Ancient “Hyperthermals” aka global warming, more frequent than previously thought

Ancient “Hyperthermals” a  Guide to Anticipated Climate Changes

Scripps researchers document the history of sudden global warming events, impacts on marine life

By Mario Aguilera, Scripps Institute News (h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard)

Sediment samples in the lab of Richard Norris obtained by the Ocean Drilling Program reveal the mark of “hyperthermals,” warming events lasting thousands of years that changed the composition of the sediment and its color. The packaged sediment sample on the left contains sediment formed in the wake of a 55-million-year-old warming event and the sample on the right is sediment from a later era after global temperatures stabilized.

Bursts of intense global warming that have lasted tens of thousands of years have taken place more frequently throughout history than previously believe, according to evidence gathered by a team led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego researchers.

Richard Norris, a professor of geology at Scripps who co-authored the report, said that releases of carbon dioxide sequestered in the deep oceans were the most likely trigger of these ancient “hyperthermal” events. Most of the events raised average global temperatures between 2° and 3° Celsius (3.6 and 5.4° F), an amount comparable to current conservative estimates of how much temperatures are expected to rise in coming decades as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming. Most hyperthermals lasted about 40,000 years before temperatures returned to normal.

The study appears in the March 17 issue of the journal Nature.
“These hyperthermals seem not to have been rare events,” Norris said, “hence there are lots of ancient examples of global warming on a scale broadly like the expected future warming.  We can use these events to examine the impact of global change on marine ecosystems, climate and ocean circulation.”

The hyperthermals took place roughly every 400,000 years during a warm period of Earth history that prevailed some 50 million years ago. The strongest of them coincided with an event known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, the transition between two geologic epochs in which global temperatures rose between 4° and 7° C (7.2° and 12.6° F) and needed 200,000 years to return to historical norms. The events stopped taking place around 40 million years ago, when the planet entered a cooling phase. No warming events of the magnitude of these hyperthermals have been detected in the geological record since then.

Photo of Hyperthermals
Richard Norris in his lab with ancient sediments obtained by the Ocean Drilling Program reveal the mark of “hyperthermals,” warming events lasting thousands of years that changed the composition of the sediment and its color. The dark color in the large sediment core sample at left depicts the onset and aftermath of a 55-million-year-old warming event when changes in ocean temperatures altered the composition of marine life.

Phil Sexton, a former student of Norris’ now at the Open University in the United Kingdom, led the analysis of sediment cores collected off the South American coast. In the cores, evidence of the warm periods presented itself in bands of gray sediment layered within otherwise pale greenish mud. The gray sediment contained increased amounts of clay left after the calcareous shells of microscopic organisms were dissolved on the sea floor. These clay-rich intervals are consistent with ocean acidification episodes that would have been triggered by large-scale releases of carbon dioxide. Large influxes of carbon dioxide change the chemistry of seawater by producing greater amounts of carbonic acid in the oceans.

The authors concluded that a release of carbon dioxide from the deep oceans was a more likely cause of the hyperthermals than other triggering events that have been hypothesized. The regularity of the hyperthermals and relatively warm ocean temperatures of the period makes them less likely to have been caused by events such as large melt-offs of methane hydrates, terrestrial burning of peat or even proposed cometary impacts. The hyperthermals could have been set in motion by a build-up of carbon dioxide in the deep oceans caused by slowing or stopping of circulation in ocean basins that prevented carbon dioxide release.

Norris noted that the hyperthermals provide historical perspective on what Earth will experience as it continues to warm from widespread use of fossil fuels, which has increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere nearly 50 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Hyperthermals can help scientists produce a range of estimates for how long it will take for temperatures to fully revert to historical norms depending on how much warming human activities cause.

“In 100 to 300 years, we could produce a signal on Earth that takes tens of thousands of years to equilibrate, judging from the geologic record,” he said.
The scientists hope to better understand how fast the conditions that set off hyperthermals developed. Norris said that 50 million year old sediments in the North Sea are finely layered enough for scientists to distinguish decade-to-decade or even year-to-year changes.

Co-authors of the paper include researchers from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton at the University of Southampton in England and the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Germany.

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102 thoughts on “Ancient “Hyperthermals” aka global warming, more frequent than previously thought

  1. It’s a wonder the greens aren’t pushing for another Azolea event (i think I have that plant name right – the one that sucks C02 from the atmosphere)

  2. It would be helpful to have some more objective measure of temperature such as isotope ratios to draw these conclusions.
    Mud color seems inadequate for more than a fairly weak and subjective inference.

  3. “These clay-rich intervals are consistent with ocean acidification episodes that would have been triggered by large-scale releases of carbon dioxide. Large influxes of carbon dioxide change the chemistry of seawater by producing greater amounts of carbonic acid in the oceans.”

    “The hyperthermals could have been set in motion by a build-up of carbon dioxide in the deep oceans caused by slowing or stopping of circulation in ocean basins that prevented carbon dioxide release.”

    Always the conditional clauses. Do these scientists categorically exclude all other possible reasons?

  4. “These clay-rich intervals are consistent with ocean acidification episodes that would have been triggered by large-scale releases of carbon dioxide. Large influxes of carbon dioxide change the chemistry of seawater by producing greater amounts of carbonic acid in the oceans.”

    Logic fail.
    When it warms the oceans release Co2 and get more alkaline. That raises airbourne Co2 which is then absorbed back into the ocean when it cools, making it less alkaline again.

    These people are talking nonsense.

  5. The research is interesting. Seems that they didn’t report any evidence of an impact from CO2. Yet they seemed obligated to throw in comments such as “likely” and “more likely” regarding CO2, without any evidence to back it up. Same agenda-driven drumbeat, when it appears they were just guessing.

  6. Still no proof of whether warming caused the release of the CO2 or vice versa.
    At the end of the day, however, we do know that life on Earth existed both before and after such events.

  7. As a former Geology major, I have always said there is nothing more normal than warming that’s global. And since I learned that tidbit in Geology 101, it is safe to say that I’m one of millions and millions of former college students who are not misled by the current climate fears…

  8. Well that’s a relief…
    …climate change is normal

    Now all they need is a workaround for this:

    “releases of carbon dioxide sequestered in the deep oceans were the most likely trigger of these ancient “hyperthermal” events.”
    “The hyperthermals could have been set in motion by a build-up of carbon dioxide in the deep oceans caused by slowing or stopping of circulation in ocean basins that prevented carbon dioxide release.”

    and an explanation of how they read 5 million little lines……

    “Norris said that 50 million year old sediments in the North Sea are finely layered enough for scientists to distinguish decade-to-decade or even year-to-year changes.”

    Other than all that, it’s good to go…
    …I’m sure their peers agree

  9. Tallbloke has it right: CO2 rise is an effect of temperature, not a cause, as shown by high resolution ice-core data from the past several-hundred-thousand years. The intellectual dishonesty of Norris, Sexton, and all the other tax-funded shills for carbon taxation is shameful, but understandable.

  10. Speaking of geologic scale. 55 million years?

    I hope they have taken continental drift into account with their bore hole location.
    I’m betting there are several meteor impacts within that time frame also, and lots of volcanoes/continental uplift ect. Heck even species would affect the chemical cocktails of mud (I’m thinking bacteria here).

    Seems there would be a lot of outside influence to take into consideration. I’m sure the study would be a fascinating read.

