University of New Hampshire invertedly overheats soil, and pronounces a climate change result

From the University of New Hampshire comes this press release that made me recoil when I read the methodology involved because it is Mannian-Tiljanderish in the approach. Instead of doing top down heating (as occurs in Nature), they do bottom up heating with electric cables. In the photo below, note how they’ve warmed the soil enough to melt snow, which suggests to me that they’ve not only got the thermal process of nature backwards in the experiment, they have overdone the energy input outside the bounds of reality. For example, what sustained increase in air temperature (from global warming) would be needed to produce a permanent 5 degree warming in the soil they tested? How much efficiency difference of the mass transfer function form air to soil versus the underground cables is there?

And the result of the study? Microbes become more active with warmer temperatures and release more CO2, up to a point. Sheesh, any bread or beer maker can tell you this. The temperature increases CO2 production until the food runs low. It amazes me that this project got funded when it seems to be little more than rehashed grade school science. Maybe they should have modeled it first, but that wouldn’t keep the funding going for 18 years I suppose. – Anthony

This shows research sites at the Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site in Petersham, Mass., where Frey and Melillo have been warming two sites with underground cables. The photo was taken during a January thaw on a 50-degree day; the heated plots, which had been snow-covered, melted before the unheated ones. Credit: Alix Contosa

Warmer soils release additional CO2 into atmosphere; Effect stabilizes over longer term

DURHAM, N.H. — Warmer temperatures due to climate change could cause soils to release additional carbon into the atmosphere, thereby enhancing climate change – but that effect diminishes over the long term, finds a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study, from University of New Hampshire professor Serita Frey and co-authors from the University of California-Davis and the Marine Biological Laboratory, sheds new light on how soil microorganisms respond to temperature and could improve predictions of how climate warming will affect the carbon dioxide flux from soils.

The activities of soil microorganisms release 10 times the carbon dioxide that human activities do on a yearly basis. Historically, this release of carbon dioxide has been kept in check by plants’ uptake of the gas from the atmosphere. However, human activities are potentially upsetting this balance.

Frey and co-authors Johan Six and Juhwan Lee of UC-Davis and Jerry Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory were curious how increased temperatures due to climate change might alter the amount of carbon released from soils. “While they’re low on the charisma scale, soil microorganisms are so critically important to the carbon balance of the atmosphere,” Frey says. “If we warm the soil due to climate warming, are we going to fundamentally alter the flux of carbon into the atmosphere in a way that is going to feed back to enhance climate change?”

Serita Frey, professor of natural resources at the University of New Hampshire, is lead author of a new Nature Climate Change article that finds warmer temperatures due to climate change…

Yes, the researchers found. And no.

The study examined the efficiency of soil organisms – how completely they utilize food sources to maintain their cellular machinery – depending upon the food source and the temperature under two different scenarios. In the first short-term scenario, these researchers found that warming temperatures had little effect on soils’ ability to use glucose, a simple food source released from the roots of plants. For phenol, a more complex food source common in decomposing wood or leaves, soils showed a 60 percent drop in efficiency at higher temperatures.

“As you increase temperature, you decrease the efficiency – soil microorganisms release more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere – but only for the more complex food sources,” Frey explains. “You could infer that as the soil warms, more carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere, exacerbating the climate problem.”

That effect diminishes, however, in the second scenario, in which soils were warmed to 5 degrees Celsius above the ambient temperature for 18 years. “When the soil was heated to simulate climate warming, we saw a change in the community to be more efficient in the longer term,” Frey says, lessening the amount of carbon dioxide the soils release into the atmosphere and, in turn, their impact on the climate. “The positive feedback response may not be as strong as we originally predicted.”

The research team also examined how changes in soil microorganism efficiency might influence long term storage of carbon in soils as predicted by a commonly used ecosystem model. Models of this type are used to simulate ecosystem carbon dynamics in response to different perturbations, such as land-use change and climate warming. These models generally assume that efficiency is fixed and that it does not change with temperature or other environmental conditions. The team found a large effect on long-term soil carbon storage as predicted by the model when they varied carbon use efficiency in a fashion comparable to what they observed in their experiments. “There is clearly a need for new models that incorporate an efficiency parameter that is allowed to fluctuate in response to temperature and other environmental variables,” Six says.

