Something else to worry about…carbon in the water

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Fires destroy millions of trees each year. The remaining charcoal is transported to the sea by rivers. © Stefan Doerr, Swansea University

From the Oh Noes department and the Max Planck Institute comes this headline sure to cause worry worts scurrying for carbon removing water filters:

Massive amounts of charcoal enter the worlds’ oceans

Wild fire residue is washed out of the soil and transported to the sea by rivers

Wild fires turn millions of hectares of vegetation into charcoal each year. An international team of researchers led by Thorsten Dittgar from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen and Rudolf Jaffé from Florida International University’s Southeast Environmental Research Center in Miami has now shown that this charcoal does not remain in the soil, as previously thought. Instead, it is transported to the sea by rivers and thus enters the carbon cycle. The researchers analyzed water samples from all over the world. They demonstrated that soluble charcoal accounts for ten percent of the total amount of dissolved organic carbon. 

“Most scientists thought charcoal was resistant. They thought, once it is incorporated into the soils, it would stay there,” says Rudolf Jaffé from Florida International University’s Southeast Environmental Research Center in Miami. But if that were the case, the soils would be black.” Most of the charcoal in nature is from wild fires and combustion of biomass in general. When charcoal forms it is typically deposited in the soil.“ From a chemical perspective, no one really thought it dissolves, but it does,” Jaffé says. “It doesn’t accumulate like we had for a long time believed. Rather, it is transported into wetlands and rivers, eventually making its way to the oceans.”

Thorsten Dittmar from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen focuses on carbon chemistry in the oceans. “To understand the oceans we have to understand also the processes on the land, from where the organic load enters the seas”, Dittmar says.

The international team, which also included researchers from Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Georgia, Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, the USDA Forest Service, and the University of Helsinki in Finland, had taken 174 water samples from all over the world, including rivers like the Amazon, the Congo, the Yangtze as well as Arctic sites.

Surprisingly, in any river across the world about ten percent of organic carbon that is dissolved in the water came from charcoal. With this robust relationship in hand they estimated the global flux of dissolved charcoal, based on previous scientific studies that focused on organic carbon flux. According to these estimates, about 25 million tons of dissolved charcoal is transported from land to the sea each year.

The new findings are important to better calculate the global carbon budget. This budget is a balancing act between sources that produce carbon and sinks that remove it. Detailed calculations are important to assess climatic effects and find ways to alleviate them.

Until now, researchers could only provide rough estimates of the amount of charcoal in the soil, and most of these estimates turned out to be wrong, as the total amout is determined by charcoal producing processes, like wild fires, and transport to the oceans.

According to the authors, the results imply that greater consideration must be given to carbon sequestration techniques (the process of capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide). Biochar addition to soils is one such technique. Biochar technology is based on vegetation-derived charcoal that is added to agricultural soils as a means to store carbon. Although promising in storing carbon, Jaffé points out that as more people implement biochar technology, they must take into consideration the potential dissolution of the charcoal to ensure these techniques are actually environmentally friendly.

Jaffé and Dittmar agree that there are still many unknowns when it comes to the environmental fate of charcoal, and both plan to move on to the next phase of the research. They have proven where the charcoal goes. Next, they want to answer how this happens and what the environmental consequences are. The better scientists can understand the processes and the environmental factors controlling it, the better the chance of developing strategies for carbon sequestration and help mitigate climate change.

Source: http://www.mpg.de/7112434/charcoal_oceans

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

So the question is: with more charcoal in the rivers and oceans, how does this affect the albedo? Does it cause the oceans to warm faster? – Anthony

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108 Responses to Something else to worry about…carbon in the water

  1. profitup10 says:

    Again we prove how SILLY human scientists are – there education is far to narrow for them to be of any general use. How can educated science trained people forget that WATER IS THE ULTIMATE SOLVENT – it dissolves glass and all forms of metals – like AGW these people keep evaluating systems in human time 10 years, 50 years, 100 year clear out to 5000 years.

    How does that relate to a planet that is billions of years old? Human knowledge is not even 100 years of reliable records and those are limited to specific areas. Ice cores and sea mud is again specific as we do not know if the occurrence was global or just multiple sites?

    Silly Humans are just playing GUESS SCIENCE based on unknown data sets processed through some super computer to create a global vision. Well we know that just produces bigger guesses and suppositions.

  2. Tom in Florida says:

    “Jaffé and Dittmar agree that there are still many unknowns when it comes to the environmental fate of charcoal, and both plan to move on to the next phase of the research. ”

    translation: we got some more grant money, woo hoo!

    “The better scientists can understand the processes and the environmental factors controlling it, the better the chance of developing strategies for carbon sequestration and help mitigate climate change.”

    Here’s a strategy for carbon sequestration that will not impact the environment: no need to do it so don’t.

  3. oldseadog says:

    My racing sailboat is made from carbon fibre and I race it on the sea – should I be concerned about this? Will I end up in prison? Is it the first of April again?

  4. fhhaynie says:

    So what! This process didn’t start with the industrial revolution and if there is any effect to the carbon cycle, it is natural, it’s possible effect on on climate is natural, and any attempt to control climate by controlling the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is like spitting into the wind.

  5. Ed MacAulay says:

    Old seadog you better make sure that the 10% of your carbon fibre that dissolves is above the waterline.

