time someone tells you that they would support renewable energy if the costs weren’t so high, share these findings with them and see if their perspective changes.”

    My costs for 1500 kwh/month (in the summer) from PG&E would of gone up 80% from 2004 to 2010 (e-1 rate schedule). How costs get allocated can/are set via administrative law. Did you notice that baseline quantities dropped 10% earlier this year for PG&E customers with a corresponding drop in Tier 4 and 5 costs and an increase in Tier 3.

  72. George says:

    The costs are artificially manipulated by government mandated subsidies on one side and by artificially increasing costs and artificially creating scarcity on the other side. We could reduce the costs right now of fossil fuels if we simply get many of those artificial barriers out of the way. We could also allow the costs of solar/wind to go to their natural price by ending these subsidies.

    More importantly, this artificial manipulation is an extremely regressive tax on the poorest of the poor. Poor people drive cars or have electric bills, too. When the cost of energy is artificially inflated or tax money is used to artificially deflate the cost through subsidies, it is the poor who pay a disproportionate price for they. Furthermore, when you look at things like solar and wind installations, only the fairly well off can afford to install them in the first place. So you have the very poor subsidizing things that only the rich can afford to buy.

    It gets even worse when you look at things like electric cars that might cost well over $50,000 and are heavily subsidized by both federal and state governments. In states where sales tax revenues go toward those subsidies, you again are taxing people so poor they don’t even qualify to pay income tax yet are subsidizing what amounts to a toy for rich people.

    And “think progress” wouldn’t exactly be my idea of authority on any subject. They are an extremely biased agenda-driven socialist propaganda site.

  73. kakatoa says:

    Afternoon George,

    Out here in CA there is a reduced electrical rate program for the poor-last time I checked 20 to 30% of PG&E’s customers were in this program- called the Residential CARE program. The costs for the program are paid for by the almost poor and everyone else. The residential E-1 rate schedule with the CARE program has kwh prices as follows;
    Tier 1- $.083, Tier 2- $.0956, Tier 3,4 and 5= $.125. Per PG&E’s “Average Total Rate (per kWh) table the CARE Average is $.095 kwh and everyone else’s Average Total Rate is $.18299.

    If a wealthy uncle happened to give you an electrical vehicle you could charge it up at home (Schedule E-9 rate A or B) at a discount. Unfortunately my uncles didn’t have any funds to give me a volt, leaf, etc so I drive an older diesel. It is kind of interesting that we have CARE programs for electricity but don’t have them for water or sewer services- and those costs have gone through the roof in my area lately.

  74. E.M.Smith says:


    Some useful stuff on CO2 is here:

    I see you have embraced the whole “radiative forcing” meme. See:

    Then think about that whole bit of wandering around in the land of no convection and theoretical tropical hot spot that doesn’t form.

    I’ll go with the observation based science over the Magic Gas Hand Waving, thanks…

    The correct model is like more like:

    using a spherical form of:

    Yes, I’ve been down this road before. A few times. The “IR Forcing” meme is broken and does not have predictive power.

    Per “we have no answer so make it political”: I have seen no evidence that politics reaches good decisions in general, and plenty of evidence that it makes extraordinarily lousy economic choices. Vis the entire history of Socialism (including both the Nazi / Fascist forms and the Communist forms) along with the abysmal history of Capitalism and Crony Capitalists buying favor…

    I’d rather not place a vote for “make it political”…


    We are in a downturn very long term:

    though with large oscillations.

    Shorter term, we’re in a downturn as well, but on one minor counter trend rally that is due to end:

    Note, in particular, the Vostok core on the lower graph:

    And the two “ring downs” on the close up here:

    though the have scales that run time in two different directions…

    All the folks in the “Warmers” side are panicked over the latest minor ripple up, when the context clearly says it is absolutely normal, in the context of a long down trend, and the next move is to very much colder.

    We are irrelevant fleas just along for the ride.

  75. E.M.Smith says:


    Hadn’t noticed, but then again, it was more or less what I’d expected anyway.

    FWIW, my present ‘muse’ is to just get a natural gas generator and plumb it in. Then I bypass that whole regulatory quagmire and make my own e- from the ‘keep the price low for home heating’ natural gas…

    That’s the kind of thing that happens when socialism starts to try running markets. Folks adjust…

    At a couple of $hundred a month, the generator is paid for in about 2 months…

    Phase two is a gas generator using yard waste, if they ever start jacking up the natural gas prices…

  76. Tim says:

    @ E.M. Smith — all credible climate models currently have a diurnal cycle, and time steps on the order of minutes. Radiative forcing is useful in a radiative-convective framework (I work on convection) — the diurnal cycle doesn’t give an adequate way to test climate sensitivity, and the whole bit about adding CO2 reducing optical thickness is garbage. I can say more later, but it appears you have some deep misconceptions — I’m happy to clarify offline if you want, but I’d suggest you read Pierrehumbert’s book “Principles of Planetary Climate”.

  77. E.M.Smith says:


    I’d guessed you ‘worked in the area’ from your first comment and were fully steeped in the ‘tradition’.

    Did you bother to notice that the paper referenced in the link about convection did observation and measurement, not models?

    I do computer stuff for a living. I can make a model that shows anything. A model that is rational and reasonable and even works well, FOR THE MODELED DATA. Then falls apart. The history of stock trading models is riddled with them. So nothing you can say about theory or models is going to ‘move me’.

