Fixing the nitrogen cycle in climate modeling

From a press release of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Key new ingredient in climate model refines global predictions

https://i2.wp.com/www.windows.ucar.edu/earth/climate/images/nitrogencycle.jpg?resize=364%2C362

Nitrogen cycle - image courtesy UCAR

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct. 9, 2009 — For the first time, climate scientists from across the country have successfully incorporated the nitrogen cycle into global simulations for climate change, questioning previous assumptions regarding carbon feedback and potentially helping to refine model forecasts about global warming.

The results of the experiment at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research are published in the current issue of Biogeosciences. They illustrate the complexity of climate modeling by demonstrating how natural processes still have a strong effect on the carbon cycle and climate simulations. In this case, scientists found that the rate of climate change over the next century could be higher than previously anticipated when the requirement of plant nutrients are included in the climate model.

ORNL’s Peter Thornton, lead author of the paper, describes the inclusion of these processes as a necessary step to improve the accuracy of climate change assessments.

“We’ve shown that if all of the global modeling groups were to include some kind of nutrient dynamics, the range of model predictions would shrink because of the constraining effects of the carbon nutrient limitations, even though it’s a more complex model.”

To date, climate models ignored the nutrient requirements for new vegetation growth, assuming that all plants on earth had access to as much “plant food” as they needed. But by taking the natural demand for nutrients into account, the authors have shown that the stimulation of plant growth over the coming century may be two to three times smaller than previously predicted. Since less growth implies less CO2 absorbed by vegetation, the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are expected to increase.

However, this reduction in growth is partially offset by another effect on the nitrogen cycle: an increase in the availability of nutrients resulting from an accelerated rate of decomposition – the rotting of dead plants and other organic matter – that occurs with a rise in temperature.

Combining these two effects, the authors discovered that the increased availability of nutrients from more rapid decomposition did not counterbalance the reduced level of plant growth calculated by natural nutrient limitations; therefore less new growth and higher atmospheric CO¬2 concentrations are expected.

The study’s author list, which consists of scientists from eight different institutions around the U.S. including ORNL, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory, and several research universities, exemplifies the broad expertise required to engage in the multidisciplinary field that is global climate modeling.

“In order to do these experiments in the climate system model, expertise is needed in the nitrogen cycle, but there is also a need for climate modeling expertise, the ocean has to be involved properly, the atmospheric chemistry . . . and then there are a lot of observations that have been used to parameterize the model,” said Thornton, who works in ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division.

ORNL’s Peter Thornton is helping climate scientists incorporate the nitrogen cycle into global simulations for climate change.

“The biggest challenge has been bridging this multidisciplinary gap and demonstrating to the very broad range of climate scientists who range everywhere from cloud dynamicists to deep ocean circulation specialists that [incorporating the nitrogen cycle] is a worthwhile and useful approach.”

The ability to handle the increase in complexities of these models was facilitated by the capabilities of ORNL’s Leadership Computing Facility, which currently houses the world’s fastest supercomputer for civilian research. Jim Hack, director of the National Center for Computational Sciences, emphasizes that Thornton and his team were not limited by computational resources in the construction of his model. “It’s one of the laboratory competencies, so we want to make sure we enable leadership science,” he said.

This breakthrough is one more step toward a more realistic prediction for the future of the earth’s climate. Nevertheless, potentially significant processes and dynamics are still missing from the simulations. Thornton also stresses the importance of long-term observation so scientists can better understand and model these processes.

A 15-year study of the role nitrogen plays in plant nutrition at Harvard Forest was an important observational source used to test their mathematical representation of the nitrogen cycle–a long experiment by any standards, but still an experiment that, according to Thornton, could improve the accuracy of the simulation if conducted even longer.

Other shortcomings of climate simulations include the disregard of changing vegetation patterns due to human land use and potential shifts in types of vegetation that might occur under a changing climate, although both topics are the focus of ongoing studies.

The research was funded by the DOE Office of Science. Additional resources were contributed by NASA Earth Science Enterprise, Terrestrial Ecology Program; National Center for Atmospheric Research through the NCAR Community Climate System Modeling program and the NCAR Biogeosciences program.

UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy.

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118 thoughts on “Fixing the nitrogen cycle in climate modeling

  1. If the current models don’t work, predicting changes that have not happened, and the ‘new’ model says things will change even faster, what have they accomplished?

  2. Plant Growth smaller than predicted from CO2 I assume? Have they not read the Plantsneedco2.org website?
    Nice to know they’re taking in other factors now, now what about ocean cycles and decreased solar output (since the Sun puts heat energy into the water)?
    As for what’s expected over the next few months at least, my grandmother heard on the Weather Channel that Wichita had its coldest start to October ever, the so-called El Nino is turning out to be a joke warm weather-wise.

  3. Who’s surprised; they’ve found another previously unaccounted for factor in climate regulation. They’ve got a few more yet to find.
    I thought phosphates were the critical resource. I know that not all plants are CO2 limited.
    ============================================

  4. Oh my goodness. KISS!
    Colder oceans, dryer colder land, less vegetation (or more frozen veggies, take your pick). Warmer ocean, wetter warmer land, more vegetation (or more zuchini—EEYYYYYYYYHHHHHHHH!, take your pick).
    Why is this so hard to understand?

  5. September in the Willamette Valley during El Nino years: No matter how hot it is, drive with your windows up and never stop at stop lights or signs. Also never park in a church parking lot. If you do not follow these instructions, by the time you get home, your car will be stuffed with zuchini and you will be dead from zuchini suffocation.

