Wind shifts may stir CO2 from Antarctic depths

Releases may have speeded end of last ice age — and could act again[]


[] IMAGE: This pictures shows the locations of cores showing Antarctic upwelling.

Natural releases of carbon dioxide from the Southern Ocean due to shifting wind patterns could have amplified global warming at the end of the last ice age–and could be repeated as manmade warming proceeds, a new paper in the journal Science suggests.

Many scientists think that the end of the last ice age was triggered by a change in Earth’s orbit that caused the northern part of the planet to warm. This partial climate shift was accompanied by rising levels of the greenhouse gas CO2, ice core records show, which could have intensified the warming around the globe. A team of scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory now offers one explanation for the mysterious rise in CO2: the orbital shift triggered a southward displacement in westerly winds, which caused heavy mixing in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, pumping dissolved carbon dioxide from the water into the air.

“The faster the ocean turns over, the more deep water rises to the surface to release CO2,” said lead author Robert Anderson, a geochemist at Lamont-Doherty. “It’s this rate of overturning that regulates CO2 in the atmosphere.” In the last 40 years, the winds have shifted south much as they did 17,000 years ago, said Anderson. If they end up venting more CO2 into the air, manmade warming underway now could be intensified.

Scientists have been studying the oceans for more than 25 years to understand their influence on CO2 levels and the glacial cycles that have periodically heated and chilled the planet for more than 600,000 years. Ice cores show that the ends of other ice ages also were marked by rises in CO2.

Two years ago, J.R. Toggweiler, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), proposed that westerly winds in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica may have undergone a major shift at the end of the last ice age. This shift would have raised more CO2-rich deep water to the surface, and thus amplified warming already taking place due to the earth’s new orbital position. Anderson and his colleagues are the first to test that theory by studying sediments from the bottom of the Southern Ocean to measure the rate of overturning.

The scientists say that changes in the westerlies may have been triggered by two competing events in the northern hemisphere about 17,000 years ago. The earth’s orbit shifted, causing more sunlight to fall in the north, partially melting the ice sheets that then covered parts of the United States, Canada and Europe. Paradoxically, the melting may also have spurred sea-ice formation in the North Atlantic Ocean, creating a cooling effect there. Both events would have caused the westerly winds to shift south, toward the Southern Ocean. The winds simultaneously warmed Antarctica and stirred the waters around it. The resulting upwelling of CO2 would have caused the entire globe to heat.

Anderson and his colleagues measured the rate of upwelling by analyzing sediment cores from the Southern Ocean. When deep water is vented, it brings not only CO2 to the surface but nutrients. Phytoplankton consume the extra nutrients and multiply.

In the cores, Anderson and his colleagues say spikes in plankton growth between roughly 17,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago indicate added upwelling. By comparing those spikes with ice core records, the scientists realized the added upwelling coincided with hotter temperatures in Antarctica as well as rising CO2 levels.

In the same issue of Science, Toggweiler writes a column commenting on the work. “Now I think this really starts to lock up how the CO2 changed globally,” he said in an interview. “Here’s a mechanism that can explain the warming of Antarctica and the rise in CO2. It’s being forced by the north, via this change in the winds.”

At least one model supports the evidence. Richard Matear, a researcher at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, describes a scenario in which winds shift south and produce an increase in CO2 venting in the Southern Ocean. Plants, which incorporate CO2 during photosynthesis, are unable to absorb all the added nutrients, causing atmospheric CO2 to rise.

Some other climate models disagree. In those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the westerly winds do not simply shift north-south. “It’s more complicated than this,” said Axel Timmermann, a climate modeler at the University of Hawaii. Even if the winds did shift south, Timmermann argues, upwelling in the Southern Ocean would not have raised CO2 levels in the air. Instead, he says, the intensification of the westerlies would have increased upwelling and plant growth in the Southeastern Pacific, and this would have absorbed enough atmospheric CO2 to compensate for the added upwelling in the Southern Ocean.

“Differences among model results illustrate a critical need for further research,” said Anderson. These, include “measurements that document the ongoing physical and biogeochemical changes in the Southern Ocean, and improvements in the models used to simulate these processes and project their impact on atmospheric CO2 levels over the next century.”

Anderson says that if his theory is correct, the impact of upwelling “will be dwarfed by the accelerating rate at which humans are burning fossil fuels.” But, he said, “It could well be large enough to offset some of the mitigation strategies that are being proposed to counteract rising CO2, so it should not be neglected.”