    Show me observations of physical action IN THE WORLD (not a minor lab example of some small theoretical corner – the real world will have larger bits that you are missing that swamp the rest) and I’m interested. When we have physical observation of orders of magnitude larger energy flows from convection with heat dumping at altitude, the idea that IR from the ground dominates is just kind of silly.

    That the observations of temperatures at altitude are NOT doing what the models predicted is also rather telling. Like that tropical tropospheric ‘hot spot’…

    Then you get to add in the ‘new things’ we’re still learning like that damp air with CO2 is observed to cool (that “CO2 cools damp air” link). The models can’t have included that, since it wasn’t known. That’s the trouble with pretending that computer models are science. The are not. They are very precise FANTASIES.

    That is not a pejorative, BTW. Fantasies can be very valuable things. They can guide insight. They can inspire to new explorations. They can inform our ignorance. What they can NOT do is provide proof. That comes from real world observation and experiments. So I’m all for using computer models (spent a significant part of my work life supporting them) and they can do a great job in very limited contexts in well understood regimes. They can also say “you have this bit wrong as the model diverges from reality”. But they are NOT reality, and never will be. They can inform about your ERROR, but not about the REALITY.

    That is a very critical point. There are hundreds of news reports of some “scientist” or other claiming their model proved something or other. It can’t. It can inform to “look here”, but the proof must come from reality, not a model.

    Per reading “Principles” – maybe if I get time, but it won’t be soon. I’ll read about it fairly soon, and expect it to be a formula and theory rich theoretical treatment of planet weather and climate operation. If so, it will be even longer before I read it. Not because I have anything against theory, but because theory always missing things. In this case, I think it misses some very big things about our planet.

    Perhaps it is just the implementation of the models that has it wrong. Perhaps it is just our millions of years long slide toward Ice Ball Earth and our recent start of the exit from the Holocene. But it’s clearly not getting things right. Take a look at a 100,000 year temperature chart of the earth and it is very clear that the gas chemistry is NOT dominating the temperature changes. To the extent there is an effect (and I think there is some) it shows in the millions of years slide to ever lower temperatures and ever more glaciations (as CO2 dropped from thousands of ppm to hundreds). It would be better to prevent that than to help it along.

    During interglacials we ‘shoot up’, usually higher than this one, then hit a hard wall and plunge again. This one was ‘clipped’ and we think that is some kind of climate stability. It isn’t. While I think that was a rock fall on the ice sheet dampening the spike, it could just as easily be a continuation of the long slide to colder over millions of years. That would argue for this next glacial being even deeper and worse than the last one (in keeping with the long term – millions of years- trend, BTW).

    What is very clear from that temperature history is this:

    1) There is a hard lid just a bit above our present temps. It whacks us back down anytime we ‘go there’. (What is it? is an interesting question. I suspect it is the 4th power radiative function and enhanced Heat Pipe Earth with larger convection / water flows in the atmosphere).

    2) CO2 levels do NOTHING to change that. We’ve had glacials and interglacials in a variety of ice ages with all sorts of CO2 levels; and with rapid transitions from glacial to interglacial at those same CO2 levels.

    3) The interglacials have a very consistent ‘width’ at our present temperatures. We are near the end of that width (even if the peak was clipped, we only get the same amount of time…)

    4) The earth has been as hot as it can get many times in the past, and those were the “good times”. Life thrives in warmth and most; it dies in cold and dry. There is no threat from added warmth. There is a great threat from more cold.

    There’s more, but I’m going to cut to the chase here:

    Even if CO2 does have some warming impact:

    1) It is entirely swamped by “something else”.

    2) The climate models don’t have that “something else” in them.

    3) We need that warmth to prevent the collapse of the Holocene into a new glacial. (Not a hypothetical glacial, one that is starting now in geologic terms. The recent series of ‘lower highs and lower lows’ in temperatures over the last 6000 years or so says we’re already in the decline phase. Yes, it’s a long slow process. That doesn’t make it gone…)

    4) IFF we overshoot on any ‘warming’ from CO2, it hits the lid at about 2 C higher than now with conditions remarkably good and roughly the same as the Holocene Optimum that all present species lived through. There is no “Tipping Point” to the upside; we are already tipping to the downside.

    Given all that, I see little reason to spend days of my life reading a book about how to make better hypothetical computer models about theoretical impacts of gasses in isolated systems. We don’t live in an isolated system, nor do we know all the things driving it. (Like that new understanding that CO2 cools damp air; and that missing tropospheric hot spot).

    I appreciate that you do spend your life working on it. Please do not construe my statements to mean I disparage that work. The models DO have value in that they can “inform our ignorance”. That is a very valuable thing! WHY is there no ‘hot spot”? Doing compare and contrast of model runs to reality can say were to look. WHY are we subject to a ‘hard lid” a couple of degrees above now? WHY do we have ice ages? Unless we ‘go there’ we can not observe it. So the model lets us pretend to go there and see if we observe something interesting. (Then we can test that something in the real world in many cases – the rest remain hypothetical).

    The only error, IMHO, is in thinking the model informs about reality. It does not and can not. It only provides a precise fantasy that may often look like reality (and may still be useful in limited ranges) but can suddenly and without warning diverge from that reality.