  6. The scientific jig is up on CO2. The govt. wants another eco-boogieman to cover the fact that they are just going to tax us into serfdom. Have Oak Ridge whip something up for us, will you?

  7. However, this reduction in growth is partially offset by another effect on the nitrogen cycle: an increase in the availability of nutrients resulting from an accelerated rate of decomposition – the rotting of dead plants and other organic matter – that occurs with a rise in temperature.

    So the whole theory depends on temperature rising? This seems like a big hole in the theory using predigested conclusions. Burp!

  8. ….. but the science is settled though. Some journalists were just telling me just the other day, that it was…
    Anyway, sarcasm aside. It is good to see scientists improving their models. Now if only they could improve their science also….

  9. It was more than 20 below C last night in most of Alberta. The climate may be warming but the weather sure is cold….

  10. September on the West coast from Mexico border to Canadian border during El Nino years: Drink up. The wine is in the caskets and everybody can get drunk on a dime. Bit o’ advice: Men should drink only white wine, women should drink the darkest red wine they can find. With chocolate.

  11. I think what they are saying is that current models assume that the higher CO2 concentrations will increase plant growth linearly with CO2 concentration. This research however implies that the growth will be less than that already assumed because of limitations in other nutrients. One test, do the current models make that increased update assumption, can anyone advise ?

  12. October during La Nina flip along the west coast: Pumpkin patches are non-existent (all local pumpkins are frozen and imported pumpkins cost more than a good steak), and Halloween costumes come with long underwear as standard equipment. Bobbing for apples is done with an ice pick and the Halloween punch is served with an ice cream scoop.

  13. There is no such thing as growing or decaying vegetation in my back yard right now. All vegetation is frozen solid. No need for nitrogen.
    So……what was that about nitrogen? But I am just a pot hole…….ssssoooooo……okay by now! (Gawd I love that commercial)

  14. What, these guys have SECURE GUMMIT JOBS producing JUNK like this.
    I’d present this to my Jr. High Science students, but they are too smart for that. The FIRST thing they’d say is, “This PRESUMES CO2 REALLY DRIVES TEMPERATURES UP!!!”
    Sorry if I’m bitter, but with 28 F tonight in Minnesocold, and 4″ of “GoreBull Warming” on the ground, I’m not in a mood to tolerate fools any longer.

  15. Sounds like they have tiptoed up the kinds of land use issues Roger Pielke Sr has been arguing for including in modeling assumptions for years.
    I guess you get absolution from committing the heresy of admitting there’s more to it than CO2 by mumbling something about maybe “worse than we thought” to compensate.

  16. The Sahel is turning green. The tropics are exploding with new growth. Crops are setting records.
    Warm = more vegetation
    More vegetation = more large “grazers.”
    More large grazers = more nitrogen (manure, urea)
    Then, there are the nitrogen-fixing plants
    I think they’re getting “out in the weeds” with this one. I’ll wait for the Ag community to weigh in.

  17. Yes.
    This bit of balderdash is based on a theoretical idea that if CO2 and warmth increase plant growth will be limited by nutrient supply, notably water and nitrogen. It is only possible to test this under controlled conditions not in the field, and all such tests have shown it to be wrong. At higher CO2 levels plants need and use less nitrogen and water. Even so whilst discredited it still turns up today sometimes: usually with trees.
    So the whole premise is based on a canard and ignores comprehensive established research. From this thoroughly debunked idea they then develop a new suggestion, I would not even call it a supposition, involving the nitrogen cycle, complex modelling tehniques, all with extensive caveats: to show how complicated it all is and is going to be.
    Oh and they also call for more funding not only for this but for forestry observation despite the fact that the latter cannot tell you much and certainly hasn’t up till now: so more time and more funding are obviously needed.
    What I think in the USA you call a boondoggle? or have I mixed up my terminology?.
    Kindest Regards

  18. Indigenous vegetation is acutely tuned to local environment. That which grows in my yard needs no assistance whatsoever to grow like a…… well, like a weed. When I finally rip the little sucker out of my yard, it has a root system 4 times the size of the plant.
    So, via natural selection, natural vegetation does a great job of growing with unbridled fervor, thank you very much. It isn’t starving.
    Oh, and Pamela, I’m hoarding my Ken Wright Pinot AND the chocolate.

  19. It appears to me that they seem to be basing their updated new theory on the results of their old already diverging from the collected data. I also notice that any error found in data will always lead to more warming. Any new study from selected connected agencies will always find that it is faster and worse than previously thought. Just a thought, if the increased decomposition is dependent on warmer temps, keep in mind that increase in moisture is also necessary to increase decomposition. The problem is that the empirical data isn’t showing warming. there may be a reduction of growth rate of vegetation but it appears that it might be due to cooler shorter growing seasons. I have little faith in this study, in my small uneducated mind there are to many questions that haven’t been answered. To much depends on conditions being similar to if this happens then this will happen. It is hard to assume that this type of finding depending on things that might happen should be counted as correct.
    just my two cents
    Bill Derryberry

  20. Pamela,
    We got it the first time – it’s cold in Oregon. Now please find another blog to hijack.

  21. Pamela Gray (18:21:04) : zucchini
    My choice is yellow crook-neck, but I digress.
    If everyone was required to put 10% of their land in zucchini would that solve the AGW problem or would all plants die as CO2 was depleted from the atmosphere?
    And back on topic: When you start your model building exercise with the wrong assumption it is not possible to come out with a sensible answer. If the smart folks at Oak Ridge would investigate the role of CO2 in its ghg-sense they might actually contribute something to climate science.

