MIT scientists baffled by global warming theory, contradicts scientific data

Many people have pointed me to this story, I wanted to read about it a bit before posting it.  Almost two years ago, when this blog was in its very first month, I posted this story on the puzzling leveling off of global methane concentrations. FYI Methane has a “global warming potential” (GWP) 23-25 times that of CO2.

CDIAC has an interesting set of graphs on methane, the first of which shows that indeed global concentrations of CH4 through 2004 have leveled off:

This one on latitude -vs- concentration would surely seem to point to anthropogenic sources of CH4:

So here is yet another addition to the puzzle, which seems to point in the opposite direction:

MIT scientists baffled by global warming theory, contradicts scientific data

From: TG Daily By Rick C. Hodgin

Boston (MA) – Scientists at MIT have recorded a nearly simultaneous world-wide increase in methane levels. This is the first increase in ten years, and what baffles science is that this data contradicts theories stating man is the primary source of increase for this greenhouse gas. It takes about one full year for gases generated in the highly industrial northern hemisphere to cycle through and reach the southern hemisphere. However, since all worldwide levels rose simultaneously throughout the same year, it is now believed this may be part of a natural cycle in mother nature – and not the direct result of man’s contributions.

Methane – powerful greenhouse gas

The two lead authors of a paper published in this week’s Geophysical Review Letters, Matthew Rigby and Ronald Prinn, the TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, state that as a result of the increase, several million tons of new methane is present in the atmosphere.

Methane accounts for roughly one-fifth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, though its effect is 25x greater than that of carbon dioxide. Its impact on global warming comes from the reflection of the sun’s light back to the Earth (like a greenhouse). Methane is typically broken down in the atmosphere by the free radical hydroxyl (OH), a naturally occuring process. This atmospheric cleanser has been shown to adjust itself up and down periodically, and is believed to account for the lack of increases in methane levels in Earth’s atmosphere over the past ten years despite notable simultaneous increases by man.

More study

Prinn has said, “The next step will be to study [these changes] using a very high-resolution atmospheric circulation model and additional measurements from other networks. The key thing is to better determine the relative roles of increased methane emission versus [an increase] in the rate of removal. Apparently we have a mix of the two, but we want to know how much of each [is responsible for the overall increase].”

The primary concern now is that 2007 is long over. While the collected data from that time period reflects a simultaneous world-wide increase in emissions, observing atmospheric trends now is like observing the healthy horse running through the paddock a year after it overcame some mystery illness. Where does one even begin? And how relevant are any of the data findings at this late date? Looking back over 2007 data as it was captured may prove as ineffective if the data does not support the high resolution details such a study requires.

One thing does seem very clear, however; science is only beginning to get a handle on the big picture of global warming. Findings like these tell us it’s too early to know for sure if man’s impact is affecting things at the political cry of “alarming rates.” We may simply be going through another natural cycle of warmer and colder times – one that’s been observed through a scientific analysis of the Earth to be naturally occuring for hundreds of thousands of years.

Project funding

Rigby and Prinn carried out this study with help from researchers at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Bristol and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Methane gas measurements came from the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE), which is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Australian CSIRO network.

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October 30, 2008 3:27 pm

I love it when a plan comes together:)

Gary Gulrud
October 30, 2008 3:34 pm

The methane broken down by OH in the presence of sunlight is converted to CO2.
The worm has turned: now engineers doing science profess to be “baffled” by the idiocy that is AGW. Like Rattus rattus leaving the holed bilge.
Anyone watching for icebergs?

October 30, 2008 3:41 pm

Anthony, how DOES one contact you to point you to stories? No e-mail or contact form?
I thought this might amuse you:
Aloha from Maui,
– Erik
REPLY: Comments are best, I already get dozens of emails a day, and I can’t even answer all of those. So no email link will be forthcoming. – Anthony

Dave Andrews
October 30, 2008 3:44 pm

Wow, things happen and the researchers/scientists don’t know why. Hasn’t it always been thus?
How do you square this with ‘consensus’ and the ‘science is settled’?

October 30, 2008 3:53 pm

CO2 continues to rise. Now methane is on the rise again.
Yet, temps are going DOWN.
Wrong tipping point!!

October 30, 2008 3:55 pm

“The next step will be to study [these changes] using a very high-resolution atmospheric circulation model… ”
Here we go again… the results from such models will be taken a better than the real life data.
It would be interesting if this could be correlated to the increase in vegetation seen around the world for the past 10 years.

October 30, 2008 4:03 pm

Could someone point me to the studies that examine climate change ex-anthropogenics? It seems to me that it would be a well funded exercise either way.

Robert Wood
October 30, 2008 4:06 pm

Matthew Rigby and Ronald Prinn, a conversation:
No, Matthew, you can’t write that. Think of the consequences.
Ron, I must write what I see, I cannot say the sky is green, when it is indeterminate.
But, Mat, we will lose our good standing amongst the IPCC. I agree with you, but can’t you show a little political acumen and hedge with some phrase like: “More study is urgent to prevent the on-coming cataclism”. We do “study”; you know that, Mat, of course?
OK Ron, I will agree. More study is necessary; and it is so urgent that we must receive vast funds so I can put my kids through school.

With no disrespect of Matthew Rigby and Ronald Prinn, who I have never met or come across before. The target was rich.

Robert Wood
October 30, 2008 4:12 pm

kuhnkat , clever name, almost like Schroedingerskhat.

