About those CO2 isotopes

An interesting article about using CO2 and carbon isotopes to determine volcanic activity at Yellowstone. There was a quake storm in 1978 or so. They’ve now gone back to tree rings and found that the CO2 emissions roughly doubled during that event. They found this via using the Carbon isotope ratio.


Tree-ring 14C links seismic swarm to CO2 spike at Yellowstone, USA

Williams C. Evans1, Deborah Bergfeld1, John P. McGeehin2, John C. King3 and Henry Heasler4

Author Affiliations
1 U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA
2 U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192, USA
3 Lone Pine Research, 2604 Westridge Drive, Bozeman, Montana 59715, USA
4 National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190, USA


Mechanisms to explain swarms of shallow seismicity and inflation-deflation cycles at Yellowstone caldera (western United States) commonly invoke episodic escape of magma-derived brines or gases from the ductile zone, but no correlative changes in the surface efflux of magmatic constituents have ever been documented. Our analysis of individual growth rings in a tree core from the Mud Volcano thermal area within the caldera links a sharp ∼25% drop in 14C to a local seismic swarm in 1978. The implied fivefold increase in CO2 emissions clearly associates swarm seismicity with upflow of magma-derived fluid and shows that pulses of magmatic CO2 can rapidly traverse the 5-km-thick brittle zone, even through Yellowstone’s enormous hydrothermal reservoir. The 1978 event predates annual deformation surveys, but recognized connections between subsequent seismic swarms and changes in deformation suggest that CO2 might drive both processes.

Nice bit of science.

The implications for “climate science” are rather interesting too.

If you can get variation in Carbon Isotopes from volcanic activity, does that not imply that some of the present shifts of isotope ratios can be due to volcanic changes? Doesn’t that kind of toss a spanner into the works on attributing all isotope changes to human causes?

If local tree ring growth is modulated by local volcanic emissions, does that not imply that some of the various trees who’s rings are asserted to measure global temperature changes might be responding to volcanoes upwind somewhere? Doesn’t that kind of toss a spanner into the works on attributing all tree ring changes to temperature causes?

You can’t have it both ways. If the volcanic activity is reflected in the tree ring isotopes and show local CO2 levels doubling for a while (and we know trees grow faster with more CO2) then we have an existence proof of trees being changed by local volcanic effects. The assumption in “climate science” is that those effects either don’t exist or are not relevant.

But any given tree grows in a local environment. It “inhales” CO2 from upwind. So upwind volcanic activity MUST be known to be able to dismiss the effect. Heck, even upwind forest fires need to be known. Realize too that “upwind” for some volcanoes can be a very long distance. Last time Yellowstone had a giant eruption, ash fell in Nebraska… Similarly, when Iceland has a large event, it has effects all over Europe (and even some into Asia).

So it looks to me like a few trees in Yellowstone have rather a lot to say…

Subscribe to feed


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...
This entry was posted in AGW Science and Background, Earth Sciences and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to About those CO2 isotopes

  1. Ian W says:

    ” The assumption in “climate science” is that those effects either don’t exist or are not relevant.”

    The actual assumption is that any decrease in 14C MUST be anthropogenic.

    It is similar to the assumption that any increase in atmospheric temperature MUST be due to CO2.

    Numerous papers go to great lengths trying to show how CO2 must have increased to raise global temperatures. For example, the only way out of the ‘snowball Earth’ was CO2. The huge effect of albedo changes?….. no not that – its got to be CO2. That is followed by tortuous reasoning to make the change anthropogenic.

    Any query on this immediately defaults to basic physics and Arrhenius experiments – totally missing the point. It is difficult to discuss things with such single track minds.

  2. DirkH says:

    The isotope ratio argument was already demolished indepentently by Spencer and Salby:
    Jo Nova about Dr. Salby:
    Roy Spencer a year prior:
    “1. The interannual relationship between SST and dCO2/dt is more than enough to explain the long term increase in CO2 since 1958. I’m not claiming that ALL of the Mauna Loa increase is all natural…some of it HAS to be anthropogenic…. but this evidence suggests that SST-related effects could be a big part of the CO2 increase.
    2. NEW RESULTS: I’ve been analyzing the C13/C12 ratio data from Mauna Loa. Just as others have found, the decrease in that ratio with time (over the 1990-2005 period anyway) is almost exactly what is expected from the depleted C13 source of fossil fuels. But guess what? If you detrend the data, then the annual cycle and interannual variability shows the EXACT SAME SIGNATURE. So, how can decreasing C13/C12 ratio be the signal of HUMAN emissions, when the NATURAL emissions have the same signal???

