Another modeling shortcoming…

From the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Carbon cycle models underestimate indirect role of animals

Animal populations can have a far more significant impact on carbon storage and exchange in regional ecosystems than is typically recognized by global carbon models, according to a new paper authored by researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES).

In fact, in some regions the magnitude of carbon uptake or release due to the effects of specific animal species or groups of animals — such as the pine beetles devouring forests in western North America — can rival the impact of fossil fuel emissions for the same region, according to the paper published in the journal Ecosystems.

While models typically take into account how plants and microbes affect the carbon cycle, they often underestimate how much animals can indirectly alter the absorption, release, or transport of carbon within an ecosystem, says Oswald Schmitz, the Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology at F&ES and lead author of the paper. Historically, the role of animals has been largely underplayed since animal species are not distributed globally and because the total biomass of animals is vastly lower than the plants that they rely upon, and therefore contribute little carbon in the way of respiration.

“What these sorts of analyses have not paid attention to is what we call the indirect multiplier effects,” Schmitz says. “And these indirect effects can be quite huge – and disproportionate to the biomass of the species that are instigating the change.”

In the paper, “Animating the Carbon Cycle,” a team of 15 authors from 12 universities, research organizations and government agencies cites numerous cases where animals have triggered profound impacts on the carbon cycle at local and regional levels.

In one case, an unprecedented loss of trees triggered by the pine beetle outbreak in western North America has decreased the net carbon balance on a scale comparable to British Columbia’s current fossil fuel emissions.

And in East Africa, scientists found that a decline in wildebeest populations in the Serengeti-Mara grassland-savanna system decades ago allowed organic matter to accumulate, which eventually led to about 80 percent of the ecosystem to burn annually, releasing carbon from the plants and the soil, before populations recovered in recent years.

“These are examples where the animals’ largest effects are not direct ones,” Schmitz says. “But because of their presence they mitigate or mediate ecosystem processes that then can have these ramifying effects.”

“We hope this article will inspire scientists and managers to include animals when thinking of local and regional carbon budgets,” said Peter Raymond, a professor of ecosystem ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

According to the authors, a more proper assessment of such phenomena could provide insights into management schemes that could help mitigate the threat of climate change.

For example, in the Arctic, where about 500 gigatons of carbon is stored in permafrost, large grazing mammals like caribou and muskoxen can help maintain the grasslands that have a high albedo and thus reflect more solar energy. In addition, by trampling the ground these herds can actually help reduce the rate of permafrost thaw, researchers say.

“It’s almost an argument for rewilding places to make sure that the natural balance of predators and prey are there,” Schmitz says. “We’re not saying that managing animals will offset these carbon emissions. What we’re trying to say is the numbers are of a scale where it is worthwhile to start thinking about how animals could be managed to accomplish that.”

 

###

The paper, which is published online in the journal Ecosystems, was inspired by a conference, “Managing Species for Regulating the Carbon Cycle,” hosted by the Yale Climate and Energy Institute in 2012.

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53 thoughts on “Another modeling shortcoming…

  1. “What we’re trying to say is the numbers are of a scale where it is worthwhile to start thinking (about how animals could be managed to accomplish that).”

    Alternatively: “the numbers are of a scale where it is worthwhile to start thinking about how poorly understood the carbon cycle really is.”
    I expect ‘natural’ population-dynamics in the oceans are no less complex.

  2. I just want to know why we are so eager to “manage” everything. Nature can look after itself and outdo us besides.

    Other than that, waking up to the fact that every living thing is part of the system will give the warmists something else to gnash their teeth over, at least those of them who want to kill anything that eats, breaths or lets off methane gas from the other end, including humans.

    Are some Universities leaning away from alarmism now?

  3. “Managing” wild or natural ecosystems has a notoriously poor history: from introduced species (accidentally or on purpose), to forest “burns” that elude control, to dams that do more harm than good (Johnstown PA, etc.). Even if partial understanding can be achieved, management experiments should be limited in scale and application, and reversible at need.

  4. Gaia regulates itself to minimise radiative entropy flux to Space as it controls OLR = SW absorbed.

    The flora and fauna adapt to that external constraint.

  5. Does anyone know if the oceans carbon cycle is included in GCMs – and here I’m not thinking about solubility, but rather døde shellfish sinking to the bottom. After all the largest Carbon sink on the planet is all the chalk layers in the earth.

  6. “mitigate” — do the fools think they can prevent carbon from returning to the atmosphere as CO2? Whether fire, or decay, or respiration (by termites, notably), it will not hide away and “mitigate” anything. Fortunately.

  7. Friends:

    The paper reported in the above essay is a breakthrough in honest evaluation of the carbon cycle.

    The anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) global warming (AGW) hypothesis has three parts; viz.
    1.
    The rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration results from anthropogenic emissions (i.e. emissions from human activity) of CO2.
    2.,
    The rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration increases radiative forcing to increase global temperature.
    3.
    The increase to radiative forcing will be enhanced by positive feedbacks in the climate system to cause “dangerous” AGW.

    There are reasons to dispute each of these three parts of the AGW hypothesis, but if any one part were shown to be false then the entire AGW hypothesis would be shown to be false.

    It has been asserted that part 1 is indisputable because it was assumed the natural sources and sinks of CO2 were constant and in balance prior to the anthropogenic emission. Indeed, the IPCC uses theBern Model of the carbon cycle which adopts this assumption.