George E. Smith
October 30, 2008 4:21 pm

Not sure that I am that baffled by either of those graphs Anthony; let’s just say, my mind is creative enough to offer a thesis (yet to be tested).
It is argued that for some decades prior to maybe 1995, the planet has experienced a period of warming that has been noticed locally in one fashion; that namely the arctic permafrost regions have been melting. Nothern forests growing in permafrozen ground suddnely found themselves awash, and trees blowing over in water ponds, and also more northern Tundra territory started growing some really substantial plants that soak up quite a bit of CO2.
But those permafrost regions, are largely peat bogs in the making, frozen in time by earlier cool periods, and once warmed to melting, the bacteriald ecay of the peat materials took off again becoming a principal source of methane GHG.
But then comes the 1995-8 time frame when seemingly the warming cycle decided to end, and recooling began; to where now it seems rather obvious.
So I opine, that somewhere since that 1995 warming doldrums period, the permafrost regiosn have started to shut down again, and return to a frozen in time decay work in progrss to be resumed later.
That the flattening dates from the 2004 time frame is not inconsistent with the last ten years of GISStemp and lookalikes, and a refreezing permafros thesis.
Well it’s just a thought. And once again we see that it is the models that are in disagreement with the measured data, and not verse vicea.

October 30, 2008 4:21 pm

The methane concentration is roughly 2 ppm(volume) which should mean 1ppm(mass), if I am not wrong so late. This should correspond to 5*10**12 kg or 5 billion (US) tons in the atmosphere.
‘Several million tons of new methane’ (as quoted from above) means adding 1 ppb (pars per billion (US)) to the 1000 ppb present.
The world production of natural gas, also known as methane, is of order 1 billion tons (US). A mere 1% loss during transportation (pipelines or liqiud methane tankers) would result in blowing 10 million ton of methane into the atmosphere per year.
A cow is producing of order 50 kg of methane per year.
Australia, Argentina and especially nowadays Brasil are producing a lot of beef. Remember, there are nowadays of order 1 billion more beefeaters in the world.
So, you actually wonder why there is so little increase in the methane content, in view of the ‘fact’ that also the thawing permafrost areas throw out ever more methane.

October 30, 2008 4:22 pm

Could this have something to do with melting permafrost or collapsing clathrates I read about a while ago?

Retired Engineer
October 30, 2008 4:26 pm

Methane reflects the sun’s light back to the earth? Then it should also reflect incoming light back into space. Unless we have a one-way mirror. Now that would be worthy of several Nobel prizes.
Fascinating concept, a gas that reflects light. Must be that new silver plated methane. Absorb, yes. Reflect? Hmmm.

October 30, 2008 4:34 pm

So umm, uhhh, errr, ahhh does this mean the theory must be wrong? Why is this news to anyone that science is not exact, is iterative, nor does it fit theory that some scientists want it to. Is that why it’s called science.
Nothing seems to be working out for the climate theoreticians and modelers. Looks like we have little understanding of what is really going on, which is one theory I can believe. Maybe we should concentrate on the sun’s output and it’s interaction with cosmic rays, and other forces of the universe.
Pay more in taxes so government can pretend to control the weather — Couldn’t you see through this from the get go.

October 30, 2008 4:52 pm

The story looks awfully light on detail. A couple of MIT scientists noted that methane suddenly increased and out of that, the article’s author attacks the strawman that humans are the only emitters of greenhouse gases? We are? Since when? We’re one of the biggest sources, but we’re hardly the only one. Claiming that the theories behind global warming say what they don’t say and refuting them by mentioning a few trivia facts about methane in the atmosphere is disingenuous at best.
As for the dropping temperatures to which one of the comments refers, how come one researcher playing around with a bunch of models eliminated the one degree of warming but thousands of climatologists have not? Has the entire scientific community has become deluded, doesn’t have the right qualifications or is organizing a conspiracy of some sort? Like a wise man said “when it’s you against the world, bet on the world.”

John M
October 30, 2008 5:14 pm

I’ve read several summaries of this work, but they all seem to be based on the same press release. Some of the stories say the methane levels have “shot up”.
Does anyone know how much “shot up” refers to in terms of ppm?

Graeme Rodaughan
October 30, 2008 5:18 pm

Hi gfish,
Could you please back up the “We’re one of the biggest sources, but we’re hardly the only one” with a breakdown of the actual numbers for CO2 emissions.
Say over a year (any recent year), use Gigatonnes…
I would like to know what percentage of the CO2 in the atmosphere is from human sources – could you please help me out.

October 30, 2008 5:22 pm

gfish, another wise man said “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. ” 🙂

October 30, 2008 5:24 pm

Well just a stab in the dark here, but a lot of methane is burned off naturally by lightning is it not ? Then converted to ozone.

Mike Bryant
October 30, 2008 6:01 pm

I checked out your website. Keep plugging along man. This is America the land of opportunity. Someday I bet you’ll post something that gets more than one comment.
Don’t ever quit,
Mike Bryant

Richard deSousa
October 30, 2008 6:03 pm

The more we think we know the less we understand.

