CO2 Past and Problems

I was looking up something else, and stumbled on some interesting data about CO2 and the history of the measurement. (There may be a h/t due to someone here, but it was long enough ago that I let the thread lay there, that now I’ve forgotten what, or who, triggered it…)

The Links:

This one does a great job of showing how Ice Core CO2 data does not track with Plant Stomata (that have a near instant, i.e. one year, record):

http://debunkhouse.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/co2-ice-cores-vs-plant-stomata/

This PDF does a great job of showing all the actual measurement data that has been ignored in setting the “baseline” at 280 PPM or so. It was written in 1954, so has not been subject to “revision”…

http://www.pensee-unique.fr/001_mwr-083-10-0225.pdf

Reference to the three charts in figure 3 does not reveal
any significant trend in CO2 content, such as is so clearly
shown in figure 1. Indeed, after excluding values which
the observers themselves have designated as non-representative,
but not any of the others, then the mean value
for the nineteenth century is 335, and for the first third
of the twentieth century 334 parts per million. Such a
close approach to identity of values for the two periods is,
of course, an accident. Referring to the texts of the
papers from which Effenberger made his tabulations, it
appears that there has been wide variability in the means
found for differing geographical regions, on land and on
sea, and from one synoptic weather condition to another.
The data-gathering programs were conducted by mutually
independent observers, using differing techniques.

Notice the numbers are up in the 3xx range…

The three values for the twentieth century, however,
which Callendar rejected average lower than those he
accepted. This does not demonstrate that his choice
was bad, but the fact that he considers so many nineteenth
century values to be overestimates and two twentieth
century values to be underestimates raises a question
about his method of selection.
Since techniques have been improving, the latest
observations should be the most accurate. Duerst [12]
and Ereutz [21] found values of 400 and 438.5 parts per
million, respectively, from observations made in 1936
and 1939. Duerst bases his mean on 500 observations,
a reasonably large number, if his techniques are correct.
Kreutz made about 25,000 observations. This is more than
were made in all other herein listed observing programs
combined. He expresses confidence in the accuracy of
his measurements and of his computed mean values.
Admittedly Duerst’s and Ereutz’ values may be more
representative of the atmospheric concentration of CO2 at
the time and place of observation than of the earth, or
even the Northern Hemisphere, as a whole. By the same
token, however, might not some of the high nineteenth
century values and low twentieth century values be as
representative as those Callendar accepted?

This site has a lot of CO2 related information and looks to have focused on the CO2 “issues”

http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/global/acid2.htm

A rather well written look at underestimating past CO2 from Google, of all places:

http://sites.google.com/site/globalwarmingquestions/ar4co2

Since I don’t know if Google is prone to the same revisionist history as Wiki, I’m going to quote blocks of it here:

The AR4 SPM claims on page 2 that

“The global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppm
to 379 ppm3 in 2005. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years (180 to 300 ppm) as determined from ice cores.”

This is followed by a scary-looking “hockey stick” diagram (Fig SPM1) of carbon dioxide levels over the last 10000 years:

Note the use of the common “Lying with statistics and graphs” technique of putting the zero line near the 250 point. The graph would be much less frightening if the zero were at zero or the scale was a log scale reflecting the presumed EFFECT of CO2.

Scary CO2 graph with misleading scales

Scary CO2 graph with misleading scales

In the main AR4 WG1 report, Chapter 7, p.512 states that:

The concentration of CO2 is now 379 parts per million (ppm) and methane is greater than 1,774 parts per billion (ppb), both very likely much higher than any time in at least 650 kyr (during which CO2 remained between 180 and 300 ppm and methane between 320 and 790 ppb). The recent rate of change is dramatic and unprecedented; increases in CO2 never exceeded 30 ppm in 1 kyr – yet now CO2 has risen by 30 ppm in just the last 17 years.

On p.511 there is a claim that

Prior to 1750, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 had been relatively stable between 260 and 280 ppm for 10 kyr.

However, Kouwenberg et al. (Geology vol. 33, p.33-36, 2005) states that:

A stomatal frequency record based on buried Tsuga heterophylla needles reveals significant centennial-scale atmospheric CO2 fluctuations during the last millennium. The record includes four CO2 minima of 260–275 ppmv (ca. A.D. 860 and A.D. 1150, and less prominently, ca. A.D. 1600 and 1800). Alternating CO2 maxima of 300–320 ppmv are present at A.D. 1000, A.D. 1300, and ca. A.D. 1700. These CO2 fluctuations parallel global terrestrial air temperature changes, as well as oceanic surface temperature fluctuations in the North Atlantic. The results obtained in this study corroborate the notion of a continuous coupling of the preindustrial atmospheric CO2 regime and climate.

The 260-320 ppm range measured by Kouwenberg et al. is twice the range cited by IPCC, moreover, these numbers are averaged over many decades, since individual measurements show a possible range of 230-350 ppm. The variations from minimum to maximum in Kouwenberg et al. occur on a less than 150 year time scale. These measurements are in direct contradiction with the IPCC statements.

