Laughing gas bugs

From the University of Tennessee at Knoxville  where they think N2O is no laughing matter. It is another example of Nature’s adaptation. But I have to wonder though why they think this is “unexpected”, because denitrification(bacterial conversion to N2) has been well known to science and agriculture for decades. This PR looks like code for “more studies are needed, please send money”. And it is another sloppy press release without the name of the paper or the DOI given.

Nitrous Oxide on LSD

Nitrous Oxide on LSD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

- Anthony

Unexpected microbes fighting harmful greenhouse gas

Nature has a larger army than previously thought combating nitrous oxide — according to a study by Frank Loeffler, University of Tennessee, Knoxville — Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Microbiology, and his colleagues

The environment has a more formidable opponent than carbon dioxide. Another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, is 300 times more potent and also destroys the ozone layer each time it is released into the atmosphere through agricultural practices, sewage treatment and fossil fuel combustion.

Luckily, nature has a larger army than previously thought combating this greenhouse gas—according to a study by Frank Loeffler, University of Tennessee, Knoxville–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Microbiology, and his colleagues.

The findings are published in the Nov. 12 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have long known about naturally occurring microorganisms called denitrifiers, which fight nitrous oxide by transforming it into harmless nitrogen gas. Loeffler and his team have now discovered that this ability also exists in many other groups of microorganisms, all of which consume nitrous oxide and potentially mitigate emissions.

The research team screened available microbial genomes encoding the enzyme systems that catalyze the reduction of the nitrous oxide to harmless nitrogen gas.

They discovered an unexpected broad distribution of this class of enzymes across different groups of microbes with the power to transform nitrous oxide to innocuous nitrogen gas. Within these groups, the enzymes were related yet evolutionarily distinct from those of the known denitrifiers. Microbes with this capability can be found in most, if not all, soils and sediments, indicating that a much larger microbial army contributes to nitrous oxide consumption.

“Before we did this study, there was an inconsistency in nitrous oxide emission predictions based on the known processes contributing to nitrous oxide consumption, suggesting the existence of an unaccounted nitrous oxide sink,” said Loeffler. “The new findings potentially reconcile this discrepancy.”

According to Loeffler, the discovery of this microbial diversity and its contributions to nitrous oxide consumption will allow the scientific community to advance its understanding of the ecological controls on global nitrous oxide emissions and to refine greenhouse gas cycle models.

“This will allow us to better describe and predict the consequences of human activities on ozone layer destruction and global warming,” said Loeffler. “Our results imply that the analysis of the typical denitrifier populations provides an incomplete picture and is insufficient to account for or accurately predict the true nitrous oxide emissions.”

###

Loeffler collaborated with researchers from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign; the Georgia Institute of Technology; the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Urbana, Ill.; the University of Puerto Rico; and the National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management in Pune, India.

65 thoughts on “Laughing gas bugs

  1. And it is another sloppy press release without the name of the paper or the DOI given.

    Why should they give you the name of the paper? If they do you’re going to read it and find fault with it. They have worked hard on that paper — why should they tell you what it is? What do you want to do? Check the data? How unscientific of you…

    Most people would just take their word…

  2. Laughing gas is N2O, not NO2. Don’t get ‘em confused!

    Little Johnny’s dead and gone
    He studies chem no more
    For what he thought was H2O
    Was H2SO4

  3. ‘Dentrification’? Is that what dentists do to you under the influence of laughing gas (haha!)? At my school, it was N2O, not NO2, but who’s counting?

  4. Seriously.

    Must one always find something wrong with the announcement of some good science news.

    You write:
    “But I have to wonder though why they think this is “unexpected”, because dentrification(bacterial conversion to N2) has been well known to science and agriculture for decades.”

    1. the article clearly points out that dentrification is well known.
    2. what is “unexpected” is the BROAD distribution of this class of enzymes across different groups.

