CO2 – "well mixed" or mixed signals?

One of the few things that BOTH sides of the Carbon Dioxide and AGW debate seem to be able to agree on is the belief that CO2, as a trace gas, is “well-mixed” in the atmosphere. Keeling’s measurements at Mauna Loa and other locations worldwide rely on this being true, so that “hotspots” aren’t being inadvertently measured.

As support for this, if you do some Google searches for these phrases, you’ll get hundreds of results of the usage together:

CO2 + “well mixed”

“carbon dioxide” + “well mixed”

You’ll find complete opposites using the same “well mixed” phrase, for example:

Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate writes in comment # 162 of this thread on

“A full doubling of CO2 is 3.7 W/m2, and so by looking at all well-mixed GHGs you get about 70% of the way to a doubling.”

Roger Pielke Sr. writes in April 2008:

“…and thus are not providing quantitatively realistic estimates of how the climate system responds to the increase in atmospheric well mixed greenhouse gases in terms of the water vapor feedback.”

You’ll also find the phrase in use in titles of scientific papers, for example this one published in the AGU:

New Estimates of Radiative Forcing Due to Well Mixed Greenhouse Gases

And you’ll find the phrase used in popular media, such as this article from the BBC:

Carbon dioxide continues its rise

In describing the emasurements of CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory: “The thin Pacific air is ideal for this research since it is “well-mixed”, meaning that there is no obvious nearby source of pollution, such as a heavy industry, or a natural “sink”, such as forest which would absorb CO2.”

Hmm, “no obvious nearby source of pollution” I suppose the volcanic outgassing nearby doesn’t count as “pollution” since it is natural in origin.

So it seems clear that there is a broad agreement on the use of the term. I suppose you’d call that “scientific consensus”.

So it was with some surprise that I viewed this image from NASA JPL, a global CO2 distribution as measured by satellite:

Note the variations throughout the globe, ranging from highs of 382 PPM to lows around 365 PPM. There is a whole range of data and imagery like this above available here

My question is: how does this global variance translate into the phrase “well-mixed” when used to describe global CO2 distribution? It would seem that if it were truly “well-mixed”, we’d see only minor variances on the order of a couple of PPM. Yet clearly we have significant regional and hemispheric variance.

NASA JPL provides this caption to help understand it:

Although originally designed to measure atmospheric water vapor and temperature profiles for weather forecasting, data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft are now also being used by scientists to observe atmospheric carbon dioxide. Scientists from NASA; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., are using several different methods to measure the concentration of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere (about eight kilometers, or five miles, above the surface). The global map of mid-troposphere carbon dioxide above, produced by AIRS Team Leader Dr. Moustafa Chahine at JPL, shows that despite the high degree of mixing that occurs with carbon dioxide, the regional patterns of atmospheric sources and sinks are still apparent in mid-troposphere carbon dioxide concentrations. “This pattern of high carbon dioxide in the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Atlantic Ocean, and Central Asia) is consistent with model predictions,” said Chahine. Climate modelers, such as Dr. Qinbin Li at JPL, and Dr. Yuk Yung at Caltech, are currently using the AIRS data to study the global distribution and transport of carbon dioxide and to improve their models.

As we’ve found with surface based temperature measurement, it seems the more we look at satellite data, the more we learn that our earth bound assumptions based on surface measurement don’t always hold true.

When measuring the planet, looking at the whole planet at one time seems a better idea than trying to measure thousands of data points at the surface, sorting out noise, doing adjustments to “fix” what is perceived as bias, and assuming the result is accurately representatiive of the globe.

UPDATE: 7/31/08 I got a response from the AIRS team on satellite CO2 measuremenst, see this new posting

We won’t have to rely on ground based CO2 measurements much longer.

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July 29, 2008 3:34 pm

Well mixed means (quoting Elaine from Seinfeld), “means whatever the hell you want it to mean” especially if it supports AGW theory.

Bill Illis
July 29, 2008 3:36 pm

The mixing takes two or three years (which I assume is well-mixed enough to satisfy the definition.)
Antartica is behind the global average by about 3 or 4 ppm but its trend continues to increase like the other locations. I’m assuming North America is ahead of the global trend according to the Aqua measurements,
The ice core CO2 data shows Antarctica was 280 ppm about 1865 (ice takes time to form) but it is now up to 383 ppm at the end of 2007. Monthly chart data at this link (doesn’t quite match up with the Aqua measurements in 2003.)

Tim Fitzgerald
July 29, 2008 3:37 pm

I had wondered about CO2 distribution, but vertically, not laterally. Since CO2 is heavier than both N2 and O2 is it the case that CO2 accumulates at the surface? If so, has this been included in climate modeling/theory?

Leon Brozyna
July 29, 2008 3:50 pm

Why is it that this line comes as no surprise: “This pattern of high carbon dioxide in the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Atlantic Ocean, and Central Asia) is consistent with model predictions”? Yes sir, the models predict everything.
And while this is five years old, surely there should be more CO2 showing off from China. Perhaps newer data might reflect this change.

July 29, 2008 3:57 pm

There’s that line again in the JPL caption: “is consistent with model predictions”.
Consistent with model predictions of WHAT?
Why are southern mid-latitude levels elevated as well if the majority of the industrialization is in the northern hemisphere?

July 29, 2008 4:01 pm

I’ve seen this map and puzzled over it too. For one thing the highest CO2 values are not over densely populated areas but over steppe and desert country (and the Sargasso sea). Of course the measurement is in the mid-troposphere, but intuitively you would expect differences to be smaller there than at the surface since there is nothing for the CO2 to react with.
Another interesting thing is that the lowest CO2 values are over the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps. This may explain why historical CO2 measurements from stomatal index (SI) are consistently moderately higher than ice-derived values.

Jim Hansen
July 29, 2008 4:21 pm

[snip – don’t try to assume Dr. Hansen’s persona again or you will be banned from this site. I will not tolerate this sort of thing. I may disagree with the man but I will not let others pose as him and put words in his mouth that are fabricated. – Anthony ]

Jim Carson
July 29, 2008 4:25 pm

I’m seeing 374 ppm +/- 10 ppm. I’d call 10 ppm “minor,” but we need not agree. The whole debate is on the Delta ppm anyway. When we’re arguing about what will happen at 750 ppm, no one will care if the variance is +/- 10 ppm or +/- 20 ppm.

Robert Wood
July 29, 2008 4:32 pm

What really makes me angry is that there are scientists and sane people at NASA who know that what is being put out are lies, but go along with it for the Pork barrel.
Scientists from NASA; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., are using several different methods to measure the concentration of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere (about eight kilometers, or five miles, above the surface). The global map of mid-troposphere carbon dioxide above, produced by AIRS Team Leader Dr. Moustafa Chahine at JPL, shows that despite the high degree of mixing that occurs with carbon dioxide, the regional patterns of atmospheric sources and sinks are still apparent in mid-troposphere carbon dioxide concentrations.
So, NASA publicly states that although there is good mixing, there isn’t. Huh.

July 29, 2008 4:40 pm

Of the critical parameters on which AGW rests, the one most often ignored is the ‘half-life’ of CO2 in the atmosphere. I’m no expert, but I understand that it used to be thought that it was less then 10 years, but now the ‘consensus’ is more like 40 years or even more. It needs to be high for disaster scenarios to eventuate.
Can maps like the above shed light on the question of CO2 persistence in the atmosphere? You would think that the longer the CO2 half-life, the more well-mixed the atmosphere would be. Any experts out there?