The researchers hypothesize that long-term warming may change the community of soil microorganisms so that it becomes more efficient. Organism adaptation, change in the species that comprise the soils, and/or changes in the availability of various nutrients could result in this increased efficiency.

This study was based on work done at the Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site in Petersham, Mass., where Frey and Melillo have been warming two sites – one 9 meters square, the other 36 meters square — with underground cables for two versus 18 years. “It’s like having a heating blanket under the forest floor,” Frey says, “allowing us to examine how this particular environmental change—long-term soil warming—is altering how the soil functions.”


The article, “The Temperature Response of Soil Microbial Efficiency and its Feedback to Climate,” is published in the advanced online publication of Nature Climate Change on Jan. 20, 2013. To access the abstract or full text (subscribers only) of the article after the embargo lifts, use the digital object identifier (DOI) number 10.1038/NCLIMATE1796 at this link:

This work was supported by an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award, the NSF Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, a DOE National Institute for Climatic Change Research (NICCR) grant, and a Harvard Forest Bullard Fellowship to Frey.

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January 21, 2013 1:35 pm

“University of New Hampshire invertedly overheats soil, and pronounces a climate change result”

Bob Kutz
January 21, 2013 1:36 pm

Makes me wonder; how warm would the air have to be to heat the coils in my oven to glowing red? And how long would the air have to stay that warm before it happened?
Think I can get a grant?

January 21, 2013 1:37 pm

How is climate change going to make soil warmer while leaving everything else unchanged?

January 21, 2013 1:39 pm

It shows that there is still good money to be made from conducting nonsense experiments, if you can link the results to Climate Alarmism and CO2. A lack of intelligence is even a positive qualification in this field.

Paul Westhaver
January 21, 2013 1:46 pm

spell checkers are only kinda good

Paul Westhaver
January 21, 2013 1:50 pm

heating from below with electric cables seems appropriate as a model for plant growth above a geo thermal site…..How about a calibrated sun lamp?… scientists?

Paul Westhaver
January 21, 2013 1:56 pm

invertedly…..hmmmm ok……heating from below…AND overheating….OK nevermind.

Doug Huffman
January 21, 2013 2:03 pm

. Kutz, traditionally, incandescent soot/gasses is used.

January 21, 2013 2:12 pm

Plants are made directly from the CO2 in the atmosphere especially close to the plant. The plant converts the CO2 in the atmosphere to plant material (carbon) and oxygen in a process called photosynthesis that utilizes that thing that glows in the sky. Studies show that CO2 levels near farms and forests is dramatically lower than it is over cities. I don’t know if the net result of warmer temps will produce more net co2 after the plants closeby consume it or if they will saturate but simply measuring what the microbes in the soil do is clearly not going to lead to a result anyone can bank on without considering the totality of the system.
In any case it all seems like angels dancing on the heads of pins. It is clear that extra co2 is not having nearly the effect the original IPCC and Hansen predicted. So what if soil might produce another bit of co2. They all thought this whole global warming thing would be obvious by now. They thought that it would be broiling and several degrees warmer and obvious to everyone that this was a problem not 40th on a list of 40 top problems in the world. They were banging the drum saying that natural variability was inconsequential and totally dominated by co2 based on what they saw from 1979-1998. Instead they are forced to argue in 2013 fully 30 years after Hansen called the alarm why there is a 16 year haitus in temperatures and where the energy went from this missing 16 year rise they thought was impossible and drowned out by the forcing of co2. They are forced to obfuscate their arguments by pointing out that the US was hot this summer while ignoring that the whole globe was actually nothing special. They are forced to obfuscate and try to argue that a storm this summer was evidence of global warming. This is precisely the kind of argument they said was bogus. They said pointing to regions or pointing to individual events was weather and only long term trends were important but now the long term trend for 16 years is 0.000 and the 60 year trend is 0.07C/decade or 1/5-1/10thth what they predicted it would be. They told us repeatedly and with hubris and disdain, condescension that looking at individual countries or years or storms was stupid. They are forced to explain why sea temperatures haven’t moved significantly in 10 years or sea levels are decelerating not accelerating and not moving any faster than they were before humans ever freed co2, not a 10th of a millimeter faster than 200 years ago, why antarctica is gaining ice extent and ice mass not losing it. Really we are supposed to believe a hocus pocus experiment like this is relevant on a fraction of a fraction of something that isn’t doing anything?
These studies are clearly only for the last remaining believers who cling to the idea that suddenly at some point there is going to be a discontinuous sudden and much more rapid acceleration in sea levels, sea temperatures, air temperatures than ever seen before. This is usually called hoping for a miracle but they call it science.