    “Scientists have long known about naturally occurring microorganisms called denitrifiers, which fight nitrous oxide by transforming it into harmless nitrogen gas. Loeffler and his team have now discovered that this ability also exists in many other groups of microorganisms, all of which consume nitrous oxide and potentially mitigate emissions.

    The research team screened available microbial genomes encoding the enzyme systems that catalyze the reduction of the nitrous oxide to harmless nitrogen gas.

    They discovered an unexpected broad distribution of this class of enzymes across different groups of microbes with the power to transform nitrous oxide to innocuous nitrogen gas. ”

    Your misreading is then used a lever point to suggest something “Send more money” which is something you could say about EVERY report of science. If they fail, you can say “they just want more money”. if they find something, you can say “they just want more money”

    Of course scientists want to stay employed. They’d be insane not to want to stay employed.

    • Mosher…my point is twofold. The headline is one, the lack of the paper/doi is the other. I’m surprised that’s not an issue for you to make a science press release but don’t provide a title or DOI. I contend that the press release is sloppy, as so many have been lately. MIT fixed the one from yesterday that I complained about.

  5. Nitrous Oxide might be 300 times more effective than Carbon Dioxide, but there is very little N2O in the atmosphere. It’s about 0.000003 percent.
    Also, I hope you don’t mind, but there is a spelling mistake “because dentrification(bacterial conversion to N2)”. Bacteria that bite back?
    All the best,
    Perry

  6. Abstract:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/11/09/1211238109.abstract

    Unexpected nondenitrifier nitrous oxide reductase gene diversity and abundance in soils

    Robert A. Sanford, Darlene D. Wagner, Qingzhong Wu, Joanne C. Chee-Sanford, Sara H. Thomas, Claribel Cruz-García, Gina Rodríguez, Arturo Massol-Deyá, Kishore K. Krishnani, Kirsti M. Ritalahti, Silke Nissen, Konstantinos T. Konstantinidis, and Frank E. Löffler

    Published online before print
    November 12, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211238109

    PNAS November 12, 2012

    Free Open Access download,
    “This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.”:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/11/09/1211238109.full.pdf

    SI: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/11/09/1211238109/suppl/DCSupplemental

  7. Mosher, what you don’t seem to understand is that the existence of a microorganism is not a technology. They’ve known about these things for ages, because they’re an essential part of the microflora of a healthy wastewater treatment plant. They’ve been using this for ages to fix nitrogen in sewage. But how, pray tell, does one get NOx out of the atmosphere in sufficient quantities to be able to use this kind of technology.

    Anthony’s right. This isn’t a serious technology proposal. This is a “give me money” proposal.

  8. Denitrification to N2 occurs under specific conditions, that is, very low (non-zero) O2 concentration. Anaerobes convert nitrates and other oxygenated nitrogen compounds to ammonia. Aerobic bacteria convert ammonia back to nitrate in normal atmospheric pO2 conditions. Wastewater treatment often alternates between extremes of super oxygenated and anaerobic conditions and many operators wonder why they don’t remove more nitrogen. N2 seems to be formed when aerobic bacteria are on the edge of death and are scavaging oxygen from whatever source they can. Nothing new here.

  9. The soil giveth and the soil taketh away. Since agricultural activities generate 15 x more N2O than power plants, its only right that the soil acts as a sink for this supposed ozone destroyer.

  10. I am happy to find this set of enzymes is widely distributed. No bad news in that. In the announcement it says that ‘burning of fossil fuels’ is a (major?) cause. As I work with combustion I can state that burning renewable fuels also produces nitrous oxide in exactly the same manner and at exactly the same temperatures as any other fuel. Why? Because NO forms at 700 degrees C with heavier species forming at progressively higher temperatures and or pressure (think, car engine combustion chamber). Read more in Guenter Baumbach’s book (from Univ of Stuttgart).

    Coal burns in a power station at quite a low pressure and switching to biomass fuel instead (as is happening in Austria where they have huge unused forests) changes nothing related to NO. Coal is old biomass.

