Under the Volcano, Over the Volcano

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

In 2006, I lived for a year in Waimea, on the Big Island of Hawaii. From my house I could see the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO). This observatory is the home of the longest continuous series of CO2 measurements we have. The recording station was set up by Dave Keeling in 1959, and has operated continuously ever since.

Figure 1. Mauna Loa Observatory ( 19.536337°N, 155.576248°W)

Here’s a view of the observatory from Panoramio:

Every time the subject of CO2 measurements comes up, people raise all kinds of objections to the Mauna Loa measurements. So I thought I’d start a thread where we can discuss those objections, and perhaps dispose of some of them.

Here are the objections that I hear the most:

1. The Mauna Loa results don’t measure the background CO2 levels.

2. You can’t get accurate CO2 measurements from samples taken on the side of an active volcano that is outgassing CO2.

3. The measurements from Mauna Loa are not representative of the rest of the world.

4. What about the Beck data, doesn’t it contradict the MLO data?

5. Keeling chose a bad location.

Before we get into those issues, let’s start by looking at the local meteorological conditions at the site. Mauna Loa is at an elevation of 3397 metres (11,140 ft) on the side of a 4,170 metre (13,680 ft) volcano way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Because it is on an island, it gets the “sea breeze” in the daytime, and the “land breeze” in the nighttime.

These winds are caused by the differential heating of the land and the sea. Land heats up much faster than the ocean. So during the day, the warmer land heats the air, which rises. This rising air is replaced by air moving in from the surrounding ocean, creating the “sea breeze”.

At night, the situation is reversed. The land is cooler than the ocean. This cools the air. The cool air runs downhill along the slopes of the island and out to sea, creating the “land breeze”. Here’s a drawing of the situation:

Figure 2. Day and night breezes at Mauna Loa.

Now that we understand what is happening at Mauna Loa, let’s look at the objections.

1. The Mauna Loa results don’t measure the background CO2 levels. As you might imagine from Fig. 2, the CO2 measurements are taken only at night. Thus, they are measuring descending air that is coming from thousands of feet aloft. This air has traveled across half of the Pacific Ocean, so it is far from any man-made CO2 sources. And as a result, it is very representative of the global background CO2 levels. That’s why Keeling chose the site.

2. You can’t get accurate CO2 measurements from samples taken on the side of an active volcano that is outgassing CO2. This seems like an insuperable objection. I mean, Mauna Loa is in fact an active volcano that is outgassing CO2. How do they avoid that?

The answer lies in the fact that the volcanic gasses are very rich in CO2. At night, they are trapped in a thin layer near the ground by a temperature inversion.

To detect the difference between volcanic and background CO2, the measurements are taken simultaneously from tall towers and from near the ground, at intervals throughout the night. Background CO2 levels will be around 380 ppmv (these days), will be steady, and will be identical at the top and bottom of the towers. Volcanic gasses, on the other hand, will be well above 380 ppmv, will be variable, and will be greater near the ground than at the top of the towers.

This allows the scientists to distinguish reliably between volcanic and background CO2 levels. Here is a description of the process:

Air samples at Mauna Loa are collected continuously from air intakes at the top of four 7-m towers and one 27-m tower. Four air samples are collected each hour for the purpose of determining the CO2 concentration. Determinations of CO2 are made by using a Siemens Ultramat 3 nondispersive infrared gas analyzer with a water vapor freeze trap. This analyzer registers the concentration of CO2 in a stream of air flowing at ~0.5 L/min. Every 30 minutes, the flow is replaced by a stream of calibrating gas or “working reference gas”. In December 1983, CO2-in-N2 calibration gases were replaced with the currently used CO2-in-air calibration gases. These calibration gases and other reference gases are compared periodically to determine the instrument sensitivity and to check for possible contamination in the air-handling system. These reference gases are themselves calibrated against specific standard gases whose CO2 concentrations are determined manometrically. Greater details about the sampling methods at Mauna Loa are given in Keeling et al. (1982) and Keeling et al. (2002).

Hourly averages of atmospheric CO2 concentration, wind speed, and wind direction are plotted as a basis for selecting data for further processing. Data are selected for periods of steady hourly data to within ~0.5 parts per million by volume (ppmv); at least six consecutive hours of steady data are required to form a daily average. Greater details about the data selection criteria used at Mauna Loa are given in Bacastow et al. (1985). Data are in terms of the Scripps “03A” calibration scale.

There is a more detailed description of the measurement and selection process here.

As a result, the Mauna Loa record does accurately measure the background CO2 levels, despite the fact that it is on an active volcano. The samples that are identified as volcanic CO2 are not thrown away, however. They are used for analyses of the volcanic emission rates, such as this one (pdf).

3. The measurements from Mauna Loa are not representative of the rest of the world. Well, yes and no. The concentration of atmospheric CO2 varies by month, and also by latitude. Here is a “carpet diagram” of the changes by time and latitude.

Figure 3. A “carpet diagram” of CO2 distributions, by time and latitude.

Note that the swings are much greater in the Northern Hemisphere. Presumably, this is from the plants in the much larger land area of the Northern Hemisphere. However, the difference between the annual average of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is small. In addition, there are smaller daily variations around the planet. An animation of these is visible here, with day by day variations available here.

Figure 4 shows is a typical day’s variations, picked at random:

Figure 4. Snapshot of the variations in tropospheric CO2. Note that the range is small, about ±1% of the average value.

In general, the different global records match quite closely. In addition to the Mauna Loa observatory, NOAA maintains CO2 measuring stations at Barrow, Alaska; American Samoa; and the South Pole. Here is a comparison of the four records (along with two methane records):

Figure 5. Comparison of the CO2 records from the four NOAA measuring sites.

As you can see, there is very little difference between the CO2 measurements at the four stations – two in the Northern Hemisphere, two in the Southern, two tropical, and two polar.

4. What about the Beck data, doesn’t it contradict the MLO data? In 2007, Ernst-Georg Beck published a paper called “180 Years Of Atmospheric CO2 Gas Analysis by Chemical Methods” (pdf).  In it, he showed a variety of results from earlier analyses of the atmospheric CO2. In general, these were larger than either the ice core or the MLO data. So why don’t I believe them?

I do believe them … with a caveat. I think that the Beck data is accurate, but that it is not measuring the background CO2. CO2 measurements need to be done very carefully, in selected locations, to avoid contamination from a host of natural CO2 sources. These sources include industry, automobiles, fires, soil, plants, the list is long. To illustrate the problems, I have graphed the Beck data from his Figure 13, against the Law Dome ice core data and the MLO data.

Figure 6. CO2 data from a variety of sources. White crosses are MLO data. Three separate ice core records are shown. Photo is of Mauna Loa dusted with snow (yes, it snows in Hawaii.) PHOTO SOURCE

There are several things to note about this graph. First, there is good agreement between the Law Dome ice core data and the MLO data over the ~ two decade overlap. Second, there is good agreement between the three separate Law Dome ice core datasets. Third, both the ice cores and the MLO data do not vary much from year to year.

Now look at the various datasets cited by Beck. Many of them vary quite widely from one year to the next. The different datasets show very different values for either the same year or for nearby years. And they differ greatly from both the ice core and the MLO data.

Because of this, I conclude that the Beck data, while valuable for showing ground level CO2 variations at individual locations, do not reflect the background CO2 level of the planet. As such, they cannot be compared to the MLO data, to the ice core data, or to each other.

5. Keeling chose a bad location. I would say that Keeling picked a very good location. It not only allows us to measure the background CO2 in a very accurate manner, it provides invaluable information about the amount of CO2 coming from the volcano.

My conclusion? Most of the records in the field of climate science are short, spotty, and not very accurate. We have little global historical information on ocean temperatures, on land temperatures, on relative humidity, on atmospheric temperatures, on hurricane occurrence and strength, or on a host of other variables. By contrast, the Mauna Loa CO2 records are complete since 1959, are very accurate, and are verified by measurements in several other locations.

I’m about as skeptical as anyone I know. But I think that the Mauna Loa CO2 measurements are arguably the best dataset in the field of climate science. I wouldn’t waste time fighting to disprove them, there are lots of other datasets that deserve closer scrutiny.

[UPDATE] A reader below has added another question, viz:

6. What about Jaworoski’s claim that the ice core data has had its age “adjusted”?

Jaworoski argues that the age of the air in the ice cores has been “adjusted” to make it align with the modern data. He says, for example, that the Siple ice core data has been moved forwards exactly 83 years to make them match the Mauna Loa data.

Dating the ice core data is problematic. We can date the ice itself pretty accurately, through counting layers (like tree rings) and through studying various substances such as volcanic dust that is trapped in the ice. However, dating the air is harder.

The difficulty is that the air is not trapped in the ice immediately. The pores in the “firn”, the snow that falls annually on top of the ice are open. Air can flow in and out.

As more and more snow falls over the years, at some point the pores close off and the air is trapped. So how long does it take for the pores in the firn to seal off?

Unfortunately, as in so many areas of climate science, the answer is … “depends”. It depends inter alia on how much snow falls every year, how much of that snow sublimates (changes from a solid to a gas) every year, and even the shape and size of the individual snowflakes.

The end result of all of this is that we end up with two ages for any given thin slice of an ice core. These are the “ice age” (how old the ice itself is), and the “air age” (how old the air trapped in the ice is). The ice is always older than the air.

The main variable in that is thought to be the annual snowfall. Unfortunately, while we know the current rate of annual snowfall, we don’t know the historical rate, particularly tens of thousands of years ago. So we use the concentration of an isotope of oxygen called “d18O” to estimate the historical snowfall rate, and thence the firn closing rate, and from that the air age.

Sounds a bit sketchy? Well … it is, particularly as we go way back. However, for recent data, it is much more accurate.

So to bring this back to real data, in the ice core data I showed in Fig. 5, the air is calculated to be 30 years younger than the ice for cores DEO8 and DEO8-2, and 58 years younger for the DSS core. Is this correct? I don’t know, but I do know that there are sound scientific reasons for the “adjustment” that Jaworowski objects to .

Finally, the existence of a thirty to sixty year difference in air and ice age doesn’t make much difference in the pre-industrial levels of CO2. This is because prior to about 1800, the level is basically flat, so an error in the air age dating doesn’t change the CO2 values in any significant manner.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

MLO Home Page

MLO Data Links

Greenhouse Gas & Carbon Cycle Research Programs

Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

MLO Webcams

How we measure background CO2 levels on Mauna Loa

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263 Responses to Under the Volcano, Over the Volcano

  1. Rhoda R says:

    Thank you, Mr. Eschenbach, that answered many questions that I had about those CO2 measurements.

  2. crosspatch says:

    If it matters, I have no objection to the Mauna Loa CO2 observations. The thing is that I don’t think anyone has shown that increased CO2 has any detrimental impact on anything. So what if it is rising? Pine trees apparently love it. There is no evidence that it has had any significant climate impact to date as most of the temperature variation to day seems to be natural cyclical activity that goes on all the time.

    The CO2 measurements are “interesting” but I wouldn’t worry all that much about them at this point. The additional CO2 is probably doing more good than harm.

  3. Steven mosher says:

    Thanx Willis.

    since so many people see skeptics as anti science it would be instructive to point out the science that is accepted by skeptics. So many people waste their time with silly misinformed arguments

  4. Don E says:

    What about CO2 measurements from ice core samples and the like? I have heard it argued that because ice is not a closed system, those historical measurements are far from accurate. The CO2 level in the past could have been much higher (or lower).

  5. pat says:

    Mauna Loa is sporadically active. I never see out gassing unless it is active, less than once every 30 years or so. In that case, as the largest volcano on Earth, and largest active in the solar system, we all know when the shit has hit the fan and adjustments to the CO2 count can be made. Like shutting down the measures and getting out of Hilo.
    It is, however down wind of a very active volcano, Kilauea Iki.
    I suspect that much of the CO2 we now measure is because of oceanic out gassing, caused by global warmth. Whether this is really true is unknown and will not be known unless we see an unexplained decease in the same.

  6. fredJ says:

    Your post clarified some of my own misconceptions and I thank you for that.
    However, the Mauna Loa data shows seasonal CO2 variation. Why would that be so? Is it due to tempeature variation? Could it be due to sea temperature changes? Is there a temperature record for the sampling points and is there a corresponding ocean temperature record for the surrounding area?

  7. Chris L says:

    Thank you Willis.

    I was one who was once highly skeptical of the choice of this monotoring site.
    Not just because of it being on “a volcano,” but rather an area of high volcanic activity also situated in the middle of warm waters.

    That’s what so much of this is about. Knowing what data and observations we can be confident of, and building from that.

  8. dr.bill says:

    Very clear and informative presentation, Willis. I shall have to modify my previous thoughts on such matters.

    /dr.bill

  9. Verity Jones says:

    Having these objections about CO2 and MLO come up over and over again in various comment threads, the doubt they express sort of seeps into the whole thinking on this issue. Great to have them put to rest. Thanks Willis.

    It would be interesting to contrast the sophisticated instrumentation, rigour of method, calibrations and accuracy of this set of measurements with some of the temperature measurements. For example we hear various things about the satellite measurements suffering instrument drift requiring correction. Are there weak points in some of these global measurements? And where are they?

    There is a lovely Chinese proverb that says “Only he that has travelled the road knows where the holes are deep”. There is such a lot of time wasted by armchair travellers speculating about the location and size of ‘holes’ in climate data. We need to sure where the real holes are and ensure they are marked with a big ‘danger’ sign. Perhaps then the climate change road map can be shown to be so full of holes that it is not safe to travel.

  10. JER0ME says:

    Just a minor point. From my misspent (or I feel very well spent, but others differ) youth on tropical beaches, the breeze tends to go out until midday and then inland until some time in the night. I recall this well as we tended to wallow in the sea at the time the breeze stopped as the heat was too much.

    We assumed from this that the land heats up during the day, and when it reaches the sea temperature the breeze stopped. It then reversed as the land became hotter than the sea. The reverse surely occurred at night, although we were not so aware as it was cooler (and we were probably less ‘observant’ for a number of reasons).

    I am sure the same would happen here, so the explanation showing air flow down, and out to sea, in the evening is a tad simplistic and this would not occur until some time in the night. I suspect this is taken into account, however.

    And I was told I would never learn anything bumming around on tropical beaches heh?

  11. Nylo says:

    Regarding the yearly variation in CO2 levels, a long time ago I noticed an interesting phenomenon. If you look at the Mauna Loa record, you will easily see that the yearly increment of CO2 is increasing, i.e. we are putting CO2 into the atmosphere more quickly now than in the 60′s. Everybody knows that, and the typical answer is “of course, we are emitting more”.

    But we have increased our emissions roughly the same for all the months of the year, the industry doesn´t stop in the summer. We emmit about the same all year. However, if you look really carefully at the Mauna Loa data, you will see that the yearly increase has not happened in the same ammount for all the months of the year. Actually, only in (NH) winter do we see a difference compared to the 60′s. In the yearly oscillation, you will see that, on average, the reduction of atmospheric CO2 in the (NH) summer is the same that was happening in the 60′s, despite the fact that we emmit much more CO2 now in the summer than we did then. One would expect an everytime smaller reduction in CO2 levels according to our increasing emissions. However, it is only the winter increase that is getting bigger.

    Many months ago I told this to Gavin Smith, as proof that the biosphere, the plants in the NH, are keeping up with our emissions. We emit more AND the plants are also able to absorb more, leading to the same summer reduction. But they can only do it in the growing seasons. However, Gavin told me that this was wrong, and the main reason was the bigger CO2 absorption in the southern oceans, especially in their winter (NH summer) when they are colder.

    I couldn’t refute him, I really didn’t know which effect was more important. But now thanks to Willis I know that I WAS RIGHT. Because if the dominant effect was the absorption and release of CO2 by the souhtern oceans, then the yearly variations of CO2 should be bigger in the SH than in the NH. And in Willis’ graphs it is clearly understood that that’s not the case.

    Thanks a lot, Willis.

  12. Bart says:

    Are the four records you show genuinely independent and unadulterated, or have they been adjusted in any way?

  13. Tenuc says:

    Thanks Willis, looks like the current measurements for CO2 levels are valid. However, I think the historic pre-industrial levels from the ice core data, quoted at 290ppmv, are open to argument as adjustments may have been made to ‘align’ them with the post 1959 Mauna Loa Observatory measurements (shades of the Briffa Tree Ring Data controversy perhaps?).

    The following link to a statement by Prof. Zbigniew Jaworowski, (Chairman of Scientific Council of Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection, Warsaw, Poland) written for the hearing before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has a good explanation of this potential issue, “Climate Change: Incorrect information on pre-industrial CO2 – March 2004″

    http://www.warwickhughes.com/icecore/

    I would be interested in your thoughts on this please.

  14. John Finn says:

    This will make an excellent link. Too often the ‘sceptic’ side gets distracted by muddled arguments about CO2 concentrations. The Beck measurements come up repeatedly. We need to accept that CO2 levels are increasing and that fossil fuel burning is almost certainly responsible for most of those increases.

  15. Grumbler says:

    Willis, another valuable essay. Keep up the good work.
    However I disagree with your conclusion of suitable placement.
    My internal alarm goes off once I hear that it’s really ok becuase the scientists use readings [and probably algorithms and computers] to distinguish the volcanic CO2 from the atmospheric CO2 readings.
    “……This allows the scientists to distinguish reliably between volcanic and background CO2 levels.”
    Isn’t a tenet of sceptical argument that it’s often the ‘adjustments’ that are the problem.
    Further I’d like to know how the sensors in the towers read the CO2. I’m concerned about freezing as opposed to drying. If the air has been sufficiently filtered is it possible for super cooled water vapour to remain in the sample as the water has nothing to freeze on to? How is the CO2 seperated from other IR absorbers in the sample like methane ? I can’t believe the towers are as sophisticated as the lab where these things are hopefully done.
    Anyway as I say very stimulating and much appreciated.

    cheers David

  16. DennisA says:

    Willis ,

    You say that MLO is complete since 1959. Wasn’t there a period when there were funding difficulties and perhaps the record had to be retro-fitted in the sixties?

    Isn’t the homogenisation of Law Dome with MLO a little suspect? Aren’t we again looking at apples and kiwi fruit, CO2 trapped in ice cores compared with aerial measurement seems as illogical as mixing tree ring data and direct instrumental measurement for temperature records.

    Do you dismiss Jaworowski and his criticism of Law Dome and ice cores in general, relating to CO2 measurement?

    In your figure 5 chart it looks as if the “consensus” is achieved by all of them assessing the same data, that of Law Dome, in the same way that we get “consensus” in IPCC.

    If Jaworowski is right then the consensus is wrong and more credence can be given to Beck.

    Of course if it were not for the claims that CO2 is driving temperature upwards in contradiction of the cooling from the 40′s to the 80′s, when CO2 was increasing and a lack of warming currently, in the face of increasing CO2, then it would all be irrelevant.

  17. Chris1958 says:

    A very welcome contribution which will help avoid needless distractions from the fundamental questions :-)

  18. John Finn says:

    Willis

    Just one question. Do you have any comments on the reliability of ice core data and, in particular, the issue of ‘diffusion’.

  19. JohnH says:

    Now can you ever imagine a post like this at RealClimate on say a paper By Steve McIntyre.

    Just makes you think.

  20. erin says:

    Thankyou for the information. does the above data mean ice-core data gives accurate historical records?

  21. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Rhoda R says:
    June 4, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Eschenbach, that answered many questions that I had about those CO2 measurements.

    More than welcome, Rhoda. Always more to learn, for all of us, myself included. That’s why I hang out here at WUWT …

  22. Alexander says:

    Thanks once again, Willis, and Anthony too. I had thought, from time to time, about the CO2 readings from the Moana Loa observatory in my usual sceptical but unstructured way – you have very neatly enunciated my doubts and laid them to rest. It is good to have you and WUWT as a source of stuff one can trust, unlike so much ‘out there’ that is contaminated by vested interests.
    OT, but Leo Hickman of The Guardian seems to regard anyone who attended the recent Chicago conference as tainted by association with ‘the lunatic fringe’ (his term, not mine) which denies the link between smoking tobacco and cancer, HIV and AIDS, etc.
    I thought The Guardian had a new policy of playing nice with sceptics who are rational and polite, but I am unsurprised that the same newspaper carries no word of the ‘peer reveiwed and published’ (which they claim is their criteria for publishing) the paper debunking the alarmist nonsense about Tuvalu being in danger of being swamped by rising oceans.

  23. anna v says:

    Well, Willis,

    would you accept the same reasoning for temperature measurements?

    I.e. go to the top of a mountain at night and call that the global temperature?

    I think that there is no meaning in global CO2 as there is no meaning in global temperature.

    You quote:

    The answer lies in the fact that the volcanic gasses are very rich in CO2. At night, they are trapped in a thin layer near the ground by a temperature inversion.

    To detect the difference between volcanic and background CO2, the measurements are taken simultaneously from tall towers and from near the ground, at intervals throughout the night. Background CO2 levels will be around 380 ppmv (these days), will be steady, and will be identical at the top and bottom of the towers. Volcanic gasses, on the other hand, will be well above 380 ppmv, will be variable, and will be greater near the ground than at the top of the towers.

    !!!!

    And what prevents run of the mill CO2 molecules to generally to lie low?
    Does each molecule carry a passport that says: I am from the volcano, I am from the top atmosphere?

    Think of the oil spill. Would you defend measuring the chemistry of clear water next to the oil spill ? And we are talking of a gas that is supposed to be a good mixer?

  24. dr.bill says:

    John Finn: June 5, 2010 at 1:30 am
    This will make an excellent link. Too often the ‘sceptic’ side gets distracted by muddled arguments about CO2 concentrations. The Beck measurements come up repeatedly. We need to accept that CO2 levels are increasing and that fossil fuel burning is almost certainly responsible for most of those increases.

    That last sentence is a non sequitur, John.

    /dr.bill

  25. Tony says:

    Good summary, Willis.

    However, if this single data series from a single evolving methodology is all that is underpinning the CO2/Climate change hypothesis … then it certainly cannot support the weight of AGW theorising and speculation, let alone the Carbon Tax concept.

    The Mauna Loa graph is after all, an ‘average’ struck from incredibly noisy datapoints that have huge variations. And, the parallel with the problem of trying to establish an ‘average’ global temperature series, is striking.

    And so, I have concerns about the processes, and the history of the processes.

    a) Re the various changes and ‘improvements’ that have been made (such as changing the material of the pressure vessels, the cleaning of the cell windows, etc.,) and whether retrospective reanalyses/corrections and restatement of the time-graph were made. Is there a ‘history of the history’ so to speak?

    b) Has the statistical methodology been published?

    c) Has the record of all the raw data been made available, and has anyone done a completely independent analysis?

    d) You mentioned the idea that only the night-time samples are used because that air will be downwelling. But, does that not mean that this air was yesterday’s upwelling? And given the local wind-vector data, could a proportion of the downwelling sample have emanated from local population-centres (… that have grown over time)

    e) For example, in the case of a very low average airspeed, the site itself seems to have grown substantially since the ‘fifties, with huge amounts of concrete, generators, airconditioners, road traffic, cooking, permanent staff (all CO2 producers?). Has there been an attempt at a correlation with a graph of the history of local CO2 emissions?
    Such a claimed instrumental sensitivity ought to show such growth in an analysis of the daytime data record. Does it?

    f) The seasonal variations that are claimed to be observed in the data history, is remarkable, and is ascribed to photosynthesis. Do these ‘waves’ in terms of shape and rates of change, correspond with the actual seasonal photosysthesis cycle of northern hemisphere land plants. At what latitude? Or, is the data showing only the effect of oceanic photosynthesis? Or dare I say it, only the local pacific ocean insolation and surface temperature changes?

    Then, there is the Beck data. As you say, these records show CO2 concentrations on a local, low-altitude basis. They were made at a time when the industrial revolution was in full swing. I haven’t checked, but I vaguely remember that some of these series spanned WWI, where Anthropic CO2 emissions must have peaked dramatically, and slumped just as dramatically in 1919/20 . Does this show-up?
    But more seriously, if an ‘average’ can be teased out of the fuzz of the actual Mauna Loa data, why can’t it be teased out of the presumably equally fuzzy Beck data using the SAME statistical techniques ?

    I know that this raises a possibly silly thought, but as the increase in background CO2
    is claimed to affect the climate, surely a local increase in CO2 on a local level ought to affect local weather? By that I mean that as climate maps to weather in terms of area and time, as measured by average temperature and influenced by average CO2 concentrations , then why cannot local average temperature records and local average CO2 concetrations be used to study the linkage. After all, whilst the data would be very ‘noisy’.. the same statistical techniques used by Scripps for CO2 and Climatologists for temperature, ought to yield comparable results.

    A related question is the comparison of the Scripps CO2 measurement technique versus the earlier chemical technique, in terms of fundamental accuracy and resolution . Assuming that the two techniques can be correlated … it would be obvious to have seen the two techniques being used together, and results co-recorded. As I have not heard of chemical records from Mauna Loa, I assume they are not. Could you or any readers comment?

    This raises a further question. I understand that over the past decade or so, several instances of alternative methods of measuring atmospheric CO2 have been developed. What has happened to these instruments? Do they work? I’d have thought that such systems would have been trialled at the Mauna Loa site? Why not? Can anybody shed light on this mystery?

  26. Ernst Beck says:

    Dear Willis,

    I agree, the near ground data listed in my first paper do not reflect background data. Meanwhile I have found additional data which reflect CO2 background at that times. ( e.g. 1890 measured on islands at Baltic Sea or 1935 measured as a vertical profile over Helsinki)
    Near ground concentrations are connected to the CO2 background (or MBL) over the vertical profiles. (please see our latest paper on http://www.realCO2.de: http://www.biokurs.de/treibhaus/CO2_versus_windspeed-review-1-FM.pdf). We can calculate annual background averages from near ground data.
    You will find a graph of historical CO2 background based on that methods and updated historical station list on http://www.realCO2.de (http://www.biomind.de/realCO2/stations.htm.)
    I have also prepared a new paper on the reconstruction of the CO2 background which is in peer review.

    best regards
    Ernst Beck

  27. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Willis,

    (1) Has the 27m high tower been at ML from the start ca. 1973?

    (2) What is the relationship between the concentrations of CO2 at ML, some 3,400m or more asl, and the CO2 concentrations where the greenhouse physics are invoked? It was my impression that terrain hugging CO2 at variable but often higher concentrations mattered most to global models of IR absorption/emission.

    (3) Re methane, Tom Quirk has provided an official graph from Cape Grim at the N-W tip of Tasminia, which is mostly exposed to west winds that have crossed large ocean distances.

    http://www.quadrant.org.au/img/content/May%202010/Quirk%203.jpg

    The Cape Grim graph seems to sit somewhere between Barrow and ML and does not give the impression often mentioned of methane as a “globally well-mixed gas”. The annual wiggles at Cape Grim peak in the NH Autumn, but it seems improbable that their consistency is compatible with travel half way round the globe and over the Equator barrier. Yet people have described the shape of the Cape Grim methane curve as partly from plugging leaks in Russian gas pipelines (the plateau part) and partly methane release from melting marshland such as Arctic tundra. The appearance of the fine structure suggests none of these, as does the lack of plateaux at barrow and ML . It seems to be more local. See e.g. Karl, D M, Beversdorf, L., Bjorkman, K M, Church, M J, Martinez, A., and DeLong, E F. (2008) Aerobic production of methane in the sea. Nature Geoscience Vol. 1. July 2008, 473 – 478 (with HT to Steve Short).

    If events local to the stations barrow, ML and CG, to which we can add the South Pole, are dominant, then it opens up scope for discussion of mechanisms, for CO2 as well as methane.

  28. Thank you Willis for your excellent posts here on WUWT.

    CO2 is also sampled in Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) which are just south of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Eyjafjallajökull actually means:
    Eyja = Islands (here the reference is Vestmanna-eyjar)
    fjalla = mountains
    jökull = glacier
    So Eyjafjallajökull actually means “the glacier on the the mountains near the islands”.

    Well, Vestmannaeyjar is also a volcano which erupted in the year 1973
    http://www.nat.is/travelguideeng/volc_westman_islands.htm

    NOAA: Monthly atmospheric CO2 record from Storhofdi, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland:
    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/cmdl-flask/ice.html

    And some fun to you all from us here in the north:
    http://vimeo.com/12236680

    Regards
    Ágúst

  29. Allen63 says:

    Nice description of the siting and the nominal advantages of the site.

    I remain skeptical of ice core CO2 level reconstructions for multiple reasons.

    I remain very skeptical that global CO2 increases imperil the Earth. I remain skeptical that humans cause the major increase. I doubt that the human contribution will continue to accelerate (assuming it is significant) simply due to economically driven (not artificially by cap & trade economics) changes in energy sources over the next century.

  30. Richard S Courtney says:

    Willis:

    Thankyou for your clear explanation. I agree with much of it, but I have two objections.

    Firstly, you say;
    “As you might imagine from Fig. 2, the CO2 measurements are taken only at night. Thus, they are measuring descending air that is coming from thousands of feet aloft. This air has traveled across half of the Pacific Ocean, so it is far from any man-made CO2 sources. And as a result, it is very representative of the global background CO2 levels. That’s why Keeling chose the site.”

    But the assertion of being “very representative of the global background CO2 levels” is denied by your own explanation.

    CO2 is released by the Mauna Loa and the adjacent Kilauea volcanoes. According to your Fig. 2, this volcanic CO2 is
    (a) driven aloft by the sea breeze by day, and
    (b) driven back down by the land breeze at night.
    Hence, it is a gross and improbable assumption that these volcanic emissions do not significantly affect the measurement results because “the CO2 measurements are taken only at night”. And the assumption is especially implausible when there is a slight wind in the direction from Kilauea towards Mauna Loa.