  22. “Pamela Gray (18:21:04) :
    September in the Willamette Valley during El Nino years: No matter how hot it is, drive with your windows up and never stop at stop lights or signs. Also never park in a church parking lot. If you do not follow these instructions, by the time you get home, your car will be stuffed with zuchini and you will be dead from zuchini suffocation.”
    Throw them zucchinis my way. I didn’t get a single one off of three plants. Great looking leaves, no fruit. And no veggie lasagna without veggies 🙁

  23. “In order to do these experiments in the climate system model, expertise is needed in the nitrogen cycle, but there is also a need for climate modeling expertise, the ocean has to be involved properly, the atmospheric chemistry . . . and then there are a lot of observations that have been used to parameterize the model,” said Thornton, who works in ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division.”
    UH HUH….thanks for at least admitting “the ocean has to be involved properly.”
    Climate models, while noble in their cause….are way to complex [read: impossible] to be useful at this time.
    Money and scientific effort is best spent on SOLVABLE (and not theoretical) problems in the world today.
    Why is this so hard to understand????
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  24. Fixing the nitrogen cycle in climate modeling
    So the overwarming models show even greater warming than before. The fix is in.

  25. First MSM TV news story saying the planet has not warmed since 1998.
    Uploaded by yours truly.
    Lou Dobbs: Al Gore, “Not Evil Just Wrong” Global Warming Debate Part 1 10/12/09

    Lou Dobbs: Al Gore, “Not Evil Just Wrong” Global Warming Debate Part 2 10/12/09

  26. Bob Edelman (19:06:53) :
    Nonsense, Bob.
    She is one of the most prescient posters on here (and a damn good scientist to boot).
    Lighten up. This is a blog.
    PS Don’t you care about your squash size this season?
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  27. Deborah, sorry, I don’t live in the WV anymore. But my understanding is that zuchini froze on the vine in many backyard gardens. My g-ma alway picked her’s slightly green and then stored them inside to ripen. Else they froze.
    An Bob, you be talkin to a farm-raised pumpkin with two degrees from Oregun State, you know, Cow College. I know all ’bout plantin’ nitrogen fixin’ plants inbetween years of nitrogen usin’ plants. They be called legumes. Inythin else yu wanna know ’bout nitrogin? (she said with a wheat stalk betwixt her teeth)

  28. n this case, scientists found that the rate of climate change over the next century could be higher than previously anticipated when the requirement of plant nutrients are included in the climate model.
    Well, that result will assure continued funding for at least another 5 years.

  29. With all of the rain and miserable cold this year I was beginning to think that maybe I should try selling shell-less escargot. Definitely a banner year for slugs.

  30. Lordy be so biologists and soils scientists have got onboard the climate funding gravy train. Just put out your hand if you haven’t been given a ticket yet.

  31. Pamela in straw hat and pig tails and denim overalls and corn cob pipe.
    And she likes deep fried mars bars, maybe stranger. Yup Yup.
    Anyone told these ol boys about crop rotatin’s, it’s called modern farming it’s real new maybe 100 years, maybe more. Better than fallow.
    Me I prefer pirate lassies but she knows her compass degrees.

  32. Pamela,
    Please accept my apologies. I was in a foul mood – I just reviewed Washington State laws requiring businesses to report greenhouse gas emissions.

  33. “PS Don’t you care about your squash size this season?”
    Har har…..every guy cares about his squash size.
    Figured I would circumvent that comment before it arrived. 😉
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  34. I have to mention that squash plants only sequester Co2 until natural feedback destroys the plants. Every summer squash plants I have grown are destroyed by squash bugs!!!!
    Glad that the boys outside of agriculture have figured out the nitrogen cycle. Somehow I doubt their models can accurately predict the soil temperature and soil moisture during the year. Both control and interact to detrmine what happens to the various forms of nitrogen. Agriculture research has spent millions of dollars to figure out what happens to the various forms of nitrogen farmers apply to wheat,corn and forage crops. There are guidelines on how to apply nitrogen based on crop history but nature has a way of changing the rules every year. We can test the plant leaves while the crop grow and monitor a plant for adequate Nitrongen levels for growth then addition nitrogen can be applied for maximum econimic yield. But schazam different corn varaties take up nitrogen at different rates and have different abilities to utilize nitrogen, the soil type has a place in the nitrogen cycle as well as, soil Ph, previous crop history,weather condition, and many many other factors.
    I have a real problem believing you can model the nitrogen cycle since there are so many factors to consider. Well maybe you could model the nitrogen cycle for the Artic j/k.

  35. My understanding was that there is fossil evidence that flora flourished in times of higher CO2. The use of increased levels of CO2 in green houses to achieve increased plant growth would seem to confirm this. I am wondering if this study is simply designed to muddy the waters now the “CO2 is plant food” phrase is catching on. It seems the script is being reworked again.
    Meanwhile in a UK film studio…
    Director – “The last take was great, but the producer has just handed me a revised script so we’re going to do an alternate version”
    All – “Groan”
    1st AD – “Keep it down!”
    Director – “Ok listen up, the bunny is now crying because his lettuce didn’t grow as big as he thought CO2 would make it. The puppy is not drowning, he’s being ground into fertilizer to save the crops of the starving village, and CO2 Monster you’re now a Nitrogen Monster.”
    Actor formerly known as CO2 monster – “What’s my motivation?”
    Director – “Same as before, huge new taxes. Remember teeth, claws, just look scary.”
    Puppy- “Do I always have to die?”
    Director – “For the last time, yes! And if you could thrash more that would be super.”
    1st AD – “Ok people let’s get a move on! First positions everyone!”
    Director – “And remember to look scared because it’s….what?”
    All – “Worse than we thought!”