    I would be interested to see a list of sources of nitrous oxides with some research money put into identifying other sources. There is no doubt somewhere something bacterial is turning N2 into NO for its own reasons.

    If you want to ‘save the world from NO’ stop driving your car and cook your meals over cool, smoky smudge fires using damp cow dung. Then you will have earned the same eco-creds as hundreds of millions of people living in the Third World did before you (you band-wagon jumper).

  11. Steven Mosher, don’t you think that this is another case of box-model chemistry collapsing in the face of ecological complexity? Don’t you think that the tools that many chemists (and physicists) use to understand climate; using the equilibrium approximation instead of steady state thermodynamics, using box-models instead of flux control theory and using (max+min)/2 averages of cyclical processes may just be completely futile?
    I am quite prepared to stick a rabbits head in a bucket of liquid nitrogen and hind legs in boiling water, happy in the knowledge that the rabbit will be fine as the average temperature is unchanged.

  12. Mosher said:

    “Seriously.

    Must one always find something wrong with the announcement of some good science news.”

    Seriously,
    Must one always be a killbuzz ?

    Mosher said:
    “You write:
    “But I have to wonder though why they think this is “unexpected”, because dentrification(bacterial conversion to N2) has been well known to science and agriculture for decades.”

    1. the article clearly points out that dentrification is well known.
    2. what is “unexpected” is the BROAD distribution of this class of enzymes across different groups.”

    Mosher, if you can say why it should be unexpected, then you have a point.

  13. ” Another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, is 300 times more potent and also destroys the ozone layer each time it is released into the atmosphere through agricultural practices, sewage treatment and fossil fuel combustion.”

    Aaaargh! Stop growing food! Let your poo pile up. (There won’t be a lot without food.)

    Otherwise

    WE”RE DOOMED!

    (Unless some natural process sorts out the problem.)

  14. So carbon forms a greenhouse gas when combined with oxygen and so does nitrogen. The solution is obvious – get rid of all the the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

  15. From DocMartyn on November 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm:

    I am quite prepared to stick a rabbits head in a bucket of liquid nitrogen and hind legs in boiling water, happy in the knowledge that the rabbit will be fine as the average temperature is unchanged.

    Are you nuts?

    Nitrogen liquifies at normal pressure at -210°C, water boils at 100°C.

    Since the average is -55°C, that’ll be like dropping the rabbit off in Antarctica in winter. That poor bunny will get hypothermia!

  16. The primary source of N2O is nitrogen fertilizer usage. After the initial uptake by the crop, when the plant dies and decomposes, other microbes in the soil convert it to N20 and it escapes into the atmosphere shortly after.

    These new little bugs from the study don’t seem to be changing the trend of N20 in the atmosphere which is just slightly exponential / almost linear just like CO2 is.

    Its greenhouse gas potential is high but it will never produce much in terms of global warming since it is measured in parts per billion. It will provide up to 0.4 Watts/m2 of forcing by 2100 according to the IPCC.

    Nitrogen Fertilizer is more important than some small GHG forcing which will only produce 0.1C to 0.3C of warming.

  17. In the next breathless announcement, we will be informed that A,Plants take up carbon dioxide as part of their life cycle. And B Who knew there were so many plants?Yes its sarcasm I can’t go on.
    Some how some way those magic words need spoken to these types, “Get a Job.”

  18. As many have said, nitrous oxide is N2O, not NO2. That’s relevant to the Wiki denitrification link cited, because it actually lists N2O as the most difficult oxide form to reduce.

  19. I tend to agree with Mosher on this one. I understand Anthony’s point about the sloppy press release, fair enough, but it is beginning to seem as if most of what gets reported on WUWT gets a double barrel of whine. This work reports an interesting finding and all the mighty pontificators on WUWT notwithstanding, it usually proves quite difficult to tell what is going on in nature from the safety of your computer screen and swivel chair. The press release sucked, but I look forward to seeing the paper, if it isn’t paywalled. These people went out and made observations instead of doing G.D. modelling. WUWT should applaud them.

