Spencer on an alternate view of CO2 increases

This interesting essay by Dr. Spencer is reposted from his blog, link here:

Global Warming Causing Carbon Dioxide Increases: A Simple Model

May 11th, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Global warming theory assumes that the increasing carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere comes entirely from anthropogenic sources, and it is that CO2 increase which is causing global warming.

But it is indisputable that the amount of extra CO2 showing up at the monitoring station at Mauna Loa, Hawaii each year (first graph below) is strongly affected by sea surface temperature (SST) variations (second graph below), which are in turn mostly a function of El Nino and La Nina conditions (third graph below):


Click for larger images



Click for larger image

During a warm El Nino year, more CO2 is released by the ocean into the atmosphere (and less is taken up by the ocean from the atmosphere), while during cool La Nina years just the opposite happens. (A graph similar to the first graph also appeared in the IPCC report, so this is not new). Just how much of the Mauna Loa Variations in the first graph are due to the “Coke-fizz” effect is not clear because there is now strong evidence that biological activity also plays a major (possibly dominant) role (Behrenfeld et al., 2006).

The direction of causation is obvious since the CO2 variations lag the sea surface temperature variations by an average of six months, as shown in the following graph:


So, I keep coming back to the question: If warming of the oceans causes an increase in atmospheric CO2 on a year-to-year basis, is it possible that long-term warming of the oceans (say, due to a natural change in cloud cover) might be causing some portion of the long-term increase in atmospheric CO2?

I decided to run a simple model in which the change in atmospheric CO2 with time is a function of sea surface temperature anomaly. The model equation looks like this:

delta[CO2]/delta[t] = a*SST + b*Anthro

Which simply says that the change in atmospheric CO2 with time is proportional to some combination of the SST anomaly and the anthropogenic (manmade) CO2 source. I then ran the model in an Excel spreadsheet and adjusted an “a” and “b” coefficients until the model response looked like the observed record of yearly CO2 accumulation rate at Mauna Loa.

It didn’t take long to find a model that did a pretty good job (a = 4.6 ppm/yr per deg. C; b=0.1), as the following graph shows:


Click for larger image

The best fit (shown) assumed only 10% of the atmospheric CO2 increase is due to human emissions (b=0.1), while the other 90% is simple due to changes in sea surface temperature. The peak correlation between the modeled and observed CO2 fluctuation is now at zero month time lag, supporting the model’s realism. The model explained 50% of the variance of the Mauna Loa observations.

The best model fit assumes that the temperature anomaly at which the ocean switches between a sink and a source of CO2 for the atmosphere is -0.2 deg. C, indicated by the bold line in the SST graph, seen in the second graph in this article. In the context of longer-term changes, it would mean that the ocean became a net source of more atmospheric CO2 around 1930.

A graph of the resulting model versus observed CO2 concentration as a function of time is shown next:


If I increase the anthropogenic portion to 20%, the following graph shows somewhat less agreement:

simple-co2-model-fig07Click for larger images

There will, of course, be vehement objections to this admittedly simple model. One will be that “we know the atmospheric CO2 increase is manmade because the C13 carbon isotope concentration in the atmosphere is decreasing, which is consistent with a fossil fuel source.” But has been discussed elsewhere, a change in ocean biological activity (or vegetation on land) has a similar signature…so the C13 change is not a unique signature of fossil fuel source.

My primary purpose in presenting all of this is simply to stimulate debate. Are we really sure that ALL of the atmospheric increase in CO2 is from humanity’s emissions? After all, the natural sources and sinks of CO2 are about 20 times the anthropogenic source, so all it would take is a small imbalance in the natural flows to rival the anthropogenic source. And it is clear that there are natural imbalances of that magnitude on a year-to-year basis, as shown in the first graph.

What could be causing long-term warming of the oceans? My first choice for a mechanism would be a slight decrease in oceanic cloud cover. There is no way to rule this out observationally because our measurements of global cloud cover over the last 50 to 100 years are nowhere near good enough.

And just how strenuous and vehement the resulting objections are to what I have presented above will be a good indication of how politicized the science of global warming has become.