  36. Slugs! Love slugs! Have you read the children’s book about slugs? Funny book! Something about the revenge of the slugs. Hilarious! But kids on the East side of the Cascades don’t have a clue when they read that book. We have the shelled kind. Even when it is cold. But they are very tiny. Too tiny to cook.
    Of note on this side of the mountains, I forgot how small zucchini is on this side. I was raised here in NE Oregon then spent 30 years in the valley. Monstrous size zucchini there. G-ma managed cucumber sized zucchini. And you know what they say, girth matters.
    But back on topic, the change to colder weather has been a boon to the pea industry in NE Oregon. I remember in the 70’s they had to plow under the pea fields because the vines were too small to be harvested by the machines. The growing season had been too hot. I worked in the factories in the summer then and I remember the paltry amount of peas that came down the conveyor belt. This past summer has seen another banner year for cold season peas. Fortunately, most farmers here seem to be educated on weather and climate changes and prepared for colder years by decreasing crops dependent on hot long summers and went back to cold season crops. Peas and winter wheat have done well.
    For Bob, I would have to translate that by saying, “We plowers ran outa $ fer them thar fancy hot-sun plants, so we went back to them thar peas ‘n bread.”

  37. Konrad (19:58:46) :
    HAHAHAHA
    Thanks to YOU I spilled my nightcap drink from laughing so loud.
    Regardless…please tell me you are putting that talent to use somewhere.
    And make sure you save these posts.
    VERY damn funny stuff (and true)!!
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  38. a jones (18:53:41) :
    What I think in the USA you call a boondoggle? or have I mixed up my terminology?.
    —————-
    I think the boondoggle part comes when they spend our money going somewhere nice to present the “data”.
    Obviously, I use the word “data” very loosely.

  39. Bob:
    Since the bean counters have no money to count, the Queen of Washington has decreed that they shall count carbon.
    Its all part of the Washington State Stimulus Program.

  40. I can’t say that I’ve read anything about slugs except how to get rid of them. Beer in a shallow dish works wonders if you don’t mind emptying the dish every morning.
    I ended up with a monster zucchini year before last. How that thing managed to hide under those leaves is a true wonder. It was a five pounder. Tasted wretched though. Gotta pick ’em small for any decent flavor.

  41. “Nevertheless, potentially significant processes and dynamics are still missing from the simulations.”
    Truer than the author probably wants to admit…. but a nice admission anyway – if we could all be so humble…
    Layne Blanchard (19:02:46) :
    ” I’m hoarding my Ken Wright Pinot AND the chocolate.”
    … just had a 2006 Ken Wright Abbott Claim … and some chocolate for dessert! Yum :))

  42. Having been raised on a farm and ranch in NE Oregon, when I moved to Albany, Oregon, I promptly added 5 chickens to my in- town house. Within days. No slugs. No sow bugs. No ear wigs. No flowers either but the chickens were lots of fun and my lawn was crayon green in color.
    My G-ma came to visit one summer, admired my chicken-fenced garden, and chastised me, as in nearly put me in the corner like she used to, for trying to kill blackberry vines. You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl.

  43. Jeff! You can’t do that! If a man drinks red wine and eats chocolate, as in dark chocolate, in about 2 hours you will get man boobs!

  44. “In this case, scientists found that the rate of climate change over the next century could be higher than previously anticipated when the requirement of plant nutrients are included in the climate model. ”
    Well, that makes the improvements to the program output an even wronger result. At this rate of change, we’re not looking at boiling & drowning, we’re facing a melted Earth. By 2100, the Earth will be a blob of molten rock.
    Oh, it’s much worse than anyone thought.
    The computer model is set to jack up the warming prediction upon any change of input.
    If they keep messing with it, pretty soon the Earth will turn into a black hole and swallow the Solar System whole, including the Sun, then go Supernova II.

  45. …”as in nearly put me in the corner like she used to, for trying to kill blackberry vines…”
    I thought she would get you for trying to kill Marionberry vines.

  46. Let me see if I’ve got this right. Their models have been underestimating vegetative uptake of CO2 all along, so they’re now going to fix them by introducing a subroutine to reduce the estimates further. Yeah, I can see how that will work just fine.

  47. Remember that computer in Whiz Kids? The GCM is networked into the world, and it’s gone bonkers and will try to kill us all.
    Unplug it. Whatever you do, don’t let it think you know what’s going on.
    It’s evil.

  48. LOVE the Fullbright Commission study mentioned above. (http://soyface.illinois.edu/results/AAAS%202004%20poster%20Leakey.pdf) My family owns lots of farmland in IL…can’t wait for the increased CO2!! I’ll be rich!
    PS..just finished helping my daughter with her 7th grade plant report where we learned that plants can’t grow tall in the tundra because it is too cold and the growing season is too short, plus that pesky permafrost…so I guess the science book is all wrong that plants thrive in warmer weather…Oh, and won’t there be so much more water when it is warm from all those melting glaciers? And more space for growing the plants where the glaciers used to be?

  49. rbateman (21:06:45) :
    Unplug that b***h!!
    Clunk. (The sound of the cord being yanked away).
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  50. “They illustrate the complexity of climate modeling by demonstrating how natural processes still have a strong effect on the carbon cycle and climate simulations.”
    This statement is astounding in its arrogance. the implication being that even though humans are now all-powerful ‘natural processes still have strong effects’! Who knew?