  6. Steve in SC says:

    All this wood ash, being basic, should help with the ocean acidity problem. /sarc

  7. NoAstronomer says:

    “They thought, once it is incorporated into the soils, it would stay there”

    Because of the complete lack of any organic activity at all in the planet’s soils?

    Mike.

  8. Mike Jonas says:

    From the paper http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6130/345.abstract : “Global biomass burning generates 40 million to 250 million tons of charcoal every year“.

    This is an absurdly small amount which can have no impact whatsoever.

  9. RobRoy says:

    I clean my barbeque grill with the hose. Dissolves and/or suspends quite readily. Duh!

  10. Espen says:

    So, before humans started controlling forest fires, there was more charcoal in the oceans than now?

    Btw Anthony: Today advertisements make it impossible to read WUWT on my iPhone – when trying to load any WUWT page I’m immediately redirected to an ad that makes the download page for “Candy Crush Saga” open in the app store… it’s impossible to read anything.

  11. RobRoy says:

    I made a “Duh” myself. Ash is former charcoal but it’s not charcoal. Never mind.

  12. CodeTech says:

    I rarely use the word, but I think it was invented for stuff like this: SILLY.

    This is one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen someone “scientific” write!

    I’m sure some of the older readers will recall the phrase this makes me think of: “As god is my witness…. I thought turkeys could fly”.

  13. Jeff says:

    Whadda buncha’ maroons….so they think this hasn’t been happening since
    time immemorial?

    Thanks, I’ll take Kingsford, with maybe a bit of hickory or apple for flavor….

  14. Jeff says:

    They should know better than to make an ash of themselves….(or anyone else, for that matter)…

  15. WTF says:

    Does this mean we have to stop using activated carbon to filter our drinking water?

  16. Rud Istvan says:

    As always, something here is very wrong with the data. The quote above (presumed accurate) says 25 million tons of charcoal per year, about 10% of the total. Multiply 25 by 10 and that says 250 million tons dissolved annually into the oceans. Now go to official US Gov (NASA global carbon cycle) information, convert hundred of petagrams of carbon into metric tons, and the estimates seem short by at least one order of magnitude. That is not a small miss.
    The Four Corners coal plant, by itself, emits 16.4 million tons. It is one of about 100 comparable coal fired generating stations in the US. And that is just the US. One begins to intuit the magnitude on which this paper is utterly unimportant.

  17. Power Grab says:

    Does this mean we will have to look for another way to purify water after they have put chloramine into it to kill the germs, and then it goes on to kill the “good bugs” in our gut when we drink it or cook with it?

    IIRC, it takes “long contact” with activated charcoal PLUS reverse osmosis to remove chloramine from tap water.

    I just learned recently about chloramine. It won’t gas out, like chlorine. It won’t boil out. You can’t deactivated it with salt. It will kill your fish. It will kill kidney dialysis patients. It will ruin your kidney even if you’re not on kidney dialysis.

    I used to think I was allergic to wheat. Then I did some experimentation and figured out it’s the tap water. I wonder how many other people who think they have food allergies are actually reacting to the chloraminated tap water?

    Is there going to ever come a point where we can just say “Enough! Just stop it. Now.”

  18. Paul says:

    We use charcoal (activated) for removing poisons from the stomach. This will remove poisons from the oceans, or something.

  19. Ack says:

    How much carbon is pumped into the oceans from active volcanoes?

  20. Not the same Jeff says:

    Have scientists forgotten there is a reason we are considered “carbon-based” life forms?

  21. Eyal Porat says:

    What next?
    Scientists find that most of excess rain goes to the oceans, thus poses the option of sea level rise.
    Research suggests that volcanoes are the main source of sulfur in the atmosphere, thus may cause global waring/cooling/disruption.
    Computer models predict that dead leaves cause the formation of soil in forests, thus can cause a danger of carbon desequstration.
    Come on! so what?
    It seems the rush for finance is beginning (?) to border the absurd.

  22. Gail Combs says:

    WTF says:
    April 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Does this mean we have to stop using activated carbon to filter our drinking water?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Darn you beat me to it. The use of activated carbon for purification was the first thing I thought of when I saw the title.

    I agree the correct word is silly or is it just a symptom of running out of alarmist claptrap to print.

  23. David L. Hagen says:

    From: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center
    *** Global CO2 Emissions from Fossil-Fuel Burning, ***
    *** Cement Manufacture, and Gas Flaring: 1751-2009 ***
    *** September 20, 2012 ***
    *** Source: Tom Boden ***
    *** Bob Andres
    2009 Total 8738
    “All emission estimates are expressed in million metric tons of carbon. To convert these estimates to units of carbon dioxide (CO2), simply multiply these estimates by 3.667.”

    Compare “25 million tons of dissolved charcoal is transported from land to the sea each year.”
    ~ 0.3% of total.

  24. Woods Hole Research Center should not be mistaken for the Great woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institute. WHRC is an advocacy outfit of which John Holdren was a co-founder. George Soros is a founder. GIGO.

  25. Worry is the commodity that socialists mass-produce so that they can sell nothing to idiots for quite a good price.

  26. profitup10 says:

    End the EPA, Species Act and GRANT SCIENCE – do this project . .

    http://articlevprojecttorestoreliberty.com/index.html

  27. Rud Istvan says:

    And upon further review, we spot the linguistic trick. 10% of the dissolved organic carbon is charcoal. The other 90% is some other organic, like dead fish, peat, rotten wood, grass clippings, spilled oil,… CO2, which outweighs them all by an order of magnitude, is of course not organic.
    Even more nonsense, since the first thing the paper did was shift the context from carbon compounds to organic carbon compounds, and then assert that charcoal is among the organics (which technically it is not once it is really charcoal).
    Magicians use three cups and a pea to perform similar tricks.