  11. Norris said that 50 million year old sediments in the North Sea are finely layered enough for scientists to distinguish decade-to-decade or even year-to-year changes.

    Why do I suddenly have an image of a tree ring in my head? 50,000,000 and one can determine 1 from that? Do we have a 50,000,000:1 microscope? There’s much more to say about this bit of news, but I’m not buying it.

  12. They state: “The hyperthermals took place roughly every 400,000 years during a warm period of Earth history that prevailed some 50 million years ago.”

    This sounds very much like Milankovich cycles.

    They state:”The events stopped taking place around 40 million years ago, when the planet entered a cooling phase. No warming events of the magnitude of these hyperthermals have been detected in the geological record since then.”

    Ok. So why does ice core data show periodic fluctuations of 10 degrees over 100,000′s of years if no warming events are taking place?

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/12/historical-video-perspective-our-current-unprecedented-global-warming-in-the-context-of-scale/

    So basic statements would appear to be wrong.

    Seems like a lot of conjecture trying to link things to CO2 when Milankovich cycles have long been accepted as a good explanation.

  13. So.

    “The hyperthermals took place roughly every 400,000 years during a warm period of Earth history that prevailed some 50 million years ago.”
    Nobody knows why.

    “The events stopped taking place around 40 million years ago, when the planet entered a cooling phase. ”
    Nobody knows why.

    “No warming events of the magnitude of these hyperthermals have been detected in the geological record since then.”
    Nobody knows why.

    But there are people who claim to know how and why global changes such that they can say;
    “In 100 to 300 years, we could produce a signal on Earth that takes tens of thousands of years to equilibrate, judging from the geologic record”.

    Using the same reasoning one can confidently say that, in 100 to 300 years, we could produce flying pigs .

    Richard

    warming events

  14. “the transition between two geologic epochs in which global temperatures rose between 4° and 7° C (7.2° and 12.6° F) and needed 200,000 years to return to historical norms.”
    =======================================================
    Yuh huh, so temps are usually in equilibrium?

  15. @Tallbloke (March 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm)–
    As I read it, it’s not self-contradictory. Large-scale releases of CO2 — posited from deep ocean, but I don’t think it matters — cause CO2 to enter the atmosphere, and equilibration causes the top layer of ocean (where the microorganisms lived) to become less alkaline. So the deep ocean, losing CO2, may become more alkaline, but the part which fostered the sediment-forming wee beasties becomes less alkaline. [I will not say more acidic.]

    It’s still ridiculously speculative, but not self-contradictory.

  16. So, essentially, Chuck Norris was born 40 million years ago.

    That kind of explains everything. 0_O

  17. So… does anyone here recall what happened 50 million years ago that put a halt to hyperthermals?

    I was on vacation then so someone will have to fill me in on the details.

  18. Ok. Let me see if I have this right. Carbon dioxide is sequestered in the deep oceans. For some reason, this CO2 is then released into the atmosphere. This abundance of CO2 in the atmosphere causes a worldwide warming event. The warming THEN causes changes to ocean chemistry and sediment coloration. Hmmm….

    Well, as a chemist, if you are RELEASING large quantities of CO2 FROM the oceans I can tell you that the chemistry of the ocean has just changed. You don’t have to have a “hyperthermal” episode to make that change. This is the kind of crap being passed off as science, and people actually are awarded degrees for this.
    Even use of the term “hyperthermal” for only 2 or 3 degrees of heating is ridiculous. What would they use for the 10 to 14 degrees of heating coming out of a glacial? Super-dooper extreme hyperthermal?

    Grandpa always used to say, “You can send a clunk to college, and he’ll come out of it a clunk with a degree.”

  19. Mr. Norris claims: “The gray sediment contained increased amounts of clay left after the calcareous shells of microscopic organisms were dissolved on the sea floor. These clay-rich intervals are consistent with ocean acidification episodes that would have been triggered by large-scale releases of carbon dioxide. Large influxes of carbon dioxide change the chemistry of seawater by producing greater amounts of carbonic acid in the oceans.”

    Could not the hiatus in the accumulation of calcium carbonate (in the form of shells of micro-organisms on the sea floor) also be explained by a temporary rise in the calcium compensation depth (i.e. depth where the rate of carbonate dissolution equals accumulation) caused by a DECLINE in dissolved CO2? I thought that the solubility of calcium carbonate increases as the concentration of dissolved CO2 (bicarbonate) decreases?

    The hiatus could even be more simply explained on the supply side by a decrease in biological activity in the waters above to the point of deposition to the point where the rate of carbonate accumulation is less than the rate of dissolution for some period of time? Or, even more simply by changes in the height of the water column (and thus pressure) caused by sea level changes or vertical tectonic movements of the depositionsal surface?

  20. Sometimes it was warmer than at other times. Therefore CO2 must have done it. There seems to be a few steps missing from the logic.

  21. So there it is historical precedence for the large scale release of CO2 into the atmosphere causing Global warming, only diference is this time around the mechanism of release is different.

  22. The authors concluded that a release of carbon dioxide from the deep oceans was a more likely cause of the hyperthermals than other triggering events that have been hypothesized. The regularity of the hyperthermals and relatively warm ocean temperatures of the period makes them less likely to have been caused by events such as large melt-offs of methane hydrates, terrestrial burning of peat or even proposed cometary impacts.

    Dear Dr. Svalgaard,

    Thank you for the news tip.

    The article is behind one of those damnable paywalls, so I didn’t read it. Did you? If so, assuming the “episodes” are valid findings, were all the possible causes considered? For instance, what about solar variation? Can we be sure that the sun is (and has always been) unwavering in its output?

    Also, should we be worried about something that apparently hasn’t happened for 40 million years? The researcher in the photograph (Dr. Norris) doesn’t look worried. What do you make of that?

  23. Do their results tie in with ice core data, or does CO2 in the ice cores lag behind the warm ocean sediment accumulation? They don’t really know that the CO2 came first, do they? (it must be CO2 because we can’t think of anything else…)

  24. Well whaddyknow?

    I have seen too many sound pieces of field research subjected to twisted interpretations of the data produced to support some fashionable fancy based entirely on supposition.

    These connections are usually tenuous to say the least or as here untenable. As are a couple of the other reports cited below.

    It is the way of the world I suppose.

    Kindest Regards

  25. Leif Svalgaard says:
    March 16, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    tallbloke says:
    March 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm
    Logic fail. When it warms the oceans release Co2 and get more alkaline.
    Logic should be applied correctly. The release does not need to have anything to do with warming oceans. See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos
    ====================================================

    Leif, I don’t mean to butt in, but the study tied itself to warming. And, states it is less likely, that their results were found because of external issues………….. such as a volcano.

    “The authors concluded that a release of carbon dioxide from the deep oceans was a more likely cause of the hyperthermals than other triggering events that have been hypothesized.”

    Nyos releases CO2 cause of a nearby volcano.

  26. This “news release” is so far from being a scientific paper that it deserves being trashed on arrival. Frankly, there is no way to determine if public relations screwed it up or the original work was absurd. No references, no footnotes, no anything to validate their statements – which look a lot like hypotheses.

    I never expected Scripps to sink this low.

  27. They just need one more workaround………

    Why did temperatures and CO2 levels crash after one of their hyperthermals?

    What they call “historical norms” are ice ages….