Bill Illis
October 30, 2008 6:22 pm

The trend in Methane concentrations does not correlate to any known natural phenomenon.
But it does correlate to the market value of Natural Gas (which is roughly 98% Methane) and the oil and gas industry’s awareness of the problems of and engineering capability in plugging leaks of Natural Gas.
The oil and gas industry used to just release Natural Gas (Methane that is) to the atmosphere. The industry used to just burn off Natural Gas on-site in big stacks, most often very incompletely. The oil and gas industry was not really concerned about plugging leaks in the infrastructure since Natural gas was so cheap and so plentiful.
Now that it has a geniune market value, now that energy can be derived on-site to power lots of other processes, now that leaks in consumer-delivery infrastructure is completly verbotten, there is almost NO direct release of Methane into the atmosphere by the oil and gas industry.
That explains the logarithmic chart of Methane concentrations better than anything else.
What explains the 2007 ten parts per billion increase is that oil prices increased so rapidly that oil production was rushed into service and a few more leaks of Methane occured as a result.
Why it happened all over the world simultaneously is a little harder to explain but oil and gas production does happen all over the world and is not concentrated in Russia or the Middle East only of course. There is less in the southern hemisphere than in the northern hemisphere but at over $100 per barrel price for oil, lots of rapidly increasing oil production resulted in more Methane releases than normal.
No climate change variables need to be invoked to explain this.

Steven Hill
October 30, 2008 6:34 pm

The more we think we know the less we understand…..
Now that is a excellent quote!

October 30, 2008 6:51 pm

Ask and ye shall receive. About 26 Gt is nothing sneeze at. Volcanoes produce less than that. How much we actually produce varies by greenhouse gas.
I appreciate the putdown based on a few of my posts. Very classy thing to get into personal insults in the middle of a scientific discussion. Way to class it up sir.

October 30, 2008 6:51 pm

To Retired Engineer:
I suspect you’ll find that incident light from space/sun is shifted in wavelength when it is re-radiated back to the sky. To infrared and these green house gasses will absorb the ir radiation but allow the visible incoming radiation to pass.
As for the methane, maybe something is changing the OH radical concentration. Reducing it and that would give methane a longer residence time and effectively increase the concentration of methane. Maybe the OH concentration is influence by solar activity?

Mike Bryant
October 30, 2008 7:03 pm

You’re welcome. 🙂

Bruce Foutch
October 30, 2008 7:14 pm

Here is the story as posted from MIT:

October 30, 2008 7:15 pm

Dr. Roy Spencer discussed this very issue some time ago.
It helps to take the blinders off and consider that possibly your sources may be just a tad bit biased.

Jeff L
October 30, 2008 7:26 pm

Once again, more data showing we aren’t even close to understanding the complexities of the climate system & any claims that we do (or to assign all causality to one variable such as CO2) is just pure arrogance. It argues strongly for continued open dialog on the subject, not “the debate is over”.

Robert Bateman
October 30, 2008 7:30 pm

How marvelous indeed it would be to discover that the Sun’s recent spate of Solar Misactivity is causing a beam-splitter or dielectric film effect in our atmosphere. They wouldn’t dare do anything that ingenious, would they?
The Sun’s output, while never changing in TSI by very much, causes important changes in our atmosphere to trap or release heat in total disproportion to total output. Smoking gun.

October 30, 2008 7:30 pm

Hey…non-scientist here…
Is methane released from volcanoes?…could there have been an increasespike in underwater volcanic activity somewhere around that timeframe that wasn’t picked up by anything?…not sure how or even IF that sort of thing is measured/monitored.

Phil's Dad
October 30, 2008 7:33 pm

To agesilaus (18:51:55) :
WATERLOO, Ont. (Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008) — A University of Waterloo scientist says that cosmic rays are a key cause for expanding the hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole — and predicts the largest ozone hole will occur in one or two weeks.
Could the same cosmic rays be hitting the OH?

doug janeway
October 30, 2008 8:29 pm

“However, since all worldwide levels rose simultaneously throughout the same year, it is now believed this may be part of a natural cycle in mother nature – and not the direct result of man’s contributions.”
And here’s why natural sources are suspect.
Methane emmissions come from both anthropogenic and natural sources. Approximately 60% of global methane emmissions come from anthropogenic sources and roughly 40% from natural sources. Landfills are the largest single anthropogenic source for this GHG, making up some 34% of the contribution from human sources, followed by NG prodduction, mining, livestock enteric fermentation and manure management, wastewater treatment and rice cultivation averaging roughly 562 Tg per year on an eight year average. Emmissions from these sources remain relatively stable.
There is much more uncertainty about contributions from natural sources and variability from year to year due to environmental variables such as tempurature and precipitation. The best available information estimates roughly 200 Tg per year, wetlands giving up some 76% of that total followed by termite digestive emmissions (11%), oceans (8%) and hydrates (5%).
However, natural emmissions can vary greatly from year to year and on a multi year level due to unexpected large releases from natural sources, i.e., lakes and oceans for example, which can increase yearly Tg estimates greatly and unexpectedly. Higher global tempuratures would lead to higher natural releases which correlates with the first graph above. Notice that as temps have leveled off so has the methane concentrations and seem to be treding downward. Methane emmissions from natural sources have always been highly suspect in the warming puzzel, much more so due to its heightened potential over C02.