Al Pratt
July 29, 2008 4:40 pm

“This pattern of high carbon dioxide in the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Atlantic Ocean, and Central Asia) is consistent with model predictions.”
Evidence for this consistency? References please.
Or is this another one of those assertions that whatever happens is consistent with the predictions of some model or another?

July 29, 2008 4:49 pm

Google ‘carbon cycle’ and you will find lots of material bearing on CO2 stay in the atmosphere, including many graphics. Given the annual flux of 160-200 or so gigatons of carbon into/out of the atmosphere each year, and the 750 or so gigatons the atmosphere contains, the turnover would appear to be 4-5 years or so for any given CO2 molecule.

July 29, 2008 4:57 pm

If we can measure these regional variations in CO2 ppmv to this degree, it completely puts paid to the notion that this trace gas is “well-mixed” around the globe. Not only that, this further highlights the dubiousness of the core AGW contention that global temperatures are driven by CO2 concentrations.

July 29, 2008 5:02 pm

Hmmmm. Wonder how much, if any, of that CO2 was related to forest fires as I understand it was a bad year.

July 29, 2008 5:10 pm

Here’s another map.
Several events have occured since the beginning of measuments recorded here,
a substantial cooling 60s to 70s, a couple volcanos, large El Nino in 98, hurricanes and tornadoes… yet these stations show an essentially straight line mean increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. Mauna Loa appears to reflect seasonal changes (reason?), but it occurs to me that for this linear increase to be an accurate picture of global atmosperic CO2, that total CO2 production, yearly global temperatures, Amazon trees, ocean uptake and release and everything else that significantly affects atmospheric levels, would have to “equal out”. That’s a hard one to accept. I would be more convinced of these graphs had they more ups and downs over the years than the Mauna Loa “seasonal” clockwork ups and downs.

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 5:20 pm

This is the trace gas that the EPA wants to regulate and we cannot even look at the pictures.
Given all the data that is available, why are we stuck with one stinking snapshot from July 2003?
If anyone can answer this simple question please enlighten me.

peer reviewer
July 29, 2008 5:28 pm

co2 is not well mixed. what ever “well” and “mixed” are
1) pinatubo eruptions gave so2 spikes around the world. No co2 spike at mauna loa
2) co2 minimums increase as you go from southern latitudes to north pole. north pole c02 30 to 60 ppm higher than sidney and other us govt sites had links to c02 recording from sites all ove r the world. the co2 was all different

July 29, 2008 5:32 pm

braddles (16:40:13) :

Of the critical parameters on which AGW rests, the one most often ignored is the ‘half-life’ of CO2 in the atmosphere. I’m no expert, but I understand that it used to be thought that it was less then 10 years, but now the ‘consensus’ is more like 40 years or even more. It needs to be high for disaster scenarios to eventuate.
Can maps like the above shed light on the question of CO2 persistence in the atmosphere? You would think that the longer the CO2 half-life, the more well-mixed the atmosphere would be. Any experts out there?

I’m no expert, but that’s never stopped me before. 🙂
A really short half life would show up as plumes of CO2 from big sources that fade away as CO2 is removed by plants and rain. So longer half lives would mean plumes that circle the Earth several times and gradually disperse as weather systems mix the air. It would be nice to see a series of those images as a movie, some of those blobs may or may not stay in place over time. Except for that band in the SH, the image sure suggests plumes. Perhaps they are blobs that show up as they mix upward, that’s the only thing I can think of that would allow for sharp edges away from the CO2 source besides a really short half life.
July 2003, heh? I remember that month particularly well. I spent most of it and part of August bicycling around Oregon (several days of 100+ heat in the eastern desert) and Montana (whose “Big Sky” was marred by much forest fire smoke). That was the year of the great French heatwave and Lance Armstrong’s extreme dehydration in a time-trial stage of Le Tour de France.
I have no idea if the CO2 in the American northwest was due to fires or blown up from California. A daily image would allow some fascinating viewing.

July 29, 2008 5:34 pm

This may be due to something that I have often thought about. C02 is a heavier than average part of the atmosphere, which would make you think that it would settle lower in the air colomn. However, since it is capable of absorbing IR, it would tend to become effectively less dense due to it’s energized state. It would need to share it’s absorbed heat through impacts with other molecles or it would continue to rise until it reached a height where it could radiate and cool. At some point there must be a balance in terms of altitude, above which the probability of colliding with other molecles drops off, due to the less dense air. CO2 would continue to absorb IR from the sun, but it would immediately rise and radiate, an effective heat transport similiar to water vapor.
Perhaps the distribution detected by the satellite doesn’t have anything to do with how well mixed CO2 is in the lower atmoshere. Perhaps the CO2 hotspots are actually CO2 that has risen and concentrated due to convection. If this is the case, then CO2 can have a cooling effect as well as a greenhouse effect, which is why global warming doesn’t actually happen in the real world

July 29, 2008 5:40 pm

Brownian motion creates far more mixing than any density differences cause separation. C02 does not separate itself out of mixed air, although, due to its higher density, the concentration may be slightly, only slightly greater at lower altitudes.

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 5:42 pm

Hmmmm… Just eyeballing the image, it appears that most of the CO2 is in the northern hemisphere during our winter. Wouldn’t it be curious if the image “flips” to more CO2 in the southern hemisphere’s winter in January?
Perhaps that explains the inadvertent reference to January 2003 under the image on the airs website.
Maybe they thought better of showing that snapshot.

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 5:44 pm

Hmmmm… Just eyeballing the image, it appears that most of the CO2 is in the northern hemisphere during our summer. Wouldn’t it be curious if the image “flips” to more CO2 in the southern hemisphere’s summer in January?
Perhaps that explains the inadvertent reference to January 2003 under the image on the airs website.
Maybe they thought better of showing that snapshot.

July 29, 2008 5:50 pm

Tim Fitzgerald (15:37:16) :

I had wondered about CO2 distribution, but vertically, not laterally. Since CO2 is heavier than both N2 and O2 is it the case that CO2 accumulates at the surface?

Convection and diffusion (primarily convection, I’m sure) swamp the tendency for stuff to settle by size. Air is viscous enough to keep water droplets in clouds from falling out until they reach rain drop size, and a CO2 molecule is less than a millionth the weight of a fog droplet.
So I’d expect there to be very little difference between low and high altitude.
Hmm, I wonder if rain significantly decreases CO2 where the rain forms or falls. I bet much more CO2 is brought down to Earth that way than through gravity pulling on CO2 gas. I wonder if that affects the image above, some of the red areas don’t have much rain in July. It would also imply a very short half life.

July 29, 2008 5:52 pm

Following up on my earlier comment, if CO2 rises and concentrates, then the effect would be pronounced in the northern hemisphere during summer. The posted image is from July. I would like to see the images for Oct., Jan, & April.
Can’t help but wonder if the heavier CO2 band would be in the Southern Hemisphere in Jan.

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 5:53 pm

There should be data available since May 2002.
Six more years of daily please NASA, before I call EPA.

July 29, 2008 6:04 pm

From one of the links from peer reviewer’s reference,
“Bacastow, R.B. 1979. Dip in the atmospheric CO2 level during the mid-1960’s. Journal of Geophysical Research 80:3109-14.”
Couldn’t find more than an abstract which doesn’t provide figures, but there was a significant drop over several years in the 60s of perhaps .2 or .3 C in temp according to 1988 Hansen, and I see no “dip” here
– except for the dip used to treat horses and the wash used to treat hogs.