    I don’t say this glibly. I supported a supercomputer site doing computer modeling for about 7 years. We modeled ONE liquid – plastic – of precise composition, in ONE limited temperature range, in very limited pressures, being injected into a precisely defined steel die. Modeling improved our die cut performance dramatically from about 4 or 5 iterations to ‘get it right’ to typically one. First one right. But even then, about 1 in 10 or 1 in 8 the mold would have defects. Unexplained weld lines. Scorches.

    The idea we can model something as complex as the earth and ‘get it right’ first time every time is incredibly broken. Reality just is. Models not so much…

  78. E.M.Smith says:

    @Peter Geany:

    That 747 example is particularly germane in the context of models.

    Modern aircraft design is dominated by computer models and CAD. My brother-in-law worked at NASA on aeronautical theory (Ph.D in it) and computer modeling. It has given us wonderful improvements.

    Yet every new design gets very through testing.

    Despite which, every so often a design starts falling out of the sky…

    For the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (with arguably the most and best computer modeling in the world going into it) had an issue with the wing in static load testing. Had to have a ‘work around’ figured out by people. Thinking. (Not too hard a fix. Some stiffener studs added inside. No need to start over).

    There is a reason every airplane is tested before certification. There is a reason why after certification, every accident may cause a ‘type change’ order to go out…

    Modeling air flow over an air foil is hard. Modeling it in the global atmosphere is orders of magnitude harder. Modeling precisely specified engineered materials is hard. Modeling nature with constantly changing ‘spec’ on its materials is orders of magnitude harder. We simply can not use models to tell us what reality WILL do, only to inform our ignorance when it doesn’t do what the model predicted.

  79. kakatoa says:

    E. M. Smith says “………… just get a natural gas generator and plumb it in. Then I bypass that whole regulatory quagmire and make my own e- from the ‘keep the price low for home heating’ natural gas…”

    Unfortunately, my area doesn’t have natural gas. I am also looking at a generator. Unfortunately, propane is running $2.80 gallon and diesel is running $3.99 a gallon- although I think I can purchase diesel for our ranch sans taxes ($.76/gallon). Where I live CARB doesn’t have any rules in regards to burning (fireplaces, yard waste, etc.) so running a generator shouldn’t be an issue…… Hope CARB, or a local permitting process, don’t adversely effect your plans.

  80. George says:

    There’s no fuel tax on fuel for a generator. You can run it on heating oil, too.

  81. E.M.Smith says:


    Wel, the small Honda (about 1 kw which is all I need if run often with battery pack and inverter to smooth demand) is about the size of a carry on bag, makes 56 db (about a soft murmur) and has an exhaust pipe about the size of a Cigarillo… I don’t think anyone would even know it was around, in a sound insulated surround…


    The natural gas is attractive to me as it is on basically 100% of the time, doesn’t require me to refuel, and will be politically unacceptable to tax to the extreme and / or cut off supplies. I fully expect an EPA push against gasoline and Diesel Real Soon Now… (Right after they are done killing coal – see the recent EPA “new rules” on coal…)

    My real preference would be for a ‘gas-o-gen’ and using yard waste, but that’s a bit big and takes work ;-)

    I already have the gas version of the generator and love it. Ought to have bought the dual-fuel one. Oh Well…

    Diesel costs here are not competitive with commercial generation (right now..)

    I once figured out that with the rather efficient small Diesel generator (3 kw? something like that) it was about the same in cents / kWhr as 10% of the price of Diesel, per gallon Diesel at $4.20 right now would mean electricity at 42 cents / kWhr. Way higher… Even if you take the tax out.

    As natural gas is running about $1.20 per GGE (Gallon Of Gas Equiv.) that would be much cheaper…

    On my someday list would be a real, proper, micro co-gen plant so the heat could be used in winter, too. But that’s a ways off… In reality, I’ll likely just keep paying the utility company (unless it gets too bad – I bought the generator and battery box back when Gov. Grey Out Davis was giving us rolling blackouts. Almost assembled the inverter / batt box but we changed Governors and the blackouts ended ;-) Still have all the parts, though…

  82. George says:

    What you want is “Red Dye Diesel” which is off road diesel that doesn’t have road tax on it or “agricultural” gasoline that also has no road tax. You do not need to pay the road tax on fuel that is consumed for off road use. If you keep good records, you an get reimbursed for the road tax (federal and state) for fuel used for off road activities (4 wheelers, generators, tractors etc).

  83. E.M.Smith says:


    Which gets me all the way down to $3.80 / gallon or so. 38 cents / kWhr. Still way too high… Nat Gas is the cheap stuff around here…

  84. George says:

    Yes, gas is cheap. I have a friend who has a contract with a tortilla plant in Stockton. She drives over and collects their veggie oil and converts it to biodiesel. She gets it for the hauling. They are glad to have someone take it off their hands.

  85. kakatoa says:

    E.M. says…… “Gov Davis……….”

    Governor Davis was the former chief of staff to our former and current governor. Former Governor Davis comes to mind once a year for me- when I get my True up bill (1 year net metering bill) from PG&E. My yearly Net Metering bill brakes down all the allocations/costs for a years worth of electrical energy from PG&E. My allocation to pay for all the long term contracts Gov Davis had the Department of Water (DWR line item on your bill) put in place back during the black/brown days (to minimize them) amount to 9.0% of my bill. The powers that felt we (PG&E ratepayers) should be held accountable for their (PG&E’s) bankruptcy- which leads to the Energy Cost Recovery (ERC) line item on your bill- or in my case 6% of my yearly bill from PG&E. Last time I checked we get to pay these fees/charges until something like 2020- so former Governor Davis with be with us in spirit (and in my wallet) for awhile yet.

