What an Engineer Finds Extraordinary about Climate

climate_engineerGuest essay by Ronald D Voisin

For quite some time we have known that atmospheric CO2 lags Earthly temperature in both directions. This fact has been repeatedly and internationally validated at both ends of the Earth. It is, frankly and simply, a known fact. But here is the rub. Very few ever speak to why this would be so obviously true. Is it not painfully obvious? How big does the picture have to be and how many brilliant colors does it need to be painted with before it becomes widely recognized?

Here are the primary sources of natural CO2 release in decreasing order of quantity of carbon emitted: oceanic release, microbial decay, insect activity, frozen terrestrial release; volcanic release; forest fire and then mammalia exhalations and emissions – summing to a total of ~325-485 petagrams. Then there is our ~2.0% anthropogenic release at ~8-9 petagrams. (Based on terrestrial sources alone, without oceans, anthropogenic release is ~3-4% of the natural flux. Some argue that the oceans are net absorbers and ignore the oceanic release estimate below. However, according to the argument presented herein the oceans are net emitters as indicated below when warmed by ~0.5oC per century).

Voisin_table1Notes: Interglacial estimates come from my notes of IPCC, NASA and NOAA web-sites of 2005 and 2006, when these sites carried detailed analysis of natural CO2 emission sources. Terrestrial estimates of CO2 emission place the anthropogenic contribution at ~3-4%. The annual oceanic release estimate above is modeled (from laboratory experiment by NOAA) and would arise only if and when the oceans begin to follow a 0.5oC per century temperature rise profile (as they most likely have been). Thermal modulations to all non-human emission can be expected to be quite large (up to 2X and more at the extremes of global temp). The only value that can be estimated with high accuracy is the anthropogenic contribution which is far less than both the uncertainty and, most importantly, the variability of many of the natural emission sources.

We don’t know for sure that the oceans are net-absorbers or net-emitters at this time. Just as we don’t know for sure that the oceans are net-cooling or net-warming at this time. However, I have to say that it appears entirely plausible, and in evidence, that the oceans have recently been net-emitters (and largely, almost entirely, accountable for the current spike in atmospheric CO2). The Earth has been warming for ~150 years since the Little Ice Age (actually ~400 years since the coldest depths of the Little Ice Age). Regardless of their enormous thermal mass, the oceans have to respond to this thermal trend at some point (historically they respond vigorously at our current level of <800y least-count detection). And if they are warmed, the oceans will surely dump a component of their vast dissolved CO2 into the atmosphere (as they most likely have been).

——————————————————————————-

Many will rightfully argue with the exact magnitudes of various emission sources in the table. But the ordering of the table is in little doubt. Microbial and insect emissions are by far the #1 and #2 CO2 emitting life forms on Earth (by ~10x each). We humans are a distant 4th – somewhat less than, but on par with, non-human mammalia. And the fact that all these Natural sources would be stimulated by increased Earthly temperature is in little doubt.

Now I ask you: Is it not clear that the Earth has warmed over the last 400 years since the coldest depth of the Little Ice Age? Is it not similarly clear that we should expect atmospheric CO2 to rise given 400 years of this thermal stimulation?

When we examine the seasonal variation in atmospheric CO2 we see an indisputable clockwork signature. Some ask about this variation: What processes start net CO2 production in September and end net production in May? – As this is how the seasonal variation seemingly goes.

But a much better way to ask the same question is: What CO2 sequestering process slows beginning in September and doesn’t recover till May?

And the answer would be photosynthetic sequestering of the majority Earthly vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere.

How can it be made clearer that CO2 is currently rising and varying for natural cause?

Lastly, let me make an obvious prediction predicated on the prediction that the Earth has recently begun to cool and assuming that some appreciable level of cooling (0.1-0.3 degree C) takes place over the next several years.

Atmospheric CO2 is going to spike hard in the coming years. And before it stops spiking it will likely attain an annual contribution level appreciably larger than the then-current anthropogenic emission.

Why? Mauna Loa makes clear that majority CO2 sinks respond significantly to a temperature drop with a short lag-time measured in only months or even weeks. Natural CO2 sources, however, respond much more slowly to the same thermal perturbation (the oceans in particular).