    You attempt to overcome this objection by saying:
    “To detect the difference between volcanic and background CO2, the measurements are taken simultaneously from tall towers and from near the ground, at intervals throughout the night. Background CO2 levels will be around 380 ppmv (these days), will be steady, and will be identical at the top and bottom of the towers. Volcanic gasses, on the other hand, will be well above 380 ppmv, will be variable, and will be greater near the ground than at the top of the towers.”

    Sorry, but I do not buy that. Indeed, false confidence is provided by the comparison of the measurements of the sampled air and the measurements obtained at the towers. The air coming down at night contains CO2 carried aloft during the previous day, but this CO2 is diluted by its spatial spread over the time of its rise and fall. No such dilution can occur to the air at the bottom of the towers. Hence, I disagree with you when you say:
    “This allows the scientists to distinguish reliably between volcanic and background CO2 levels.”
    “Reliably” ?! No chance!

    Secondly, you say of Beck’s data:
    “I think that the Beck data is accurate, but that it is not measuring the background CO2.”
    Perhaps, but I assert that the “background” level of CO2 is an irrelevance for three reasons.

    The first of these three reasons is theoretical but the other two are practical.

    Beck’s data indicates that the “background” level of CO2 does not exist anywhere:
    i.e. the “background” level is mythical.
    Indeed, this mythical nature of the “background” level it is why Keeling searched for a place where he may be able to discern this “background” level (and he chose Mauna Loa).

    But the fact that the “background” level is mythical has practical importance.

    The sequestration rates of CO2 are dependent on partial pressure. High local atmospheric concentrations induce high local sequestration. And consideration of seasonal variations in atmospheric CO2 at a variety of locations indicates that most locally released CO2 (from any source, natural or anthropogenic) is sequestered locally
    (ref. Rorsch A, Courtney RS & Thoenes D, ‘The Interaction of Climate Change and the Carbon Dioxide Cycle’ E&E v16no2 (2005) ).

    So, the mythical “background” concentration of atmospheric CO2 concentration has no relevance to flows of CO2 in and out of the atmosphere at any location.

    Then, the radiative greenhouse effect of CO2 has a logarithmic relation to atmospheric CO2 concentration. And this is true at every location.

    So, using the mythical “background” concentration of atmospheric CO2 concentration provides incorrect estimation of global radiative forcing from atmospheric CO2.

    Please note that I present these disagreements with your article in a sense of scientific debate, and I respect your work.

    Richard

  31. Joel Heinrich says:

    Somehow You guys really must despise the WMO, right? There are quite a lot of CO2 measurement stations worldwide not near a volcano all showing the same. Here is a map of the locations:

    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/wdcgg/products/summary/sum34/09_map_co2.pdf

    You can get the data for all locations at the site:

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

    REPLY: Somehow you must really despise reading an article’s title and content for full comprehension, right? It is about the Mauna Loa observatory, on a volcano, in Hawaii. Not the ROW per se. Thanks for the links but sheesh, what a leap to bass ackwards conclusions. – A

  32. RobJM says:

    While the CO2 is going up, the cause can not be humans.
    Atmospheric CO2 is only a small proportion (1/5oth) of the CO2 in the system, 98% is in the oceans.
    Because CO2 is rapidly exchanged with the oceans (10% per year)due to precipitation stripping CO2 from the atmosphere, the atmospheric CO2 moves quickly toward equilibrium with the rest of the system.
    Net result is 98% of the CO2 we emit is absorb into the oceans within the space of a couple of decades and the fossil fuel available to us is no where near enough to double the CO2 in the entire system.
    The cause of the CO2 increase is increasing ocean temp,(increased degassing or decreased absorption) with humans only contributing about 5% of the increase.
    This is why the IPCC lies about the residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere and claims its thousands of years, if the residence time is short all the CO2 will be absorbed by the oceans.

  33. wayne says:

    Willis, you should have included some different aspects.

    For those of you that like to get a wide spectrum of view you should listen to a long time scientist, Dr. Freeman Dyson, whether he is exactly right or wrong. I tend to agree with a few of his views and question others.

    To him co2 is totally vegetation ruled and as Willis’s 3d of co2 distribution over the latitude bands, this curve also closely fits the area of plant life if you take it one latitude band at a time. The nort hemispere has twice the land area. Look again at the 3d chart with vegetation in mind.

    Freeman Dyson on Global Warming — Bogus Climate Models

    2 parts.

  34. Joel Heinrich says:

    Here’s a picture comparing Mauna Loa to two German stations at the Black Forest (Schauinsland 1200m asl) and the Alps (Zugspitze 2962m asl):

  35. Daniel H says:

    Thanks for the excellent explanation of the Mauna Loa CO2 measurement process. It made sense to me except for the claim you made in point one where you state:

    As you might imagine from Fig. 2, the CO2 measurements are taken only at night. Thus, they are measuring descending air that is coming from thousands of feet aloft.

    The claim is directly contradicted in point number two, when you quote the measurement process that is described on the CDIAC web site:

    Air samples at Mauna Loa are collected continuously from air intakes at the top of four 7-m towers and one 27-m tower. Four air samples are collected each hour for the purpose of determining the CO2 concentration.

    This indicates that CO2 measurements are taken continuously and are not limited only to night time observation hours as you claimed. This is further supported by the link you provided to NOAA’s ESRL web page, How we measure background CO2 levels on Mauna Loa, which states the following under the sub-section, Data selection for background air:

    No data are thrown away. Hourly means are calculated wherever possible, and how we use that data is indicated by the selection flags. Raw data are the voltages recorded for the air measurements as well as for the reference gas mixtures used for calibration and for the target gas.

    On average over the entire record there are 13.6 retained hours per day with background CO2 mole fractions. The distribution is wide, as shown in Figure 3. Only those days with more than one remaining background hour have been plotted. There were zero days with 24 hours of background data after we introduced the target gas strategy, reducing the maximum number of background hours per day for almost all days to 23. Before we used the target gas we used 2 sets of reference gas mixtures, called working standards and station standards, as described in the references below. The number of days with 0 or 1 background hour comprises 6.5% of the total.

    I’m hoping you can provide clarification on this issue.

    On a completely different note, figure 4 is remarkable because it shows that atmospheric methane concentrations have recently begun to level off. Are there any plausible explanations that account for this interesting trend in CH4?

  36. Telboy says:

    Well said, Rhoda R – I fully agree.

  37. Richard S Courtney says:

    John Finn:

    At June 5, 2010 at 1:30 am you assert:

    “We need to accept that CO2 levels are increasing and that fossil fuel burning is almost certainly responsible for most of those increases.”

    No!!

    Please note how trivial the anthropogenic emission is to the total CO2 flowing around the carbon cycle.

    According to NASA estimates, the carbon in the air is less than 2% of the carbon flowing between parts of the carbon cycle. And the recent increase to the carbon in the atmosphere is less than a third of that less than 2%.

    And NASA provides an estimate that the carbon in the ground as fossil fuels is 5,000 GtC and humans are transferring it to the carbon cycle at a rate of ~7 GtC per year.

    In other words, the annual flow of carbon into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels is less than 0.02% of the carbon flowing around the carbon cycle.

    It is not obvious that so small an addition to the carbon cycle is certain to disrupt the system because no other activity in nature is so constant that it only varies by less than +/- 0.02% per year.

    In one of our papers
    (ref. Rorsch A, Courtney RS & Thoenes D, ‘The Interaction of Climate Change and the Carbon Dioxide Cycle’ E&E v16no2 (2005) )
    we considered the most important processes in the carbon cycle to be:

    SHORT-TERM PROCESSES

    1. Consumption of CO2 by photosynthesis that takes place in green plants on land. CO2 from the air and water from the soil are coupled to form carbohydrates. Oxygen is liberated. This process takes place mostly in spring and summer. A rough distinction can be made:
    1a. The formation of leaves that are short lived (less than a year).
    1b. The formation of tree branches and trunks, that are long lived (decades).

    2. Production of CO2 by the metabolism of animals, and by the decomposition of vegetable matter by micro-organisms including those in the intestines of animals, whereby oxygen is consumed and water and CO2 (and some carbon monoxide and methane that will eventually be oxidised to CO2) are liberated. Again distinctions can be made:
    2a. The decomposition of leaves, that takes place in autumn and continues well into the next winter, spring and summer.
    2b. The decomposition of branches, trunks, etc. that typically has a delay of some decades after their formation.
    2c. The metabolism of animals that goes on throughout the year.

    3. Consumption of CO2 by absorption in cold ocean waters. Part of this is consumed by marine vegetation through photosynthesis.

    4. Production of CO2 by desorption from warm ocean waters. Part of this may be the result of decomposition of organic debris.

    5. Circulation of ocean waters from warm to cold zones, and vice versa, thus promoting processes 3 and 4.

    LONGER-TERM PROCESSES

    6. Formation of peat from dead leaves and branches (eventually leading to lignite and coal).

    7. Erosion of silicate rocks, whereby carbonates are formed and silica is liberated.

    8. Precipitation of calcium carbonate in the ocean, that sinks to the bottom, together with formation of corals and shells.

    NATURAL PROCESSES THAT ADD CO2 TO THE SYSTEM

    9. Production of CO2 from volcanoes (by eruption and gas leakage).

    10. Natural forest fires, coal seam fires and peat fires.

    ANTHROPOGENIC PROCESSES THAT ADD CO2 TO THE SYSTEM

    11. Production of CO2 by burning of vegetation (“biomass”).

    12. Production of CO2 by burning of fossil fuels (and by lime kilns).

    Several of these processes are rate dependant and several of them interact.

    At higher air temperatures, the rates of processes 1, 2, 4 and 5 will increase and the rate of process 3 will decrease. Process 1 is strongly dependent on temperature, so its rate will vary strongly (maybe by a factor of 10) throughout the changing seasons.

    The rates of processes 1, 3 and 4 are dependent on the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The rates of processes 1 and 3 will increase with higher CO2 concentration, but the rate of process 4 will decrease.

    The rate of process 1 has a complicated dependence on the atmospheric CO2 concentration. At higher concentrations at first there will be an increase that will probably be less than linear (with an “order” <1). But after some time, when more vegetation (more biomass) has been formed, the capacity for photosynthesis will have increased, resulting in a progressive increase of the consumption rate.

    Processes 1 to 5 are obviously coupled by mass balances.

    Our paper assessed the steady-state situation to be an oversimplification because there are two factors that will never be “steady”:
    I. The removal of CO2 from the system, or its addition to the system.
    II. External factors that are not constant and may influence the process rates, such as varying solar activity.

    Modeling this system is a difficult because so little is known concerning the rate equations. However, some things can be stated from the empirical data.

    At present the yearly increase of the anthropogenic emissions is approximately 0.1 GtC/year. The natural fluctuation of the excess consumption (i.e. consumption processes 1 and 3 minus production processes 2 and 4) is at least 6 ppmv (which corresponds to 12 GtC) in 4 months. This is more than 100 times the yearly increase of human production, which strongly suggests that the dynamics of the natural processes here listed 1-5 can cope easily with the human production of CO2.

    A serious disruption of the system may be expected when the rate of increase of the anthropogenic emissions becomes larger than the natural variations of CO2. But the above data indicates this is not possible.

    The accumulation rate of CO2 in the atmosphere (1.5 ppmv/year which corresponds to 3 GtC/year) is equal to almost half the human emission (6.5 GtC/year). However, this does not mean that half the human emission accumulates in the atmosphere, as is often stated. There are several other and much larger CO2 flows in and out of the atmosphere. The total CO2 flow into the atmosphere is at least 156.5 GtC/year with 150 GtC/year of this being from natural origin and 6.5 GtC/year from human origin. So, on the average, 3/156.5 = 2% of all emissions accumulate.

    The above qualitative considerations suggest the carbon cycle cannot be very sensitive to relatively small disturbances such as the present anthropogenic emissions of CO2. However, the system could be quite sensitive to temperature. So, our paper considered how the carbon cycle would be disturbed if – for some reason – the temperature of the atmosphere were to rise, as it almost certainly did between 1880 and 1940 (there was an estimated average rise of 0.5 °C in average surface temperature.

    Please note that the figures I use above are very conservative estimates that tend to exaggerate any effect of the anthropogenic emission.

    Our paper then used atribution studies to model the system response. Those attribution studies used three different basic models to emulate the causes of the rise of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in the twentieth century. They each assumed
    (a) a significant effect of the anthropogenic emission
    and
    (b) no discernible effect of the anthropogenic emission.
    Thus we assessed six models.

    These numerical exercises are a caution to estimates of future changes to the atmospheric CO2 concentration. The three basic models used in these exercises each emulate different physical processes and each agrees with the observed recent rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration. They each demonstrate that the observed recent rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration may be solely a consequence of the anthropogenic emission or may be solely a result of, for example, desorption from the oceans induced by the temperature rise that preceded it. Furthermore, extrapolation using these models gives very different predictions of future atmospheric CO2 concentration whatever the cause of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    Each of the models in our paper matches the available empirical data without use of any ‘fiddle-factor’ such as the ‘5-year smoothing’ the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses to get its model to agree with the empirical data. Please note this:
    the ‘budget’ model uses unjustifiable smoothing of the empirical data to get the model to fit the data, but each of our models fits the empirical data that is not adjusted in any way.

    So, if one of the six models of our paper is adopted then there is a 5:1 probability that the choice is wrong. And other models are probably also possible. And the six models each give a different indication of future atmospheric CO2 concentration for the same future anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide.

    Data that fits all the possible causes is not evidence for the true cause.
    Data that only fits the true cause would be evidence of the true cause.

    But the above findings demonstrate that there is no data that only fits either an anthropogenic or a natural cause of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Hence, the only factual statements that can be made on the true cause of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration are

    (a) the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration may have an anthropogenic cause, or a natural cause, or some combination of anthropogenic and natural causes,

    but

    (b) there is no evidence that the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration has a mostly anthropogenic cause or a mostly natural cause.

    Hence, using the available data it cannot be known what if any effect altering the anthropogenic emission of CO2 will have on the future atmospheric CO2 concentration. This finding agrees with the statement in Chapter 2 from Working Group 3 in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (2001) that says; “no systematic analysis has published on the relationship between mitigation and baseline scenarios”.

    Richard

  38. Slioch says:

    Willis

    I have at times been critical of some aspects of your articles, but the above is well written and informative and should put to rest any lingering doubts about increases in atmospheric CO2 levels amongst WUWT readers.

    I would merely add that the annual “wriggle” in CO2 levels picked up in the Mauna Loa data (caused by annual dying and regrowth of northern hemisphere temperate vegetation) is also strongly indicative that the MLO data is a) globally representative and b) not distorted by local CO2 emissions.

    pat says:
    June 5, 2010 at 12:16 am

    says, “I suspect that much of the CO2 we now measure is because of oceanic out gassing, caused by global warmth. ”

    There has been more than enough CO2 emitted from human burning of fossil fuels to account for all the increase in atmospheric CO2 in recent centuries.
    The figures for the atmosphere from 1850-2000 are as follows:

    1. Total human caused emissions of CO2: = 1620 billion tons CO2

    2. Increase in atmospheric CO2: 640 billion tons CO2

    Thus, the amount of CO2 humans have added to the atmosphere greatly exceeds the observed increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, so the human contribution is more than able to account for the entire increase. Most of the CO2 emitted by humans in that time, about one trillion tons (1620-640 billion tons), has been absorbed into the oceans and terrestrial biosphere. In other words, the oceans, far from “outgassing” have been acting as a massive sink for CO2.

    If you want to check the figures go to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre: (I’ve converted their figures to ‘tons of CO2′ from ‘tons of C’)

    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/faq.html#Q4

  39. Joel Heinrich says:

    How better to show that the fact that the site is located on a volcano isn’t important than to compare it with other locations not near a volcano? Part of the problem in the discussion about Mauna Loa is that some people think that it is the only CO2 measuring site. Thanks, but I think I understood the intention of the post.

    Here is the link to the picture again:

    http://i45.tinypic.com/1scwtd.jpg

    source: GAW letter from DWD november 2003

  40. Peter Miller says:

    Below is probably the most comprehensive document I have yet seen explaining in great detail why rising carbon dioxide levels are either beneficial or only have a very minor impact on global temperatures.

    It is one of the best argued and illustrated trashings of the bad science of IPCC, Mann, Giss etc.

    Climatic variations are natural cycles, that is what it is all about – as any good geologist will tell you – not the conclusions of bad science, created by billions of mispent tax dollars.

    http://www.google.es/images?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&channel=s&hl=es&q=holocene+temperatures&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=4CAKTN6hHOeW4gbt8riTAQ&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CDwQsAQwAw

  41. Tony says:

    Willis,

    The whole basis of Scripps’s long-term experiment seems a bit odd to me, and so here is a question for the historians, the answer to which should dispose of a number of open questions.

    When Scripps started his project to look at ‘background CO2′ . I wonder what primary justification was used in his funding proposal. I suspect that the concept of an ‘average global CO2 level’ given the light of the knowledge and the data of the time, would have (… and still probably does … ) seem faintly pointless. But as a secondary justification it would make sense as a cover for a more stratgegic purpose.

    In the early days of the cold war, it would seem strategically important to find a method of detecting nuclear tests, and finding a way of estimating the power and hence the progress of the ‘opposition’. One way would be to look at the charateristic carbon isotope signature in the atmospheric CO2. What better place than Mauna Loa, with no other local sources of atmospheric carbon such as methane? Pacific tests were coming up, which could calibrate the process. The presence of a local natural CO2 source could be calibragfted-out as we see, but at heart it was was the absolute incidence of the isotope itself that mattered.

    And when we look at the programme itself, it relies primarily on a relatively expensive logistical chain of pressure flasks going to and from this, and other sites. This would easily permit a second more sensitive analysis for the isotope, which may not have been practical on-site at the time. And, it also makes a kind of sense that a co-location of alternative direct methods of measuring CO2 concentrations, is not apparently encouraged.

    So, in Mauna Loa, and the Scripps system, are we looking at an artefact of the cold war? A quick search through the archives might give us an answer.

  42. Bernd Felsche says:

    Willis, Ernst and Richard;

    Thanks to you all for your thoughts and comments. Especially Willis for taking the time to explain the methodology and assumptions put into measuring CO2 at Mauna Loa.

    I agree with Richard that it is folly to look for a background level of CO2. I cannot figure out the rationale behind such an assumption. Especially given the enormous variation in measured CO2 levels w.r.t. location, (altitude,) season, time of day and year; as documented by Ernst. It’s like trying to look for a global, average temperature. It’s arithmetically valid but physical nonsense.

    Radiative heat transfer is goverened by temperature; by a 4th-power relationship to any factors involved cannot be simply averaged to determine the nett heat flux. It has to be an integral over the surface, through the depth of the atmosphere, several metres of surface, with the temperature at each component and its radiance in space; at a particular time, in order to give a correct result. And that is never going to be possible.

    The CO2 remaining in the atmosphere after photosynthesis is determined largely by photosynthesis; governed by insolation, water and trace nutrients – either on land or in the oceans. All other things being equal; a reduction in insolation over a long period will reduce the amount of (CO2 absorbed by) photosynthesis and leave more in the air, increasing the concentration.

    There is an opposite effect, with reduced insolation, in the cooling of oceans which increases the solubility of CO2 inthe water and decreases atmospheric levels. And as the concentration of CO2 in the air increases, more CO2 also dissolves into the oceans. A negative feedback.

    Which brings me to ask:
    What were the levels of CO2 in the air and oceans during ice ages?
    Maybe those are the “background” levels for a nearly-dead planet.

  43. Stephen Wilde says:

    A nice explanation as to why criticism of the Mauna Loa record is not likely to be fruitful.

    The clincher for me long ago was the similarity with the Barrow Alaska record.

    As always I like simplicity so I look for the largest influence and see whether that might be enough on it’s own to explain observations.

    That leads to the oceans (yet again) and more particularly the rate of oceanic CO2 uptake or release. Nothing else comes close.

    Now we clearly have a 500/1000 year climate cycling from Mediaeval Warm Period through Little Ice Age to the recent warming and it seems that goes back quite some time into history. So for a trend of CO2 to be consistent for periods up to 500 years at a time is perfectly consistent both with observations and past climate records.

    The oceans are clearly involved in those 500/1000 year cycles and history tells us that the jets and the ITCZ moved poleward or equatorward over similar time scales.

    Thus we have a regular change on those same time scales in the global albedo resulting from those cloud bands shifting latitudinally and so a regular change in the quantity of insolation to the oceans.

    The oceanic rates of CO2 absorption or release will clearly vary in tune with those insolation changes and likely also in tune with any underlying oceanic variability in terms of surface temperature changes that may be induced by small temperature variations along the horizontal path of the thermohaline circulation.

    I fail to see why that cannot be a wholly adequate explanation for the observed CO2 variations.

    The isotopic analysis identifying so called ‘human’ and ‘natural’ CO2 would be a mere distraction in view of the sheer scale of the oceanic effect and the indifference of the oceans to the source of the CO2 that it is either able or unable to absorb at any given time.

    Note that the idea of oceanic outgassing is misleading. What matters more is the changing rate at which oceans can absorb CO2. That will be heavily insolation and sea surface temperature related. Sometimes the oceans will absorb CO2 faster than it is created and sometimes more slowly than it is created and it appears that the 500/1000 year cycling is paramount in timescales relevant to us. It is questionable whether the ice core and other proxy evidence for historical CO2 levels is sufficiently precise to reveal that relatively short term pattern.

  44. Gail Combs says:

    John Finn says:
    June 5, 2010 at 1:30 am

    This will make an excellent link. Too often the ‘sceptic’ side gets distracted by muddled arguments about CO2 concentrations. The Beck measurements come up repeatedly. We need to accept that CO2 levels are increasing and that fossil fuel burning is almost certainly responsible for most of those increases.
    _____________________________________________________________________
    You are forgetting that CO2 dissolves better in cool water and out gases when water warms (think of a can of soda) If the sea temperatures have risen since the Little Ice Age (roughly 1300 to 1850), then we can expect the amount of CO2 to rise in response. Remember 70% of the earth’s surface is water.

    Plants respond to warmer temperatures and higher CO2 levels by taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Insects respond by becoming more active (remember the big CO2/methane emitters – termites) Also there is a temperature/soil response. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/04/28/new-ground-truth-microbiotic-negative-feedback/

    To say that fossil fuel burning is almost certainly responsible for most of those increases. Is very simplistic given the hydro/biosphere is a complex system.

  45. RalphieGM says:

    Of course, Keeling could have picked a sampling site where this volcano was not an issue at all. That would have been nice. “No apologies data” is the best data.

  46. Joe Lalonde says:

    Excellent presentation Willis!
    I wish to thank you for the incredible researching you do for WUWT.

    Gives more to think about the CO2 theory.
    Seems the CO2 theory and temperature relationship are moving further apart though.

  47. Gail Combs says:

    Ernst Beck says:
    June 5, 2010 at 2:44 am

    I have also prepared a new paper on the reconstruction of the CO2 background which is in peer review.
    __________________________________________________________________________
    I want to thank you for your work Mr. Beck. I especially appreciate the error bars shown on your historic CO2 graph and your willingness to go back, look at your work and refine it.

    I look forward to reading your peer reviewed paper.

  48. C. Bruce Richardson Jr. says:

    Very interesting. Exactly what I needed to know. Thanks.

  49. Bill Yarber says:

    A previous poster on this site suggested quite a while ago that and experiment should be conducted to verify that the CO2 concentrations found in ice core data is indeed representative of atmospheric concentrations at that time. Has anyone actually done such an experiment (freeze water in the presence of a know concentration of CO2, store it at freezing conditions and then test portions over various time periods) to verify that:

    1) the concentrations actually match

    And

    2) there is no degradation in CO2 concentrations over time.

    This is far more important than whether CO2 measurement at Mona Loa are precisely accurate. Even if there is a bias due to contamination from the volcanoes emissions, they should be a relative consistent error and thus are irrelevant.

    Bill

  50. Ric Werme says:

    Willis,

    Thank you for writing this, it’s been a long time since there was some discussion about the dealing with CO2 vs. the volcano. Even then, it may have been buried in discussion about a data reporting/disk crash flap a couple years ago.

    The best of those posts include quite a bit of dialog with Pieter Tans from MLO and is worth a review, see http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/08/06/post-mortem-on-the-mauna-loa-co2-data-eruption/

    In http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/about/co2_measurements.html#data_selection MLO refers to the diurnal effect due to land breeze/sea breeze (upslope/downslope) effects. During a 1974 bicycle tour from Palo Alto CA to Billings MT, I noticed similar effects well inland – uphill grinds often had a bit of a tail wind, downhill runs had a bit of a headwind. Currently, our mountain property develops a downslope draft at night that significant affects our campfire site. I.e. sit upwind, try to ignore the cold breeze on your neck.

    In windier conditions, I suspect MLO samples air from something close to its altitude. At Mt Washington here in New Hampshire, the wind is almost dominates any diurnal effect and diurnal temperature difference is remarkably low, compare http://vortex.plymouth.edu/mwn24.gif with http://vortex.plymouth.edu/con24.gif . These make for a handy rule of thumb – I take the MWN temperature, add about 30°F and that gives me something close to the high temperature for the day at home. Since MWN doesn’t see much daily heating, I conclude it’s seeing little air that is in contact with the ground, and I expect MLO benefits from the same effect so some daytime samples are uncontaminated.

  51. Tom in Florida says:

    JER0ME says:(June 5, 2010 at 1:17 am)
    “Just a minor point. From my misspent (or I feel very well spent, but others differ) youth on tropical beaches, the breeze tends to go out until midday and then inland until some time in the night”

    That is why, generally speaking, surfing is better in the morning when offshore breezes create a better wave face and help stand the wave up longer.

  52. Gail Combs says:

    Willis,
    I do not understand why there has not been a major increase in the readings since the turn of the new century. A friend in Alsaka complained of the major smog problem in recent years from the increased industrialization of China. Alaska is further away from China than Mauna Loa Observatory so why are we not seeing an up tick in the readings?

    The Nasa CO2 maps show the distribution is not uniform.
    “Chahine said previous AIRS research data have led to some key findings about mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide. For example, the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.” Until now, models of carbon dioxide transport have assumed its distribution was uniform. “ http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2009-196

    I also notice that the 2005 image on this page shows a higher concentration over the Mauna Loa area (right edge)
    http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/411791main_slide5-AIRS-full.jpg

    Map of the Pacific ocean with Trenches and fracture zones.
    http://www.freeworldmaps.net/ocean/pacific/index.html

    Given how “lumpy” the CO2 readings are, I do not think throwing out Beck’s information and cherry picking low results is justified, nor do I think the ice core measurements can be taken as “gospel”

  53. HankHenry says:

    Very informative. I guess the question that strikes me after reading this is:
    What precisely is a “background CO2″ level? What exactly does that mean? I think Keeling’s uniform and seasonally varying data itself tells us that there is indeed an area to be found where CO2 levels are quite stable – a background. I would also say based on all the machinations needed to find this stable area of “background level CO2″ that a lot of the atmosphere has CO2 that is not extremely well mixed. Is it thought as a general proposition that the upper atmosphere is well mixed and uniform while the lower atmosphere is not? Also, if CO2 is nonuniform in large portions of the atmosphere would that nonuniformity need to be somehow reflected and characterized in a good weather or climate model for it to accurately predict weather or climate?

    I seem to remember Arrhenius stating that CO2 concentrations are lower over oceans because it is absorbed there.

  54. PaulH says:

    On a related note, The Resilient Earth, has a new article discussing the guesswork involved in determining CO² emissions:

    http://theresilientearth.com/?q=content/guessing-co2-emissions

  55. Pamela Gray says:

    My questions:

    1. The greening of the planet is well known in the satellite record and thus can be calculated in terms of its potential for CO2 uptake (the deserts are very poor at this while the greened up areas are very good at it – so guess where the CO2 is wafting about?). This same greening can also be linked to a modeled increase in “green eating” populations, which in turn would increase modeled predatory animals who eat the green eating population. Has the greening of the planet been taken into account? The final number related to the %CO2 increase or decrease as a part of the atmosphere needs to be a calculated “modeled” number in the end. I have been trying to find a reference to that paper that suggested, based on such a calculation, that the anthropogenic % contribution has not increased relative to the overall increase in CO2 as a result of the greening up of the planet.

    2. MLO has good data. As do the other three stations. I have no dispute with that. What we need to do is cover the planet with sensors placed exactly where CO2 is not. Measuring out-gassing is only half the data we need. It would be like trying to measure area with only the height and not the width. The AIMS website seems to be less than what it was touted to be. There are other satellite based measuring projects going on. What do they say and can we get that in English instead of Japanese?

    3. If you are saying that a lot of CO2 is trapped at ground level (it is heavy and inversions do a great job of trapping heavy gasses near the surface) how can it work as a re-emitter of LW radiation? Doesn’t it have to be up in the air, like way up in the air, to do that? So what we really need is a measure of how much CO2 is up in the air and ignore the stuff on the ground.

  56. Gail Combs says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:13 am

    “…..CO2 is released by the Mauna Loa and the adjacent Kilauea volcanoes. According to your Fig. 2, this volcanic CO2 is
    (a) driven aloft by the sea breeze by day, and
    (b) driven back down by the land breeze at night.
    Hence, it is a gross and improbable assumption that these volcanic emissions do not significantly affect the measurement results because “the CO2 measurements are taken only at night”. And the assumption is especially implausible when there is a slight wind in the direction from Kilauea towards Mauna Loa.