  3. adolfogiurfa says:

    The global warming scam it is, without any doubt whatsoever, anthropogenic; and more precisely, it has been the creation of a single tribe of humans.

  4. Pascvaks says:

    The hardest part to solving the ever changing equation of life is determining exactly who it is you’re actually talking to, or listening to, or reading. There is an old saying that “Art is in the Eye of the Beholder.” Guess what, today it’s also true of Science. What a world! No wonder old folks talk so much about the Good Ol’ Days. Never believe anyone who says God is Dead, or Religion is Dead, today there are more damn religions and gods than you can shake a stick at. Gotta’ be something in the water, PhD’s seem to have a very severe reaction to it. Must be volcanic;-)

  5. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Pascvaks: “Art is in the Eye of the Beholder.”….when it is not OBJECTIVE ART, science, too, is now “in the eye of the beholder” as it does not represent any OBJECTIVE LAWS. This, in the leaders is a choice, as any objective natural law implies order and order implies behavior and behavior relative to a pre existing order is ethics….and “we wanna be free, my dad and mom said we could do anything”….

  6. Mark Miller says:

    I’ve heard this isotope argument a couple times, and on it’s face, yeah, it sounds reasonable from a city dweller’s perspective to assume that CO2 with no C-14 comes from fossil fuels. Putting a little thought into it, though, after having listened to what atmospheric scientists say about natural CO2 output, and listening to biologists who have looked at the microbial action of some bacteria that actually *eat* crude oil, and produce CO2 as a waste product, I thought, couldn’t this come from the oceans, or from underground pockets of hydrocarbons? What the alarmists are measuring is the instability of the carbon in the mixture of gases, not whether the carbon came from a burning process, or even then, a human source.

    A common problem I’ve seen with alarmists is they attribute a symptom to a cause that fits the narrative, when there are multiple possible causes for it. If they find something that fits, they go with it, and they get frustrated when people question this leap to a conclusion, trying to say, “Not so fast.” Richard Lindzen talked about this, that even in the legal profession they recognize certain fallacies in logic, which alarmists happen to fall right into. One example he gave was if Defendant A shot Person B, there will be gunshot residue on A’s hands. The idea, though, that because A has gunshot residue, that must mean A shot B, is a fallacy. When I bring this sort of thing up, the response is, “That’s been addressed,” but when I go look at their sources, the articles exhibit the same problem. They present information that’s been derived through science, but they present no data. They just say outright, “This is conclusive evidence,” blah, blah, blah. They just expect the reader to accept the information without question. Every time they beg for credulity. What I ought to explain to these people sometime is, “This is not a matter of reading comprehension.”


    Maybe I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying, but what I think is being attacked is the very idea of science itself. BTW, I don’t accept the idea of objective laws in science. The models that are used in science are human creations, and I don’t think objectivity is achievable. What I think science does is create models which humans can reason about and use to deal with Nature better.

    Very often what I see in alarmist analysis is mathematical reasoning, not scientific reasoning. It’s an attempt to derive “evidence” from other evidence, to try to get around the limitations that we have at this point in studying the natural world. Only it’s a pursuit based on a mistaken notion that we can gain knowledge about Nature without consulting it, since we don’t know how to ask the right questions. (I’m speaking metaphorically, and somehow “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” comes to mind…) There are various motivations involved, some of which I’m sure are political, but assigning benign motives, it seems to me it’s driven by a fear and loathing of change. It’s not a matter of objective laws under attack. It’s broader than that. You’re right that it’s a free for all, “Science is what I say it is.”

  7. wayne says:

    “Well? Say something!”

    Would say more but your edit control no longer even accepts the cursor in the comment edit box., The address and name and website edits do. Had to download FireFox to even send this comment but I’m going to stick with IE, sorry, slow but I like it, Hope you are able to fix it. Just thought you might want to know, your may be cutting out a large section of comments.

  8. Pascvaks says:

    Via iE6.x, Testing 1, 2, 3…

  9. DocMartyn says:

    Volcanoes are a major input into the selenium cycle, it would be so nice if they measured Se levels in ice core, rather than looking at volcanic/biotic sulphates.

  10. R. de Haan says:

    The scientific “group think” as some call it, “a propaganda driven fraud based conspiracy” as I call it already determined that volcanic CO2 emissions are insignificant compared to human induced emissions. We all know that human CO2 emissions are a relative small contribution to the natural CO2 cycle (less than 4%). Now we see a whole series of reports that provide us with the scientific proof of seismic and volcanic activity triggering CO2 fluctuations that in some cases double regional atmospheric CO2 levels. I refer to different studies that were undertaken by the University of Torino in Italy where measurements were performed after CO2 accumulation in low lying river beds killed local fishermen. During day’s with no or very weak winds, airborne CO2 levels were jumping of the scale in different area’s on the Italian Peninsula and these area’s were not small. This CO2 is emitted by deep water springs which occur in chalk rich rock formations. Similar measurements have been performed in Greece and Turkey with similar results.
    Low lying lakes, valley’s and riverbanks, prone to CO2 accumulation during periods with low wind in Italy where people died from high level CO2 now carry warning signs informing visitors for thi lethal danger. In the mean time Europe is de-industrialized for all the wrong reasons.