Michael J. Behrenfeld et al., “Climate-Driven Trends in Contemporary Ocean Productivity,” Nature 444 (2006): 752-755.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Indiana Bones

Slightly OT but germane to regulation of CO2 is an excerpt from an inter-agency memo authored by Office Management Budget:
“The amount of acknowledged lack of understanding about the basic facts surrounding [greenhouse gases] seem to stretch the precautionary principle to providing regulation in the face of unprecedented uncertainty,”
This reported today in the Wall Street Journal as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appears to about face on “Cap N’ Trade.” But without $646 billion in carbon trade revenue – how will the Administration pay for programs?


Is it the physical properties of oceans that alter C02 absorption or is it biological? I could be backwards, but I’m having trouble understanding how a warmer ocean (regardless of why it’s warmer now) absorbs less CO2 than a cooler ocean, especially if the absorption is through marine life. Wouldn’t warmer temps increase plant life and therefore decrease C02? Either way it will be a glorious day if it is proven that this relationship is the main mechanism for CO2 fluctuations!!

Douglas DC

Ahem, I shall get the criticisms over: Heretic! Unbeliever, Infidel!! Ok, that said this may be a very good way of seeing what Co2 actually is in our atmosphere.I’ve held that the Co2 content is from largely Oceanic heating.-Now that things are cooling off for whatever the reason,could we be seeing some stabilization or even decrease?-Due mainly to the Oceanic absorption of Co2…

John in NZ

Fantastic. I love it.
It will be interesting to see comment from others.

Adam from Kansas

Well at least the world’s factories are contibuting their (small) amount of an increase in a gas that is plant food and will cause plant-life to flourish.
I don’t know if we crossed a magic threshold that could be with a certain CO2 level + lots of rain or not, last year the mullberry and hackberry trees in our backyard grew some jumbo-sized leaves that were quite a bit bigger than usual, our neighbor’s young walnut tree had leaves that looked like they were hit with a jumbo ray, and there’s early signs some trees in our yard could have huge leaves this year as well.
This is why I didn’t like it when I saw a picture of these things that are designed to take CO2 out of the air, the CO2 is helping out with the rain to create good-sized plant growth that’s more than normal behind our house and around a few other spots in our neighborhood.

Ron de Haan

How much clearer do you want to have your science served!
Great job, great conclusions.

Jim Papsdorf

Fantastic !!!
It is great to see how your 90-10 Model serves to hang the AGW Alarmists on their own petards !!!!


I wonder about the carbon cycle. The http://www.uwsp.edu/geO/faculty/ritter/geog101/textbook/earth_system/carbon_cycle_NASA.jpg picture shows that the amount to and from the oceans is only 50% more than the amount to and from land vegetation. Both are much higher than the fossil fuel and cement industries. Is this not a large component of the puzzle that this simple model excludes?
John M Reynolds

John Galt

The ice core data shows long-term rises in CO2 following temperature increases and the short-term data shows CO2 lags surface temperate rises by 6 months. Now how can CO2 be causing the increases?

Stephen Wilde

Here is something relevant which I prepared some time ago:
1) Take a container of, say, 10 litres, full of natural CO2 molecules (N) only.
2) Have an intake on one side and an outlet on the other.
3) Insert 9 molecules of N and one molecule of human CO2 (H) into the intake.
4) Allow time for mixing and remove 10 randomly selected molecules from the outlet.
5) Due to the size of the initial volume the chance of removing H is infinitesimal so the contents will then have an H molecule with all the rest being N molecules.
6) Repeat many many times and eventually the proportion of H molecules in the container will rise to 10% which is commensurate with the proportion of H amongst the molecules being put in.
What will have happened up to this point is that outgoing N molecules will have been replaced by incoming H molecules until 10% have been replaced so it’s now 90% N and 10% H but the total volume has remained the same.
Then this goes to the heart of the issue:
7) Add 1 litre of N to the container which will reduce the proportion of H then continue the process as before until the 10% proportion of H is restored.
8) Now we will have a larger total volume but still 90% N and 10% H
9) Note that the increase in volume came entirely from new N. The H molecules only got there by replacing molecules of N.
10) It would be tempting to say that the 10% increase in volume was caused by the introduction of the 10% H but in fact it was not.
Thus it is unsafe to suggest that in the real world the increase in total atmospheric CO2 was caused by anthropogenic input, even if the volume of H appears to be similar to the amount of increase in the total volume.