    On generators I would love to find a cost effective way to convert my yard/ranch/vineyard waste into some useful form of energy as I need about a 6 kw generator and/or some fancy software to trip just the right circuit breakers at my place. When my well kicks on it draws a lot of amps to get the water up from a depth of 260 feet.

  86. Tim says:

    @ E.M. Smith — convective heat transport is important, sure. But it does not simply dump heat high up in the atmosphere where it can be radiated to space at an arbitrarily high rate. In fact, while your analogy about heat pipes is mostly apt, I think you miss a key point about how radiative transfer can dispose of the energy that is convectively transported to the upper troposphere. IR emissivity and absorptivity are equal by Kirchoff’s law — therefore you cannot radiate efficiently above levels where the atmosphere is opaque in the IR, since the emissivity and absorptivity are both low there. Therefore, most of the radiation emitted to space in a given wavelength comes from a region where the emissivity is rapidly decreasing with altitude (between 1 and 0) — where (typically) infrared opacity in the lower troposphere gives way to infrared transparency above. CO2 increases the IR opacity everywhere (CO2 decreasing opacity is not an observation, it’s an incorrectly-done calculation for a number of reasons — most easily explained is that Nasif’s calculation assumes water vapor is taken away when CO2 is added — the total mass-path of water vapor is assumed to decrease in proportion to the addition of other gases, which is blatantly incorrect; more subtle points include the incorrectness of using a band-averaged emissivity to determine total transmission, etc.). Thus adding CO2 makes the average level from which an IR photon escapes to space higher up in the atmosphere, and thus colder (following the moist adiabat that moist convection sets), and thus less energy is emitted, if the temperature is unchanged. The temperature warms in response to the radiative imbalance (though the temperature increase is conveyed to the upper atmosphere by convection, as seen in your observational study). This is perhaps a slightly different way of explaining how CO2 warms the planet than you are used to.

    None of this requires a computer model to explain; it can be done with pencil and paper. It is based on well-developed theory of radiative transfer (going back 100+ years), and the assumption that convection is so effective at vertically transferring heat that the vertical derivative of the temperature profile of the atmosphere (or lapse rate) is entirely set by convection, and completely independent of radiation (see numerous soundings launched daily; convective neutrality is a pretty good assumption). Convection swamps radiation in terms of vertical heat transfer within the troposphere, but since the radiative properties of the atmosphere ultimately set the height where the opaque-transparent transition takes place, and thus where photons can escape to space and cool the planet, the radiative properties of the atmosphere combine with convection to set the surface temperature.

    In terms of observations of the role of CO2 in radiative transfer through the Earth’s atmosphere — just search “Earth IR spectrum” and look at all the observations of a gigantic bite taken out of the blackbody emission around 15 microns (or 660 cm^-1). Really the “bite” is representing emission from higher levels of the atmosphere where it’s much colder — the essence of the greenhouse effect in a convectively adjusted atmosphere is that emission to space occurs from well above the surface, where it is cooler than at the surface. The higher up emission takes place, the warmer it gets as you follow a condensing adiabat down to the surface.

    Modeling convection precisely is hard, very hard, and one of the key uncertainties in climate is how convection acts to set the humidity profile of the atmosphere, which is key to radiative transfer. Understanding the first-order effects of convection on the temperature profile of the atmosphere is much, much easier — Rayleigh numbers are so high, and convection is so fast, that the approximation of convective neutrality is quite good.

    Modeling radiative transfer in a clear sky may be quite a bit easier than modeling the properties of a precisely engineered plastic. We have lots of very good theory, lots of lab measurements of how gases absorb, and lots of validation of how reality compares to line-by-line models and the radiative transfer modules used in GCMs. But even if you don’t trust these models one whit, you can make a pencil-and-paper theory (as above) to explain the way that greenhouse gases warm a convecting atmosphere. Our understanding of the greenhouse effect did not emerge from GCM simulations; it developed from the much more classical process of combined observation and theory. Why is Venus so much warmer than the Earth? Why is Mercury colder than Venus? etc.

    If you think that such questions are not in the same league as deciding the magnitude of warming that will result from a CO2 doubling, then you’re right. Theory would probably give us an order-of-magnitude estimate at best for climate sensitivity, so we use models to try to be more precise. Yes, they are horribly deficient in a number of ways, but they are based on the exact same equations and principles that underlie our great success with numerical weather prediction.

    Perhaps this is where science and engineering mindsets diverge greatly — the precision of the field is just not up to engineering standards. But that doesn’t mean that our mechanistic understanding is completely lacking, and it doesn’t mean that our basis for understanding lies in black-box models — it lies solidly in theory and observations. Maybe you’ve talked to too many climate modelers before and not enough climate scientists.

    Observations of past climates suggest that the earth has been much warmer than it is today. Freeze-sensitive plants on the northern islands of Canada; crocodiles in Wyoming, warm. I’m not saying this was a disaster for life (though we don’t know how warm the tropics were), and I don’t in general think a 3 C rise over 100 years would be a catastrophe for humans or ecosystems. We don’t understand such warm and “equable” paleoclimates that had crocs in WY, but the “lid”, if there is one, is quite a bit higher than you seem to assert. Maybe something has changed since 50 million years ago and the “lid” is much lower; that would be a fascinating scientific finding, and I would welcome a good paper about it. Unfortunately, our current understanding of the climate system just doesn’t support such a conclusion being drawn out of the deltaO-18 record.