Van Hoof et al (Tellus 57B, 351-355, 2005) found CO2 concentration variations of over 30 ppm in the 13th century. This again contradicts the IPCC’s claim that it has not varied by more than 30ppm in 1000 years.

Wagner et al (Quaternary Science Reviews 23 1947–1954, 2004) state that “The majority of the stomatal frequency-based estimates of CO2 for the Holocene do not support the widely accepted concept of comparably stable CO2 concentrations throughout the past 11,500 years.” This paper shows variation in CO2 of the order of 50 ppm over a few hundred years, and shows that these results are robust and not localized.

The Kouwenberg, Van Hoof and Wagner papers are not cited by the IPCC report, even though these papers are readily available and published in highly regarded journals. Nor are these scientists amongst the list of IPCC authors, or reviewers. So these authors were not even given a chance to comment on the omission of their results.

A post-AR4 paper by Van Hoof et al (PNAS 105, 15815-15818, 2008) is quite critical of IPCC AR4: “Inferred changes in CO2 radiative forcing are of a magnitude similar to variations ascribed to other mechanisms, particularly solar irradiance and volcanic activity, and may therefore call into question the concept of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assumes an insignificant role of CO2 as a preindustrial climate forcing factor.” They find pre-industrial levels up to 319 ppm (higher than claimed by the IPCC) and state that diffusion causes a smoothing of the CO2 record in ice cores.

Once again we see that the IPCC creates a misleading picture by gluing together two sources (ice cores and recent direct measurements) that are not directly comparable. Short-term changes are smoothed out in the ice core data, giving a false impression of stability. And again we see the IPCC ignoring scientific research that does not conform to the message it wants to convey.

Further detailed criticism of the IPCC position on past carbon dioxide levels can be found here. Ice core data on carbon dioxide data in the past has been adjusted downwards, and direct measurements of CO2 levels in the 19th century that do not fit the IPCC picture have been ignored (see also this paper from 1955 reviewing studies of CO2 levels going back to the 19th century, showing a wide range of values with a mean of 335 ppm).

See also this interesting and detailed article comparing ice core records and plant stomata.

The actual article has hot links in the text and I need to go back and pick them up at some point.

My Synopsis

I’m too far behind on things to do my usual polemic exposition. You will need to hit the links and read them yourself.

My evaluation leaves me with the conclusion that the land instrumental record shows frequently higher CO2 values than the “accepted” baseline value. There looks to have been some cherry picking going on in the early evaluations of the composite data.

Plant stomata say CO2 has had wide ranging spikes (that do not show up in the Ice Cores). Yet we use ice core data and ignore the plants (which leaves me wondering why plant Tree Rings are “acceptable” but the same plant stomata are not?…)

Ice cores are shown to “have issues” with short term variation in CO2.

The “low baseline” is at best an oversimplification error, at worse a deliberate deception. The choice of graphing techniques argues for an intent to deception.

The “trick” looks like the usual: Cherry pick a low baseline of proxy data, then splice on a higher more volatile instrumental record. Instant Hockey Stick. Start the instrumental record as you come from a cold point so the natural variation looks man made.

OK, sorry I don’t have time for “the usual” but at least this gets the links out there for exploration. I’ll try to ‘spruce this one up’ if time permits.

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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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45 Responses to CO2 Past and Problems

  1. George says:

    Having the CO2 measuring station right on top of an active volcano (currently dormant but still considered active) is one great big red flag.

    The diffusion in ice cores is a problem and it was also noted by some of the scientists that the ice core numbers start to change as soon as you pull them out of the ground. They begin to exchange gases with the atmosphere.

    I believe THIS is an issue that Anthony Watts might be able to bring and that is the natural variation of CO2. Just like they did with the temperature hockey stick of attempting to create the illusion of a long flat period with no global variation, they also have attempted to do the same thing with CO2.

    I would trust stoma surveys. We know exactly how plants respond to different CO2 levels and they make an excellent proxy.

  2. Pingback: CO2 Past and Problems | Cranky Old Crow

  3. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    Undersea volcanoes control this and natural warming eg the 1934 spike increase life = delayed reaction to previous warmings

    Also the gerlach study for volcanoes is flawed big time. One study proves it all lololol according to usgs

  4. P.G. Sharrow says:

    The concept that CO2 causes warming of the atmosphere is not proved, just assumed. The argument that warming is a bad thing is is not proved just assumed.
    CO2 is the basis of all life on this planet and at 1/2 of the present concentration all life dies out. Mean while we know that 10 times the present amount is optimum for best production of biomass and has been a normal level for much of the past.
    The last cold dieing gasp of the living biosphere of this planet may well be caused by the present very low amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and we really need to increase CO2 to prevent Ice-ball Earth from becoming permanent. pg

  5. John F. Hultquist says:

    I don’t remember where I read that air flow and local CO2 releases are monitored so as to keep the record an accurate reflection of the atmosphere.
    Official information here:
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/co2_data_mlo.html

    With a link to “How we measure background CO2 levels on Mauna Loa.”
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/about/co2_measurements.html

    A WUWT story (Jan., 2009) with 222 comments is here:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/01/11/mauna-loa-co2-record-posts-smallest-yearly-gain-in-its-history/

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    See the history of temperature graphs below and it’s pretty clear that things are headed down on all time scales except that we have a lot of bouncing up and down along the way and are presently on a minor ripple up inside several down trending longer terms.