  20. Nick there is rather a lot of fun chemistry you can do with N2O, and then O2 and hv. You can recycle peroxide radical into molecular oxygen. This should increase the oxidizing potential of the upper atmosphere, which would strip out organics, like methane, much more quickly.

    Have a look at figure 3.

    http://www.accessscience.com/search.aspx?rootID=800184

    Modeling the rate at which one chews up organics like GHG gasses like methane and chews up forest fire type particulates would be quite interesting.

  21. I can agree with Anthony’s complaint about the headline and the lack of a reference to the paper. Both are significant issues with the press release.

    I can also agree with Steven’s comments – the content of the press release (as distinct to the headline) doesn’t deserve the comments that there made about. As he pointed out, the content is quite clear that it’s the scope of microorganisms that can denitrify that’s what’s being reported, not the fact that microorganisms do this.

    Personally, I think the first few paragraphs of the press release should be scrapped or rewritten. They’re written to be alarmist, when they don’t have to be. The rest of the press release is largely fine – detailing what was found without going overboard. It’s the headline and the first few paragraphs that ruin it.

  22. If my memory serves, it some times does not, this kind of foolishness is common in the 11th and 12th months of the year. I suspect but have no empirical evidence that it is directly proportional to the useless and rather juvenile hip around sports games and “block busted” movies. It could be that people are staying to much inside their hermetically sealed homes and suffer from lack of oxygen. Perhaps the mythology about Thanksgiving and uncontrolled consumer spending (read that is increased debt) just turns peoples brains to jelly. Now don’t misunderstand having raised this alarm you can pay me to find a solution. What no takers I can’t believe people are so….

  23. DocMartyn says: November 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm
    Doc,
    yes, interesting radical chemistry in the atmosphere. But there is some interesting chemistry in vivo too.

    People have commented that denitrification usually occurs under anaerobic conditions, when bugs will strip oxygen off anything. And that’s what Anthony’s Wiki ref was about.

    But here is a paper that puts a different light on it, in which this might well be a real discovery. N2O is mainly produced, not under anaerobic conditions, but under limited aerobic. Normal denitrification then cannot reduce to N2, but stops at N2O. If that’s where most N2O is produced, then finding bugs that can complete the process where N2O is produced could be very important.

  24. “Luckily, nature has a larger army than previously thought combating this greenhouse gas…”
    “…microorganisms called denitrifiers, which fight nitrous oxide…”
    ————————————————————
    Observational bias! Gaia is observing the atmosphere and sending out her minions to do battle against evil compounds? Microbes don’t “fight” greenhouse gasses. As Anthony said, it is adaptation.

    Science these days is sodden with AGW agenda.

  25. Bill Illis says:
    November 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    The primary source of N2O is nitrogen fertilizer usage. After the initial uptake by the crop, when the plant dies and decomposes, other microbes in the soil convert it to N20 and it escapes into the atmosphere shortly after….
    ___________________________________
    Darn good reason to plant a cover crop. Can’t find the link, but planting Abruzzi or other winter rye or winter wheat or oats is recommended not only for protecting the soil but also for using up the excess fertilizer. In the spring the cover crop can either be plowed under as green manure or mowed and baled and then no-till planted with corn or other crops after being killed-off with a herbicide.

    Unfortunately most farmers do not have the time or excess money to take care of their fields this way. The seed is darn expensive, $30 -$40/ac.

  26. Now’a’days Universities Admins are the recipients of successful grant proposals, not the researchers and scientists who actually wrote the proposal and propose to be the actual ones doing the work.