    …why didn’t the magic elevated CO2 prevent the planet from going into another ice age

    If CO2 is driving temperature like they claim it is. If CO2 raises temperatures to where the feedbacks tipping points cause run away global warming…

    …why is it that every time CO2 and temperature levels have been high

    ….the planet goes right back into another ice age

  28. Some one ask Harry Reid or some other person or group who fought Yucca Mountain Underground Nuke storage for years and years how they feel about being responsible for all that above ground spent nuke rod storage in the U.S. seeing how things go when things go wrong like in Japan just now.

  29. ***The events stopped taking place around 40 million years ago, when the planet entered a cooling phase. No warming events of the magnitude of these hyperthermals have been detected in the geological record since then.***

    Not interglacials?

  30. Mike D. says:
    March 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm
    If so, assuming the “episodes” are valid findings, were all the possible causes considered? For instance, what about solar variation? Can we be sure that the sun is (and has always been) unwavering in its output?
    The thermal episodes were real enough, one can debate their cause. Personally, I think the CO2 hypothesis is plausible, although a lot more CO2 than what we have now must be involved. I don’t think the Sun is the driver, because a main sequence star is very stable.

  31. The abstract says that the common rapid CO2 release events in this time period were then re-sequestered by the ocean just as rapidly (versus the CO2 carbon cycle models which assume that it must be sequestered geologically in sedimentary rock).

    In this time period, the North Atlantic was just opening up and massive surface and shallow ocean volcanoes would have produced huge CO2 releases every few thousand years.

    The PETM CO2 release event is assumed to take 200,000 years to be resequestered but this study says that the ocean reabsorbs it much faster (obvious to those who have reviewed the carbon-cycle models using the actual numbers).

    It is probably just another climate science study that really is talking about one thing but gets spun and re-spun into a massive global warming storyline.

    This is actually common in this field. A researcher spends a lot of time and money gathering data but to eventually get it published, a global warming spin has to put on it. The researcher still wants to get something out of all that effort and does want to get to published in Nature so he/she just goes along with the spin – knowing the data showing something else completely still gets published in the meantime.

  32. #
    #
    tallbloke says:
    March 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    “These clay-rich intervals are consistent with ocean acidification episodes that would have been triggered by large-scale releases of carbon dioxide. Large influxes of carbon dioxide change the chemistry of seawater by producing greater amounts of carbonic acid in the oceans.”

    Logic fail.
    When it warms the oceans release Co2 and get more alkaline. That raises airbourne Co2 which is then absorbed back into the ocean when it cools, making it less alkaline again.

    These people are talking nonsense.

    You are missing the fact that the concentration of CO2, and the ocean temperatures are not uniform with depth. The source of the CO2 is the deep part of the oceans which are very cold and dissolve a lot of CO2. If there is periodic overturning of the oceans the CO2 rich cold water comes to the surface, gets warmer and loses CO2 to the atmosphere. This mechanism is apparently favored because such deep ocean water overturnings can be periodic, and a regular periodicity of the warmings has been observed.
    This is not the only paper in which changes in ocean circulation are associated with Greenhouse warming events.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v439/n7072/abs/nature04386.html

    Abrupt reversal in ocean overturning during the Palaeocene/Eocene warm period

  33. It is one thing to discover an interesting phenomenon in nature and another thing entirely to try explain it. Having noted the existence of hyperthermals which is interesting the authors immediately try to connect this with current global warming speculations. But to say that “In 100 to 300 years, we could produce a signal on Earth that takes tens of thousands of years to equilibrate, judging from the geologic record” explains nothing either about the cause of the hyperthermals or about any meaningful signal on earth.

  34. Latitude says:
    March 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    If CO2 is driving temperature like they claim it is. If CO2 raises temperatures to where the feedbacks tipping points cause run away global warming…

    …why is it that every time CO2 and temperature levels have been high

    ….the planet goes right back into another ice age
    =================================================

    Well, Lat, knowing you, I know this is only a rhetorical question coming from you. You already know the answer, but others may not be so enlightened. And there probably isn’t enough space here to properly give all of the information, so, I’ll try to be brief.

    Others, recently, have attempted to explain this scarcely known phenomenon. But, they lacked complete understanding. Certain NOAA personnel have attempted to characterize this as Warm Arctic Cold Continents, we know this isn’t an accurate description of the dynamics occurring. Sadly, some have beat Dr. Syme to publishing in a peer-reviewed journal. (I understand its a grueling process for those that don’t conform to current thought, so its understandable how many wouldn’t know about the precise dynamic.) But, it is all fairly straightforward and more precisely worded, and more accurately worded as simply warmcold.

    You see, it isn’t necessary for the poles to be warm, it is anywhere on the planet. If some parts of the planet is warm, specifically, (and thought to be exclusively) warmed by CO2, we know this generates cold. We know the poles don’t matter because of the spherical nature of the globe. Indeed, how else could we explain the very occurrences described in this paper? Or even the occurrences of this winter? It is, none other than the dreaded warmcold. I hope I’ve cleared some things up for some people. :-)

  35. More tendentious shroudwaving speculation masquerading as “science”.

    The only useful thing I get from it is the new name for our anxious chums trousering tax funds for their “research”.

    Hyperthermalists.

    Hmmmmm.

    I like that.

  36. So Leif, if you did read it, what do you think of their hypotheses, methods and results? Let’s see some real discussion of the findings, not just a bunch of pooh-poohing, conjecture and jokes. The summary of the report at the link does not say why they think CO2 is the likely cause, rather than a result of the noted changes.

  37. Hyperthermals. Intense, sudden warmth. Reminds me of…Yep! Sounds like hot flashes to me. Gaia, Geea, or whatever her name is, needs to sit down with a bottle of chocolate wine. It’s called ChocoVine, imported from Holland. Dutched chocolate and fine red wine. What’s not to like? Chocolate and red wine all together in a bottle. It will chase those hyperthermals right out of the atmosphere and cool the raging Gaia beast. Not that I have any experience with that sort of thing. I’m just fine. And don’t you be saying anything different.

  38. I’ve stated several times on this site that I do not believe the mid-ocean ridge and undersea volcanoes are properly considered in climate models.

    Those events certainly have a component that is more or less constant and therefore more or less predicable over geographic times. (able to be smoothed reasonably)

    However, those events also would have periodic episodes of especially turbulent occurences.

    I have no doubt that periodically the undersea super volcano eruption occurs (like Yellowstone), or that the mid-ocean ridge splits far more than usual (consider a continental plate more or less round that slips all the way around rather than laterally).

    This would account for the additional CO2 as the limestone, plants and shells nearby are vaporized, and would also account for chemistry changes causing extinctions on land and in the sea. Depending on what exactly is released and in what quantity, it’s easy to conceive of toxic conditions being generated in the seas and out gassing to the atmosphere.

    The belief that the Ring of Fire or the mid-ocean ridge is a constant makes as much sense to me as the belief that the sun’s output is constant in frequency, wavelength and amplitude. Meaning, “not”.

    I do not accept that plate tectonics always occurs at a glacial pace, I believe sometimes there are huge slippages and sometimes there are huge tears, all dependent on the physics of the mantle, outer core, and inner core. Physics we obviously don’t well understand.

    No surprise here to me. The Earth burps.

  39. “Norris noted that the hyperthermals provide historical perspective on what Earth will experience as it continues to warm from widespread use of fossil fuels, which has increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere nearly 50 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”
    There is that little scale issue again cropping up in Dick Norris’s mud study that must essentially turn mankind’s puny contribution into the Chuck Norris of molecules as usual.
    Ka-ching $.