    Some years ago I was at a conference at the Royal Society in London. A representative of the Met.Office gave a presentation which explained how atmospheric CO2 was rising because anthropogenic CO2 was accumulating in the atmosphere, and he tabulated changes in the anthropogenic sources. When he finished I stood and asked this question,
    “Sir, you say the anthropogenic CO2 emission is the cause of the change to atmospheric CO2 concentration. Only this past week, Indermuhle et al. have published a paper in Nature which reports their ice-core analysis shows the atmospheric CO2 concentration fell 300 years ago. So, my question is
    Where were the power stations shut 300 years ago? Failing that, can you explain why the recent change in atmospheric CO2 concentration is caused by power stations?”
    The room burst into laughter.
    The speaker replied, “We only consider anthropogenic sources” and then he sat down.

    One of our 1995 papers
    (ref. Rorsch A, Courtney RS & Thoenes D, ‘The Interaction of Climate Change and the Carbon Dioxide Cycle’ E&E v16no2 (2005))
    showed we were able to model the rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration by using 6 models of the climate cycle response to 3 very different effects and with 3 models assuming an anthropogenic cause and the other 3 assuming a natural cause.

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

    Data that fits all the possible causes is not evidence for the true cause. Data that only fits the true cause would be evidence of the true cause. But the findings of our paper demonstrate there is no data that only fits either an anthropogenic or a natural cause of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Hence, the only factual statements that can be made on the true cause of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration are

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

    but

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

    The paper reported in the above essay is a move towards accepting the truths we published in 1995.

    Richard

  8. Several fascinating leads in the last 48 hours or so.
    I know the science is settled, but I get the impression that ‘settled’ may mean, actually, ‘we are struggling to make first Order guesses about all this stuff’. Animals? Plants? The Sun? (Not Rupert Mudrake’s disreputable – on Merseyside – organ of course).
    Auto

  9. Everard: “Other than that, waking up to the fact that every living thing is part of the system will give the warmists something else to gnash their teeth over …”

    Well sure. As long as you remember that they don’t consider humans a ‘living thing’ and that their teeth-gnashing is only for and about getting rid of humans to make room for ‘rewilding.’

  10. “For example, in the Arctic, where about 500 gigatons of carbon is stored in permafrost, large grazing mammals like caribou and muskoxen can help maintain the grasslands that have a high albedo and thus reflect more solar energy. ”

    Really? Looking at the infra-red image of London below it is surprising to see the grass in the parks are hotter than surrounding roads and buildings.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/04/02/uhi-this-is-london/

    This is of course short grass and I can confirm that long grass is cooler, especially if the soil is wet.
    Also, here is an albedo chart showing grass types having a low albedo.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Albedo-e_hg.svg

  11. rc: “… but if any one part were shown to be false then the entire AGW hypothesis would be shown to be false.”

    It’s cute when you think logic matters. If had ever mattered, they’d never have sold the hysteria until they’d validated the predictive validity of the models. It’s fine for those that you think can learn to think. And fine amongst folks that give a fig about experimental science.

    For the rest, public ridicule is the order of the day. When having a dietary discussion with a vegan in leather shoes, don’t think logic is ever going to enter things.

  12. Jquip:

    Your reply to me at October 17, 2013 at 4:35 am completely fails to understand the point of my post at October 17, 2013 at 3:34 am which this link jumps to

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/10/17/another-modeling-shortcoming/#comment-1450763

    My post began saying

    The paper reported in the above essay is a breakthrough in honest evaluation of the carbon cycle.

    It explains that the IPCC, the UK Met.Office and others have been pretending that only the anthropogenic CO2 emission is important for consideration of the cause of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 emission. It also explains that this assumption is one of three parts of the AGW hypothesis, and the hypothesis would be disproved if any one (or more) of those parts were disproved.

    My post concludes saying

    The paper reported in the above essay is a move towards accepting the truths we published in 1995.

    But you have replied to me saying

    rc: “… but if any one part were shown to be false then the entire AGW hypothesis would be shown to be false.”

    It’s cute when you think logic matters {snip}

    Logic has nothing to do with it.
    It has been accepted as a truth that the cause for the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration is the anthropogenic emission, but that assumption is illogical.

    My post commented on the fact that the paper reported in the above essay is a departure from the solid adoption of the illogical assumption that the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration must have an anthropogenic cause.

    Richard

  13. Jquip:

    This is deliberately a second and separate response to your reply to me at October 17, 2013 at 4:35 am. My first response stated how and why your reply missed the point of what I was saying. And I did not – and do not – want to dilute that response with anything else.

    This response addresses your point that

    For the rest, public ridicule is the order of the day. When having a dietary discussion with a vegan in leather shoes, don’t think logic is ever going to enter things.

    I agree, but I do not constrain the matter only to vegans and the ilk. Ridicule of the ridiculous is always appropriate and my post gave an illustration of that with my anecdote of a the question which induced laughter at the RS Conference. This link jumps to my post so you can refresh your memory of that anecdote

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/10/17/another-modeling-shortcoming/#comment-1450763

    Richard

  14. rc: “Logic has nothing to do with it. ”

    Precisely. And a sudden onset of awareness that trees inhale what polar bears exhale isn’t going to change a thing. They’ll balance it all out with moose feet and put humans in another column. Or did you forget how the IPCC writes its reports? That will then be used as proof that it’s humans, the planetary inorganic toxin, causing it all. Look, it’s even got it’s own bar on the graph. In red.