    As you pointed out, we either warm things up or it is Ice Ball Earth. I doubt if CO2 can do it, though…

    As I said in another comment:

    We are in a downturn very long term:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Five_Myr_Climate_Change.svg

    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:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EPICA_delta_D_plot.svg

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

    http://members.shaw.ca/sch25/FOS/Climate_Change_Science.html

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

  7. I am desperately searching my computer files for a paper by a Northern European scientist logging historical atmospheric CO2 levels, I think ‘near-surface’, by chemical analysis. It shows variations that would make the official graph look strange.
    Still looking but came across this gem, relating to the overall AGW debate:

    Einstein was asked: `Doesn’t it bother you Dr Einstein that you’ve got so many scientists against you?’
    And he said: `It doesn’t take 100 scientists to prove me wrong, it takes a single fact’.

    Given that we have quite few facts, it’s a pity Prof Jones and Mann are not as liberally minded as Einstein. (Probably a pity they are also not as intelligent!).

  8. R. Shearer says:

    We’ll know a lot more in the next 20-30 years or so that is for sure. Eventually, if AGW is based on fradulent science, data “adjustments” will be so far from the truth as to be obvious.

  9. George says:

    The reliance on CO2 as a climate driver by climate models cited in the IPCC AR4 is one reason for the failure of those models having any skill whatsoever in being able to hindcast temperatures over any period of observation except the late 20th century period. They completely fail in every other portion of the record except for one 30 year period (which I believe is correlation, not causation).

    Not for the land temperatures:

    http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/cmip3-models-versus-20th-century-land-surface-temperature-anomalies/

    Nor for the global temperatures:

    http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/it-really-should-go-without-saying-but/

    No skill whatsoever.

  10. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Very true George, “figures may not lie but liers figure.” They claim that they have the figures to prove their argument but they”can’t” show the figures to the public. Can’t or won’t makes no difference…..lier lier.
    My trees don’t lie and they say it is getting cooler and wetter in the North Sierra foot hills of California. I just spent most of the week visiting them.

    http://pgtruspace.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/325/

    Oak and pine forest is changing over to fir and cedar. 8-) pg

  11. George says:

    Fir and cedar will do very well with enhanced CO2. Those species evolved when CO2 levels were a lot higher than when oak evolved. But pine should do well, too. I would expect to see Douglass fir invading oak and madrone areas.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    Hmmm…..

    Species stoma number vs time of evolution as indicator of typical CO2 levels in those times? There ought to be some difference in the species, some enzyme or response to low CO2 or…

    The point about CO2 being just above starvation for plants is NOT hyperbole. Somewhere in the ‘stash’ is a paper or two on plants and CO2 level. When the pCO2 is about 150, plants in general slow way down. At 100, they just suffocate. ALL of them, pretty much. At 250 we’re still way below optimal growth, but struggling along OK, I guess…

    The curve is a log curve, with the asymptote at about 2000 ppm to 3000 ppm depending on the species. C3 plants have a harder time of it than C4 plants. C4 plants are a relatively ‘recent’ evolutionary ‘trick’ IIRC. Grasses, for example, are C4 and evolved about 6 million years ago. (Just about the time CO2 was plunging toward our present low levels…)

    The plants by their metabolism say that the planet spent most of it’s time at about 2000 ppm. They say it has never been much below what it is now. The rapid rise in productivity on initial CO2 rise says they are way into ‘limiting nutrient land’ and very not-happy at this CO2 level.

    During times of historic low CO2, we tended to have low productivity of crops.
    NOW we have great productivity of plants.
    The whole biosphere is just loving it with added CO2.

    More CO2 is literally saving the planet from suffocation.

    I’ve ‘kicked around’ the idea that as the fission products in the earth get used up, we have less average vulcanism. That means less CO2 recycle. At some point the plant sequestration / consumption exceeds the volcanic production / recycle. At that point, we decline into ever lower CO2 levels as the plants scrub to ever lower productivity cutoffs.

    That the calculations on when the nuclear fire in the core runs low on U says “about 4.5 Billion years”, and we’re at “about 4.5 Billion years”, and the plants look to have scrubbed the air to a low cut off level of near death; taken together, that is not encouraging for making it another Billion years…

    My concern is that we may have about 100,000 years to get off this rock before it just runs out of nuclear fuel and the biosphere shuts down as needed minerals and carbon enter sequestration sinks and there is no volcanic recycle to get it back out again.