    You attempt to overcome this objection by saying:
    “To detect the difference between volcanic and background CO2, the measurements are taken simultaneously from tall towers and from near the ground, at intervals throughout the night. Background CO2 levels will be around 380 ppmv (these days), will be steady, and will be identical at the top and bottom of the towers. Volcanic gasses, on the other hand, will be well above 380 ppmv, will be variable, and will be greater near the ground than at the top of the towers.”

    Sorry, but I do not buy that. Indeed, false confidence is provided by the comparison of the measurements of the sampled air and the measurements obtained at the towers. The air coming down at night contains CO2 carried aloft during the previous day, but this CO2 is diluted by its spatial spread over the time of its rise and fall. No such dilution can occur to the air at the bottom of the towers. Hence, I disagree with you when you say:
    “This allows the scientists to distinguish reliably between volcanic and background CO2 levels.”
    “Reliably” ?! No chance!”

    ________________________________________________________________________
    Thank you for that explanation. I do not buy the “reliablity” of this data either. I have spent too much time in chemistry labs to EVER take the information as as gospel especially when there is a lot of money involved and unconscious prejudice.

  57. Jon K says:

    Great post, Willis. It certainly does clear up some of the CO2 background level confusion. But it’s not the final word on the entire CO2 emission science story….check this out to see what scientists are now saying about actual CO2 emissions:

    http://www.c3headlines.com/2010/06/new-paper-with-stunning-admission-by-climate-alarmist-scientists-actual-co2-emissions-are-unknown-pl.html

  58. Pamela Gray says:

    So, to further my thoughts, if outgassed volcanic CO2 is subtracted from the equation (because it sinks and shouldn’t be taken into account), will the exhaust from my rig (whose exhaust pipe is only Jeep high off the ground) also be subtracted? Or do we have, in essence, a bigoted response to CO2 on the ground that is from my rig versus CO2 on the ground that is coming from a volcano?

  59. tty says:

    I can’t understand how they got those year-by-year figures from Law Dome. They’re to good to be true. The air in the snow is an open system until the snow is compressed into ice and the air bubbles are closed off. That happens at a depth of about 90 meters. Even in a very wet climate (which Antarctica hasn’t) it takes decades to accumulate that much snow. There is simply no way to get CO2 data representative of short periods from glaciers.

  60. Jerry says:

    I have three problems with the Mauna Loa data:

    1. I have read that something like 80% of the CO2 measurements made at Mauna Loa are routinely discarded because they don’t agree closely enough with the expected results. Is this true?

    2. How the heck do they justify retroactively changing published historical CO2 “measurements”? The published CO2 data are highly-processed data either derived from, or cherry-picked to conform to, a series of (I think 4) sinusoids (they pick the frequencies and phases). If they were publishing the results of actual objective measurements, rather than processed data picked to conform to a model, it would be impossible to change history. Anthony published some posts on this a few years ago.

    3. When equipment is down, they have been known to interpolate published results, in spite of having samples of air in sealed in bottles to analyze. Interpolation is not measurement.

    If these points are true, then Mauna Loa is not publishing objective data. Smells like “post-normal” science to me!

  61. Brent Hargreaves says:

    Great work, Willis. It’s important to celebrate the good science being done in the field at the same time as debunking the sloppy stuff.

    Mauna Loa shows an annual ‘downtick’ in CO2, falling at its greatest rate between July and August. The explanation that this corresponds to the NH growing season makes good sense. As we know, there is a steady year-on-year rise which we often see explained by the burning of fossil fuels although I wonder if ‘outgassing’ is a feasible alternative explanation (CO2 being a consequence of rising temperatures in recent decades rather than a cause).

    It is possible to fit an exponential decay curve to the summer declines. This gives a useful perspective on the ecosystem’s net rate of absorbtion. (I am not advocating a geoengineering project to wheel-clamp the Earth in summer position, by the way.) The summer decline in CO2 PPM, I calculate, shows a half-life of 125 months. The same exercise based on the early years of the Mauna Loa record (late 1950s) gives a similar half-life: 121 months. (In 1958, summer decline from 316PPM at a rate of 1.8PPM/mth; in 2008 summer decline from 386PPM at a rate of 2.15PPM/mth.)

    I’m afraid that my maths doesn’t stretch far enough to do the really interesting calculation: residence time, or how long a newly-released CO2 molecule resides in the atmosphere before being reabsorbed or reacted. But if a half-life of 123 +/- 2 months is in the right area, the Royal Society’s claim must be wrong: their website quotes a residence time of over a thousand years. They do not justify this bold quantified statement; I wonder if they would make public the calculations behind it.

  62. Erik Anderson says:

    First, there is good agreement between the Laws Dome ice core data and the MLO data over the ~ two decade overlap.

    A couple posters above mention Zbigniew Jaworowski’s critique. I echo their sentiments. It’s a major outstanding question for me. What say you?

  63. Willis,
    I agree with you that the Scripps CO2 data is probably the most accurate measure of background levels. I would go further to say most accurate measure of natural background levels. You base your conclusion on the continuous data monthly averages. I have analyzed the raw flask data that goes back to May of 1957 at the Southpole. In their early learning days, they measured a lot of spikes that exceeded those reported by Beck. These were flagged and not included in monthly averages. At Muana Loa, they were taking samples at different times of day. Much of the nighttime data were flagged because it was too high. Many nights there is not enough wind to keep the air well mixed and CO2 tends to settle near the ground. They eventually routinely took samples at around 10 in the morning.
    I have statistically produced a global model of natural background levels from all the Scripps raw flask data that I believe can be used to extrapolate concentrations in the past as well as the future. It is probably our best indicator of climate change but it is a lagging indicator and not a cause. If you would like to compare it to your map for continuous data, you can find my e-mail address at my website (http://www.kidswincom.net) and I can send you a spreadsheet containing the model.

  64. Kilauea just passed the 10,000 day of its current eruption.

    The southernmost bakery in the US is located nearby at Naalehu. Great place to stop on your volcano visit.
    http://www.bakeshophawaii.com/

  65. Jay Cech says:

    Keeling was a first rate scientist, and I thank Willis for his detailed description of the CO2 measurement process, and especially the references contained. Keeling was a U of I [BS chemistry] and Northwestern graduate [PhD in chemistry] , a very careful experimentalist. The use of reference calibration gasses and switching the flows is a very time honored technique in analytical chemistry.

    The data is validated in many ways. One could only hope that the temperature records were on such solid footing.
    -Jay

  66. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Hi Willis,

    Having been through this argument several times on different threads, I have concluded that it may be impossible to make progress on this subject with many who comment; they seem immune to influence by data or reasoned analysis. There are so many legitimate scientific issues in the CAGW story which are ripe targets for skeptics that it is difficult for me to understand why some insist on spending time arguing about the cause for increasing atmospheric CO2, when it is one of the very few issues which is pretty much rock solid from a scientific POV. I note that even those climate scientists who are very skeptical of CAGW all agree that emission of CO2 from combustion of fossil fuels is the principle cause for rising atmospheric CO2.

    But I do admire your energy in addressing this subject yet again, so I will add a couple of (hopefully) helpful comments.

    1. To those who object to the concept of “background” CO2 levels as meaningless: The only CO2 concentration that matters in terms of radiative forcing is the concentration high in the atmosphere. CO2 concentration near sea level makes no difference, since the lower atmosphere is essentially opaque to infrared at the wavelength where CO2 absorbs. The concentration of CO2 matters several Km up and higher, where water vapor is concentration is low and the ~14 micron absorption band of CO2 makes a significant difference in infrared emission to space. So yes, levels of CO2 near the surface can vary a lot (due to a multitude of causes), and CO2 doesn’t influence energy flow near the surface much anyway But the Mauna Loa record (and several other monitoring station records) accurately represents the CO2 concentration high in the atmosphere where the CO2 concentration does matter. Air samples collected by airplanes (~10 Km) have CO2 levels very close to the Mauna Loa values.

    2. To those who suggest that a warming ocean has caused much (or all) the rise in CO2: The ocean surface warming that has taken place has been modest (well under 1C over the past 120 years), and that warming has been mostly limited to the top ~200 meters of ocean. Deep ocean water (which represents >95% of the total) has not warmed by more than a tiny fraction of a degree, if at all, and very little of it has been in contact with the atmosphere for many hundreds of years, so could not have out-gassed CO2 even if it had warmed. The amount of CO2 that can out-gas from 200 meters of ocean water due to a 1C rise in temperature is quite small compared to what is in the atmosphere. Comparison of year to year changes in average ocean surface temperature to the trend in CO2 shows a clear influence of ocean surface temperature on CO2 (about +3.5 PPM per degree warming, -3.5 PPM per degree cooling); El Nino (on average, a warmer ocean) causes a faster annual rise in CO2, La Nina (a cooler ocean) causes a slower rise.

    So yes, if the entire ocean were to warm many degrees, and if you were willing to wait thousands of years for ocean turn-over to allow equilibration with the atmosphere, then the ocean could contribute a lot of CO2 to the atmosphere. But this has not happened and is not going to happen any time soon.

  67. chillguy33 says:

    It seems like such a waste of effort to measure CO2. What is the advantage? Does it give scientists a chance to make wrong but expensive climate predictions?

    My recommendation is to measure albedo much more thoroughly and accurately.

    To heck with measuring CO2.

  68. Jay Cech says:

    Another quick calculation that can be done on the Mauna Loa data is to subtract each year’s average from the preceding to get the inter year change. One finds that the yearly change can vary extensively, for example over a short time span the year to year rate of increase can vary from 0.4 to almost 3
    ppm/year (1992 and 1998 for example).
    Since the fossil fuel burning of humans is increasing for the last 40 years, certainly not varying by a factor of 6, this wide variation shows that the CO2 increase in the atmosphere is due to more than just man’s combustion.

  69. Ric Werme says:

    By the way, Mauna Loa is an “exeprimental” CRN site. It violates several CRN standards, but was placed there in part to sample such environments, it’s likely to not have major changes in terms of urban development, it’s easy to maintain, and its at a site that collects other important data that may be useful in future research by either group.

    See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/05/14/ftp-access-for-climate-reference-network-data/
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/crn/station.htm?stationId=1187

    The CRN (Climate Reference Network) makes a wealth of minimally processed data available. I don’t know if they keep the rawest data, e.g. the temperature data from each of three sensors recorded every 10 seconds, but they certainly keep the 5 minute running averages. Raw enough, I should hope.

    They may not record wind direction, but they do have accurate wind speed data.
    The wind direction would be nice to show the upslope/downslope diurnal changes, but it looks like the wind is fast enough so it’s usually the prevailing winds.
    Wunderground may have some sites good for that I found http://www.wunderground.com/weatherstation/WXDailyHistory.asp?ID=MPKAH1 but it may not be a good site.

  70. Charles Higley says:

    I agree with the idea that the Beck data has variation or variability, but it also shows significant trends up and down over time during three periods, two in the 1800s and one in the 1940s.

    I find it ingenuous to believe that CO2 has been consistently historically low until now. That’s just not how the real world works. Considering the CO2 in the oceans and the fact that the oceans warm up and cool down, one would expect atmospheric CO2 to fluctuate. To be told that it does not, until man came along, is highly suspicious and probably wrong.

    I, thus, disagree with point 4. as Jaworowski has described that the traumatic conditions of extraction of cores and the widespread microfracturing and depressurization could easily cause a 30-50% loss of CO2. Using a 40% average error and back calculating, you end up with values right in the modern day range or even higher. Another study of the ice core data using another approach agrees with this (I apologize for not having the reference handy.).

    As our planet has been at a relative low concentration of CO2 in recent years—perilously low from the point of view of plants—it is hard to believe that having it remain low would be any good for anybody or thing. It is only our hubris/naiveness that allows us to think that everything should remain as it was the first time we noticed it.

    Also, I have to seriously disagree with Fig. 5 comparing core, volcano, and Beck data as you appear to accept the artificial overlap of the core and volcano data that was performed to make them overlap. Has any one brought up this very questionable “trick” to make CO2 appear to have been historically low? I would guess this is critical as without the shifting the core data indicates a rise earlier than the volcano data, which would agree somewhat with the ups and downs that Beck detected.

    It should also be pointed out that we really do not know how much CO2 we emit, the values thrown around are speculations, and that it is a relatively small amount. To assume any rise in CO2 is due to us is also total speculation. We simply cannot say these things with any confidence.

  71. T.C. says:

    So how come when I plot planetary consumption of fossil fuels (Carbon Dioxide Information Center numbers as proxy – oops – better make sure this doesn’t become “value-added” data) against recorded ML yearly averages, I don’t see any corresponding decreases in the upward CO2 trends to match decreased fuel consumption between 1973 – 76 and 1978 – 86? If man were having this much of an impact on atmospheric CO2, surely these decreases would show up in the ML record? They don’t appear, so we have no influence on atmospheric CO2 levels. Period.

    I have a little chart that I would like to include, but don’t have the time to figure out how to put it into this box (or maybe AW won’t allow pictures in the responses).

    Also, I never see any discussion on critters in the snow (invertebrates, algae) and the impact they have on CO2 levels in ice cores? Perhaps this is an “inconvenient truth” that needs to be discussed.

    I will go with Beck over ice cores any day. The chemical measurements were direct, the accuracy and precision are known, the methods were recorded, and having worked as a plant physiologist measuring atmospheric and soil CO2, I have little belief in the idea of “background” CO2 levels that the CAGW keeps promulgating (AIRS backs me up on this).

  72. R. Gates says:

    Willis,

    Thanks for the overview. I wish the all AGW skeptics had such a rational and reasoned approach, just as I wish all AGW “warmists” knew their science better…

  73. Mike McMillan says:

    The Beck paper makes clear that the CO2 hockey stick that coincides so conveniently with the Mann hockey stick is the product of similar selective use of data, not in the upturned ‘blade,’ but in straightening the handle.

    Where Mann straightened the handle by overweighting the insensitive-to-temperature Graybill tree-ring data, the Callendar and Keeling work that the IPCC relies upon simply labelled old studies “inaccurate,” and threw out those that didn’t fit the template.

    Beck’s re-examination of the Callendar and Keeling studies finds serious shortcomings. Inclusion of the excised data puts lumps and bumps in the handle that not only don’t correlate with the temperature record, but question the consensus view (which I hold) that the current CO2 rise must be man-made. Net-net, it’s another chink in the fundamental underpinnings of the AGW movement.

  74. Cassandra King says:

    OT but can anyone confirm please:

    The Arctic ice cap will have to lose roughly 55.000 square KM per day over the next 90 days to the average minimum extent of 5.5/6.0 million square KM, is this rough calculation correct or not?
    I wonder what the daily ice loss has been since the ice maximum?

    Thanks

    Cassie K.

  75. Steven mosher says:

    “Steve Fitzpatrick says:
    June 5, 2010 at 8:47 am
    Hi Willis,

    Having been through this argument several times on different threads, I have concluded that it may be impossible to make progress on this subject with many who comment; they seem immune to influence by data or reasoned analysis. ”

    It’s such a waste of energy to engage them. I was glad you added this. They seem to forget the fundamentals. Everybody should know this

    “The only CO2 concentration that matters in terms of radiative forcing is the concentration high in the atmosphere. CO2 concentration near sea level makes no difference, since the lower atmosphere is essentially opaque to infrared at the wavelength where CO2 absorbs.”

  76. Dave Dardinger says:

    re: RobGM

    While the CO2 is going up, the cause can not be humans.
    Atmospheric CO2 is only a small proportion (1/5oth) of the CO2 in the system, 98% is in the oceans.

    I don’t have time to debunk all the incorrect statements a number of people have responded to Willis article with, but this one needs to be straightened out. The problem is that there are two major portions of the ocean, the mixed surface layer and the deeper bulk of the Ocean. The mixing between the two is rather slow, on the order of several decades to many centuries. The deep ocean is where the great bulk of CO2 is stored, the amount in the mixed surface layer is not much larger than the amount in the atmosphere. One diagram I keep handy, though it’s a bit old, shows the atmosphere with 775 GtC while the surface waters have 1020 GtC. This means that roughly half of the CO2 added to the atmosphere by human burning, etc. will end up in the ocean within a few years. This isn’t precisely the same as noting that the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 each year is about half of what is emitted as the time scales are different (annual vs roughly decadal) but depending on the rate of increase in human production of CO2 it may account for much of the decrease in amount in the atmosphere vs amount produced anthropicly.

    Now, yes over centuries of time the human-produced CO2 will be transported into the deep ocean, but over the time period 1950-2010 the amount of transport is rather small.

  77. Jim Imboden says:

    Thanks Willis for an excellent article. The use of only CO2 data from Mauna Loa Observatory has always bothered me and was one of the things I was going to dig into. Your article has answered most of my questions. Actually the only question I have left is – could the rise in CO2 be caused by the MWP and the 800 to 1200 year lag in CO2 to temperature? It has been 1000 years since the MWP and fits well with the lag time in CO2 rise.

    I was wondering if you have any thoughts on this?

    Again, excellent article!

  78. Richard S Courtney says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick:
    At June 5, 2010 at 8:47 am you assert:

    “There are so many legitimate scientific issues in the CAGW story which are ripe targets for skeptics that it is difficult for me to understand why some insist on spending time arguing about the cause for increasing atmospheric CO2, when it is one of the very few issues which is pretty much rock solid from a scientific POV.”

    Your assertions are complete rubbish!

    Firstly, some of us “sceptics” are scientists so we do not have any “targets”: we merely want to discern the truth.

    Secondly, we “insist” on attempting to determine “the cause for increasing atmospheric CO2” because that cause is not known and – at present – it cannot be known. Please see my above post at June 5, 2010 at 3:34 am for an explanation of why it cannot be known. I say there:

    “But the above findings demonstrate that there is no data that only fits either an anthropogenic or a natural cause of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Hence, the only factual statements that can be made on the true cause of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration are
    (a) the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration may have an anthropogenic cause, or a natural cause, or some combination of anthropogenic and natural causes,
    but
    (b) there is no evidence that the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration has a mostly anthropogenic cause or a mostly natural cause. ”

    Thirdly, if you think “the cause for increasing atmospheric CO2” is known and “is pretty much rock solid from a scientific POV” then please state the evidence which support this POV. I and many others want to know it.

    Additionally, “the cause for increasing atmospheric CO2” is not merely of academic interest. The hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is being used as justification for amending energy, industrial and acaemic policies world-wide. But that hypothesis is founded on three assumptions: viz

    (1) It is assumed that the anthropogenic CO2 emission is the major cause of the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration
    and
    (2) It is assumed that the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration is significantly increasing radiative forcing
    and
    (3) It is assumed that the increasing radiative forcing will significantly increase mean global temperature.

    There are reasons to doubt each of these assumptions. But if any one of them were known to be false then the entire AGW hypothesis would be known to be false.

    Richard

  79. Willis Eschenbach says:

    fredJ says:
    June 5, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Your post clarified some of my own misconceptions and I thank you for that.
    However, the Mauna Loa data shows seasonal CO2 variation. Why would that be so? Is it due to tempeature variation? Could it be due to sea temperature changes? Is there a temperature record for the sampling points and is there a corresponding ocean temperature record for the surrounding area?

    The reasons for the variation is unknown at this point. There are basically three camps, one of which says “plants”, one says “sea temperatures” and the other says “sea ice melt and freeze”.

  80. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Bart says:
    June 5, 2010 at 1:26 am

    Are the four records you show genuinely independent and unadulterated, or have they been adjusted in any way?

    As far as I know, they are some of the very few climate science records that have not been adjusted at all.

  81. Stephen Wilde says:

    “The reasons for the (seasonal) variation is unknown at this point. There are basically three camps, one of which says “plants”, one says “sea temperatures” and the other says “sea ice melt and freeze”.

    I would suggest changing insolation into the oceans as the main cloud banks (the mid latitude jets and the ITCZ) move poleward and equatorward as part of normal seasonal variation.

    The longer term background trend (currently upwards) being due to similar such changes beyond normal seasonal variation over longer periods of time.

  82. Richard S Courtney says:

    Dave Dardinger:
    At June 5, 2010 at 9:57 am yu assert:

    “Now, yes over centuries of time the human-produced CO2 will be transported into the deep ocean, but over the time period 1950-2010 the amount of transport is rather small.”

    Really? I would be interested to learn how you can know the transport “is rather small”.

    You admit that much of the CO2 emission is absorbed in the ocean surface layer.

    Please explain how you can quantify the change (increase ?) to biota in the surface layer which results from this absorbtion.

    And please explain how you can quantify the change (increase ?) to carbon tansferred to deep ocean as dead biota that results from the altered amount and/or type(s) of biota in the surface layer.

    There is far too much arm-waving and assumption stated as though it is fact in this subject. The truth is that we know little about the details of the carbon cycle and, therefore, we cannot determine the cause(s) of recent increase to atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    Proclamations of improbable assumptions as fact hinder work to determine the cause(s) of recent increase to atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    Richard

  83. John Finn says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:34 am

    John Finn:

    At June 5, 2010 at 1:30 am you assert:

    “We need to accept that CO2 levels are increasing and that fossil fuel burning is almost certainly responsible for most of those increases.”

    No!!

    Please note how trivial the anthropogenic emission is to the total CO2 flowing around the carbon cycle.

    I’ve noted how trivial the anthropogenic emissions are, Richard, and I’ve also noted that there is a consisetendnt annula increase which is equivalent to ~45% of the human contribution. There is only variability seems to be due to fluctiuations in ocean temperature. You’re probably aware that I have great respect for your opinion on many climate-related issues but on this, I’m afraid, we disagree.

    Steve Fitzpatrick says:
    June 5, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Spot on. The “science is settled” on this issue and those sceptics that continually allude to it are diverting attention from areas where there is genuine debate.

  84. bubbagyro says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Jerry says:
    June 5, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Gail Combs, you picked up on the real deal here. I am an analytical chemist, so instead of taking Willis’ synopsis as rote, I went to the Mauna Loa site itself. There are serious problems with the methodology, especially since it is on an active volcano that became more active, building and leading to a crescendo.

    For those faint of heart in chemistry, here is a verbatim reprint from the site. My problem places are in bold:

    “At Mauna Loa we use the following data selection criteria:

    1. The standard deviation of minute averages should be less than 0.30 ppm within a given hour. A standard deviation larger than 0.30 ppm is indicated by a “V” flag in the hourly data file, and by the red color in Figure 2.
    2. The hourly average should differ from the preceding hour by less than 0.25 ppm. A larger hour-to-hour change is indicated by a “D” flag in the hourly data file, and by the green color in Figure 2.
    3. There is often a diurnal wind flow pattern on Mauna Loa driven by warming of the surface during the day and cooling during the night. During the day warm air flows up the slope, typically reaching the observatory at 9 am local time (19 UTC) or later. The upslope air may have CO2 that has been lowered by plants removing CO2 through photosynthesis at lower elevations on the island, although the CO2 decrease arrives later than the change in wind direction, because the observatory is surrounded by miles of bare lava. In Figure 2 the downslope wind changed to upslope during hour 18. Upslope winds can persist through ~7 pm local time (5 UTC, next day, or hour 29 in Figure 2). Hours that are likely affected by local photosynthesis are indicated by a “U” flag in the hourly data file, and by the blue color in Figure 2. The selection to minimize this potential non-background bias takes place as part of step 4. At night the flow is often downslope, bringing background air. However, that air is sometimes contaminated by CO2 emissions from the crater of Mauna Loa. As the air meanders down the slope that situation is characterized by high variability of the CO2 mole fraction. In Figure 2, downslope winds resumed in hour 28. Hour 33 in Figure 2 is the first of an episode of high variability lasting 7 hours.
    4. In keeping with the requirement that CO2 in background air should be steady, we apply a general “outlier rejection” step, in which we fit a curve to the preliminary daily means for each day calculated from the hours surviving step 1 and 2, and not including times with upslope winds. All hourly averages that are further than two standard deviations, calculated for every day, away from the fitted curve (“outliers”) are rejected. This step is iterated until no more rejections occur. These hours are indicated by an “A” flag in the hourly data file, and by the purple color in Figure 2, also indicated as “spline” in the legend. Spline is a curve fitting technique. Rejected hours occurring during times with upslope winds are given a “U” character in the data file.”

    Willis does a good job, but leaves out some worrisome problems as I highlighted above. There are other troublesome issues if you read the whole method.

    1) The upslope and downslope winds are prevailing. But we see above that is usually not the case for any specific time. There is swirling and irregular mixing.

    2) CO2 is twice as heavy as air. Regardless of miscibility, this is different from mixing, and there is molecular mass enrichment towards lower levels. Most non-experts confuse miscibility and mixing. Mixing requires turbulence. Puffs of gas from the volcano, heated, will rise; the resultant cloud will overwhelm the minute concentrations we have in “background” or ambient air. Instead of mixing, as a chemist, I must assume non-mixing! As we remember from Lake Nyos in Africa, where almost 2000 people were killed by CO2 outgassing of the lake, it takes time to mix.

    3) In accordance with 2), all Mauna Loa measurements must be higher than ambient. All statistics must be heteroskedastic, not homoskedastic, meaning the error bars favor the high rather than the low error.

    4) Plants – at night plants give off O2 in favor of CO2 (i.e., “abnormal” respiration). During the day, this ratio exists to favor CO2 production. This depends on the cloud cover, or the existence of rains.

    5) Willis, you are right. No data is thrown away. I never throw papers away, I either put them in a circular file or shred them. They still exist. Most of the data is rejected, as admitted by the site!

    6) As with most analytical methods, the measurement itself is usually highly precise and accurate. It is the sampling errors, usually followed by the statistical methods that are problematic.

    7) As a paranoiac, I also see areas in which ulterior motives could sway results. Who takes the log? Is he a grad student? Is she a grantee from government or quango? Who wrote the algorithms for rejection criteria?

    Why didn’t they set up on Mt. Washington, or in the Peruvian Andes where we have great telescopes and not an active volcano? Especially Mauna Loa that has increased in activity in the last 50 years (coincidentally, a period when the CO2 slopes have increased)?

    My conclusion: If there is systematic error at Mauna Loa, it is heteroskedastic and could only lead to a high result, never a low one. We are only talking about less than 10% increases in CO2 in the last few decades. If it were 20 or 30%, the inaccuracy would be still there, but less important. If we were dealing with parts per thousand, then, no big problem. But parts per million?? It doesn’t matter of the trend compares to other sites favorably. We have to look at these as separate issues that probably have their own systematic biases, all to the upside, I’ll wager!

    Anyhow, higher CO2, I’ll concede would be a very good thing for the planet. I am not convinced it has risen in the last century from my vantage point, however.

  85. John Finn says:

    Re: John Finn says:
    June 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

    My last post was actually written in English but it seems to have been translated into some as yet undiscovered language.
    Translation:
    consisetendnt annula = consistent annual
    There is only variability seems to be due to fluctiuations = The only variability seems to be due to fluctuations

  86. James Sexton says:

    I’m late for the discussion and I haven’t bothered to read all the posts, so it could be what I’m going to state has already been stated.

    First, let me say, I don’t really care about our CO2 levels. I don’t consider them meaningful. Secondly, Willis, while I rarely disagree with you, Keeling chose a bad location. Why? Because of the 5 reasons you felt compelled to list before having the discussion. Why pick a spot that must come with a list of explanations and disclaimers first? And any number of them, while you articulated quit reasonably, would have “flies in the ointment”. And, I’d be very surprised if a few of these posts didn’t point them out. Why not pick a spot that’s not by a volcano and eliminate a couple of the arguments? Heck, why not use multiple locations. I know there are others, but they’re hardly mentioned in any studies. Once we have a good cross section, then we can do some proper comparisons. It wouldn’t be that difficult, but then I don’t think the world really wants to know. If it did, we’d have plenty of sites to compare. We don’t. Personally, given that CO2 is heavier than O2, I don’t believe CO2 concentrations can be uniform at any given elevation, location at a specific point in time. Certainly not while using one location as the arbiter of our CO2 levels. I believe it is ridiculous for anyone to make that assertion. All one has to do is look at the uniformity of the graphs that emanate from Mauna to know it belies the seemingly chaotic events that occur daily world wide. (Ocean absorption and release, winds, heating and cooling, currents…ect.) No way CO2 levels a Mauna are that uniform to reflect properly how much(not to mention where) CO2 exists in the different levels of our atmosphere. If I cared enough about CO2 levels, I’d destroy the credibility of Mauna’s measurements in a day.

  87. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tenuc says:
    June 5, 2010 at 1:29 am

    Thanks Willis, looks like the current measurements for CO2 levels are valid. However, I think the historic pre-industrial levels from the ice core data, quoted at 290ppmv, are open to argument as adjustments may have been made to ‘align’ them with the post 1959 Mauna Loa Observatory measurements (shades of the Briffa Tree Ring Data controversy perhaps?).

    The following link to a statement by Prof. Zbigniew Jaworowski, (Chairman of Scientific Council of Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection, Warsaw, Poland) written for the hearing before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has a good explanation of this potential issue, “Climate Change: Incorrect information on pre-industrial CO2 – March 2004″

    http://www.warwickhughes.com/icecore/

    I would be interested in your thoughts on this please.

    Jaworoski argues that the age of the air in the ice cores has been “adjusted” to make it align with the modern data. He says, for example, that the Siple ice core data has been moved forwards exactly 83 years to make them match the Mauna Loa data.

    Dating the ice core data is problematic. We can date the ice itself pretty accurately, through counting layers (like tree rings) and through studying various substances such as volcanic dust that is trapped in the ice. However, dating the air is harder.