  15. Jquip:

    Thankyou for your reply to me at October 17, 2013 at 5:27 am .

    Unfortunately, you still don’t ‘get it’.

    The AGW scare is unravelling. Even some Lead Authors of the IPCC are saying it has reached its sell-by date. This unravelling is because in December 2009 at Copenhagen the international political push for some kind of a successor to the Kyoyo Protocol was killed and there are no signs of its possible revival.

    The basis for the scare that was universally adopted by AGW advocates – and even some AGW skeptics – was the assumption that the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration is caused by humans. The paper reported in the above essay shows that this essential pillar of the AGW scare is now crumbling. Our paper did not dent it. Salby’s challenge to the pillar did not rock it. But the reported paper shows it is crumbling.

    The scare has started to fade away. As I have repeatedly stated on WUWT and elsewhere, as the scare fades the need is to guard against bureaucracies which will be established in attempt to make permanent the purposes of the scare.

    Opposing the scare is not now sufficient. The scare is fading and will disappear whether or not it is opposed. The paper is yet one more indication that the scare is fading, and we need to recognise that. Unless we do recognise that then we will fail to focus on the imposition of the bureaucracies which is likely to accelerate in attempt to establish them before the scare fades away.

    Richard

  16. Here is another shortcoming. How can a “Professor of Population and Community Ecology” (a sociologist) be accepted to whinge on about pine beetles and the caribou and musk oxen on their “grass lands”.

    Here are pictures of the arctic “grasslands”

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/156635/Musk-oxen-grazing-in-Bering-Land-Bridge-National-Preserve-western

    http://www.caribouforever.com/the-barrens/habitat/

    For his education, there are woodland caribou south of the tundra but they are largely browsers on twigs and shrubs. Grass isn’t a mainstay for most of these animals (exception Rocky Mountain southern meadows)

  17. Doug Huffman says:
    October 17, 2013 at 3:18 am
    I just saw an article asserting that the earthworm sequesters more carbon than it releases.
    ============
    in terms of total mass, aren’t worms the most significant land animal?

  18. richardscourtney says:
    October 17, 2013 at 5:46 am
    Unless we do recognise that then we will fail to focus on the imposition of the bureaucracies which is likely to accelerate in attempt to establish them before the scare fades away.
    =========
    folks that have made their living from the AGW scare will try and use regulations as a means to continue their incomes as the scare fades. they will fight very hard because it is their livelihood that is threatened.

  19. richardscourtney says:
    October 17, 2013 at 3:34 am
    Only this past week, Indermuhle et al. have published a paper in Nature which reports their ice-core analysis shows the atmospheric CO2 concentration fell 300 years ago. So, my question is
    Where were the power stations shut 300 years ago?
    ===============
    CO2 follows temperature. Temperature went down during the LIA and CO2 levels fell. Temperature went up since the LIA, CO2 levels rose.

    If CO2 actually increased temperatures the current ice age cycles would be impossible. As temperatures went up, increasing CO2 would prevent the next ice age. As temperatures went down, declining CO2 would lock in the ice age permanently.

    The changes in the earth’s orbit are much to small to explain the ice ages cycles otherwise. There simply cannot be any appreciable net warming of the earth due to increasing CO2. The ice age cycles firmly establish this fact.

    Rather, since CO2 acts as a radiator, removing energy from the atmosphere, and radiating this both to the surface and space, once coupled with the effects of convection and the lapse rate, it is likely that increasing CO2 will actually result in a net cooling. That the warming we have seen for the past 150 years is nothing to do with CO2, rather it is a continuation of the natural cycle that gave us the LIA, MWP, RWP, MWP, etc, etc.

  20. To RichardSCourtney,

    Richard, I always appreciate your replies (and those of several other dedicated contributors like Jimbo) to the various WUWT posts/threads, and respect any comments from science academics such as yourself – especially when humble devout sceptics like me (I am a Graphic Designer) are unqualified to debate matters from a scientific platform. I visit Anthony’s excellent site every day, so maybe you can help me.

    Here we have yet another essay questioning the balance of natural and anthropogenic CO2. We read that North Amercan ‘Pine Beetles’ could be responsible for levels of CO2 “on a scale comparable to British Columbia’s current fossil fuel emissions.” Now, although I am not alone in sharing the strong belief (and obsession) that our weather and climate remains unaffected in any way whatsover by the insignificant amount of CO2 in our atmosphere, the researchers provide a CO2 comparrison (from an isolated area of our planet) appearing to suggest, therefore, that natural CO2 should again be taken into consideration.

    If this is the case, why is there no counter-evidence available of increased CO2 levels from something simple such as the ever-increasing global bread production – which is arguably both anthropogenic and natural? The CO2 produced from just one loaf of bread during yeast fermentation may be minute. Multiply this several times from our local small bakery in the nearest town, multiply this by the dozen or so bakeries within that town (including supermarket instore bakeries), then multiply by 365 days a year. Now consider every town, city, major large-scale bakery, together with the vast choice of yeast generated bread products on sale – and just within the UK alone – you begin to understand that I may actually have a valid point. Sadly, no one has yet verified that if we add this to every bakery in every country, every continent, on a daily basis, even down to a small Greek Taverna turning out home-made artisan bread for their guests, humans are probably producing enough CO2 from fermented yeast “on a scale comparable to British Columbia’s (sic) current fossil fuel emissions” – if not more, much more. To add weight to my theory, after each production run, all large-scale bread manufacturers (ie Warburtons, Hovis, etc.) sand-blast their bakery equipment and machinery with highly pressurised man-made CO2 pellets – a more efficient cleaning process compared to using water and detergent. I have deliberately left out Beer and Wine yeast fermentation for now.