Paul Marko
January 21, 2013 2:14 pm

They could have run out to Yellowstone and sampled varying distances from some mud pots and not wasted 18 years of elecricity. Or possibly cut travel expenses checking near Arkansas’ hot baths. All natural soil warming.

Gary Pearse
January 21, 2013 2:17 pm

The micro bugs ‘activity’ certainly must include increasing their numbers which uses up a lot of carbon! Also if top-down warming is going to heat the soil around the trees, leafing out goes with it and the trees wouldn’t be in winter mode – they’d be sucking up CO2 as well. A totally imbecilic experiment. Any microbiols and botanists out there?

Rud Istvan
January 21, 2013 2:22 pm

As a Harvard grad, at first I was horrified. But it is only their research plot, not their research…
The recent journal Nature Climate Change has published a lot of other dodgy stuff in its short history. For example, a follow up to the grossly faulty PNAS article on US maize yields, guest posted here courtesy of Anthony last year, in its inaugural edition. The CYMMT data is real, but lacked adequately watered control plots. See my book Gaia’s Limits for details.
This study, as Anthony points out, is even worse methodologically. Huh?

January 21, 2013 2:23 pm

Ok, so does this mean that we now have to label underground lava chamber, and fumaroles as zones of global warming ??? Should they then be removed for the sake of humanity? Must we then pump cold water in to the earth to “cool” its temperature? Soothe its fever?

January 21, 2013 2:25 pm

Warmer soils release additional CO2 into atmosphere;….

So does warm beer. Can I have some funding to further drink study this effect please?

January 21, 2013 2:27 pm

Does this mean we must now pump cold water down in to lava chambers and fumaroles in order to cool earth’s “fever”?

John F. Hultquist
January 21, 2013 2:34 pm

The Wikipedia entry for “alchemy” says “Western alchemy is recognized as a protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine.” Once again the world is developing an amazing amount of proto-XYZ and as soon as folks figure out what use is to be made of it they will get back to us.
A funny thing is that the local university has utility tunnels carrying within them sufficient energy to melt the snow above, whether that be on grass or concrete. Prof. Frey could expand the research for very little money by funding a local student worker.

William H
January 21, 2013 2:46 pm

I sincerely hope that their heating coils were powered by windmills, or I will be demanding my money back, or maybe I will sue them for adding “poisonous” carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, forcing me to breath the results of their “experiment”.

January 21, 2013 2:48 pm

We’ve been to this patch of woods before, with Jerry Melillo too. We weren’t too bent out of shape over the buried wire heating system before. A lot of science is done by changing a single variable and seeing how the systems responds. Certainly there are major seasonal effects, but some of this is worth doing. The alternative is to compare two patches of woods with very similar soils and maybe species that are separated by 5C° of climatology. That’s about 500m vertically, not sure how far north-south. sys:

Yet global warming may affect the capacity of trees to store carbon by altering forest nitrogen cycling, concludes a study led by Jerry Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The paper summarizes the results of a 7-year study at Harvard Forest in central Massachusetts, in which a section of the forest (about one-quarter of an acre) was artificially warmed about 9°F above ambient, to simulate the amount of climate warming that might be observed by the end of the century without aggressive actions to control greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation.
The study confirmed, as others have, that a warmer climate causes more rapid decomposition of the organic matter in soil, leading to an increase in carbon dioxide being released to the atmosphere.
But the study also showed, for the first time in a field experiment, that warmer temperatures stimulate the gain of carbon stored in trees as woody tissue, partially offsetting the soil carbon loss to the atmosphere. The carbon gains in trees, the scientists found, is due to more nitrogen being made available to the trees with warmer soil.
“Tree growth in many of the forests in the United States is limited by the lack of nitrogen,” Melillo says. “We found that warming causes nitrogen compounds locked up in soil organic matter to be released as inorganic forms of nitrogen such as ammonium, a common form of nitrogen found in garden fertilizer. When trees take up this inorganic nitrogen, they grow faster and store more carbon.”