    The difficulty is that the air is not trapped in the ice immediately. The pores in the “firn”, the snow that falls annually on top of the ice are open. Air can flow in and out.

    As more and more snow falls over the years, at some point the pores close off and the air is trapped. So how long does it take for the pores in the firn to seal off?

    Unfortunately, as in so many areas of climate science, the answer is … “depends”. It depends inter alia on how much snow falls every year, how much of that snow sublimates (changes from a solid to a gas) every year, and even the shape and size of the individual snowflakes.

    The end result of all of this is that we end up with two ages for any given thin slice of an ice core. These are the “ice age” (how old the ice itself is), and the “air age” (how old the air trapped in the ice is). The ice is always older than the air.

    The main variable in that is thought to be the annual snowfall. Unfortunately, while we know the current rate of annual snowfall, we don’t know the historical rate, particularly tens of thousands of years ago. So we use the concentration of an isotope of oxygen called “d18O” to estimate the historical snowfall rate, and thence the firn closing rate, and from that the air age.

    Sounds a bit sketchy? Well … it is, particularly as we go way back. However, for recent data, it is much more accurate.

    So to bring this back to real data, in the ice core data I showed in Fig. 5, the air is calculated to be 30 years younger than the ice for cores DEO8 and DEO8-2, and 58 years younger for the DSS core. Is this correct? I don’t know, but I do know that there are sound scientific reasons for the “adjustment” that Jaworowski objects to .

    Finally, the existence of a thirty to sixty year difference in air and ice age doesn’t make much difference in the pre-industrial levels of CO2. This is because prior to about 1800, the level is basically flat, so an error in the air age dating doesn’t change the CO2 values in any significant manner.

    Good question, I discount Jaworoski so I didn’t think of it but it is a common question. I’ll update the head post to include your question, much appreciated.

  88. Willis Eschenbach says:

    DennisA says:
    June 5, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Willis ,

    You say that MLO is complete since 1959. Wasn’t there a period when there were funding difficulties and perhaps the record had to be retro-fitted in the sixties?

    Not that I know of. Do you have a citation?

    Isn’t the homogenisation of Law Dome with MLO a little suspect? Aren’t we again looking at apples and kiwi fruit, CO2 trapped in ice cores compared with aerial measurement seems as illogical as mixing tree ring data and direct instrumental measurement for temperature records.

    Do you dismiss Jaworowski and his criticism of Law Dome and ice cores in general, relating to CO2 measurement?

    See above for my comments on Jaworowski. (AFAIK, he criticized ice cores in general, not Law Dome.) I see no problem with using all the different possible ways to measure a variable, as long as they are not “spliced” as in the Mann-made hokeystick.

    … Of course if it were not for the claims that CO2 is driving temperature upwards in contradiction of the cooling from the 40′s to the 80′s, when CO2 was increasing and a lack of warming currently, in the face of increasing CO2, then it would all be irrelevant.

    True. People don’t generally get excited when the concentration of a trace atmospheric gas goes from 0.03% to 0.04% …

  89. Tony says:

    Willis,

    You mention ‘sea-ice melt and freeze’ as a possible component in annual atmospheric CO2 variation. I am now having a boggle-moment;

    Do you say that when water freezes, the CO2 comes out of solution? So how come the ice-cores contain CO2? Is it a gradient thing, in which case CO2 concentrations in icecores must be a function of core temperature history as well as atmospheric concentration at the time.

    What about when rain turns to snow? Is there a big burst of local CO2 concentration when it snows? Does Henry’s law stop at freezing point?

    Does CO2 adsorb onto snow and ice surfaces? If so, does it do it at high altitude? (where the CO2 is supposed to do the warming?)

    And so on. Answers please.

  90. Willis Eschenbach says:

    John Finn says:
    June 5, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Willis

    Just one question. Do you have any comments on the reliability of ice core data and, in particular, the issue of ‘diffusion’.

    “Diffusion”, as I understand it, is the tendency for the CO2 to dissolve into the ice itself. As a result, the ice core data would give a low answer for the historical CO2.

    While this is possible, one would assume that this would be a slow, time-dependent process. As a result, if it were happening in a significant way, we would see a trend with the older CO2 values being lower than the modern values. I don’t see that.

    So as a result, I generally trust the ice core CO2 data. There is enough of it now, from enough different ice cores, processed by enough different investigators, to convince me that it is a valid measurement. Are all the details exact and correct to the last significant figure? Likely not, but it seems to be correct in the main.

  91. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Steven mosher says:
    June 5, 2010 at 9:44 am

    “It’s such a waste of energy to engage them. I was glad you added this. They seem to forget the fundamentals.”

    Yes, it is, and yes, they do (or never knew them!). See several other replies to my first comment for clear examples. Wills has a lot more fortitude for this sort of thing than I do; I won’t waste any more time on it.

  92. Willis Eschenbach says:

    anna v says:
    June 5, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Well, Willis,

    would you accept the same reasoning for temperature measurements?

    I.e. go to the top of a mountain at night and call that the global temperature?

    Say what? I’ve explained why Mauna Loa is a good place to measure background CO2. That does not mean that it is a good place to measure the temperature, or the effect of gamma rays on man-in-th-moon marigolds, for that matter … so?

    I think that there is no meaning in global CO2 as there is no meaning in global temperature.

    Not sure what you mean by that.

    You quote:

    The answer lies in the fact that the volcanic gasses are very rich in CO2. At night, they are trapped in a thin layer near the ground by a temperature inversion.

    To detect the difference between volcanic and background CO2, the measurements are taken simultaneously from tall towers and from near the ground, at intervals throughout the night. Background CO2 levels will be around 380 ppmv (these days), will be steady, and will be identical at the top and bottom of the towers. Volcanic gasses, on the other hand, will be well above 380 ppmv, will be variable, and will be greater near the ground than at the top of the towers.

    !!!!

    And what prevents run of the mill CO2 molecules to generally to lie low?
    Does each molecule carry a passport that says: I am from the volcano, I am from the top atmosphere?

    As I said, the volcanic CO2 is held in by the temperature inversion. Plus the fact that the air is generally descending all over the island, which slows the ground level CO2 from mixing upwards.

    Think of the oil spill. Would you defend measuring the chemistry of clear water next to the oil spill ? And we are talking of a gas that is supposed to be a good mixer?

    As long as I had a reliable way to distinguish water with oil from water without oil, sure. And they have such a method, that’s the point. From their description:

    Data are selected for periods of steady hourly data to within ~0.5 parts per million by volume (ppmv); at least six consecutive hours of steady data are required to form a daily average.

    That doesn’t happen if the sample is polluted with volcanic CO2.

  93. Richard111 says:

    Wow! What a read! Thank you Willis and Anthony and some fantastic instructive comments.
    One small niggle, I still haven’t learned how atmospheric CO2 can increase radiative forcing.

  94. Gail Combs says:

    Bill Yarber says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:14 am

    A previous poster on this site suggested quite a while ago that and experiment should be conducted to verify that the CO2 concentrations found in ice core data is indeed representative of atmospheric concentrations at that time. Has anyone actually done such an experiment (freeze water in the presence of a know concentration of CO2, store it at freezing conditions and then test portions over various time periods) to verify that:

    1) the concentrations actually match

    And

    2) there is no degradation in CO2 concentrations over time.

    This is far more important than whether CO2 measurement at Mona Loa are precisely accurate. Even if there is a bias due to contamination from the volcanoes emissions, they should be a relative consistent error and thus are irrelevant.
    ___________________________________________________________________
    That has been done in part see: http://www.warwickhughes.com/icecore/

    Unfortunately it is not quite as simple an experiment as we could want.

    1. Gases migrate. Leave a plastic soda bottle on the shelf for a couple of years and the soda will be FLAT. That is based on the two year old bottle of Dr. Pepper I just opened.
    Snow and ice will also allow CO2 to migrate, especially since cold water absorbs CO2

    2. Due to the enormous pressure at the bottom of the glaciers the gases change into the solid clathrates, which are tiny crystals formed by interaction of gas with water molecules.

    3.Cracking of the ice. Tiny fractures can form in the ice as well as large fractures like cravasses.

    4. The results of the ice cores are on the ragged edge of plant extinction. If CO2 is much under 200 PPM you are going to have a change from trees to grassland. Just google CO2 plants and starvation.

    5. Microbes confound results: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC384798/

    CO2 solubility vs sea temperature graph from real life: http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2010/01/co2-levels-in-atmosphere-are-damped-by.html

  95. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Ernst Beck says:
    June 5, 2010 at 2:44 am

    Dear Willis,

    I agree, the near ground data listed in my first paper do not reflect background data. Meanwhile I have found additional data which reflect CO2 background at that times. ( e.g. 1890 measured on islands at Baltic Sea or 1935 measured as a vertical profile over Helsinki)
    Near ground concentrations are connected to the CO2 background (or MBL) over the vertical profiles. (please see our latest paper on http://www.realCO2.de: http://www.biokurs.de/treibhaus/CO2_versus_windspeed-review-1-FM.pdf). We can calculate annual background averages from near ground data.
    You will find a graph of historical CO2 background based on that methods and updated historical station list on http://www.realCO2.de (http://www.biomind.de/realCO2/stations.htm.)
    I have also prepared a new paper on the reconstruction of the CO2 background which is in peer review.

    best regards
    Ernst Beck

    Outstanding, sir. I look forward to your new paper. I also find your proposed method of adjusting ground measurements to extract the background level to be interesting. As you point out, the thousands of historical chemical analyses of CO2 which you have collected are a huge resource which has been overlooked to date. There is always more to learn.

    Keep fighting the good fight, my best to you,

    w.

  96. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    You da man Willis! I applaud your efforts.

  97. Bart says:

    Slioch says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:44 am

    There has been more than enough CO2 emitted from human burning of fossil fuels to account for all the increase in atmospheric CO2 in recent centuries.”

    Why do people think this constitutes evidence that the CO2 increase is man-made? It’s like a coroner proclaiming a victim of a heart attack to have died by drowning, because the output of all the rivers of the world is more than enough to fill the lungs of every person on Earth.

  98. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Geoff Sherrington says:
    June 5, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Willis,

    (1) Has the 27m high tower been at ML from the start ca. 1973?

    Don’t know … the start was 1958, however.

    (2) What is the relationship between the concentrations of CO2 at ML, some 3,400m or more asl, and the CO2 concentrations where the greenhouse physics are invoked? It was my impression that terrain hugging CO2 at variable but often higher concentrations mattered most to global models of IR absorption/emission.

    CO2 is generally considered to be a “well-mixed gas”. However, as you point out, at any given point on the ground there is likely to be a different concentration than found up in the troposphere.

    I don’t know how much this matters, however … but then I don’t think that CO2 matters much, so my opinion may not matter much.

    (3) Re methane, Tom Quirk has provided an official graph from Cape Grim at the N-W tip of Tasminia, which is mostly exposed to west winds that have crossed large ocean distances.

    http://www.quadrant.org.au/img/content/May%202010/Quirk%203.jpg

    The Cape Grim graph seems to sit somewhere between Barrow and ML and does not give the impression often mentioned of methane as a “globally well-mixed gas”. The annual wiggles at Cape Grim peak in the NH Autumn, but it seems improbable that their consistency is compatible with travel half way round the globe and over the Equator barrier. Yet people have described the shape of the Cape Grim methane curve as partly from plugging leaks in Russian gas pipelines (the plateau part) and partly methane release from melting marshland such as Arctic tundra. The appearance of the fine structure suggests none of these, as does the lack of plateaux at barrow and ML . It seems to be more local. See e.g. Karl, D M, Beversdorf, L., Bjorkman, K M, Church, M J, Martinez, A., and DeLong, E F. (2008) Aerobic production of methane in the sea. Nature Geoscience Vol. 1. July 2008, 473 – 478 (with HT to Steve Short).

    Pass. Methane is a different question, with different parameters. I’d rather keep this thread on CO2.

  99. bubbagyro says:

    Tony says:
    June 5, 2010 at 10:56 am

    You are corret about the outgassing when water changes states.

    In addition, the diffusion of CO2 through ice was determined recently at Scripps Oceanographic Institute.

    The diffusion, of course, depends on initial concentration, going from high to low, directly proportional to that concentration. Fick’s Laws.

    If it were very high in ice cores in the past, it would be much lower than that when measured after millenia have passed. The concentration in ice bubbles at Vostok and other places, therefore, has a systematic bias that disfavors high initial concentrations being preserved. If the [ ] were similar, or lower to that today, diffusion would stop (actually equilibrate, with molecules going back and forth). The concentration inside always seeks the outside concentration.

    Altogether, the ice samples from cores is an unreliable proxy, the longer the time, the more the measured value is distorted. So when we measure ancient bubbles showing 10,000 ppm, for example, it might have been an order of magnitude higher when measured today, depending on the diffusion path distance (distance till the outside atmosphere is reached).

    This can be calculated for each path distance, since the diffusion constant is now known, thanks to Scripps.

  100. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Willis:

    Thankyou for your clear explanation. I agree with much of it, but I have two objections.

    Firstly, you say;

    “As you might imagine from Fig. 2, the CO2 measurements are taken only at night. Thus, they are measuring descending air that is coming from thousands of feet aloft. This air has traveled across half of the Pacific Ocean, so it is far from any man-made CO2 sources. And as a result, it is very representative of the global background CO2 levels. That’s why Keeling chose the site.”

    But the assertion of being “very representative of the global background CO2 levels” is denied by your own explanation.

    CO2 is released by the Mauna Loa and the adjacent Kilauea volcanoes. According to your Fig. 2, this volcanic CO2 is
    (a) driven aloft by the sea breeze by day, and
    (b) driven back down by the land breeze at night.
    Hence, it is a gross and improbable assumption that these volcanic emissions do not significantly affect the measurement results because “the CO2 measurements are taken only at night”. And the assumption is especially implausible when there is a slight wind in the direction from Kilauea towards Mauna Loa.

    Hawaii lies in the trade winds belt. Typical wind is about 15 knots, increasing aloft. This means that any CO2 that moves aloft during the day will be miles and miles away when the air is descending during the night.

    You attempt to overcome this objection by saying:

    “To detect the difference between volcanic and background CO2, the measurements are taken simultaneously from tall towers and from near the ground, at intervals throughout the night. Background CO2 levels will be around 380 ppmv (these days), will be steady, and will be identical at the top and bottom of the towers. Volcanic gasses, on the other hand, will be well above 380 ppmv, will be variable, and will be greater near the ground than at the top of the towers.”

    Sorry, but I do not buy that. Indeed, false confidence is provided by the comparison of the measurements of the sampled air and the measurements obtained at the towers. The air coming down at night contains CO2 carried aloft during the previous day, but this CO2 is diluted by its spatial spread over the time of its rise and fall. No such dilution can occur to the air at the bottom of the towers. Hence, I disagree with you when you say:

    “This allows the scientists to distinguish reliably between volcanic and background CO2 levels.”

    “Reliably” ?! No chance!

    As the quotation I provided says, they wait until they have stable measurements (less than 0.5 ppmv change) before measuring. I’d call that reliable.

    Secondly, you say of Beck’s data:

    “I think that the Beck data is accurate, but that it is not measuring the background CO2.”

    Perhaps, but I assert that the “background” level of CO2 is an irrelevance for three reasons.

    The first of these three reasons is theoretical but the other two are practical.

    Beck’s data indicates that the “background” level of CO2 does not exist anywhere:
    i.e. the “background” level is mythical.
    Indeed, this mythical nature of the “background” level it is why Keeling searched for a place where he may be able to discern this “background” level (and he chose Mauna Loa).

    But the fact that the “background” level is mythical has practical importance.

    The sequestration rates of CO2 are dependent on partial pressure. High local atmospheric concentrations induce high local sequestration. And consideration of seasonal variations in atmospheric CO2 at a variety of locations indicates that most locally released CO2 (from any source, natural or anthropogenic) is sequestered locally
    (ref. Rorsch A, Courtney RS & Thoenes D, ‘The Interaction of Climate Change and the Carbon Dioxide Cycle’ E&E v16no2 (2005) ).

    So, the mythical “background” concentration of atmospheric CO2 concentration has no relevance to flows of CO2 in and out of the atmosphere at any location.

    Then, the radiative greenhouse effect of CO2 has a logarithmic relation to atmospheric CO2 concentration. And this is true at every location.

    So, using the mythical “background” concentration of atmospheric CO2 concentration provides incorrect estimation of global radiative forcing from atmospheric CO2.

    Please note that I present these disagreements with your article in a sense of scientific debate, and I respect your work.

    Richard

    Thanks, Richard, science is in large measure debate and discussion, your ideas are always welcome.

    Having said that, I object strongly to the idea that the background CO2 level is “mythical”. It is measured at places from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and in the tropics as well. It is also measured by satellite (see Fig. 4). We can see how this background level changes with the seasons, and with the latitude (see Fig. 3).

    So in what conceivable sense can it be called “mythical”? Yes, as you say, what this means for radiative forcing is an open question. But the background level itself is very real, and not mythical in any way.

    My thanks to you,

    w.

  101. Pascvaks says:

    This appears to be similar to Urban Heat Island effect, measured with a CO2 scale. Perhaps a Global Urban Carbon effect. I like the data, I don’t think they’re using it to monitor what it really reflects.

  102. Willis Eschenbach says:

    wayne says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:23 am

    Willis, you should have included some different aspects.

    Well, I had discovered some truly remarkable aspects which the margin of this blog post is too small to contain …

    For those of you that like to get a wide spectrum of view you should listen to a long time scientist, Dr. Freeman Dyson, whether he is exactly right or wrong. I tend to agree with a few of his views and question others.

    To him co2 is totally vegetation ruled and as Willis’s 3d of co2 distribution over the latitude bands, this curve also closely fits the area of plant life if you take it one latitude band at a time. The nort hemispere has twice the land area. Look again at the 3d chart with vegetation in mind.

    Freeman Dyson on Global Warming — Bogus Climate Models

    2 parts.

    Seriously, I can only cover so much. I wanted to keep it focused on the validity of the CO2 record, and not wander afield into the reasons for the swings in the record.

  103. bubbagyro says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Actually you describe dissolution rather than diffusion. This depends on the interfacial thermodynamics and kinetics.

    Once into the ice, then diffusion procedes according to Fick’s Laws.

    An example of this is water diffusing into oil. First, the oil has to become “wetted” for an intimate contact before the water diffuses into the oil (to only parts per million concentration, certainly). This is the inerfacial boundary problem. Since we are talking about long time periods, the dissolution rate is not limiting, so my point becomes moot, actually. I am just making a technical point for accuracy.

    Some materials have low dissolution rates, but high solubilities or high diffusivity (another term that relates to the diffusion constant, or diffusion rate).

  104. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Daniel H says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:34 am

    Thanks for the excellent explanation of the Mauna Loa CO2 measurement process. It made sense to me except for the claim you made in point one where you state:

    As you might imagine from Fig. 2, the CO2 measurements are taken only at night. Thus, they are measuring descending air that is coming from thousands of feet aloft.

    The claim is directly contradicted in point number two, when you quote the measurement process that is described on the CDIAC web site:

    Air samples at Mauna Loa are collected continuously from air intakes at the top of four 7-m towers and one 27-m tower. Four air samples are collected each hour for the purpose of determining the CO2 concentration.

    Thanks, Daniel. You are correct. The measurement is done continuously. However, the overwhelming majority of the samples that are actually deemed good enough to be used are night-time samples. From the excellent link you cited, here is their discussion of the criteria that touches on the day-night issues:

    1. The standard deviation of minute averages should be less than 0.30 ppm within a given hour. A standard deviation larger than 0.30 ppm is indicated by a “V” flag in the hourly data file, and by the red color in Figure 2.

    2. The hourly average should differ from the preceding hour by less than 0.25 ppm. A larger hour-to-hour change is indicated by a “D” flag in the hourly data file, and by the green color in Figure 2.

    3. There is often a diurnal wind flow pattern on Mauna Loa driven by warming of the surface during the day and cooling during the night. During the day warm air flows up the slope, typically reaching the observatory at 9 am local time (19 UTC) or later. The upslope air may have CO2 that has been lowered by plants removing CO2 through photosynthesis at lower elevations on the island, although the CO2 decrease arrives later than the change in wind direction, because the observatory is surrounded by miles of bare lava. In Figure 2 the downslope wind changed to upslope during hour 18. Upslope winds can persist through ~7 pm local time (5 UTC, next day, or hour 29 in Figure 2). Hours that are likely affected by local photosynthesis are indicated by a “U” flag in the hourly data file, and by the blue color in Figure 2. The selection to minimize this potential non-background bias takes place as part of step 4. At night the flow is often downslope, bringing background air. However, that air is sometimes contaminated by CO2 emissions from the crater of Mauna Loa. As the air meanders down the slope that situation is characterized by high variability of the CO2 mole fraction. In Figure 2, downslope winds resumed in hour 28. Hour 33 in Figure 2 is the first of an episode of high variability lasting 7 hours.

    4. In keeping with the requirement that CO2 in background air should be steady, we apply a general “outlier rejection” step, in which we fit a curve to the preliminary daily means for each day calculated from the hours surviving step 1 and 2, and not including times with upslope winds. All hourly averages that are further than two standard deviations, calculated for every day, away from the fitted curve (“outliers”) are rejected. This step is iterated until no more rejections occur. These hours are indicated by an “A” flag in the hourly data file, and by the purple color in Figure 2, also indicated as “spline” in the legend. Spline is a curve fitting technique. Rejected hours occurring during times with upslope winds are given a “U” character in the data file.

    You have raised good points,

    w.

  105. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:34 am

    John Finn:

    At June 5, 2010 at 1:30 am you assert:

    “We need to accept that CO2 levels are increasing and that fossil fuel burning is almost certainly responsible for most of those increases.”

    No!!

    Please note how trivial the anthropogenic emission is to the total CO2 flowing around the carbon cycle.

    Richard, while that is an important issue, I’d like to ask that you discuss it on another thread. This thread is about whether the Mauna Loa record is valid, not about whether humans are the cause of the changes in the background levels.

  106. Clem says:

    A sea breeze/land breeze only sets up if the island is under a weak pressure gradient. The subtropical high roughly located between 20-40 degrees latitude is generally too strong thus the island sits under trade wind flow around the subtropical high. This high has to migrate away from the island or weaken for a sea breeze/land breeze to set up. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen but it definitely doesn’t happen everyday

  107. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tom in Florida says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:28 am

    JER0ME says:(June 5, 2010 at 1:17 am)

    “Just a minor point. From my misspent (or I feel very well spent, but others differ) youth on tropical beaches, the breeze tends to go out until midday and then inland until some time in the night”

    That is why, generally speaking, surfing is better in the morning when offshore breezes create a better wave face and help stand the wave up longer.

    You’re just trying to taunt me, I’m living in the US now and there’s only cold-water shark infested surfing here … which as a tropical boy I’ll pass on. Meanwhile, at Frigates Pass in Fiji, my old spot, the waves are likely cranking, with the aforementioned warm tropical offshore breeze blowing … sigh …

    OK. No more comments on surfing, that’s just mean.

  108. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Gail Combs says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Willis,
    I do not understand why there has not been a major increase in the readings since the turn of the new century. A friend in Alsaka complained of the major smog problem in recent years from the increased industrialization of China. Alaska is further away from China than Mauna Loa Observatory so why are we not seeing an up tick in the readings?

    The Nasa CO2 maps show the distribution is not uniform.
    “Chahine said previous AIRS research data have led to some key findings about mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide. For example, the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.” Until now, models of carbon dioxide transport have assumed its distribution was uniform. “ http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2009-196

    I also notice that the 2005 image on this page shows a higher concentration over the Mauna Loa area (right edge)
    http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/411791main_slide5-AIRS-full.jpg

    Map of the Pacific ocean with Trenches and fracture zones.
    http://www.freeworldmaps.net/ocean/pacific/index.html

    Given how “lumpy” the CO2 readings are, I do not think throwing out Beck’s information and cherry picking low results is justified, nor do I think the ice core measurements can be taken as “gospel”

    Not sure what you mean by “lumpy”. As I commented in the head post, the background levels vary by only about ±1% around the globe at any given instant, which is hardly “lumpy” in my book. It looks like more because of the colors used, but check out the legend, we’re only talking a few ppmv.

  109. Willis Eschenbach says:

    HankHenry says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Very informative. I guess the question that strikes me after reading this is:
    What precisely is a “background CO2″ level? What exactly does that mean? I think Keeling’s uniform and seasonally varying data itself tells us that there is indeed an area to be found where CO2 levels are quite stable – a background. I would also say based on all the machinations needed to find this stable area of “background level CO2″ that a lot of the atmosphere has CO2 that is not extremely well mixed. Is it thought as a general proposition that the upper atmosphere is well mixed and uniform while the lower atmosphere is not?

    Basically, yes. At ground level there are lots of CO2 sources and sinks. Aloft, the gas is pretty well mixed (±1%).

    Also, if CO2 is nonuniform in large portions of the atmosphere would that nonuniformity need to be somehow reflected and characterized in a good weather or climate model for it to accurately predict weather or climate? …

    Unknown, because the effect of CO2 on temperature in general is unknown.

  110. tonyb says:

    Willis

    Thanks for a well written exposition.

    I wrote an article on ‘Historic variations in Co2 measurements ‘ which was carried over at the Air Vent a couple of months ago.

    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/historic-variations-in-co2-measurements/

    My article was primarily concerned with ascertaining the history behind the measurements and the part played by the science in every day life. It carried numerous links putting the case for and against the likely accuracy of these historic measurements, which were often carried out by very fine scientists using increasingly sophisticated methods.

    Together with the numerous links, arguments and counter arguments put by posters-including many of those posting here in response to the excellent article by Willis-I think it is probably the most comprehensive library of CO2 material on this subject available in one place anywhere on the net.

    In the interests of completeness and even handedness I will add this thread to it.

    As I say, I am more interested in the history behind the readings than the scientific merits for the claims made by such as Ernst Beck. However, I think we do the old time scientists a disservice by believing that even after some 130 years of measurements they still didn’t know what they were doing.

    A lot of this argument depends on how much co2 is outgased by the oceans and returns to it, how quickly this happens and the general residence life. Is it ten years as some claim, or up to 1000 years for the residual portion as the IPCC asserts?

    If the Northern and Southern Hemisphere oceans were in outgasing phase during one of the numerous warm spells that occurred even during the little ice age-some of the CO2 measurements recorded in the period 1830 to 1955 are not at all outlandish.

    I tend to agree with Richard S Courtney’s comments here. I am 55% sure (and I put it no higher than that) that the historic measurements have something valuable to tell us, and whilst many can be easily dismissed a proportion have enough credibility to warrant independent auditing.

    Tonyb

  111. u.k.(us) says:

    Willis,
    Is it just me, or does your “Figure 4. Comparison of the CO2 records from the four NOAA measuring sites.” chart show a decrease (or at least little change) in CO2 during the “new ice age” scare of the late 70′s ?

    Seems to be no sign of it in your Figure 5.

    Why do “all” the scary trends start after the late 70′s ?
    The snow in Chicago in the late 70′s, was so deep that people put flags on their antennas, so other drivers could see them coming at intersections.
    Ah, the good old days.

  112. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    June 5, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Pamela, good questions as always, not sure I can answer them.

    My questions:

    1. The greening of the planet is well known in the satellite record and thus can be calculated in terms of its potential for CO2 uptake (the deserts are very poor at this while the greened up areas are very good at it – so guess where the CO2 is wafting about?). This same greening can also be linked to a modeled increase in “green eating” populations, which in turn would increase modeled predatory animals who eat the green eating population. Has the greening of the planet been taken into account? The final number related to the %CO2 increase or decrease as a part of the atmosphere needs to be a calculated “modeled” number in the end. I have been trying to find a reference to that paper that suggested, based on such a calculation, that the anthropogenic % contribution has not increased relative to the overall increase in CO2 as a result of the greening up of the planet.

    The relative effect of the “greening” of the planet is part of a larger question of where the non-anthropogenic CO2 sources and sinks are located. This is not well understood.

    2. MLO has good data. As do the other three stations. I have no dispute with that. What we need to do is cover the planet with sensors placed exactly where CO2 is not. Measuring out-gassing is only half the data we need. It would be like trying to measure area with only the height and not the width. The AIMS website seems to be less than what it was touted to be. There are other satellite based measuring projects going on. What do they say and can we get that in English instead of Japanese?

    Not sure what your point is here.

    3. If you are saying that a lot of CO2 is trapped at ground level (it is heavy and inversions do a great job of trapping heavy gasses near the surface) how can it work as a re-emitter of LW radiation? Doesn’t it have to be up in the air, like way up in the air, to do that? So what we really need is a measure of how much CO2 is up in the air and ignore the stuff on the ground.

    CO2 is trapped near the ground only in certain circumstances. However, it does not have to be high up in the air to absorb and emit radiation. My bible, Geiger’s “The Climate Near the Ground”, states that about three quarters of the downwelling radiation striking the ground comes from the bottom 90 metres (300 ft) of the atmosphere.

  113. Brian D says:

    If you look at the mid-tropo CO2 and temp anomalies from July 2009, you can see the general jet stream position for that month. It was a very cool month(record cool for some) as a trough setup over the eastern half of the US. Higher Co2 south of the jet with the warmer temps from surface into upper atmosphere. The smearing of the yellows into the Upper Midwest were due to the brief warmups we encountered. I looked at archived weather maps for the month. Just an interesting tidbit to the discussion.

    http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/411791main_slide5-AIRS-full.jpg

    http://www.hprcc.unl.edu/products/maps/acis/Jul09TDeptUS.png

  114. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Charles Higley says:
    June 5, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I agree with the idea that the Beck data has variation or variability, but it also shows significant trends up and down over time during three periods, two in the 1800s and one in the 1940s.