    Then again, that will be someone else’s problem ;-)

    OTOH, if we can get the coal and oil back into the air, we might be able to buy a few more thousand years to get a fast and cheap orbital capability and start building space colonies before the system runs down…

  13. Joel Heinrich says:

    Funny how it never varied more then 30 ppm while having an annual variation of 20 ppm e.g. at Alert, Canada :

    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/cgi-bin/wdcgg/quick_plot.cgi?imagetype=png&dataid=200702142841

    Oh, and they didn’t only then cut out all the unwanted data, they are still doing it. Just compare these two stations at nearly the same latitude and altitude. The first from Ireland, the second from Germany:

    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/cgi-bin/wdcgg/quick_plot.cgi?imagetype=png&dataid=200906040014

    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/cgi-bin/wdcgg/quick_plot.cgi?imagetype=png&dataid=200702142853

    All data from the World Data Center for Greenhouse Gases here:

    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/wdcgg/wdcgg.html

  14. Jason Calley says:

    @ R. Shearer “Eventually, if AGW is based on fradulent science, data “adjustments” will be so far from the truth as to be obvious.”

    Well, we may certainly hope so, but one of the devious things about the “Climate Science” way of changing past records is that changing the past does not become obvious so fast. Look at how they changed the 1930s, and yet most people (who apparently did not study the US Dust Bowl in their grade school history classes) accepted it. “Oh yeah, those people THOUGHT it was hot back in the 30s, but WE really have it hot today. They did not know how good they had it back then!”

    I think you are correct that at some point the adjustments become just too outrageous, but as long as the changes are in the historical record, the process can go on longer than we might expect. And of course, it only has to go until they have a tax, control and ration system where they get paid for every bit of energy used; then they can drop the pretense of any justification.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Joel Heinrich:

    Nice charts! I especially like how one is 400 and over most of the year and the other has a dip below 370 with an isolated bit up at 390.

    That the numbers are rather like the historic ones from the same area also speaks to me. We have yet another “spice and dice” with comparison to a disjoint ‘baseline’. (based on ice cores).

    @Jason Calley:

    Once they have cap and tax, then they can back out the most obvious trash and just claim that tax and cap “fixed it” and they are now to be lauded as saviour of the world…

    The Plan, IMHO, had that inflection planned for the 1980s to be in sync with a bit more rise, then a reasonable lag to the fall. Game went into overtime as folks didn’t go along and now they are doing a bit of “chuck it at the goal” with 2 minutes left in overtime. Unfortunately, they still have enough time to pull it off.

    Once it’s a done deal, and they start cooling the record, how are you going to prove they DIDN’T fix it? Most folks have no idea about cycle lags of decades and everything is immediate gratification; so having it ‘fixed’ as soon as the tax and ‘controls’ are past will make sense to them…

  16. George says:

    @E.M. Smith

    The current estimate is that the biosphere shuts down in about 125 million to 250 million years and that is the end. We never make it to a hot sun ending because we run out of atmospheric CO2 and all the plants die taking the animals with them.

    This is one reason why I am NOT a fan of geothermal power. I tried to explain it once on Anthony’s site but I don’t think anyone “got it”. The heat in the Earth is thought to come mainly from radioactive potassium (just like what you find in bananas) that is a decay product of other stuff. If you have a geothermal plant pulling out what amounts to “fossil” heat, you might be pulling out of the earth in one year the heat that took millions of years to create. We shouldn’t (in my opinion) develop geothermal on a large industrial scale as that will hasten the removal of heat and the end of the biosphere. We have no idea of the sensitivity of that system to the wholesale removal of heat. A few geothermal plants are fine where the heat is being vented to atmosphere anyway but not on a global industrial scale. If we were to start pulling thousands of gigawatts out of the Earth, we could land ourselves in serious trouble. That said, we could probably find ways of releasing CO2 from limestone once fossil fuels are exhausted.

    I also believe that we should be burying nuclear waste on the subducting side of a subduction zone.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @George:

    Well, that about matches my musings of ‘when’.

    We can ‘get by’ on nuclear (even for decomposition of limestone) as long as we have erosion replacing what is in the oceans. If that stops (if the mountain building / subduction process stops) we’re just toast…

    BTW, IMHO there is no such thing as “nuclear waste”… Reduce, reuse, recycle ;-)

    There are some nice reactors that can burn that stuff… Feed Me!!!

    (Picture a large glowing mutant plant flower here ;-)

    On Geothermal: Ought to be pretty easy to calculate. Volume of earth gives mass. Temperature estimate and specific heat of basalt and iron gives heat content. Flow rate out of geothermal gives rate of cooling. Pick the temperature where you think it will be a problem and solve….

    But generally, yeah, probably not a good idea to be cooling off the old dirt ball any faster than we have to…

  18. adolfogiurfa says:

    @All: Please always remember that our Earth has no lid.

    Then, the question arises: Where is heat saved?

    Alternatives:
    1) Atmosphere: Air :Volumetric heat capacity: 0.00192 joules /cu-cm,
    2) Oceans: Water:Volumetric heat capacity:4.186 joules/cu-cm, i.e., 3227 times than that of Air.
    3) Soil: Ground: volumetric heat capacity: About 2.0 joules /cu-cm.

    Green House Effect=Confined Heat Effect
    Then:
    No confinement no effect.

    Remember how soon atmosphere cools down during an eclipse.
    Why is it so? Entiende?

  19. George says:

    “Where is heat saved?”