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Prob with the image link, Anthony.
The page you are looking for has moved. Please go to the main EurekAlert! homepage to locate the section you are interested in and reset your bookmarks.


The links no longer work. This one worked for me.

Come on!! Whattsup with that!!
“the intensification of the westerlies would have increased upwelling and plant growth in the Southeastern Pacific” Deserts have not changed dow here…
This is one of the last reels of some Sci-Fi hollywood movie (The last one will be named: “The anthropogenic cooling”..LOL

John F. Hultquist

First, the image would not load so I found it here:
My first thought was: So what? Unless they are talking about 1000s of ppm of CO2 AND the positive feedbacks claimed by AGW folks, what difference would this make toward global warming. If the feedback is negative and the build up of CO2 is slow then maybe this will trigger the slow onset of a new ice age. Isn’t this the sequence: a long slow entrance to an ice age and than a more rapid end. So if it has been 17,000 since the beginning of the end of the last one, we should be looking for the trigger of the new one. Cheers!


If CO2 is in equilibrium between the atmosphere and the air, it doesn’t matter how much water is stirred, CO2 will neither be taken up or released by the water.
Additionally, since when has the increase in CO2 at the end of each ice age been “mysterious”? When water warms, it releases CO2. The stirring that this article postulates might increase the rate at which water is warmed and releases it’s CO2, but it is not a cause.


If the thesis behind this paper were valid, wouldn’t there be a big uptick in CO2 everytime there is an La Nina? That also involves cold waters from the deep being brought to the surface.

Phillip Bratby

But the science is settled. Why do we need “further research”?


Well, it doesn’t surprise me that this particular research group would form such a conclusion:

GISS works cooperatively with area universities and research organizations, most especially with Columbia University. Close to half of our personnel are members of Columbia’s Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) and we also work with researchers at Columbia’s Earth Institute and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

So they are all peas from the same pod validating each others’ work.
The article makes no mention of the lag between temperature change and CO2 rise and implies that the CO2 rise was contemporary with the temperature change.
The crux of the article?

“Differences among model results illustrate a critical need for further research, ”

So it is someone angling for research money by publishing a paper with “at least one model” supporting the conclusion but leaving the question in doubt but nevertheless illustrating the “critical need” for “further research” (translated: critical need for more money).

Dave in Canada

You know for having a “Consensus”, every article about man-made global warming consists of a lot of “could”, “maybe”, “might”, “possible”, and especially “model”, but nothing too concrete.
Makes you wonder if the real consensus is “that we don’t know diddly about climate”.


First we’ve never heard of global warming until James Henson back in the early 80’s and as greenhouse gas C02 there were no automobiles on earth 17000 years ago.The automobile wasn ‘t invented until 1894 and there wasn’t but a few of them .Everyone rode by horse or walked.Where do these people come up with this to begin with?Maybe the horse caused the greenhouse gas.

Chilly Bean

But the ice cores show an 800 year lag not a 40 year lag before CO2 rises so I’ll worry about this one in the year 2809. My models bigger/better than yours AGW drivel, shame all of the models are hopeless.

Bob Montle

This is another “well, DUH” story.
Many skeptics believe CO2 follows temperature, not the reverse.
If CO2 does follow temperature increases,
Then as the earth warms at the end of an ice age, the CO2 concentrations would rise also.
Nothing new here except more hype about the warming powers of CO2.

By the way it is real that deserts along the west coast of Peru have drecreased notably but this has been totally “anthropogenic”. Using wells deserts have been irrigated to cultivate crops like asparragus, paprika, grapes, etc. which are being exported mainly to the US market. Again, nothing to do with imaginary CO2 or whatever phantasies. La Nina is OK down here, raining and snowing high on the andes (so glaciers also returning to before the “warming hysteria” size)

John F. Hultquist

I don’t think the issue should be on the research or the belief of the researchers on the quality of their science. It is the pecular spin that gets put on these things. It is like when I look at a cloud and see a Tennessee Walking Horse and they see a Unicorn. Uff Da!


I would like to know how surface winds cause any kind of significant deep water upwelling. I don’t see the mixing that is portrayed in the above article as very likely and for the reasons stated.
I would put the “study” and it’s conclusions as highly speculative if not science fiction.

Rhys Jaggar

Get Bob Carter to comment on this one – he’s a great friend of Science magazine, isn’t he?
1. Do we yet have concensus that higher carbon dioxide means higher temperatures, or that higher temperatures causes higher carbon dioxide?
2. What caused those wind shifts anyway?
3. Which ice cores were these and why is the lag between temperature and carbon dioxide so different to those reported by others before?
4. Has Dick Lindzen ever been asked to referee papers by Science?
5. As an MIT Prof, if the answer is ‘No!’, the question is: ‘why not?’
6. Was he asked to referee this one?
7. Can you get him to review this one for this site??!!