July 29, 2008 6:05 pm

“This pattern of high carbon dioxide in the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Atlantic Ocean, and Central Asia) is consistent with model predictions.”
Interesting too because the models don’t make predictions, they make projections. IPCC says so. Since earth’s climate is a complex, non-linear, chaotic system unless you know the initial state of the potentially hundreds, maybe thousands of parameters the model would be incapable of ‘predicting’ the future state of the system. Projections aren’t much more than sensitivity runs to test the effect of individual parameters.

July 29, 2008 6:11 pm

Here’s another interesting set of maps, one of ocean CO2:
The oceans give and take atmospheric CO2, and it seems atmospheric conditions above would vary with this to some extent. I wonder if it is commonly understood that ocean CO2 mixes as fast in the oceans as in the air…

Steve H
July 29, 2008 6:12 pm

Where is the most recent CO2 satellite data?
Seriously, this is a subject that I have been researching for over a year now, and I can not find any global satellite data for CO2 that is more recent than 2005.
So far, this is the best that I have located:
This movie tells me more things, than I could ever express:
Vegitation is a much more important contribution to global CO2 than humans will ever be.
This this why we do not see this satellite data more often?

July 29, 2008 6:18 pm

If CO2 is as persistent in those atmospheric bands as the UN/IPCC and others claim, then those areas of high CO2 concentration should have a slightly higher temp, no?
Also, I agree with the comment on Brownian motion [*disclaimer* what’s coming next isn’t real science]:
Last Saturday evening I was reading on the bed, waiting for my wife to get ready to go out to dinner. She was talking to me from across the room; the hallway door was closed, and there was no apparent air movement. She opened her perfume bottle, and within a few seconds I could smell the perfume from across the room. Brownian motion would account for that, I guess.
Not that Brownian motion affects CO2 in these large bands around the planet. Air packets typically move in discrete chunks [like a cold front moving in], and take everything inside with them.

Alan Drennan
July 29, 2008 6:22 pm

The image is from the AIRS(Atmospheric Infrared Sounder) site. This site contains many intersting product, including this surface temperature reader – (apparently not an O2 MSU device) at

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 6:40 pm

At this site:
All the images are shown for January and for July. However, the CO2 map in the post only shows the July.
REPLY: Yes that is a bit odd. I also found this larger plot from a tip by another commenter, Alan Drennan. This needs some looking ino to see if more current data exists – Anthony
There seems to be only bits and pieces here.

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 6:57 pm

Steve H, thanks for the info on the German satellite data.
Very good info,
Mike Bryant

July 29, 2008 6:59 pm

I too saw this image recently, but was not sure what to make of it.
My personal version of common sense tells me that CO2 concentrations will be highest immediately above the thing that is spewing out the stuff. As the wind blows (or the tooth fairy flies, or whatever it is that causes CO2 to move) the CO2 will spread up and sideways and, over time, might be distributed evenly once it has been thinned out sufficiently that any further spread cannot occur, and all the time the things that absorb it will absorb it thereby reducing the concentration.
Then more is produced and that is distributed but not necessarily in the same way as the previous lot because the tooth fairy has changed direction. But throughout the exercise, the one place that constantly has most is the place that constantly produces it. Concentrations elsewhere will increase for so long as the producer is producing in greater quantities than the absorber is absorbing but there can never be an even spread all over the world because for every molecule that travels from London to Papua New Guinea there are millions more molecules which remain far closer to home.
Even after travelling 5 miles up, it can only travel so far sideways in the time it has taken it to reach that height. The CO2 contained in my latest exhalation here in Highbury, North London, will not all gather exactly 5 miles above my house, but by the time one little bit does sit exactly 5 miles above my house will a single bit have reached Papua New Guinea? And by the time (if it ever happens) that the air above Papua New Guinea reaps the benefit of my fragrant breath I will have pumped out a lot more of the stuff, the vast majority of which I would expect to be much closer to home.
Assuming a roughly constant output and random forces spreading it about one would expect to see concentrations above the emitters; if the forces are not random but follow a pattern one would expect to see concentrations in the places to which those forces will carry it in the time it takes to get 5 miles up.
Once again, my version of common sense seems to have been defeated. As Mr Carson (16:25:56) pointed out, the difference between Permafrost Blue and Scotch Bonnet Chilli Pepper Orange on the image is only 20ppm, a tiny little bit (roughly equivalent to the proportion of Americans who claim to understand cricket).
Mr Counters, Mr Brendan H, you might like this next bit:
My first reaction when I saw the image was that it suggests CO2 concentrates in vast clumps at or near the source of production thereby throwing a spanner in the works of the IPCC models. But, because the difference between Blue and Orange is so minuscule in terms of ppm it seems to me that it shows remarkable efficient mixing. I have to say that the colour scheme used in the image misled me into believing it indicated a big difference between the variously coloured areas when it does not.

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 7:02 pm

I think that all this CO2 satellite information is so precious that the government has it locked away in the dark vaults of the Smithsonian.
I’m sure they would like to lock up the satellite temperature data too.
REPLY: Lets leave the conspiracy theories out of the discussion please. – Anthony

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 7:10 pm

Imagine the AIRS temperature, CO2 and water vapor data being visualized, compared and analyzed by a supercomputer. I bet someone has already started running the program. I just hope the team does not have an agenda. How would you like to straighten out that mess??
We need the data before it is massaged and adjusted.
They have a five year head start.

July 29, 2008 7:36 pm

I meant to start my last comment by complimenting you, Mr Watts, on illustrating the piece with not just any mixed thing but mixed nuts. Very droll 🙂
REPLY: Well I am in Chico, CA, where they sell t-shirts that say “where the nuts come from” due to the booming nut tree orchards in the area.

July 29, 2008 7:37 pm

My first thought, looking at the graph, is “why isn’t CO2 more uniform around the equator?”.
If CO2 mixes really well in the atmosphere, then surely it would be carried around by the winds (for mixing purposes)? In that case, would we expect to see uniform concentration (either high or low) around the equator? My understanding (which is quite liable to be completly wrong) is that the NH and SH atmospheres are reasonably seperate beasties.
Feel free to point out where I went off the rails with this one…

peer reviewer
July 29, 2008 7:40 pm

nasa has done a pretty good job of making the data available.
there are also multiple movies at ( i think)
I urge people to click on the co2 records from around the world.
its very difficult to explain that co2 is always higher in the north pole, its minimum is always greater, yet there are no cars or emission of co2 in the artic
furthermore, global warming numbers for averaged world temp are entirely caused by warmer winters in the artic and antartic. Co2 warming theory does not have an explanation as to why this should happen. There is no irradiation in the winter in the artic for heat to be trapped.
this is a plot of latitude by season for the Giss data set
the actual temp has gone down quite a bit since 2006, the last year of the data set

peer reviewer
July 29, 2008 7:43 pm
co2 is highest at the poles, and highest in the north pole
gives warming by season and by latitude from Giss data until 2006. it is a lot colder now
global warming is entirely due to averaging high polar winter temps into much lower global tropical and -40 to 40 latitutde temps. But in winter there is no irradiation at all in the north pole, so it cant be trapped by co2.
the temps in the artic are unexplainable by co2 theory

July 29, 2008 8:34 pm

Hmm, I wonder if rain significantly decreases CO2 where the rain forms or falls. I bet much more CO2 is brought down to Earth that way than through gravity pulling on CO2 gas. I wonder if that affects the image above, some of the red areas don’t have much rain in July. It would also imply a very short half life.