January 21, 2013 3:05 pm

(TIC mode: On)So that’s what happens when soil is heated from beneath by electric cables. I never knew that global warming was due to overheating of buried transmission cables.(TIC mode: Off)

January 21, 2013 3:13 pm

OK, I have had enough. I nominate this piece of cutting edge research for an
IgNobel Prize Improbable Research

January 21, 2013 3:20 pm

We don’t get many volcanoes ’round these parts, but if we evah do, we can use this here study to surmise what’s going to happen as the heat comes up from below.
(There’s various rude jokes, crude puns, and lewd suggestions that can use “heat from below” as a springboard, but I’d better not go there.)

Ian W
January 21, 2013 3:41 pm

You have to understand how this occurs.
Professor (or more often assistant professor looking for tenure) calls Grant Office and asks if there is any research funding available for Grad Students/Doctoral Theses/Post Doc. Grant office says some funds may be available for research into Global Warming/Climate Change, but from talking to funding agency the research must have result showing positive feedback, death of species that kind of thing or it won’t be considered in this years tranche.
Professor goes and talks ideas through with potential researchers comes up with idea that will definitely produce more carbon dioxide. Puts in proposal to Grant Office who format the 21 hard copy proposals and Fedex them to the funder.
The research awarded is primitive and everyone knows the result that is needed. Difficulty in the exercise is dressing up the final report so funder won’t notice how simplistic the ‘research’ is.
Been there seen that.
So if you think THIS research was poor – remember there were many other proposals that were worse and turned down.

January 21, 2013 3:42 pm

Well I’ve been told that I Am “low on the charisma scale” so does that mean that I am “critically important to the carbon balance of the atmosphere”?

Susan S.
January 21, 2013 3:48 pm

I don’t think it has any bearing on soil heating in my neck of the woods (250km north east of Edmonton, Alberta). As I have no geothermal activity present, it takes time to warm the soil from the surface, while using only sunshine to warm it. As noted last year when we were digging holes over a foot in depth, (to plant heritage tomatoes), it was noticeably colder the deeper we went.

January 21, 2013 3:56 pm

I work with the soil every day, digging down to a foot or more, in other words, the topmost layer with the most microbial activity. When the temperature drops below freezing (I’m at 50 degrees North), the soil follows suit and freezes to as much as 6 inches down. As the temperature rises through the year, so does the temperature of the soil until in July and August it comes up warm and powdery for the top four inches and reasonably warm down to a foot. By reasonably warm, I mean not cold or even very cool, just pleasantly neutral like any commodity you would handle at room temperature (20C) such as dried beans from a kitchen container.
The only heating source for the soil is radiant and ambient heat. It’s abundantly clear to me that this is responsible for the soil temperature varying from sub-zero in winter to 20C plus in summer. Therefore, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to theorise that a sustained rise of 5C in the ambient temperature won’t lead to a sustained rise in soil temperature of the same amount. If the 5C rise in ambient temperature is applied throughout the year then the 5C rise in the soil will ride up and down with it.
This like for like rise would be not be diminished or otherwise affected by the lag of the soil temperature behind ambient temperature. The only reason the soil temperature never reaches the ambient temperature (summer highs or winter lows) is because the ambient temperature turns back the other way before the soil temperature has a chance to reach equilibrium. If you added a permanent 5C to the annual temperature graph of Pertersham, Massachusetts (ie 5C to each and every month above the historical averages) then the soil temperature would lag by roughly the same degree as before but at 5C higher at any point in time.
If the researchers are seeking to mimic the effects on the soil and its microbes, of a 5C rise in temps, in line with the worst predictions for this century (which I don’t for a moment think will happen) then heating patches of soil by 5C is a perfectly sound way of doing it. It doesn’t matter how they do it, so long as the thermometers they stick in the ground at relevant depths read 5C higher than usual. That may be difficult; there may be an ugly reverse temperature gradient but I doubt it. She said its like a heating blanket under the soil. Heating blankets and for that matter, floor coils, don’t blaze bright orange like a room heater. Their effects are subtle and in this case I’m sure it’s easy enough to lay the coils just below the test depth and keep them at 5C above the usual soil temperature for that time of year (or 5C above the surrounding unheated soil if that’s how they do it). I doubt if it needs to be more than 6C or so above normal once steady state has been achieved (by steady state I mean a one-off rise to a steady 5C above and then shadowing the ‘correct’ temperature thereafter at a ‘steady 5C above’ which is itself a steady state for the purposes of the experiment.
I don’t see any problem with this experiment if it is carried out with the few precautions described above. I think it is a good first step to seeing what happens to microbes in the soil in a world that is 5C warmer. If it shows significant results (and it seems to be doing so) then that might shed light on what would happen to these microbes after a long drawn out 1C rise- which actually is a scenario worth entertaining for some of us on WUWT.