    Our nations are run by a bunch of crooks and madmen.

  11. adolfogiurfa says:

    @R.de Haan: You are right again!
    Let us ask those crooks, madmen (all ignoble): See the following photo: http://www.giurfa.com/volcanes.jpg
    See?, there are eight volcanoes down there, do you see any hard working and, according to you, polluting men, or any rats or poisonous vermin like you?
    There are more than three million people down there and you cannot even see their polluting industries. However, among those 8 volcanoes, the Huaynaputina erupted with such a force, in 1600, that for some it started the “Maunder Minimum”.
    We are nothing!, we don´t even color the surface of the planet, we and fungi breath the same: Oxygen. We are the earth´s fungi!….and you…well, what do you like?, see?, you are those anaerobic organism which feed on waste water, on sewage…

    @DocMartyn: Selenium is simple fantastic for crops. Volcanic eruptions, we usually forget it, are soil forming.
    The good thing with volcanoes is that there are FREE, and they will never be shut off or closed by any environmental agency or any environment ministry in the world, LOL!
    During the eruption of the Chaiten Volcano (remember the old E.M.´s Musings from the Chiefio´s banner?) in Chile, it was throwing thousand of tons, not only of SO2, CO2, but also thousands of tons of Hydrochloric Acid into the atmosphere……Just imagine what would be the consequences if you or me, throw away a few liters of the same?

  12. David says:

    So, among all the other possible local causes of tree ring growth, we have to edit in volcanic affects on local CO2 levels. Was this discussed in the climate audit series on tree rings?

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    I have NO control over what WordPress does to the edit box ( or much of anything else, for that matter). I can’t “fix it”, can’t change it, have zero ability to deal with it. (AND have had my own troubles with it… I run 4 main browsers in 8 or 9 releases on 3 platforms… There’s always one of them that WordPress has porked… Linux, Windows, Mac; Safari, Firefox, Opera, I.E.; releases scattered over the last decade or two…) So “I can relate”. BUT, it is not within my control to do anything about it, so appeals to my potential lost comments are wasted. Sorry.

  14. R. de Haan says:

    Your volcano argument is known by me a long time.
    I think you have posted it at WUWT years ago.
    Of course you’re right with your assessment that humanity is nothing more but a fly on an elephant’s ass.

    However, we have the ability to do things for the bad or the good.
    Sometimes they go hand in hand.

    Yesterday I saw a documentary of a guy who has managed to restore barren landscapes into new green zones within a few years.

    At the same time he blamed capitalism and our western civilization for causes that are not our fault.

    We are not responsible for a value system that is based on the number of goats a man owns.
    It’s the goats that turn green land into deserts.
    Capitalism and the consumer based society has nothing to do with that.

    This man would be much bigger if he stopped selling his propagandistic lies..

  15. adolfogiurfa says:

    @R.de Haan: Now I understand why some goat-scientists want to turn all new science breakthroughs, like the EU, into barren land. :-)

  16. wayne says:

    Thanks E.M. I understand. Heres some input… I run you site (really wordpress.com) as trusted, if I lower security on general internet sites I get in… it seems to be the expandable edit control that wuwt and talkshop do not use, they work fine. Trouble is that I can’t, in general, open the internet zone security settings (it’s why I have never in forty years have has any kind of virus, none). Sounds like they need to move the expandable edit to ‘wordpress.com’ domain but I bet they are rather deaf to suggestions! ;-).

  17. reid simpson says:

    Mr. Smith: a likely excuse as pertains to browsers. Anthropogenic interference fer sure.

  18. wayne says:

    Here’s the fix… have anyone with the same problem add “http://*.wp.com” to their trusted sites and run it at least one notch below maximum security. That did the trick! Sorry to post OT on this… had no other way to notify you!

  19. Hugo M says:

    @R. de Haan,

    regarding CO2 outgassings from riverbeds in Italy, do you have a reference at hands?

    In general, I’d expect outgassings to increase together with the increasing number (and energy) of big quakes since 1990. Also C13/C14 isotopic ratios in vulcano outgassings do vary wildly, probably due to different diffusion pathways.

Comments are closed.