I guess in upside down AGW-think land CO2 is taken up by oceans but not by raindrops.

George M
July 29, 2008 8:44 pm

No one has pointed out that 5 miles elevation is just above flight level 260, where many jet aircraft traverse. Leaving CO2, vapor trails, mixing stuff up, etc. as they go. I’ve spent many hours up there and above as I leave my huge carbon bootprint. So while “5 miles up” may sound exotic, it isn’t.

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 9:13 pm

George M.
That makes me wonder if the Keeling curve matches the increase in passenger air miles since late fifties.

Leon Brozyna
July 29, 2008 9:15 pm

Agreed, let’s leave conspiracy out of science. At the bottom of the NASA/JPL page is the following final sentence:
“The AIRS CO2 product is not yet available to the public. It is expected to be released in 2008.”
I would give them the benefit of doubt and see what happens.

Mike Bryant
July 29, 2008 9:36 pm

I hope we get to at least peek at the CO2 product before any EPA restrictions.

anna v
July 29, 2008 9:44 pm

Ric Werme (17:32:04) :
A CO2 molecule that has absorbed an infrared photon, will be slightly heavier, very slightly, than one that has not, due to E=MC**2 and conservation of energy. Picturing it as a balloon is not correct.

anna v
July 29, 2008 10:01 pm

It is indicative that they call it a “product”. Products are for advertising and selling. In my humble opinion they are waiting for the laws on CO2 footprints to make money out of the maps. Already there is a US Purdue university project preparing for that.
This of course is a conflict of interest.
It is unfortunate that research results are treated as “products”. It may be ok for nanotechnology, but for such a crucial issue where decisions hang on whether CO2 is a natural factor or how much anthropogenic emmission contribute, the data should be free.

anna v
July 29, 2008 10:08 pm

As far as the wiki link somebody gave here:
I cannot believe it. It has maximum 80 CO2 molecules per collumn of a meter square. For sure there are many more where in the collumn where I am sitting and printing this :). And we are talking of collumns kilometer high? 80 extra molecules playing ping pong will heat up the air over my head? Something off here.

July 29, 2008 10:30 pm

Throwing a possible monkeywrench into some people’s idea of the AGW argument concerning CO2, from 2001 Hansen:
“A common view is that the current global warming rate will continue or accelerate. But we argue that rapid warming in recent decades has been driven mainly by non-CO2 greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as chlorofluorocarbons, CH4, and N2O, not by the products of fossil fuel burning, CO2 and aerosols, the positive and negative climate forcings of which are partially offsetting. The growth rate of non-CO2 GHGs has declined in the past decade. If sources of CH4 and O3 precursors were reduced in the future, the change in climate forcing by non-CO2 GHGs in the next 50 years could be near zero. Combined with a reduction of black carbon emissions and plausible success in slowing CO2 emissions, this reduction of non-CO2 GHGs could lead to a decline in the rate of global warming, reducing the danger of dramatic climate change. Such a focus on air pollution has practical benefits that unite the interests of developed and developing countries. However, assessment of ongoing and future climate change requires composition-specific long-term global monitoring of aerosol properties.”
Non-CO2 gases said to contribute to warming are mainly methane, nitros oxide and CFC’s. These are said to have a “big” warming effect for short periods of time where CO2 is said to have “small” effect for a long period of time.
Yet all we hear about is CO2 killing us all next Thursday if we don’t stop drivin that hot rod Lincoln. If Hansen is right above (is he) that these non-CO2 trace gases had been declining from say 1988 to 2001, that might be the reason for the last 10 years of no warming, despite alleged rising CO2.
I wonder what “partially offsetting” meant with regard to aerosols:
“The amount of solar irradiance reaching the surface is a key parameter in the hydrological and energy cycles of the Earth’s climate. We analyze 20th Century simulations using nine state-of-the-art climate models and show that all models estimate a global annual mean reduction in downward surface solar radiation of 1–4 W/m2 at the same time that the globe warms by 0.4–0.7°C. In single forcing simulations using the GISS-ER model, this “global dimming” signal is shown to be predominantly related to aerosol effects. In the global mean sense the surface adjusts to changes in downward solar flux instantaneously by reducing the upward fluxes of longwave, latent and sensible heat. Adding increased greenhouse gas forcing traps outgoing longwave radiation in the atmosphere and surface which results in net heating (although reduced) that is consistent with global warming over the 20th Century. Over the 1984–2000 period, individual model simulations show widely disparate results, mostly related to cloud changes associated with tropical Pacific variations, similar to the changes inferred from the satellite data analysis. This suggests that this time period is not sufficient to determine longer term trends.”
Maybe the answer should be “I don’t know”?

July 29, 2008 10:35 pm

Anna, that is the number of moles in the ocean, not over your head.
The oceans take CO2 from the air as well as give back. That picture of the Atlantic being high in CO2 stands to reason, since a lot of man made CO2 comes from the US and blows east over the ocean. My point is that Mauna Loa wouldn’t seem to be in a particularly good place to detect that, but a station say in the Bahamas would.

anna v
July 29, 2008 10:38 pm

peer reviewer (19:43:52) :
I could not find a description of the plots in your link. I am on a dial up slow link at the moment and cannot really search.
The point is that the global map in the beginning of this thread speaks volumes. They say a picture is worth a thousand word, I would say a graduated map is worth a thousand histograms.
And it is funny that AIRS only managed to have one map out of all the data, from July 2003, miss labelled in another link as January 2003.
There is a funny character in modern greek folklore/shadow theater called Karagiosis. He tells a riddle to his friend:
“what am I holding here”
“a bird cage?”
“Ah, you found it.”
“And what is the sardine doing in the birdcage?”
“I just put it there to confuse you.”

July 29, 2008 10:54 pm

The distribution of CO2 can be explained by distribution of rain/clouds versus clear sunny skies at that time of year (July), with possibly some effect from altitude.
Rain washes CO2 from the atmosphere and makes plants grow.
I don’t see any relationship with human activity. Look at India and southern China, the most densely populated regions on the planet.
So yes, this graphic shows anthropogenic CO2 is well mixed. Although I’d also like to see the January image.

July 29, 2008 11:02 pm

Glenn, I mostly agree with Hansen in your quote. I am writing something on methane, ‘the other GHG’, which if I ever finish it, I will send to Anthony to see if he will publish.