  28. Pedantic old Fart says:

    Point one: the 90 acres that I managed for 25 years had black loams from fires in the past, but NO BLACK where the soils were clay soils, To say all soils should be char black is a bit of an unsupported sweeping statement.
    two: If the soils aren’t black because the world wide charcoal from the worldwide fires is dissolved and leached into the rivers, why aren’t the rivers black?
    three: what is the colour of a charcoal solution? and does the washing of coal ,waste a lot of product?

    In fire crazy Australia, our impacted rivers and streams run BROWN and the discharge into the sea is brown (from suspended clays). Worrying about reduced albedo fron “dissolved charcoal”
    might be like worrying about tooth ache in the time left after swallowing cyanide.

  29. Kaboom says:

    Charcoal was entering the water and traveling to oceans since the first plants on land caught fire. Strangely, the planet remains habitable to this day. The research grants spent on this would be of more use if they were equally turned into ashes and thrown into a river.

  30. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    What’s next, a side mention that diamonds slowly dissolve in water? Gee, maybe that’s why I hear of old shipwrecks with sapphires, emeralds, and rubies, but rarely diamonds. Don’t wear your diamond jewelry in the hot tub!

    This might also explain why Pennsylvania coal country is so prone to sinkholes. It has been thought the cave-ins of old mines are at fault. But clearly it could also be groundwater dissolving away the coal seams!

    If people were told what was frequently found dissolved in dihydrogen monoxide, they would demand the immediate banning of this toxic potent solvent. Do you know people who pay more and are thrilled to use Sea Salt instead of common NaCl? Ask them why they prefer uranium and arsenic on their food.

  31. Green Sand says:

    Something else to worry about…carbon in the water

    No, it ain’t. But water in your carbon, now that is a concern.

  32. Scarface says:

    “…greater consideration must be given to carbon sequestration techniques (the process of capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide). Biochar addition to soils is one such technique. Biochar technology is based on vegetation-derived charcoal that is added to agricultural soils as a means to store carbon.”

    ??? Since when is charcoal made of carbon dioxide?

    Oh, I see, since the greens have started to call carbon dioxide “carbon”. Go figure.
    Last time I tried to fire up my BBQ with CO2 it didn’t burn very well. On the contrary.

  33. davidmhoffer says:

    I think we need a new term. How does “Formula Science” sound? Sort of the science version of “Formula Writing” as in Harlequin Romances, Hardy Boys, etc. Same plot regurgitated over and over again. Here’s the “plot” from Formula Science:

    1. Measure something.
    2. Express surprise at the results.
    3. Justify funding for additional study.
    4. Upon receipt of funding Go To 1.

    Yes folks, we have achieved Formula Science and it is an infinite loop.

  34. Jimbo says:

    Does anyone know what harm the amounts of dissolved charcoal does in the oceans as per this study?

  35. Jimbo says:

    According to the authors, the results imply that greater consideration must be given to carbon sequestration techniques (the process of capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide).

    What a load of utter and complete crap. How can we humans ever hope to compete with nature in this area. The biosphere is greening so don’t do a damned thing. What a load of bollocks.

  36. Jeffrey Sim says:

    Carbon is chemically inert. It cannot be dissolved in acids alkalies or water. A simple fact that grade one students of chemistry knows.
    Is the uncontrolled burning of bushland new or has it been going on forever? If forever there must be a lot of accumulated damage done. Where is the evidence of this damage? Right next to the atmospheric hot spot.

  37. Robert says:

    In the old days with uncontrolled wildfires running rampant throughout the world, I’m sure there was plenty of charcoal washing into the rivers and oceans, maybe even more so than today where we supress most wildfires. So what’s to worry about? No big deal for mother nature.

  38. Dodgy Geezer says:

    The Greens are known to hate humanity. And humans are a carbon-based life form.

    So they started by trying to demonise CO2, and now they’re onto actual carbon. Soon they will be telling us that our bodies are full of dangerous carbon molecules, and we have to burn them to save the planet…

  39. Berényi Péter says:

    “about 25 million tons of dissolved charcoal is transported from land to the sea each year”

    If that’s true, this amount is absolutely insignificant. Carbon in annual CO₂ emissions is about 8 billion tonnes, that is, 320 times more. More than half of that ends up in the oceans, so Dittgar et al. are whining about several tenths of a percent marine carbon uptake. Do these guys think everyone freezes dead as soon as confronted with numbers?

  40. AndyG55 says:

    Trouble is that in forest fires, the run-off after the fire isn’t just charcoal. It can contain all sorts of other stuff, some of it not nice.
    In 2005 (I think it was) after the big bushfires in Canberra, Australia, one of their major reservoirs became highly overloaded with black sludge, and they had to take the reservoir off line for something like 2 years so they could aerate the stuff and let the water become usable again. This meant that really harsh water restrictions had to be put in place.

    But that was a bit off-topic. The point that these so called scientists didn’t know that charcoal from bushfires has ALWAYS eventually been washed down rivers to the sea, and has always been part of the NATURAL carbon cycle, totally astounds me. !
    Are these guys ‘social scientists’, or something ???