    I find it ingenuous to believe that CO2 has been consistently historically low until now. That’s just not how the real world works. Considering the CO2 in the oceans and the fact that the oceans warm up and cool down, one would expect atmospheric CO2 to fluctuate. To be told that it does not, until man came along, is highly suspicious and probably wrong.

    While one might “expect atmospheric CO2 to fluctuate”, the records from Mauna Loa, American Samoa, Barrow, and the South Pole all agree that such fluctuation has not happened in the last half century. In fact, other than the annual swings, there has been a slow rise and the data is remarkably stable.

    So while you might believe that there was some huge swing in background CO2 levels just prior to when we started accurate measurements, I doubt it. Among other things, you should run the calculation on the number of gigatonnes of CO2 that would have to be emitted to create such a swing … very doubtful.

  115. bubbagyro says:

    I guess since I am a diffusion expert in my career, I will add one more wrinkle.

    Diffusion according To Fick’s Laws also pertains to gases in gases.

    The Mauna Loa method measures frequently and dismisses outliers (rejects them according to some arbitrary rules relying on operational reasons, not entirely upon statistical reasons).

    OK. However, the volcano business worries me immensely because there is a sink with parts per hundred! of CO2 right nearby. Forget about the winds, and assume for a moment the air is static. Imagine concentric spheres around the volcanic CO2 emanation point. The CO2 diffuses into surrounding air into each sphere, with concentration decreasing in half with each diameter added, since the concentration is directly proportional to distance traveled. By the time it reaches the measuring venue, it becomes proportionally less, but it is a positive contributor!. It may be large or small, but remember we started at parts per hundred, 10,000 times the concentration at the measurement point.

    This is a classic case of introduction of systematic error or bias.

    One experiment to do is to perform inverse isotopic dilution. Release a cannister of 14C CO2 at the volcano vents periodically and count the radioactivity. Or, if people are afraid of 14C, they can use 13C and do GC mass spec.

    Then, we can know the amount of systematic error after several experiments under different conditions. It may be large, or small, but it has to be something!

    This is why it would be great if it were not a volcano setting!

  116. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tony says:
    June 5, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Willis,

    You mention ‘sea-ice melt and freeze’ as a possible component in annual atmospheric CO2 variation. I am now having a boggle-moment;

    Do you say that when water freezes, the CO2 comes out of solution? So how come the ice-cores contain CO2? Is it a gradient thing, in which case CO2 concentrations in icecores must be a function of core temperature history as well as atmospheric concentration at the time.

    What about when rain turns to snow? Is there a big burst of local CO2 concentration when it snows? Does Henry’s law stop at freezing point?

    Does CO2 adsorb onto snow and ice surfaces? If so, does it do it at high altitude? (where the CO2 is supposed to do the warming?)

    And so on. Answers please.

    See here for what the adherents of this theory say.

  117. Theo Goodwin says:

    Mr. Eschenbach,

    Your essay gives me the opportunity to ask a question that I hope some brilliant sceptic, such as yourself, will take up. I realize that your essay is about measuring CO2 concentrations and I have no quarrel with what you say. My concern is that you give a pass to Warmists who invariably use one or another “a priori” assumption in their so-called science. In this case, the “a priori” assumption is that CO2 molecules are distributed randomly throughout the atmosphere. I am not aware of experiments undertaken to show that CO2 is distributed randomly. Nor am I aware of experiments undertaken to show that there are rivers of CO2, marshes of CO2, or whatever one might imagine. To my mind, the assumption that CO2 molecules are randomly distributed is something like an assumption that might have been held in the early days of navigation on the Mediterranean. Those early sailors might very well have assumed that all oceans behave as the Mediterranean does. They might not have imagined the existence of the Gulf Stream, El Nino, and similar phenomena. Why should they have imagined them? Only experimentation, actual travel on all the oceans of the world revealed such phenomena. So, why do we simply assume that CO2 is randomly distributed? Why are we not creating the multitude of observation stations which might reveal that Earth’s atmosphere contains something like a Gulf Stream of CO2? Let’s not be mislead by the magnitudes. I am not suggesting that there is something on the scale of a Gulf Stream, but something of lesser magnitude that is of importance in CO2 measurements for Earth’s atmosphere.

  118. Pat Moffitt says:

    So what do we do with this CO2 “concentration” information and what does it imply about the operation of a complex ecosystem? Let’s take a non CO2 example – say phosphorous in a freshwater river with agriculture and development inputs. If one samples to derive the river’s phosphorous concentrations at various points- we may find they remain within a fairly tight annual range. If we add in flow however- we may see P loading change by orders of magnitude on a daily, annual and inter-annual basis. (Sources of P are numerous and the contribution of any given source can change on a month to month and year to year basis.) If we measure below a shallow impoundment in the summer we may see a significant relative reduction in both P concentration and loading. (Rooted vegetation has the capacity for luxury uptake of P- the ability to store many times its P needs and “starving” the competition of this needed building block.) However the algae may dominate early and diminish the light penetration required by the macrophytes allowing more P bleed through- so we can have two different concentration outputs for the same input. If we measure P in late fall we could see a pulse of P from reservoir turnover or die back of the terrestrial vegetative cover. If we measure in the spring we could see another turnover P pulse or perhaps some suppresion of P from early algae blooms. If we measure in the winter we may not see as much P change- once the ground froze and how much of the agricultural land was planted in winter or cover crops. There may be year to year P changes as the result of alkalinity, temperature, rainfall patterns, ice patterns, wind patterns, crop mix, turnover P flux and the chaotic interplay between algae and macrophytes for system dominance. Plus others we never contemplated. A P mass balance for this relatively “simple system” is complex and non-predictive. “Concentration” actually may tell us very little about what is happening within the system and future system adaptations. My very long winded point-concentration is just the start in understanding how little we know-and because of sensitivity to initial conditions- can know.

    Now the management implications of P. Do we spend millions of dollars to upgrade a wastewater treatment facility to remove P? The answer – it depends. Politicians and media hate the short answer and have no tolerance for a longer more complicated response. Regulators make it simple- they create a one size fits all concentration standard making the politicians, bureaucrats and media happy. We no longer have to worry about the diverse sources of P – only SOME human P . Nor do we need to concern ourselves with the complex consequences. We now have a simpler and more perfect world- humans discharging P (and only those using a pipe) above the decreed limit is bad and below is good. Problem solved.
    Sound familiar?

  119. anna v says:

    Willis Eschenbach
    June 5, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Hi Willis:
    I am amazed with the 1,2,3 ,4 statements you are quoting.
    Are they making a dress from a pattern? Talk about cherry picking data.
    particularly
    4. In keeping with the requirement that CO2 in background air should be steady, we apply a general “outlier rejection” step, in which we fit a curve to the preliminary daily means for each day calculated from the hours surviving step 1 and 2, and not including times with upslope winds. All hourly averages that are further than two standard deviations, calculated for every day, away from the fitted curve (“outliers”) are rejected. This step is iterated until no more rejections occur.

    On the lines:” you will obey me, or else”

    They have a preconceived notion of what the curve should be and they impose it, is my conclusion from this series.

    You say there are independent measurements. Once I had managed to find a link and publications for those measurements. The were all Keeling and another fellow,possibly the graduate student going through the loops. I do not call that independent.

    The satellite data show large variations and lumps as they said themselves in AIRS, and this against the current orthodoxy of well mixed and background. God only knows whether it affected their data interpretation.

    Let me try again to express what I mean with the temperature analogy:
    Temperatures are not the true energy measure. To get the energy of the system one would have to integrate over the whole globe, using emissivities and gray body shapes.

    ppm of CO2 in any specific location are not indicative of the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, one would have to integrated all the variations in three dimensions to get the amount of CO2 in the air.

    Here are the locations I find:
    http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/data/atmospheric_co2.html
    something like 14, and practically all the publications are Keeling et al
    There is a map too
    http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/research/atmospheric_co2.html

    Do you believe that these 14 or so stations are representative enough so that the measurements could produce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere?

    Going where the air is “pure” defeats the purpose of measurement because it is the total amount of CO2 that would be working for the greenhouse effect, not in the pure and in the rarefied atmosphere.

  120. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick says:
    June 5, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Steven mosher says:
    June 5, 2010 at 9:44 am

    “It’s such a waste of energy to engage them. I was glad you added this. They seem to forget the fundamentals.”

    Yes, it is, and yes, they do (or never knew them!). See several other replies to my first comment for clear examples. Willis has a lot more fortitude for this sort of thing than I do; I won’t waste any more time on it.

    For me, it’s never a waste of time to put out a clear explanation of what I see as the “truth” (a relative term, yes, I know). While there are lots of folks out there who are in the “My mind is made up, don’t bother me with the facts” headset, there are also large numbers of people who are seriously trying to understand what is going on. I think that they are what might be called the “forgotten majority”, they get all of this nonsense from the pro-AGW side (and some from skeptical side as well), and they are not clear on what is valid and what isn’t.

    So I think that clear explanations of things never go amiss.

  121. anna v says:

    p.s. This business of up winds and down winds is confusing.

    How can there be an inversion layer in a down wind?
    If the up wind is 14 knots, the downwind should also be 14 knots and bring back the CO2.

    Actually we observe this terrible effect in Attica, in Greece on days where there are no highs or lows moving into our area the up winds and down winds from the sea to land and vice verso reign supreme. The result is that coming into Piraeus port in the evening one sees a low long yellow pollution cloud over the sea and in the morning it comes right back in and goes up trapped next to the 2000 meter mountains, building up the polution to incredible levels if the motionless days continue.

    It is interesting that this is reflected in greek mythology, because the fires of Athens would pollute even three thousand years ago. They married off a princess to the North Wind, so that he would keep the city air clear.

  122. Tony says:

    Willis,

    You say “This thread is about whether the Mauna Loa record is valid”

    Assuming that the point of the observatory is to measure and report the ‘background level’ in terms of less than 1 part of Co2 in a million parts of a mixed gas, I still have my doubts. I can articulate only a few at this point;

    - The measurement expressed in ppm means that, of a flow of air at x molecules/second, y of those molecules were CO2. How do they measure the x molecules/second? They must control the flow of air, and also the calibration gases, of the equivalent of a million molecules per second to within less than 1 molecule/second How do they do that?

    -And as temperature has a huge effect on the density of gases, and hence pressure, and hence the molecule flow-rate, how do they keep the temperature within the limits needed to preserve the accuracy to less that 1 in a million?

    - If the proportion of other gases in the air changes, but the number of CO2 molecules remains the same, would the instrument readings change? If so, then we could be seeing artefacts. (I see methane mentioned; what effect would a few ppm of methane have, in the gas stream? Or a change in the number of Xenon molecules?)

    - Does the rejection algorithm introduce a bias? We would only need a tiny bias over the thousands of readings to add a millionth .. which is getting on for half of the claimed yearly increase of 3 parts per million in the ‘backgound’ (aka ‘average’) figure.

    - Why isn’t all the data used and statistically treated to find the various averages? Otherwise there is a suspicion of cherrypicking.

    - Why aren’t there other Co2 instruments being used at the observatory? If the Keeling instrument is so sensitive and well-calibrated, then it must be a good reference instrument over the whole range of its actual output (and not just the ‘useable’ bits) This apparent absence of other reference instruments at the site is a mystery.

  123. Daniel Kozub says:

    Steven and Steve,

    The last line in the quotation below is completely inaccurate. There is no part of the atmosphere that is opaque to mid-ir. Clouds and other forms of non-gaseous water in the atmosphere, as well as particulates, can be total-absorbing for a large portion of the mid-ir spectrum. But the statement below is still inaccurate.

    A simple experiment to confirm this is on an FT-IR spectrometer. Monitor a simple interferrogram, open the cover, and breathe into the sample chamber. You will see an increase in the sharp absorbtion doublet for carbon dioxide and in all of the wide bands for water vapor. Both of those gasses comprise several percent of your exhaled breath.

    Steven mosher says:
    June 5, 2010 at 9:44 am
    “Steve Fitzpatrick says:
    June 5, 2010 at 8:47 am
    Hi Willis,

    Having been through this argument several times on different threads, I have concluded that it may be impossible to make progress on this subject with many who comment; they seem immune to influence by data or reasoned analysis. ”

    It’s such a waste of energy to engage them. I was glad you added this. They seem to forget the fundamentals. Everybody should know this

    “The only CO2 concentration that matters in terms of radiative forcing is the concentration high in the atmosphere. CO2 concentration near sea level makes no difference, since the lower atmosphere is essentially opaque to infrared at the wavelength where CO2 absorbs.”

  124. Kan says:

    Slioch said:

    “Most of the CO2 emitted by humans in that time, about one trillion tons (1620-640 billion tons), has been absorbed into the oceans and terrestrial biosphere. In other words, the oceans, far from “outgassing” have been acting as a massive sink for CO2.”

    Steve Fritzpatrick said:
    “Comparison of year to year changes in average ocean surface temperature to the trend in CO2 shows a clear influence of ocean surface temperature on CO2 (about +3.5 PPM per degree warming, -3.5 PPM per degree cooling); El Nino (on average, a warmer ocean) causes a faster annual rise in CO2, La Nina (a cooler ocean) causes a slower rise.”

    The head spins….

    Where O where
    did all the C02 go?

    Amongst the grass, the trees?
    Nay, they say so.

    In the ocean deep below?
    No, not this year.

    Into thin air?
    No, no, not there.

    Under the ice, the snow
    might it be?

    We looked, we looked
    we do not see.

  125. Gail Combs says:

    Not sure what you mean by “lumpy”. As I commented in the head post, the background levels vary by only about ±1% around the globe at any given instant, which is hardly “lumpy” in my book. It looks like more because of the colors used, but check out the legend, we’re only talking a few ppmv.
    _______________________________________________________________
    Actually the word “lumpy” was from this statement copied from the NASA site
    ““Chahine said previous AIRS research data have led to some key findings about mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide. For example, the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.”

    How ever atmospheric CO2 is not well mixed as Bubbagyro says:
    ” CO2 is twice as heavy as air. Regardless of miscibility, this is different from mixing, and there is molecular mass enrichment towards lower levels. Most non-experts confuse miscibility and mixing. Mixing requires turbulence. Puffs of gas from the volcano, heated, will rise; the resultant cloud will overwhelm the minute concentrations we have in “background” or ambient air. Instead of mixing, as a chemist, I must assume non-mixing! As we remember from Lake Nyos in Africa, where almost 2000 people were killed by CO2 outgassing of the lake, it takes time to mix.”

    We also know the local concentration is always changing.

    WHEAT: The CO2 concentration at 2 m above the crop was found to be fairly constant during the daylight hours on single days or from day-to-day throughout the growing season ranging from about 310 to 320 p.p.m. Nocturnal values were more variable and were between 10 and 200 p.p.m. higher than the daytime values. sciencedirect.com

    Greenhouse Information and measurements:
    “Plant photosynthetic activity can reduce the CO2 within the plant canopy to between 200 and 250 ppm… I observed a 50 ppm drop within a tomato plant canopy just a few minutes after direct sunlight at dawn entered a green house (Harper et al 1979) … photosynthesis can be halted when CO2 concentration aproaches 200 ppm… (Morgan 2003) Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and does not easily mix into the greenhouse atmosphere by diffusion… click

    There was also a study on trees in the open where again the ambient Carbon Dioxide dropped to the vicinity of 200ppm during the daylight hours.

    I do not know how these daily changes effects the mixing of CO2 at higher levels but for ground and near ground level Beck’s numbers seem more realistic than the oh so well coordinated “background CO” numbers.

    However I do think the Mauna Loa Observatory data is at least an order of magnitude better than the temperature data.

  126. HankHenry says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick,
    Is it really settled that only high altitude CO2 matters since the lower atmosphere is opaque to radiation? This is the way I think. CO2 radiates and absorbs longwave radiation. Even though at high altitudes the energy escapes to space the process must exist throughout the atmosphere. I suppose the $64,000 question is whether the presence of CO2 in atmosphere retards *conduction* of heat by absorption and re-radiation. If it does retard conduction it would mean to me that it would tend to make the atmosphere warmer (and perhaps change the atmosphere’s heat capacity). (Though I also have to think that the big player moving heat upward in the troposphere would be convection.)

    I plead ignorance on this point and I’m not sure how to construct a satisfactory account for myself, but it DOES seem that a solid opaque body must conduct heat by two methods. The vibratory kind seen with the phenomenon of Brownian motion, but also by a absorption re-radiation mode such as is said to occur at the surface of a opaque solid.

    It would be greatly appreciated if someone would enlighten me on this point because expositions that I read sometimes includes a discussion of absorption and re-radiation and sometimes omit it.

  127. Arno Arrak says:

    Partial pressure changes of CO2 in air only matter to true believers in AGW. There is strong evidence that the theory upon which it is built is defective. Ferenc Micolczy (E&E 21:243;No. 4, 2010) has shown that feedback of water vapor effect on the greenhouse gas optical thickness is strongly negative, thoroughly contradicting the IPCC doctrine of it being positive. Consequently all predictions of a possible runaway greenhouse are wrong and increasing carbon dioxide concentrations do not cause increased warming. Their real importance is that they promote plant growth and increase crop yields.

  128. Tony says:

    Wills,

    Tthansk for the link to the report on the Rusian paper.

    And further to the Mauna Loa data. I reckon that the preselection process needs looking at. It seems that they are selecting ‘quiet periods’ where both the levels and the rates of change are at arbitrary values. Can we be sure that these rules do not introduce assymetries?

    For example, while it seems sensible to discard huge temporary readings that must be from a local truck exhaust or a volcanic venting, but what about readings that have temporarily dropped significantly? Why should they be excluded?
    And, taking the rate-of-change exclusion rule, are they sure that Co2 rates of rise and falls are the same? ( i.e. that the second derivatives are symmetrical?)

    I think that from such selection algorithms, artefacts can arise such as hockeysticks. So I would like to know if the process has been examined and tested by statisticians and signal-processing experts.

    To illustrate what I reckon they are facing, here is an acoustic analogy. We have a one year’s worth of audio tape of a fairground, and we want to analyse it to see if the generator in the background is getting louder, which might signify a problem. We start by selecting-out all the ‘noisy’ bits on the tape and we try to analyse the average amplitude of the remaining noises to within 1 part per million, over the year. From our results we claim to have ‘measured’ a 2 ppm/yr increase in the sound of the generator . Will they believe our result? And folk will ask … ‘what changes in your selectio process would it take to get a decrease of 2 ppm/year?

  129. JFD says:

    Excellent treatment of an often misunderstood process, Willis.

    You mentioned that we do not have any historical record of hurricanes. In 2007, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution did core samples in a back lagoon in the Caribbean and were able to develop a 5000 year reconstruction of the strength and number of hurricanes. There were periods of intense hurricanes when temperatures were cooler than today. The underlying causes of hurricanes are described. Here is an URL:

    http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=28207

  130. Malcolm Miller says:

    I cannot understand why there is no mention of the Australian staion for the analysis of atmospheric gases – not only carbon doioxide – at Cape Grim in Tasmania. This facility has been operating for years. It is nowehere near any volcano, but it is in the track of the ‘Roaring Forties’ which cross thousands of miles of ocean before reaching Cape Grim, and blow ceaslessly around the world in this latitude, ensuring perfect mixing and no trace of industrial or volcanic pollution.

  131. Richard S Courtney says:

    Willis:

    At June 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm you request:

    “Richard, while that is an important issue, I’d like to ask that you discuss it on another thread. This thread is about whether the Mauna Loa record is valid, not about whether humans are the cause of the changes in the background levels.”

    OK. Point taken. Will do.

    I was responding to comments of others, and I apologise if that was a distraction.

    Richard

  132. Malcolm Miller says:

    A small apology – I did find one good reference to the Cape Grim station, with a graph of some results. I wonder why their data differs from that of other staions if the atmosphere is really fully mixed?

  133. JER0ME says:

    bubbagyro says:
    June 5, 2010 at 10:27 am

    4) Plants – at night plants give off O2 in favor of CO2 (i.e., “abnormal” respiration). During the day, this ratio exists to favor CO2 production. This depends on the cloud cover, or the existence of rains.

    Surely this is the other way around? Photosynthesis (releasing O2) during the day and respiration (releasing CO2) at night?

  134. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tony says:
    June 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Willis,

    You say “This thread is about whether the Mauna Loa record is valid”

    Assuming that the point of the observatory is to measure and report the ‘background level’ in terms of less than 1 part of Co2 in a million parts of a mixed gas, I still have my doubts. I can articulate only a few at this point;

    - The measurement expressed in ppm means that, of a flow of air at x molecules/second, y of those molecules were CO2. How do they measure the x molecules/second? They must control the flow of air, and also the calibration gases, of the equivalent of a million molecules per second to within less than 1 molecule/second How do they do that?

    -And as temperature has a huge effect on the density of gases, and hence pressure, and hence the molecule flow-rate, how do they keep the temperature within the limits needed to preserve the accuracy to less that 1 in a million?

    - If the proportion of other gases in the air changes, but the number of CO2 molecules remains the same, would the instrument readings change? If so, then we could be seeing artefacts. (I see methane mentioned; what effect would a few ppm of methane have, in the gas stream? Or a change in the number of Xenon molecules?)

    - Does the rejection algorithm introduce a bias? We would only need a tiny bias over the thousands of readings to add a millionth .. which is getting on for half of the claimed yearly increase of 3 parts per million in the ‘backgound’ (aka ‘average’) figure.

    - Why isn’t all the data used and statistically treated to find the various averages? Otherwise there is a suspicion of cherrypicking.

    - Why aren’t there other Co2 instruments being used at the observatory? If the Keeling instrument is so sensitive and well-calibrated, then it must be a good reference instrument over the whole range of its actual output (and not just the ‘useable’ bits) This apparent absence of other reference instruments at the site is a mystery.

    1. You seem to doubt that scientists have the ability to measure gases to within ±1 ppmv. I don’t. The technology exists. They use it.

    2. All of the data is used. It is just used for different purposes. Background information is used to find the background, volcanic information is used to understand volcanic emissions.

    3. What makes you think that there are no other CO2 instruments at the observatory? I don’t know if there are or not, but I wouldn’t assume that there are no others.

  135. Theo Goodwin says:

    Gail Combs writes:

    “Not sure what you mean by “lumpy”. As I commented in the head post, the background levels vary by only about ±1% around the globe at any given instant, which is hardly “lumpy” in my book.”

    The figure cited is the figure that is in all the textbooks. But isn’t that figure deduced from the properties of the CO2 molecule? Isn’t it true that the figure has not been established through experiment?

  136. dr.bill says:

    HankHenry: June 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm
    ……..
    It would be greatly appreciated if someone would enlighten me on this point because expositions that I read sometimes includes a discussion of absorption and re-radiation and sometimes omit it.

    Hi Hank,

    The fundamental distinctions are between ‘whole-molecule processes’ and ‘electron-transition processes’.

    Garden-variety blackbody (or greybody) effects involve whole-molecule processes. These depend directly on the temperature of the molecules (which in turn depends on their speed, or more correctly, their Kinetic Energy). This has essentially nothing to do with electrons, and is described by Planck’s Law and the Stefan-Boltzmann Law which can be derived from it. The other whole-molecule processes are conduction and convection, along with the additional issue of Latent Heat, which is involved during solid/liquid and liquid/gas changes of state.

    The electrons become specifically involved when photons (from some external source) are able to boost electrons within molecules from initial energy states to higher ones. The electrons “don’t like” being in excited states, and dump the energy in the form of photons of equal frequency in order to return to their previous condition. This absorption/emission process takes place in nanoseconds, and has little or no lasting effect on the Kinetic Energy (and thus the temperature) of the molecules. If a molecule has an available electron transition corresponding to the energy of the incoming photon, then it will absorb and then re-emit the energy. If no such transition is available, the photon just continues on its merry way, and the material is thus transparent to radiation of that frequency.

    A bit of study on each these topics will make things clearer.

    /dr.bill

  137. Gail Combs says:

    bubbagyro says:
    June 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I guess since I am a diffusion expert in my career, …..
    _____________________________________________________________________
    bubbagyro, I have a question for you. My experience was with mixing in batch and continuous production processes. That is why I am having a bit of a problem with the concept of a uniform concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. However I worked with liquids and solids (a royal pain to mix) but never gases.

    So here is the question:
    Given the day night fluctuations in CO2 from plants and the contribution of variable point sources like Volcanoes and humans, do you think CO2 is a uniform concentration (+/- 5 ppm) at the 11,000 ft or whatever where CO2 is being measured?

  138. Dr A Burns says:

    I think that Mauna Loa CO2 measurements are valid. However, I haven’t seen any evidence that man is responsible for the increase. Given that the fossil fuel derived percentage of atmospheric CO2, is estimated at 1-4%, is seems doubtful that burning fossil fuels is the cause of the increase.

  139. Harry Lu says:

    All those questioning how CO2 acts as a GHG try this link:
    [http://] scienceofdoom.wordpress.com/
    An excellent site

    Here are a few CO2 levels superimposed (together with their linear curve fit)
    [http://] img27.imageshack.us/img27/3694/co2manytrends.png

    Saury Taukum is in the middle of a continent _ no ocean absorption
    Mauna loa in the middle of an ocean
    Their CO2 levels are similar
    It is interesting that the CO2 yearly variation gets bigger further north and that a true sh antiphase signal is not apparent until you reach south pole.
    It is also interesting that La Jolla is not phase shifted from Barrow despite a much later growing period start in barrow.
    This is a plot of the depth of the annual CO2 cycle at point barrow.
    [http://] img4.imageshack.us/img4/4449/co2dipptbarrow.jpg
    It is steadily increasing.

    \harry

  140. Phil. says:

    dr.bill says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm
    The electrons become specifically involved when photons (from some external source) are able to boost electrons within molecules from initial energy states to higher ones. The electrons “don’t like” being in excited states, and dump the energy in the form of photons of equal frequency in order to return to their previous condition. This absorption/emission process takes place in nanoseconds, and has little or no lasting effect on the Kinetic Energy (and thus the temperature) of the molecules.

    The absorption is very rapid for CO2 but the emission process is rather slow, depending on the actual energy state involved. Collisions at atmospheric pressure are orders of magnitudes more frequent (~10/nsec) and are therefore the primary means of deactivation in the lower troposphere.

  141. Phil. says:

    Dr A Burns says:
    June 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm
    I think that Mauna Loa CO2 measurements are valid. However, I haven’t seen any evidence that man is responsible for the increase. Given that the fossil fuel derived percentage of atmospheric CO2, is estimated at 1-4%, is seems doubtful that burning fossil fuels is the cause of the increase.

    Since the measured annual accumulation in the atmosphere is about half the amount released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion it’s impossible for it to be otherwise!

  142. Jbar says:

    Anna V-
    “Does each molecule carry a passport that says: I am from the volcano, I am from the top atmosphere?”
    Well, not EACH molecule, but a gas sample – yes. An atmospheric CO2 signature will have carbon-14. A volcanic CO2 signature should have very little or no carbon-14, half life 5715 years. C-14 is generated in the atmosphere by cosmic rays and was decades ago by nuclear explosions. So if one cared to look, one could tell the difference. A representative sample should have a carbon 14 signature similar to non-volcanic sites. (Fossil fuel carbon will also have almost no C-14.)

    “Are we talking of a gas that is supposed to be a good mixer?” CO2 molecular weight is 44 vs average atmospheric MW of 29, so CO2 emanating from a volcano is more dense than air and may tend to hang low.

  143. old construction worker says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 12:24 pm
    ‘CO2 is trapped near the ground only in certain circumstances. However, it does not have to be high up in the air to absorb and emit radiation. My bible, Geiger’s “The Climate Near the Ground”, states that about three quarters of the downwelling radiation striking the ground comes from the bottom 90 metres (300 ft) of the atmosphere.’

    If the above statement is true, does three quarters of the remaining quarter of downwelling radiation ( both water vapor and co2?) comes from next 300ft (300ft to 600ft) of atmosphere?

  144. bubbagyro says:

    JER0ME says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Correct, gives off CO2 during the day. Sorry.

    To Gail: It depends on concentration in and out. It is being destroyed in the stratosphere, high troposphere, and being pumped in from below. This is the whole point – it is never in equilibrium.

    To the Southern Hemi guy. This is interesting. I would expect the Antarctic to have higher CO2 in the troposphere. The plant activity of algae is highest, even in ice as has been mentioned.

    The variance in the lower troposphere should be high when the sun shines, especially in summer.

  145. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    CO2 microclimate is a worthy hypothesis, so I’m glad the data overturns it in this case. If interested you can also check Cape Grim, which is our local equvalent CO2 measurement beauty spot (sans volcano). The data looks to be consistent.

    On other hand I came across this example of CO2 microclimate yesterday:
    http://carbon-sense.com/2010/06/03/tree-growth-near-power-stations/

    Logical I guess, but I’d never thought about it before. Plantation tree growth rate triples next to a coal fired power station – business opportunity anyone?

    (courtesy of The Daily Bayonet)

  146. Jbar says:

    Rob JM-
    “While the CO2 is going up, the cause can not be humans.”
    The reason AGW scientists finger humans for the annual increase is a simple mass balance. (Well, maybe not “simple”.) The increase in mass of CO2 in the atmosphere year to year is relatively easily estimated from data records like Mauna Loa.
    Human emissions of CO2 are somewhat less easily estimated from fossil fuel consumption data (don’t know of any “global fossil fuel consumption data clearinghouses” to which everyone must report) but estimates are obtained nonetheless.