Fred Colbourne
July 29, 2008 11:48 pm

Thanks Anthony for a fascinating query.
The term “well mixed” follows from the physics of gas diffusion. So as a concept it’s about 200 or so years old. Where CO2 is being generated from the spout of a laboratory retort, CO2 will be more concentrated near the spout than generally in the lab. At least it will be more concentrated in spots until the CO2 has diffused into the air in the room. Turn off the gas generator and the CO2 will eventually become well mixed (diffused).
If the CO2 is being generated continuosly, a snapshot will show spots of concentration near where the CO2 is being generated. Possibly, the lab has a tank full of a solution that absorbs CO2. With a really big tank to absorb CO2, we will get variations above and below the level in the lab next door. With continuous generation and absorption, CO2 concentration will never reach equilibrium.
If the rates of generation and absorption were both low, and we had a fan going, so that the variation was within plus or minus 5 per cent, we might say that the air was well mixed.
Whether or not the gases in the lab air become well mixed depends on the rate of CO2 generation and absorption. If I recall my lab work correctly, we used solutions of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or calcium hydroxide (CaOH / limewater) to absorb CO2. Of course the Earth has clouds, plants and oceans instead of NaOH and limewater.
(The concentrations shown in the satellite image are for an elevation of 8,000 meters / about 27,000 feet. There may or may not be much water vapor or cloud at this elevation. This is important, but I am ignoring it for this discussion. There are jet streams at or near this elevation and interzonal / latitutinal movements of air, which I also ignore.)
In the satellite image, the concentration observed at the center of the range (372 ppm) might be that for fully mixed CO2 at this altitude. If so, we have to account for absorption of CO2 in the lower part of the range (360-372 ppm). Alternatively, the range is so small that perhaps the concentration of fully-mixed CO2 is at or close to the bottom end of the range and CO2 above the minimum concentration (360-385) is not yet fully diffused. Perhaps equilibrium has not been reached because of continuous CO2 generation, but most likely we are looking at generation above the mid-point of the range and absorption below the mid-point.
We may be looking at effects caused by processes occurring at a distance. The generation and absorption of CO2 may be occurring elsewhere, at different latitudes and longitudes and different elevations from what appears in the image. For this discussion let’s ignore this possibility.
This image shows for the whole atmosphere a plus or minus 5 per cent geographic variation. However interesting this may be, 5 per cent is not a big variation. What would interest me more would be a theory that explains how these small variations point to important atmospheric processes.
We would start by observing the pattern of geographic variability as some of the posters have done. An examination of the southern hemisphere allows us to formulate an approach based on latitude and the size of landmasses relative to ocean masses, recognizing some anomalies. The southern hemisphere has less in the way of continuous land masses, dense populations and CO2 emitters compared with the northern hemisphere. (The biggest and densest populations are in Brazil and Indonesia.)
Polar and equatorial latitudes seem to have depressed CO2 concentration: between the equator and 20 degrees and between 40 degrees to the pole, CO2 concentration is depressed. There is a band of elevated CO2 between about latitude 20 to 40 degrees.
There is an anomaly in the tropics north of Australia near the western Pacific “warm pool” that extends eastwards across the Pacific.
In the northern hemisphere, some CO2 “hotspots” we see might seem to be “downwind of industrialized areas”. But given the prevailing westerly winds, we would have to explain why CO2 concentration is so high over the western part of North America and the southern part of Europe extending across the Middle East. These are not areas with dense populations and industry.
So the idea that we have a correlation with densely populated industrial areas may result from biased perception. The same perception bias might arise concerning densely populated agricultural areas in the tropics. However few observers in the “North” are familiar with the pattern of CO2 emission in these regions.
The location of CO2 hotspots in North America and Eurasia correlate with latitude and land masses as in the southern hemisphere. There is an anomaly over the Himalayan Mountains. There is another anomaly in the western Atlantic between Florida and Newfoundland extending across to Gibraltar.
Land cover may be a factor: note the reduced concentration of CO2 over forested areas and over ice. Note increased CO2 concentration over areas with sparse vegetation and warm oceans, except the Atlantic between Brazil and the Congo.
These considerations indicate the possibility that at this altitude the processes underlying the variation in CO2 are natural. In any event, our null hypothesis should assume that the underlying process is natural. But I suspect that many will begin with a null hypothesis that assumes the variation is caused by man.
Finally, we could focus on the lower part of the range and try to explain why some regions have lower CO2 concentration. But to make sense of these images, we ought to look also at the images for higher and lower altitudes.
As a research topic this one should be good for a Masters thesis and maybe a PhD.

July 30, 2008 12:41 am

I fear political parties across the world have invested too much time, policies and resources into the cataclysmic aspects of AGW to afford to go back on it or even to moderate their stance to something less Oppenheimer-esque (I am destroyer of worlds). Their opposition parties would chew them up and spit them out for years and years to come. I fear that (to paraphrase former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating) Anthropogenic Global Warming is ‘L.A.W. law’ not T.R.U.T.H. truth.

July 30, 2008 1:01 am

Phillip, Hansen said “The growth rate of non-CO2 GHGs has declined in the past decade.” Methane sure didn’t, and isn’t “declining”:
As to your comment “So yes, this graphic shows anthropogenic CO2 is well mixed.” I suggest a new pair of glasses.

July 30, 2008 1:16 am

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
John Maynard Keynes
“Western politicians of all colours are corrupt cowards. It’s in their nature.”

July 30, 2008 1:54 am

Glenn, The growth rate of methane has declined for at least the last 2 decades (see link, which is also your 2nd link). Atmospheric methane stopped rising in 1997. Recently methane levels have again started rising, which may be a new upward trend or just natural variability. It’s to early to tell. Otherwise, you seem to be confusing growth rate and atmospheric concentration.
And on the CO2 graphic. Look to the north of India that sharp boundary between low and high CO2 is the limit of the monsoon in July. So yes without the effect from rain and clouds, I’d say CO2 is very well mixed. I don’t see any correlation with sources of human emissions.

Carsten Arnholm, Norway
July 30, 2008 2:08 am

Since there is no apparent correlation between concentration of CO2 producing industry (or population), the CO2 becomes “well mixed”?
A strange way of explaining no correlation?

July 30, 2008 2:16 am

Apart from a few hot/cold spots, the range of concentration on the map is about the same as the peaks of the normal annual variation around that time:
So isn’t this simply local seasonal variation? Which I assume is due to variations in plant/algae growth rates, ocean temperatures (outgassing), etc.?
Also, the fact that the global median from the map is very close to the Mauna Loa figure for 2003.5 surely means it is well mixed over inter-annual timescales.

July 30, 2008 3:17 am

I’ve been looking for historical atmospheric CO2 data, going back 100 years or so. The older data obviously would use different methods of measurement than are employed today. Can anybody help me?

July 30, 2008 3:39 am

The year after Mt Pinetubo erupted very few of my tomatos ripened. I assumed the reason was that volcanic ash made it cooler and made the sunshine weaker.
I wonder if this means my tomatoes consumed less CO2.
Perhaps the post-Pinetubo spike in CO2 levels, in certain parts of the world, was caused by plants consuming less, and had nothing to do with CO2 the volcano actually vented.
Just a thought.
The more we learn, the more my sense of wonder grows.
The biggest wonder of all is that there are actually people who think they’ve got everything figured out, and that there is nothing to wonder about any more.
The more data the better.

Nick Yates
July 30, 2008 4:23 am

Are the lower C02 concentrations over the poles, particularly the south, just due to the cold oceans absorbing it faster?

Retired Engineer
July 30, 2008 5:24 am

The bands seem to run east-west. At 5 miles up, I would expect the jet streams to have more of an effect. They don’t all run e-w. How else would soot from Asian power plants make it’s way to the Arctic?

July 30, 2008 5:47 am

Philip, the Hansen quote was from 2001, so if methane stopped rising in 1997 as you say, then why are you arguing with me about disagreeing with Hansen? And you just implied that a short period of time is too early to tell a trend. But 4 years is, to you? Look, Hansen said the growth rate had declined in the past decade. That’s 1991 to 2001. Look on the reference you provided, either the top or bottom graph. On the top graph the increase only appears to level during the last year or two at best. The bottom graph shows little decrease overall, from 1991 to 2001. And he was talking about a rate of increase, decreasing, basing that on a couple years.
But go with the understanding that 1991 to 2001 growth was slightly less of an increase than 1981 to 1991. From the chart below, you have a .15C increase from 1981 to 1991, and a .20C increase from 1991 to 2001. Shall we invoke natural variability here, since methane growth rate decreased in those two decades?
I also said that methane isn’t declining, and it isn’t. The last couple years on that graph show a definite increase. A real increase, and not too early to tell. I didn’t say methane was on an increasing rate.
As well, the graph shows a level of 1786 at the start of 2008. From Wiki on “Methane”: “The abundance of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere in 1998 was 1745 parts per billion.” Thats a 41ppb increase in 10 years, and that is about the same as the increase between 1991 to 2001, when we were supposedly heating up. Natural variability the answer here as well for the last 10 years of flat temps?
As to the CO2 graphic, I’d say that, well, a well mixed picture would be, like all one color. Your mileage seems to vary.