Mike from Canmore

Sometime in the last year, you posted an article, (by Joe D’Aleo I believe – could be wrong as I’m going by memory). I tried to find it. No luck. Do you still have it? It would be nice to read that along side the above.
Thanks in advance.

Robert Wood

I like this article, it explores something I’ve often had doubts about.
Also “the natural sources and sinks of CO2 are about 20 times the anthropogenic source” is a fact I use with agnostics

Steve Keohane

The CO2 balloon has major leaks. Temperature doesn’t seem to respond to the monotonic increasing of atmospheric concentrations of this trace gas. Understanding whatever it is that consistantly is overwhelming CO2 should go a long way towards understanding climate. The anthro contribution to the increasing levels of CO2 is miniscule, 3-4%. It seems we are wasting a lot of time and resources on a non-problem that certainly isn’t driving our climate.


A very interesting approach.
A question from a simple mind.
Are some of the CO2- extrapolations employed by IPCC assuming a 1% annual CO2 increase?
With the current rate , http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
the annual rate of increase is in the 0.5-0.75% range, and apparently decreasing (as the total CO2 concentration is increasing).
In Cod we trust


I don’t think you’re actually saying 10% from an Anthropogenic source. b=.1 would represent 10% if a=.9, but since you have a=4.6 you’re actually saying that the Anthopogenic contribution is closer to 2 percent (2.13%). Increasing b to .2 means it’s a 4.17% contribution. a=4.6 would be a normalized to 97.87%. Your weighting variables are percentages only when your equation is normalized.


Anthropogenic CO2 is still rising while both temperature and global CO2 are decreasing. Why are we blamed for this again? Oh, yeah, that’s because Fat Albert said so…

Al prophesying
CO2 choking
cows farting
planets circling
Sun moving…
Oh Gosh!, barycenter!
sunspots disappearing
jet stream downing
cosmic rays falling
clouds growing
la nina dancing
Oh Gosh!, my head dizzying

Ed Scott

Obama Administration Memo Warns of Harm to Economy if Greenhouse Gases Regulated through Clean Air Act
If the EPA goes forward with a finding of endangerment for all six greenhouse gases, the document warns, “it could be establishing a relaxed and expansive new standard for endangerment. Subsequently, EPA would be petitioned to find endangerment and regulate many other ‘pollutants’ for the sake of the precautionary principle (e.g., electromagnetic fields, perchlorates, endocrine disruptors, and noise).”


It is an interesting theory, and there certainly are mechanisms that can explain the cause and effect relationship. But the real test will be the models ability to predict CO2 rate of change going forward. The Achilles heal of the climate models is of course they seem much better at predicting the past than they are at predicting the future, since this model has a six month lag, it should only take a few years to vet the model and make sure it has staying power.

Michael D Smith

I wasn’t aware that anyone thought 100% of increases must be anthropogenic. That seems pretty illogical given the biosphere and the cyclical nature of… nature. There I go thinking logically again…
Roy, I’ve done a fair amount with this already, and I have a method to backsolve any variable so I can zero in on the parameters to match the curve (or change the model) to match it better than what you’re showing. It’s a lot more powerful than excel’s backsolver. If you want to email me a copy of your sheet I’ll show you what I mean and will email back the results…
I use it to match oscillation frequency / amplitude until I get best match with actual data (least squares), then project forward oscillations to get temperature estimates… Works with CO2. dCO2/DT is pretty drastic and very fast, leading me to think that the amount exchanged is huge (no matter what the temperature is at the moment) and the time constant is very short (i.e, the notion that residence time of CO2 is more than a few years is pure fantasy). 6 month lag peak to peak depends somewhat on the temp oscillation frequency (since if there was not an oscillation neither curve would have peaks)… Let me know if you’re interested… It should be possible to get a time constant out of the data (that too could be modeled to get the best fit TC)

Gene Nemetz

Mr. Roy W. Spencer,
You have an easy to understand style of writing. Thank you for that,
A fellow Yooper

Richard deSousa

It makes sense to me but watch the AGW promoters attack Dr. Spencer with ad homs. They are getting desperate as more and more scientists and lay people are abandoning the side of the AGWers.


