Comments thread – AIRS Team satellite CO2 paper published

AIRS has higher resolution tracking of global CO2
AIRS has higher resolution tracking of global CO2 - click for image

I’m going to make a formal post on this later, but I wanted to bring it up for discussion now since many people have been waiting for this paper to be published. For my previous perspectives and replies from authors, see this post here:

An encouraging response on satellite CO2 measurement from the AIRS Team

Hat tip to F Rasmin who writes with a link to the new paper:

Hello Anthony. Is this the awaited paper from the AIRS TEAM? ‘Satellite remote sounding of mid-tropospheric CO2′, published 9 September 2008 at:

REPLY: Yes it is. This was on my list of things to check this week, thanks for the tip! I’ll write it up sas soon as I can read it. In the meantime, feel free to post more comments on it in this thread.

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Tom in Texas
September 29, 2008 4:17 pm

First sentence:
” Human activity has increased the concentration of the earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide, which plays a direct role in contributing to global warming.”
Skimmed this short paper and found nothing earth shattering.

Pamela Gray
September 29, 2008 4:34 pm

Do these globs of CO2 build up on site (IE from a pollution site like the I-5 corridor) or are they blown in from another source? Was there a bloom of something in the pacific ocean that outgassed CO2 and then it blew onto the western part of the US? Was it then taken up later by the vegetation? I want a loop. I want a loop.

Pamela Gray
September 29, 2008 5:09 pm

I wonder if ozone follows or leads CO2. I do know this, that blue area of ozone is much bigger than it was this spring.

Mike Bryant
September 29, 2008 5:11 pm

This is great, and right on time. You’ve got to hand it to the AIRS team. Now let’s see all those pretty pictures.

September 29, 2008 6:21 pm

“The top panel shows monthly mean AIRS retrieved CO2 mixing ratios.” So the top panel is not a daily snapshot.

September 29, 2008 6:28 pm

This article compared measured data to Chemical Transport Models (CTMs) and they indicated some disappointment in the accuracy of the CTMs. If only the GCM folks would have this same perspective (humility?) when evaluating their global temperature results against their models.
Also, the GCMs still use a constant level of CO2 assumption the last I heard, so this should give them some pause to see that CO2 levels vary over a 12-13 PPM range (eyeballing estimate)

doug janeway
September 29, 2008 8:32 pm

The observed “major final stratospheric warming event over the northern polar region in April 2003” is attributed to a “reversal of the 10hPa wind direction in the polar region and an increase of the stratospheric polar tempurature” (GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, 3.3. [13]. This warming event distorts and eventually breaks up the polar vortex resulting in less downwelling of stratospheric air into the upper polar trophosphere which allows more mixing with northern mid-latitude air which is laden with C02 and decreased 02[14].
Although the beginning premise states otherwise, C02 is not indicated here as the cause of the warming event, only as a result and marker of a weather event caused by climate conditions. WMO indicates two catalysts: (1) a reversal of the 10hPa wind direction; and (2) an increase of the stratospheric polar tempurature. No cause is indicated for the latter.
Increased C02 concentrations of 2ppmv and reduced 02 levels of 20ppbv over five days “following the event” are observed due to mixing of northern mid latitude air in the polar upper trophosphere. AIRS C02 retrieval value appears to be mostly in the observation of C02 variability due to weather systems.

Rob R
September 29, 2008 8:51 pm

Interesting stuff
I wonder how the those rather low concentration measurements around ANTARCTICA tally with the way the atmospheric CO2 record is spliced into the Siple Dome ice core CO2 record?