    It is hidden in the Hadley Heat Hidey Hole which was recently discovered by Al Gore whilst snorkeling off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12/the-ipcc-exaggerate-monckton-calculates-how-much/#comment-871286

    @E.M. Smith

    One thing I have always wanted to do:

    Take an acre of flat ground and dig it out to about 20 feet deep. Fill it about 10 feet deep with closed-cell foam. You know, the sort you mix and it expands a bit and then cures.

    Cover that with about 8 inches of concrete and then cover over with soil. Now monitor the temperature under the center of the foam. You have basically disrupted the heat transport out of the Earth. I wondered if I made one large enough if I could create my own volcano.

  20. George says:

    @DocMartyn

    FASCINATING! Thank you.

    I happened across this a while back:

    http://www.astronomycafe.net/qadir/q1372.html

    Neutral hydrogen surveys have been made to search for dense cloudlets within the Local Bubble, but none have ever been detected by this means, at least in non-ionized hydrogen gas to which the 21-centimeter observations are the most sensitive. The existence of a cloud or clouds near the Sun has, however, been established by what are called solar backscatter observations in which the lyman-alpha emission from the Sun is reflected back to the Earth from distant material outside the solar system. There is, apparently, a medium called the Local Fluff in which the solar system is embedded, which has a density of about 0.1 atoms/cc, a temperature of 10,000 K, and a relative velocity with respect to the solar system of about 20 km/sec based on a slight doppler shift in the reflected emission. McClintock and his coworkers in 1978 used data from the Copernicus satellite which involved measuring the Local Fluff towards stars with distances between 1.3 and 14 parsecs, and concluded that the Local Fluff extends about 3.5 parsecs. Frisch and York, in 1983, surveyed 140 stars out to several hundred parsecs from the Sun and detected a pattern of emission that indicated a dense cloud located about 17-35 parsecs from the Sun towards the Galactic Center in Sagittarius. In a 1983 Nature article ( vol 302, p. 806) Francesco Paresce proposed that the Local Fluff is the low density, ionized outer layers of this cloud, and that the SUn has just recently entered the outer regions of this dense cloud.

    Astronomers Priscilla Frisch and Daniel Welty at the University of Chicago announced at the June, 1996 meeting of the American Astronomical Society ( see the New York Times, Science Supplement, June 18, issue) recapitulated the earlier proposal that the Sun may have already entered the Local Fluff a few thousand years ago. [Does this account for the sudden cooling starting about 3000 years ago? — George] Observations by Dr. Jeffrey Linsky at the University of Colorado of 18 nearby stars indicated that the Local Fluff cloud surrounding the solar system was not a uniform cloud, but contained cloudlets of very different internal density with one of these located between the Sun and the nearby star Alpha Centauri.

    Astronomers John Watson and David Meyer at Northwestern University have also discovered that in the Sun’s vicinity, the interstellar medium is filled with many cloudlets with a size comparable to the solar system. Radio astronomers have also observed the phenomenon of interstellar scintillation in the radio signals from distant quasars, and deduced that the interstellar medium is far from smooth, but contains clumps and filaments at many different scales.

    The solar system is, apparently, moving along a path that is certain to take us closer to the Sco-Cen expanding superbubble. The ‘wall’ between the Local Bubble and the Sco-Cen bubble now seems to consist of an increasing density of cloudlets of varying size and density. The Sun, after apparently spending many hundreds of millennia in quieter regions of the Local Bubble, is apparently now moving nearer one wall of this cavity towards us from the direction of Scorpio/Centaurus. Rather than a smooth wall of material, it consists of many individual pieces and cloudlets. When the solar system enters such a cloud, the first thing that will happen will be that the magnetic field of the Sun, which now extends perhaps 100 AU from the Sun and 2-3 times the orbit of Pluto, will be compressed back into the inner solar system depending on the density of the medium that the Sun encounters. When this happens, the Earth may be laid bare to an increased cosmic ray bombardment. To make matters worse, the Earth’s magnetic field is itself decreasing as we enter the next field reversal era in a few thousand years. If the Earth’s field is ‘down’ during the same time that the solar system has wandered into the new could, the cosmic ray flux at the Earth’s surface could be many times higher than it now is.

    The biological effects may not be so severe. We just don’t really know. Fossil records show that in previous field reversals, there was hardly a sign of any biological impact caused by species extinctions or mutations. We don’t really know when the last time it was that our solar system found itself in a dense interstellar cloud, so we cannot look at the fossil record to see what effects this might have had. Since all of the major extinctions seem to be related to tectonic activity, or to asteroid impacts, there isn’t much left over to argue that there will be a dire effect of the next cloud passage upon the biosphere. If you believe our knowledge of the solar vicinity, the next cloud passage could happen within 20 – 50,000 years. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

  21. gallopingcamel says:

    P.G. Sharrow’s comment hits a couple of nails rather well:
    “CO2 is the basis of all life on this planet and at 1/2 of the present concentration all life dies out. Mean while we know that 10 times the present amount is optimum for best production of biomass and has been a normal level for much of the past.”

    Falling CO2 levels involve huge risks (e.g. the extinction of “life as we know it”).

    The benefits of rising CO2 are well understood yet we have the IPCC rushing around claiming it will be a “Catastrophe”.