    Result: The annual mass increase in atmospheric CO2 is about half human emissions from fossil fuel consumption. The other half of human emissions are absorbed by the environment.

    Therefore, humans are not contributing “5%” of the annual rise in atmospheric CO2 as you assert but rather 200%. One presumes that if humans were not burning fossil fuels, the atmospheric concentration would not be rising.

  147. Jbar says:

    Bernd Felsche –
    What were the levels of CO2 in the air and oceans during ice ages?
    See here: http://www.globalwarmingart.com/images/1/1c/Carbon_Dioxide_400kyr.png
    At the last glacial maximum 20,000 years ago, 180 ppm CO2.
    After the ice sheets melted and before 1850, 255 to 280 ppm.
    April 2010, 395 ppm.

    Solubility of CO2 in the cold glacial vs. warming interglacial oceans is part of the story, but not the whole story.

    Not so much due to a dead planet. The latest prevailing hypothesis is that [somehow - Nobel prize potential] ice sheets cause circulation to be greatly reduced in the deep ocean. Plants and animals absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, die, and sink into the deep.
    When the ice begins to melt rapidly at the end of an ice age [again, the reasons are not clear - Nobel prize potential], deep ocean circulation increases bringing the “stored” CO2 back to the surface.

  148. Mike G says:

    @Nylo

    I’m not so sure we emit CO2 at a steady rate year round. Coal and natural gas being more expensive than nuclear and hydro, they are the first to be curtailed as temperatures moderate in the fall and spring.

    We also do more driving in the summer than the winter, I would think.

    As the use of fossil fuels has increased, this seasonal imbalance would have increase, too.

  149. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Theo Goodwin says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Gail Combs writes:

    “Not sure what you mean by “lumpy”. As I commented in the head post, the background levels vary by only about ±1% around the globe at any given instant, which is hardly “lumpy” in my book.”

    The figure cited is the figure that is in all the textbooks. But isn’t that figure deduced from the properties of the CO2 molecule? Isn’t it true that the figure has not been established through experiment?

    No, that is the figure from the satellite image shown as Fig. 3. The range of values shown on the earth there is from about 383 to 393 ppmv … which is about ±1%.

    w.

  150. Gail Combs says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    “….For me, it’s never a waste of time to put out a clear explanation of what I see as the “truth” (a relative term, yes, I know). While there are lots of folks out there who are in the “My mind is made up, don’t bother me with the facts” headset, there are also large numbers of people who are seriously trying to understand what is going on. I think that they are what might be called the “forgotten majority”, they get all of this nonsense from the pro-AGW side (and some from skeptical side as well), and they are not clear on what is valid and what isn’t.”
    ______________________________________________________________________
    Willis, I do appreciate you efforts. In my case I am bringing to the table decades of trauma from sampling nonuniform mixes and fighting with very unhappy foremen trying to meet a schedule. “Is it Mixed? – HECK NO – sample it again please”

    _______________________________________________________________________
    On another note:
    Tony says:
    June 5, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Does CO2 adsorb onto snow and ice surfaces? If so, does it do it at high altitude? (where the CO2 is supposed to do the warming?)

    Willis Eschenbach answers:
    June 5, 2010 at 12:47 pm
    See here for what the adherents of this theory say.

    “Sea ice in the Arctic basin is formed from sea-water with salinity of about 30‰ to 32 ‰. Sweet water freezes right through, and the sea salts brine remains in the ice, it partly flows down towards the bottom of ice surface and partly comes into the upper layers of the Ocean, and partly remains in the closed ice cavities. Calcium ions in the saline solution interact with dissolved acetic acid. As a result of such a reaction, calcium carbonate, water and carbonic acid gas are produced, at that carbonic acid gas together with the brine gets into the upper water layer under the ice and into the atmosphere through microfissures in the ice. In March and April, the air above the Arctic ice is calm, and carbon dioxide is accumulated in the bottom layer of subpolar atmosphere, thus increasing the winter concentration maximum above the frozen ocean.
    In summer, ice is thawing together with the snow covering it. On the glacial surface, snowy puddles with cold sweet water appear, where poorly soluble calcium carbonate is suspended. At the zero temperature, lime water reacts with CO2, thus forming dissoluble calcium bicarbonate. Carbon dioxide dissolves excellently in cold water, therefore its summer concentration in the atmosphere decreases not only due to chemical reaction. It is absorbed by desalinated water on the surface of patches of ice-free water, cracks and channel. In summer, plankton life activates in the top water layer, and photosynthesis is taking place, which also requires CO2. As a result of all these processes, summer minimum of carbonic acid gas occurs in the air above the ice and in the water layer under the ice.

    Genryh Alekseyev, Doctor of Science (Geography), Head of the department of the ocean and atmosphere interaction , St. Petersburg , Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences

    http://www.informnauka.ru/eng/2008/2008-03-21-8-012_e.htm
    _________________________________________________________________________
    The English is horrible and it is a theory not proven but if I am not mistaken they are indicating there are processes that remove the CO2 captured in the ice! This could explain the discrepancy between ice core CO2 data and plant stomata CO2 data. It would also explain why the CO2 ice core data is so uniform.

  151. Willis Eschenbach says:

    old construction worker says:
    June 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    ‘CO2 is trapped near the ground only in certain circumstances. However, it does not have to be high up in the air to absorb and emit radiation. My bible, Geiger’s “The Climate Near the Ground”, states that about three quarters of the downwelling radiation striking the ground comes from the bottom 90 metres (300 ft) of the atmosphere.’

    If the above statement is true, does three quarters of the remaining quarter of downwelling radiation ( both water vapor and co2?) comes from next 300ft (300ft to 600ft) of atmosphere?

    From Geiger again:

    Distance from surface (m), Distance from surface (ft), Contribution to ghg radiation hitting surface
    87, 285, 72%
    176, 577, 78.4%
    269, 883, 82.4%
    368, 1207, 86.1%
    470, 1542, 88.4%
    578, 1896, 89.6%

    So 90% of the downwelling radiation hitting the surface comes from the first 580 metres (1900 ft) of the atmosphere.

    In passing, anyone who is seriously interested in these questions should get a copy of Geiger. The current version is the sixth edition. The first edition came out in 1950, back when scientists actually measured things. Fascinating stuff, details, measurements, chapter after chapter.

  152. This is an excellent post and one with which I fully agree.

    When NOAA assigned me to write a book on the history of the Mauna Loa Observatory (where I have just completed a day on sun photometer and other instrument calibrations), I was instructed to write a full and honest account. The result will be a book of some 800 pages and 150+ color plates and B&W photos. A few of the photos are posted on my main web site (see below).

    I looked very hard at the two CO2 records from MLO, the first beginning in November 1958 and the second more than a decade later by NOAA. Though there were the inevitable debates and disagreements between Dr. Keeling and NOAA, the two data sets are virtually a perfect match.

    Last week I taught a short course in atmospheric science to students from some 14 nations. I openly discussed the various debates about climate change and the human impact on climate. We covered how regional weather and climate can be significantly affected by biomass smoke, land use changes, industrial pollution, forest fires and so forth. There was an exam question about the vital role played by skepticism in science.

    Based on 4 years of research writing the MLO book and a very close look at the data record and the processing employed to remove data contaminated by volcanic emissions, I am not skeptical about the Mauna Loa CO2 record. It’s a stunning example of good science.

    Skepticism might best be directed at the global climate models that are as yet unable to fully account for the impact of cloud cover, aerosols, water vapor feedback and, yes, solar cycle variations.

    Forrest M. Mims III
    http://www.forrestmims.org

  153. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Jbar says:
    June 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Rob JM-
    “While the CO2 is going up, the cause can not be humans.” …

    Once again let me request that people not hijack this thread for a discussion of whether humans are the cause of the rise in CO2. That’s another question for another thread. This one is about whether we can trust the Mauna Loa dataset.

  154. richard verney says:

    Fig 4 shows a very linear increase in CO2 concntrations between 1975 and 2007. However, I very much doubt that the global consumption of fossil fuels during this period is simarly linear. It would be interesting to plot MLO observations from 1959 to date with global consumption of fossil fuels over the same period to see whether the shape of the graph(s) matches. I bet it does not. If it does not, it would strongly suggest that the burning of fossil fuels is not the explanation behind the MLO measurments.
    Perhaps someone knows of the comparative data for this period and can refeence a link.

  155. Arizona CJ says:

    Thank you for the explainer, Willis, but I have to say that I still object to the siting.

    Here’s why; the methodology of detecting and omiting volcanic gasses is flawed. The reason is that it only omits large influxes, but if you have a slight amount of contamination, it won’t omit it.

    The downflow of air at night is good, but flawed RE volcanic gasses; the observatory is downslope from the summits, so you can still get mixing and contamination.

    I’ll agree that the Mona Loa record is pretty good, but for the life of me I can’t see why they don’t use Mona Kea ant its observatory instead. Mona Kea is as high (actually a bit hither) and is extinct, and far enough away from Mona Loa and Kilauea so that contamination would not be such an issue).

    I think it would be an interesting experiment to have C02 sampling at Mona Kea, and see what the differences are over time (vs. Mona Loa).

  156. Gail Combs says:

    Malcolm Miller says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    A small apology – I did find one good reference to the Cape Grim station, with a graph of some results. I wonder why their data differs from that of other staions if the atmosphere is really fully mixed?
    __________________________________________________________________________
    Anna V may have an explanation for that in an earlier comment.
    ” anna v says:
    June 5, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Willis:
    I am amazed with the 1,2,3 ,4 statements you are quoting.
    Are they making a dress from a pattern? Talk about cherry picking data.
    particularly

    4. In keeping with the requirement that CO2 in background air should be steady, we apply a general “outlier rejection” step, in which we fit a curve to the preliminary daily means for each day calculated from the hours surviving step 1 and 2, and not including times with upslope winds. All hourly averages that are further than two standard deviations, calculated for every day, away from the fitted curve (“outliers”) are rejected. This step is iterated until no more rejections occur.

    On the lines:” you will obey me, or else”

    They have a preconceived notion of what the curve should be and they impose it, is my conclusion from this series.

    You say there are independent measurements. Once I had managed to find a link and publications for those measurements. The were all Keeling and another fellow,possibly the graduate student going through the loops. I do not call that independent.

    Here are the locations I find:
    http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/data/atmospheric_co2.html
    something like 14, and practically all the publications are Keeling et al
    There is a map too
    http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/research/atmospheric_co2.html
    Do you believe that these 14 or so stations are representative enough so that the measurements could produce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere?

    I hope that helps.

  157. Bart says:

    dr.bill says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    The fundamental distinctions are between ‘whole-molecule processes’ and ‘electron-transition processes’.

    For the key CO2 IR absorption at the 667 cm^-1 wave number (15 micrometer wavelength), energy is stored in the vibrational bending mode (see chart 16 here).

  158. Bart says:

    Phil. says:
    June 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    “Since the measured annual accumulation in the atmosphere is about half the amount released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion it’s impossible for it to be otherwise!”

    Complete and total non sequitur.

  159. Bart says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    “Once again let me request that people not hijack this thread for a discussion of whether humans are the cause of the rise in CO2.”

    My apologies. My note to Phil is not really arguing the point, just pointing out bad logic.

  160. Jbar says:

    Bart (and others) –
    Slioch said: “There has been more than enough CO2 emitted from human burning of fossil fuels to account for all the increase in atmospheric CO2 in recent centuries.”

    Bart queried: “Why do people think this constitutes evidence that the CO2 increase is man-made?

    The very first lesson in chemical engineering 101 is the “mass balance”. It is:
    In – Out = Accumulation
    Simple in theory, but often very difficult in practice.
    It is reflexive thinking to chem engineers and chemists, but I have to assume not to the general public.
    This principle also applies to the “energy balance”, and to eating:
    In(food, drink, calories) – Out(exercise, metabolism, vomiting) = Accumulation(weight gain[or loss])

    Applied to atmospheric CO2 on a per-year basis (“basis” – another Chem Eng 101 lesson),
    Accumulation = 2/1,000,000 (i.e. “ppmv”)* mass of the atmosphere * molecular weight factor = 3 gigatons
    In = “natural” emissions + human emissions = VeryBigNumber(natural) + 7 gigatons(human)
    Out = VeryBigNumber + 4(human emissions absorbed by nature)
    So putting it all together
    (VBN + 7GT) – (VBN + 4GT) = 3 GT
    If humans suddenly disappeared from the planet, then we would have to subtract 7 gigatons from both sides of the equation due to lack of fossil fuel emissions. A sudden human mass extinction should therefore result in atmospheric CO2 declining for some decades (initially by 4 GT/year) to a new equilibrium. (The “equilibrium” lesson is taught in Chemistry 101.)

    That is how people think that fossil fuel emissions account for the CO2 increase in the atmosphere.

    People don’t like to think that their weight gain comes from eating too much either, but when they actually add up the calories, that’s where it comes from. If “Out” is too low, you must either increase it or reduce “In”.
    (IMPORTANT health tangent – Every extra 100 calories a 200 lb person consumes per day will turn into 10 pounds of weight over 5 to 10 years. This is GOOD news. If you want to lose 10 lbs, you don’t have to give up much – just about half a soda. Cut down from 3 regular to 1 regular soda a day and you’ll lose 34 pounds!!! Eventually. The catch – you must do it EVERY DAY!)

  161. Juan says:

    I have a few questions:

    Is there a FTP site where we can download the raw data? I would also like the see the calibration data and the CO2 calibration bottle data sheets.

    I would also like to know what instruments (specifically) were being used to measure the CO2 in the past and what instrument is being used today.

    Oh…and I would also like to see the interference checks for all those monitors.

    Anyone?

  162. Juan says:

    More questions:

    What methodology is being used to correct for positive or negative bias? What is the acceptable calibration error %?

  163. dr.bill says:

    Phil.: June 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Your statement that absorption is very rapid for CO2 is rather puzzling. CO2 is no different than any other molecule. If it happens to be hit by photons that it can absorb, then it will do so, and in very short order, as with any other molecule, but it doesn’t ‘reach out and grab them’.

    If you calculate the mean time between collisions for a CO2 molecule at sea-level and 20°C, it comes out to about 0.4nsec. This would certainly give it lots of chances to collide with another molecule before an excited electron could drop back spontaneously (which generally takes 5 to 10nsec). The only outcome I would expect from such a collision, however, is that the electron would be stimulated to drop back immediately, thus restoring the molecule to its former state. I don’t see at all how it would change the speed of the molecule any more than would be the case of non-excited molecules bumping into each other ‘business as usual’.

    /dr.bill

  164. TomRude says:

    On The Air Vent a while back, Dr. Beck responded to the Errren/Engelbeen critics in a convincing manner.

  165. dr.bill says:

    Bart: June 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm
    For the key CO2 IR absorption at the 667 cm^-1 wave number (15 micrometer wavelength), energy is stored in the vibrational bending mode (see chart 16 here).

    I agree with that. It’s another example of how to temporarily store energy without changing the translational speed of the molecule as a whole, and is thus not involved in temperature-related effects (well, not in first order, anyway). Perhaps I should also have mentioned bending, stretching, and rotational modes in my note to Hank, but I didn’t want to get overly complicated. Mea culpa. :-(

    /dr.bill

  166. Pamela Gray says:

    In order to get a truer idea of atmospheric concentration anomalies, don’t we need sensors at desert bands as well as in green bands and at the poles? The AIRs data demonstrated that CO2 concentration is not well mixed in the atmosphere. It clumps into bands, one in the upper and one in the lower hemisphere. Therefore, one should be measuring all the bands (the CO2 bands as well as the “not CO2″ bands). The NH Arctic, 45th parallel, desert band, equator, SH desert band, lower parallel, and Antarctic. As it stands, we can only say what the concentration is doing in the bands it prefers to circle in.

  167. DR says:

    I’ve often wondered how ice cores can be dated accuratedly so many years back considering the story of the WWII P38 Lightning fighter plane was found 250 feet down in the ice.
    http://p38assn.org/glacier-girl-recovery.htm

  168. Ric Werme says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Geiger says: … Contribution to ghg radiation hitting surface

    You say: So 90% of the downwelling radiation hitting the surface comes from the first 580 metres (1900 ft) of the atmosphere.

    In both this reference and your 12:24pm reference, you don’t use a qualifier like “downwelling longwave radiation” I figured you weren’t including shortwave radiation (i.e. visible +/-), but your description was unclear.

  169. JimF says:

    I agree with crosspatch @June 4, 2010 at 11:52 pm.

    Good measurements; glad somebody’s doing something right. But, So What?

    Let’s focus on those bogus, jet-engine influenced “global” temperatures. Right off the bat, one can say that the reason there hasn’t been any “global warming” in the last umpteen years (what was that number of years, Phil?) is because the preponderant number of measuring stations are now in more or less the same thermal environment – sitting on asphalt at an airport. The results, unless there truly is warming, will flat line or, if there isn’t warming, decline more or less. Thus, further “global” warming can come only from manipulations made in the computers of the measuring organizations. Thus every “update” from GISS or HadCRUt needs to be handled like a rattlesnake. Every update should result in a blizzard of FOIA requests for exactly what and why they are “improving” the actual data.

    In essence, I think it’s “game over” for the would be global warming tyrants.

  170. Ric Werme says:

    bubbagyro says:
    June 5, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Why didn’t they set up on Mt. Washington, or in the Peruvian Andes where we have great telescopes and not an active volcano? Especially Mauna Loa that has increased in activity in the last 50 years (coincidentally, a period when the CO2 slopes have increased)?

    Mt. Washington in my estimation would be a horrible place for CO2 monitoring. We get winds from almost any direction:

    NW: Montreal lights are visible from MWN. Last week forest fires in Quebec brought so much smoke here that people were calling fire departments and hospitals had an increase in ER traffic. In the winter, this can be very dry “continental polar” air.

    SW: Ozone air quality alerts due to all the industrial and transportation emissions between here and the Gulf of Mexico.

    E: Clean ocean fetch. pretty rare, but does happen.

    NE: Lots of air sources tangled into nor’easter that will cover the air sampler with a foot of rime ice.

    For a first CO2 station, steady trade winds sounds awfully good!

    ——-

    Mauna Loa that has increased in activity in the last 50 years – Okay, so Keeling didn’t consult fortune tellers or other crystal balls. His bad, but someone should’ve have warned him about the next 50 years.

    ——-

    Peruvian Andes where we have great telescopes – I don’t think there were many telescopes there in 1959. I’d have to do some reading, but I think the building boom was in the 1980s

    ——

    I think I read somewhere that Keeling wanted to spend some time in Hawaii.

  171. bubbagyro says:

    Some other considerations:

    1) CO2 concentration in the atmosphere correlates negatively with altitude, consistent with generation near the earth’s surface, and diffusing upward and becoming diluted.
    2) Atmosphere becomes rarer with altitude. Although percentage composition is similar, the absolute composition is less of each component. There are lower amounts of each oxygen, and nitrogen, and so on. This is why percent by volume, or parts per million by volume, does not quantify the numbers of molecules in a given volume. In other words, there may be a similar percentage of CO2 both at sea level and 10,000 feet, but there is less CO2 in absolute amounts. We have to keep this in mind, that at 10,000 feet, there are less molecules to measure than at one atmosphere (sea level). This is why climbers of Mt. Everest need oxygen masks. The percentage of oxygen is still around 20%, but much fewer molecules.
    3) partial pressures of gas, under ideal conditions of infinite dilution, are independent of other gases present until a higher concentration is reached (non-ideal state) and then the gases become interactive.

  172. kuhnkat says:

    Willis, a couple of questions, thedata out of spec is not used to average. Why would there be over 20 days lost in one month. How can we know that there are enough readings in a month to make a decent guess at the average.

    You say reading the background is important. In respect to AGW and the Greenhouse Effect, wouldn’t the amount of CO2 in the 50 feet, or even less, above the surface and the amount in the upper trop be most important to determining the amount of heating that will happen? CO2 in the Strat really doesn’t matter to heating the earth etc.

    Reading the ice core data is about as useful as reading chicken innards after the purposeful mishandling of the ice cores. These come from the plastic area and leaving them to decompress allow major changes to the cores leaving data that is a smear at the best.

  173. dr.bill says:

    JimF: June 5, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    At the risk of getting swatted by Willis for going off-topic, let me compliment you on your analysis of the ‘Limits to Warmth‘. ☺ ☺ With most of the thermometers sitting in jetwash and the ‘benefits of anomalies’ so fervently promoted, there’s not much room left for them to cry disaster. Well put!

    /dr.bill

  174. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Arizona CJ says:
    June 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Thank you for the explainer, Willis, but I have to say that I still object to the siting.

    Here’s why; the methodology of detecting and omiting volcanic gasses is flawed. The reason is that it only omits large influxes, but if you have a slight amount of contamination, it won’t omit it.

    Here’s what they say:

    1. The standard deviation of minute averages should be less than 0.30 ppm within a given hour. A standard deviation larger than 0.30 ppm is indicated by a “V” flag in the hourly data file, and by the red color in Figure 2.

    2. The hourly average should differ from the preceding hour by less than 0.25 ppm. A larger hour-to-hour change is indicated by a “D” flag in the hourly data file, and by the green color in Figure 2.

    Now, I don’t know what you are calling a “slight amount of contamination”, but this procedure will catch anything more than a quarter of a ppmv … you’re grasping at straws.

  175. HankHenry says:

    Dr Bill, Thank you for your remarks.
    Of course I study these topics with great interest.

    I assume that whole molecule processes such as molecular resonance are just as capable of absorbing and radiating photons as electrons boosting and deboosting from energy states within an atom. Correct me if I misapprehend.

    The question I am really wondering about is whether CO2 concentrations in the lower atmosphere aren’t just as important to the greenhouse effect as those CO2 molecules in the upper atmosphere. Someone seems to be arguing that because the atmosphere is opaque to longwave radiation the concentrations of CO2 in the lower atmosphere can be disregarded. I want to say that while upper atmosphere CO2 molecules radiate energy to space, lower atmosphere CO2 molecules radiate energy exactly as upper atmosphere CO2 molecules do, and that the energy they radiate is to upper atmosphere CO2 molecules (presumably for subsequent radiation to space). In other words just because a substance is opaque to radiation does not mean that energy does not radiate through the substance molecule by molecule.

  176. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Jbar says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Bart (and others) –
    Slioch said: “There has been more than enough CO2 emitted from human burning of fossil fuels to account for all the increase in atmospheric CO2 in recent centuries.” …

    Jbar, what part of “please don’t discuss whether co2 increase is anthropogenic” don’t you get? I have asked politely, I have asked politely a second time. Now I will simply say, take your discussion of whether humans are responsible for the rise in atmospheric CO2, compress it until it exceeds the Schwartzchild Radius, and place it up the fundamental orifice from which no light ever escapes. This thread is about the validity of the Mauna Loa data.

  177. Phil. says:

    dr.bill says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:29 pm
    Phil.: June 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Your statement that absorption is very rapid for CO2 is rather puzzling. CO2 is no different than any other molecule. If it happens to be hit by photons that it can absorb, then it will do so, and in very short order, as with any other molecule, but it doesn’t ‘reach out and grab them’.

    In contrast to the emission time for CO2

    If you calculate the mean time between collisions for a CO2 molecule at sea-level and 20°C, it comes out to about 0.4nsec. This would certainly give it lots of chances to collide with another molecule before an excited electron could drop back spontaneously (which generally takes 5 to 10nsec).

    Emission time of vibrationally excited CO2 is orders of magnitude longer than that.

    The only outcome I would expect from such a collision, however, is that the electron would be stimulated to drop back immediately, thus restoring the molecule to its former state. I don’t see at all how it would change the speed of the molecule any more than would be the case of non-excited molecules bumping into each other ‘business as usual’.

    You’ve forgotten about the other partners in the collisions, they gain in kinetic energy from the collisions, that’s how IR radiation from the Earth heats up the atmosphere.

  178. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    In order to get a truer idea of atmospheric concentration anomalies, don’t we need sensors at desert bands as well as in green bands and at the poles? The AIRs data demonstrated that CO2 concentration is not well mixed in the atmosphere.

    No, the AIRs data did not demonstrate that “CO2 concentration is not well mixed in the atmosphere”. It demonstrated that the variations in the troposphere are on the order of a percent, maybe two. That is well mixed in anyone’s book.

  179. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Ric Werme says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Geiger says: … Contribution to ghg radiation hitting surface

    You say: So 90% of the downwelling radiation hitting the surface comes from the first 580 metres (1900 ft) of the atmosphere.

    In both this reference and your 12:24pm reference, you don’t use a qualifier like “downwelling longwave radiation” I figured you weren’t including shortwave radiation (i.e. visible +/-), but your description was unclear.

    Well, since none of the shortwave hitting the surface comes from the atmosphere (it all comes from the sun), I didn’t even think of qualifying it. But yes, this is referring to the percentage of downwelling longwave striking the ground.

  180. dr.bill says:

    HankHenry: June 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Dr Bill, Thank you for your remarks.
    Of course I study these topics with great interest.

    I assume that whole molecule processes such as molecular resonance are just as capable of absorbing and radiating photons as electrons boosting and deboosting from energy states within an atom. Correct me if I misapprehend.

    The question I am really wondering about is whether CO2 concentrations in the lower atmosphere aren’t just as important to the greenhouse effect as those CO2 molecules in the upper atmosphere. Someone seems to be arguing that because the atmosphere is opaque to longwave radiation the concentrations of CO2 in the lower atmosphere can be disregarded. I want to say that while upper atmosphere CO2 molecules radiate energy to space, lower atmosphere CO2 molecules radiate energy exactly as upper atmosphere CO2 molecules do, and that the energy they radiate is to upper atmosphere CO2 molecules (presumably for subsequent radiation to space). In other words just because a substance is opaque to radiation does not mean that energy does not radiate through the substance molecule by molecule.

    Hi Hank. I would say that you are perfectly correct in your interpretation of all of that. The non-translational modes behave in much the same way as electron transitions. The principal difference is that they can store energy in a fairly permanent way (heat capacity effects), whereas the electron processes are always ephemeral. Your description of the lower tropospheric effects is also valid. There’s a lot of back-and-forth-ing until something like an equilibrium (or at least a saturation) is achieved, and it all eventually leads to the final dumping of energy to space at higher altitudes.

    /dr.bill

  181. cicero says:

    When I look at the measured CO2 concentration plots, I see basically a straight line increase of about 0.5% per year that seasonally oscillates (like clockwork). No anomalies that I can see.

    However, based on Federal Reserve data, US industrial output has increased from 1975 to its peak in 2008 by 300%. According to the FHWA, US vehicle-miles-traveled has more than doubled since 1983. I think it’s safe to assume that developing nations, China, India, etc have increased their carbon emissions at equal to or greater rates than the US.

    If human-produced CO2 is the sole source for measured increases in atmospheric concentrations, shouldn’t one expect a visible correlation? The measured CO2 increases show slow, uniform, straight-line growth while human CO2 output has been presumably increasing by orders of magnitude… I’d like to see any compelling research showing a relationship between human-produced CO2 and measured atmospheric concentrations.

  182. Willis Eschenbach says:

    kuhnkat says:
    June 5, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Willis, a couple of questions, the data out of spec is not used to average. Why would there be over 20 days lost in one month. How can we know that there are enough readings in a month to make a decent guess at the average.

    I don’t know which month you are talking about, where there were “20 days lost”, so I can’t answer that. I would assume that if there were 20 days lost, it was either equipment failure, or a big eruption.

    You say reading the background is important. In respect to AGW and the Greenhouse Effect, wouldn’t the amount of CO2 in the 50 feet, or even less, above the surface and the amount in the upper trop be most important to determining the amount of heating that will happen? CO2 in the Strat really doesn’t matter to heating the earth etc.

    They are measuring the background CO2 levels in the upper troposphere, not the stratosphere.

    Reading the ice core data is about as useful as reading chicken innards after the purposeful mishandling of the ice cores. These come from the plastic area and leaving them to decompress allow major changes to the cores leaving data that is a smear at the best.

    I must say, I dislike these kinds of vague accusations greatly. If you have evidence that a specific ice core has been mishandled, bring it on. Which ice core, where, and when?

    But before making all of those accusations, you should take a look at the degree of agreement between the various ice cores. They have been drilled by different teams, and analyzed by different investigators, yet they all show the same patterns – lower CO2 during the ice ages, higher CO2 during the interglacials, and the peaks generally line up quite well.

    If they are just reading “chicken innards”, how do you explain that agreement?

  183. Pamela Gray says:

    Willis, if a % or two difference between concentrations is no big deal as you say and can be ignored, why the worry over a % or two rise in ppm, and especially the incredibly small % rise when in context of the total make up of the atmosphere? If the former is no big deal, why is the latter?

  184. wayne says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 11:52 am

    wayne says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:23 am
    Willis, you should have included some different aspects.

    Well, I had discovered some truly remarkable aspects which the margin of this blog post is too small to contain …
    [… quoting me]
    Seriously, I can only cover so much. I wanted to keep it focused on the validity of the CO2 record, and not wander afield into the reasons for the swings in the record.

    – – – –
    Willis, I know you can’t include it all. I wasn’t very clear, my reference to you was that you didn’t dive into the scientific logic behind how Mauna Loa, and most other co2 monitoring stations around the world, actually measure the co2, not on Dr. Dyson, that was a separate thing I though other might like to read. If we are to trust Mauna Loa’s measurements, we must trust all paths.

    I spent a couple of weeks back near December investigating this track on co2 measurements and it left me with some doubts simply because I couldn’t find the exact answers.

    One big question I never found answer to was which “standard gas” do they compare the standard gas being manufactured to?

    From that question on I just got circular questions.