They never look at the big picture. It is more than common knowledge that CO2 gets released because of temperature increase regardless of where that CO2 was stored, if it was in the snow or in the water. Obviously it was not coming from cars or power plants.
If things started to get warmer because of the tilt, position, rotation, solar activity, or whatever, for sure the snow/ice covering the NE landmass also melted, slowly, revealing more land to be heated and transfering eventually that heat to the oceans. You can see a positive loop here but it is not sudden, it takes time.
Again, the rise of CO2 concentration is just an artifact of global warming, a natural concequence.
What triggered the end of the ice ages is the same that will trigger the next one… position and activity of the sun relative to the earth and frankly, there is nothing we can do about it… the forces in the universe are much stronger than we are (come to the Dark Side of the Force Luke!!!)

Niels A Nielsen

Sorry OT: Lindzen at the ICCC – meeting:
“With respect to better understanding the science, it is my view that the observations of almost a decade ago that outgoing long wave radiation associated with warmer surface temperatures was much greater than models predicted; this was as good evidence that model sensitivities were much too high as one could hope for.”
“What at least four groups all confirmed was that emitted heat radiation during the ‘90s was not only much greater than what models predicted, but also greater than what would have been expected if there were no feedback at all.”
Aren’t these interesting data worth a blogpost. Who are these four groups? Where are the data?

John F. Hultquist

rickM (11:45:06) : regarding surface winds and upwelling
Consider in the Pacific Ocean west of South America. The huge SubTropical High Pressure (STHP) system spins out wind that blows northward along the coast. The Coriolis Force causes these winds to turn away from the coast and move northwestward. These winds become the SE Trades. This is in a part of the world where we might expect the surface waters to be warm. Instead, the warmth input there by high sun gets shunted away and the cold water below rises to fill the void. The air blowing across this cold (Humboldt) current takes up moisture and generates fog but the cold air doesn’t rise and so makes coastal Chile a cool foggy place. Northward along the coast of South America we get into the El Nino area. Search on some of these concepts.

Wondering Aloud

Why would anyone care whether or not computer models support a hypothesis? shouldn’t we be asking does real world data support it?
Didn’t we recently have a discussion here about the shape of the temperature graphs vs the shape of the carbon dioxide concentration over time? could someone link me to it I can’t seem to find it? Should we revisit that issue if that analysis was correct at all this article is trivial isn’t it?

Stephen Wilde

Oh dear. It seems that climatologists are so far into their models that they are no longer observing the real world.
It is quite true that the westerlies shifted poleward in both hemispheres during the warming spell but since 2000 they have been moving equatorward again and the climate establishment has failed to notice.
By my climate theories here:
I make it clear that the mid latitude jets move poleward or equatorward depending on the global temperature TREND at any particular time.
When they shift poleward the air is warming globally and when they shift equatorward as now the air is cooling globally.
In my humble opinion the entire climate establishment is clueless and all those above wild speculations are wholly unfounded.
The latitudinal wind shifts are a natural part of normal global warming and cooling phases and nothing to do with us or CO2 except perhaps for a movement of a few miles poleward (as I suggest in one of my articles) to adjust the global heat budget to neutralise any warming caused by extra human CO2. Since the natural movements are in the order of hundreds of miles any human effect is insignificant.
I do hope they catch up with reality eventually.


Looks like the start of another discussion of whether the egg or the chicken came first.


The way I read it is that they are saying that major global warming was caused by an orbit shift. That warming may have stirred the ocean (through winds) so that a bit more CO2 was given off than warming would have done to the oceans anyway (warming H2O cause CO2 to come out of solution).
They then say that the extra CO2 caused by this upwelling is less than what man is giving off, which up to now, if you accept alarmist AGW theory (which I don’t) has only caused .6 degrees C warming.
Therefore, this upwelling was, at best, a bit player in the warming.
So it looks like they are backing away from AGW theory–Major warming is caused by orbit shift– and at the same time trying to justify additional funding of their research from the Climate Change funds.

Richard deSousa

I think it’s full of speculation and BS. Those scientists predicting this occurrence are again relying on computer projections and these are wildly unrealiable. I believe the colder PDO and AMO will sequester any additional CO2 released by the southern ocean never to be seen for centuries or millennia.