  51. This article appears to assume that soil nutrient availability is the growth constraint. It does recognize a greater decomposition rate if temperatures are above freezing for more days per year but we have not actually witnessed that happening recently. As for higher temperatures overall causing more decomposition, when you have temperature change of 1 degree per century or maybe 1.5 degrees per century, the change in temperature over human’s lifetime is negligible.
    More importantly, in studies I have seen with CO2 enrichment in the actual habitat and not greenhouses, growth was greatly stimulated by the enhanced CO2. There was no evidence of soil nutrient starvation. And given that the biomass creation would also result in a greater accumulation of decaying biomass, the initial increase in nutrient depletion should be compensated for later in the time line when a larger amount of biomass is decaying.
    So lets say trees grow 3 times faster and they grow 2 times larger. They produce twice the leaf litter. The nutrients taken out are eventually replaced. And while the uptake rate increases first, the replacement rate also increases later so the system will find equilibrium at a higher rate of growth.
    So what I would expect to see is an increase in growth, possibly some “overshoot” in areas that lack enough nutrients, followed by some die-back but eventually reaching equilibrium with more living biomass in the system.
    Yes, the nitrogen cycle will be a limiting factor but other cycles such as phosphate play as well.

  52. Remedy for gophers/moles – as observed:
    Get thyself a good field cat or small hunting-type dog…spayed/neutered of course…wouldn’t want there to be an overpopulation problem…
    No models here though in ecology/bio classes we did do modeling of predator/prey relationships, so maybe it could be done…but I’m not sure I’d trust the models to predict the solution…especially not when plain old observation seems sufficient…
    Now…if only the AGW modelers would look outside…

  53. Pamela Gray (18:33:24) :
    September on the West coast from Mexico border to Canadian border during El Nino years: Drink up. The wine is in the caskets and everybody can get drunk on a dime. Bit o’ advice: Men should drink only white wine, women should drink the darkest red wine they can find. With chocolate.
    Pamela, you are making me laugh! Thanks for being a bit cheeky tonight. Following your own advice…”Drink up?”
    But please let me have some of the Red stuff.
    Oh, BTW, the darkest red wine you can find….Robert Foley Petite Sirah….darkest wine you can find, if you can find any! The Black Hole of wine!

  54. Big storm headed for Calif. Remnants of a typhoon off Japan fueling a N.Pacific low. The local news agencies are raising the red flags.
    As this runs downhill, after hitting CA and passing the Great Basin, the Rockies & Plains are going to presumably get blasted.

  55. I’ve worked with the O.R.N.L. crowd in years past. They are the geniuses who once lost an entire railroad-tank-car load of radioactive mercury, right there in the middle of a secured complex (they apparently didn’t appreciate how relentlessly the heavy stuff seeks a lower elevation). They also left a great part of the countryside immediately surrounding Oak Ridge, TN hot as a firecracker and unsafe even for “critters”.
    After watching this crowd chase scientific butterflies for decades, including the dead-end Russian tokamak fusion design, I have little confidence in their collective scientific judgment.

  56. “rbateman (21:04:02) :
    Deborah (20:24:32) :
    Got a remedy for gophers/moles etc.?”
    Not for gophers but my mom has one for moles as long as you don’t have a dog or small kids who might dig in the dirt.
    Break a glass bottle or jar. Find a mole tunnel or hole and put the broken glass inside the hole. It takes a bit of time and you have to make sure that the tunnel is actively used. If so the moles will die off. Mom tells me that mole blood won’t clot right and if they get a cut they bleed to death. I haven’t tried it myself since up until my dog died this summer he was the mighty mole hunter and he decimated the population quite efficiently.

  57. Re: “Got a remedy for gophers/moles etc.?”
    Turn the O.R.N.L. geniuses loose on those gophers/moles etc. If they can kill off every critter in the woods surrounding Oak Ridge, TN, they can surely handle a pesky gopher/mole etc.
    Actually, I exaggerate. There are still critters out there in spite of O.R.N.L. activities. You could wind up with super-moles equipped with extra digging limbs and naturally lit-up for night work.

  58. As this runs downhill, after hitting CA and passing the Great Basin, the Rockies & Plains are going to presumably get blasted.

    Doesn’t look that way according to this. Looks like it will peter out over the California mountains.

  59. You Northern Hemispherians seem to be Falling into a wine induced Autumnal mood,or is it the Harvest moon that has just passed?….down under (I really hate that term), our sap is rising.

  60. “The biggest challenge has been bridging this multidisciplinary gap […]”
    ^Exactly my experience, as I’ve blazed (cross-discipline) trails for 2 decades. In new territory people assume you know f-all, but their ignorance & arrogance (if left uncountered) constitute a threat to the sustainable defense of civilization.

    Research on nutrient cycling is tremendously important. In the early 90s I was fortunate. I worked with a biogeochemistry group and wrote papers on plant survival of climate change, with focus on population genetics of range-shifts on fragmented landscapes.
    What’s not (necessarily) obvious:
    The interaction of diversity and spatiotemporal heterogeneity.
    Limiting factors for growth & survival vary by species, by individual, by location, over time, etc. …i.e. complexity – (not simple 2+2=5 linear-dichotomies that fit a brain-dumb message-frame…)
    What is really missing in the above story?
    —————————-
    The hydrologic cycle
    —————————-
    (…is the elephant in the room, as we’ve known all along).

  61. “scientists found that the rate of climate change over the next century could be higher than previously anticipated”
    The scientists could have been staying at home. The result of their “studies” was obvious before they started their work

  62. Many plants and trees outsource nitrogen fixation to bacteria and pay them in energy rich chemicals. More CO2 makes them more efficient at photosynthesis and allow them bigger budgets to pay bacteria with. Their leaves, branches and dead remains feed everything else. Unless they have a theory about the Earth’s nitrogen gas vanishing because of capitalist greed and such, their new “models” are still sad. They seem not to have discovered life on earth yet. I would suspect that life is pretty good at liberating needed trace minerals from rocks also if more energy is poured into the system through more efficient photosynthesis.