  22. George says:

    DocMartyn’s piece raises a good point. Increased iron in dust acts as a fertilizer that causes an explosion of plant activity that acts as a CO2 sponge pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere.

    He posits that it is extraterrestrial, which means we should see this iron flux in about the same amount everywhere we look. If it is of local origin, say Patagonia, we should find it in SH cores but in much lesser quantity in NH cores.

  23. P.G. Sharrow says:

    It would seem to me that the CO2 and methane levels in the atmosphere is set by the temperature of the Oceans water and the temperature of the Oceans is set by the vapor pressure of the atmosphere on water at sea level. As the sea level air pressure decreases the temperature of the sea water decreases due to increased evaporation carrying away greater amounts of energy.

    WAG: 3% (3,000ppm)atmospheric CO2 should increase surface pressure by about 1psi or 700 ft and increase ocean temp 5F (note: WAG )

    Now that would be real global warming and no damn iceage. pg

  24. George says:

    Problem with the extraterrestrial iron thing is that the moon should be covered with it. It isn’t.

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    @George:

    Um, are you sure? These folks:

    http://www.moonminer.com/Lunar_regolith.html

    say the regolith is about 12% iron…

    Oxygen 40% Silicon 20% Iron 12% Calcium 8.5% Aluminum 7.3% Magnesium 4.8%
    Titanium 4.5% Sodium 0.33% Chromium 0.2% Manganese 0.16% Potassium 0.11%
    Sulfur 540 ppm Carbon 200 ppm Nitrogen 100 ppm Hydrogen 40 ppm Helium 4 28ppm Helium 3 0.01 ppm

    Looks like enough to me…

    @GallopingCamel:

    Even before we reach ‘extinction’, there is a much lower rate of food production. Less CO2 is a very bad thing…

    Don’t know if you ever saw it, but I did a posting on how much wood it takes to suck the level back down to ‘self limiting’ for plants (presuming that was about where we were);

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/got-wood/

    High growth plant species are ‘scary fast’ at sucking the CO2 out. A stand of Bamboo can empty the entire air column above it in a single year, so 1% of the globe planted to Timber Bamboo can put us at pre-industrial “right quick” (About a single lifetime).

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

    Don’t even get me started on pond scum… it can be even faster (rate limited only by how fast you can get CO2 into the water…)

    That is part of why I point at the chopping down of vast forests over Europe, North America, and large parts of South America and Asia as simple explanations of the CO2 level rising. Replant those areas, we’re back at pre=industrial somewhere around year two… Then we rate limit again on volcanic production for the next few hundred years while the trees fill out…

    @DocMartyn:

    A rather fascinating posting… so we can say that perhaps Ice Age Glacials are caused by Galactic Dust Bunnies ;-)

    Well… maybe we need to clean the room better.

    Since a fair number of asteroids are Nickle Iron, I could see a potential connection to rock fall rates too.

    Or maybe something like Smith’s Cloud:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith%27s_Cloud

    Smith’s Cloud is a high-velocity cloud of hydrogen gas located in the constellation Aquila at Galactic coordinates l = 39°, b = −13°. The cloud was discovered in 1963 by Gail Bieger, née Smith, who was an astronomy student at Leiden University in the Netherlands.[1][2] Smith’s cloud has a mass of at least one million solar masses and measures 3,000 parsecs (9,800 ly) long by 1,000 pc (3,300 ly) wide in projection.[3] The cloud is between 11,100 pc (36,000 ly) and 13,700 pc (45,000 ly) from Earth[3] and has an angular diameter of 10 to 12 degrees, approximately as wide as the Orion constellation, or about 20 times the diameter of the full moon, although the cloud is not visible to the naked eye.[1]

    The cloud is apparently moving towards the disk of the Milky Way at 73 ± 26 kilometers per second. Smith’s Cloud is expected to merge with the Milky Way in 27 million years at a point in the Perseus arm. Astronomers believe it will strike the Milky Way disk at a 45° angle, and its impact may produce a burst of star formation or a supershell of neutral hydrogen.[3]

    Projecting the cloud’s trajectory backwards through time, it is estimated that it had passed through the disk of the Milky Way some 70 million years ago.
    To have survived this previous encounter, it is thought to be embedded inside a massive dark matter halo.[4] The fact that it survived this previous encounter means that it is likely to be much more massive than previously thought, and may be a candidate for being a dark galaxy.[5]

    I’m getting the impression that ’empty space’ is not so empty…

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    Looking at this graph:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v440/n7083/fig_tab/nature04614_F2.html

    From this paper:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v440/n7083/full/nature04614.html

    It looks to me like the Iron spikes before the temperature hits a MIN, but more importantly, the iron PLUNGES before a temp rise really gets going…

    So dry dust from being cold ought to still be around for a while as things warm up. It ought to slowly leave as temperatures rise (and lagging or coincident).

    How can dust ‘go low’ first if it is made low by the warmth / wet?
    How can dust ‘go high’ first if it is made high by the cold / dry?

    See the peak at about 650 kyr BP (right ON an index line) where warmth (as O isotope proxy, benthic) does not hit a MIN until well after Iron starts dropping.