I wonder which is more accurate a AGW climate model or a Scientology e-meter?
What if the two were compared for precision? Would the AGW climate model fare better?


Firstly, I’m sceptical that NH ice extent can have a substantial effect on the latitude of SH near polar winds as it would require the tropical climate zone to be pushed well south of the equator.
Secondly, it doesn’t get around the CO2 rises following, and not before, temperature increases problem (for the Warmers).
Thirdly, one thing we know for sure about the start and end of glacial cycles is there is a large change in the land covered in ice/snow and hence added or removed from the biosphere (and carbon cycle), and most of that land is in the NH. Occams Razor says this is the primary cause of the CO2 changes.


In other news, Bjorn Lomborg says Global Warming will save millions of lives!
Bjorn Lomborg

Did you see the conclusions of the Denmark meeting – BBC newscast today March 12, 2009 – of AGW scientists saying that global warming is proceeding at twice the rate of forecast warming of earlier years (probably can find this story in a number of places including BBC website). I think the hoary winters of the last couple of years have created a desperation to ensure no doubts arise in Obama’s carbon policies – N America is the only holdout remaining.

Claude Harvey

Noodling the aardvarks could have accelerated the positive feedback of the anthropological Jim-jams. I’ll need a research grant to further investigate this important finding.


Stephen Wilde, can you give a direct link to your jetstream analysis. TIA


Hasn’t Dr. Lindzen stated that he is of the opinion that any further increase in CO2 would have virtually no effect at this point? Does it really matter how much more there is beyond a certain amount? Forgive me for not citing the reference… I know I saw a quote from Dr. Lindzen around here somewhere recently.

George E. Smith

Well “May” and “Could” are the authors of more papers on climate than any other famous scientists; so when you see a paper by May & Could you should give it the proper respect it deserves.
We are told that during ice ages, the ocean levels have dropped dramatically; hundreds of feet. Something has to supply all the water to make that land ice pile. when that ice up finally melts, and the sea rises several hundred feet, one May & Could get disturbances of deeper waters, but I don’t see why it wouold be any more turbulent than at any other time; assuming that it doesn’t happen over night.
I’ll just wait until May & Could publish some of their obsevational data on the phenomenon, when it next happens.
The ice cores tell us that the CO2 rises come about 800 years after the surface temperature rises. Where in that time frame would this wind shift process occur.
It would be nice if these chaps would simply point to the recent shifts that caused the CO2 rise now being measured at Mauna Loa and elsewhere.

Tom in Florida

“Many scientists think that the end of the last ice age was triggered by a change in Earth’s orbit that caused the northern part of the planet to warm”
Where is the explanation of this supposed change in Earth’s orbit? Quite a grand assumption quickly passed over.
A better scenario to me is that approx 15,000 years ago Earth’s obliquity was heading towards maximum while eccentricity was decreasing and the NH summer solstice was heading towards perihelion. This combination increases summer NH solar insolation enough to cause the glaciers to start the retreat. And the rest they say is history.

George E. Smith

Now here’s a really great line:- “”” Anderson says that if his theory is correct, the impact of upwelling “will be dwarfed by the accelerating rate at which humans are burning fossil fuels.” But, he said, “It could well be large enough to offset some of the mitigation strategies that are being proposed to counteract rising CO2, so it should not be neglected.” “””
Fancy that; IF his theory is correct, it will [STILL] be dwarfed by… humans burning fossil fuels…. which as last reported, has so far not led to ANY observable warming or other catastrophe.
So evidently according to May & Could, a completely non-event like human fossil fuel burning still dwarfs their newly found discovery of Maybe & Coulbe CO2 increase forom ending ice ages.
Wow aren’t we all happy to learn that the end of the next ice age will be much less than a non event. Well they said it; not me !

Ron de Haan

Same scam, different theory, same BS (Bad Science).
The red threat of the whole story, First comes the CO2, then comes the warming.
I don’t buy it.


Re chicken and egg. The egg came first, as the thing that laid it was not a chicken. Basic evolutionary theory.


George E. Smith (12:59:26) :
I would be really surpized that those models include the 800 years delay in CO2 concentration change.
Are there other sources of CO2 other than water, snow/ice, volcano and biomass combustion that is usually released after a glaciation period?
On that biomass combustion topic, as we know, it takes time for the biomass to build up after a glaciation period. By the same way, lightnings are rare in winter (but of course there are not any biomass to burn in the first place on ice). But once there is a good size biomass that is regrowing and chances of fires increase with time, could that be also an important source of CO2 to be added?