  63. Pamela,
    Bit o’ advice: Men should drink only white wine, women should drink the darkest red wine they can find. With chocolate.
    Don’t agree. Men should drink Purakanui Upper Ranks Reserve IPA, pinot noir and Purakanui Jagermeister; agree with women, but they should also try Purakanui pinot griggio, butterscotch schnapps and orange brandy. But they should save themselves for the Purakanui melon schnapps. Worth crossing the world for!

  64. Well I did my part to get nitrogen in my lawn. I planted some clover (The neighbors are irritated 🙂 )

  65. The one thing that bothers me about this kind of article is that, as most astute readers on here have noted, the authors’ conclusions rest on a set of assumptions, the validity of which has yet to be proven. However, folks without a formal education that teaches them to hunt down and weed out the assumptions behind an assertion will see the headline and then conclude the authors know what they’re talking about, never having realized the faultiness of the underlying assumptions. This is how the myth is perpetuated. It used to be that one was required to explicitly state their assumptions when proffering a conclusion, but, sadly, the state of academic ethics today is such that this requirement is often overlooked, especially when the conclusion supports a pro-AGW agenda.

  66. Until clouds can be correctly modeled at a close scale, models will always have a whopping ncertainty in them which these studies are fiddling round the edges of.

  67. Kum Dollison (18:52:06) :
    “…
    Warm = more vegetation
    More vegetation = more large “grazers.”
    More large grazers = more nitrogen (manure, urea)
    Then, there are the nitrogen-fixing plants”
    I think Kum is on target here. They should rejigger their
    calculations to take these factors into account and fire up
    that big honking computer again…
    Of course if they turn enough nobs they can conclude
    anything they want. How many unknowns and guessed
    parameters do we have here? 6 zillion?

  68. Pofarmer (21:10:41) :
    Somehow, I don’t think these bozo’s ever took an agronomy course.

    Ha! Somehow I think these bozo’s have never had a garden or been outside except maybe to walk across a parking lot and drive somewhere!

  69. What does the headline, ‘Fixing the nitrogen cycle in climate modeling’ mean? How can we fix something that’s so perfect it can already predict the future climate a century from now? Do you mean those models do not include everything that influences climate?

  70. Deborah (19:17:42) : “Throw them zucchinis my way. I didn’t get a single one off of three plants. Great looking leaves, no fruit.”
    It is my understanding that too much nitrogen encourages more green plant growth but less fruit. Plants growing in an over nourished environment don’t need to produce as much fruit on the basis that it is so easy for small amounts of seeds to survive that there is no need to produce 100’s of seeds to get 1 or 2 new plants. I have found that stressing the plants a bit will increase fruit production.

  71. The research seems to be addressing questions that are not even relevant in the real world in which we live.
    They say that plants will not grow as rapantly as the increased levels of CO2 would suggest, because plants can only grow (surprise, surprise) as fast as is permitted by the scarcest of the parameters present – soil nutrients in this case.
    But the question as to how much plant growth can offset rising CO2

  72. Lima city is surrounded with barren hills. When in 97-98 big el Nino, without any rain at all they became green, specially one, usually covered with sand. We never had,except for those years, temperatures above 31°C.
    In the image above: There is a rounded and yellow circle representing the SUN, which, btw, it is NOT included in these model games, and to which famous astrophysicists asign no role whatsoever in climate.

  73. [sorry, I caught the enter key with my pinky – here it is again]
    The research seems to be addressing questions that are not even relevant in the real world in which we live.
    They say that plants will not grow as rapantly as the increased levels of CO2 would suggest, because plants can only grow (surprise, surprise) as fast as is permitted by the scarcest of the parameters present – soil nutrients in this case.
    But the question as to how much plant growth can offset rising CO2 is only relevant if you believe that CO2 is rising dangerously and must be curtailed. In any case, once you get some lovely nitrogen fertiliser down, you will get the best yields possible from your food crops – so what’s the problem?

  74. red432 (05:03:16) :
    How many unknowns and guessed
    parameters do we have here? 6 zillion?

    Enough degrees of freedom to create many herds of trunk wiggling elephants farting their way across the savannah into.

  75. Snake Oil Baron (00:07:59) :
    Someone should introduce them to the plants that thrived before there was a topsoil layer, etc. Like the Sequoia Giganteum, which gorges itself on totally sterile mineral soil, sunlight, water and C02.
    Someone should remind them of the plants that sucked huge volumes of C02 out of the atmosphere to form the world’s coal beds.
    Nature will find a way. It’s the All Warming Oldies 24/7 Models that are having the problem.

  76. Re: limiting nutrients
    As I’d learned it, for plants, the usual limiting nutrient is either phosphorus or nitrogen. Phosphates should be added if they’re not in the soil. Only nitrogen fixing plants, like peanuts, can get their nitrogen from the air.
    Phosphate removal from detergents was useful only in the rivers and lakes where phosphorus was the limiting nutrient for algae.
    And the geo-engineering proposals of adding iron to fertilize polar seas are feasible only where iron is the limiting nutrient.

  77. That’s wonderful news. Now if those rocket scientists at Oak Ridge could just figure out how to incorporate the H2O (aka “water”) cycle into their climate models; you know; heat/evaporation (vapor phase)/ thermal expansion/ altitude convection/cooling/condensation (liquid phase)/cloud formation/more cooling/freezing; ice formation(solid phase)/heat exchange/latent heat/precipitation/whatever.
    Wouldn’t that be wonderful if they could do that ?