    My point is that no one seems to admit that the baking industry alone could well be a significant contributor to atmospheric CO2 levels on a global scale – yet it’s always about fossil fuels (and now ‘pine beetles’). I am still waiting for a scientist to prove me wrong – even though I believe CO2 has no noticeable impact on climate.

    Keep up the excellent replies and thank you. I’ll check back later as I’m popping into town now to buy some bread.

    GeeJam

  21. Pamela Gray:

    At October 17, 2013 at 8:28 am and with no reference to anything you write

    Richard I swear you would argue with a Stop Sign you put there yourself. LOL!

    Funny. Only today I supported you on another thread when someone tried to argue with one of your assertions which was right but – as usual – you were unwilling or unable to defend.

    Richard

  22. You may take this as honest feedback or argue with it. My hunch is that you will argue with it. I will not argue back. So I will offer my thoughts just this once:

    Richard trust me, I have no doubt you have the court, the ball, and the rackets regarding your presence here. And you will continue on. And on. And on. In doing so, using repeated points ad nauseam, bold font, and links back to your own posts, I find your presence on a thread to be quite negative even though your views are mostly within the mainstream of skeptical science and you at times agree with some folks. Example: That you supported me in the instance you cite does not make you any more pleasant nor does it make your style of hogging-the-ball debate something that would win awards. If it does anything well at all, it allows climate warmers to point and laugh.

  23. The climate models can be reduced to a simple equation. Increase the CO2 and the temp goes up. The rest of it is just a wrapper to make it appear to be “scientific.”

  24. As I’ve pointed out in previous posts, animal respiration injects into the atmosphere a huge multiple of the amount of CO2 generated by burning fossil fuels. And insects (such as pine beetles) make up by far the largest portion of total animal biomass – so yes, the CO2 the beetles generate is likely at least a measurable portion of the amount of respiratory CO2, and therefore of total CO2 emissions from any source.

  25. Pamela Gray:

    I am pleased that you say you will not respond to this reply to your attack at October 17, 2013 at 8:57 am because your pointless drivel usually wastes the time to read it.

    If you don’t like my posts then skip them.

    Richard

  26. I’m having trouble calculating how much CO2 the human population exhales every day. Its somewhere around 3000 liters each per day, which I equates to 6kg. This would translate to around 42 million tonnes for all of us, unless my maths is suspect?

  27. GeeJam:

    I am replying to your post at October 17, 2013 at 7:32 am.

    Sorry, but I cannot help withg your specific question because I don’t have a clue how much CO2 is generated by bread making, and I don’t know how to estimate it. However, it would be part of the CO2 generated by yeasts so would be part of the biospheric emission and nobody knows what that totals, either.

    We know two things about the carbon cycle with reasonable accuracy. They are
    (a) the total annual anthropogenic emissions of CO2 from cement making and from fossil fuel burning (the production of the minerals is accounted for taxation purposes)
    and
    (b) the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 as measured at Mauna Loa since 1958 and some other places for shorter times.

    Other than that we know almost nothing about CO2 changes in the carbon cycle. Everything else consists of ‘estimates’ which are each based on (mostly dubious) assumptions. This ignorance is why there has been a general acceptance of the assumption that the carbon cycle system would have been in balance except for the anthropogenic emission.

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

    Few things in nature are so constant that they only vary by 2% each year.

    Furthermore, at present the yearly increase of the anthropogenic emissions is approximately 0.1 GtC/year. The natural fluctuation of the excess consumption is at least 6 ppmv (which corresponds to 12 GtC) in 4 months. This is more than 100 times the yearly increase of human production, which strongly suggests that the dynamics of the natural can cope easily with the human production of CO2. A serious disruption of the system may be expected when the rate of increase of the anthropogenic emissions becomes larger than the natural variations of CO2. But the above data indicates this is not possible.

    So, the real question is why the sequestration processes do not sequester all the emissions – both natural and anthropogenic – when their dynamics indicate they can. If they did then there would be no rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    As I tried to say (repeatedly) earlier in this thread, the importance of the paper reported in the above essay is that at last others are addressing that real question instead of accepting improbable assumptions.

    Richard

  28. richardscourtney says:
    October 17, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Friends:

    The paper reported in the above essay is a breakthrough in honest evaluation of the carbon cycle.

    The anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) global warming (AGW) hypothesis has three parts; viz.
    1.
    The rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration results from anthropogenic emissions (i.e. emissions from human activity) of CO2.
    2.,
    The rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration increases radiative forcing to increase global temperature.
    3.
    The increase to radiative forcing will be enhanced by positive feedbacks in the climate system to cause “dangerous” AGW.

    There are reasons to dispute each of these three parts of the AGW hypothesis, but if any one part were shown to be false then the entire AGW hypothesis would be shown to be false.
    ——————-

    Well-stated, IMO.