October 30, 2008 8:40 pm

Ok, this discussion is becoming political and not scientific. When we start talking about “biased sources” and are using vaguely explained obscurities that don’t really deal with the topic at hand, I can feel the science being sucked out of the room. The insinuation that I’m wearing blinders and being biased only adds to this feeling.
My apologies, but those charts and explanations of a 0.122376% variation of an isotope of carbon from somewhere nondescript don’t tell me a great deal. The posts attack me with a barrage of charts and numbers and a quick reference to how much carbon humans [don’t] pump out just materializing in the middle of the text. To drown a skeptic in detail is not to prove one’s point per se. It boggles my mind how mainstream scientific media is considered worthlessly biased. If they’re that bad, what else are they horribly biased about?
But now I must be a clueless, stupid “AGW sheep” and my comments may be discarded as worthless…

Old Coach
October 30, 2008 9:03 pm

My memory is a bit foggy, but…
I have read that the bulk of atmospheric methane is produced by methanogenic bacteria. They live in most environments, globally. Cow bellies, termites, and rotting vegetation get the most pub. Also, nearly 80% of Earth’s biomass is bacteria, which are very sensitive to minute changes in local chemistry and temperature. Whenever oceans, bogs, soils, (you name it) undergoes a change in chemistry or temperature, the bacterial nearly instantaneously react. Like everything else, “when stress is added to the system, the system reacts in such a way as to relieve the stress”. In a lab environment, if we add CO2 and take away photosynthesis, we see an increase in methanogenic activity.
Biosphere chemistry is so complex that I can’t draw any conclusions from these concepts. But, I would LOVE it if someone smarter than I would try to incorporate the enormous role bacteria has on our atmospheric chemistry. It is potentially much greater than any other factor, plant, animal, anthropogenic, volcanic, etc…

October 30, 2008 9:05 pm

These scientists are not bemused by any global warming theory they categorically state that it is human intervention, see link below,

G Alston
October 30, 2008 9:18 pm

gfish — yes your commentary is certainly discarded as worthless in a certain sense (at least by me); that is, the subject of CO2 concentrations by mankind have been noted and filed accordingly on this site numerous times. The answer is some 3% or so based on scientific analysis of atmospheric carbon isotope ratios. This is an interesting number given that many warming believers claim that atmospheric CO2 is long lived.
I’ll spell this out for you, and in crayon: what this means is that if CO2 is long lived, the 3% number isn’t an annual figure, but rather the sum total of mankind’s contribution since the industrial revolution.
Mankind is *not* responsible for “the majority” of CO2 release. The oceans are, and this is a well understood phenomenon.
Which brings us back to the 3% number. If CO2 is short lived as others claim and the oceans are emitting the most recently absorbed CO2, then once again this represents the sum total of man’s contribution since the industrial revolution. Funny how that works.
Now, given that I’ve been kind enough to have spelled this out for you and in ways in which you can easily track, I’ll leave it up to you to do your own homework.

October 30, 2008 9:48 pm

Not sure you and I read the same article gfish…………..but I do know that articles supporting AGW are just as spurious as you seem to claim.
And “thousands” of climatologists is not just a bit of stretch? And it’s not just the one researcher that has noted a decrease in temp, but I’m sure you can find that the process of determining temperature is pretty convoluted.
These guys are talking about going back to the models? ack…They aren’t predictive, but can only codify what was, not why………superficial understanding doesn’t begin to describe our knowledge. I suppose uncertainty is now a deadly sin in the world of AGW science?

Diatribical Idiot
October 30, 2008 10:16 pm

I have no good reason for posting this oldie-bit-a-goodie, but it just came to mind as I looked at these charts with the subsequent discussion:

P Folkens
October 30, 2008 10:24 pm

Not mentioned (so far) are the ocean methane hydrates. A paper in Nature a while back suggested the super-greenhouse of the Late Paleocene as caused by the release of methane from a warming ocean. Following the K-T boundary event, immense quantities of methane settled onto the oceans’ surface and settled to the bottom as methane hydrates. As the oceans warmed, much of this methane was re-released.
To the present point, methane hydrates still exist in the oceans releasing methane. The release increases with warmer oceans while methane is sequestered during colder times.
I don’t know for if this process is involved in the present issue, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

October 30, 2008 10:36 pm

G Alson,
Yeah, funny how things work. You’re discarding and critiquing comments that were never made by the person you’re trying to demean. Did I ever say that humans are responsible for the majority of CO2 release? I must have because I asked for more detail than just pontifications and toxicity towards my question, right? And an even more hilarious thing, after “being kind enough to spell it out for me,” and asking me to go “do my homework,” you showed me that you haven’t done yours.
Yes, humans emit 3.4% of all CO2, but that’s a red herring. The issue is that this tiny percentage of human emissions disrupts the natural exchange of CO2 because the other 770 Gt of carbon being emitted have a place to go. Some 17 Gt of extra CO2 emissions being produced by humans have no place to go. Oceans can’t absorb them, plants don’t need them, bacteria have enough. So it stays in the air and builds up slowly. (a href=”” target=”_blank”>reference)
If you have a 1.5 liter bottle of water with a hole designed to drain 1.1 liter of water over a period of 5 minutes, you can pour one liter of water every 5 minutes into an empty bottle every time. Pour in 1.03 liters every 5 minutes and your water level at refill time will keep going up bit by bit. Your system can handle the overflow of 0.01 liter, but there’s an extra 0.02 liters of water with nowhere to go but collect in the bottle. Two hours later at fill-up number 24, your bottle overflows as you pour 1.03 liters on top of 0.48 liters pooling there. This is how humans could warm up the planet. It’s not the emission of CO2, it’s that about half of it has nowhere to go.
But of course, you could just consider my reference biased and full of evil “AGW” cooties and discard it to start at ground zero. Because that’s what makes good science. Discard what you don’t like to see and focus on just half of the picture, the one where you like the data… And the source…