July 30, 2008 6:27 am

I find it interesting that most of the stations appear to be in areas with the highest CO2 concentration.
If CO2 does have an impact on temperature, then wouldn’t one expect the highest temperatures to be in areas with the highest CO2 concentrations?
When can we expect Dr. Hansen to issue a new correction for the raw data?

July 30, 2008 8:46 am

I would be very surprised to find CO2 to be “well mixed”.
Beck reports on the expeditions of Wattenberg crossing the Atlantic Ocean at various latitudes while performing volumetric CO2 determinations between 1925 and 1927.

July 30, 2008 9:35 am

Forgive me for being naive, but is the data available through FOIA, or do they stonewall that too?

July 30, 2008 11:07 am

Pops (03:17:14) :
Maybe this will help. Some of the comments below the article have links that are pretty helpful regarding historical vs current CO2 measuring methodologies and how closely they compare: click

July 30, 2008 2:53 pm

the plots are really simple Giss mapping output. they are a few years old. you should be able to do them yourself at the giss mapping site, if it has not changed
the data is land and sea data 1880 to 2006, plotted by anomaly by latitude for each season. As you can see the largest anomalies are over the poles and only significant in the winter. the data set is the entire giss data and the comparison set is 1880 to 1950. This comparison was chosen as to be unbiased : pre co2 measurement and post c02 measurement, or pre industrial growth and post industrial growth or pre major population change and post major population change

July 30, 2008 3:40 pm

a 3% variation across the whole planet seems fairly “well mixed” to me

July 30, 2008 4:25 pm

“In describing the measurements of CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory: “The thin Pacific air is ideal for this research since it is “well-mixed”, meaning that there is no obvious nearby source of pollution, such as a heavy industry, or a natural “sink”, such as forest which would absorb CO2.”
No, except for the Pacific Ocean. I can understand why someone on Mauna Loa would overlook that.
“The oceans represent a significant sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Variability in the strength of this sink occurs on interannual timescales, as a result of regional and basin-scale changes in the physical and biological parameters that control the flux of this greenhouse gas into and out of the surface mixed layer. Here we analyse a 13-year time series of oceanic carbon dioxide measurements from station ALOHA in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, and find a significant decrease in the strength of the carbon dioxide sink over the period 1989–2001. We show that much of this reduction in sink strength can be attributed to an increase in the partial pressure of surface ocean carbon dioxide caused by excess evaporation and the accompanying concentration of solutes in the water mass. Our results suggest that carbon dioxide uptake by ocean waters can be strongly influenced by changes in regional precipitation and evaporation patterns brought on by climate variability.”
From a 1994 article:
“The role of the ocean as a sink for anthropogenic carbon dioxide is a subject of intensive investigation and debate. Interest in this process is driven by the need to predict the rate of future increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide and subsequent global climatic change. Although estimates of the magnitude of the oceanic sink for carbon dioxide appear to be converging on a value of ∼2 (Gt) C yr−1 for the 1980s, a detailed understanding of the temporal and spatial variability in the rate of exchange of carbon dioxide between the ocean and the atmosphere is not available. For example, recent modeling work and direct measurements of air-sea carbon dioxide flux produce very different estimates of the air-sea flux in the northern hemisphere. As a consequence, it has been suggested that a large unidentified oceanic carbon dioxide sink may exist in the North Pacific. As a part of our time series observations in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, we have measured dissolved inorganic carbon and titration alkalinity over a four-year period. These measurements constitute the most extensive set of observations of carbon system parameters in the surface waters of the central Pacific Ocean. Our results show that the ocean in the vicinity of the time series site is a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. On the basis of these observations, we present a mechanism by which the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre can be a potential sink for ∼0.2 Gt C yr−1 of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Although our observations indicate that the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, the magnitude of this oceanic sink is relatively small. Our data and interpretations are therefore consistent with the argument for a relatively large sink during the 1980s in northern hemisphere terrestrial biomass. Another possibility is that the net release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere owing to land use activities in tropical regions has been overestimated. ”
I take “interannual timescales” to be events over periods of more than a year, not seasonal changes. Perhaps that is wrong, but many conditions such as PDO are not seasonal and do affect CO2 sinks. Seems to me CO2 levels affected locally would not be reflected in measurements taken at different points on the globe for periods lasting over years.

July 30, 2008 5:17 pm

An article reporting on the 2003 Nature abstract posted above:
“Increased salinity accounts for about 40 percent of the decrease in carbon dioxide absorption over the 13-year period, says Karl. He and his colleagues haven’t identified the cause of the rest of the absorption slowdown, but some candidates are changes in biological productivity and fluctuations in ocean-surface mixing. The dip in carbon sequestration doesn’t seem to be related to sea-surface temperature, however, because annual averages at the site haven’t changed over the period.The researchers report their findings in the Aug. 14 Nature.”
“Station ALOHA is located in the North Pacific subtropical gyre, a swirl nearly the width of the Pacific that typically has little biological activity near the sea’s surface. Such gyres account for 40 percent of Earth’s ocean area, says Karl.”
Sounds like a significant decrease in CO2 ocean sink, in a sizeable chunk of the North Pacific, over a 13 year period, where non-changing surface ocean temps are not involved. I don’t recall whether IPCC models predicted drought over the North Pacific during this time, or have even seriously understood and considered the effects of the changing North Pacific subtropical gyre. This may have played an important part in the recent Arctic melt as well.

July 30, 2008 6:20 pm

Increasing Salinity?? I thought the IPCC was telling us all the melting of glaciers and sea ice was decreasing salinity??
Sadly they have poor justification for their CO2 balance data. Recently we had a paper telling us that MUCH more CO2 was being destroyed over the oceans than had been suspected. Where did that CO2 come from?? They aren’t even sure where the CO2 they KNOW about is sourced!!