    I’m willing to accept for the sake of discussion that the majority of allegedly observed CO2 increase since 1850 is attributable to human activity. I’m not sure that this is true, but assume it is. Let’s be generous to the CACAists & stipulate that 100 ppm of the gain from 285 to 400 ppm (when & if that level be attained & maintained) be anthropogenic.

    I’ll make a further unwarranted assumption & agree that the net effect of increased CO2 is to heat the planet’s surface & lower atmosphere. Again, this is not in evidence, although the so-called “greenhouse effect” of energy absorption & radiation by compounds like CO2, CH4 & H2O gases is observable under laboratory conditions. Whatever this net heating effect may be in the real atmosphere, however, it is insignificant above very low levels of these gases. The majority of the effect from CO2, for instance, occurs with the first 20 ppm & declines logarithmically from there, so that a doubling from 285 to 570, say, would produce negligible direct heating.

    That leaves your point #3, regarding feedbacks. Here the case for catastrophic effects from increasing the supply of a beneficial gas fails completely, IMO. Not only are the net, strong positive feedbacks, primarily from water vapor, assumed by CACA not in evidence, but all the observations in the world argue for no net feedback or the weakest possible measurable positive or negative feedback. Consensus “climate scientists” have been unscientifically happy just to make the assumptions they want to use in their already falsified, GIGO models, rather than behaving like real scientists & trying to discover what the feedbacks truly may be.

    Without the unsupported but assumed powerful positive feedbacks, rare in nature, there can be no catastrophe, whatever that might mean (ice mass loss, sea level rise, suffocating mammals, boiling oceans, what have you in the way of boogeymen). It’s also why runaway catastrophe has not been observed in the past 541 million years or longer, with CO2 levels double digit-fold higher than now. And of course, why the world has been much warmer than now with supposedly lower levels of the laughable gas, as during the Eemian interglacial, the Holocene Optimum, Minoan, Roman & Medieval Warm Periods.

    So, even granting points #1 & #2 for the sake of argument, Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Alarmism is not warranted based upon the evidence. So the appeal must be to emotion in order to institute a global tax on breathing & to create a world government to administer & allocate its receipts.

  29. Richard,

    You know that we had several disputes of this kind in the past (and there are quite a lot of current disputes with Bart as you know…)

    We know two things about the carbon cycle with reasonable accuracy.

    We know a few more things than the human emissions and the increase in the atmosphere. One of them is that nature is a net sink for CO2, not a source. Another one is that the whole biosphere is a net sink for CO2:

    http://www.bowdoin.edu/~mbattle/papers_posters_and_talks/BenderGBC2005.pdf

    That is based on extremely accurate measurements of the oxygen over time in the atmosphere. The whole biosphere (plants, insects, animals including humans) produces more oxygen than it uses, thanks to more plant growth. About 1 GtC/yr is extra absorbed by the biosphere.

    That means that the above interesting story has little effect on the balance: what is used or produced by animals or plants in one place is produced or used by plants or animals at another place. The net global balance is ~1 GtC more uptake than release…

    Humans currently emit ~9 GtC/yr. About 1 GtC/yr is absorbed by the biosphere, most of the rest by the oceans: mostly not the same CO2 molecules as emitted by humans, but from the available pool of CO2 in the atmosphere. That makes that your:

    So, on the average, 3/156.5 = 2% of all emissions accumulate.

    not only is not correct (it is 80% in the first year, as 20% of the total 800 GtC in the atmosphere is replaced by CO2 from other reservoirs), but also gives the wrong impression: the 150 GtC natural CO2 is simply going in and out (somewhat more out than in), while the 9 GtC/year of human emissions is additional.

    So, the real question is why the sequestration processes do not sequester all the emissions – both natural and anthropogenic – when their dynamics indicate they can.

    The simple answer is that they can’t, because the fast sinks and sources like ocean surface and leaves growth and decay are limited in capacity. That are processes which react fast (seasons, a few years to equilibrium) on temperature, but not so much on increased CO2 levels. The sea surface follows CO2 changes in the atmosphere with only 10% of the change. The processes which remove extra CO2 from the atmosphere are processes which react on pressure increases and less to temperature. That are the deep ocean exchanges and the more permanent storage in vegetation (wood, roots, peat, coal,…). But that are much slower processes (half life time ~40 years).

  30. GeeJam says:
    October 17, 2013 at 7:32 am

    My point is that no one seems to admit that the baking industry alone could well be a significant contributor to atmospheric CO2 levels on a global scale

    No need to worry about the baking industry: what is released as CO2 from anything recent natural, be it microbes, yeasts and exhaling animals is CO2 which was captured by plants some months to years before out of the same atmosphere. Thus that doesn’t add any CO2 in the atmosphere, if you look at periods of decades. Thus that kind of CO2 emissions is not counted.

    What is counted are fossil fuels, as that is CO2 which was captured millions of years ago, when CO2 levels in the atmosphere were much higher than today, thus adding extra CO2 to the current atmosphere.

    Not that it will have any catastrophical effect, even probably being beneficial if within reasonable limits…

  31. Ferdinand Engelbeen:

    It is good to have you join this thread. For the benefit of those who do not know, over many years you and I have been at loggerheads about this subject to my – and I hope your – benefit.

    Firstly, I wonder if you have a suggestion as to how to answer the specific question from GeeJam. Please note that this is not a trick question. My post you are answering was an explanation of why I cannot answer his question.