For more detail on these issues (along with an intriguing possibility to “save the planet”, see: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ygv83mwpytn4p65/AN%20ENGINEER%E2%80%99S%20TAKE%20ON%20MAJOR%20CLIMATE%20CHANGE%20F.53.pdf


 

About the Author

Ronald D Voisin is a retired engineer. He spent 27 years in the Semiconductor Lithography Equipment industry mostly in California’s Silicon Valley. Since retiring in 2007, he has made a hobby of studying climate change. Ron received a BSEE degree from the Univ. of Michigan – Ann Arbor in 1978 and has held various management positions at both established semiconductor equipment companies and start-ups he helped initiate. Ron has authored/co-authored 55 patent applications, 24 of which have issued.

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The human production figure is produced by the IPCC and is a gross figure. if you are talking about the impact you have to use the net figure and it is estimated we remove 50 percent of our annual production primarily with agriculture and forestry.
Even if we use the 8 – 9 PgC shown in the table notice that is within the range of estimates of five of the natural sources. If we use the net figure it is within the range of estimates of all of them.
Finally, I am confused by the claim of continued increase of atmospheric CO2. If the predicted cooling occurs then the oceans will cool and their capacity to absorb more CO2 will increase. Since they are the largest sink, it would appear the CO2 levels should decrease.

Oh help, not again…
Ronald, there are a lot of objections against what you wrote.
– To begin with, the mass balance:
Humans emit ~9 PgC/year as CO2. The whole biosphere is a net absorber of ~1 PgC/year as can be calculated from the oxygen balance:
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/287/5462/2467.short
and more recent:
http://www.bowdoin.edu/~mbattle/papers_posters_and_talks/BenderGBC2005.pdf
As about 4.5 PgC/year is the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, some 3.5 PgC/year must be absorbed somewhere by nature.
Most natural sinks are quite slow and/or limited in capacity. One exception: the oceans, but the ocean surface is limited in capacity, due to the Revelle/buffer factor: ~0.5 PgC/year, some 10% of the increase in the atmosphere.
The rest goes into the deep oceans: ~3 GtC/year. That is calculated from the (still sparse) measurements over all the oceans:
http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/pubs/outstand/feel2331/maps.shtml
The area weighted pCO2 difference air-ocean surface is 7 μatm, thus pushing more CO2 into the oceans than the oceans release…
If the oceans are net absorbers of CO2 and the whole biosphere (plants, bacteria, insects, animals) is a net absorber of CO2, what then is the cause of the increase?
– There is a pure theoretical possibility that the (seasonal) turnover over oceans/biosphere increased over time, thereby dwarfing the human contribution. But there is not the slightest indication that that happened, to the contrary: the residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere slightly increased over time, which is an indication of a rather stable turnover for an increasing CO2 content in the atmosphere.
– The seasonal and opposite short-term response to temperature (4-5 ppmv/°C) is caused by short term responses of vegetation to temperature changes:
Seasonal:
http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/klim_img/seasonal_CO2_d13C_MLO_BRW.jpg
mainly as result of the growth and decay of extra-tropical vegetation in the NH.
Short-term:
http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/klim_img/temp_dco2_d13C_mlo.jpg
mainly as result of temperature/rain patterns in the tropical forests.
The longer term trend is NOT caused by vegetation, as the oxygen balance shows. Thus short term variability and long term trends are from separate processes.
The long term response to temperature changes, from decades to multi-millennia is dominated by the oceans, as vegetation growth (temperature and area) in general responds with more uptake for higher temperatures.
The average long term CO2 response to temperature is not more than 8 ppmv/°C, the drop of CO2 between the MWP and LIA is only ~6 ppmv for ~0.8°C drop:
http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/klim_img/law_dome_1000yr.jpg
If we may assume a similar increase in temperature since the LIA, then the contribution of temperature to the CO2 increase is not more than 8 ppmv. The rest of the 100+ ppmv increase is from humans…
See further:
http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/co2_origin.html