Parse Error

Couldn’t such an upwelling of CO2 rich and therefore less alkaline water be responsible for the reduced surface alkalinity they are already using as the next big scare tactic to encourage us to live in serfdom?


“Up to”, “from”, “may” and “could”
these are the words that mean we should,
be very careful to believe
words that aim to deceive.
So be careful
as you should
when you see the words
“up to”, “from”, “may” and “could”.

Fashion models are by far nicer than these apocalyptic “models”

Stephen Wilde

This is probably the best one to start with although many of my articles refer to it.
You may find the build up a bit long but it is necessary for the lay reader. The jet stream analysis is towards the end.
I hope you enjoy the read and thank you for your interest.

Rejean Gagnon

Start with a BS assumption (CO2 is the prime driver of global warming), then proceed to ask the question – “how can I come up with a believable mechanism that proves this?” Well, they failed here, as they always will when they start with the BS and try to justify it.
Whatever happened to starting with an unexplained observation, then proceeding to the great question, “so what?”.


How about an arctic warm enough for semi-tropical turtles and yet no runaway venus global warming death destruction:
So it was significantly hotter than now and the net result was a tropical paradise in the equatorial / temperate zone and an arctic rather like Carolina… Somehow I don’t think my Canadian friends would mind too much.

Mike Monce

I wish I could remember who linked a few days ago to a paper from Germany, but I went and read it. Very, very good! The paper applies basic physics to the entire notion of AGW driven by CO2. There are some places where one could quibble, but on the whole the paper (long..115 pages) is excellent.
Two of the main points: the AGW hypothesis consistently mistakes absorption/re-radiation for reflection. However, the main “kicker’ is that the entire hypothesis violates the 2nd Law by claiming the atmosphere (cooler medium) can heat the surface (a warmer medium) without additional work input. i.e. the AGW idea is a perpetual motion machine.
Gerlich and Tscheuschner, “Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics”
arXiv:0707.1161v4 [] 4 Mar 2009

Roger H

“Differences among model results illustrate a critical need for further research,” said Anderson.
I believe this just illustrates what the AGW crowd really is after – more research = more $$$ and no real work is needed – just slightly conflicting studies to keep the game going.


What complete and utter drivel!
Oh the humanity!

Mike Ramsey

For the counter argument that any increase in CO2 is offset by changes in the earths precipitation systems which then leads to no net effect on global temperature, see:
“The climate system makes regulatory adjustment to compensate for changes in CO2 with changes in humidity and clouds, in order to most efficiently convert short wave incoming solar energy, into long wave outgoing energy. The problem with radiative models used until now is a discontinuity between the atmospheric and surface temperatures. This violates Kirchhoff’s law, that two bodies in thermal equilibrium must have equal temperatures, and is one of the reasons for mysterious unphysical behavior of climate models. Incorporating this simple constraint introduces an energy minimization principle that makes runaway greenhouse warming impossible. This corrects a major deficiency in the current theory, which doesn’t explain why “runaway” greenhouse warming hasn’t happened in the Earth’s past.”
And this:

C Colenaty

I’m with Tom from Florida in regard to the “orbit shif” issue. The thesis presented in the article is completely dependent upon there having been a shift in the earth’s orbit. No orbit shift means there was no change in the wind dirctionand so no release of CO2 and no warming and no need to be concerned about climate models. Is there any evidence in the geologic record of any shift in the earth’s record at any time in the past billion or so years? And if the proposed shift did indeed occur, wouldn’t it be expected to have consequences well beyomd that of changing wind patterns?

D. King

“Anderson says that if his theory is correct, the impact of upwelling “will be dwarfed by the accelerating rate at which humans are burning fossil fuels.” But, he said, “It could well be large enough to offset some of the mitigation strategies that are being proposed to counteract rising CO2, so it should not be neglected.””
Hey, he said dwarfed; didn’t he mean “little peopled”?
So, we need to stop using all fossil fuels posthaste, which will kill millions
of people bringing populations down to sustainable levels. We then need
to switch to windmills and wooden shoes immediately! Where do they find
these guys? God, I’m so tired of the relentless drum beat of stupidity!

OT, the Lost Angeles Times today has a fear-mongering SEAS ARE RISING story.
A quote: “Ice sheet melting has since accelerated [since mid-1990’s projections from IPCC]. Dan Cayan, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a lead scientist on the state’s action plan, said the 55-inch estimate in the report is “probably conservative. . . . As temperature climbs, melting is going to proceed at a greater pace. It is not necessarily going to proceed linearly, in the same proportion as it did in the past, because melting begets more melting.”,0,2741152.story