    Secondly, I stand by my point which I have repeatedly made in this thread. I consider the publication of the paper from researchers at F&ES because it opens up discussion of the cause of the rise in atmospheric CO2.

    Moving on to your post. You say

    You know that we had several disputes of this kind in the past (and there are quite a lot of current disputes with Bart as you know…)

    For clarity of onlookers who do not know, I state that
    Bart is certain the cause of the rise in atmospheric CO2 is entirely natural,
    you are certain the the cause of the rise in atmospheric CO2 is entirely anthropogenic,
    and I want to be convinced if the rise is natural or anthropogenic in part or in whole.

    In the context of this thread, I think the paper from F&ES may open the subject up to further work which will tell me what I want to know.

    Yes, as you say, the oxygen change does suggest that the biosphere is a net sink. But so what? At issue is why the equilibrium of the system has changed to cause the observed rise in atmospheric CO2. Perhaps the anthropogenic CO2 has altered the equilibrium and perhaps something else has.

    Your arithmetic which changes 2% to 20% is wrong. However, that point is trivial: we agree that most but not all CO2 emission is sequestered each year.

    Anybody can see the annual and seasonal changes with a glance at the Keeling curve: the rise of CO2 between any two adjacent years is typically about 2% of the rise and fall within each year

    http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/program_history/keeling_curve_lessons.html

    In response to my having said

    So, the real question is why the sequestration processes do not sequester all the emissions – both natural and anthropogenic – when their dynamics indicate they can.

    you reply

    The simple answer is that they can’t, because the fast sinks and sources like ocean surface and leaves growth and decay are limited in capacity. {snip}

    Sorry, but that is armwaving. The dynamics do NOT indicate that the sinks saturate. Again, anybody can see this by eyeballing the Keeling Curve (which I have linked).

    If the sinks did sequester all the total emission of each year then there would be no rise in any year. And if the sinks saturate because they are limited in capacity then the rate of sequestration would reduce as saturation neared during each year: but that does not happen.

    In every year the CO2 in the air rises at a near linear rate then reverses and plummets at a near linear rate until it again reverses. This is consistent with equibrium variation and it is NOT consistent with the sinks saturating. The described dynamics are consistent with the sinks being capable of sequestering all of the CO2 emission in each year but the fact is that they don’t sequester it all. At issue is WHY they don’t sequester it all, and it is certainly not because they saturate. It has to be because the equilibrium of the carbon cycle is changing over an extended period.

    Anyway, after a decade of our arguing the same points, I suspect that you and I will be unable to find agreement in this thread by arguing them again. But, hopefully your post and my response have outlined the issues.

    People who want to know more about our disagreement can use the WUWT Search facility. And those who want more detail of your views (that I do not accept) can read your excellent blog which I commend.

    Richard

  32. Ferdinand:

    I see that you did answer GeeJam while I was typing my reply to you. Like me, it seems that you cannot provide him with a quantitative answer to his specific question.

    Richard

  33. milodonharlani:

    Thankyou for your post addressed to me at October 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm.

    I agree all you say, but add that – as I keep pointing out – the paper from F&ES is a breakthrough which indicates the AGW scare is continuing to collapse.

    Richard

  34. Managing the animals won’t solve the problem, but not managing them will almost assuredly make it worse.

  35. @ Richard
    Thank you for your comprehensive and helpful reply with the acknowledgement that CO2 levels from bread manufacture are difficult to estimate. It shouldn’t be that difficult for a laboratory to measure the quantity of CO2 being released from say 1 x pint of warm milk mixed with 2 tsp sugar and 4oz fresh yeast. That’s the starting point I guess. I have trawled the web for the answer but to no avail.

    @ Ferdinand
    Thank you for joining the debate, explaining that any additional CO2 from man-made yeast fermentation is not ‘additional’, but sequestered from the atmosphere before it starts bubbling and frothing away. From this, I conclude that if today I make ten loaves of bread, there would be no net gain to atmospheric CO2 in my kitchen than if I only made one loaf? This seems difficult to comprehend.

  36. richardscourtney says:
    October 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I stand by my point which I have repeatedly made in this thread. I consider the publication of the paper from researchers at F&ES because it opens up discussion of the cause of the rise in atmospheric CO2.

    The research of F&ES only shows a detail of what happens in some parts of the exchanges between atmosphere and the biosphere, while the oxygen balance shows the overall balance. Thus the new research gives some more clues about individual fluxes, but doesn’t change the fact that the biosphere as a whole is a net and increasing sink for CO2 since about 1990. Thus certainly not the cause of the increase in the atmosphere. I suppose that we all agree that more CO2 increases plant growth: the earth is greening…

    The dynamics do NOT indicate that the sinks saturate.
    and
    And if the sinks saturate because they are limited in capacity then the rate of sequestration would reduce as saturation neared during each year: but that does not happen.