    As such, a researcher or scientists writes a proposal intended for NSF or NASA per say. The background research regarding the proposal and vetting through presentations at AGU (American Geophysical Union) and EGU (European Geoscience Union General Assembly) can take a few years. This cost $$$$ that the researcher or scientist pays out of pocket.

    Then, in the end, the Admins at the University reserve the right to hijack the proposal and all the money from NSF and NASA et al. goes to the ‘University General Fund” i.e. the Admins who have only high school educations and little in the way of ethics and morals to show as they write their BLOATED press releases of their high achievements in uneducated sophistry and otherwise grand larceny do give evidence of their thievery sanctioned by University Presidents, Chancellors and ‘Legal Teams’.

    Highway robbery. That is the state of University ‘Research’.

  27. The PR mentions “fossil fuel combustion”. I was wondering about other forms of combustion such as forest fires and grass fires. Is there something special about ancient organic matter over more recently produced combustible organics ?
    Mosher, help me out here!

  28. “Funding for 1000 Alex” is the correct answer. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory and UT are by far the most important contributors to the economic well-being of East Tennessee. Together they form the epicenter of emmisions research products tailored to the nuclear industry. Not long ago it was discovered that Oak Ridge paid 600K to Honeywell for a 3 year green energy efficency contract on one large building. They demolished the building within a year of signing the deal but of course paid the full amount. I’m not qualified to speak to the utility of the research but I can speak to the interest involved in it’s funding. Sometimes what you think is going on is what is going on.

  29. …but what a great place for a stressed scientist to work (assuming they have a job):
    “National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management”

  30. I am continually amazed at the fairly steady stream of papers which claim to add new knowledge to the science of climate change. I do not see how this can possibly occur.

    We are continuously informed that the science is settled. If the science is truly settled, additional studies cannot possibly add to the science of climate change. In fact none of the studies that the diligent researchers (who tell us that the science is settled) are paid to do can add anything of value to the the science of climate change. I suggest that the logical action by society would be to quit funding projects for all individuals who believe that the science is settled.

    A major part of any application for funding should explain in detail why they think that the science of climate change is so lacking in precision that the proposed study might add anything of value to the science. Just think how much more entertaining that would make the proposals.

  31. Scientists have long known about naturally occurring microorganisms called denitrifiers, which fight nitrous oxide by transforming it into harmless nitrogen gas. “

    It’s war JIm, but not as we know it.

  32. john robertson says:
    November 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm
    “In the next breathless announcement, we will be informed that A,Plants take up carbon dioxide as part of their life cycle. And B Who knew there were so many plants?Yes its sarcasm I can’t go on.”

    Ever considered becoming a science press release writer? That wasn’t bad for a start.

  33. “…..The environment has a more formidable opponent than carbon dioxide. ….”
    Truly unbelievable. I’m sure I don’t need to point out the facts concerning CO2 which make this statement a poisonous distortion of the truth.
    Perhaps these morons should ask themselves a simple question: what would happen if there were no CO2 in the atmosphere?
    Chris

  34. Dennis Nikols says:
    November 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    If my memory serves, it some times does not, this kind of foolishness is common in the 11th and 12th months of the year. I suspect but have no empirical evidence that it is directly proportional to the useless and rather juvenile hip around sports games and “block busted” movies. It could be that people are staying to much inside their hermetically sealed homes and suffer from lack of oxygen. Perhaps the mythology about Thanksgiving and uncontrolled consumer spending (read that is increased debt) just turns peoples brains to jelly.

    Here’s an alternative explanation, from a guest on tonight’s Coast to Coast radio show:

    Esoteric researcher Drunvalo Melchizedek discussed the great Earth activations fueling 2012, the magnetic pole shift that is currently affecting humans around the world, and new ways in which humans will begin to perceive and communicate in the world.

    He stated that the first inhabitants of the Mir space station went insane and lost their memory after two weeks, owing to the absence of a magnetic field, and that subsequently space stations have been equipped with generators of artificial magnetic fields.