Well, there’s nothing new here. CO2 desorbing from oceans is one of the most classical positive feedbacks in global circulation models. End of the story.
REPLY: Which is the problem of alarmism in the first place, you never look beyond that, nobody wants to dig any deeper. “Man made CO2 is the cause, end of story”. As another psoter said: Get some integrity “Flanagan”. Look deeper instead of replaying talking points if you are capable. – Anthony Watts

Skeptic Tank

Even the AGWers acknowledge that increased temperatures cause an increase in CO2 to be released from warmer oceans and thawing permafrost. So, that aspect of the argument is “settled”. It actually result in a negative feedback to their overall argument.


Since the middle of the last century, the Sun is in a phase of unusually high activity, as indicated by frequent occurrences of sunspots, gas eruptions, and radiation storms. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Katlenburg-Lindau (Germany) and at the University of Oulu (Finland) have come to this conclusion after they have succeeded in reconstructing the solar activity based on the sunspot frequency since 850 AD. To this end, they have combined historical sunspot records with measurements of the frequency of radioactive isotopes in ice cores from Greenland and the Antarctic. As the scientists have reported in the renowned scientific journal, Physical Review Letters, since 1940 the mean sunspot number is higher than it has ever been in the last thousand years and two and a half times higher than the long term average. The temporal variation in the solar activity displays a similarity to that of the mean temperature of the Earth. These scientific results therefore bring the influence of the Sun on the terrestrial climate, and in particular its contribution to the global warming of the 20th century, into the forefront of current interest.
Sun warms oceans, oceans outgas CO2, simple, the sun becomes highly active then CO2 starts to increase. Less cloud more cloud, the sun is still the driver as it was at the end of the little ice age. 220ppm as average CO2 level is rubbish, Beck disproved that number.

George E. Smith

Well that is an interesting suggestion from Dr Spencer. The change from 10% MMCO2 (I don’t use five syllable words) to 20% may notreally be a worse fit than Roy says. The model (in red) seems to have a pesky curvature that is the real cause of the lack of fit.
Maybe the source of that too large curvature needs to be examined Roy; and you might do an even better fit. This would be a case where smooth curve fitting is appropriate since the real data curve is not very noisy.
I’m not sure my mind immediately grasps why the 6 month correlation delay goes away; but is that something you expected to happen Roy ?
Of course if you look at AlGorre’s book pages 66/67 where he has an 800 year delay instead of six months; then one could blame our present rising CO2 on the mediaeval Warm period which was 800 years ago.
One thing you can say about the warm ocean/more CO2 emission thesis, is that it is pretty basic physical chemistry so it seems irrefutable.
I too am a skeptic as to the C13 signature. Biologists tell me there are several kinds of plant CO2 metabolism, that have different C13 signatures; and in any case if fossil fuels are ancient plant material why wouldn’t they both have the same fingerprints.
Likewise the C14 signature is also a cosmic ray influence, so once again not definitive.
In any case, if we discovered a source of “fossil” fuel (petrochemical) that for some reason also contained 3% of dissolved Argon; and we started burning that stuff, and just ignoring the Argon, which would vent to the atmosphere; then we would expect over time, the atmospheric Argon would increase.
Likewise, releasing a source of carbon that is deficient in C13 would lead to the atmospheric C13 diminishing; but it would do exactly that even if the total atmopsheric CO2 never changed one iota.
So a changing isotopic ratio is not by itself evidence that an INCREASE in CO2 must be all fossil sourced. The C13 content would be expected to decline whether the total CO2 is going up or down or sideways; since we know we are releasing carbon from a source that is deficient in C13.
So I’m with you; whether C13 or C14; it is not conclusive that the atmospheric CO2 INCREASE is fossil carbon; just that fossil carbon is being introduced in some amount.

Jim Papsdorf (12:06:42) :
It is great to see how your 90-10 Model serves to hang the AGW Alarmists on their own petards !!!!
Reminds me of the analysis by Rind and Lean that at most 10% of the warming can be ascribed to solar activity. Looks more and more like the oceans hold the key.