  41. Steve in AZ says:

    Solutions desperately in search of a problem.

  42. elmer says:

    You mean like carbonated water? What’s wrong with that?

  43. Martin Clark says:

    They can’t be this stupid shirley. Must be a money-grab.
    A few years back, I was at a local Landcare workshop. This was when these events included pollies, regulators, cattle people, farmers, hippies, greenies, representatives of the-rest-of-us. An uneasy alliance even then. One item in the presentation – land (here at least) accumulates material at about 4 tonnes per hectare p.a. on average. . The point being made was, yes, erosion and run-off is an issue, but prevention is also an issue. We have shoreline currents carrying sediments northwards. If the supply is cut off, the beaches erode. It’s a natural cycle, and we need to be careful trying to manage it.
    This image linked below shows an in-ground telephone pit in front of our place. Been there maybe 25 years. The concrete box was originally at surface level and has not subsided. The only vehicle that has driven over it is the postie on a Honda CT110. The surface has not been disturbed other than by mowing. The gap is the result of natural accumulation. The yellow frame was put there by the phone company because this is now a trip hazard.
    Loads of these around here, commonly referred to as “Telstra heritage sites”.
    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/90071372/TelstraPit.JPG

  44. Jimbo says:

    Wild fires turn millions of hectares of vegetation into charcoal each year. ………..has now shown that this charcoal does not remain in the soil, as previously thought.

    Are they saying that ALL the soluble charcoal “does not remain in the soil,..”?
    Are they saying that ALL the soluble charcoal goes into the seas and oceans?

    Abstract
    ………….Here, we describe the long-term fire regime in two forests on the south coast of British Columbia by means of 244 AMS radiocarbon dates of charcoal buried in forest soils. In both forests, some sites have experienced no fire over the last 6000 years and many other sites have experienced only one or two fires during that time. …..

  45. David Becker, Ph.D. says:

    As one commenter has already indicated, carbon (charcoal) is insoluble in water. That is, it doesn’t dissolve in water. Something is wrong with the original report or the interpretation here.

  46. Chuck L says:

    Let me be the first to say:

    “It’s worse than we thought!”

  47. ntesdorf says:

    This process has been going on since the Oceans, Rivers and Rain began. It is nothing new and got us to where we are now without difficulties, It’s effects on climate are natural. We cannot control this. the atmospheric concentration of CO2, or Quiet the Sun, Oceans or the Wind.

  48. Streetcred says:

    Carbon is food for marine bacteria.

  49. Arno Arrak says:

    Will wonders of nature ever cease? Nice to know how nature works but so what. That is evidently a process that has been going on ever since the plants colonized dry land. And now bio-char is one more thing to add to their computer models. The more things you put into those models the easier it is to jigger their output so that you get exactly what you think the climate ought to be doing. Of course you need a supercomputer costing at least 50 million but Uncle Sam has deep pockets for that.

  50. How much impact is 25 million tons of charcoal per year on the ocean? (Back of the Envelope)

    Mass of the Earth’s Ocean = 1.40E+21 kg
    Amount of Charcoal / yr = 2.50E+10 kg
    Charcoal concentration = 1.79E-02 mcg / kg ocean / yr
    Charcoal concentration = 17.9 g / km^3 ocean / yr

    Charcoal density = 0.208 g/cm^3 (coal = 1.2-1.5, graphite= 2.1-2.23)
    <bIF we assume all that charcoal floats and never sinks (worst case)….
    Area of the earth oceans (A) 3.60E+08 km2
    Area of the earth oceans (A) 3.60E+18 cm2
    Mass of Charcoal / yr / cm2 ocean = 6.94E-06 g/yr/cm2
    Volume of charcoal / yr / cm2 ocean = 3.34E-05 cm3/yr/cm2
    Thickness of Charcoal accumulating on ocean / yr = 0.334 micron / yr
    So it would take 3000 years to accumulate a 1 mm skin of charcoal as a surface on the ocean.

    Since we don’t see rafts of charcoal, that charcoal must sink to the bottom at that same S L O W rate. Pelagic sedimentation rates are in the range 1 to 10 mm / thousand years. Charcoal is NOT a major part of deep water sediment cores, so the charcoal gets burried in deltas along with all the silt.

  51. john robertson says:

    The ocean is the ultimate solution.
    From a Frank Zappa Album.
    Desperation is spreading through academia, the shadow of reality is falling across their future plans. Expect panic.

  52. Tom J says:

    ‘The new findings are important to better calculate the global carbon budget.’

    Why don’t they spend a little time to better calculate Obama’s budget. But, then maybe the numbers are way, way, way too big to comprehend.

  53. George M. Hebbard PE says:

    I call your attention to “terra preta,” the dark earth of the Amazon. A totally human-developed humic resource that provided fertile soil to sustain whole civilizations prior to the european invasions. Cornell University scientists, among others examined this human-derived resource that turned graphic carbon (biochar) into a rich soil. –thousands of years ago…

  54. Richard Howes says:

    Why is it the the (greenies/libs/AGW types) LOVE organic but HATE carbon?

  55. u.k.(us) says:

    Per Wiki:
    The Appalachian Mountains (Listeni/ˌæpəˈleɪʃɨn/ or /ˌæpəˈlætʃɨn/[note 1]), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians first formed roughly 480 million years ago during the Ordovician Period, and once reached elevations similar to those of the Alps and the Rocky Mountains before they were eroded.
    ============
    Mountains washed into the oceans, and they still do.
    Try another tack.