    Slightly off-topic, but I would love to see how a physical climate model could be constructed — with dynamical similarity to the fluid flows and radiative transfer in the real Earth’s atmosphere. Probably not attainable to the level of similarity required to do a real simulation, but we do tank experiments with rotating tanks of water a meter wide to build intuition about weather in the real atmosphere.

  87. H.R. says:

    @E.M. You need a generator that runs on rabbit “pellets.”

  88. E.M.Smith says:


    I need a “biogas generator”… (Bucket, slop, ‘pellets’, no air). Warmth and waiting gives methane…


    I think looking at the giant real world very carefully would “build intuition”, as was done in the linked paper where they used various instruments to MEASURE the heat at the ground, then watch it go up to the troposphere and leave…

    So the ‘pencil and paper’ stuff is just a hand operated model and suffers the same problems.

    No, I don’t think it’s all trash. I just think it needs a whole lot more testing against the real world that has things in it the models (mental, paper, computer) leave out. Again, models “inform our ignorance”.

    Yes, I have an engineers mindset about this. Since folks are talking about re-engineering our economy, I think those standards apply.

    Your “reach” back to dinosaurs is a bit far. Yes, we cooled a lot from there (the first graph I linked), but look at the last few million years and you see we whack into a lid at about 2 C up. Think eemian, not pangaea land forms (where the dirt is located matters – we now have Panama) So we can’t get back to paleo dinosaur carbonaceous (heck we can’t even get back to that CO2 level as we can’t get all the coal out of the ground to burn it).

    BTW, the change that sets our present T-max lower does look to be the formation of Panama and the enclosure of the north pole. When the north pole was not surrounded, no ice sheet could form (it would just float away). When Panama formed, the place got a lot cooler too as the ocean currents all shifted. There are lots of papers on it. (One proposal for slowing or maybe blunting the next ice age is to nuclear excavate Panama out of existence…. I think we’ll find better ways ;-) As you go back even further, Antarctica was not at the south pole, so no ice there either. Those were the very warms times of history you talk about.

    Where the land is at matters, critically, and now it is in a ‘cold, very cold’ configuration with a permanent ice cap at one pole and an almost permanent one at the other. We only have an interglacial when the north pole is nearly ice free. As soon as the orbital mechanics have a permanent north polar ice sheet, we have negative feedbacks all the way into a glacial.

    I really wish the AGW side moaning about wanting permanent Arctic ice realized that…

    So, no, I’m not worried at all that we will have iguanas in Greenland or a swamp in Texas. Just not gonna happen. Continents in the wrong places.

    At MOST we could get Greenland to melt (and I doubt if that is even possible). The orbital mechanics already have Antarctica adding ice fast, and it will only pick up speed from here. To melt Greenland (as HAPPENED to a much greater degree in the Eemian) we would need to be at the orbital state of about 8,000 years ago. Now it’s just too late. We’re headed into the freezer fast (in geologic terms) so even trying to wait for Greenland to melt over a couple of thousand years wouldn’t win that race. (And as it is gaining ice layers now, it’s not melting. Needs a rain wash to do that, not more snow).

    Look at the temperature graphs (no, not the fraudulent ‘hockey stick’ which has been shown to be a fabrication and splice artifact – see the Strata-Sphere article ) but the ones of a few million years. Then 10,000 years. Then 1500 years.

    It’s pretty darned clear that we’re at the end of a very short warm spike, headed down. Yes, with a 1500 year large ripple (with 700 year minor ripples and even 60 year PDO ripples).. but ‘connect the tops’ and ‘connect the bottom’. Trend is very much down. CO2 has done NOTHING to stop that in prior ice ages (some of which had 2000 ppm CO2 and more). Just not gonna happen. Frankly, I would love to believe in the Magic Gas that could prevent the next ice age glacial; but having an existence proof to the contrary is kind of a big buzz kill for me :-(

    That is the basic divide between us that you will not close. I’m stuck in reality, and no hypothetical, theoretical, nor model argument is going to change that. I will admire them. I will find them fascinating bits of mental chess / ‘bridge’ / whatever. Heck, I’d even have fun programming them and looking for what they might do to help illuminate some dark corners of knowing… but I would NEVER EVER mistake them for reality. I’ve spent too much of my time chasing bugs in code for that…

    Strange thing is, the Scientific Method is the same way… it kind of wants that whole testing and falsifiable thing… and “correlation is not causality”…

  89. Tim says:

    @E.M Smith — This will be my last post unless you show some sign of recognizing the inconsistency of your beliefs. You claim that “theory will not move you” — how about the impacts of CO2 on warming Venus? That’s not a theory. How about the impacts of CO2 on warming Mars, for that matter? Why is the 15 micron dip in Earth’s OLR spectrum climatically irrelevant? Theory is required to interpret complex observations; you can’t simply look at the data and claim that you know why x happens. Nowhere is this clearer than in paleothermometry: there are so many models and so much theory involved in paleothermometry that I don’t understand how you can believe that, and not believe theory of radiative transfer.