George E. Smith

“”” Joel (11:56:17) :
Is it the physical properties of oceans that alter C02 absorption or is it biological? I could be backwards, but I’m having trouble understanding how a warmer ocean (regardless of why it’s warmer now) absorbs less CO2 than a cooler ocean, especially if the absorption is through marine life. Wouldn’t warmer temps increase plant life and therefore decrease C02? Either way it will be a glorious day if it is proven that this relationship is the main mechanism for CO2 fluctuations!! “””
Joel; there almost certainly is a biological takeup change along with a temperature change; and I have no idea which way and how much; but the effect that Roy is talking about is purely Physical Chemistry. Substance (a) has a certain solubility in substance (b), and not surprisingly the value of that solubility happens to be a function of temperature; and in this case CO2 just happens to be more soluble in colder water.
Let’s face it; there aren’t a whole lot of zoogremlins swimming around in your favorite Champaigne, but if you warm it up, it will outgas more CO2.

Jack Wedel

You showed a plot for an 80-20 split, and increased model departure from actual. What happens when you run a 95-05 apportionment? Is the curve flattened further, but lower than actual? Perhaps a constant is needed to correct the deficiency.

This demonstrates that a bottle filled with warm water warms while a bottle filled with air warms not….so much.

Wondering Aloud

Carbon Dioxide like most gases is less soluble in water as temperature increases. If the water is warmer more of the CO2 is released in the air. Warm beer or whatever will give you more fizz than an icy clod one.

Dave in Delaware

I have always found Dr Spenser’s explanations to be well thought out and easy to follow. Thank you again Dr Spenser.
In a related thought –
Discussions of Thermohaline Circulation, the ocean conveyor belt, tend to focus on present time down welling of the conveyor in the North Atlantic.
I have often wondered, but found little published, on what happens when and where the conveyor resurfaces in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. We are told that the ocean conveyor cycle takes 800 to 1800 years to complete a circuit. To my mind that says that we have been seeing the ‘return’ of deep ocean waters that disappeared down into the conveyor from roughly the time of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP).
Possible implications from ocean conveyor upwelling
* Since the conveyor starts in the cold North Atlantic, it should on average have more dissolved CO2 than the warmer Pacific and Indian Oceans, hence it would serve as a net source of CO2 released to the atmosphere in those regions.
* On top of that, the MWP atmospheric CO2 was likely as high or higher than present, so the dissolved CO2 that went into the conveyor from 800 years ago was likely higher than say the early Industrial Revolution / Little Ice Age atmospheric CO2 levels. That returning CO2 would tend to drive up present day atmospheric levels, and may have been adding CO2 to the atmosphere slowly over the past 200 years.
* Carbon/CO2 is also added to the deep levels of the conveyor by deposition from upper ocean organic matter. That added organic matter has a d13C (C13 isotope) content similar to petroleum derived from fossil fuels. The implication being, you can’t tell ‘old ocean’ CO2 from current man-made CO2 based on the C13 content.
The IPCC is only able to account for about half of the CO2 in the atmosphere if the driver were all man-made CO2. The up trend in atmospheric CO2 does not correlate well with man-made CO2 generated since the start of the Industrial Revolution and the natural atmospheric exchange of CO2 is more than able to absorb the relatively small man-made contribution on an annual basis. If real driver for increased atmospheric CO2 is the oceans, perhaps the ‘returned’ CO2 from the ocean conveyor is the source.
DJH P. E. (retired)

C. Boncelet

Erik–ascribing a percentage to SST and to anthro is more complicated than simply looking at the ratio of a/(a+b). It’s a*SST/(a*SST+b*anthro). It depends on the relative units of SST and anthro.
(It appears Spencer may have missed this as well.)

Forbidden relations:
Sol/ozone/jet stream/Aleutians/PDO/Nino
CO2/breathing trees/exhaling men/beverages

Jerker Andersson

“What could be causing long-term warming of the oceans? My first choice for a mechanism would be a slight decrease in oceanic cloud cover. There is no way to rule this out observationally because our measurements of global cloud cover over the last 50 to 100 years are nowhere near good enough.”
Some studies indicate rapid changes in earths albedo right before the super el nino 1997/98.
Se link below.
I dont know how accurate that data is though but if it is correct it seems to me that the jump upwards in temperatures in the mid 1990 and beginning of 2000 was caused by less cloudcover during a few years.
Since it is obvious that the CO2 increase is sensitive to global temperature changes one could calculate how much CO2 would raise at different temperatures. Based on the Mauna loa and RSS global temp data I estimate the CO2 would roughly stop increasing if the yearly global temperature would drop to -0.3 to -0.4 (RSS). That would be equal to the global temperatures near 1900.