    Sorry, but the fast sinks do saturate, in any case for the ocean surface, where the buffer factor is involved. But as temperature over the seasons is a sinusoid, the reaction of the CO2 levels is a sinusoid too, so that it is impossible to see if saturation takes place.
    Anyway, the 150 GtC in and out over the seasons only gives a modest global variability in atmospheric CO2 levels: about 5 ppmv for 1 K temperature change (mostly in the NH). Probably because of the opposite reaction of oceans and vegetation to temperature and opposite seasons in the hemispheres.
    Further, the year to year variability in sink capacity is less than +/- 1 ppmv, while humans add over 4 ppmv/yr, that is twice the natural variability and twice the observed increase in the atmosphere. If the fast sinks didn’t saturate, then indeed there wouldn’t be any increase in the atmosphere from human emissions.
    But then one need some exotic theoretical solution to explain the increase in the atmosphere, like Bart supposes: an increase in upwelling from the deep oceans which exactly mimics human emissions over the same time frame, but which violates all known observations like residence time, 13C/12C and 14C/12C ratio changes,…

  37. Alexander Feht:

    I am sure everybody is impressed to by your cogent, informative and well argued post. At least, I am sure they are impressed to the degree deserved by its cogency, information content and logical argument.

    See, you achieved a response so I assume you are happy now.

    Richard

  38. Ferdinand Engelbeen:

    We are going off topic so I only write to correct one statement in your post at October 18, 2013 at 12:27 am.

    You say

    Sorry, but the fast sinks do saturate, in any case for the ocean surface, where the buffer factor is involved. But as temperature over the seasons is a sinusoid, the reaction of the CO2 levels is a sinusoid too, so that it is impossible to see if saturation takes place.

    NO!
    The “the reaction of the CO2 levels is” NOT “a sinusoid too”. If it were then there may be some merit in your arguments.

    Again, this is the Keeling curve and CO2 measurements at all other atmospheric CO2 measurement sites show the same pattern.

    http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/program_history/keeling_curve_lessons.html

    As I said in my reply to you, and as anyone can see from clicking the link,

    If the sinks did sequester all the total emission of each year then there would be no rise in any year. And if the sinks saturate because they are limited in capacity then the rate of sequestration would reduce as saturation neared during each year: but that does not happen.

    In every year the CO2 in the air rises at a near linear rate then reverses and plummets at a near linear rate until it again reverses. This is consistent with equibrium variation and it is NOT consistent with the sinks saturating. The described dynamics are consistent with the sinks being capable of sequestering all of the CO2 emission in each year but the fact is that they don’t sequester it all. At issue is WHY they don’t sequester it all, and it is certainly not because they saturate. It has to be because the equilibrium of the carbon cycle is changing over an extended period.

    {emphasis added: RSC}

    The remainder of your argument depends on your assertion of the fast sinks saturating, but that assertion is denied by the dynamics of the change here described (and that anybody can see by one click of the mouse and observing the Keeling curve in the link I have provided).

    Richard

  39. GeeJam:

    Thankyou for your reply to me at October 17, 2013 at 11:55 pm.

    As you say, it would be a trivial experiment to determine the total CO2 generated by producing one loaf of leavened bread of one size according to a particular recipe. But accounting the CO2 from all the different tons of bread made using different (leavened and unleavened) recipes would be a guess based on many assumptions.

    Perhaps this helps you (and other readers of this thread) to understand both why you cannot find an answer to your question and why there is so little actual data about anything that happens in the carbon cycle.

    Richard

  40. GeeJam says:
    October 17, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    From this, I conclude that if today I make ten loaves of bread, there would be no net gain to atmospheric CO2 in my kitchen than if I only made one loaf?

    You need to go back further in time: all carbon containing organics are made by plants from CO2 out of the atmosphere. That is especially the case for carbohydrates like sugar, starch and cellulose. Thus what you used for making bread has already CO2 from the atmosphere incorporated when the grain was growing. That was a few months to a few years before you used the flour.

    All what the yeast does is transforming some of the natural sugars in the flour into alcohol (which evaporates during baking) and CO2. Thus the CO2 released from bread baking is only a part of what was incorporated by the grain while growing. The rest (starch) will be exhaled as CO2 by humans which eat that bread as energy source and the cellulose ultimately will be destructed by bacteria and fungi, again to CO2…

    So the main intake of CO2 from the atmosphere is by all plants of the world, the rest of the world’s species use that as energy source and emit that again, a few months to a few decades later… That is only circulation and doesn’t add or substract CO2 to/from the atmosphere, if everything is in balance. But the balance nowadays shows slightly more uptake by plants than release by (direct or indirect) plant destruction…

  41. richardscourtney says:
    October 18, 2013 at 4:15 am

    Richard, it seems that I wasn’t clear enough: you need to make a differentiation between the variability of CO2 around the trend and the cause of the trend itself.

    The seasonal variability of CO2 around the trend is a sinusoid, directly related to the temperature changes over the seasons with a few months lag. That are fast processes causing huge fluxes, but these are limited in capacity.
    The year by year variability of CO2 is chaotic, also directly connected to temperature (and precipitation) with a lag of ~6 months. Causing a relative small year by year variability in sink capacity and/ore extra releases of CO2 (according to the latest research, mainly in the tropical forests). Again rather limited in capacity.
    The trend of CO2 in the atmosphere is the result of some extra source (whatever that maybe), where the extra CO2 pressure increases the sink capacity in all sinks like the polar oceans and plant stomata (and reduces the emissions from the equatorial oceans). But that are much slower processes than these responsible for the seasonal swings, but these have near unlimited capacity.