Frank Ravizza
September 29, 2008 8:53 pm

Hey, I can see the plume created by my SUV exhaust!
Serious, what’s the motivation behind these measurements? Possibly to measure CO2 source and sinks on a macroscopic scale?

anna v
September 29, 2008 9:15 pm

It is still five year old data.
Where is the new continuously registered data?
They only say they use the July 2003 data because they are the most studied, or something like that. It is incredible that in the computer age we cannot get continuous data to the present from this publicly funded facility.
I am getting an error when trying to access the airs web page. I hope it is a temporary glitch.

anna v
September 29, 2008 9:17 pm

p.s. makes me suspect that CO2 is falling and they do not know how to present that to the orthodoxy

September 29, 2008 9:18 pm

Try to play nicely—it’s not all about you, you know. The childish repetition of “I want a loop” does your public image no favours. :>) No, you made me laugh.
What you say next arouses my curiosity. I don’t know which is the “blue area of ozone” you refer to, but that there might be a chemical connection between ozone and CO2 is to me a new idea.
I understand that ozone is produced in the stratosphere by the action of UV on O2 molecules, thus interfering with the UV before it hits the earth’s surface and puts us all at risk of nasty consequences for our health. In other words, it’s not so much the existence of an ozone layer that protects us as the production of it, if that makes any sense. If anything, it seems to be the oxygen that’s sacrificially protecting us.
Since, during the winter, sunlight is absent, ozone production naturally ceases and the atmospheric stock of it diminishes, producing the famous ‘hole’, which attains its maximum extent at the end of the austral winter.
I understand that destruction of the ozone layer by the alleged man-made ozone “destroyers” such as CFCs cannot be demonstrated.
I am open to correction, as always. Is there another connection to CO2?
Richard Treadgold,
Climate Conversation Group.

anna v
September 29, 2008 10:11 pm

And where is Mauna Loa? right in the middle of the darkest part.

Terry Ward
September 30, 2008 1:53 am

The Antarctic peninsula seems to be starved of CO2 – in comparison to the remainder of the entirety of “creation”.
The largest desert in the world, with the most dessicated atmosphere should surely have a greater concentration of this “well mixed gas”.
/in jokes

September 30, 2008 4:15 am

I was hoping for a plot of variation with altitude. Maybe next time.

Mike Bryant
September 30, 2008 5:21 am

I hope I’m wrong but I am getting that niggling feeling again… where is all the recent data?

September 30, 2008 5:30 am

Pretty interesting. Looking at the graphics, it seems that CO2 levels over mid-latitude N Hemisphere are higher than predicted, but S Hemisphere and especially Antarctica are lower than predicted. Just looking at the colors, you might think that these differences might help explain the lack of apparent warming in Antarctica and the more apparent warming in the N Hemisphere. But the differences are still pretty small, in the range of 1 ppbv, so the color differences probably don’t really explain much. I’m certainly not expert, and I’ve only recently discovered Wattsupwiththat, via Climate Daily — great weblog.

Mike Bryant
September 30, 2008 5:38 am

Where is the average monthly CO2 for the Earth?
Where is the average monthly CO2 for the continental USA?
Where is the average monthly CO2 for China?
Where is the average monthly CO2 for India?
Where is the average monthly CO2 for Australia?
Where is the average monthly CO2 for England?
Where is the average monthly CO2 for Mauna Loa?
Where is the average monthly CO2 for other CO2 collecting sites?
Why won’t NASA come clean?
What do they have to hide?

Mike Bryant
September 30, 2008 5:42 am

We should have all that data for the last five years, including the comparisons with the Mauna Loa record.
Is the Keeling Curve an artifact?
We won’t know until the REAL data is released.

September 30, 2008 5:47 am

Quick correction on the last comment: the differences are in the range of 10 ppbv, on either side of a mean value.

Mike Bryant
September 30, 2008 5:59 am

I don’t know why wanting to see a “loop” would hurt anyone’s image. I want to see a loop too. A loop that shows worldwide CO2 over the last five years. We have been waiting a long time for this. We paid for it. Where is it? I WANT A LOOP!!!

anna v
September 30, 2008 6:02 am

I watched the animation.
1) It may be just me, but it looks to me to be like clouds, i.e., not moving but created ( for clouds it is through the change in temperature/humidity) in situ.
2) Where does the southern hemisphere get all this CO2 excess over average? Volcanos? Does anybody have a volcanos map link?
CO2 emitting rocks?
A lot of unanswered questions. The link still does not work.