  78. Pamela Gray (18:33:24) :
    September on the West coast from Mexico border to Canadian border during El Nino years: Drink up. The wine is in the caskets and everybody can get drunk on a dime. Bit o’ advice: Men should drink only white wine, women should drink the darkest red wine they can find. With chocolate.
    Lush or what?

  79. Pamela Gray (20:38:29) :
    Having been raised on a farm and ranch in NE Oregon, when I moved to Albany, Oregon, I promptly added 5 chickens to my in- town house. Within days. No slugs. No sow bugs. No ear wigs. No flowers either but the chickens were lots of fun and my lawn was crayon green in color.
    My G-ma came to visit one summer, admired my chicken-fenced garden, and chastised me, as in nearly put me in the corner like she used to, for trying to kill blackberry vines. You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl.
    http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/
    Organic farm

  80. rbateman (23:40:03) :
    I am not sure about ANYTHING when it comes to weather. The linked picture was simply the NOAA forecast precipitation amounts over the next 5 days. As we are currently in the storm as I type this and as I expect that those 5 days will include the period where the storm has left the coast and gone inland, and not seeing much rain forecast East of Lake Tahoe over the next 5 days.
    Paul Vaughan (23:20:29)
    I have a problem with the “shell game” wording that they use.
    Ok, so imagine that you have a warmer climate. You will generally also have more rain and probably more thunderstorms. This will provide more nitrogen to the soil through rain from the air so it speeds up the nitrogen cycle.
    Also there is the whole “could” problem. They never assign a probability to their “could” statements. You COULD get hit by a meteorite as you walk out your front door today. In fact, one large enough to go completely through the building you are in COULD bonk you right on the head where you are sitting in your chair right now.
    Now why would this acceleration happen only at some vague fugure time? Why haven’t we already seen it? If enhanced CO2 would cause things in the ecosystem to happen that would accelerate warming, why haven’t we already seen it? Why do we currently have flat to cooling temperatures over the past decade in the face of rising CO2?
    Is there some magic threshold that must be reached for their scenario to “kick in”? It is another claim of something that “could” happen in the future but has not been observed to happen so far.
    And how many iterations of their model did they produce before they got this result? And why is this result more valid than any of the earlier iterations that might have shown no warming?
    I can produce a computer run that shows just about anything.

  81. “Someone should introduce them to the plants that thrived before there was a topsoil layer, etc. Like the Sequoia Giganteum, which gorges itself on totally sterile mineral soil, sunlight, water and C02.”
    I have a better idea. How about introducing them to the giant carnivorous trap plants of Borneo, that gorges itself on hysterical warmists?

  82. “”” Adolfo Giurfa (08:08:20) :
    George E. Smith (08:00:29) : They won´t, that substance is too strange, it is not found in computers. “””
    Adolfo; I could recommend some good textbooks on Optics they could also study so they could investigate and model the optical effects of H2O in all three of its phases, on electromagnetic radiation from about 0.1 to 100 microns wavelength; or about 12meV to 12eV photon energy

  83. Combining these two effects, the authors discovered that the increased availability of nutrients from more rapid decomposition did not counterbalance the reduced level of plant growth calculated by natural nutrient limitations; therefore less new growth and higher atmospheric CO¬2 concentrations are expected.
    OMH, we give these people computers and we expect them to know how to use them…
    So despite an observed world wide acceleration in plant growth of about 15% from increased CO2, they are going with the model that predicts less plant growth and more CO2 build up? So backassward it makes my bottom hurt thinking about it.
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/of-trees-volcanos-and-pond-scum/
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/the-trouble-with-c12-c13-ratios/

  84. Oh, and I don’t suppose the incorporated the fact that the more storms they are predicting will result in more nitrogen in the soil from lightning; or that legumes are nitrogen fixers and more CO2 means more legume growth too, that means more nitrogen fixation… Or that more plants means more animals and bugs eating them that puts more nitrogen back into the soils…
    And given that “excess nitrogen runoff” is considered one of the horror of horrors of human pollution, I don’t suppose they thought that soaking up that excess nitrogen might be a benefit.
    I need to stop thinking about how many ways they have this broken or I’m going to bust a gusset…