July 30, 2008 7:30 pm

joe, the minimum co2 is about 310 to 330 in the southern latitudes. the co2 in the artic is varied enormously by the season, but reaches close to 400 ppm ( vostek from Nasa)
the entire range of c02 from mauna loa is about 320 to 380.
so the variation over the planet is greater than the entire change in co2 from mauna loa in all the years it has been recorded.
this is not well mixed, if the natural variation is greater than the observed change. And it is this observed change which is the “cause” of all the disharmony over man’s destruction of the world
here is the Mauna loa data
Jan. Feb. March April May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Annual Annual-Fit
1958 -99.99 -99.99 315.71 317.45 317.50 -99.99 315.86 314.93 313.19 -99.99 313.34 314.67 -99.99 -99.99
1959 315.58 316.47 316.65 317.71 318.29 318.16 316.55 314.80 313.84 313.34 314.81 315.59 315.98 316.00
1960 316.43 316.97 317.58 319.03 320.03 319.59 318.18 315.91 314.16 313.83 315.00 316.19 316.91 316.91
1961 316.89 317.70 318.54 319.48 320.58 319.78 318.58 316.79 314.99 315.31 316.10 317.01 317.65 317.63
1962 317.94 318.56 319.69 320.58 321.01 320.61 319.61 317.40 316.26 315.42 316.69 317.69 318.45 318.46
1963 318.74 319.08 319.86 321.39 322.24 321.47 319.74 317.77 316.21 315.99 317.07 318.36 318.99 319.02
1964 319.57 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 322.23 321.89 320.44 318.70 316.70 316.87 317.68 318.71 -99.99 319.52
1965 319.44 320.44 320.89 322.13 322.16 321.87 321.21 318.87 317.81 317.30 318.87 319.42 320.03 320.09
1966 320.62 321.59 322.39 323.70 324.07 323.75 322.40 320.37 318.64 318.10 319.79 321.03 321.37 321.34
1967 322.33 322.50 323.04 324.42 325.00 324.09 322.55 320.92 319.26 319.39 320.72 321.96 322.18 322.13
1968 322.57 323.15 323.89 325.02 325.57 325.36 324.14 322.11 320.33 320.25 321.32 322.90 323.05 323.11
1969 324.00 324.42 325.64 326.66 327.38 326.70 325.89 323.67 322.38 321.78 322.85 324.12 324.62 324.60
1970 325.06 325.98 326.93 328.13 328.07 327.66 326.35 324.69 323.10 323.07 324.01 325.13 325.68 325.65
1971 326.17 326.68 327.18 327.78 328.92 328.57 327.37 325.43 323.36 323.56 324.80 326.01 326.32 326.32
1972 326.77 327.63 327.75 329.72 330.07 329.09 328.05 326.32 324.84 325.20 326.50 327.55 327.46 327.52
1973 328.54 329.56 330.30 331.50 332.48 332.07 330.87 329.31 327.51 327.18 328.16 328.64 329.68 329.61
1974 329.35 330.71 331.48 332.65 333.09 332.25 331.18 329.40 327.44 327.37 328.46 329.58 330.25 330.29
1975 330.40 331.41 332.04 333.31 333.96 333.59 331.91 330.06 328.56 328.34 329.49 330.76 331.15 331.16
1976 331.74 332.56 333.50 334.58 334.87 334.34 333.05 330.94 329.30 328.94 330.31 331.68 332.15 332.18
1977 332.92 333.42 334.70 336.07 336.74 336.27 334.93 332.75 331.58 331.16 332.40 333.85 333.90 333.88
1978 334.97 335.39 336.64 337.76 338.01 337.89 336.54 334.68 332.76 332.54 333.92 334.95 335.50 335.52
1979 336.23 336.76 337.96 338.89 339.47 339.29 337.73 336.09 333.91 333.86 335.29 336.73 336.85 336.89
1980 338.01 338.36 340.08 340.77 341.46 341.17 339.56 337.60 335.88 336.01 337.10 338.21 338.69 338.67
1981 339.23 340.47 341.38 342.51 342.91 342.25 340.49 338.43 336.69 336.85 338.36 339.61 339.93 339.95
1982 340.75 341.61 342.70 343.56 344.13 343.35 342.06 339.82 337.97 337.86 339.26 340.49 341.13 341.09
1983 341.37 342.52 343.10 344.94 345.75 345.32 343.99 342.39 339.86 339.99 341.16 342.99 342.78 342.75
1984 343.70 344.51 345.28 347.08 347.43 346.79 345.40 343.28 341.07 341.35 342.98 344.22 344.42 344.44
1985 344.97 346.00 347.43 348.35 348.93 348.25 346.56 344.69 343.09 342.80 344.24 345.56 345.90 345.86
1986 346.29 346.96 347.86 349.55 350.21 349.54 347.94 345.91 344.86 344.17 345.66 346.90 347.15 347.14
1987 348.02 348.47 349.42 350.99 351.84 351.25 349.52 348.10 346.44 346.36 347.81 348.96 348.93 348.99
1988 350.43 351.72 352.22 353.59 354.22 353.79 352.39 350.44 348.72 348.88 350.07 351.34 351.48 351.44
1989 352.76 353.07 353.68 355.42 355.67 355.13 353.90 351.67 349.80 349.99 351.30 352.53 352.91 352.94
1990 353.66 354.70 355.39 356.20 357.16 356.22 354.82 352.91 350.96 351.18 352.83 354.21 354.19 354.19
1991 354.72 355.75 357.16 358.60 359.34 358.24 356.17 354.03 352.16 352.21 353.75 354.99 355.59 355.62
1992 355.98 356.72 357.81 359.15 359.66 359.25 357.03 355.00 353.01 353.31 354.16 355.40 356.37 356.36
1993 356.70 357.16 358.38 359.46 360.28 359.60 357.57 355.52 353.70 353.98 355.33 356.80 357.04 357.10
1994 358.36 358.91 359.97 361.26 361.68 360.95 359.55 357.49 355.84 355.99 357.58 359.04 358.88 358.86
1995 359.96 361.00 361.64 363.45 363.79 363.26 361.90 359.46 358.06 357.75 359.56 360.70 360.88 360.90
1996 362.05 363.25 364.03 364.72 365.41 364.97 363.65 361.49 359.46 359.60 360.76 362.33 362.64 362.58
1997 363.18 364.00 364.57 366.35 366.79 365.62 364.47 362.51 360.19 360.77 362.43 364.28 363.76 363.84
1998 365.32 366.15 367.31 368.61 369.29 368.87 367.64 365.77 363.90 364.23 365.46 366.97 366.63 366.58
1999 368.15 368.87 369.59 371.14 371.00 370.35 369.27 366.94 364.63 365.12 366.67 368.01 368.31 368.30
2000 369.14 369.46 370.52 371.66 371.82 371.70 370.12 368.12 366.62 366.73 368.29 369.53 369.48 369.47
2001 370.28 371.50 372.12 372.87 374.02 373.30 371.62 369.55 367.96 368.09 369.68 371.24 371.02 371.04
2002 372.43 373.09 373.52 374.86 375.55 375.40 374.02 371.49 370.71 370.24 372.08 373.78 373.10 373.08
2003 374.68 375.63 376.11 377.65 378.35 378.13 376.62 374.50 372.99 373.00 374.35 375.70 375.64 375.61
2004 376.79 377.37 378.41 380.52 380.63 379.57 377.79 375.86 374.06 374.24 375.86 377.48 377.38 377.43
Monthly values are expressed in parts per million (ppm) and reported in the 2003A SIO manometric mole
fraction scale. The monthly values have been adjusted to the 15th of each month. Missing values are
denoted by -99.99. The “annual” average is the arithmetic mean of the twelve monthly values. In years
with one or two missing monthly values, annual values were calculated by substituting a fit value
(4-harmonics with gain factor and spline) for that month and then averaging the twelve monthly values.