    What observations would convince you that CO2 has an impact on climate? You claim geometry of land trumps all (quite possible, and it’s cool to do GCM simulations with idealized geometries to show that geometry is in fact important), but since you don’t believe in theory and models, I don’t see how you could verify or falsify that claim. A claim is not scientific if you can think of no possible way to falsify it; thus your beliefs about the climate system seem more religious than scientific.

    Re-engineering the economy does not occur to engineering tolerances — no social policies have that sort of precision. The fact that you say the following as a motivation for caring about the subject tells me that you don’t come to the issue with an open mind:
    “Why? Because the “running out” paranoia and the “carbon cap” solution will destroy the American Economy. I want a better world than that for my kids. Simple as that.”
    That’s too bad because you’re clearly a smart guy who could do some useful work on the subject if you weren’t so hell-bent on “showing that the whole Global Warming thesis is just broken”.

    Honestly, I don’t care if you’re for or against action on reducing the fossil fuel use of the country, or if you’re for or against warming (supposing, for the moment, that we can control the climate). But getting basic science of the greenhouse effect wrong just bugs me. There is a lot of middle ground between denying that humans can ever have any impact on the climate and the proposition that AGW poses an existential threat to humanity. The former arguments just ring false when we use 30+% of global productivity for crops, pastures, and forestry, and when we are capable of destroying a highly climatically relevant atmospheric feature (the ozone layer) in just a few decades. The latter ring false when you look at the history of life on earth, as you well know. So I’m sorry if I come across as angry; I get just as mad at and the Gore/Hansen crowd.

  90. E.M.Smith says:


    First off: Insulting the host is a fast ticket to the moderation queue. Insisting that *I* conform to your expectations and asserting that *I* have some “inconsistent beliefs” because I reject your view of reality is, at best, insulting and verges on “you idiot”. You are warned. Arguing “to the person” is a bad idea, arguing “to the facts” much better.

    Please realize I am not saying that theory has no place, or is not relevant. It has a very important place in putting our observations into compact and ‘essential form’. So E=MC^2 speaks cleanly and has a compact communications. It fits the observations to a PRECISE understanding. Same thing for PV=nRT and all the others. BUT, they do not replace reality.

    We still have folks looking for edge cases where they might break down. Just like Newtonian formula (that we all learned AND USE) are shown to break down at relativistic conditions.

    OK, back to Venus:

    Too many moving parts to use it as a CO2 proof of any kind. Sulfuric acid atmosphere? Incredibly dense clouds? Astoundingly dense atmosphere? Just how far will CO2 go in that anyway? (i.e. not very far) Unknown level of volcanic heating? (The whole crust is thought to remodel periodically and recently in geologic terms) Oh, and how about that proximity to the sun? Do Birkland current intensities rise there? etc. etc. etc. It’s a great physical observatory, but not a proof of anything about CO2.

    But while we are on planets: WHY has the Martian CO2 atmosphere warmed it up? The ice caps were quite large when I was a kid (back in those cold 50’s and 60’s) but have since shrunk. So was it all those Martian Dune Buggies spewing CO2? Has Mars reached a “tipping point” and will never have ice caps again due to the CO2 ice sublimation? Or perhaps it is moving EXACTLY in sync with the solar input?

    The “dip” in the OLR is not relevant as the heat is transported by mass transport and radiated at other frequencies. IT was MEASURED. (Go read that linked paper again – yes, it was a link from a page I wrote, so it’s a couple of links in). Water vapor dominates the CO2 anyway. Once the window is shut, it’s shut, and shutting it more does nothing.

    Per paleothermometry and models: Well, I have my concerns about it. Mostly it seems to be well thought through (especially things like the oxygen isotope ratios) and we have some physical calibrations possible. So, for example, off Iceland there are beds of sediments where the shells can be measured and calibrated against known temperature measurements. Not models at all…

    What would convince me it was CO2? Well, for starters, when you plot CO2 vs temperatures they don’t track. IF they did, I’d be much more moved. (Paleo CO2 goes way high, and we have ice ages… as one example. CO2 is on a nearly linear ramp for a few hundred years, yet temperatures have either rolled more or less sideways from MWP to date, or had a “Hockey Stick” – depending on which “side” you believe). Yet NEITHER ONE OF THEM matches the log rolloff of the imputed CO2 “action”. Not even a correlation to hang your hat on. Sun action is an almost exact match to the temperature wanderings. Golly, one has a match, the other doesn’t… IF that were inverted, my “bias” would invert as well. (Or, more accurately, the data would point me in the other direction)

    Per position of land vs climate: Again, not a BELIEF on my part, an observed set of data. Look at when the land arrived at the poles, look at the temperature history. Yes, it is only a correlation, but we have several repeats of it. Observation, theory, repeated observation, conclusion. Yes, a lot hangs on correlations (such as when Panama closed and the immediate climate changes). Due to that I would be quite open to a newer, alternative theory, that accounted for any loose ends…. Oh, wait, there are no loose ends… OK, I’d be open to a new theory that accounted for any new loose ends that we discover… That is the essence of the Scientific Method.

    Geology adequately explains the observations so, per Occam, we accept it for now pending some new issues.

    CO2 doesn’t explain what we observe (about that tropical tropospheric hot spot? About those missing ‘tipping points’ in the geologic record? About that lack of prediction of our present cooling? About the disconnect with the recent temperatures from 1800 or so? About… long list) and unnecessarily complicates. Occam rejects it.