    At 550 kyr BP a minor peak collapses, THEN the medium cold starts warming some time later. The adjacent peak about 525 collapses, THEN we get warming to about 490 ky BP.

    See peak at about 450-425 kyr BP (near 450 index line) there is a big peak of iron that collapses. THEN both the O isotope bars show warming to about 400 kyr BP…

    At about 150 kyr BP a lower broader Iron pulse starts to fade. THEN temperatures rise to about 125 BP.

    I think the Iron precedes the temperature changes…

    Would be nice to get the actual data and compare rather than eyeballing a graph, but the idea that the warmth removes the dust is a bit, er, ‘causality challenged’… IMHO.

  27. George says:

    If we “recently” passed through such a thick cloud of iron, the entire surface of the moon should be covered with a pretty thick coat of iron dust. In other words, it should look like more than 12% I would think but I don’t know the iron content of the dust.

    But the important thing is, the iron should be close to exactly the same for both Greenland and Antarctica if the iron is not of “local”origin.

  28. gallopingcamel says:

    Chiefio,
    The FACE experiment in the Duke forest showed a rapid increase in tree growth following the boosting of CO2 levels but then growth rates would drop owing to some other nutrient becoming the limiting factor. This seems to support what you are saying:
    http://face.env.duke.edu/main.cfm

    Probably there have been many studies done in greenhouses.

  29. Pascvaks says:

    Can’t get over how well CO2 levels track with global human population graphs, there MUST be a connection somewhere. Think the EPA will start doing something about this great danger to the environment any time soon?(;-)

  30. david says:

    @ E.M, regarding your comments on wood and bio growth sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere etc. Have you thought about there being a negative lag afffect to an increase in CO2 due to trees and plant growth?

    I guess my question is, assuming a doubling of CO2, how long would it take trees and plants to mature to maximum size, range and density, and how great would this negative feedback be?

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    @GallopingCamel:

    Yes, that’s the way things work. In many of the “CO2 doesn’t boost growth” articles (often clearly ‘agenda ridden’) if you read carefully they so arrange the nutrients that the plant will rapidly rate-limit on some other nutrient. You see things like “Plant FOO was grown using a careful nutrient solution of X% this and Y% that AND Z% micronutrient”. In the ones that show the actual stimulation profile you see things like “Grown in open soil” or “nutrient LEVELS were held at X ppm, Y ppm, Z ppm micronutrient”

    The (well understood, btw) pattern is that a plant will grow at the maximum rate possible for that plant until it starts to run low on some nutrient. That is the Rate Limiting Nutrient. This will continue until that nutrient level is raised, at which time it will grow faster (until it rate limits on some OTHER nutrient!)

    Farmers know this and use it all the time. Soils are analysed and the limiting nutrients identified. That is what you add to the soil. Typically these are the big three K, NO3, P but sometimes it is a trace metal.

    So very rapid growth of trees under CO2 fertilization would continue until some OTHER nutrient started to rate limit. IMHO it would likely be N or P.

    @David:

    CO2 would only slightly change range (plants can live in drier soils with more CO2) and ought not change maximum size attained nor density (it is a RATE limit, not an absolute growth limit). What changes is how fast you get large.

    How long to max size (so largest CO2 suck negative feedback)?

    Depends entirely on the Species… For annuals and annual grasses, that’s one year (or one growing season). For Redwood Trees, it’s about 2,000 years. (Bristlecone pines slightly longer ;-) For bamboo, per my experience, it’s about a week ;-)

    (Actually not that much of an exaggeration… once established. Then a new bamboo ‘shoot’ will emerge and grow to full height in just a couple of weeks – months. Rather spectacular…)

    I’d guess the time to a reasonable average negative feedback is likely to be about 10 years. Maybe less. Small saplings grow very fast. You can start a field of these and get a thicket in no time. Then starts the shading out, domination process. By 10 years in, you ought to have a decent young woodland soaking up lots of CO2.

    Then again, if it is a poplar or aspen type… I had an Italica Theves Poplar that was a bit over 12 inches in diameter in about 6 years….

    One small thing though: Need to keep the saws away for it to work…

  32. gallopingcamel says:

    You mention the Bristlecones. It seems pretty clear that temperature is just one of many factors that affect their growth rate.

    Trees make lousy thermometers. Give me Loehle over Mann or Briffa!

    The IPCC WG5 draft mentions Loehle once to dismiss his study as “low resolution”. Hockey Team members are cited over 100 times:
    http://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/a-blaze-of-unwelcome-light/#more-2795

  33. George says:

    The problem is “high resolution proxies”. There are some but not many on land. There are things like lake sediments, ocean sediment cores, and corals. Tortoise produce annual growth rings and are used as a rainfall proxy for desert location. Speleothems can be used with O-18 isotope ratio to determine changes in temperature (read a paper recently where a cave in South America clearly showed the LIA, mostly due to rainfall changes from changes in the ITCZ).

    Some of these records can have long periods of hiatus, though. Even if they use O-18 ratio analysis on these ring samples (too expensive to do for thousands of samples, generally done only for very special samples such as 5000yo pre-fossil wood found in a Dead Sea area cave wash-in).