October 30, 2008 11:12 pm

“The more we think we know the less we understand”
Do I detect the paraphrasing of a Don Henley lyric? Now there’s an ironic WattsUpWithThat contribution 🙂
Working the theme:
“The trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness”
This is pretty clearly what Hansen is pursuing, but of course:
“They’re the very things – we kill I guess”
And we can all hope that at some point he’ll arrive at:
“All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again”
I wouldn’t put money on this outcome however…
Sorry, a big Eagles fan here. If Don nicked the quoted lyric from some esteemed philosopher I attribute my ignorance to a largely technical education 🙂

Kohl Piersen
October 31, 2008 12:05 am

gfish – “This is how humans could warm up the planet. It’s not the emission of CO2, it’s that about half of it has nowhere to go.”
Sorry old mate, don’t really follow! So what if half of it has no where to go? (Not admitted but allowed for sake of argument). The levels have been much much higher in the past and….well….nothing much really – trees and plants thrived, animals evolved, fishes swam in the water and the earth turned. Furthermore, the levels were higher at the same time as the earth was….colder! Yes, you got it! And right now, whilst the levels have continued to rise at about 4/5% per year, global average temperature (whatever that means) has been…..flat! or maybe falling! Yes, you got that too.
And in any case, there are a lot of people who hate the winter and would like to see things a bit hotter! So? The earth turns on it’ axis and all is right with the world. Great isn’t it?

Kohl Piersen
October 31, 2008 12:11 am

Oh, and I just noticed another thread re record colds in the US and early snow in London – looks like those who want the thermostat turned up a bit are going to be disappointed. -21 in Alaska? Bloody hell! That’s too cold for me.

October 31, 2008 12:13 am

gfish; no offence, but you are talking rubbish; you say;
“humans emit 3.4% of all CO2.” Actually it’s much less; you also say; “Some 17Gt of extra CO2 emissions being produced by humans have no place to go.” This is absurd; natural sinks have great unused capacity. Consider these 2 official sources from the US DOE;
Table 3 is the relevant data.
Exhibit 2-1 is relevant
Combining the data from the 2 sources we see that since the start of the Industrial revolution the increase in CO2 levels of about 103 ppm are 97% due to natural increases and 3ppm anthropogenic. Furthermore, the absorption by nature of 98.5% of ALL CO2 means that of the annual ACO2 emissions, only 1.5% stays behind in the atmosphere for a year; this was 346 MT in 2004, which is equivalent to just 0.04% of the total annual CO2 emissions from nature and man combined. The only thing increasing in this AGW debate are the egoes of the pro-AGW spruikers.

October 31, 2008 12:21 am

And since your claims are all totally un-sourced and didn’t account for the variations in Earth’s orbits and their role in Ice Ages and cooling periods or anything of this nature… You know it would take me a lot less time and effort to write each rebuttal if I just started throwing things out without sources and fact checks.
At any rate, something that stuns me here is how many people attack strawmen rather than actually address what I said. I outlined how humans could warm the planet by producing tiny bits of excess carbon dioxide which has nowhere to go but stay in the air both with a reference and a mathematical example.
I did not say it was a horrible thing…
I did not say it was the end of the world…
I did not say we will all drown when the ice caps melt…
I did not say life will go extinct…
I did not say that the AWG theory was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt…
What I did say is that a lot of pundits are playing fast and lose with a whole lot of obscure and confusing data and loading their political agendas into the discussion. If there’s a problem with this assertion, by all means go ahead and attack it. Because I actually made this statement.
Take issue with me on what I say, not what you think I want to say because you’ve painted me as this evil, ignorant AGW nut when I’m anything but. I am not Al Gore, I am not here to deride you, curse you or force you to buy carbon credits. The smugness and the occasional ad homonyms are also totally unnecessary.

October 31, 2008 12:45 am

gfish (22:36:21) How amusing that you think the carbon cycle has no place to put the extra carbon. Why, the increase in CO2 will simply increase the processes, age-old ones at that, that virtually permanently sequester carbon underground in the form of carbonates and hydrocarbons. CO2 is not a plant fertilizer for nothing, after all.

Frank. Lansner
October 31, 2008 1:18 am

In the article above we learn that
it is now believed this may be part of a natural cycle in mother nature – and not the direct result of man’s contributions
REUTERS EDITION – Spread out to the whole wolrd:
Here there is no mention of the conclusion from above.
Is this to some degree a severe twist of the story?

October 31, 2008 1:29 am

The simultaneity of the increase in the NH and SH is really fascinating… It obviously looks like there’s a global effect, but which one? Decrease of OH, release of methane by oceans and/or melting ice? Does anybody remember that some researchers thought warming oceans would release not only more CO2 but also more CH4?

October 31, 2008 2:31 am

Good that this is revealed, because this has apparently been a misconception among scientists. (Media focus on this is as likly as……?)
Also there is a misconception among ordinary people that almost all – or all! – CO2 emissions stays in the atmosphere. The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is only half the annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions, so on an annual basis the oceans have to absorb at least half the emitted CO2.
Models where precisely half of the emitted CO2 is absorbed each is also wrong. Some of the CO2 emitted previous years has (any particular year) to be absorbed too, and a 25 times larger than anthropogenic CO2 emissions natural absorption and emissions of CO2 into and from the oceans controls the CO2 content of the atmosphere. Between 4 and 5 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere is fossile CO2 due to isotop analysis.)
I hope accumulation int the atmosphere of anthropogenic CO2 will be accurately described in the media, so that misconceptions vanish. I don’t think it will happen, or e.g that the result on water vapor and clouds from the Aqua satellite will be presented in the media. This just the wrong message in the eco-chic societal environment of today. This will also not be further discussed among scientists and in scientific reports. Science on this was settled by Hansen decades ago.