    Yes, really that simple. Apply the rules of logic and reason to the observations.

    BTW, the assertion that I “don’t believe in theory and models” is again “speaking to the person” not the argument. Watch that. It also mis-states my beliefs and attempts to turn things toward me and not toward “what is”. Please remember: “It’s not about me.”

    I *DO* believe in theory and models. I think that they are great ways to encapsulate our THINKING and what we BELIEVE about reality. They let us very precisely state our UNDERSTANDING and in the case of models, they let us put that in motion and see what they do to INFORM OUR IGNORANCE. To tell us where our understanding diverges from reality.

    Those are all very important.

    Once a model or theory has shown a close match to reality, it can be highly useful. CAD using Newtonian Mechanics, for example. I’d trust a bridge built that way most of the time. Yet every so often one of them falls down…

    I just never ever make the mistake of confounding them with reality. They are not reality, and they never will be.

    Per economics: Yes, the changes made are never to engineering tolerances. They can’t be as it is not possible to correctly manage an economy (that’s why markets regularly work and regulation when taken to excess along with every socialism in all of history – including the Fascist variation; have regularly collapsed). HOWEVER, I can demand that the REASON used to justify that desired act conform to engineering tolerances. It slows down the political idiots in their rush to error (that they do with great regularity in economic history.) BTW, The Fed have a computer model of the economy that they use in making predictions that feed into the rate making decisions. Many folks in that area think they can model to engineering tolerances too. They too are wrong.

    Again you “speak to the person” claiming I don’t have an open mind. Repeat that again, you hit the moderation queue. I have a very open mind, but I also have a large collection of facts and established relationships that any radical idea must get past. An open mind does not mean a weak one.

    Per ‘running out’, see:

    Including the link in it to no shortage of energy.

    I do not make those statements from some innate bias. I’ve been “working in this area” for about 40 years. My degree is in Economics (heavy in engineering and computer courses) and in the 1970s I had a class the entire subject of which was a study of the economics of ecology with emphasis on Limits to Growth by Meadows (A truly trash book, BTW, and the genesis for the “running out” meme and using computer models to scare folks. Did you know we ran out of ALL natural gas in 1980? Their model said so… See, I’ve been down this broken model computer scare road a few times…)

    So, yes, I can do, and have done, some pretty good work in the area. Oh, and thanks for recognizing my intelligence level. Not really relevant as it is facts, data, truth, falsifiability that matter, not arguments “to the person” even if flattery. Or in your case Damning With Faint Praise. (Say flattery, and caveat with ‘if only’…)

    BTW, I’m not “Hell bent on showing the whole global warming thesis is broken” (another “to the person”, btw… getting to be a habit for you in this comment.) I started this journey some years back with “Gee, this warming thing could be Very Bad for the Planet! I need to learn about it.” Started with places like RealCimate, too. When I’d post a “why does this bit not fit?” question, I’d get slapped around, called names, have arguments “to the person” thrown at me. A load of propaganda links tossed at me with a “go spend your time reading all this then you can have some clue”. NEVER a simple addressing of the facts, data, analysis issues. On the Skeptics side I found open minds willing to question and look. Discussion of pro and con on each point. Only after a couple of years of slowly checking and rechecking various assertions from both sides did I end up at the (well founded and well supported btw) conclusion that the “science” was being corrupted, ‘managed’, and was in many ways based on acts of fraud (intended or subconscious). The ClimateGate 1 & 2 emails have provided ample evidence that that is in fact the case. IFF the reality supported the AGW theory, I’d turn to that side in a heartbeat. When fraud is evident, well, that raises their hurdle quite a bit.

    So again your assertions about my basic beliefs and motivations is flawed. I strongly advise not ‘speaking to motivations’ as folks regularly will get it wrong, especially the way warmistas apply it to me.

    I’ve not asserted that there is NO greenhouse gas effect or that CO2 does nothing. I’m not “for or against warming”. I think the history shows we are going into cold, and lots of it, fairly soon. I don’t like the consequences of that fact. I think the fear of a warming tipping point is clearly shown bogus (via prior interglacials history) and the consequences of squandering a few hundred years of wealth creation to address a fantasy (and one where Maurice Strong and friends take over the world as a consequence) to be hideous. That folks are getting it very wrong on what to do is what I find offensive. I’ve not “gotten the science wrong” on greenhouse gasses. I’ve read, and understand the theory. It’s just that we have historical evidence that the theory is overridden by ‘something else’ and we have measurement that shows that convection takes the entire daily load of heat from the surface to altitude and it leaves the planet, all in hours. Frankly, it is the “only IR matters” arguments of the AGW side that has it wrong. But “It’s not about me”; and what I believe or do not believe is just not relevant.

    Oh, and I note in passing that you have applied the “denier” word, though nicely hidden in an infected form and applied in a generic form. No, I’ve not banned the Denier word. But it does raise a ‘watch flag’ on folks who use it. Pejorative use not allowed.