    The fundamental problem is that even if it is a perfect temperature proxy, it only gives you the June/July temperature, not annual. That is when the trees are putting on the wood that is measured (end wood is not measured, to the best of my knowledge). Summer temps can trend in the opposite direction of annual (as they are currently doing in North America with slightly warming summers and drastically cooling winters with annual temperatures cooling overall).

    We would almost need to find some sort of mineral process where deposition rate varies with temperature and annual periods are clearly delineated and it is consistent over time. I can’t think of one. Any such place I can think to look for something like that might be near a volcano (deposition of calcite at a geyser or hot spring maybe with summer algae creating an annual delineation maybe but I’m not sure the deposition rate is great enough to see clearly or if it varies enough by temperature or if the source is stable enough, I just don’t know).

  34. George says:

    Looks like people are working on travertine deposition as a climate proxy. Don’t know how well developed that is.

  35. E.M.Smith says:

    @GallopingCamel:

    One of my favorite ‘confounders’ for “tree-mometers” is that the growth rate varies with soil fertility… that is largely driven by bear eating fish that they carry from the river up to near the trees… Then the bears “do the do do that bears do” on the trees. “Bottom line” (so to speak ;-) is that tree growth depends on bear “do” and fish stocks. So little things like bear hunting and depletion of salmon runs changes growth rates.

    So, just what was the bear population and salmon run like 2000 years ago in Russia? What, nobody knows?

    @George:

    Oh Boy, yet another confounded proxy. Not like volcanic heating might vary due to the same planetary drivers… (travertine deposition being dependent on that volcanic water source and all.)

  36. E.M.Smith says:

    @Adofo:

    Looks like a ‘new old volcano’ to me… but still, new activity…. I think that is part of the pattern, per the historical record. We get cold, THEN more volcanoes start and it gets really cold…

  37. George says:

    Not like volcanic heating might vary due to the same planetary drivers… (travertine deposition being dependent on that volcanic water source and all.)

    No, not really in all cases. In the case I was reading about, it is a travertine deposit in Tibet from a cool spring that is fed from rain water trickling through a carbonate deposit. The deposit is 11,000 years old and they are looking at the O-18 ratio. The O-18 being indicative of the temperature aloft where the rain condensed.

  38. E.M.Smith says:

    @George:

    The O18 twist partially takes care of the concern over variation of deposition rate. But if the water goes through a carbonate deposit, the assumption has to be made that the O18 ratio in the missing, already dissolved carbonate matches that of the remainder. Reasonable if you can find calibrating beds not yet dissolved….

    I’d not want to just go grab some random tavertine and look at ‘ring thickness’ nor at the volcanic derived isotopes…

    Per the link:

    WOA! Southern South America MWP is nice, but look at that plunge to cold!

    A bit less than 50 years, if my fingernail calibration of the graph is at all close, from peak warmth to coldest plunge. They sucker does a ‘whipsaw’ from top to bottom, THEN a long slow rise back.

    Now that’s got to take a bit of a think… and if the same process works now, then our ‘plunge to cold’ can be just as fast. Looks to me like it hung out at ‘average’ for about a dozen years, half way to ‘way cold’. As we’ve gone from 1998 peak to 2010 ‘average’, that gives us until, oh, the next solar cycle. Then we ought to plunge. Puts it on top of that 2020 to 2040 found by other means and solar observations too.

    Well.

    Don’t know if I ought to be happy (as the warmistas can’t sell warming in a snow storm) or sad as crop failures will increase… and folks will die.

    Good link, though…

  39. Pingback: S. America MWP « Musings from the Chiefio

  40. George says:

    Another thing that doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion is that as CO2 increases the scrubbing rate increases but this increase in scrubbing rate lags the CO2 increase somewhat.

    You can see this by the fact that the increase in CO2 is rather linear while out increase in CO2 emissions is not anywhere near linear. It requires the increasing rate of increase of CO2 emissions to create a linear rise in CO2 because the biosphere is responding by increasing the rate at which CO2 is removed. In other words, if we capped CO2 emissions at the current rate, atmospheric CO2 would begin to drop and the rate of that drop would increase in the first few years as the biosphere catches up with the CO2 levels.

    It is almost like trying to inflate a leaky balloon where the more you inflate the balloon, the larger the leak hole becomes so it takes an increasing rate of increase in air input to cause a linear rate of increase in balloon size.

    None of the projections I have seen take into account an increase in CO2 removal by the biosphere. I am willing to bet that we will see a reduction in the rate of CO2 increase as the biosphere response to the increase with probably about a 10 year lag and our rate of CO2 increase begins to flatten as China’s nuclear plants begin to come online.

  41. E.M.Smith says:

    @George:

    It’s not just the biosphere and faster growth rates. CO2 scrubbing in cold rain will also increase with higher p-CO2. CO2 scrubbing by alkaline minerals too. Heck, even fish “gut rocks” will likely pick up ;-)

  42. George says:

    yes. But the biggest problem with CO2 is the same as with temperature: we have no context into which we can place today’s numbers.

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