  40. Latitude says:
    March 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    If CO2 is driving temperature like they claim it is. If CO2 raises temperatures to where the feedbacks tipping points cause run away global warming…

    …why is it that every time CO2 and temperature levels have been high

    ….the planet goes right back into another ice age

    Sexton’s explanation was gibberish.
    The right explanation is that in the case of ice age cycles there seem to be three mechanisms involved. The primary driver is the earth’s orbital and axial precession, changing the distance between the earth and sun and the angle of the tilt axis. As the tilt angle increases, and the distance to the sun in the northern hemisphere summer increases, the earth’s reflectivity decreases, the oceans get warmer and emit CO2. Both of these phenomena make the earth even warmer. When the tilt angle decreases and the distance between earth and sun in the northern hemisphere decreases, the process reverses itself. The albedo and CO2 are not the driving force, in the case of the ice age cycles, but are feedback reactions to the cyclical earth’s orbital and axial changes, called the Milankovitch cycles.

    The modern industrial emission of CO2 is a driving force, and over time the resulting global warming can result in the emission of additional CO2 from the oceans.

  41. Those darn continents keep sliding around, opening and closing pathways for currents, closing and opening oceans, pushing up mountains, altering freshwater rivers, and rifting apart land masses. The follow-on effects are oh so complicated.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    apachewhoknows says:
    March 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm
    Some one ask Harry Reid . . .

    Harry is busy trying to shut down one of Nevada’s thriving attractions:

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/feb/23/reids-call-brothel-ban-real-showstopper/

    Reid seems interested in taking the nation’s mind in a direction other than housing, employment, spending, health care, and . . .

  42. Hyper-thermals lasted from 40,000 to 200,000 years before temperatures returned to “normal”. Just how long has something got to last before it becomes the new “normal”? 2? 5? 10 times the entire history of civilization? As Latitude said, “normal” equals ice-age by that reckoning. Who needs it?

  43. What? This minor trace gas (CO2) can cause warming? Go figure!

    (sarcasm off)

    Now, how will the AGW skeptics find some way to poke holes in this study?

  44. Nothing is ruled out:
    Asteroid impacts, nearby novae and supernovae, passing close/hot young star, monster solar cycles, massive rift zones (like the 2000 ft of Andesite covering the last tilt of the Sierra Nevada), Supervolcanoes… lots of things to consider. All Black Swan events in the expanse of geologic time.

  45. RE: Scott Ramsdell: March 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm
    I’ve stated several times on this site that I do not believe the mid-ocean ridge and undersea volcanoes are properly considered in climate models.

    Scott,
    The alarmist article the other day – “Could global warming be causing recent earthquakes?” quite possibly has it backwards.
    As you note, when undersea rifts and volcanoes become more active, there could well be significant (and un-accounted) additional CO2 pumped into the deep ocean waters. Because it is deep, the release to atmosphere would take place over extended time periods, and would be smoothed; giving a long slow ramp up as we see in Mauna Loa data.
    For example: The mid Atlantic rift is dead center in the undersea ‘return’ leg of the thermohaline conveyor. CO2 added there would cycle back up to the surface in the Pacific and Indian oceans centuries later. The CO2 isotope markers would give the appearance of organic origin, but would be completely independent of fossil fuel use at the surface. Slow cook heating from the bottom could also contribute to steric expansion of sea levels.

    and Pamela Gray has the answer (lol, loved your comment Pamela)
    Hyperthermals. Intense, sudden warmth. Reminds me of…Yep! Sounds like hot flashes to me. Gaia, Geea, or whatever her name is, needs to sit down with a bottle of chocolate wine.

  46. Me and Nemo never seen one of them Hippothermals and we hang out down there a fair old bit. We seen a few in rivers and lagoons in Afreeca. But not in the briny.

    Hope this advances the discussion, randomly.

  47. Fascinating article. Let’s see: the Earth gets pretty warm sometimes and then gets really cold. Hmm. With all those “hyperthermal” events (someone is being hypernominous here) one would think that the Earth would have gone into the final hypercinderization process as unstoppable, feedback-induced global warming ran rampant.

    But no, we got a multimillion year period of periodically freezing our asses off and dodging herds of woolly mammoths and mammoth glaciers.

    So, this study begs further study. We have established that runaway global warming is not in the cards. Now, what of the flora and fauna associated with these “hyper” events? Mass extinctions or mass burgeoning? One wants to know. My guess: life went crazy on the upside, with titanotheriums and massive coral reefs and great fanged beasties that got stuck in tar pits and so forth. Glacial eras on the other hand seem to feature huge herds of a few kinds of animals.

    Could some real geologists/paleontologists/geochemists/stratigraphers etc. get involved here and do some work? I mean, the “carbon dioxide” footprint described in this paper is an open invitation to loot the scientific grant system. I might even come out of retirement to do a synoptic, holistic review or two of the early Paleozoic. Maybe I could jet off to Tahiti to describe my findings.

  48. Leif Svalgaard raised an interesting point with the link to Lake Nyos, and a few others here have touched on it, but the idea seems lost on those, ( and many others) doing the studies.

    Richard Norris thinks that, “releases of carbon dioxide sequestered in the deep oceans were the most likely trigger of these ancient hyperthermal events.”

    What if it’s actually the other way around? As shown in the link Dr. Svalgaard provided, events can and do, release CO2.
    Considering the Earth is still a very active and rumbling planet, I’d believe this theory a lot more then the one that says mankind is influencing the climate due to Anthropogenic CO2.

  49. Scott Ramsdell says: “…I have no doubt that periodically the undersea super volcano eruption occurs (like Yellowstone), or that the mid-ocean ridge splits far more than usual (consider a continental plate more or less round that slips all the way around rather than laterally)….”

    Things like Yellowstone result where continental crust is involved in the melting. There, a mantle plume is melting whatever crustal material passes over it. For a long time that has been continental crust (in general, rock the composition of granite), which yields the siliceous melts that are involved in explosive volcanism that sends material 45,000 feet into the atmosphere and ejects hundreds or thousands of cubic kilometers of material.

    Otherwise, you get something like Hawaii where a mantle plume is melting oceanic crust (in general, rock the composition of a “primitive” basalt), where the other day …gasp… they had fountains of lava 80 feet high! The viscosity of a Hawaiian basalt is several orders of magnitude less than that of a dacite magma, and further it is far less hydrous (water-bearing). The basalt flows; the dacite blows.

    And yes, the Earth does speed up sometimes. The Late Cretaceous and Early Paleocene exhibited some of the greatest oceanic spreading rates that (to my knowledge) have been measured or estimated. The Atlantic Ocean opened in a flash, so to speak. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge must have stood high and proud, it was so hot and active and therefore less dense. Whether this added lots of CO2 to the atmosphere, I cannot say.

    One expects these events to decline with time, as the Earth cools. The Archean Eon witnessed voluminous outpourings of komatiitic lavas – very mafic lavas with a melting point of over 1300 deg.C. Only once since then – 3 billion years ago – have we seen lavas that compare to those. Todays basalts are formed at temperatures a hundred or two hundred degrees cooler. The Earth is becoming cold and arthritic. This may have something to do with big bangs like the Japanese earthquake: things aren’t quite as fluid as they once were, and movements of great masses of rock are no longer plastic, but instead brittle failure – catastrophic movements – become the norm.