October 31, 2008 2:37 am

Kohl Piersen. Yup. -21 is very cold in October.
But I guess temperature can drop several degrees globally and all the glaciers on earth can start growing while the political part of AGW undisturbed moves forward. Or?
So what can be done to disturb the political bandwagon and holy political discourse?

Henry Galt
October 31, 2008 4:27 am

Can anyone explain why this page-
has disappeared since we all started to link to it?
gfish (22:36:21)
It was a graph of global carbon flux but now you will just have to take my word for it. It used to be a graphical example of how little we know about the carbon cycle but now is reduced to this-
or a page of funding pitch that plays to the global warming gallery.
The Ministry of Truth is very busy this year as real science and real weather begin to strangulate the constipated logjam of climate consensus and many of the simplistic suppositions of the overfunded.
There is 100(ish) times as much water in the atmosphere as there is CO2 so a 1% drop in atmospheric water would have a similar thermal effect to completely removing CO2. A 1% increase in atmospheric water vapour would have an effect approximate to doubling the CO2 if the “science” of CO2 actually performed as claimed.
CO2 is innocent of the crime it is accused of.

October 31, 2008 5:04 am

Oooh – new higher resolution climate models! Does this mean they’ll be breaking the 8×8 grid barrier? It would be totally awesome if someone could finally figure out a way to get to, say, 16×16 for a massive 256 simulated data points. That could even take into account things like air circulation!
Or to put it another way: an upsampling DVD player may send a 1080p signal to your TV, but the data source is still never going to exceed 720×480, so what’s the point?
Or, yet another way: unless your climate model works on a 10cm grid for the entire planet, INCLUDING Z axis (altitude) and can accurately simulate ANY given “current” state of the atmosphere forward for several months or years, then it is useless, and not worth much more than casual interest.
Because clearly, there is more of weather and air, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your modeling.

Jeff Alberts
October 31, 2008 5:58 am

Gfish said: “Oceans can’t absorb them, plants don’t need them, bacteria have enough.”
Yes they can, and yes they do, and how do you know?
Does your 3.4% include livestock CO2 emissions? And how about the CO2 IR absorption bands?

Jeff Alberts
October 31, 2008 5:59 am

Gfish said: “Discard what you don’t like to see and focus on just half of the picture, the one where you like the data… And the source…”
You mean like Mann?

October 31, 2008 6:26 am

Plants don’t need it? What are they on some kind of diet? Are you saying that plant growth is self-restrictive? That plants on this planet reached their maximum production before the Industrial Revolution, and they have reached a CO2 saturation point. How do you explain the fact that plants in greenhouses are fed much higher levels of CO2 in order to increase crop production (
And, by the way, what is the ocean’s saturation point?

Bob B
October 31, 2008 7:07 am

But but–I thought the science was settled?

October 31, 2008 8:18 am

Gfish: “If you have a 1.5 liter bottle of water with a hole designed to drain 1.1 liter of water over a period of 5 minutes, you can pour one liter of water every 5 minutes into an empty bottle every time.”
Except, the ‘bottle’ in question has quadrillions of tiny holes in it, each one of which can randomly grow larger or smaller or become blocked, and new holes can open up. And the ‘bottle’ is fed by quadrillions of tiny nozzles, each of which can randomly grow larger or smaller or become blocked, and new nozzles can open up.
How is it then that the water level can stay more-or-less constant over periods of hundreds of years?

Alan the Brit
October 31, 2008 8:41 am

All based on the arrogant presumption that these computer models are programmed correctly!
We know these models cannot be infallible because they all make different assumptions of how certain variables work, particularly water vapour & clouds, which they are only just embarking on studying so that they can get the models to work better.
It’s also interesting reading in the article that they set out to find evidence of man’s signal in the Antarctic, & they keep saying the old IPCC SPM statement of “a lack of warming” which hides that fact that temperatures are not stagnating down there, but are cooling. Again clever use of wording to imply one thing has occurred when in fact another actually happened. If you look hard enough for something you can find it. None of the models predicted or even projected the cooling this century, yet they constantly claim “great accuracy” of the models.

October 31, 2008 9:12 am

The article says the methane is destroyed by the hydroxyl radical. In the atmosphere, the hydroxyl radical is produced by oxygen reacting with water… so ozone reacts with water to create hydroxyl? Sunlight has decreased only a little; has ozone in methane-affected regions decreased significantly?