    Sometimes I am too suspicious, but without proof that I can accept I will carry these questions around, possibly for a long time.

    By the way, thanks for the effort, it is noted by many!

  185. old construction worker says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you for you answer.

  186. anna v says:

    Malcolm Miller says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    I cannot understand why there is no mention of the Australian staion for the analysis of atmospheric gases – not only carbon doioxide – at Cape Grim in Tasmania. This facility has been operating for years. It is nowehere near any volcano, but it is in the track of the ‘Roaring Forties’ which cross thousands of miles of ocean before reaching Cape Grim, and blow ceaslessly around the world in this latitude, ensuring perfect mixing and no trace of industrial or volcanic pollution.

    Here is a link :
    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/csiro/csiro-cgrim.html

    Notably:
    Trends

    These measurements indicate a rise in annual average atmospheric CO2 concentrations, from 354.07 parts per million by volume (ppmv) in 1992 to 378.50 ppmv in 2006, or an increase of almost 1.75 ppmv per year, on average.

    Which explains why in the school of CO2 they are not using anomalies, a question I wanted to ask, since even thought the initial value is high, the anomaly is similar to that measured by the Keeling lot.
    The answer is: the scare factor would disappear it it could be seen that the base varies much more than the predicted CO2 increases by IPCC.

  187. Ric Werme says:

    kuhnkat says:
    June 5, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Willis, a couple of questions, the data out of spec is not used to average. Why would there be over 20 days lost in one month. How can we know that there are enough readings in a month to make a decent guess at the average.

    Are you referring to the disk crash referenced in http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/08/06/post-mortem-on-the-mauna-loa-co2-data-eruption/ ?
    If so, the answer is “The disk crashed.” Tans describes how he handles that. It’s not like the changes within a month are greater than the seasonal changes over a year.

  188. anna v says:

    please ignore my rash comment above:

    Which explains why in the school of CO2 they are not using anomalies, a question I wanted to ask, since even thought the initial value is high, the anomaly is similar to that measured by the Keeling lot.
    The answer is: the scare factor would disappear it it could be seen that the base varies much more than the predicted CO2 increases by IPCC.

    It ends in 2006 and the values are in the chorus.

  189. anna v says:

    HankHenry says:
    June 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm


    The question I am really wondering about is whether CO2 concentrations in the lower atmosphere aren’t just as important to the greenhouse effect as those CO2 molecules in the upper atmosphere.

    I will never tire saying “it is the energy”
    The actual number of CO2 molecules as far as energy storage/transfer goes is extremely important. Energy does not come in parts per million. Those presumed 3.9 watts/m^2 the CO2 molecules are “carrying” in total as a greenhouse contributio , depends on the total number of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere, and it is a truism that the closer to the ground the ppm’s represent exponentially more molecules .

  190. Bart says:

    Jbar says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    “The very first lesson in chemical engineering 101 is the “mass balance”. It is:
    In – Out = Accumulation”

    And, the very first lesson in fundamental logic is that process of elimination does not work in an open system, i.e., if you do not have an absolute certainty of all the in/out components. Any climate researchers who claim such omniscience are talking through their hats.

    Sorry, Will, if that violates your desire to keep a narrow focus, but poor logic like that cannot go unanswered. Overall, I don’t have much of an objection to the proposition that average CO2 concentration at the sites where it is measured has been increasing, though I think we’ve seen enough tomfoolery with the temperature data to maintain a modicum of wariness about it.

  191. Bart says:

    A quick note on the previous: if the climate researchers so disposed did know all the sources and sinks, they would know where the supposed other half of the anthropogenically generated CO2 went.

  192. Tony says:

    Willis, in response to Pamela Gray you say:

    “The AIRs data demonstrated that …… the variations [of CO2] in the troposphere are on the order of a percent, maybe two. That is well mixed in anyone’s book.”

    2 % = 20,000 ppm

    And yet, Keeling claims to detect a rise of +1.98 ppm/year?

    This comes out at ~ 2/20,000 = 0.01% of the natural variation to be found in the ‘well-mixed’ troposphere?

    And in response to Wayne’s question on the reference gas, I too looked into the reference gas question, as I was worried that such things as oxidation of the inner surface of the pressure flasks could cause long-term changes in the composition, and hence throw the calibration. I know it s a small thing, but we are looking at a measurement of within 1 in a million over a year, which is very very tiny indeed.

    And, there was a mention of a change in the type of flask. Also, I saw that the sole source of the flasks of calibration gas for all stations, and for the analysis of all sample-flasks for outlying stations, was Keeling’s lab.

  193. fred says:

    Willis, thank you for this informative post. These factss about Mauna Loa and other CO2 records are well known in the science literature, but it is good to see them presented so clearly to a wider audience.

  194. Climate Kate says:

    Dear Willis,

    thank you for this outstanding article.

    Looking at the yearly increase, I found out that this seems to be influenced by ENSO (higher in warm years after strong El Ninos like 76/77 (=> 77 high), 82/83, 86/87, and 97/98 (so 2010 should be high in the end), lower after strong La Ninas: 73/74 (=> 74 low), 75/76, 98/99. It doesn’t fit for 91/92, but 92 was cold inspite of El Nino because of the Pinatubo eruption. With high and low I mean compared to the years around.

    Partly the start years of El Nino are also high, might depend if there was a La Nina before or not. Perhaps there would be a better correlation with other 12 months periods than Jan – Dec. And of course there are other influences like breakdown of eastern Europe industry in 1989.

    ENSO diagram to compare the data: http://ggweather.com/enso/oni.htm

    Does anybody have an eplanation for this? Or does this correlation only exist in my brain?

    Annual increase in ppm, data are from http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

    1959 0.95
    1960 0.51
    1961 0.95
    1962 0.69
    1963 0.73
    1964 0.29
    1965 0.98
    1966 1.23
    1967 0.75
    1968 1.02
    1969 1.34
    1970 1.02
    1971 0.82
    1972 1.76
    1973 1.18
    1974 0.78
    1975 1.10
    1976 0.92
    1977 2.09
    1978 1.31
    1979 1.68
    1980 1.80
    1981 1.43
    1982 0.72
    1983 2.16
    1984 1.37
    1985 1.24
    1986 1.51
    1987 2.33
    1988 2.09
    1989 1.27
    1990 1.31
    1991 1.02
    1992 0.43
    1993 1.35
    1994 1.90
    1995 1.98
    1996 1.19
    1997 1.96
    1998 2.93
    1999 0.94
    2000 1.74
    2001 1.59
    2002 2.56
    2003 2.29
    2004 1.55
    2005 2.53
    2006 1.71
    2007 2.17
    2008 1.66
    2009 1.97

  195. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tony says:
    June 5, 2010 at 11:11 pm (Edit)

    Willis, in response to Pamela Gray you say:

    “The AIRs data demonstrated that …… the variations [of CO2] in the troposphere are on the order of a percent, maybe two. That is well mixed in anyone’s book.”

    2 % = 20,000 ppm

    And yet, Keeling claims to detect a rise of +1.98 ppm/year?

    Lack of clarity in my writing strikes again. In the AIRS data shown as Figure 4, the maximum value is about 393 ppmv, and the minimum value about 383 ppmv. This gives an average of about 388 ppmv ± 5 ppmv, which is about ± 1% of the 388 ppmv.

  196. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    June 5, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Willis, if a % or two difference between concentrations is no big deal as you say and can be ignored, why the worry over a % or two rise in ppm, and especially the incredibly small % rise when in context of the total make up of the atmosphere? If the former is no big deal, why is the latter?

    I will now repeat my oft-repeated request, which is that if you disagree with something that I say, or someone else says, QUOTE IT.

    What I had said was that the ± 1% variation was an indication of a well-mixed gas. I did not say it “could be ignored”. In fact, you are the first person to use the word “ignored” in this thread … which kinda proves I never said that.

  197. Steven mosher says:

    KuhnKat

    “CO2 in the Strat really doesn’t matter to heating the earth etc.”

    Wrong. I’ve told you this before.

    “Among other things, the new studies showed that in the frigid and rarified upper atmosphere where the crucial infrared absorption takes place, the nature of the absorption is different from what scientists had assumed from the old sea-level measurements. Take a single molecule of CO2 or H2O. It will absorb light only in a set of specific wavelengths, which show up as thin dark lines in a spectrum. In a gas at sea-level temperature and pressure, the countless molecules colliding with one another at different velocities each absorb at slightly different wavelengths, so the lines are broadened and overlap to a considerable extent. Even at sea level pressure, the absorption is concentrated into discrete spikes, but the gaps between the spikes are fairly narrow and the “valleys” between the spikes are not terribly deep. (see Part II) None of this was known a century ago. With the primitive infrared instruments available in the early 20th century, scientists saw the absorption smeared out into wide bands. And they had no theory to suggest anything different.

    Measurements done for the US Air Force drew scientists’ attention to the details of the absorption, and especially at high altitudes. At low pressure the spikes become much more sharply defined, like a picket fence. There are gaps between the H2O lines where radiation can get through unless blocked by CO2 lines. Moreover, researchers had become acutely aware of how very dry the air gets at upper altitudes — indeed the stratosphere has scarcely any water vapor at all. By contrast, CO2 is well mixed all through the atmosphere, so as you look higher it becomes relatively more significant.”

  198. Richard S Courtney says:

    Editor:

    I agreed to Willis’ request to discuss the possible causes of the recent rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration “on another thread”. However, there remains a steady stream of postings that present nonsensical assertions that the cause is known to be anthropogenic.

    It is clearly biased to allow the posting of twaddle that asserts the cause of the recent rise is anthropogenic when it is ruled that scientific evidence and argument about the cause are ruled as being “off topic”.

    I am offended that my presentation of facts is considered improper when subsequent illogical and ignorant nonsense concerning the same subject is considered acceptable. Below I copy one of several examples of the illogical and ignorant nonsense that has been posted after the facts were ruled ‘off topic’.

    Richard

    *************

    Phil. says:
    June 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm
    Dr A Burns says:
    June 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm
    “I think that Mauna Loa CO2 measurements are valid. However, I haven’t seen any evidence that man is responsible for the increase. Given that the fossil fuel derived percentage of atmospheric CO2, is estimated at 1-4%, is seems doubtful that burning fossil fuels is the cause of the increase.”

    Since the measured annual accumulation in the atmosphere is about half the amount released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion it’s impossible for it to be otherwise!

  199. Richard111 says:

    [quote][b]dr.bill[/b] says:
    June 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    [i]HankHenry: June 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm
    ……..
    It would be greatly appreciated if someone would enlighten me on this point because expositions that I read sometimes includes a discussion of absorption and re-radiation and sometimes omit it.[/i]

    Hi Hank,

    The fundamental distinctions are between ‘whole-molecule processes’ and ‘electron-transition processes’.

    Garden-variety blackbody (or greybody) effects involve whole-molecule processes. These depend directly on the temperature of the molecules (which in turn depends on their speed, or more correctly, their Kinetic Energy). This has essentially nothing to do with electrons, and is described by Planck’s Law and the Stefan-Boltzmann Law which can be derived from it. The other whole-molecule processes are conduction and convection, along with the additional issue of Latent Heat, which is involved during solid/liquid and liquid/gas changes of state.

    The electrons become specifically involved when photons (from some external source) are able to boost electrons within molecules from initial energy states to higher ones. The electrons “don’t like” being in excited states, and dump the energy in the form of photons of equal frequency in order to return to their previous condition. This absorption/emission process takes place in nanoseconds, and has little or no lasting effect on the Kinetic Energy (and thus the temperature) of the molecules. If a molecule has an available electron transition corresponding to the energy of the incoming photon, then it will absorb and then re-emit the energy. If no such transition is available, the photon just continues on its merry way, and the material is thus transparent to radiation of that frequency.

    A bit of study on each these topics will make things clearer.

    /dr.bill[/quote]

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    So 90% of the downwelling radiation hitting the surface comes from the first 580 metres (1900 ft) of the atmosphere.

    I am lead to believe CO2 has limited absorption bands, namely 2.7, 4.3 and 15 micrometers (µm), this amounts to about 8% of the total surface radiation. LINK

    Am I safe in assuming the 90% downwelling radiation from CO2 in the first 580 meters refers to the actual absorbed radiation? i.e. something less than 8% of total surface radiation?

    [Note: WordPress doesn't support BB code. Please use HTML in posts, with arrow brackets. ~dbs, mod.]

  200. Richard111 says:

    Apologies, that post was intended for Willis, I forgot I had taken a copy of dr.bill intended for another thread. :-(

  201. Juraj V. says:

    I believe “Jaworowski”, not “Jaworoski” is correct name of that Polish scientist.

  202. Juraj V. says:

    CO2 growth rate obviously has much to do with oceans. 1998 El Nino is clearly visible, as CO2 was out gassed by warm ocean surface.

    http://www.climate4you.com/images/CO2%20MaunaLoa%20Last12months-previous12monthsGrowthRateSince1958.gif

    More, the CO2 growth rate somehow stabilizes over time – probably it is absorbed more efficiently as oceans cools.

  203. gilbert says:

    Great Post. I just wish you had done it before I had to figure it out for myself.

  204. Derek says:

    My apologies to Willis, and many of the following commentators, but I must say.

    Overall there are many issues with the MLO data / method that
    have been “brushed over”.

    TonyB, Richard S Courtney, Ernest Beck, Pamela Gray, anne v, and many others have raised real concerns and issues that have not been dealt with sufficiently.

    I hope my layman’s explanations of some of these points will help more understand the real issues with the MLO record, and it’s supposed “reliability”.
    http://www.globalwarmingskeptics.info/forums/thread-702.html
    (Also includes excel sheets of MLO (monthly) data plots – you may find interesting….)

    In the end one thing can be said,
    the raw data for MLO has never been released.
    “raw hourly averages” ARE NOT raw data, that at least was finally admitted..
    However, if the raw data was released now,
    would we know it was the original raw data – NO.

  205. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Willis, you sure received some feedback on this one!

    I asked above about the date, 1973, and the 27m mast, because your ML CO2 graph started in 1973. On further reading, the measurements started on one instrument in 1958 and a new instrument in 1973. So your graph shows the instrument that started in 1973 and was retired about 2002. It’s often interesting to look at overlap data when instruments are changed. Beck wrote extensively about this. He makes a rather good case that the 1958 start should not be stitched to the accepted reconstructions of CO2 prior to that.

    I don’t know the answers, too far from the action, but as a former analytical chemist it’s a bit alarming that there was no cross-checking (a claim by by Beck) of the ML instrument used 1954-73 by manometric or wet chemical methods, which are quite accurate in the hands of a good chemist.

    One has to presume (lacking description) that the 1954 instrument isolated a narrow band of IR light using interference filters. This was then shone through the air/CO2 fixed path and its intensity reduction measured. Items like interference filters and photomultiplier tubes in spectrometers drifted in those days and the similarity of the reference gas to the sampled gas would have to be very close. Because the reference gas would have a fixed composition of other gases likewater vapour, the sampled gas cannot always be an exact match and there is ample scope for error as experienced analytical chemists from those days will readily concede.

    Then there’s the work of Jonathan Drake at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jdrake/Questioning_Climate/userfiles/Ice-core_corrections_report_1.pdf plus Wagner et al http://www.pnas.org/content/99/19/12011.full.pdf
    raised before on WUWT, never satisfactorily answered. Both estimate historical CO2 above 300 ppm, but they need to be studied as my summary here is too brief.

    I guess overall we know very little about “Background levels” of atmospheric CO2 before 1973, certainly not before 1958.

    Methane for another day is fine. Thanks for the hard yards.

  206. Gail Combs says:

    anna v says:
    June 5, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    please ignore my rash comment above:

    Which explains why in the school of CO2 they are not using anomalies, a question I wanted to ask, since even thought the initial value is high, the anomaly is similar to that measured by the Keeling lot.
    The answer is: the scare factor would disappear it it could be seen that the base varies much more than the predicted CO2 increases by IPCC.

    It ends in 2006 and the values are in the chorus.
    ________________________________________________________________________
    As a quick and dirty look:

    Reading off of this graph and this table for Grim, I get:

    In Feb, 1999 – 369 to 377 and Grim is 364.94 a range of about 3%

    In Jan 2002 369 to 384 and Grim was 369.24 a range of about 4%

    In looking at the data I found it wierd —
    Grim and Baring head NZ had virtually no month to month swing in the data
    Christmas Island had a slight swing (3ppm)
    La Jolla CA (near San Diego) and Mauna Loa have a decent swing (10ppm)
    Barrow and Alert Canada have a 15ppm swing
    Sary Taukum is all over the map (360 to 384ppm in a couple of years)

    Sary Taukum is in Kazakhstan east of Mongolia, in the middle of Eurasia so I can understand swings in that data, but why are there monthly swings in La Jolla and Mauna Loa and none in Grim, Baring head NZ and Christmas Island?

  207. Phil. says:

    Richard111 says:
    June 6, 2010 at 1:02 am
    I am lead to believe CO2 has limited absorption bands, namely 2.7, 4.3 and 15 micrometers (µm), this amounts to about 8% of the total surface radiation. LINK

    Am I safe in assuming the 90% downwelling radiation from CO2 in the first 580 meters refers to the actual absorbed radiation? i.e. something less than 8% of total surface radiation?

    No, that number in that reference seems to have been pulled out of thin air and is wrong. It also ignores the contribution from water.

  208. Jbar says:

    Willis,
    Sorry. Difficult to resist trying to answer other people’s questions even if they are off-topic.
    Also, I tend to batch posts when time is available and did not see your first protest until after the second offending comment was posted.

    While I’m here, I’d like to echo and second and third the complimentary comments of many others to your post.
    After your comment “Mauna Loa CO2 measurements… I wouldn’t waste time fighting to disprove them, there are lots of other datasets that deserve closer scrutiny”, I was a little taken aback by all the people who still seemed to be ‘fighting to disprove them’.

    Looking at your “carpet plot” I’m surprised that there is such a big latitudinal gradient. It suggests a northern source and a tropical sink. It’s difficult to be sure from the plot’s perspective, but levels above 50deg N appear to plunge below tropical levels during the arctic summer, even though they are the highest in the hemisphere during the winter.

    Then looking at your second link to the “Carbon Tracker”, the seasonal variation in N hemisphere CO2 is positively stunning, with the arctic region suddenly dropping by 10 to 15 ppm within just a few weeks in July. It’s even more compelling seeing it in motion distributed over time and space than seeing it on a graph. WOW! Definitely a ‘keeper’! THANKS!

  209. Ric Werme says:

    Richard111 says:
    June 6, 2010 at 1:02 am

    [quote][b]dr.bill[/b] says:

    Please see the bottom third of http://home.comcast.net/~ewerme/wuwt/ for notes on markup codes here. It goes into more detail than the instructions below the comment typein box at the bottom of this page.

  210. tgasloli says:

    There were a lot of comments on this post so maybe I missed it, but does anyone know why the CH4 has leveled out?

  211. Mark says:

    RobJM says:

    The cause of the CO2 increase is increasing ocean temp,(increased degassing or decreased absorption) with humans only contributing about 5% of the increase.
    This is why the IPCC lies about the residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere and claims its thousands of years, if the residence time is short all the CO2 will be absorbed by the oceans.

    Presumably you mean most of any extra CO2 produced by human activities. Since the CO2 in the atmosphere can’t be zero :)
    Further both are well “stired” by everything from tides to human built vehicles.

  212. Phil. says:

    Jbar says:
    June 6, 2010 at 5:34 am
    Willis,
    Then looking at your second link to the “Carbon Tracker”, the seasonal variation in N hemisphere CO2 is positively stunning, with the arctic region suddenly dropping by 10 to 15 ppm within just a few weeks in July. It’s even more compelling seeing it in motion distributed over time and space than seeing it on a graph. WOW! Definitely a ‘keeper’! THANKS!

    My thought on this is that the CO2 at Barrow peaks when the nearby ice cover opens up thereby exposing the atmosphere to cold water which has been isolated for several months. You’d expect this to be quite an active sink for CO2, the CO2 concentration increases as the ice reforms in the fall.

  213. Ian M says:

    If we agree that the CO2 datasets records at MLO are accurate, we are still left with the question of what has been causing the increase.

    Is it reasonable to assert that readings on an island in the middle of a vast ocean are more likely to be affected by localised changes in the ocean, rather than global changes in CO2 levels?

    Put another way, is the increase in population, industrialization, pollution, etc., on the island and in the surrounding hundreds of square miles of water more likely to be the cause of the upward-trend of CO2 (and CH4)?

  214. Mark says:

    Jay Cech says:

    Another quick calculation that can be done on the Mauna Loa data is to subtract each year’s average from the preceding to get the inter year change. One finds that the yearly change can vary extensively, for example over a short time span the year to year rate of increase can vary from 0.4 to almost 3
    ppm/year (1992 and 1998 for example).
    Since the fossil fuel burning of humans is increasing for the last 40 years, certainly not varying by a factor of 6, this wide variation shows that the CO2 increase in the atmosphere is due to more than just man’s combustion.

    It always amazes me that the “alarmists” appear unable to apply such a simple “smell test” to their data. Feeding such data into complex models being a classic case of “Garbage In, Garbage Out”.

  215. Baa Humbug says:

    My compliments to Willis on yet another informative and thought provoking post. Thank you Willis and to the many commenters for their input.

    There is one thing that’s bugging me about the MLO data……
    China and India economies went booom on or about the 80′s. Where is the booom in the MLO data? Surely this would show up somewhere. Where? can any one point me in the right direction pls?
    To put this in perspective, the number of people (and industry) from China and India who joined the industrial revolution in the 80′s dwarfs the number that kicked off the industrial revolution in the 19th C. There must be an uptick in the CO2 levels around about that time, musn’t there?

  216. Pamela Gray says:

    If we were to have adequate sensor coverage within each band of CO2 and nonCO2 (7 bands), I wonder what the anomaly would be over time within each band? Would we find that the system maintains an unbalanced system that over time (as in 200 years) balances itself out? It just seems to me that using one station (an accurate one in my opinion) to say what is going on within each band over a long period of time and to also use it to predict what the other bands will do in the future, seems an unsubstantiated jump to me. Earth’s flora and fauna response to CO2 anomaly likely changes, which in turn changes the CO2 anomaly, but over many years for each change, not quickly. But how does it change? IMO, we don’t know because we don’t have a randomly placed selection of sensors sufficient to cover each of the 7 bands and we don’t have a long enough record to determine % change from average.

  217. Mark says:

    JER0ME says:

    Surely this is the other way around? Photosynthesis (releasing O2) during the day and respiration (releasing CO2) at night?

    It’s more photosynthesis when there is light (daytime). Respiration (aerobic) at all times. AFAIK plant cells don’t shut down all other metabolic processes when undergoing photosynthesis. In many plants photosynthesis only takes place in specific places, not the entire plant, anyway.

  218. Gail Combs says:

    #
    #
    Baa Humbug says:
    June 6, 2010 at 7:50 am

    “…..There is one thing that’s bugging me about the MLO data……
    China and India economies went booom on or about the 80′s. Where is the booom in the MLO data? Surely this would show up somewhere. Where? can any one point me in the right direction pls?
    To put this in perspective, the number of people (and industry) from China and India who joined the industrial revolution in the 80′s dwarfs the number that kicked off the industrial revolution in the 19th C. There must be an uptick in the CO2 levels around about that time, musn’t there?”

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Yes if you look at the data I summarized in a previous post.

    Reading off of this graph and this table for Grim, I get:

    South of the equator, CO2 doesn’t vary much. Christmas Island is between the tip of India and Austraila —
    Grim and Baring head NZ had virtually no month to month swing in the data
    Christmas Island had a slight swing (3ppm)

    Sub tropical NH we get
    La Jolla CA (near San Diego) and Mauna Loa have a decent swing (10ppm)

    Far northern NH
    Barrow and Alert Canada have a 15ppm swing

    And Finally we get Sary Taukum is in Kazakhstan east of Mongolia, in the middle of Eurasia
    Sary Taukum is all over the map, 360 to 384ppm in a couple of years or 24ppm

    So I can understand swings in the Sary Taukum data, but why are there monthly swings in La Jolla and Mauna Loa so similar while there is none in land based Grim and Baring head NZ? Also why doesn’t Christmas Island have swings similar to Mauna Loa?

  219. Gail Combs (and others)
    Read my presentations http://www.kidswincom.net/climate.pdf and http://www.kidswincom.net/CO2OLR.pdf and see if it answers some of your questions. You can find my e-mail address on my website if you wish to contact me directly with further questions or comments.

  220. John Finn says:

    Mark says:
    June 6, 2010 at 7:29 am


    Jay Cech says:

    Another quick calculation that can be done on the Mauna Loa data is to subtract each year’s average from the preceding to get the inter year change. One finds that the yearly change can vary extensively, for example over a short time span the year to year rate of increase can vary from 0.4 to almost 3
    ppm/year (1992 and 1998 for example).
    Since the fossil fuel burning of humans is increasing for the last 40 years, certainly not varying by a factor of 6, this wide variation shows that the CO2 increase in the atmosphere is due to more than just man’s combustion.

    It always amazes me that the “alarmists” appear unable to apply such a simple “smell test” to their data. Feeding such data into complex models being a classic case of “Garbage In, Garbage Out”.

    The “alarmists”, as you call them, understand perfectly well why the increase is variable. It’s mainly due to upper ocean temperatures. If ocean temps are cool there is less ‘outgassing’ and greater uptake. The o.4 ppm figure probably comes from ~1992, i.e. the year after the Pinatubo eruption.

  221. John Finn says:

    RE: Previous post
    John Finn says:
    June 6, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I’ve just checked and I was right the 0.4 ppm increase happened in 1992 and the biggest increase happened in ……1998. here’s a surprise. Note, though there is always an increase the oceans just dampen or amplify the increase.

  222. paul in UK says:

    Many thanks for another interesting article and discussion. I have often wondered about the logic of measuring the worlds atmospheric CO2 concentration in (what I presume is) one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. So it is good to see how this is taken into account. But based on the information given here I am still sceptical of the robustness of this.

    I realise I still don’t know enough about this to be making such comments, I think the only way to know myself would be to spend some time actually doing the CO2 measurement work myself (but I don’t think if I wanted to measure CO2 I’d think of going there anyway). Like so much of this kind of scientific work the basic method to allow for volcanic effects seems to make sense at first glance, but I still feel uncomfortable that it is in the heart of one of the most active volcanic regions of the world, so for example I don’t understand how we can be so sure we are not measuring volcanic CO2 that got mixed into the higher altitude air during the day, or there’s not other contamination routes we may be missing.

    I am not saying I believe the measurement results are wrong, after all I presume they agree well with other measurements around the world(?), so I presume they are very likely close enough, but I think if it were me using the data for important research I’d need a lot more convincing: Despite any clever methods to overcome it, it just seems too risky to me to site the worlds most important and trusted CO2 measurement in a volcanic hotspot.

    In the grand scheme of things maybe it doesn’t make a significant difference to the results (e.g. by cross checking against other sites), but as a matter of scientific principle it doesn’t feel right to me; is it really that difficult to find a better location?

  223. John Finn says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 6, 2010 at 12:57 am
    Editor:

    I agreed to Willis’ request to discuss the possible causes of the recent rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration “on another thread”. However, there remains a steady stream of postings that present nonsensical assertions that the cause is known to be anthropogenic.

    It is clearly biased to allow the posting of twaddle that asserts the cause of the recent rise is anthropogenic when it is ruled that scientific evidence and argument about the cause are ruled as being “off topic”.

    I am offended that my presentation of facts is considered improper when subsequent illogical and ignorant nonsense concerning the same subject is considered acceptable. Below I copy one of several examples of the illogical and ignorant nonsense that has been posted after the facts were ruled ‘off topic’

    For what it’s worth, Richard, I think you should be allowed to air your views on the subject of anthropogenic CO2 as I feekl it’s highly relevant to the general post. I’m a bit surprised, though, that you refer to views that contradict your own as “twaddle” and “ignorant nonsense” – particularly as the evidence for human influence is so strong. If ML data is correct, and I believe it’s good enough, then we have had 50 successive years when CO2 has increased and NONE when it has fallen. Regardless of ocean temperatures and other factors CO2 levels have continued a steady climb. This does not suggest natural factors are responsible. We (humans) put ~7 GtC into the atmosphere each year and the atmospheric concentration increases by ~4 GtC each year. All the talk about human emissions being insignificant is nonsense (to use your phrase) – there is more than enough to account for the measured increases.

    PS which thread is hosting the resumed discussion.

  224. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 6, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Editor:

    I agreed to Willis’ request to discuss the possible causes of the recent rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration “on another thread”. However, there remains a steady stream of postings that present nonsensical assertions that the cause is known to be anthropogenic.

    It is clearly biased to allow the posting of twaddle that asserts the cause of the recent rise is anthropogenic when it is ruled that scientific evidence and argument about the cause are ruled as being “off topic”.

    I am offended that my presentation of facts is considered improper when subsequent illogical and ignorant nonsense concerning the same subject is considered acceptable. Below I copy one of several examples of the illogical and ignorant nonsense that has been posted after the facts were ruled ‘off topic’.

    Richard

    Richard, I have asked everyone, not just you but everyone, to post on this question on another thread. I have made no distinction by which side of the dispute they have taken. Yes, there has been stuff posted after I asked people to discuss it elsewhere. I am, as always, very reluctant to censor the thread.

    However, your claim that there is some prejudice in this, that one side or the other has been favored, is not true. I have asked everyone not to post on this. Some people still have done so.

    Everyone! Let this one go!