  50. Let me get this straight; large quantities of CO2 are released from the ocean which then causes CO2 to be absorbed by the ocean causing acidification? 2-2+2=2. Am I missing something?

  51. Question – What is the validity of the deep ocean CO2 release hypothesis? I know I’ve seen speculation about it a couple of times, but what is the evidence to show that this can happen / has happened in the past?

  52. Regarding ” release of carbon dioxide from deep oceans”, Geologist Tim Casey seems to know his stuff. Apparently there are liquid lakes of CO2 with seawater accumulation, toward the vents. I could imagine a pressure drop (uplift) that could quickly release this as a gas.

  53. Two interesting aspects here. At least three of these “hyperthermals” are accompanied by large carbon isotope disturbances. It has therefore always been assumed that they were caused by releases of highly fractionated carbon (e. g. biogenic methane). Carbon dioxide in the deep ocean in not highly fractionated, so it would require vast amounts to cause the observed changes. We are talking of several thousand ppms in the atmosphere here, which implies a low climate sensitivity to CO2.

    Secondly, with the exception of the first (PETM) excursion, these hyperthermals are essentially invisible in the fossil record. They apparently caused no extinctions and indeed no notable changes at all in the biosphere. Indeed the Eocene when they occurred has always been considered a remarkably stable epoch with warm, equable conditions over most of the world.
    The PETM excursion did cause a substantial extinction among benthic (bottom-living) foraminifers and a remarkable burst of diversification of practically everything else both in the ocean and on land.
    The next major biotic crisis only comes with the strong cooling ca 35 million years ago, when continental glaciation first covered Antarctica.

  54. “The events stopped taking place around 40 million years ago, when the planet entered a cooling phase. No warming events of the magnitude of these hyperthermals have been detected in the geological record since then.”

    Nothing to do with the Laramide orogeny then……

  55. As others have already commented this sounds like Milankovitch cycles. The strongest warming signal should be every 400,000 years but until now this periodicity has not been detected in the ice cores. Indeed this has been used to question the soundness of the theory. The next strongest should be 20000 or 40000 years but the actual strongest is around 100000 years and this has also been used to question the theory. However it now seems that in its unfrozen state (before Antarctica formed 40 million years ago) the 400000 periodicity did dominate. Similarly before the Americas joined together and cut of the circular ocean currents the next most important 20,000 year cycle was dominant.

    This suggests to me that the earth is forced by these solar variations but now has natural resonances caused by the ice accumulation and restricted ocean circulation. The CO2 idea is a red herring. If they cannot find a reason why the CO2 should rise and fall every 400000 years they do not have a plausible theory. We know that it will rise and fall as a consequence of global warming so why look for something extraordinary to imply the causality is in the opposite direction.

  56. Dr. Svalgaard, thank you for pointing out the link to the supplemental info. It is confusing though. The authors apparently “tuned” their age models to fit obliquity frequencies, but then also found substantial power spectra that fit precession and eccentricity frequencies, which (they stated) provided “independent validation of our tuning strategy”.

    So the “globally widespread calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dissolution events” seem to “fit” astronomical variations, yet (the article states) they (apparently) rejected astronomical variations as a causal factor.

    Very curious. I can see where using Milankovitch Cycles to establish ages would induce non-independence and multi-collinearity, so that the former cannot be used in the analysis as independent explanatory variables for the latter. But leaping to the CO2 release (oceanic turnover) as the cause is pretty speculative deduction. It’s a little bit like a trial where the strongest evidence is ruled inadmissible on technical grounds. Is this O.J. science?

    PS – I find the paywall barrier to be really annoying. I tend to reject any and all papers that the System hides in that fashion.

  57. so, does this mean that CO² has a 200,000 year atmospheric lifecycle? Oh yes I realise that it is the quatity that is taking the time to reduce itself but……

  58. I have problems with the concept of ocean sediment quietly settling and building up for countless aeons in a specific location when, in that tme frame, continents are rent asunder and go walkabout, chains of volanoes, including those of the mid-ocean ridge, blast stuff into the atmosphere, oceans change their shape, the major currents wander about and the great mountain chain of the Himalayas is thrust on high.
    Or have I missed something simple and obvious?
    And tacking the obligatory man-made warming signal onto the end of the study seems a tad illogical to me.

  59. I think most of the commenters on this thread expose thier bias by their whipjerk reaction to having to find a reason to dismiss the study. The vast bulk of commenters don’t give the impression they understand the science behind it enough to reach such a conclusion.

    The various accusations of fraud against the authors of the study by a few commenters are just icing on the cake.

  60. “Richard G says:
    March 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Let me get this straight; large quantities of CO2 are released from the ocean which then causes CO2 to be absorbed by the ocean causing acidification? 2-2+2=2. Am I missing something?”

    If the released CO2 wasn’t dissolved in the oceans then it will be. Eg:

    hydrates -> atmosphere -> oceans

  61. Paul R says:
    March 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    “There is that little scale issue again cropping up in Dick Norris’s mud study that must essentially turn mankind’s puny contribution into the Chuck Norris of molecules as usual.
    Ka-ching $.”

    Man’s contribution isn’t puny. CO2 levels have increased by 40% since pre-industry.

    And before anyone wheels out the tired and debunked “humans only emit 3% of CO2″. That 40% increase is part of the 3% accumulating year after year after year. Adds up.

    CO2 is currently at millions of year highs so claims on the internet that human CO2 emissions are somehow too small to mean anything is dishonest.

  62. Several have pointed out logic fail in chem of oceans with evolution of co2 in this paper. Another: they have the clay layers bleached gray by ocean acidification dissolving the shells of micro-orgs caused by re-solution of evolved co2 back from the atmos, but this dissolution of shells at the same time re-evolves co2.1) How can the critters get dissolved by the re-entry of the co2 that just left? 2)the dissolution of the shells themselves evolves more co2. See how crazy you can get when you have your co2 blinkers on?

  63. @Jeremy

    They discuss Milankovich periodicities (see link Leif Svalgaard gave), but they apparently hold that these correlate with ocean carbon cycles which cause the warming. So they recruit the astronomical data to the carbon paradignm.

  64. onion2 says: March 17, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Man’s contribution isn’t puny. CO2 levels have increased by 40% since pre-industry.

    And before anyone wheels out the tired and debunked “humans only emit 3% of CO2″. That 40% increase is part of the 3% accumulating year after year after year. Adds up.

    CO2 is currently at millions of year highs so claims on the internet that human CO2 emissions are somehow too small to mean anything is dishonest.

    The “40% increase” that “Adds up.” and your call elevate the esteem of the poor bullied CO2 molecule is just silly. CO2 is at its historic low. Plants like 1000+ppm of CO2 because they evolved in it. http://i46.tinypic.com/2582sg6.jpg

  65. onion2, I see commonality in your posts. Do you have a set of talking points and responses at the ready? Sort of like a bible for believers with book, chapter, and verse? You have used the same or similar grammatical syntax and semantics in some of your recent responses across threads. It is an area you might want to look at in order to improve your standing as a serious debater.

  66. eadler says:
    March 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Latitude says:
    March 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    If CO2 is driving temperature like they claim it is. If CO2 raises temperatures to where the feedbacks tipping points cause run away global warming…

    “Sexton’s explanation was gibberish.”
    =============================================

    Sorry eadler, I forgot to use the sarcasm annotation.