  85. This breakthrough is one more step toward a more realistic prediction for the future of the earth’s climate. Nevertheless, potentially significant processes and dynamics are still missing from the simulations. Thornton also stresses the importance of long-term observation so scientists can better understand and model these processes.
    Bottom line is that they are very far from understanding the factors that are necessary to make good predictions. But, as usual, the announcement is trumped by other factors that show just how little these guys understand the issues. For example, I doubt that these individuals even thought about such things as how the increased acidity is delivering bioavailable iron to the oceans and increases ocean productivity. (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/05/man-made-air-pollution-helps-iron-deficient-ocean/) They also seem to have missed the various real world studies that show that biomass in forests has increased substantially.
    Baker, T.R., Phillips, O.L., Malhi, Y., Almeida, S., Arroyo, L., Di Fiore, A., Erwin, T., Higuchi, N., Killeen, T.J., Laurance, S.G., Laurance, W.F., Lewis, S.L., Monteagudo, A., Neill, D.A., Núñez Vargas, P., Pitman, N.C.A., Silva, J.N.M. and Vásquez Martínez, R. 2004. Increasing biomass in Amazonian forest plots. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B – Biological Sciences 359: 353-365.
    Hietz, P., Wanek, W. and Dunisch, O. 2005. Long-term trends in cellulose δ13C and water-use efficiency of tropical Cedrela and Swietenia from Brazil. Tree Physiology 25: 745-752.
    Lewis, S.L., Phillips, O.L., Baker, T.R., Lloyd, J., Malhi, Y., Almeida, S., Higuchi, N., Laurance, W.F., Neill, D.A., Silva, J.N.M., Terborgh, J., Lezama, A.T., Vásquez Martinez, R., Brown, S., Chave, J., Kuebler, C., Núñez Vargas, P. and Vinceti, B. 2004. Concerted changes in tropical forest structure and dynamics: evidence from 50 South American long-term plots. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B – Biological Sciences 359: 421-436.
    Lin, G., Marino, B.D.V., Wei, Y., Adams, J., Tubiello, F. and Berry, J.A. 1998. An experimental and modeling study of responses in ecosystems carbon exchanges to increasing CO2 concentrations using a tropical rainforest mesocosm. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 25: 547-556.
    Nemani, R.R., Keeling, C.D., Hashimoto, H., Jolly, W.M., Piper, S.C., Tucker, C.J., Myneni, R.B. and Running. S.W. 2003. Climate-driven increases in global terrestrial net primary production from 1982 to 1999. Science 300: 1560-1563.
    Phillips, O.L., Aragao, L.E.O.C., Lewis, S.L., Fisher, J.B., Lloyd, J., Lopez-Gonzalez, G., Malhi, Y., Monteagudo, A., Peacock, J., Quesada, C.A., van der Heijden G., Almeida, S., Amaral, I., Arroyo, L., Aymard, G., Baker, T.R., Banki, O., Blanc, L., Bonal, D., Brando, P., Chave, J., de Oliveira, A.C.A., Cardozo, N.D., Czimczik, C.I., Feldpausch, T.R., Freitas, M.A., Gloor, E., Higuchi, N., Jimenez, E., Lloyd, G., Meir, P., Mendoza, C., Morel, A., Neill, D.A., Nepstad, D., Patino, S., Penuela, M.C., Prieto, A., Ramirez, F., Schwarz, M., Silva, J., Silveira, M., Thomas, A.S., ter Steege, H., Stropp, J., Vasquez, R., Zelazowski, P., Davila, E.A., Andelman, S., Andrade, A., Chao, K.-J., Erwin, T., Di Fiore, A., Honorio C., E., Keeling, H., Killeen, T.J., Laurance, W.F., Cruz, A.P., Pitman, N.C.A., Vargas, P.N., Ramirez-Angulo, H., Rudas, A., Salamao, R., Silva, N., Terborgh, J. and Torres-Lezama, A. 2009. Drought sensitivity of the Amazon rainforest. Science 323: 1344-1347.

  86. So will we now have cap and trade on Nitrogen? These guys are grasping at straws to shore up their predictions of disasters to come. The sad thing is that the MSM loves this kind of story.

  87. Well they just got themselves a whole load of cushy funding! Nice to see climate models incorporating some of the many bits they are missing, if they keep this up by 2200 they will have the whole cycle covered, then we might get some reliable forecasts for 2090!

  88. crosspatch (08:57:37) :
    After crossing leaving the West Coast, crossing the desert, it will reform on the East flank of the Rockies, draw in cold air out of Canada and mix with Gulf Stream moisture, then proceed to blast everything in it’s re-invigorated path. That’s what usually happens far as I know. Maybe Anthony, who is a real meteorologist can tell us why it would or wouldn’t.

  89. Did they bother to determine whether the models, after being adjusted to account for the two aspects of the nitrogen cycle, still reproduced past and present climates with reasonable accuracy? Or did they just see what the effect would be on the predicted future temperatures?
    If they did evaluate the adjusted models against past and present climate, did they have to change any unknown parameters to keep the fit?

  90. Kim Dollinson and Crosspatch.
    In the icreased CO2 experiment with corn and soybean I noticed that CO2 and O3 were referred to as pollutants. NOT GOOD. I was impressed with the additional production and I couldn’t find if additional N was used to achieve the outcome or is the added CO2 negating the need forN? As an old corn farmer reduction in use of artificial N would be a financial godsend.
    While you are critical of your scientists we in Australia have the CSIRO who depend on Realclimate.org and Manns hockey stick to tell us we are in drought. AND it will get much worse AND they need more money to perfect CO2 sequestration from our power stations. Seems these guys are singing from the same sheet.

  91. Lawrie, I’m not sure, but I read a different paper when they were a year, or so, into the study, and I don’t believe they changed anything but CO2, and O3.
    In fact, thinking back on it, I’m sure they didn’t.

  92. Henry said “Lush or what”.
    Actually, delightfully so. At 53, I can use all the red wine and chocolate I can get my hands on. It’s a biblical thing. A glass of wine per day (I wish) will keep you healthier and settle what ails you, so said Paul to Timothy. Word to the wise, don’t take estrogen supplements along side wine and chocolate. There is something to be said for too much of a good thing.
    On the nitrogen fixing plants, I prefer plain old green beans, but clover or peas work as well. My G-ma planted pole beans around corn hills (in which she also buried a medium sized white fish). Given the gardening success of that woman, she would come back to haunt me if I said to do otherwise. She also advised using chicken poop, but SPARINGLY. You can burn an entire garden if not used judiciously.

  93. More drivel from supposed scientists who should know better.
    Bacteria are the biggest life-form on earth by mass and a fair proportion of them have the happy knack of being able to fix nitrogen. More plant life means more bacteria to feed on their dead remains, so the soil balance is maintained and the plants continue to flourish.
    Isn’t nature marvelous…

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