  56. Mac the Knife says:

    I like dissolved carbon, particularly the CO2 form in tonic water!
    MtK

  57. Did they finally get around to doing their 3rd grade science homework?

  58. Evan Thomas says:

    Some of your previous posters have referred to bush fires -yes that’s what we call them – in Australia. Long before Europeans settled here, around 1780, the locals were assiduous lighters of fires; its a hunting technique. A similar practice was followed in New Guinea. So many thousand years of local bushfire cultures need to be examined before any sense at all can be made of this latest somewhat nonsensical research.

  59. OssQss says:

    Thankfully we put out most forrest fires in the last century globally.

    Do we actually have more trees than we did in1901 now in the USA due to that fact?

    I was kinda climatologically scared when I read this post. The models don’t model for that ya know!

  60. Luther Wu says:

    “And so castles made of sand slips into the sea, eventually”
    -thanks Jimi

  61. dp says:

    There’s carbon in the water too? Freaking great. Bad enough it has fish poo but now carbon. It really is worse than we thought. We’re all going to die.

  62. John Trigge (in Oz) says:

    These 2 points stood out for me:

    Most scientists thought charcoal was resistant.

    Where else have we often heard that ‘Most scientists [insert your own common held but subsequently proven false assertion here]‘?

    Instead, it is transported to the sea by rivers and thus enters the carbon cycle.

    Why is it that the carbon cycle excludes carbon in its many forms on/in the land if it only enters the cycle once it reaches the sea?
    Colour [sic Aussie English spelling] me confused!!

  63. Lew Skannen says:

    Well I have always said that I could cope with whatever climate change sent but if carbon ever got into the oceans it was all over. That’s it. I’m done.
    I am going to now retreat into a cave for the rest of my life and pray to gaia for forgiveness.

  64. I don’t understand the fuss over 25 million tons of carbon being sequestered in the Ocean per year. The Oean Productivity Page http://www.science.oregonstate.edu/ocean.productivity/index.php estimates that of the more than 100 Gigatons of carbon sequestered per year, approximately half or over 50 Gigatons is stored in the ocean. Now this number is the net number, which means that it is what was left after a lot was used or burned to sustain the plant life or oxidized in some other manner. What is 25 megatons to 50 gigatons?
    For those interested in the carbon cycle there is a 2004 paper that is good because it gives you the detailed steps involved in making productivity estimates. It is here http://www.terrapub.co.jp/e-library/kawahata/pdf/343.pdf
    This paper estimates a productivity of 60.4Gtc per year net and 124.7 gross. The energy absorbed to produce the gross productivity was 191.3X10E21 joules or 1.9X10E23 joules. When you see the net is about half; you have about 10E23 joules being converted to chemical energy and being removed from the environment. This estimate is low compared to the Productivity page and the actual amount is probably considerably than 10E23 joules. This could be part of the missing heat.

  65. pkatt says:

    We probably shouldn’t tell them we use charcoal in salt and freshwater tanks to purify the water …

  66. Luther Wu says:

    OssQss says:
    April 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Thankfully we put out most forrest fires in the last century globally.

    Do we actually have more trees than we did in1901 now in the USA due to that fact?
    __________________
    Perhaps, partially for that reason.
    A sure sign of civilization is the presence of trees. Just look at our cities and suburbs- my own town could easily be considered a forest, we just don’t think of it that way.
    We no longer burn wood as our primary fuel source, nor do we practice slash and burn agriculture, nor even need to devote so many acres to agricultural efforts, due to improved methods of production (and increased plant food in the form of CO2). As result, many acres being no longer plowed and tended, have reverted to brush/timber. Also, the timber industry has learned to plant far more acres in trees than they cut.
    In a way, forests can become their own worst enemy, as they can build up enough dead combustible material to feed a fire which only God’s heavy rain can stop.

  67. OssQss says:

    Luther Wu says:
    April 19, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    “And so castles made of sand slips into the sea, eventually”
    -thanks Jimi

    —————————————————

    LOL, you had to go there. It is Friday though :-)

  68. Pedantic old Fart says:

    to “Elmer says”
    carbonated water, as usually sold, is stuffed full of fructose and it will give you fatty liver disease and make you obese.

  69. Ric Werme says:

    Take water, add carbon – organic water!


    I wonder what the solubility of carbon is in water. Ah, perhaps they were dissolving it in acid rain. I’ve never tried that. I’ll collect some tonight.

  70. higley7 says:

    BFD. As if the carbon budget was important. It’s an aspect of biology but clearly not worth the millions they are spending on it.

  71. Master_Of_Puppets says:

    Oh Dear

    Color me Carboniferous Period,

    Lacking acidification extreme,

    Just a buffered reaction in the mean,

    Without need of an IPCC Scheme.

  72. Tom in Florida says:

    CodeTech says:
    April 19, 2013 at 2:13 pm
    “I’m sure some of the older readers will recall the phrase this makes me think of: “As god is my witness…. I thought turkeys could fly”.”