    However, like most good sarcasm, it was rooted and truth. James Overland of NOAA did indeed forward a contrivance called Warm Arctic Cold Continents as an explanation for this winter’s cold. Which is odd, because at Goddard’s site, we too, independently defined the process as warmcold. My use Dr. Syme as an obscure reference to the Orwellian nature of both explanations. In fact, warmcold was contrived with Orwell’s 1984 in mind. Syme would be the co-worker of Winston Smith. “He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly.”

    Both contrivances are as credible as any other explanation which was posited as an explanation for a process described in the paper.

    James

  67. “2° and 3° Celsius (3.6 and 5.4° F), an amount comparable to current conservative estimates of how much temperatures are expected to rise in coming decades as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming”

    (sigh) I don’t expect any such rise “as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming”, mainly because I have yet to see any evidence of “anthropogenic global warming” at all. Wish I knew where to get some of what these “expecters” are smoking.

    But it looks like the alarmists now have a new scare word to play with. Anthony, you should offer a small prize for your first correspondent to spot the phrase “anthropogenic hyperthermal event” or similar. (Except this mention here, of course.)

    Counting down. 3 … 2 … 1 …

  68. onion2 says:
    March 17, 2011 at 2:30 am

    I think most of the commenters on this thread expose thier bias by their whipjerk reaction to having to find a reason to dismiss the study.

    onion2 says:
    March 17, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Man’s contribution isn’t puny. CO2 levels have increased by 40% since pre-industry.

    Richard Norris, a professor of geology at Scripps who co-authored the report, said that releases of carbon dioxide sequestered in the deep oceans were the most likely trigger of these ancient “hyperthermal” events.

    Phil Sexton,………….. These clay-rich intervals are consistent with ocean acidification episodes that would have been triggered by large-scale releases of carbon dioxide.
    =====================================================

    Onion, you’re gonna have to help me with your reasoning process.
    First you snark about everybody here and their inability to understand the validity of the work. Then, you go on about “man’s contribution”, quoting a %40 increase.

    Oddly, both Morris and Sexton refer to oceanic release of sequestered CO2. Oh, wait, we know this process isn’t happening now……..

  69. Dr. Svalgard points out that the authors did appear to relate their results to the astronomical periodicities. I have not had time to dig up the article nor the supplementary material. Perhaps someone who has can answer if they discussed the eccentricity maxima and minima. Eccentricity minima and maxima occur every fourth cycle offset by half a 4th cycle, or 200kyrs. So, in 200kyrs we will be at another maxima, another 200kyrs beyond that (400kyrs from now), we will be at another minima, and so on.

    Interestingly, the 4th cycle maxima correlate rather well with hominid evolution:
    “An examination of the fossil record indicates that the key junctures in hominin evolution reported nowadays at 2.6, 1.8 and 1 Ma coincide with 400 kyr eccentricity maxima, which suggests that periods with enhanced speciation and extinction events coincided with periods of maximum climate variability on high moisture levels.”
    state Trauth, et al (2009) in Quaternary Science Reviews. As it turns out, periods of wet maximum climate variability (in modern lingo, global warming/global cooling correctly re-branded as climate change), cook-up the larger braincases. We went from 500-550cc braincases 2.8 mya to the average of about 2,500cc today in the most rapid encephalization of any mammal in the fossil record.

    So in consideration of periods in the 400ky range, one would at least be wise to also consider the eccentricity minima and maxima. Since I do not have the time at the moment to read their work, perhaps someone can opine if they did. Because failure to do so might not, well, you know, be human……..

  70. onion2 says:
    March 17, 2011 at 2:34 am
    Paul R says:
    March 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    “There is that little scale issue again cropping up in Dick Norris’s mud study that must essentially turn mankind’s puny contribution into the Chuck Norris of molecules as usual.
    Ka-ching $.”

    Man’s contribution isn’t puny. CO2 levels have increased by 40% since pre-industry.

    And before anyone wheels out the tired and debunked “humans only emit 3% of CO2″. That 40% increase is part of the 3% accumulating year after year after year. Adds up.

    CO2 is currently at millions of year highs so claims on the internet that human CO2 emissions are somehow too small to mean anything is dishonest.

    Onion – go and read Henry’s Law. One of the classical gas laws.

    CO2 will not build up as you believe it will. As its vapor pressure rises so will the rate of dissolving into the oceans. Clouds and rain rapidly wash CO2 out of the atmosphere and most studies show a life in the atmosphere of ~5 years. Remember the rate it dissolves increases with its vapor pressure.

  71. I haven’t read all the comments, but I scanned most of them and I didn’t see anyone mention the obvious complaint I have with this study (and most other core studies as well):

    He used one set of core samples, from one location, and then jumped to global conclusions. The changes he is seeing could be due to a nearly infinite number of various regional conditions. Changes in ocean currents, river outlets, wind/dust deposition variations, rainfall patterns, nearby seafloor shape changes like coral reefs and volcanic mountainbuilding, etc, etc, etc. Unless you can get enough samples from other locations so that you can eliminate other explanations, then you can’t make any conclusions at all. You can only make the observation that something changed at this location, which led to a change in sediment.

    Oh by the way. Why doesn’t he admit that changes in the relationship between the sun and earth could also explain climate changes? Answer: because that doesn’t fit the preconceived notions he was trying to support before he started this study.

  72. One of the more interesting things about the PETM can be found here in Texas. Right around the time of the PETM, the Wilcox formation was depositing sand and mud into what we call the Gulf of Mexico. In apparently a very short period of (geologic) time, a channel cut was made in the shelf sediments that ended up being around 65 miles long, up to 12 miles wide and in some places 3,000 feet deep. It’s often called the “Grand Canyon of Texas”. It’s called the “Yoakum Channel”. Even more amazing, faster than it was cut, the channel was then filled in, mostly with mud.

    Unfortunately, you can’t visit the Yoakum Channel, as it’s buried under 6-8 thousand feet of additional sediment.

    Was this canyon caused by a massive lowering and then a quick rise in sea level, or was it just a submarine canyon formed by processes unrelated to sea level change? Perhaps a combination? Was the Yoakum Channel formed at the same time Wilcox aged reservoir oil sands were deposited 150 miles further away in the Gulf from the traditional Wilcox delta systems? Oil finders working both the onshore and the very deep offshore Gulf of Mexico will tell you the Wilcox formation still holds a lot of questions that are not easily answered.

  73. Alexander K says:
    March 17, 2011 at 2:06 am

    “…Or have I missed something simple and obvious?…” You raise a good point. Mostly, the oceanic crust is a few hundred thousands to millions of years old (subduction/obduction causing their removal from the sea floor). Not tens of millions of years, which is implied in the article above. Has anyone actually read the paper? Where did they find these (presumably) ancient sea floor sediments?

  74. R. Gates,

    “Now, how will the AGW skeptics find some way to poke holes in this study?”

    It’s just speculation R. Full of ‘coulds’ and ‘consistent withs’. What’s to poke?

  75. @R. Gates,

    They didn’t show that CO2 had any involvement at all. All they showed was that there were periods in the Earth’s past a lot hotter than now. Everything else is pure speculation and hand waving on their part.

    Common chemistry already shows that as a liquid heats up, its ability to dissolve gasses per unit volume decreases, and those gasses are released. Volcanoes are also a great source of all sorts of gasses, some far, far more potent than CO2 could dream to be. We know the Earth used to be far more volcanic than it is now, so the most likely speculation to make is that volcanism was the primary driver of these hyperthermals. There are many other possibilities too, but this seems most correlated with all the evidence about the past that we know.