July 30, 2008 8:17 pm

here is some artic data and others
unfortunatley I cannot find the very good global map by latitude. it may have been removed since I last looked 1 year ago

July 30, 2008 9:45 pm

Maybe someone can help me wrap my arms around something that has been bothering me for a while now…
It is well documented that pre-industrial levels of CO2 were pretty stable for thousands of years in the neighborhood of about 288 ppmv. Since the industrial revolution, CO2 levels have steadily climbed and, as of 2000 were at approximately 368 ppmv (I use 2000 as my baseline because the data I have from DoE is from that year).
According to the DoE, of the 80 ppmv increase, 12 ppmv is due to man-made additions, and the remainder (68 ppmv) is due to natural additions.
This is where I start scratching my head! For thousands of years prior to industrialization, according to ice core reconstruction, the earth’s system was in equilibrium and there was no “net” increase in natural additions (hence the steady level of CO2) to the atmosphere. So, why is it that only during this period of man-made additions have the natural additions also risen?
Every answer I tend to come up with never works as it would also cause a related increase in past CO2 levels. I could be overlooking something extremely simple, and that’s why I’m “coming out of the closet” and posing this question to a large audience.
What am I missing?? Or could it be that Beck is onto something with his analysis of past CO2 measurements taken by wet chemical method and there is a flaw in the ice core measurements (I have thoughts on that…but I will spare you my lunacy!!)?
Thanks for your help…and please keep the flames to minimum!! 🙂

July 30, 2008 11:54 pm

LeeW: I had the same problem… However I found that the Ice Core data for CO2 was already in doubt…
Brooks Hurd, a high-purity-gas analyst, confirmed the previous criticism of ice core CO2 studies. He noted that the Knudsen diffusion effect, combined with inward diffusion, is depleting CO2 in ice cores exposed to drastic pressure changes (up to 320 bars more than 300 times normal atmospheric pressure), and that it minimizes variations and reduces the maximums (Hurd 2006).
i.e. the historic Ice Cores measurements show an artificially low CO2 level… and may not be a good matrix for reconstruction of historic CO2 levels…
But nobody seems to want to fund this area of research…
Zbigniew Jaworowski fleshes out the argument a little more here:
I was a firm AGW believer, a few years back. I just accepted what the news told me, I even went and bought Al Gores DVD, played it and felt convinced… I played it to everybody else too!
I was wondering one day, why my skin had become much more sensitive to the sun over the past years, and I wondered whether Skin Cancer was increasing… sure enough it was, lots of reports showing how heavily it was up in the NORTHERN HEMISPHERE, but not the Southern Hemisphere. My skin specialist at the hospital also agreed the Skin Cancer, and sensitivity had increased in his opinion.
This seemed like it was to do with the sun… so i dug a little deeper into sun observations etc. and stumbled across a researcher’s blog at an observatory studying the sun (can’t find it now), who believed that the main driver of GW was more likely to be the sun in her opinion.
For the last couple of years I’ve been on a trip, chasing down the information, and realised the AGW case doesn’t really stack up, it’s a bit flimsy, and rather messy. Because of along term interest in Geopolitics and the fight to control energy resources, it soon felt to me the Political agenda was pushing CO2 down peoples throats because it had a neat link to energy consumption, and alternative method of controlling energy OUTPUT, rather than the traditional method of controling INPUT (which the Anglo/American’s were losing control of), as a way of controlling the development of 2nd/3rd world countries around the world.
Over the last few months, Svensmarks work on the CRF/Climate link due to cloud formation continues to make more and more sense – to me, despite all the rubbishing papers, which actually don’t rubbish it at all when you read them.
I think Svensmark has found something very beautiful, very elegant, and very simple to explain the main driver of climate change. I hope he can prove his theories, although I think the evidence has piled up in his favour.
In time I think we will look up into the sky at the clouds, and realise that once again, man’s egocentric view of his world had been challenged, and that we are just a piece of the universe.

July 31, 2008 12:53 am

It’s too bad all these gases are invisible or we might see them swirling in various concentrated bands and clouds. I suspect that N2 flows along rivers, evidenced by lichen uptake that declines with distance from the water. And I suspect methane hangs over methane sources with poor diffusion based on common olfactory evidence.
I strongly doubt that heavy gases like chlorofluorocarbons migrate from asthma inhalers to high altitudes in polar regions. I know an atmospheric researcher who sent up ballons in Antarctica and she told me they found no CFC’s there. She thinks the CFC-induced ozone hole theory is utter bunk.
Brownian mixing in lab beakers is a far different beast than wildfire smoke or volcanic eruption plumes, which we can see and which certainly don’t diffuse rapidly into the atmosphere. I don’t know about invisible trace gases in parts per million, but I suspect the mixing is incomplete.
Re Mauna Loa, the measurement station is on the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Just below it is a US Army artillery range and tank training area. Upwind is Hilo, a steadily growing community. To the south is Kilauea which has been erupting rather vigorously from Pu’u O’o since 1983. I know for a fact that trade winds blow insects up to the summit from the lowlands, so the inversion layer is not a hermetic seal.
Our atmosphere is not homogenous, any more than our oceans are.

Retired Engineer
July 31, 2008 6:44 am

Mike: Diffusion is an interesting process. Depends on many factors. My beef with CFC/Ozone hole is this: Most CFC’s were released in the NH. The “hole” is over the Spoth Pole. How did all the CFC’s get there? There is very little mixing of air between NH and SH, the jet streams don’t work that way. Why no hole over the North Pole? We did see some reduction in ozone over the NH, but no massive holes.
I guess that didn’t sell enough newspapers.

Aussie John
July 31, 2008 7:14 am

Early posts in this thread were asking about the life of CO2 in the atmosphere. James hansem, in a letter to the Ausrtalian Prime Minister ( states “…because a substantial fraction of the emitted CO2 will stay in the air more than 1000 years.”
This is much more than the posited 10 – 40 years that others have commented on.
Do CO2 molecules have date stamps?

July 31, 2008 7:55 pm

Never was any ‘massive ozone hole’.
When Antarctic ozone drops below 220 Dobson units (from the 300-400 or so units present most of the year) it is DEFINED by the usual suspects as a ‘hole’.
It is actually a recurrent ‘dimple’ that reliably shows up in late Southern hemisphere winter and reliably clears by mid-spring when the sun is again visible over the polar horizon and has naturally restored the ozone.

August 1, 2008 12:21 am

And yet the use of CFC’s in asthma inhalers has been banned. CFC are the best propellants and were especially important in rescue inhalers (for those acute asthma sufferers who might die without immediate relief). The CFC substitutes are not nearly as effective.
But what the hell. It’s worth it to make millions of sick people suffer and die for a phony baloney paranoid junk science superstition isn’t it? It’s the Precautionary Principle. Aliens from Outer Space might land in your yard. Best to learn to speak Martian today, just in case.

August 1, 2008 5:29 pm

Yes, Mike. Like DDT and malaria … millions die and many more millions are permanatly impaired each year (THESE ARE THE REAL NUMBERS, PEOPLE) because DDT was given a false bad rap by Rachel Carson some decades ago.
If all those who think we should do good, by “not doing ” what has been shown to work, were required …
(when they vote or advocate)…
to contribute to a potentially profitable trust fund that would either pay back any harm they may have caused by their shrill voices or reward them for their wisdom, … what a bright world this would be.
As it is, they have no risk and are not in the slightest accountable for their actions.
LIke thinking they have a Constitutional right to shout FIRE in a crowded theater without responsibility or accountability.

Richard C
August 24, 2008 1:38 pm

Semantics, semantics. When one has no point, he resorts to attacking semantics. “Well-mixed” does not mean perfectly mixed. In a “well-mixed” system, one merely has to find a location where the mixing results in a good fit. Mauna Loa is in a grand position to measure AVERAGE global CO2 levels. Look at the diagram you included in your story. It shows Mauna Loa smack dab PERFECT, yet you scream that other places wouldn’t work as well! Egad, that’s why Los Angeles isn’t used, even though it would be more convenient. Ker-DUH! Please answer this query: By what percentage does Mauna Loa differ from the global average CO2 level, and what are you whining about??

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