Ed Scott

SPPI Monthly CO2 Report
April 2009 | Volume 1 | Issue 4
Chuck it yet again, Schmidt!
A personal note by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

Claude Harvey

Two questions pop out of this paper:
1) It concludes that 10% of observed increases in CO2 are the result of human activity and 90% are from natural sources. The figures I see comparing current total atmospheric CO2 with that of the four previous and comparable global temperature peaks of the past 450,000 years indicate CO2 content is currently 36% higher than it was during those past peaks. Although that variance does not rule out “natural”, it certainly raises questions.
2) We’ve recently seen a paper on this site indicating that ocean temperatures have actually declined over the past 100 years, yet we know atmospheric CO2 has risen during that period. Isn’t this contrary to Spencer’s logic?


It is always helpful to get us readers back to basics, Dr. Spencer — the foundations of science. Thank you for this contribution and I read it the first time on your blog.


“Are we really sure that ALL of the atmospheric increase in CO2 is from humanity’s emissions? After all, the natural sources and sinks of CO2 are about 20 times the anthropogenic source, so all it would take is a small imbalance in the natural flows to rival the anthropogenic source. ”
The thing I’m wondering about is, with a residence time of 5 years in the atmosphere, when does anthropogenic CO2 stop being anthropogenic and become natural? If there’s more CO2 now than 100 years, which is clearly seen, there is that much more CO2 to be within the various sinks.


I strenuously and vehemently object. I refuse to believe any analysis that lacks hundreds, or even better thousands of interactive and codependent variables, with positive feedback loops and tipping points. I further question the reliability of any analysis that is not dependent upon future federal funds, with the full understanding that such funds are contingent upon the model showing that AGW is real and present danger to mankind. I simply cannot accept any data or evidence that is contrary to my preconceived and strongly held beliefs that we must protect our fragile planet’s ecosystems, habitats, wetlands and species (words with which I was indoctrinated beginning with my “Weekly Reader” in elementary school) from the ravages of evil corporations, developers, suburbanites and especially Deniers!
(So how did I do?)

Stephen Skinner

Just to throw in a thought. Could the rise in CO2 be in step with the rate at which vegetation is being cleared? Land clearance has been relatively in step with population growth and along with the advances in technology the physical effect of population growth over recent decades is probably augmented.
As far as what is driving SST I wonder if direct solar heating is overstated and there is much more exchanging of heat between land, sea and air. The focus of attention appears to be primarily the amount of sea surface exposed to the sun, but equally the same sea surface is exposed to the same area of sky with whatever heat it contains or extracts. Infra red images of the oceans imply that the shallows or coastal areas are the hottest with these warm waters being ‘dragged’ out and away from the coasts. I expect to see temperature difference on land because of the variety of surfaces but apart from the affect of the earths rotation I would expect to see more uniformity in SST as water is much the same over most of the planet including it’s height if it is warmed solely by direct solar radiation.

Jan Breslow

In Spencer’s book entitled: “Climate Confusion?”, there is a chapter on climate that rebukes the steady state “blanket theory”. The model he presents is anything but steady state, including absorbing and radiating heat during the day and only radiating at night, as well as conducting heat from the equator (where it is hottest) to the poles and into the stratosphere where it is radiated into space. Spencer talks about water playing the major role with evaporation at ground level and sublimation at higher altitudes transferring tremendous amounts of energy. In this context I read an essay listed on the ICECAP site by Jules Klabfeld arguing that there are simply too few CO2 molecules in the atmosphere to transfer a significant (measureable) amount of heat compared to the other molecules in the atmosphere and to water, which as part of the heat transfer cycle undergoes phase transitions involving many more molecules than what is at any one moment in gaseous form. Jules Klabfeld’s arguments seem reasonable to me, but is there anyone out there with basic knowledge of thermodynamics who might comment. If anyone thinks this is a reasonable argument, can it be put into the context of how much heat needs to be transferred in the non-steady state theory of climate and what fraction CO2 would be capable of transferring?
Klabfeld Essay: http://icecap.us/images/uploads/CHALLENGE_7b_1.cwk_(WP)(2).pdf