  76. It would be interesting to see the original submitted paper and then the reviewer comments. What changes did the reviewers suggest ……. especially in the cause – effect relationship and conclusion.

    Wonder what the sedimentation rate was during the grey clay deposition vs the lighter coloured depositional period. A higher rate of sedimentation due to increased input of allochthonous clastic clay would increase the clay/critter ratio that may be flipped and interpreted as a decrease in critter production.

    The comment above where it was pointed out that it was only one core and that one cannot ignore potential localized geological factors is right on the mark. I find that many otherwise good papers based on observational data end up with a cut and dried CO2 explanation. Any change in anything in the global environment defined as from outer space to the earths core is now attributed to human release of green house gasses. It just boggles the mind.

    Next we will hear that the proverbial `apple fell from the tree’ was caused by decreased CO2 concentration allowing the apple to fall; if CO2 was higher the apple would have floated away and humanity would have starved!

    We will soon be told that a2 + b2 = c2 is only true with CO2 < 350.

  77. to R Gates:

    “They didn’t show that CO2 had any involvement at all. All they showed was that there were periods in the Earth’s past a lot hotter than now. Everything else is pure speculation and hand waving on their part”

    They can’t possibly make even that claim. I don’t think a sample from one place says anything about global conditions.

    To Philip Fink:

    “It would be interesting to see the original submitted paper and then the reviewer comments”

    I can’t find any evidence that this paper was published in a journal or peer reviewed. This is as credible as a love letter to my fiance.

  78. Ian W says:

    Onion – go and read Henry’s Law. One of the classical gas laws.

    CO2 will not build up as you believe it will. As its vapor pressure rises so will the rate of dissolving into the oceans. Clouds and rain rapidly wash CO2 out of the atmosphere and most studies show a life in the atmosphere of ~5 years. Remember the rate it dissolves increases with its vapor pressure.

    Yes, some of it will dissolve in the oceans, but not all of what is added. That is why about half of the CO2 from fossil fuel emissions is remaining in the atmosphere.

    As for the half-life in the atmosphere, as Willis Eschenbach among others has pointed out here, that is not the correct value to use to characterize how long it takes for a spike in CO2 levels to decay. The short half-life is because there are fast exchanges with the biosphere and the ocean mixed layer. However, transfer of CO2 to the deep oceans (or into land rock formations) takes much longer. Hence, what you have is this: When you add a slug of CO2 to the atmosphere (from a place where it has been sequestered…like fossil fuels are), then it rapidly gets partitioned between the atmosphere, biosphere, and ocean mixed layer. However, the elevated levels of CO2 in this subsystem persists for a much longer time…It is a slow and non-exponential decay.

  79. Gary Swift says:

    I can’t find any evidence that this paper was published in a journal or peer reviewed. This is as credible as a love letter to my fiance.

    Apparently, you missed this line in the press release: “The study appears in the March 17 issue of the journal Nature.” Nature and Science are generally considered to be the two top peer-reviewed general science journals on the planet. It doesn’t mean everything in them turns out to be correct, but it does mean that it should be taken quite seriously.

  80. Cart before the horse?

    Vostok shows co2 increase comes after a rise in temps (~900 years after). Am I missing something here?

  81. This paper:

    http://www.cosis.net/abstracts/EGU2007/09087/EGU2007-J-09087.pdf?PHPSESSID=04ed1917c18da3a5df0aa78653712094

    states:

    The North Atlantic Igneous Province (NAIP) represents the 3rd
    largest magmatic event on Earth for the last 150 Ma. The NAIP formed during two
    major magmatic phases: a pre-break-up phase (62-58 Ma) and a synbreakup phase
    (56-54 Ma) contemporaneous with the onset of North Atlantic sea floor spreading.

    The synbreakup phase (56-54 Ma) of the ’3rd largest magmatic event on Earth for the last 150Ma’ seems to straddle the ’55-million-year-old warming event’ referred to in the caption accompanying the photo above.

    Could there be a connection?

  82. Joel Shore says:

    “Yes, some of it will dissolve in the oceans, but not all of what is added. That is why about half of the CO2 from fossil fuel emissions is remaining in the atmosphere.”

    Provide testable, reproducible, empirical evidence showing that CO2, specifically, is causing global damage. And with the money at stake, it had better be convincing.

    Otherwise, admit that CO2 is a harmless trace gas, and that all the wild-eyed alarmist predictions of runaway global warming are bunkum, and the scientific method is nowhere to be found among the incestuous grant sucking climate clique.

  83. “Richard Norris, a professor of geology at Scripps who co-authored the report, said that releases of carbon dioxide sequestered in the deep oceans were the most likely trigger of these ancient “hyperthermal” events. Most of the events raised average global temperatures between 2° and 3° Celsius (3.6 and 5.4° F), an amount comparable to current conservative estimates of how much temperatures are expected to rise in coming decades as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming. Most hyperthermals lasted about 40,000 years before temperatures returned to normal.”

    Excuse the stupid question, but should not the periodic hyperthermal data be included within the range of natural climate variability?

  84. Dave in Delaware says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    For example: The mid Atlantic rift is dead center in the undersea ‘return’ leg of the thermohaline conveyor. CO2 added there would cycle back up to the surface in the Pacific and Indian oceans centuries later.

    Thanks Dave. I’m working on making a more comprehensive argument from my “Earth burps” comment and appreciate the feedback. Food for thought.

    =================================================

    JimF says:
    March 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Thanks Jim, you’re right I wasn’t properly differentiating between continental and oceanic crust. I need to better incorporate what you’ve rightly pointed out.

    “The Late Cretaceous and Early Paleocene exhibited some of the greatest oceanic spreading rates that (to my knowledge) have been measured or estimated. The Atlantic Ocean opened in a flash, so to speak.”

    Thanks again, I’ll do more research on those events.

    ====================================================

    Alexander K raises points I’ve been interested in too.

    I have thoughts on a modified Expanding Earth theory here: http://cultofthecarboncow.com/?p=1670 Comments are closed but if you share an interest, I’d open another thread for emails and comments.

  85. Joel Shore said: “…When you add a slug of CO2 to the atmosphere (from a place where it has been sequestered…like fossil fuels are), then it rapidly gets partitioned between the atmosphere, biosphere, and ocean mixed layer. However, the elevated levels of CO2 in this subsystem persists for a much longer time…It is a slow and non-exponential decay.”

    Yes, it persists until it is fixed into calcium carbonate by marine micro-organisms whose skeletons sink to the bottom of the ocean where a portion are preserved for a very long time in the ultimate CO2 sink: Limestone!

    My guess is the amount of CO2 that is ‘sequestered’ into the world’s known limestone formations is orders of magnitude greater than any of the other ‘subsystems’ you are considering.

  86. Scott Ramsdell, you are correct, this is natural variability, part of the natural climate “noise”. Only in just the past 20 years have we realized that the natural climate is abrupt, dramatic and apparently unavoidable. I often joke with folks heavily bent on the AGW hypothesis that wouldn’t it be wonderful, we somehow find a way to squelch CO2 emissions, scrub the atmosphere of it to whatever level they think appropriate, and completely quash the 2007 AR4 worst case 0.59 meter sea level rise. While we are slapping ourselves on the back, drinking non-carbonated champagne (of course) sea level suddenly shoots up 20 meters anyway, like it did right at the end of the last interglacial, or maybe 20 meters, like occurred during the Holsteinian (MIS-11) four interglacials back.