    For the younger readers, the famous phrase comes after an unsuccessful free turkey drop from a helicopter into a parking lot by WKRP radio:

  73. agfosterjr says:

    The Dead Sea makes for a more manageable and convenient case study. One such study of a couple of decades ago seems to call the soot POC–particulate organic carbon–and makes no attempt to distinguish between soot from trees and soot from coal (p.189):
    http://books.google.com/books?id=nlWRHnz7zSsC&pg=PA196&lpg=PA196&dq=dead+sea+carbon+content&source=bl&ots=j1XcuGaCyM&sig=fVK-DYCVIJPxrPvgHi_D-gkXSqs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XAFyUYm3NdH-qAG9z4HYAw&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=dead%20sea%20carbon%20content&f=false

    But they did make some educated guesses as to the percentage of dissolved POC compared to other sources of carbon. –AGF

  74. dremilson says:

    I’m reading this pretty differently than some commenters.

    As we know, biochar has been suggested as a major geoengineering project to sequester carbon dioxide by people like James Hansen. The biochar theory is that materials with carbon in them could be added to agricultural soil (among other places) and the carbon materials would stay in place.

    Now imagine world governments applying the biochar theory and funding massive biochar projects to sequester carbon. For example, you could burn municipal waste and use the energy from the pyrolysis to help fund the process. Utility companies would be totally on board with this.
    The process is much cheaper than carbon capture and storage. (*Everything in this paragraph is fair game for you to make up your own sarcastic comment*).

    This study of Jaffe et. al. suggests that the biochar theory, as previously envisioned, might be naive. A fair bit of the carbon materials will just leach out of the soil and wind up in rivers and oceans. Hence, I understand Jaffe et. al. to be saying that these projects could fail massively. (The actual research is behind a paywall so its possible I missed something important).

  75. denniswingo says:

    Sounds like a good way to sequester money from the government…

  76. Goode 'nuff says:

    I crossed a lot of rivers and streams from the Appalachians to the big muddy Mississippi today, they sure are getting a spring cleaning. But I’m sure not going to mention spring cleaning when I get home tomorrow, because my wallet gets cleaned.

    U.S. Flooding Map & Satellite Images | Flood Disaster Interactive Map

    http://www.esri.com/services/disaster-response/floods/latest-news-map

    http://water.weather.gov/ahps/

    http://www.nws.noaa.gov/view/validProds.php?prod=FLS

  77. artw says:

    pk at @6:34

    As one with two freshwater aquariums of my own, that was my first thought as well. When will they realize that whatever charcoal runoff ending up in bodies of water acts as a part of a natural filtering process?

  78. Luther Wu says:

    dremilson says:
    April 19, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    I’m reading this pretty differently than some commenters.

    As we know, biochar has been suggested as a major geoengineering project to sequester carbon dioxide by people like James Hansen. The biochar theory is that materials with carbon in them could be added to agricultural soil (among other places) and the carbon materials would stay in place.

    Now imagine world governments applying the biochar theory and funding massive biochar projects to sequester carbon. For example, you could burn municipal waste and use the energy from the pyrolysis to help fund the process. Utility companies would be totally on board with this.
    The process is much cheaper than carbon capture and storage. (*Everything in this paragraph is fair game for you to make up your own sarcastic comment*).

    This study of Jaffe et. al. suggests that the biochar theory, as previously envisioned, might be naive. A fair bit of the carbon materials will just leach out of the soil and wind up in rivers and oceans. Hence, I understand Jaffe et. al. to be saying that these projects could fail massively. (The actual research is behind a paywall so its possible I missed something important).
    _____________
    I think you got it, as far as we can tell on this side of the wall. Another consideration of the biochar/terra preta theory is that of raising soil pH. There’s a fair amount of char material in prairie soils.

  79. Janice Moore says:

    OssQss (4/19/13 @ 5:58PM) — Is that photo of you at Kmart, the caption of which would be:

    “I was kinda climatologically scared.” ? And those people are Melody Harpole and Retired Engineer John and David Hoffer comforting you? You still look a little worried.

    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^
    Thanks, Tom of Florida. I am old enough to have watched that episode of “WKRP in Cincinnati,” but had no idea where that quote came from until you told us. LOL, I was surmising that it was some 1950′s television science guy (not a real scientist, of course) apologizing on the evening news for dropping Mrs. McGillicuddy’s tom turkey out of an airplane in an experiment in aerodynamics that went terribly wrong.

  80. Janice Moore says:

    dremilson, you make a good point (at 9:18PM, 4/19/13), and, yes, perhaps the summary mischaracterizes the “scientists” findings, but, it still doesn’t explain inherently incorrect statements such as:

    “When charcoal forms it is typically deposited in the soil. ‘From a chemical perspective, no one really thought it dissolves, but it does,’ Jaffé says.”

    Given your above guess is correct, dre, perhaps it is not the sign of a schism in the Cult that some might think, but, is the cover for jerks* like Hansen to save face. Just like the mascot in the Whitehouse, Hansen (they’ve given up on Gore) is an “expert” witness that the defense badly needs to rehabilitate. “NO ONE thought it dissolves…,”

    Cult Defense Counsel: “… so how could you expect poor Hansen to have thought differently? What do you think he is? Some kind of a prophet or something?”

    *Yeah, Hansen is an A Number 1 Class JERK. Jerk defined: a lying, mean-spirited, cad.

  81. Hoi Polloi says:

    “Smoke On The Water”

  82. I like the new comment format. The chance to up and down vote on comments is good. If someone wants to reply to a poster, they can copy and paste the comment and write a reply. That’s all that is needed in this science dialog format. You are the best Anthony. I hope you’re not working too hard these days.