January 21, 2013 5:48 pm

So, this got funding dollars, but NOAA had to skimp and save pennies to conduct their rudimentary UHI experiment. Call me unimpressed and baffled.

January 21, 2013 6:46 pm

So they demonstrated that temperature drives atmospheric CO2. Natural biological CO2 sources dwarfs mans puny contribution.

January 21, 2013 7:12 pm

captainfish says:
“Does this mean we must now pump cold water down in to lava chambers and fumaroles in order to cool earth’s “fever”?”
Well , in 1973 a volcanic eruption in the Westmann Islands in Iceland at in a meadow at the fringe of a town with 5000 inhabitants, so they had to evacuate the town , and later when they could return the place sported a new 200 meter high volcano wit lot of warm lava at its base where the meadow had been previously. One of the first thing the returnees did , apart from digging most of their houses and streets out of the ash piles , and cleaning them up , was to sink simple heat exchangers and tanks into the base of the new mountain and connect it to pipes through which cold water was pumpted in and use the hot water that came out of the other end to heath their houses with and other activities for which hot water a required indigrent, thus eliminiating the use oil burners that where previously used for heating purposes. I have not cheched if they still use this resource in the same way or if it the lava has cooled down so much that it is no longer cost effective, as I expect they have since that time also connected pipes to the geothermal plants on the mainland, but I remember seeing news about this, then rather noel way, of generating hot water when the utilties installtions filled it’s second decade anniversary and it was still going full blast.
So I say no, no sense in pumping cold water into lava chamers to cool the down, unless you intend to put the hot water to som use, you have to take it back out anyway to if you want to get any cooling done.

January 21, 2013 7:29 pm

I didn’t see where in the study they were confirming, via accurate long term measurement, any actual warming of the soil naturally… Just how deep does warming penetrate each year and exactly what temperature levels per strata are maintained
I mean, all the hot air these scientists believe is going to overheat that poor ground;
–in a woods,
–on shaded ground,
–excuse me, on shaded damp ground,
–or alternatively, on shaded dry as a bone ground,
–covered with leaves, in spite of the invasive European earthworm (Lumbricus rubellus ) attempts to munch most leaf litter every year.
All that science effort and it makes one wonder why the foundation of their claim i.e., soil temperature, is not studied first before inventing new ways to compost soil. And using carbon based fuel, (coal?), to generate the electricity for their composting effort.

January 21, 2013 8:50 pm

I repeat. Never underestimate the fungi.
And did they mention that fungal CO2 has the same isotopic signature (along with photosynthetic) as human?

January 21, 2013 9:23 pm

The idea of ‘climate scientist’ is often a misnomer, and the correct term should be ‘climate propagandist’. Too much ‘research’ is not so much the search for truth but as a way to confirm their bias.
The question is, as with politicians, are they clever and know exactly what they are doing, or are they really that stupid!

Climate Ace
January 21, 2013 10:13 pm

Temperature gradients affect the distribution of many species of vertebrate animals and vascular plants. The ‘performance’ of vertebrate animals and vascular plants also varies with temperature gradients. Try growing potatoes in frost prone areas, for example.
It is a no brainer that the same would be true for soil fauna (which is where, after all, we find a large proportion of our biodiversity).
This experiment is a tiny but potentially useful step to start to get some sort of handle on what happens when we change the temperatures in one of hundreds (perhaps thousands, depending on your preferred typology) of different soil types and thousands of different soil faunal assemblages, globally.
One small step for mankind….?

January 21, 2013 10:25 pm

I don’t see any reason to tar Tiljander with the Mannian reputation (with the Mannian-Tiljanderish label that you are using), as far as I have understood, she has been open about her results and by no means participated in the Mannian science.

Jeff Alberts
January 21, 2013 10:32 pm

Pethefin says:
January 21, 2013 at 10:25 pm
I don’t see any reason to tar Tiljander with the Mannian reputation (with the Mannian-Tiljanderish label that you are using), as far as I have understood, she has been open about her results and by no means participated in the Mannian science.