    As one might expect, this tends to fall on deaf ears. One of the first order problems of AGW adherents is not so much a lack of perspective, but the lack of an ability to perceive perspective. Because once a thing has gelled in the minds of homo sapiens (think religion for example) it typically takes something on the order of a crisis of faith to net a different conclusion. A thing which doesn’t seem to happen all that often. As a practicing scientist that must frequently deal with the movers and shakers of major corporations caught in the vortex of complex environmental nightmares, finding a way to “plug-in” quickly to their thought channels, and at their perceived level of understanding, often needing to raise it just as quickly, is almost always the most difficult challenge. As with communicating things climate.

    I have not found the golden key here yet, but often a properly delivered shock will create a crack, just wide enough to allow a single contrary thought to enter the active level of consciousness. I am often to be heard at the outset of a climate encounter immediately espousing my sincere hope that they are right about CO2. In fact they had better be right. Continuity of civilization probably depends on their being right! What other solution can they propose that will extend the eventual end of the now very long-in-the-tooth Holocene? “What, do tell, is the Holocene?” is not an atypical response. Why, its the interglacial, you know the bookends of the ice ages, in which all of human civilization has occurred! Only cave paintings have been found post 10,000 years ago, and the Holocene is now about 11,500 years old, exactly half of the present precessional cycle. 5 of the last 6 interglacials have each lasted about half a precessional cycle! If you can think of another way to keep the miles thick ice sheets that have extended as far south as Kansas from forming in the eventual near future, I would be most interested in hearing it.

    Works on intelligent people. Sometimes.

    But on to another commenter’s question as to why we do not see this in the ice core data. Well, the useful recovered ice from Antarctica goes many times further back than Greenland, and it only gets us back to right about MIS-19, something like 800kya. So about 1/70th of the way back in times towards the PETM. And yes, so far the consensus seems to be that the temperature excursions known as ice age terminations preceded the GHG rises by something on the order of 800-1000 years in the available ice cores. In the B and C class Dansgaard-Oeschger oscillations, same order, but the GHGs rise faster, with the difference more on the order of decades to a few centuries. D-O events average 1500 years long and 8-10 degrees C and have ramped as high as 19C!

    And we are not talking 200,000 years to slope down 7C, this happened 24 times in the last 100,000 years! So I take your 7C and raise you 12C and call! Evidence for D-O events has been credibly reported in varved sedimentary rocks 680 million years old. Dome. So at 1500 years, that would be a half million or so D-O events. You lose.

  87. Smokey says:
    March 17, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Joel Shore says:

    “Yes, some of it will dissolve in the oceans, but not all of what is added. That is why about half of the CO2 from fossil fuel emissions is remaining in the atmosphere.”

    Provide testable, reproducible, empirical evidence showing that CO2, specifically, is causing global damage. And with the money at stake, it had better be convincing.

    Otherwise, admit that CO2 is a harmless trace gas, and that all the wild-eyed alarmist predictions of runaway global warming are bunkum, and the scientific method is nowhere to be found among the incestuous grant sucking climate clique.
    Smokey,
    Joel Shore’s statement is a scientifically correct description of what has happened to the CO2 emitted by human industrial sources. If you believe this to be incorrect, provide some backup.

    Despite the protestations of the right wing Global Warming skeptics, there is 150 years of scientific literature supporting the idea that the emissions of CO2 due to human industrial sources will strongly affecting the earth’s climate and that natural emissions of CO2 have done that in the past.

    The fact that people are educated , paid to do climate science, and learn from one another, and challenge one another, is the way science has always been done. This pattern has resulted in a lot of scientific progress.

    It seems that some people are ideologically driven to deny the results of climate science because the conclusions conflict with their prejudices. This is also true of biology. In the US, 40% of people believe that the human race was created by God less than 10,000 years ago, despite the evidence that the homo sapiens fossils 190,000 years old , and human precursor fossils 3 million years old have been found; and evolution is the basis of biological science.

  88. James Sexton says,
    However, like most good sarcasm, it was rooted and truth. James Overland of NOAA did indeed forward a contrivance called Warm Arctic Cold Continents as an explanation for this winter’s cold. Which is odd, because at Goddard’s site, we too, independently defined the process as warmcold. My use Dr. Syme as an obscure reference to the Orwellian nature of both explanations. In fact, warmcold was contrived with Orwell’s 1984 in mind. Syme would be the co-worker of Winston Smith. “He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly.”

    Both contrivances are as credible as any other explanation which was posited as an explanation for a process described in the paper.

    James

    Actually Overland’s explanation seems quite credible, and he predicted the recent winter cold snap in North America before it happened. Look at this press release from the summer of 2010.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100611093710.htm

    He isn’t the only climate scientist to describe this phenomenon. It was simulated and described in even more detail by Judah Cohen, who also predicted it in advance.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/opinion/26cohen.html

    Weather is interesting and complex, and we should respect those who provide clear explanations of the forces at work. Satire works only if the object is ignorant or mistaken. People who satirize what they don’t understand can look foolish.

  89. Ian W says:

    ” Onion – go and read Henry’s Law. One of the classical gas laws.

    CO2 will not build up as you believe it will. As its vapor pressure rises so will the rate of dissolving into the oceans. Clouds and rain rapidly wash CO2 out of the atmosphere and most studies show a life in the atmosphere of ~5 years. Remember the rate it dissolves increases with its vapor pressure.”

    You are leaving out the fact that as temperature increases, the solubility of gases in water decreases.

    When the ocean surface layer becomes warmer, the solubility of CO2 goes down, , and the rate of removal of CO2 by the oceans goes down. It seems as if this is already happening in the southern ocean. In this case cold water from the ocean depths which holds a large amount of CO2 comes to the surface, and gets warmer, and can’t absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17385-ozone-hole-has-unforeseen-effect-on-ocean-carbon-sink.html

    In addition, as the temperature of the ocean rises, the maximum concentration of CO2 decreases so much that the oceans will then emit CO2. This causes an increase in the greenhouse effect, and heats the ocean further until a new equilibrium is reached at a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-lags-temperature.htm

  90. “Next we will hear that the proverbial `apple fell from the tree’ was caused by decreased CO2 concentration allowing the apple to fall”

    Dear Philip

    You make a good point. ACC is being used now to explain almost everything, from earthquakes and tsunamis to solar flares and teenage acne. ACC causes everything and is linked to practically everything; I have yet to hear it explain gravity but I expect that it will soon and be peer reviewed to boot. ACC is the unified field theory of everything. ACC seems to be replacing real scientific investigation. Years ago biologists used to say insect infestations were due to the over use of insecticides, now that explanation is obsolete, infestations are due to ACC. Reduced Salmon populations used to be due to overfishing, now its ACC. Overfishing itself is also due to ACC. All of those old scientists are brushed aside by the Unified Field Theory of Everything, ACC. Coral bleaching, glacial retreat, earlier spring, later spring, larger women, smaller women, droughts, rain, wind, ocean rise, ocean fall, plate tectonics, cow farts and hundreds of other phenomena are now explained with one thing ACC. There is no need to do real science anymore, it’s already done. What’s worse, the public beleives the solution to the Unified Theory of Everything ACC is to put up some wind turbines. Is science getting lazy? What is going on?

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