Ed Scott
October 31, 2008 9:18 am

I cannot believe climate scientists would make this statement: “We may simply be going through another natural cycle of warmer and colder times – one that’s been observed through a scientific analysis of the Earth to be naturally occurring for hundreds of thousands of years.”
Duh! You think?
This is reminiscent of the startling revelation by a Time magazine cover story, Men and Women are Different.
More study required which, of course, requires more funding to discover a repetition of Nature’s cycles which are a part of a historical record available at your local library and certainly available on the internet.
Is Dr. Pachauri involved? Will New Zealand’s bovine flatulence patrol go global?
Computer models are not reality. Nature is reality.
Retired Engineer (16:26:49) :
“Fascinating concept, a gas that reflects light. Must be that new silver plated methane. Absorb, yes. Reflect? Hmmm.”
Methane is to the Earth as a thin-film coating is to a camera lens. /sarc off

October 31, 2008 9:27 am

“How is it then that the water level can stay more-or-less constant over periods of hundreds of years?” This analogy is substituting water for carbon dioxide. Why do you believe that carbon dioxide has stayed constant over hundreds of years? Or might it be a trace gas because it quickly gets gobbled up and what’s left in the atmosphere is only what wasn’t easily consumed by biological or chemical processes?

October 31, 2008 10:22 am

This is ridiculous. Absolutely and totally.
I’m talking rubbish, but the sources I get to supposedly refute what I say don’t actually say anything of the sort the posters claim they do. That is, if I actually get any sources. Most of the time I’m being bombarded by those who just lay out indignant red herrings that have nothing to do with what I said or question “how do you know that?” when I linked to a source right in my post. If you won’t actually read what is being said or don’t want to read it, I can’t help you.
And yes, every living things only needs so much carbon dioxide. You can pump a whole lot of the gas into a greenhouse but not all of it will be absorbed, a fair bit of it will stay in the air to warm the actual structure. Why do you think the gases are called “greenhouse gases.” It’s not because they’re green. It’s because they do the same job as they do in the greenhouse.
All of this tell me one thing. Many of you have no interest in the science. None. Zero. Never had. All you care about is opposing the idea of global warming because… why? What do you have to gain? Some sense of moral satisfaction of “sticking it to the liberal do-gooder enviros?” Feeling smarter than everybody else? Numerous scientists all over the world investigating what’s going on with the climate and you all know better because you took a look at a few obscure graphs and ignore all data to the contrary?
Like I said, this is a political discussion. As science and religion don’t mix, neither do science and politics.
REPLY:You wrote: “You can pump a whole lot of the gas into a greenhouse but not all of it will be absorbed, a fair bit of it will stay in the air to warm the actual structure. Why do you think the gases are called “greenhouse gases.”
I’m sorry but that is patently false. CO2 does nothing in a greenhouse related to warming. Glass and lack of convective heat transfer is the real reason for retained heat. CO2 in a greenhouse does nothing except help the plants with their chemical processes. – Anthony

October 31, 2008 10:26 am

AnonyMoose: “Why do you believe that carbon dioxide has stayed constant over hundreds of years?”
Whatever made you think I do?

Jerry in NC
October 31, 2008 10:27 am

Here’s a stupid question from an interested bystander. If the earths revolution around the sun causes vast changes in the temperature and weather of the earth, what effect doe the revolution of the solar system around the galactic center have on the temperature and weather of the solar system? How long does this revolution take? If our seasons change with just a 25% revolution around the sun, what effect does a 25% revolution around the galaxy have?

October 31, 2008 10:38 am

According to this primer on the use of carbon dioxide in greenhouses from the Canadian government, you can’t put too much of the gas in the air because the plants will be damaged by the excess gas. So if you pump too much carbon dioxide into a greenhouse, it will just stay in the air.
Most greenhouses are very precisely controlled which is why that doesn’t happen in the vast majority of them. I admit my explanation was a little confusing, but the point remains valid. Plants only need so much carbon dioxide.
REPLY: Why not simply admit that your explanation about CO2 causing warming in greenhouses was wrong rather than confusing? Whether the CO2 stays in the air or not makes no impact on the heat balance in the greenhouse. The effect is too small and is swamped by other physical processes. Yes too much CO2 will harm the plants, too much sunlight will do that, too much heat, too much cold, too much fertilizer…so I don’t see any point there. – Anthony

October 31, 2008 10:39 am

The galactic rotation does nothing for the Earth. The only reason the seasons change is because of the Earth’s tilt on its axis.

October 31, 2008 10:51 am

Because it was a “what if” scenario. If you would take a look at the primer, it warns against putting more than about 1,000 ppm of CO2 because it will disrupt the very natural processes you say will gobble it up. You don’t see the point because you need to go back in the discussion.
The question was: “how do you know that plants will only absorb so much CO2 if greenhouses pump in more of the gas than normal to make plants grow faster?” This was the answer. We know because guidelines for greenhouses state that over 1,000 ppm, and the plants you’re trying to grow with a flood of CO2 are damaged.
The references to sunlight and heat and so on are red herrings here.
REPLY: Red Herrings? This thread is about METHANE and you’ve gone OT and turned it into an argument about CO2 in greenhouses. Go find another website to waste time on. I’d never said this to a commenter before, but you sir (whomever you are) are are making an idiotic and disingenuous argument. – Anthony

October 31, 2008 11:12 am

Gfish: “According to this primer on the use of carbon dioxide in greenhouses from the Canadian government, you can’t put too much of the gas in the air because the plants will be damaged by the excess gas”
Yes, but the figures they quote are around 1000 – 1300ppm, which is more than three times current atmospheric levels.