  83. Seals & Crofts – Castles In The Sand

  84. Bob Mount says:

    So, now we know! The growth in atmospheric CO2 is down to man-made forest fires. QED

  85. Peter Plail says:

    Although the headline clearly states “Carbon” the text immediately following talks of wood fire residue. This is sloppy science in my view.

    There are plenty of soluble products in wood ash however carbon in the charcoal form isn’t one of them, but I am sure there are mechanisms whereby other wood ash chemicals convert straight carbon into soluble carbon compounds. The only way for particulate carbon to be carried in water is as a suspension.

    If particulate carbon is suspended in the oceans then I suggest this is a pretty good way of storing it, and one which occurs without human intervention (and hence without cost). This should be a cause for celebration if you happen to believe carbon is bad for the world.

  86. Jimbo says:

    OT but relevant to climate science.

    Below is why we should always doubt the experts.

    19 April 2013
    The student who caught out the profs
    This week, economists have been astonished to find that a famous academic paper often used to make the case for austerity cuts contains major errors. Another surprise is that the mistakes, by two eminent Harvard professors, were spotted by a student.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22223190

  87. johnmarshall says:

    Most water filters use charcoal as the filter medium. Wounds are treated with charcoal dressings to hasten healing. Do these idiots know this?

  88. CodeTech says:

    By the way, since this thread started at ridiculous and remains there, I want to point out that I have no activated charcoal at my house. I hate activating it. First you have to phone Microsoft…..

  89. Geoff Sherrington says:

    “charcoal does not remain in the soil, as previously thought”
    Thought by whom? The ignorant?
    Here is a field where a geochemist in mineral exploration work probably knows a great deal more than a newbie climate worker.
    The soils of the world are not accumulators of organic carbon. They have been exposed to enough of it for so long a time that accumulation would have been completed by now.
    When one measures soil carbon by any of several semi-official ways, there is usually a couple of % C by weight of dried soil. This seems to be an equilibrium amount, perhaps the amount expected when plant growth is present. In sand deserts without vegetation, the figure is much lower.
    Grand plans to sequester carbon by adding it to soil will fail. The presence of plants will ensure its eventual dissolution and it might even promote stronger plant growth until it lapses to its usual level.
    If you treat the carbon into something like a glassy charcoal, same result. Time to decay is the main difference, but given time, it will.
    I do so wish that green, ignorant people would stop the myth of carbon sequestration by soil. If they attempt it, they will simply pass the problem – if carbon is a problem – to our later generations, which is amoral.

  90. Bruce Cobb says:

    The Amazonians were using biochar thousands of years ago, creating what are called “dark earths”, which are highly fertile. It can be a valuable soil additive, and that is its’ sole value. All this carbon budget and carbon sequestration nonsense is simply part of the once-great, now-dying CAGW gravy train.

  91. marchesarosa says:

    The “Rate This” option is infantile and distracting. Please remove it if possible, Anthony.

  92. Chuck Nolan says:

    I thought they claimed the problem was a small percentage atmospheric gas not the major building block which forms organic compounds. Carbon doesn’t hold heat or grab LWR or vibrate, does it?
    Are they making this up as they go?
    Not knowing science hurts my head.
    I remain rationally ignorant.
    cn

  93. Geoff Sherrington says: April 20, 2013 at 3:24 am
    “ignorant people would stop the myth of carbon sequestration by soil”
    Check http://www.science.oregonstate.edu/ocean.productivity/index.php These are the experts and they estimate over 50 Gigatons of carbon are sequestered on land each year. If it is not sequestered in the soil, where is it sequestered?

  94. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    “Most scientists thought charcoal was resistant. They thought, once it is incorporated into the soils, it would stay there,”

    Scientists always think they know it all and are amazed when they are wrong, as they usually are!

  95. Paul Jackson says:

    From what I’ve can gather from the article is it’s nonsensical blather, I could see suspensions of insoluble inorganic carbon in water, but a solution would be in the parts per billion or trillion range!

    Terra preta (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈtɛʁɐ ˈpɾetɐ], locally [ˈtɛhɐ ˈpɾetɐ], literally “black soil” in Portuguese) is a type of very dark, fertile anthropogenic soil found in the Amazon Basin. Terra preta owes its name to its very high charcoal content, and was made by adding a mixture of charcoal, bone, and manure to the otherwise relatively infertile Amazonian soil. It is very stable and remains in the soil for thousands of years. Terra preta

    I think Dittgar and Jaffé have a considerable burden of proof to rise above.

  96. H.R. says:

    Q. Why do ducks have flat feet?
    A. From stamping out forest fires.

    Q. Why do elephants have flat feet?
    A. From stamping out flaming ducks.

    Q. Why do whales live in the sea?
    A. To stay away from flaming elephants.

    I’ll see if they’ll publish my paper as a follow-up study for the sources of carbon in the ocean, submitted by H.R. et al, 2013. Oh wait… Too late for AR5. Dang!

  97. johanna says:

    Peter Plail says:
    April 20, 2013 at 1:13 am

    Although the headline clearly states “Carbon” the text immediately following talks of wood fire residue. This is sloppy science in my view.

    There are plenty of soluble products in wood ash however carbon in the charcoal form isn’t one of them, but I am sure there are mechanisms whereby other wood ash chemicals convert straight carbon into soluble carbon compounds.
    —————————————————
    My first thought too.