Terry Ward
September 30, 2008 6:20 am

Sorry. Not sufficiently caffeinated at the time of previous posting.
The second joke should read:
The largest desert in the world, with the most dessicated atmosphere should surely be suffering a rise in temperatures due to this “well mixed gas”.
How I wish the science truly was settled.

anna v
September 30, 2008 6:28 am
The CO2 southern hemisphere follows the carbon monoxide animation above.
No CO2 on the main page, but it is there:
Updated products still coming soon. There is a July 2008, though.
Lots of changes in southern hemisphere. Range of values reduced since 2003.

Simon Abingdon
September 30, 2008 7:17 am


Pamela Gray
September 30, 2008 7:19 am

The blue ozone area over the western part of the US thickens and thins within a 24 hour period. I am wondering how this thinned ozone is interacting with the CO2 glob that is in the same area. Does the thin ozone allow CO2 to mix? What else may happen to CO2 when ozone is not present as a layer above (or below?) it? I am curious. CO2 has oxygen in it. Ozone has oxygen in it. Cosmic rays are hitting us. Any possible interactions there? Come on chemistry majors, chime in.

September 30, 2008 8:01 am

Antarctica was approaching its autumn in April. The ocean near the pole would have been cold but about as ice free as possible. Cold water absorbs more CO2. You would not see this blue zone in the Arctic in April since the ice covers the water, so the CO2 cannot disolve in the water. Just thinking. — John M Reynolds

Jim Clarke
September 30, 2008 8:24 am

I think the assumption that we can use one location on the planet to define the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has now been falsified. The problem is, this study doesn’t really tell us the whole story either. The greatest variability in CO2 concentrations will occur near the surface, where we have both the sinks and the emitters, not in the mid-tropoosphere. The limited temporal scope of the study also doesn’t tell us very much about how CO2 concentrations may change with such things as ENSO events, major volcanic eruptions or other climate cycles. It is just too short.
It appears that the average concentration of CO2 for the Northern Hemisphere is greater than what is being measured at Mauna Loa. With temperatures already lagging behind what the models predict for the Mauna Loa CO2 concentrations, this study provides another small nail in the model coffin.
Overall, this study reveals yet another layer of atmospheric complexity that the models can not even begin to deal with. If climate sensitivity to changing CO2 concentrations is very high, like the IPCC and the AGW crisis folks maintain, then it is very important to get the distribution of CO2 correct in order for the models to have skill. The CO2 distribution would have to be factored in with clouds and water vapor over time and space to quantify the true forcing. Simply assuming some global average for such key values will not generate a skillful forecast for average global temperature, much less for regional climate impacts.
Of course, if climate sensitivity to changing CO2 is small, as real world indications suggest, then correctly modelling the variable concentrations of CO2 around the planet is not that important.

September 30, 2008 8:57 am

Very interesting pattern.
CO2 levels are consistently high over warm, low productivity seas (not surprising) and low over cold seas (also not surprising). However, why are they high over steppe/prairie areas and semidesert (but not extreme desert) and low over icecaps? There is nothing in current theory that suggests this pattern as far as I know.
Also levels are not notably high over densely populated, highly industrialized areeas like NE USA and central Europe.
Levels are generally low over forest areas, but it is a bit odd that they are lower over taiga than over equatorial rainforests and even odder that they are lower over cerrado/caatinga scrub than over the adjoining amazonian forest.
The low levels over Greenland and Antarctica might explain an embarrassing problem with historical CO2 measurements. In addition to the well-known ice-core measurements historical CO2 data can also be measured from leaf Stomatal Index (SI). These measurements generally show a pretty good correlation, though the SI measurements show a lot of fairly abrupt short-term changes which are not visible in the ice measurements which are actually averages over centuries/millenia depending on the rate of snow accumulation. However the SI measurements are moderately but consistently higher (by about 10-30 ppm) than the ice-core figures. This is usually glossed-over, but it may actually measure a real difference between the northern temperate zone (where most SI records are found), ant Greenland/Antarctica. If so the traditional ice-core figures for historical CO2 are probably slightly on the low side, globally speaking.