richard verney

Tim Ball says:
July 15, 2014 at 12:27 am
////////////
The oceans have yet to cool.
And if they do cool, it will be by fractions of a degree (hundredths, maybe even thousands of a degree, particularly at depth), and then there is the lag.
May be the reason why we see a lag of about 800 to 1000 years in the ice core data, is that this is predominantly the oceaninic signal ie., the lag in absorbing/releasing CO2 in mass in response to temperature change which temperature change in the oceans is damped given their size and latent heat capacity.
When people discuss rising CO2 emissions, I often retort, how have insect populations faired these past 50 or so years? These populations will not have stayed static, Our land use has driven away some of their predators, and warmer/milder winters lead to insect population increases etc.
Many people do realise that insects account for more GHG emissions than does Man. It helps put the issue in perspective.

What does PgC stand for?

stan stendera

This delightful article is exactly why I consider WUWT the world’s best website. It is informative, written in such a way that my limited scientific acumen can grasp, and it supplied new information to even this veteran of the climate wars.
It’s so good that I want to attempt to have it reproduced in my local newspaper. You guys have my E-mail. Tell me what I or the paper have to do to reproduce.

Alan Bates

James 1:04
P is Peta – an SI prefix meaning 10^15
g is gram
C is the chemical symbol for carbon
So, 1PgC is 10^15 gram of carbon or 10^12 long tons in US units.
M is mega, 10^6 1 million times
G is Giga, 10^9 1 thousand million times (US billion)
T is Tera 10^12 1 million million times
P is Peta 10^15 1 thousand million million
(Wiki is just fine on this)
Remember that 12 g of carbon is 40 as carbon dioxide

Dr Burns

Excellent. I’ve never been able to understand why most people seem to assume rising CO2 is our fault, without supporting evidence. If rising CO2 really is an EFFECT rather than a cause of rising temperatures, it makes a mockery of the many articles describing “climate sensivity”.

I don’t know if you had noticed, but the alarmists are currently moving away from global warming (probably because it isn’t happening) and are now screaming about ocean acidification.
Whats the bet as the oceans cool and absorb CO2 they will be making more overtones that man made CO2 is now causing damage to the oceans.
The alarmist religion won’t accept that it could be wrong, very wrong. So they simply find other things to scream about.

Edim

I think it’s the seasonal temperature variation/cycle (sst, sea ice), especially the nh/arctic, that causes the accumulation in atmospheric CO2. The biggest obstacle to understanding the atmospheric CO2 dynamics is the silly belief that the ‘pre-industrial’ CO2 was constant ~300 ppm (~200 ppm during glacials).
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/globalview/co2/co2_intro.html

John Carter

Amazing how one engineer figured out what no one else has! But seems to not know what most atmospheric and biology scientists know. Carbon is a cycle, a balance. Net additions to the atmosphere don’t just “settle in” to the earth as part of that cycle, and thus leave levels where they otherwise were in the atmosphere.
They rise. We add; they rise. Amazing that for over 800,000 years, basic carbon levels fluctuated around a couple hundred ppm in the atmosphere. And now, concomitant with man’s sudden couple hundred of years or so net additions (to changes in that carbon cycle through sink affect, and direct emittance), they have shot up to levels nowhere close to anywhere that they have been for the past eight hundred thousand years; and that are at least as high, according to scientific consensus, as anytime in the past couple of million. But this happened because after a million or more years, the earth simply, at the exact same microscopic pin prick of time time as mankind’s sudden addition to the atmosphere, added more back through completely natural, and independent channels.
Is it possible to concoct a worse argument? Almost anything will be posted on this site, no matter how scientifically outlandish and misinformed, won’t it. So long as it “sounds good,” and so long as it advances the belief, and fills the desire to believe, that the so called climate change problem is not a significant one, or one that we in fact are inadvertently creating through outdated processes and assumptions.

Nylo

Oceans are net absorbers. They would be net emitters due to the warming if we hadn’t put an additional 120ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere since the LIA. But we have, and this change of the conditions is the key. If they weren’t net absorbers they would not be becoming less alkaline.