George E. Smith
October 31, 2008 11:41 am

” Retired Engineer (16:26:49) :
Methane reflects the sun’s light back to the earth? Then it should also reflect incoming light back into space. Unless we have a one-way mirror. Now that would be worthy of several Nobel prizes.
Fascinating concept, a gas that reflects light. Must be that new silver plated methane. Absorb, yes. Reflect? Hmmm. ”
It’s not quite like that Retired Engineer, gases don’t exactly do a lot of reflecting. Clouds reflect due to the fact that they consist of water droplets, and ice crystals. When you have true reflection (from optical materials, the reflected radiation has pretty much the same spectrum as the incident radiation such as sunlight for example. To the extent that reflected spectra may differ from incident, some of the incident radiation may be absorbed by the materials so it is subtracted from the incident.
The action of “Greenhouse gases” is quite different. They work their wonders, by ABSORBING a portion of the total spectrum that falls on them.
The portion that is absorbed depends on the atom or molecule doing the absorbing. For example in the case of CO2, the molecule looks (vaguely) like this; O=C-O
Now why did I draw it like that? The O is actually linked to the C by two electron bonds as shown with the first O on the left. There are also two electron bonds to the O on the right, but you can’t see them both, because the pair are at right angles to the pair on the left; so there really are two on the right (trust me). At the central carbon, the four bonds actually form the corners of a tetrahedron; which a little playing with your fingers will show it is like two pairs at right angles.
Now the bonds are somewhat like connecting springs; they are stretchy and bendy.
So the CO2 molecule is capable of oscillating, with the two oxygens moving back and forth along the horizontal line in opposite directions so the carbon stays stationary,a dn the two oxygens always move opposite each other. That is called the “symmetrical stretch” mode, and becasue it is symmetrical, the center of the electric charge stays put in the middle of the carbon. So it doesn’t generate much of an external electric field.
Alternatively, the oxygens can move in the same direction, and they would tend to push/pull the carbon with them, but they will move to the center of mass stays stationary. This is the assymmetrical stretch mode, and its frequency corresponds to a wavelength of about 4 microns.
The really interesting mode is when the molecule bends about the carbon atom. Those two springs on the left can bend back and forth in and out of the page toward you; or the pair on the right can bend the same way, but only up and dowen in the plane of the paper. It is pretty obvious that those two bending situations are really exactly the same thing, just at right angles tyo each other. We call that a degenerate mode because there are really two modes that are identical in frequency. This one has a frequency corresponding to a 15 micron wavelength (roughly).
Now if you thought of a child’s swing, you can make it oscillate if you push it at the right rate, depending on how long the chains are.
Same thing with molecules; if you hit them with photons that correspond to the same frequency of the molecular oscillation, then they absorb those photons very efficiently and start oscillating, so at 15 microns CO2 absorbs infrared radiation, and goes into this degenerate bending mode of vibration.
So those IR photons emitted from the surface of the earth get captured by the CO2 molecule and set it ringing like a bell. The molecules are also moving about due to collisions with other air molecules, so the exact frequency that gets absorbed depends on a doppler shift mechanism as well so it really becomes a band of wavelength due to “temperature broadening” ie the doppler effect. Also depending on the gas density, the molecules coillide now and then, and when the CO2 molecule bangs into a nitrogen or Oxygen molecule or once in a while one of those snooty loner Argon chaps; it’s like spilling your coffee when somebody nudges your elbow, and the CO2 molecule will spit out the exciting photon, and stop bending or stretching. When it does so, once again you get a doppler effect, so the wavelength of the emitted photon might be slightly different from the one that was absorbed, and the final energy of the CO2 molecule will alter a little bit.
Now the molecule doesn’t know up from down, so when it spits the photon, it could go in any direction, so the photons that are “re-radiatted” (not reflected) by the molecules of CO2 will go up down left roight etc, and about half go back down towards the ground, and the other half head upwards towards oouter space. They may get absorbed and re-emitted many times before they escape, and it is that delay in escaping that creates a warming effect, because druring that delay, solar photons are still arriving at the same rate as before, so more are getting absorbed, than ir ones are escaping.
So the ir radiation is not really “blocked” from escape; we don’t know how to block radiation from ultimately escaping; that would make one hell of a thermal insulation.
So that is the basic mechanism by which all GHGs work including water vapor, and each of them have their own modes of molecular vibrations oscillations, rotations to capture different wavelength photons.
Of course there are lots of other things that can happen next to alter the outcome of the GHG absorbing and re-emitting photons, and figuring out exactly what that is is where all the disagreements come in.
Now aren’t you glad you are a Retired Engineer ?

Richard Sharpe
October 31, 2008 11:42 am

Yes too much CO2 will harm the plants

And so will too little, and the level of CO2 that is optimum for plants in greenhouses is uncomfortable for humans … (much higher than current levels in the atmosphere).

Tim Clark
October 31, 2008 11:46 am

gfish(10:39:47) :
You can pump a whole lot of the gas into a greenhouse but not all of it will be absorbed, a fair bit of it will stay in the air to warm the actual structure.
For the majority of greenhouse crops, net photosynthesis increases as CO2 levels increase from 340–1,000 ppm (parts per million). Most crops show that for any given level of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), increasing the CO2 level to 1,000 ppm will increase the photosynthesis by about 50% over ambient CO2 levels.
First paragraph above: False. It will all be absorbed down to roughly 200 ppm, when the plants die! (assuming a sealed, airtight greenhouse) The [CO2] will only stay constant through additional imputs to replace what is removed by (improved) plant growth.
Second paragraph above: Copied from your supplied link. Plant growth continues to increase up to 1000ppm. When we get to 1000ppm [CO2] in the atsmosphere, give me a call.

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