  35. Donald Mitchell says:
    November 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm
    I am continually amazed at the fairly steady stream of papers which claim to add new knowledge to the science of climate change. I do not see how this can possibly occur………

    A major part of any application for funding should explain in detail why they think that the science of climate change is so lacking in precision that the proposed study might add anything of value to the science. Just think how much more entertaining that would make the proposals.
    ———————————-
    I agree it does sound like fun.
    If you want research money tell us why you think our current knowledge is incorrect.
    cn

  36. “And it is another sloppy press release without the name of the paper or the DOI given.”

    WillR got it in one, in the first post. This is not sloppy or accidental , it is so obvious if you are announcing a paper, that you are going to provide a reference. It’s like announcing a new book but forgetting to tell anyone what it’s called or who publishes it.

    This is more like Phil Jones’ , why should I let you see it ? You only want to prove it wrong.

    You are just supposed to trot off down the pub and tell all your friends “did you know that at new study has just proved that…..”

  37. Steven Mosher says:
    November 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Seriously.

    Must one always find something wrong with the announcement of some good science news.

    Seriously, have you read how Warmists react to say:
    The record cold winter in the UK for over 100 years? Every report that counters CAGW is met with howls and grinding teeth. Jones of CRU said something like we should get worried if temperatures fail to warm soon. It’s a travesty.

    Imagine if a scientific paper came out tomorrow and pointed to evidence that a new mechanism had been discovered that meant the Arctic extent is due to expand rapidly over the next 10 years to reach the 1979 level. Do you think this would be met with sighs of relief from Warmists????? Of course not. Every piece of good news is mocked or under the pay of Big Oil. Sheeesh.

    Please push your very same remark at Warmists, that is where it plays out most.

  38. Nick Stokes said on November 22, 2012 at 10:21 pm:
    I think the paper of Loeffler is here.

    Hey Nick, thanks for confirming my post from eight hours earlier. I downloaded the paper to verify it was a good and free link. What do you think of it?

    Well, glad to know you take the time to read the comments before posting!

  39. Thanks for the link ThisIsNotGoodToGo. As a soil biologist, I found the work to be very interesting and I am glad Anthony pointed it out, whatever his motivation was.

  40. About 50 years ago, I read an article praising the benefits of the oxides of nitrogen that were generated by lightning activity in thunderstorms. When generated by nature it was good stuff – washed out of the atmosphere by rain it was fertilizer for plants. Evidently, like CO2, it is only evil stuff when generated by man’s activities.

    There must be some unwritten rule that allows only benefits to be looked for and studied when anything is produced naturally, while only the ill effects of anything made by man receive any
    attention and publicity.

  41. Well, “nature has a larger army THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT”. This would tell any thinking individual that the amount of natural NO2 is therefore much more than previously thought. Moreover, the ozone hole then obviously has a much more than previously thought natural cause.

    The dumbing down of America – a much discussed topic a few decades ago is supported by the fact that it now seems to be rife in universities – the present topic an example of it. Man this might even be the explanation for the whole CAGW development. I think the erosion of intellectual rigor (even the disdain for intellect) in our institutions of “higher” learning may be the biggest worry facing society today.

  42. From Roger Knights on November 23, 2012 at 3:49 am:

    Here’s an alternative explanation, from a guest on tonight’s Coast to Coast radio show:

    Esoteric researcher Drunvalo Melchizedek discussed the great Earth activations fueling 2012, the magnetic pole shift that is currently affecting humans around the world, and new ways in which humans will begin to perceive and communicate in the world.

    He stated that the first inhabitants of the Mir space station went insane and lost their memory after two weeks, owing to the absence of a magnetic field, and that subsequently space stations have been equipped with generators of artificial magnetic fields.

    Thereby proving his quackery. Mir ran 1986 to 2001. Wikipedia doesn’t mention any such problems. Skylab was 1973 to 1979, no problems. Even earlier was Salyut-1. Its first residents all died, because the cosmonauts weren’t wearing spacesuits and the capsule lost pressure on reentry (Soyuz 11).