John Carter

Amazing how one engineer figured out what no one else has! But seems to not know what most atmospheric and biology scientists know. Carbon is a cycle, a balance. Gross additions and subtractions that are largely balanced out matter far less than non balanced net additions of a smaller fractional amount (as with almost everything in biology, nature, physics). And thus net additions to the atmosphere don’t just “settle in” to the earth as part of that cycle, and thus leave levels where they otherwise were in the atmosphere, but change that balance.
And thus, they rise. We externally add; they rise. Amazing that for over 800,000 years, basic atmospheric carbon levels fluctuated, around a couple hundred ppm, loosely give or take. And now, concomitant with man’s sudden couple hundred of years or so net additions (to changes in that carbon cycle through sink affect, and direct emittance), they have shot up to levels completely different from anywhere that they have been for the past eight hundred thousand years. And that are at least as high, according to scientific consensus, as anytime in the past couple of million. But yet this happened because after a million or more years, the earth simply, at the exact same microscopic pin prick of time as mankind’s sudden addition to the atmosphere, suddenly added more back through completely natural, and independent channels.
Is it possible to concoct a worse argument? It appears almost anything will be posted here. So long as it “sounds good,” and so long as it advances the belief, and fills the desire to believe, that the so called climate change problem is not a significant one, or one that we in fact are inadvertently creating through outdated processes and assumptions.

richardscourtney

Ronald D Voisin:
Thankyou for your fine article that I enjoyed and I commend to others.
You argue that the observed recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration is a natural phenomenon. I don’t know if it is natural, anthropogenic (i.e. caused by humans), or some combination of natural and anthropogenic effects.
I write to correct one of your points, and the correction adds to (n.b. it strengthens) your argument.
You say

We don’t know for sure that the oceans are net-absorbers or net-emitters at this time. Just as we don’t know for sure that the oceans are net-cooling or net-warming at this time. However, I have to say that it appears entirely plausible, and in evidence, that the oceans have recently been net-emitters (and largely, almost entirely, accountable for the current spike in atmospheric CO2). The Earth has been warming for ~150 years since the Little Ice Age (actually ~400 years since the coldest depths of the Little Ice Age). Regardless of their enormous thermal mass, the oceans have to respond to this thermal trend at some point (historically they respond vigorously at our current level of <800y least-count detection). And if they are warmed, the oceans will surely dump a component of their vast dissolved CO2 into the atmosphere (as they most likely have been).

The oceans do not need to have “dumped” any CO2 into the atmosphere for the oceans to have caused the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration. And the oceans could be either net-CO2 absorbers or net-CO2 emitters while being responsible for the rise.
The reason for this is that the oceans in each hemisphere ‘pump’ CO2 into and out of the air as the hemispheric temperature varies with the seasons. This is the seasonal variation in atmospheric CO2 as measured at Mauna Loa.
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
For each year, the annual rise is the residual of the seasonal variation. And the emission of CO2 to the air is much greater than the residual which forms the annual rise: the anthropogenic emission alone is equivalent to about twice the annual rise.
So, there can be an annual rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration when total CO2 emission increases and the oceans increase their CO2 sequestration – so are net absorbers – but do not sequester all the increase.
Of importance is that the dynamics of the seasonal variation clearly indicate that the sinks could sequester all the emitted CO2 of each year but the residual of the seasonal variation indicates that they don’t. At issue is why they don’t. This is explicable as a change in equilibrium between atmospheric CO2 and oceanic CO2 provided by changed temperature (i.e. recovery from the Little Ice Age, LIA). And that agrees with your argument when the oceans could be net-CO2 absorbers and also when the oceans could be net-CO2 emitters.
Richard