It’s the way Mann used some of the Tiljander data that garnered the label, not the Tiljander data itself, nor the originator of the data.

January 21, 2013 10:33 pm

January 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm
I repeat. Never underestimate the fungi.
And did they mention that fungal CO2 has the same isotopic signature (along with photosynthetic) as human?
I never used CO2 injection in any of my planted fish tanks once I got the hang of organic production. Amazing what happens when you put a heater in the gravel. Like you said, never underestimate the fungi!

January 22, 2013 12:10 am

Serita D. Frey, Ph.D. (Ecology), Colorado State University.
She’s not even a Biologist.
A bs environmentalist writing for “Nature Climate Change journal” a bs environmentalists journal.

January 22, 2013 3:24 am

Another reality blithely denied is the fact the ground is freezing more deeply than usual this winter, rather than less. The depth of the freeze mostly involves the amount of snow cover. Snow acts as a blanket of insulation. Out in Chicago old water pipes that were put in decades ago are freezing and cracking.
During dry winters I have seen the ground freeze more than four feet down. The dry but very cold November-December of 1989 caused problems here in Southern New Hampshire, (not far north of the site of this study,) for a local road crew attempting to dig trenches for storm drains. The back-hoe had to pry under and lift plates of frozen soil which grew thicker and thicker as time passed. The frozen soil grew so thick, and so rock-like, that the scoop on the back-hoe could not break through from above, and had to work from the side of the trench. They barely finished the job, and the job wasn’t all that well done. The ground settled oddly, when the replaced chunks of soil thawed in the spring, and the uneven road required more work in the spring.
But why bother with reality when the money is aimed on the “Cause?”
The answer was seen in the uneven road, which was the result of attempting to do road-work despite the frozen reality. Ignoring reality has consequences.

January 22, 2013 5:33 am

Just as the alarmists think one storm, not a hurricane, in NJ is a sign of the end of the world and that the US climate is the whole world’s climate, a few square meters of forest floor is a good proxy for the rest of the planet. Cannot you extrapolate that, if one person gets fat, everybody will get fat? Come on! It’s so logical, a 2-year old would understand.

Gavin Hetherington
January 22, 2013 5:35 am

gymnosperm says:
January 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm
And did they mention that fungal CO2 has the same isotopic signature (along with photosynthetic) as human?
That’s interesting. Are there any estimates of how much carbon (C13?) fungai release into the atmosphere annually?

January 22, 2013 6:15 am

Another reminder that one thing that has not changed is that the AGW ‘research’ bucket is deep and well filled . Quality and scientific validity don’t matter a dam , the only real thing that matters is if the results support ‘the cause ‘

January 22, 2013 6:17 am

MartinGAtkins says:
January 22, 2013 at 12:10 am

Serita D. Frey, Ph.D. (Ecology), Colorado State University.
She’s not even a Biologist.
A bs environmentalist writing for “Nature Climate Change journal” a bs environmentalists journal.

Why the criticism? Ecologists study systems of life. Biologists study individual lifeforms.
I considered taking an Ecology course back in college. I concluded I didn’t have time, but I did look through a couple text books. There was as much systems math & PDEs in them as our EE textbooks.
To understand an ecosystem, you pretty much have to start with the soil (or water). Soil is where nutrients, fungi, bacteria, roots, worms, etc. all intermingle. A tree is a relative desert.

Tom Johnson
January 22, 2013 6:33 am

I don’t think soil temperature is as simple as some have implied. There is a net flow of heat from the earth’s core, tempered by a whole lot of inches of soil and rock insulation. There is also heating at the surface due to air temperature, and solar radiation, and cooling, as well. The top several hundred feet of surface are roughly at the average annual temperature, except for the top few feet. This leads to an interesting observation that well water temperature is often equal to the mean surface temperature, but that’s another story.
However, in the winter, many regions are covered by an insulating layer of snow. In my home of Northern Minnesota, the ground would often freeze in the fall, and later get covered by snow. Often, the ground would thaw so that there would be no frost in the ground in the spring when the snow melted. In these cases, the heating came from below. There would often be deep frost below the roads, where the snow was removed. This led to the troublesome “spring breakup” of the roads, even when the fields had no frost.
To me, most every experiment is worthwhile, particularly if you accurately record the data and report the results. This one seems to fit those criteria, and the results even temper the Global Warming religion.