    Plus it’s damn idiotic to state there was an absence of a magnetic field. Earth’s magnetosphere extends well above the orbit of the space stations, its protection reduces the radiation shielding requirements (read this about radiation on the ISS). All the space stations had and have a magnetic field, Earth’s natural magnetic field, they don’t need an artificial one.

    If I were to hazard a guess as to where such dreck could have originated, it has been proposed to protect spacecraft with an artificial magnetic field, to deflect as many tiny bits of space debris as possible, or perhaps some charged radiation. Like a primitive “force field”. I’ve never heard of such actually being deployed.

  43. What? Another instance where ancient critters that pretty much titrated the earth’s crust 3 billion years ago and now live at leat as deep as our deepest boreholes will eat anything with potential energy?

    More seriously, it is good science that needed to be done. But don’t act surprised. Our bodies do well to fend these beasts off for a while…

  44. Who cares if NO2 is supposedly 300 times the greenhouse gas when it is one 1230th as abundant (0.325 ppm vs 400 ppm). However, since no gas of any kind can detectably warm the surface and the climate. It is thermodynamically impossible for these gases to do what they claim.
    This is just another example of the junk science of the AGW scam

  45. higley7 says:
    November 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm
    Who cares if NO2 is supposedly 300 times the greenhouse gas when it is one 1230th as abundant (0.325 ppm vs 400 ppm). However, since no gas of any kind can detectably warm the surface and the climate. It is thermodynamically impossible for these gases to do what they claim.

    Firstly it’s N2O not NO2. The reason to care about it is that according to the figures you give it contributes about one third as much to the GHE as CO2.
    Your lack of knowledge concerning radiation heat transfer and thermodynamics is noted!

  46. Argh. people make CO, N2O, NO, and thousands (if not millions) of other chemicals every day, themselves directly and via their commensal bacteria. Ho Hum. Now extend that to the rest of nature.

  47. From Phil. on November 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm:
    The reason to care about it is that according to the figures you give it contributes about one third as much to the GHE as CO2.

    However the GHE of CO₂ is saturated with increases from the pre-industrial ~280ppm atmospheric concentrations to now having practically no effect and further increases within expected ranges to have virtually zero effect, indistinguishable from the noise.

    Since the GHE of CO₂ is maxed out, if N₂O concentrations would stay constant while CO₂ continues its merry rise, then your stated fraction will keep shrinking. And since CO₂’s contribution to the total GHE is practically maxed out all the way down to less than 180ppm, the fraction shouldn’t have been figured by amounts in the atmosphere anyway.

  48. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    November 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    From DocMartyn on November 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm:

    I am quite prepared to stick a rabbits head in a bucket of liquid nitrogen and hind legs in boiling water, happy in the knowledge that the rabbit will be fine as the average temperature is unchanged.

    Are you nuts?

    Nitrogen liquifies at normal pressure at -210°C, water boils at 100°C.

    Since the average is -55°C, that’ll be like dropping the rabbit off in Antarctica in winter. That poor bunny will get hypothermia!

    You forget latent heat of evaporation. The water has about 11x more, so contributes more to the rabbit.

    When will the world ever learn? Temperatures cannot be averaged!

  49. Nick Stokes says:
    November 22, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    But here is a paper that puts a different light on it, in which this might well be a real discovery. N2O is mainly produced, not under anaerobic conditions, but under limited aerobic. Normal denitrification then cannot reduce to N2, but stops at N2O. If that’s where most N2O is produced, then finding bugs that can complete the process where N2O is produced could be very important.

    That N2O production peaks at partial anoxia has been known to soil scientists and agronomists for some time. N2O has been increasing slowly but steadily ever since we learned how to make N fertilizer from atmospheric N2, and this may be a concern as N2O catalyzes ozone destruction.

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