John Carter

Sorry for apparently double posting. I didn’t realize the first comment had actually appeared. I also updated the comment and added more clarification, and took out anything that was possibly unnecessary or distracting in the conclusion.
I’ve recently tried to address what the real issue with the poorly named “climate change” problem is, which is the multi million year level change in the collective impact of all long lived greenhouse gases, http://theworldofairaboveus.blogspot.com/2014/07/whats-really-problem-and-how-bad-and.html (along with the confusing role of the one super major but very short lived greenhouse gas. http://theworldofairaboveus.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-confusion-of-water.html ) That doesn’t just go away by then saying this change (putting aside the extreme mis-assessment of the basic biology asserted in the original post above) has bizarrely happened to perfectly coincide in a mere hundred or two hundred year period out of more than a million, with our additions that, whether one loves ’em or hates ’em, are pretty geologically radical.

johnmarshall

What you reported is blindingly obvious to many on the sceptic side but ignored by the climateer alarmists.
Recent research has shown that volcanogenic CO2 is isotopically identical to that from fossil fuel use. Another blow to those of a nervous disposition.

richardscourtney says:
July 15, 2014 at 2:47 am
Richard, you continue to surprise me with your logic. If I have understand what you are saying that would give in numbers (all in GtC/year = PgC/year):
Case one, oceans are net absorbers (assuming zero contribution from the biosphere):
increase in the atmosphere = human emissions + ocean emissions – ocean sinks
4.5 GtC/year = 9 GtC/year + 87.8 GtC/year – 92.3 GtC/year
4.5 GtC/year = 4.5 GtC/year
Case two, oceans are net emitters:
4.5 GtC/year = 9 GtC/year + 92.3 GtC/year – 87.8 GtC/year
4.5 GtC/year = 13.5 GtC/year ???
Of course, some unknown natural sink could be absorbing both the extra CO2 from humans and oceans, but that is certainly not vegetation, as that is a proven sink for not more than 1 GtC/year.
But one need to mention that the equilibrium between oceans and atmosphere only shifts with 17 ppmv/°C, not the 100+ ppmv rise we see today. Humans have emitted 200+ ppmv in the same time frame…

John Finn

John Carter says:
July 15, 2014 at 1:57 am
Amazing how one engineer figured out what no one else has!

No – “one engineer” has not “figured” anything out. Read Ferdinand Engelbeen’s post.
The oceans are (currently) a net absorber of CO2. The biosphere, as a whole, is a net absorber of CO2. So where does the regular annual increase come from? . Here’s a clue: Atmospheric CO2 concentration increases by ~4.5 pgC each year. Humans emit ~9 pgC each year..
The temperature increase since ~1850 *might* be responsible for a ~10 ppm increase in CO2. However, the actual increase is more like 120 ppm.
The “one engineer” appears to have very little understanding of, for example, the 800 year lag. Mind he’s not alone in this. I’m often reading that the current CO2 increase is due to the lag since the MWP. Utterly staggering!

Ferdinand Engelbeen says:
July 15, 2014 at 12:48 am
Oh help, not again…

That just about says it all, Ferdie,. You have a great deal more patience than me. Still, it could be worse we could get Bart along with his “mathematical model” which only works by continually changing parameters to reflect “changing climate regimes” or some such crap.

Pete in Cumbria

One of the first comments I ever posted into was words to the effect of ‘the farmers did it’
That’s me talking as a farmer (also a trained electronic engineer), on the ground, in the dirt and wondering what is happening to my land and to all my neighbor’s land.
Of course they are all buoyed up by the UK Met Office where upon a record rainfall event in some tiny village somewhere in the UK is inevitably transformed into record rainfall for the entire country within days of the actual event. Chinese whispering ‘on speed’
I hadn’t fully thought through it at the time but gradually more and more things dawned on me especially Paul Homewood repeatedly pointing out that rainfall trends are flatlined and as I found myself, English average temps have plummeted over the last decade.
Microbial decay is the source of the increased CO2.
The farmers did it starting just after WW2 when munitions factories manufacturing nitrate, overnight, became fertiliser factories. Nitrogen is *the* limiting nutrient for soil bacteria and farmers gave them, and continue to give them, shed loads of the stuff. We all know how the Mauna Loa CO2 graph ‘takes off’ in the mid 40s. Thats why.
Also, in the spring-time, farmers bust their proverbial guts trying to warm up their land and hence extend their local growing season. Ploughing is the classical way, it massively reduces the albedo at a time when the sun is as high as it ever gets = May and June and when the baby plants get big enough to cover the soil. That is what the thermometers are recording. Put enough ‘locals’ together and you’ve got a regional, put regionals together and before long you’ve covered the entire country. Or, in the case of the farmers. 10% of the entire planet’s surface area. Also, the farmers go out of their way to remove excess moisture as it slows the warming process.
Plus, as we all probably know in the case of plastic buckets, sacks, bags whatever, sunlight destroys organic molecules. It made them in the first place but when a high energy photon shatters a carbon carbon bond, there is always an oxgen molecule around to mop up the damage and produce yet more CO2. So it is with organic material on/near the surface of bare exposed soil.
Our host here started with the idea of Urban Heat Islands – I suggest that those islands are floating in a Rural Heat Ocean.
As for The Pause…. simple – Low Till agriculture is leaving a higher albedo in the springtime.
Now, all we need is a long term record of soil organic content….
You may address me now as King Peter of England = something more likely to happen innit.