  225. Willis Eschenbach says:

    John Finn says:
    June 6, 2010 at 11:35 am

    For what it’s worth, Richard, I think you should be allowed to air your views on the subject of anthropogenic CO2 as I feel it’s highly relevant to the general post. I’m a bit surprised, though, that you refer to views that contradict your own as “twaddle” and “ignorant nonsense” – particularly as the evidence for human influence is so strong. If ML data is correct, and I believe it’s good enough, then we have had 50 successive years when CO2 has increased and NONE when it has fallen. Regardless of ocean temperatures and other factors CO2 levels have continued a steady climb. This does not suggest natural factors are responsible. We (humans) put ~7 GtC into the atmosphere each year and the atmospheric concentration increases by ~4 GtC each year. All the talk about human emissions being insignificant is nonsense (to use your phrase) – there is more than enough to account for the measured increases.

    PS which thread is hosting the resumed discussion.

    I am currently writing a post where you can discuss the “human/not human” question to your hearts’ content … give me a day or so and I’ll post it up on WUWT so you can all abuse each other to your hearts’ content …

  226. dr.bill says:

    Willis Eschenbach: June 6, 2010 at 12:37 pm
    I am currently writing a post where you can discuss the “human/not human” question to your hearts’ content … give me a day or so and I’ll post it up on WUWT so you can all abuse each other to your hearts’ content …

    Willis, that is so sweet of you! The trolls will have a comfy little spot for a feeding frenzy, kind of like those inner-city programs to keep kids off the street and out of trouble. You are nothing if not a giving man. ☺ ☺

    /dr.bill

  227. wayne says:

    Tony says:
    June 5, 2010 at 11:11 pm
    … And, there was a mention of a change in the type of flask. Also, I saw that the sole source of the flasks of calibration gas for all stations, and for the analysis of all sample-flasks for outlying stations, was Keeling’s lab.

    That is what I was talking about. If you take an totally evacuated chamber, in a year it will be full of very diffuse hydrogen, some scientists place that to virtual particles and others to neutron/neutrino induced reactions. They still don’t know exactly why this spontaneous creation occurs. If the standard gas is decreasing over time then the readings would show a linear increase over time, just the opposite, almost a dead stright line, much like Mauna Loa’s plot. I would like to know more on this subject.

    If there is any hidden errors, that is the most likely the place. Comparisons to the standard gas can be very accurate as we all know.

  228. Mac the Knife says:

    Thanks Willis!
    I am less skeptical of the Mauna Loa record, as a result of your fine post here!

    Long read through all of the comments on this one! The assertions of “almost certainty” by some of the AGW commentors remind of roosters crowing and the regular admonishments from my old high school science teacher:

    “The rooster’s crowing at dawn does NOT make the sun rise, even though a direct correlation is generally agreed upon!”

    He was a realist (a skeptic, before it was cool!), seeking beyond correlation and personal belief for true root cause and effect. I have found his insights to be a useful guide, as I completed my own engineering degrees and pursued a decades long career in astro and aerospace.

    Keep up the good work!

  229. RuhRoh says:

    Does the Mauna Loa Group happen to perform any ‘carbon dating’ on that fine Global CO2 they are sampling and measuring so carefully?
    I hope you will take a similar run at the Segelstad talk from the 4th Heartland Conference.
    If that material is not flawed, it seemed to be powerful stuff that would benefit from your lucid presentation style and genial hosting of discussion.

    Wow, I was on the big island once when they were having ‘kona wind’.
    Yikes, I went over to the industrial safety supply house and bought gas masks and acid cartridges. My wife was deploying all 12 of her asthma medications…

    Only in your abundant free time of course.
    Big thanx, I do not intend to derail the thread.
    How come that annual variation is smoothed out in the ‘usual’ presentations?
    RR

  230. Gail Combs says:

    I would like to thank Fred H. Haynie for his presentations http://www.kidswincom.net/climate.pdf and http://www.kidswincom.net/CO2OLR.pdf

    They answered my questions about the differences in yearly variability from site to site and a whole lot more. I would recommend them to everyone. I hope he joins our discussion on Willis’s next article.

  231. DR says:

    Hmm. Willis?

    Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up

    Euan Nisbet1 and Ray Weiss2

    Greenhouse gas emissions are currently quantified from statistical data without testing the results against the actual increases of these gases in the atmosphere. This is like dieting without weighing oneself. Data are produced by greenhouse gas emitters of all sizes, from factory or farm to nation, and are quoted to high precision—yet misreporting occurs, whether by simple error, ignorance, or intention. But now scientists on both sides of the Atlantic are arguing that regulation of greenhouse gas emissions can have integrity only if verified by direct atmospheric measurements (1, 2).

    1 Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham TW20 0EX, UK.
    2 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0244, USA.

  232. Richard S Courtney says:

    Willis:

    Yes, you did rule that ALL comments concerning the cause(s) of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration are “off topic”. All comments await moderation by the Editor before appearing, and that is why I addressed my complaint to the Editor and NOT to you.

    Following your ruling I said I would abide by it, and I have done that. However, subsequently there has been a continued publication of assertions that the cause of the rise is anthropogenic (although there is no empirical evidence that demonstrates the cause is or is not anthropogenic). The Editor has not moderated these assertions: indeed, they have continued to be published in this thread following my complaint.

    It is clearly bias to permit such comments following a ruling that they are “off topic” when those who assert the empirical facts (of what is and is not known about the cause(s) ) have agreed to abide by the ruling.

    I thank you for arranging for a thread that will debate the subject.

    Richard

  233. Jbar says:

    This is amazing http://www.youtube.com/user/CarbonTracker
    A time lapse motion-picture plot of CO2 vs latitude from 1979 along with a map showing the data source locations.
    I don’t know if the data behind it is correct, but it shows southern hemisphere CO2 having hardly any annual cycle at all while the northern hemisphere bobs up and down dramatically.

    When they reach the present, then they start going backwards in time through Keeling data, Law Dome data, Vostok core data, and finally EPICA Dome C core data back to 800kyr ago.

  234. Graeme W says:

    Willis, you’ve said that the topic is on the validity of the MLO data, but given the information that’s been provided, I have to ask a question on the usefulness of the MLO data.

    From what you’ve said and the subsequent posts, it appears that the MLO data is a trend of CO2 minimums (the ‘background’ CO2 level). But their approach shows that there are definitely local variations (of a size unstated) and the Berk data shows that there are also local variations in CO2 level.

    Given the importance that many people place on CO2 levels, and given that the effect of CO2 levels on temperature is logarithmic in nature, shouldn’t average CO2 levels be what we should be trying to measure, not minimums?

    I personally suspect that the average wouldn’t be too far from the minimum, but we should have observations that match that and not just assume it.

  235. Juan says:

    To Derek:

    Good post Derek! Exactly what I was thinking. Unless we are able to verify how the data was corrected this doesn’t mean anything.

    I have no “faith” in any CO2 instrument data before 2000-2001. This is around the time that the gas vendors and instrumentation providers vastly improved the technology for measuring CO2. Before that time there were lots of interferences. Sometimes up to 20%.

    I would like to see all the interference checks for the current and past instruments. Are they measuring on a wet basis? What are the absolute pressure readings, wet bulb and dry bulb measurements in and around the station?

    What methodology is being used to correct the values for CO2 and has that methodology changed over time?

  236. anna v says:

    Fred H. Haynie says:
    June 6, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Gail Combs (and others)
    Read my presentations http://www.kidswincom.net/climate.pdf and http://www.kidswincom.net/CO2OLR.pdf and see if it answers some of your questions. You can find my e-mail address on my website if you wish to contact me directly with further questions or comments.

    Thank you for the links. They answer the question: “has anybody really looked at the problem with classical thermodynamics in mind?”

    As you do not give publication references am I to assume this is just a side work?
    Much as the peer group has been abused in the climate community, still, publications are a way for partially ensuring the general scientific public that no gross oversight has happened, so it would be good if you published these two expositions. Even though I am a physicist, this is not my field and my knowledge is shaky.
    (for example you talk of heat being carried mainly by the water cycle, when I would presume you mean the energy transport that will turn into heat. I do not think clouds are particularly hot)
    In any case, as Gail Combs suggests please join the next thread where we will be allowed to thresh similar stuff out.

  237. anna v says:

    After reading this thread am I convinced that the Mauna Loa CO2 measurements are good?

    If good means “pure upper troposphere CO2″, no.

    1)I think the upwelling and down welling argument extremely shaky, as there is experimental evidence that in such situations oscillatory patterns get set up circulating the same air.

    2)Throwing away data at 2 sigma is fit manipulation. If one requires 4 sigma to be sure of a new particle I could accept throwing out 4 sigma away points . 2 sigma is still a fairly probable event and the shape could be biased, depending on the errors.

    So no, even as such I am not convinced that the data presented my Mauna Loa and satellites is good.

    Even more so, I am against this necessity of a “pure” sample. Ideally, all CO2 from all over the globe at all heights should be measured in order to know how much CO2 there is in the atmosphere, which after all is the point of the exercise. If we know the “pure” CO2 at 5000meters what does that have to say for the watts/m^2 which comes from the whole column over that one meter square, which are the objective of the exercise? Not much. The earth breaths ( as the AIRS animations show) CO2 at different rates in different locations. An integral over the whole earth is necessary to get at the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in order to get a global number.

    Look at Haynes’ http://www.kidswincom.net/climate.pdf presentation. Particularly pages 16,17.

    How can a “pure well mixed” hypothesis hold, supposing that we do believe CO2 to be important in the warming observed, when such variations in sources and sinks exist?

  238. Hu McCulloch says:

    Willis in headpost —

    There are several things to note about this graph. First, there is good agreement between the Laws Dome ice core data and the MLO data over the ~ two decade overlap. Second, there is good agreement between the three separate Laws Dome ice core datasets. Third, both the ice cores and the MLO data do not vary much from year to year.

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 5, 2010 at 10:42 am
    ….
    The difficulty is that the air is not trapped in the ice immediately. The pores in the “firn”, the snow that falls annually on top of the ice are open. Air can flow in and out.

    As more and more snow falls over the years, at some point the pores close off and the air is trapped. So how long does it take for the pores in the firn to seal off?

    The pores do not all seal off simultaneously, so the measured air in any sample will be an average of many years’ CO2 values. Thus the measured values will appear to be a lot smoother as a function of time than the true values were. The period of this averaging could be as high as the estimated average lag — 30 years for 2 of the Law Dome cores, and 58 for the third.

    If we knew the mathematical form of this averaging, the smoothing could be approximately inverted (but only approximately, since there would be more unknowns than equations). Is it possible that “Beck’s Blip” around 1940 is present in the Law Dome data, but just doesn’t look big because of the natural averaging?

    In fact, most people look at the summary series, the longer of which for 1010-1975 adds a 75 year mathematical smoother on top of the natural averaging. This makes it look smoother yet.

  239. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Graeme W says:
    June 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Willis, you’ve said that the topic is on the validity of the MLO data, but given the information that’s been provided, I have to ask a question on the usefulness of the MLO data.

    From what you’ve said and the subsequent posts, it appears that the MLO data is a trend of CO2 minimums (the ‘background’ CO2 level). But their approach shows that there are definitely local variations (of a size unstated) and the Berk data shows that there are also local variations in CO2 level.

    Given the importance that many people place on CO2 levels, and given that the effect of CO2 levels on temperature is logarithmic in nature, shouldn’t average CO2 levels be what we should be trying to measure, not minimums?

    I personally suspect that the average wouldn’t be too far from the minimum, but we should have observations that match that and not just assume it.

    While it could be useful, it would be extremely hard to do. We’d have to measure at hundreds of places around the planet. Problems of equipment cost, maintenance, calibration …

    w.

  240. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Hu McCulloch says:
    June 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm (Edit)


    The difficulty is that the air is not trapped in the ice immediately. The pores in the “firn”, the snow that falls annually on top of the ice are open. Air can flow in and out.

    As more and more snow falls over the years, at some point the pores close off and the air is trapped. So how long does it take for the pores in the firn to seal off?

    The pores do not all seal off simultaneously, so the measured air in any sample will be an average of many years’ CO2 values. Thus the measured values will appear to be a lot smoother as a function of time than the true values were. The period of this averaging could be as high as the estimated average lag — 30 years for 2 of the Law Dome cores, and 58 for the third.

    If we knew the mathematical form of this averaging, the smoothing could be approximately inverted (but only approximately, since there would be more unknowns than equations). Is it possible that “Beck’s Blip” around 1940 is present in the Law Dome data, but just doesn’t look big because of the natural averaging?

    It is possible that the averaging of the air could take place over the time period of the closing of the firn. I suspect that it would be less than that.

    I doubt “Beck’s Blip”, however, not because of the ice core data, but because of the Moana Loa data. It rises smoothly and steadily, and shows none of the large decadal variations in the Beck data. And as Beck himself says above, “I agree, the near ground data listed in my first paper do not reflect background data. ”

    Thanks,

    w.

  241. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 6, 2010 at 4:56 pm (Edit)

    Willis:

    Yes, you did rule that ALL comments concerning the cause(s) of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration are “off topic”. All comments await moderation by the Editor before appearing, and that is why I addressed my complaint to the Editor and NOT to you.

    Following your ruling I said I would abide by it, and I have done that. However, subsequently there has been a continued publication of assertions that the cause of the rise is anthropogenic (although there is no empirical evidence that demonstrates the cause is or is not anthropogenic). The Editor has not moderated these assertions: indeed, they have continued to be published in this thread following my complaint.

    First, my thanks for abiding by my request. Second, you are right that others did not do so, shame on them. However, in my opinion censoring them causes more problems than ignoring them.

    Finally, I have opened the thread on human responsibility for the CO2 rise here, have at it.

    My best to you,

    w.

  242. anna v says:

    I am missing a post. Either the pixies got it or the junk queue.

    I will repeat the point about purity and background.
    There is no meaning in the concept if one wants to know the influence of CO2 on climate. The influence is collective and does not come from the pure and background locations but from the total globe and mostly from the layers close to the sources and sinks.

    Look at pages 16 and 17 in Fred H. Haynie’s presentation
    http://www.kidswincom.net/CO2OLR.pdf

    With such variability over the globe and such sources and sinks, it is really strange to be talking of “pure” and “background”.

  243. Anna V.

    I have been retired from environmental research for 19 years. My last papers were published in the nineties. I’ve been putting these URL’s in blog comments trying to get critical peer reviews. Sceptic blogs publish them but I have been moderated out of the AGW blogs. I would be glad to work with anyone willing and able to take these ideas, improve on them, and get them published. You can check some of my publications by Googleing “Fred H. Haynie”.

  244. Joel Heinrich says:

    Here is a comparison of the stations worldwide:

    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/wdcgg/products/summary/sum34/10_plate1_co2.pdf

    I think the overall picture is quite clear.

    Here is the whole report which explains a lot of the questions in the forum (chapter 3 is about CO2) 7.5MB!

    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/wdcgg/products/summary/sum34/sum34.pdf

    And again the site where you can find all data:

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

    And a comparison of hourly data for the year 1976 in

    Mauna Loa:
    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/cgi-bin/wdcgg/quick_plot.cgi?imagetype=png&dataid=200702142248

    Barrow:
    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/cgi-bin/wdcgg/quick_plot.cgi?imagetype=png&dataid=200702142245

    Waldhof:
    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/cgi-bin/wdcgg/quick_plot.cgi?imagetype=png&dataid=200702142247

    Schauinsland:
    http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/cgi-bin/wdcgg/quick_plot.cgi?imagetype=png&dataid=200702142251

    Compare the ranges. Which one is the “right” one?

  245. Erik Anderson says:

    Finally, the existence of a thirty to sixty year difference in air and ice age doesn’t make much difference in the pre-industrial levels of CO2. This is because prior to about 1800, the level is basically flat, so an error in the air age dating doesn’t change the CO2 values in any significant manner.

    Willis, it seems that you’ve missed the main point Jaworwski’s critique, as Charles Higley notes above. The deeper the ice, the greater the systematic error may be due to outgassing upon decompression. Hence, we cannot be sure that the long shaft of climate science’s other hockey stick is flat. Jaworwski wished to devise an experiment to check for this, but his idea was denied consideration on the grounds that it was “immoral.” (See Lawrence Solomon’s interview in “The Deniers”). Perhaps in the year 2258, ice cores dating to 1958 showing 200ppm levels will be found and posterity will have a good laugh at us.

  246. anna v says:

    Fred H. Haynie says:
    June 7, 2010 at 4:41
    I have been retired from environmental research for 19 years. My last papers were published in the nineties. I’ve been putting these URL’s in blog comments trying to get critical peer reviews. Sceptic blogs publish them but I have been moderated out of the AGW blogs. I would be glad to work with anyone willing and able to take these ideas, improve on them, and get them published. You can check some of my publications by Googleing “Fred H. Haynie”.

    I also am retired, ten years now, and am a particle physicist, so not in the climate circuit. Lets hope that a bright young person takes up your offer, because I think it would be worth his/her effort.

  247. Tony says:

    Willis,

    I know that this may be seen as nit-picking, and I may be completely out-of-court in my thinking, but what MLO is claiming is an observation of an underlying exquisitely tiny yearly increase of an equally tiny, and wildly varying proportion of a rare atmospheric gas.

    But, huge consequences hang from the result, and so it is worth asking if the result could be an artefact of the MLO process itself.

    And whilst there are sites other than MLO that produce similar results, I understand that there are commonalities and so they are not entirely independent. I also understand one of these commonalities is the use of the use of non-dispersive IR instrument technology, and the technique of using two reference gases.

    A + 2 ppm increase over a base of, say, 379 ppm is about +0.5%. And so we would need a relatively small non-linearity of around 0.5% to see such a result, as an artefact. What I mean is a small bend in the output curve that would cause a slight over-reading in say the middle or upper half of the range.

    We know that NDIR sensors are non-linear, and we are told that a quadratic correction function is employed.

    But, only two reference gases are used , a low one 370 ppm and a high one at 389 ppm. So any calibration of the sensor and its associated Analog-to-Digital converter, is limited to these two reference points. This leaves plenty of room for an intervening 0.5% or so non-linearity from a nominal quadratic function, whilst fitting the two end-points exactly.

    And as far as I can see, it will be extremely difficult to even detect such a small non-linearity, without having many many more levels of reference gas available.

    It is for that reason I propose a plausible conjecture that the Keeling Curve is an artefact.

  248. Hu McCulloch says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 7, 2010 at 12:44 am
    ….
    I doubt “Beck’s Blip”, however, not because of the ice core data, but because of the Mauna Loa data. It rises smoothly and steadily, and shows none of the large decadal variations in the Beck data.

    MLO only goes back to 1958, and the other comparable series are shorter yet. Beck shows a big rise in CO2 between 1930 and 1950 (http://www.biomind.de/realCO2/), but MLO tells us nothing about this period. The Law Dome cores suggest flat CO2, but then they’ve been naturally smoothed by the firn factor (and then artifically smoothed on top of that).

  249. Dennis Wingo says:

    I do believe them … with a caveat. I think that the Beck data is accurate, but that it is not measuring the background CO2. CO2 measurements need to be done very carefully, in selected locations, to avoid contamination from a host of natural CO2 sources.

    While I also have no problem with the Mauna Loa data I found an interesting statement in a 1964 DARPA sponsored book on infrared technology.

    CO2 levels within 100-200 meters above the ground are found to vary between 200-600 ppm. If this is true, it would explain the Beck results. Also, if it is true then it means that how infrared energy is absorbed according the the computer models is completely wrong.

  250. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Hu McCulloch says:
    June 7, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 7, 2010 at 12:44 am

    ….
    I doubt “Beck’s Blip”, however, not because of the ice core data, but because of the Mauna Loa data. It rises smoothly and steadily, and shows none of the large decadal variations in the Beck data.

    MLO only goes back to 1958, and the other comparable series are shorter yet. Beck shows a big rise in CO2 between 1930 and 1950 (http://www.biomind.de/realCO2/), but MLO tells us nothing about this period.

    The Beck data shows values that differ by 30 ppmv in the same year. It shows values that jump by 50 ppmv from one year to the next. I see nothing like that in the MLO data.

    The Law Dome cores suggest flat CO2, but then they’ve been naturally smoothed by the firn factor (and then artifically smoothed on top of that).

    While they have been naturally smoothed as you say, I have used the yearly values, not the 20 or 75 year smoothed values, to make the chart.

  251. anna v says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    ” MLO only goes back to 1958, and the other comparable series are shorter yet. Beck shows a big rise in CO2 between 1930 and 1950 (http://www.biomind.de/realCO2/), but MLO tells us nothing about this period. ”

    The Beck data shows values that differ by 30 ppmv in the same year. It shows values that jump by 50 ppmv from one year to the next. I see nothing like that in the MLO data.

    ” The Law Dome cores suggest flat CO2, but then they’ve been naturally smoothed by the firn factor (and then artifically smoothed on top of that).”

    While they have been naturally smoothed as you say, I have used the yearly values, not the 20 or 75 year smoothed values, to make the chart.

    Let us start the logic from the beginning:

    Why are we interested in measuring global CO2 ?

    Answer: Because some scientists got the idea that CO2 as a green house gas has the ability to delay heat from leaving the atmsphere to the point of leading to an overheating of the planet.

    Where is CO2, and how is it distributed?
    answer: there are many sources and sinks of CO2 and it is distributed all over the globe

    What is the ideal way to measure CO2 cncentrations?

    answer: satellites that would also give three dimensional measurements, down to the surface, since CO2 as a heavier than air gas concentrates lower than the average gases in the air.

    How do we measure CO2?
    answer: by 14 or so stations covering the latitudes in a limited longitude slice chosen for “purity” .
    and at the moment in the troposphere by satellites.
    Assuming that there is nothing wrong with the Keeling et al measurements, do you really believe these will give a reasonable estimate of amount of CO2 in the atmosphere?

    To accept these measurements as global measurements, one has to swallow whole the ” well mixed” hypothesis.

    Do you have an experimental proof of the “well mixed” hypothesis?
    Experiments where a column of air has been sampled from ground level to troposphere and the ppms found constant?
    I would like a link for that.

    Missing this experiment, if I accept the Maona Loa as well measured, I am also allowed to accept Beck’s compilations as well measured and they strongly suggest that the “well mixed” hypothesis is wrong.

    How would the CO2 from the WWII excess travel to Maona Loa? Look at the AIRS animations to see how the CO2 streams like everything in the atmosphere from west to east.

    This is a video everybody who talks of well mixed should watch:

    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/930860/see_how_co2_is_heavier_than_air/

    With innumerable sources and sinks of CO2 on the surface continually acting do you still insist that the “pure” measurements are the way to measure the CO2 in the atmosphere?

  252. Tony says:

    Anna,

    You say

    ” Why are we interested in measuring global CO2 ?
    Answer: Because some scientists got the idea that CO2 as a green house gas has the ability to delay heat from leaving the atmsphere to the point of leading to an overheating of the planet.”

    The origins of the MLO project is where I start to have problems. Given the prior state of knowledge (see Beck’s listing of the CO2 measurement programmes during C19th) it was obvious that CO2 was not well-mixed at all, and so a proposal to fund the whole MLO project, including its expensive logistic trail of samples, just would not have succeeded. But a cold-war observation system, designed to measure and detect C14 in the upper atmosphere, most definitely would have been funded.

    So, we could postulate the start of MLO as a hugely well-funded cold-war observatory and logistic chain, set up to measure the changing levels of C14 fraction, as a means of detecting nuclear tests and estimating yields. So, one could say that the MLO project to measure ‘background CO2′ was partially motivated by a groupthink need to find other moral justifications for the work .. a ‘peaceful scientific use’ …. a ‘swords plus ploughshares’ thing, perhaps. And like all such projects with dual sources of funding, the confusion of ends and means inherent in dualities of this nature, produces complexity. A reading of the history of the MLO indicates that the CO2 measuring project was done on a shoesting, with all that implies.

  253. Jbar says:

    You can say THAT again!

  254. Quite late to join the discussion (what a pity!), here a few remarks:

    Willis used the older description of the Mauna Loa measurement and selection method, but a newer, more detailed one exists here, including extended calibration methods:
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/about/co2_measurements.html

    The raw (hourly averaged + stdv), non-altered in any way data are available for four of the baseline stations at:
    ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/in-situ/
    where BRW = Barrow, MLO = Mauna Loa, SMO = Samoa and SPO = South Pole
    These are calculated data, based on 2×20 minutes voltage readings of the outside air and 3×3 minutes readings of different calibration gases with known composition (see the first website about calibration).

    For the (still) interested ones, there is no difference in form or average or trend if you include or exclude the outliers with the criteria used for all baseline stations. See my web page at: http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/co2_measurements.html

  255. What I find astonishing about all of the above discussion of the volcano is: no-one has paused to think: did Keeling *know* about this? Did he perhaps have a very good scientific reason for choosing this site? Did he perhaps… think about it?

    More: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2010/06/dumb_america.php

  256. Willis Eschenbach says:

    William M. Connolley says:
    June 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    What I find astonishing about all of the above discussion of the volcano is: no-one has paused to think: did Keeling *know* about this? Did he perhaps have a very good scientific reason for choosing this site? Did he perhaps… think about it?

    More: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2010/06/dumb_america.php

    What I find astonishing is that you didn’t notice that I said that Keeling thought about it and chose a good site, viz:

    This air has traveled across half of the Pacific Ocean, so it is far from any man-made CO2 sources. And as a result, it is very representative of the global background CO2 levels. That’s why Keeling chose the site.

    and

    I would say that Keeling picked a very good location.

    Then we have:

    Jay Cech says:
    June 5, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Keeling was a first rate scientist, and I thank Willis for his detailed description of the CO2 measurement process, and especially the references contained. Keeling was a U of I [BS chemistry] and Northwestern graduate [PhD in chemistry] , a very careful experimentalist. The use of reference calibration gasses and switching the flows is a very time honored technique in analytical chemistry.

    The data is validated in many ways. One could only hope that the temperature records were on such solid footing.

    and

    HankHenry says:
    June 5, 2010 at 6:42 am

    … I think Keeling’s uniform and seasonally varying data itself tells us that there is indeed an area to be found where CO2 levels are quite stable – a background.

    So yes, I and others have said that Keeling had good reasons for picking the site.

    PS – For those readers unacquainted with William Connolley and his work, there is a good overview here and here.

  257. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Ferdinand Engelbeen says:
    June 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    …The raw (hourly averaged + stdv), non-altered in any way data are available for four of the baseline stations at:
    ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/in-situ/
    where BRW = Barrow, MLO = Mauna Loa, SMO = Samoa and SPO = South Pole
    These are calculated data, based on 2×20 minutes voltage readings of the outside air and 3×3 minutes readings of different calibration gases with known composition (see the first website about calibration).

    Many thanks, Ferdinand. A number of people had asked for the raw data (or complained that it was unavailable). Your link should set that to rest.

    As to whether the outliers make any difference, please see Ferdinand’s web page here, which shows that they make no difference at all. As William Connolley says, Keeling knew what he was doing when he chose the site …

  258. Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 24, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    As to whether the outliers make any difference, please see Ferdinand’s web page here, which shows that they make no difference at all. As William Connolley says, Keeling knew what he was doing when he chose the site …

    Just finished a few graphs where the raw hourly data of two stations (Mauna Loa and Samoa) are compared with the “cleaned” daily averages of the same stations for the year 2008, according to the predefined rules for exclusion of outliers:
    http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/klim_img/co2_raw_select_2008.jpg
    The average for the raw data of Samoa in 2008 is 384.00 ppmv, for the selected daily average data it is 393.91. For Mauna Loa: raw 385.34, selected 385.49. Hardly a difference in a trend of 60+ ppmv since the measurements at the South Pole and Mauna Loa started…

    I also have plotted the same data on full scale to show that the small local variations around the global trend are of little interest:
    http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/klim_img/co2_raw_select_2008_fullscale.jpg
    The full scale graph makes it clear that CO2 in the atmosphere, at least between MLO and SMO (but also at most other places on earth) is very well mixed…

  259. Derek says:

    Just a couple of Ferdinand quotes…

    ” The raw (hourly averaged + stdv), non-altered in any way data ”

    ” Just finished a few graphs where the raw hourly data ”

    ” The average for the raw data of Samoa in 2008 is 384.00 ppmv, for the selected daily average data it is 393.91. For Mauna Loa: raw 385.34, selected 385.49. ”

    By slight of word, hourly averages become unaltered raw data.
    Yet no raw data to see.
    Very impressive Ferdinand, very impressive.

    I love Willis’s comment,
    ” Many thanks, Ferdinand. A number of people had asked for the raw data (or complained that it was unavailable). Your link should set that to rest. ”

    Complicite, never, perish the thought.

  260. Derek says:
    June 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Derek, I know, you never will be satisfied, until you have even the size of the shoes of the maintenance engineer at Mauna Loa, to be sure that he didn’t alter the data.

    As said in a previous message: The hourly averages are from 2×20 minutes 10 second snapshot voltage readings of the instrument and several minutes of three different calibration gases. These are used to calculate the real CO2 level (accurate to about 0.1 ppmv) for each snapshot value over the 2×20 minutes in the past hour. The average and stdv of these values are presented as hourly values, which still are raw, unaltered, but averaged data.

    As there is a maximum of a few tenths of a ppmv change over a day at Mauna Loa if background air is sampled, there is little need to put the many million individual snapshots on line, as the average and the stdv over the past hour shows all information needed. If there is local disturbance either from volcanic outgassing or depleted air from the valley, that will show up in the average and/or stdv. It is that simple.

    But if anybody wants to control the calculations (as I did for a few days worth of data), simply ask for the original snapshot voltage data at Pieter Tans of NOAA, he is a very kind person and very willing to answer any questions.

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