    Per “middle ground”: Yes, we have done a lot of land modification. In short terms and for small areas it can have dramatic impact on local weather. Climate not so much. The proper definition of climate (that I learned 40 years or so ago) was that it depended on altitude, latitude, distance from water, and intervening land forms. It still does. The Mojave is a desert due to just those things. The Mediterranean is a mediterranean climate zone for exactly those reasons and for all of recorded history has been despite the MWP, the Roman Optimum, the Little Ice Age, etc. So yes, pull your ‘time scope’ in to 50 or 100 years you can change the Local Average Weather from rain forest to dryer savanna via cutting down the rain forest. That does NOT change the climate. Stop cutting, the forest will return. (existence proofs, BTW) Climate is a Geologic Feature and only changes with geologic changes (which include orbital features).

    The “redefinition game” of trying to turn the correct definition of climate into “30 year average of weather” was another one of those “lying points” that raised a flag for me about AGW. It was just TOO convenient given that we have well known, demonstrated, 60 year cycles and that the redefinition was started just at a cold bottom point (AND where GIStemp set their baseline in the computer codes). You stack up enough “stacking the deck” moments like that, it raises a very large “tell”…

    Per Ozone: Yes, I’m probably going to upset you here, too. There is little evidence that we caused it, or that it is a problem. It was, in many ways, the test case for the CO2 dogma. I was first aware of this when the two statements were made (right after CFC bans) that the ozone hole was getting better and that the gasses had a 50 year lag time in the atmosphere. Pick one: 50 year residency, or fast response to the ban; not both. Further investigation showed a bit of a house of cards behind THAT bit of social engineering for the benefit of DOW chemical too. (I’ve generally avoided saying much about it as I really don’t care much. There are plenty of workable refrigerant gasses and I just converted my Honda back to a propane / isobutane mix at that time – 1985 or so)

    But since you raised the issue: Look at the ozone maps. They show artifacts of dominance by Birkland Currents and they show polar asymmetry that is best explained by non-human drivers. They also closely mirror similar artifacts on places like Saturn… So I would not hang my world view on Ozone. There is essentially no activity that looks like it is driven by a ‘well mixed gas of 50 years persistence’. And no, I don’t particularly care about it enough to want to get into a prolonged argument over it. DOW won. Crony Capitalism got it’s pound of flesh from the world (rather like GE is benefiting from the incandescent light bulb ban they wanted) and the deed is done.

    End Note: This kind of prolonged ‘need to justify myself’ response to attacks ‘to the person’ is exactly the kind of ‘time sink’ issue I warned you about in your first posting. Please be aware that sucking up my time like this has a limit. I know it is hard to not “push what you believe” and advocate for what you embrace, but please attempt to regulate the time it will require. You still have an ‘open mic’ and are not in the moderation queue (where it can take a few days for me to get around to it); please use that access wisely.

  91. P.G. Sharrow says:

    @ Tim ,I would like to see real proof the CO2 causes increase of terrestrial atmospheric temperature. On Venus, on Earth, on Mars. Proof, not assumptions. In every case, atmospheric surface pressure/density sets the surface temperature balance.The thinner the atmosphere the lower the surface pressure the lower the retention of heat at the surface. pg

  92. George says:

    Venus’ atmosphere has roughly the same lapse rate as Earth’s. Venus has almost no greenhouse warming. That is because not much sunlight penetrates Venus’ atmosphere. Over 75% of the light reaching Venus is reflected from its clouds.

    One thing people fail to realize is that Venus’ atmosphere is much thicker than Earth’s. The heat at the surface is from adiabatic warming due to the atmospheric pressure. It is compression heating. If you drop into Venus’ atmosphere to a point where the pressure is the same as Earth’s, the temperature is about 5 degrees warmer than Earth’s surface global average.

    That point comes at 50km above Venus’ surface, by the way. So imagine if Earth had a canyon 50 km deep. The temperature at the bottom of that canyon would be about the same as that of the surface of Venus.

    There is very little to no “greenhouse” warming on Venus.

  93. I did a quick back-of-the-envelope mental calculation and came up with a ratio of atmospheric CO2 between Venus and Earth. (Yes, that means I keep envelopes in my head. Perhaps to push them.)

    The number I came up with was 400,000 to 1. With only that small increase, you wouldn’t expect much more greenhouse effect than what we have.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  94. George says:

    @Keith DeHavelle

    You might be interested in this:

    Greenhouse warming relies on sunshine penetrating the atmosphere, warming the surface and that warming being radiated and in turn warming the atmosphere. Practically no sunshine reaches the surface of Venus.

  95. E.M.Smith says:

    Just to save Tim the effort of figuring out what link to click, and finding the paper inside it and clicking that link, there is the place were some folks in Africa measured the heat transfer during the day:

    Click to access angeo-19-1001-2001.pdf

    BTW, you can see the interplay of physics in any seasonal temperature chart where it is rather obvious that during the Summer the temperature has a very flat aspect with a hard lid at about 100 F. It’s flat as that’s the point where 4th power and enhanced convection non-linear action moves just about any amount of heat off the surface. In winter the temperatures are much more variable as the 4th power function is way down and the convection is much lower. Temperatures must rise some before heat transfer gets going a lot faster. One temperatures nearly flat, the other highly cyclical.

    Somehow CO2 can’t remove the seasonal variation but is supposed to cause a geologic scale / climate scale ‘tipping point’ and runaway greenhouse? “I don’t think so, Tim”…

  96. Pingback: Santa’s Aurora And Ozone Report « Musings from the Chiefio

  97. Michael says:

    What are the pressures for CFC, O3, O2, CO2 CO, F2 (t1/2), H2O, H2 stabilities ? keep the good work.

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