September 30, 2008 8:59 am

I think that the distribution of CO2. It is only a tracer distribution of entropy in the atmosphere.
Any relationship is possible:
for every taste:
…..A spectral three-dimensional model of the stratosphere has been used to study the sensitivity of polar ozone with respect to a carbon dioxide increase. The lower stratospheric cooling associated with an imposed CO2 doubling may increase the probability of polar stratospheric cloud (PSC) formation and thus affect ozone. We compare the ozone perturbation obtained with the inclusion of a simple parameterization for heterogeneous chemistry on PSCs to that relative to a pure homogeneous chemistry. In both cases the temperature perturbation is determined by a CO2 doubling, while the total chlorine content is kept at the present level.
…..SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention is a process for the production of ozone by passing substantially pure carbon dioxide between at least one pair of electrodes, the at least one pair of electrodes having a voltage difference between them sufficient to cause a corona discharge across them.
it may be possible to cosmic rays or electrical discharges, replacing electrodes.

September 30, 2008 9:24 am

That graph does not show the relationship between CO2 concentration and the temperature! They don’t prove anything with this graph else than there is more CO2 above continents!!! Wow!
This graph also shows that Canada is not such a big generator of CO2. They always made us think that we were one of the worse country producing CO2 though.

Terry Ward
September 30, 2008 9:31 am

Simon Abingdon (07:17:52) :
Yep. Need a spellchecker.
Good point actually.
When I showed this paper:
to a warmer they fell upon the first spelling mistake and used it to dismiss the whole piece. Even when I pointed out the humble:
“Let the analysis speak for itself. Criticism, argument, corrections to the assumptions made and the analysis performed, will be enthusiastically welcomed by the author.”
I got “not good enough” as a reply.
They have no need to get anything (especially the science) correct, yet we must be meticulous in everything we do.
Seems fair to me.

Frank Perdicaro
September 30, 2008 9:50 am

All of this talk about CO2 makes me think of the Mammoth Mountain area
here in California. For at least a decade now there has been so much CO2
coming out of the ground that some areas are closed. The whole Mammoth
are is flat-out dangerous due to asphyxiation danger, especially during calm
days in the winter.
What do the current studies say about the Mammoth CO2 plume? Is it
responsible for most of the increase in CO2 in the US?

Gary Gulrud
September 30, 2008 10:32 am

I agree with the plurality: Their report is welcome but they are metering out the results.
The delay smacks of intra-office politics, which in government is insurmountable. Could be any reason, even just unreasoning conservatism, quashed existing work, sloth, etc.

September 30, 2008 10:57 am

There is a moving image available through the following page; whether it loops depends upon your viewer:
As for Mammoth Mountain, it releases up to 140 metric tons per day of CO2, which is a maximum of 0.05 million tons per year. The lower end of volcanic CO2 estimates is 130 million tons per year, so Mammoth Mountain when it’s most active is about 0.03 percent of the global total. Would that be significant for the U.S.?

Gary Gulrud
September 30, 2008 10:58 am

“levels are not notably high over densely populated, highly industrialized areeas like NE USA and central Europe”
Am I wrong, they seem high downwind of these?
“Levels are generally low over forest areas, but it is a bit odd that they are lower over taiga than over equatorial rainforests and even odder that they are lower over cerrado/caatinga scrub than over the adjoining amazonian forest.”
Young, growing forests fix carbon. Not that its an unimpeachable source, I saw a National Geographic film recently claim the taiga was more important in this respect than the rest of surface vegetation combined, yet it comprises 1/3 of the total in biomass. I’d think the first notion connected except the growth rate is intuitively too low.