    Thus there are different source/sink processes at work responsible for the different reactions to temperature and pressure…

  42. We used to graze on BLM land, paying a small grazing fee per unit animal, till the greens managed to convince the guvmnt to put a stop to it. That was decades ago. Meanwhile the reintroduction of wolves has sent brush eating animals to other less dangerous territory. Yesterday, I was traveling through the pass (and part of the wolf range) and ran into large sheep herds criss crossing the highway. Why were they there? Turns out these animals and the herdsmen working them were invited to graze on Federal Forest land and were paid to do it. For this reason: There was too much fuel on the forest floor. Doncha just love the way our tax dollars work?!?!?!?

  43. Ferdinand Engelbeen:

    This is a reply to your post at October 18, 2013 at 11:16 am so you know I have not ignored it.

    I will briefly state our agreement and disagreement then leave it to you to reply if you want. I now say that if you do then I will be giving you the ‘last word’ so I trust you will not think I am ignoring you when I don’t reply.

    Firstly, as you know, I strongly agree with you that

    Thus there are different source/sink processes at work responsible for the different reactions to temperature and pressure…

    and I am sure you will agree with me when I add that the different processes have different rate constants.

    But I absolutely refute your saying

    The seasonal variability of CO2 around the trend is a sinusoid, directly related to the temperature changes over the seasons with a few months lag. That are fast processes causing huge fluxes, but these are limited in capacity.

    As I have repeatedly said, that is not true. It is NOT “a sinusoid”: it is a saw-tooth.

    Again, this is the Keeling curve and CO2 measurements at all other atmospheric CO2 measurement sites show the same pattern.

    http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/program_history/keeling_curve_lessons.html

    Anybody can see there is a saw-tooth oscillation and not a sinusoid.

    In this thread I have twice explained why this refutes your assertion that the fast sequestration processes saturate and, therefore, your argument is falsified. My most recent explanation is in my post at October 18, 2013 at 4:15 am and this link jumps to it

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/10/17/another-modeling-shortcoming/#comment-1451970

    Richard

  44. richardscourtney says:
    October 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm`

    As I have repeatedly said, that is not true. It is NOT “a sinusoid”: it is a saw-tooth.

    Agreed, while temperature over the seasons is a sinusoid, the CO2 change over the seasons (over the NH) is a saw-tooth. That makes it even more certain that these processes are limited in capacity, or they would react more sinusoid-like to the temperature variation.

  45. Ferdinand Engelbeen:

    I said I intended to give you the ‘last word’ and I still do, but I write to ask you to explain your statement in your post at October 19, 2013 at 3:09 am because I genuinely do not understand it.

    Please complete your ‘last word’ by explaining why – having repeatedly asserted the seasonal CO2 variation is a sinusoid – you now agree it is a saw-tooth and claim

    the CO2 change over the seasons (over the NH) is a saw-tooth. That makes it even more certain that these processes are limited in capacity, or they would react more sinusoid-like to the temperature variation.

    How does it make it “even more certain that these processes are limited in capacity”?

    As the limit to capacity nears then the rate of sequestration would reduce, and at the same time the rate of temperature change reduces (because it varies sinusoidally through the year) so the ‘pressure’ to sequester would reduce. Hence, as I understand these matters, the saw-tooth denies that the fast sequestration processes saturate prior to the atmospheric CO2 concentration conducting its seasonal reversal.

    Please explain why my understanding is wrong and why – as you now say – the saw-tooth “makes it even more certain that these processes are limited in capacity, or they would react more sinusoid-like to the temperature variation”?

    And please note that I am not stopping you having the ‘last word': I am asking you to explain your ‘last word’ because it has come ‘out of the blue’ and I don’t understand it.

    Richard

  46. Richard,

    One need to be careful with graphs: the Keeling curve is a combination of a near-sinusoid and a trend. But because of the density of the years in the graph, the seasonal variation looks like a saw-tooth in the upgoing trend. If you expand that to one year of seasonal variability only, that gives over the years:

    Where it is clear that at MLO the CO2 swings are quite sinusoidal, which makes it near impossible to know if there are limits in the uptake. That is because there is a lag between the sinks and sources, which are all near ground:

    That graph shows that the spring-early summer uptake is sharper near ground than at height, the total variability is higher and CO2 at height lags the variability near ground.

    Have a look at Barrow (7 m above sealevel):

    As you can see, that is far more saw-tooth like. Levels stay high in winter, as long as there is snowcover and sea ice. Once temperature is sufficient above freezing, plant growth starts abundantly up to saturation, and then get level, despite temperatures still high enough. On the other hand, biolife goes on to destruct organic debris from earlier years with a peak in fall. That goes up and down with temperature all year round, even under snow cover.

    The saw-tooth thus is caused by the saturation of the first phase of plant growth in spring, followed by a much slower growth of new wood in stems and roots and accompanied with a continuous temperature dependent release of CO2 from the decay of fallen leaves and dead shrubs.

  47. Pamela Gray says:
    October 17, 2013 at 8:57 am “…If it does anything well at all, it allows climate warmers to point and laugh.”
    ++++++++++
    I do not see how you arrive at making the post above. One of the reasons this blog site is interesting is that we get to read all viewpoints. I rather enjoy richardscourtney’s comments immensely. I hope you are correct when you write “And you will continue on. And on. And on.” Because sometimes repetition of truth will sink in –or give pause to illogical thinking.

    One more comment. If you believe your attack on Richard will not have any effect, then why make the attack? What was gained from your post other than to attack?

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