    As anyone who has ever had a wood fire in the open air knows, there is a mixture of stuff left after it goes out. Charcoal is very often absent, or minimal. They do not even attempt to address the total residue of fires.

    Junk science, yet again.

    And, who are these “scientists” who thought that charcoal would just permanently sit there in the soil? Last time I looked, “permanent” means forever. What kind of scientist would make such a stupid statement?

  98. One of the useful qualities of charcoal is its ability to absorb toxins from solution.

  99. Mike Rossander says:

    I call hooey. Lots of high-organic soil turns black with no significant wildfires in their history. The article might be right about carbon making its way from soil to sea through erosion and runoff but attributing it all to charcoal is highly unlikely. Regular old decomposition turns far more organic matter into soil-based carbon.

  100. Tim Clark says:

    Wildfires send megatons of soot into the air. That soot will deposit itself somewhere eventually. Where in the paper do they differentiate between deposition directly into the oceans and runoff??

  101. philincalifornia says:

    Revelation 13:18: Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.

    Six protons; six neutrons; six electrons

    THE END IS NIGH (it could be for Gavin)

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/281260_512899132077871_1938901586_n.jpg

  102. peterg says:

    I suppose the question of what happens to dissolved carbon in the ocean is interesting enough. According to a rough google carbon is insoluble. So it probably settles down to the bottom of the ocean eventually as sediment. Hard to work up much curiosity, actually.

  103. Duster says:

    Biochar is just charcoal – note that “char.” The “bio” is semantically null. It’s produced at a considerably higher temperature than normal, traditionally burned charcoal, but forest fires actually burn at about the same temperature range in some phases, so a good deal of the forest fire charcoal is “char”. Forest fires have large fertizing effects for the same reasons you would want to add char to your vegetable garden and also because the ash contains use minerals that otherwise are locked into the wood. Following a fire the ash releases these nutrients back in to the soil. The immediate aftermath of a forest fire isn’t pretty, but a year later, there’s a flush of annual and perennial flowering plants that draw deer, elk, bear, photographers and other critters. I like fire areas for hunting in the early fall.

  104. markopanama says:

    This paper sounds like a candidate for a Green Fleece award in the category of research whose only purpose is to generate additional funding..

  105. p@ Dolan says:

    @AndyG55 says:
    April 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Trouble is that in forest fires, the run-off after the fire isn’t just charcoal. It can contain all sorts of other stuff, some of it not nice.
    In 2005 (I think it was) after the big bushfires in Canberra, Australia, one of their major reservoirs became highly overloaded with black sludge, and they had to take the reservoir off line for something like 2 years so they could aerate the stuff and let the water become usable again. This meant that really harsh water restrictions had to be put in place.

    Andy, I think you mean 2003. I was living in Ngunnawal, a suburb of Canberra in Gungahlin. We were already on alternate water days (for lawns, and things like washing the car) and headed to no water before the brushfires. We were in the depths of a pretty severe drought, which is not unknown in Oz. The level of Lake Burley-Griffon was way down, as were the levels in most reservoirs (there were jokes that soon, we’d be able to walk the streets of Acton—the original Acton, which was under lake Burley-Griffon, a man-made lake). The reservoirs that served the ACT were also silting up heavily because the amount of dust had increased with the drought, but the volume of water it landed in had shrunk. The filters were decades old, and not capable of keeping the amount of silt out, and the water levels had shrunk to amounts not seen since the filtration had been put in place—i.e., probably since before people weren’t using well water.

    While the fires didn’t improve the situation, I can assure you they did not cause the problem—and part of the reason it took so long to fix was the cost: first, the ACT had to raise the funds, which was not a trivial exercise, plus the cost of all the damage done by the fires, which was huge, and there’s a very good argument that it was the Greens who were in large measure responsible, forcing people to build amidst the bush, not allowing the clearing of trees and with homes built around all that greenery, scheduled burning was nearly impossible. Too, there was the commercial pine forrestration, with all those needles and cones providing all that fuel. Parts of Canberra experienced firestorms just like Dresden, with cyclonic winds rushing in to the column of fire. And just like with Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, quite a few people, prophetically, stated clearly the risks and what needed to be done about them and were routinely ignored.

    I’ve long since moved on, but I recall the days of the fire quite well. Like something out of an end-of-the-world movie, like midnight at noon, with a ruddy glow on the horizon, and ash drifting down everywhere.

  106. tty says:

    This is sheer ignorance and/or deliberate lies. Pure charcoal (=carbon) is almost completely insoluble in water, chemically inert, extremely stable (and harmless). That’s why we find intact charcoal from forest fires (fusain) in geological layers up to 350 million years ago (no land plants before that). Some of this has of course always been washed down into the ocean to be incorporated into bottom sedimentd. What these people must be talking about are other organic compounds left by forest fires, which are soluble, and frequently more of less poisonous. These are usually broken down by bacterial action fairly rapidly and ultimately converted to CO2 and H2O. This is a very minor component in the carbon cycle of little importance except locally.
    Though maybe good enough for grant in these hysterical times.

  107. E.M.Smith says:

    There are massive flows of carbonate into the ocean from dissolving rocks. (All the sinkholes in Florida, caves in the Karts Topography that gives us caves and incidentally some of the best water for making Bourbon in the country ;-)

    Shifting from “carbon” to “organic carbon” is just so that the miniscule percentage of “organic carbon” doesn’t look so incredibly unimportant and the charcoal portion nearly undetectable…

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