M White
September 30, 2008 10:58 am

“Virgin to join climate experiment”
Virgins SpaceShipTwo may carry instruments to measure ‘greenhouse’ gases for the NOAA.

September 30, 2008 12:19 pm

Gary Gulrud:
“Am I wrong, they seem high downwind of these?”
At least for Europe they are if anything upwind.
“Young, growing forests fix carbon”
Yes, and that is what is strange, since taiga grows quite slowly, much slower than tropical forest.

September 30, 2008 1:55 pm

Several patterns seem clear to me.
First, overall CO2 sinks in the polar regions and outgasses at the tropics.
Second, the CO2 gets blown along the latitudes, and hence the heavily forested latitudes (Canada / taiga and tropical rainforest) have lower CO2 than the desert latitudes.
Third, there is outgassing over the upwelling ocean spots (I think).
Fourth, there has been quite an increase of CO2 since 2003.
I want to know what the January patterns are like.
Right now I’m sure that there is a HUGE dynamic balance going on. Sea life loves CO2 (calcifying organisms) and terrestrial vegetation loves CO2 (photosynthesis) and I’m sure that, just as you want money to move to create wealth, so too with the CO2. Far more there than meets the graphs.

Pamela Gray
September 30, 2008 6:53 pm

Cosmic rays create CO2-14. Cosmic rays appear to destroy ozone. Is it possible that this thin area of ozone over the western part of the US allows cosmic rays to produce a lot of CO2-14? The two areas coincide, this thin ozone area and that glob of CO2, so I would wonder if what the satellite measured was an increase in CO2-14 because maybe that is where cosmic rays produce a lot of it.

anna v
September 30, 2008 10:16 pm

AnonyMoose (10:57:58) :
“As for Mammoth Mountain, it releases up to 140 metric tons per day of CO2, which is a maximum of 0.05 million tons per year. The lower end of volcanic CO2 estimates is 130 million tons per year, so Mammoth Mountain when it’s most active is about 0.03 percent of the global total. Would that be significant for the U.S.?”
Considering that the color scale is 20ppm /380ppm makes 5% differences.
Volcanic vents must be in the rest 95% , since they probably are in a steady state. The plot shows differences from the steady state. Nevertheless it would be good to have a world map of volcanic venting and activity. For example, in the 2008 plot on the AIR site ( I gave a link above) there is red in the antarctic. That can only be volcanic new.

October 1, 2008 12:43 am

Volcano stuff can be found here and or
pretty interesting stuff:)

October 1, 2008 5:38 am

Why have the calls for urgent and immediate cuts become so hysterical in the past few weeks?
Could it be that atmospheric CO2 levels are showing signs of levelling off, or dropping? If that’s the case then they’ll want to show that their cuts worked.

anna v
October 1, 2008 5:43 am

Thank you pkatt
I cannot see an obvious correlation from the maps available,
with the AIRS map. One would need recent activity world maps, which is not something that is being provided as far as I can see.

October 4, 2008 1:07 pm

One need to take into account that the maps shown are only two monthly averages for two years (april and july 2003-2004). The same differences between e.g. Mauna Loa (20 N) and the South Pole (90 S) as the satellites show can be seen in the monthly average graphs. See the comments 179-183 at BBC “climate wars” and my comment of today (September 4) at the previous thread
As most of the seasonal variations level off in yearly averages, the differences due to latitude and altitude disappear, except for the delay in upward trend between the NH and SH, as the ITCZ hinders the exchange of air masses.
Thus it would be interesting to see the picture of the average over the full year 2003, it should show the main regions where the largest continuous natural sources and sinks are located, and the regions with the largest human contribution…

October 6, 2008 10:08 pm

[…] inquiries about it during that time. Finally, on September 29th, the paper was published, and I featured it here. That 8 weeks was long by electronic media standards, but pretty quick by traditional science […]

October 7, 2008 1:30 am

[…] Comment on Comments thread – AIRS Team satellite CO2 paper … […]

November 29, 2008 5:13 pm

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