Joel (11:56:17) :
“Is it the physical properties of oceans that alter C02 absorption or is it biological? I could be backwards, but I’m having trouble understanding how a warmer ocean (regardless of why it’s warmer now) absorbs less CO2 than a cooler ocean, especially if the absorption is through marine life. Wouldn’t warmer temps increase plant life and therefore decrease C02? ”
Where do the baleen whales go to fat up? The tropics or the polar seas? Answer: the polar seas. Why? Because that is where the greatest concentrations of plankton are to be found. Why? Because the colder water in the polar seas carries more nutrients and CO2 than the warmer water of the tropics. The polar seas are the richest marine environments in terms of marine flora and fauna. So the answer to your question is: No, warmer temperatures would cause a decrease in marine plant life (less CO2 in the water) and thus reduce their mitigation of CO2 levels through photosynthesis.


That was awesome. Thank you


Spencer’s simple model is very interesting, but as he implies, the simplicity allows for questions.
One question has to do with sulfates and black carbon. There was global dimming though 1990, global brightening since, due evidently mainly to the fall of the FSU and the huge drop in SO2 emissions as industry went bust there and in eastern Europe, and secondarily due to acid rain programs in the US and Europe). It would be good if Spencer could somehow accomodate these changes, which should affect SSTs, and which certainly could cause warmer SSTs after Pinatubo’s effects diminished. Even if cloud cover didn’t change, reduced sulfate would mean more sunlight penetrates to the surface, because in low humidity, sulfate forms a light colored aerosol. It was only around 2000 or so that increased Chinese emissions caused worldwide SO2 drops to level off and reverse a little.
Secondly, volcanos should be included in the model. After Pinatubo, temps decreased and cloudiness increased for a year or two, which caused vegetation to actually grow better for a couple of years, which sucked a bit more CO2 from the air — which is why in 1992 only about 0.4 ppm of CO2 increase was recorded at Mauna Loa.
Third question: posts on WUWT discuss the PDO, and the fact that it has been in a warm phase until recently — could this be a cause of the increase in SSTs, instead of a hypothesized change in cloud cover?
Spencer could easily be right about the cloud cover, but I’d like to ask him to address these questions to see how robust his argument is.


@Joel (11:56:17) :

Is it the physical properties of oceans that alter C02 absorption or is it biological? I could be backwards, but I’m having trouble understanding how a warmer ocean (regardless of why it’s warmer now) absorbs less CO2 than a cooler ocean, especially if the absorption is through marine life. Wouldn’t warmer temps increase plant life and therefore decrease C02? Either way it will be a glorious day if it is proven that this relationship is the main mechanism for CO2 fluctuations!!

from here…

As the temperature increases, the solubility of a gas decrease as shown by the downward trend in the graph .
More gas is present in a solution with a lower temperature compared to a solution with a higher temperature.
The reason for this gas solubility relationship with temperature is very similar to the reason that vapor pressure increases with temperature. Increased temperature causes an increase in kinetic energy. The higher kinetic energy causes more motion in molecules which break intermolecular bonds and escape from solution.

Cassanders (12:44:55) :
for both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
Only the prophet speaketh lies about CO2. Don’t believe him! CO2 is the gas we all God’s children exhale, and green trees breath. HE is profane!


If 1930’s temperature is the point where oceans turn from a sink to a source, then I recommend that temperature as the zero baseline for graphs of surface temperature anomalies since CO2 is the devil de jour.

Dave in Delaware

…. and an apology for my incorrect spelling of Dr. Spencer’s name.

paul maynard

Joel’s Question
I don’t think anybody answered it.
I think it is Henry’s law that a liquid, e.g water can hold less gas in solution as its temperature rises and vice versa.
WUWT published a thread a while back in which Dvaid Archibald used this effect to explain the Vostok Ice Core record that showed CO2 increasing some 800 years after temps rising as a result of outgassing of CO2 from the sea which holds over 50 times the amount of CO2 dissolved in solution as there is in the atmosphere.