January 22, 2013 6:38 am

Gavin Hetherington:
At January 22, 2013 at 5:35 am you ask

gymnosperm says:
January 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

And did they mention that fungal CO2 has the same isotopic signature (along with photosynthetic) as human?

That’s interesting. Are there any estimates of how much carbon (C13?) fungai release into the atmosphere annually?

No, none that are credible.
Indeed, when one considers the types and distributions of fungi it is hard the think of a way to make a credible estimate of the annual emission of CO2 from fungi and its annual variability.
This is one of several reasons why isotope studies provide no information of use to understanding the cause(s) of recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

January 22, 2013 6:43 am

The formatting of my post went wrong so this is a -hopefully – corrected resubmission.
Gavin Hetherington:
At January 22, 2013 at 5:35 am you ask

gymnosperm says:
January 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

And did they mention that fungal CO2 has the same isotopic signature (along with photosynthetic) as human?

That’s interesting. Are there any estimates of how much carbon (C13?) fungai release into the atmosphere annually?

No, none that are credible.
Indeed, when one considers the types and distributions of fungi it is hard the think of a way to make a credible estimate of the annual emission of CO2 from fungi and its annual variability.
This is one of several reasons why isotope studies provide no information of use to understanding the cause(s) of recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

January 22, 2013 3:32 pm

Wonder what their electric bill runs at?

January 22, 2013 5:51 pm

Biological and ecological science is difficult to control in the open. This kind of “field” study has been done by many people from many places over many decades. Different people try to look at one parameter from many different angles to find out how “ecosystems” operate. Farmers experiment on crop yields, botanists study other parameters, microbiologists study others. Marine ecologists study life from another angle. Different people try different points of view over the decades and record what they see. Long term experiments are inherited from one generation to the next to see how ecosystems evolve, or recover from the last glaciation.
The Earth has been entirely transformed by a billion years of biology. The primordial atmosphere has been completely replaced by an atmosphere of biological origin. The atmosphere will evolve, just like biology evolves. There are global nitrogen cycles, carbon cycles, water cycles and energy cycles. None of this is novel, but it’s hard for just one person to put all of global biology into a full historical perspective because people are just starting to write everything down.
There are some quantitative guesses regarding totals. Global surface to atmosphere exhange is fast with carbon, about 20 percent per year. Nitrogen and oxygen exchange large amounts but is a lower percent than CO2. It’s impossible for CO2 to “accumulate” in the atmosphere, huge amounts are removed by global photosynthesis, and replaced by biological respiration.
Soil biology respires many times more CO2 than large animal life, and oceans exchange CO2 from biology and from deep geology. Tropical termites alone have far more biomass than humans and therefore exchange more CO2 than all human activity.
Simple accounting of fossil fuel burning shows that total has reached about 4 percent of the annual biological flux. That means that humans add barely 4 percent to the atmospheric CO2 exchange cycle. A hundred years ago it may have been about 1 percent of the annual flux. So, in 1910 when the CO2 was about 300 ppm, the amount of fossil fuel CO2 was about 1 percent of that 300 ppm, which is 3 ppm. As the decades pass, that 1 percent became 2 percent, then 3 percent somewhere in the 1980s. At that time, the CO2 was 340 ppm, so the anthropogenic portion was 3 percent of that, which is about 10 ppm. When the atmosphere reaches 400 ppm, the amount of human CO2 will still be about 4 percent of the biological flux, or about 16 ppm.
This is entirely beneficial to photosysnthesis, which has been evolving to improve itself at removing CO2 from the atmosphere for a billion years. Plants have been evolving in response to lower CO2 for millions of years. Fairly recently, about 10 to 20 million years ago, CO2 became so scarce that a completely new biocellular structures evolved, that we call CAM and C4 pathways, that have started to displace older C3 plants in areas with higher temps and lower moisture.
Anyone who thinks that increased CO2 is “bad” for the environment is sadly ignorant of the facts.

Brian H
January 22, 2013 8:01 pm

logiclogiclogic says:
January 21, 2013 at 2:12 pm

This is usually called hoping for a miracle disaster but they call it science.


Brian H
January 22, 2013 8:04 pm

bw says:
January 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm

The whole anti-CO2 meme is perverse.

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