~325-485 pentagrams? What does the occult have to do with it?
Petagrams?
Never mind!

phlogiston

A helpful article. The biological contributions could be clarified since the categories in the table leave major gaps. The two most numerous multicellular organisms – crustaceans (marine copepods) and nematode worms (largely terrestrial) are missing. One expert on nematodes once said that if everything on earth disappeared except the nematodes, then the landscape of the earth’s surface including plants trees and many animals would still be visible, in ghostly outline. These guys are everywhere.
Likewise ocean and microbes are separate categories but many of earth’s bacteria/microbes are marine. Craig Venter, one of the co-discoverers of the human genome, once scooped a bucketful of seawayrr from the Sargasso sea and, by dna/rna analysis, discovered tens of thousands of species of marine bacteria new to science. There are a million or more bacteria in each cc of seawater.

richardscourtney

John Carter:
You begin your post at July 15, 2014 at 1:57 am and repeated at July 15, 2014 at 2:29 am July 15, 2014 at 1:57 am saying

Amazing how one engineer figured out what no one else has! But seems to not know what most atmospheric and biology scientists know. Carbon is a cycle, a balance.

NO! It is amazing that a troll would make so ignorant a statement.
Firstly, the carbon cycle is never in “a balance”, and it varies in response to altering equilibrium state; e.g. see the seasonal variation.
And we “figured out” this stuff long ago
(ref. Rorsch A, Courtney RS & Thoenes D, ‘The Interaction of Climate Change and the Carbon Dioxide Cycle’ E&E v16no2 (2005) )
And Salby reached very similar conclusions to Ronald D Voisin by considering the same information.
Our considerations showed that the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration can be modelled as being a result of either natural or anthropogenic effects.
Ferdinand Engelbeen makes considerations which lead him to think the rise is induced by the anthropogenic CO2 emission; see his post in this thread at July 15, 2014 at 12:48 am.
Ronald D Voisin assesses the same – very limited – available data and agrees with Salby’s conclusion that the rise is a natural effect.
And you fly in from Barsoom to show you know nothing about the subject but want to insult the above essay and its author.
Richard

Leo Smith

Interesting.
Stepping back yet more ammunition for the thesis that says that until you have eliminated all the alternatives and what ever is left is likely the truth, you have no right to condemn the accused.

Mark

Just correcting Alan’s post, there are about 1 million grams in a ton, not 1000. So 1PgC is about 1 Billion (Giga) tons Carbon.
HTH

Pete in Cumbria says:
July 15, 2014 at 3:10 am
Microbial decay is the source of the increased CO2.
I don’t think so: every bit of CO2 released by microbes was captured a few months to a few years before by plants out of the atmosphere. Thus even if the cycle increased thanks to fertilizers and mulching, that doesn’t change the total balance, as the amount of CO2 captured by the increased crop yield increased too…
But we have an alternative to see what the net result is of the biocycle: the oxygen balance. The net oxygen use caused by fossil fuel burning is known with reasonable accuracy. The reduction of oxygen in the atmosphere can be measured (be it at the edge of analytical possibilities). That shows that the biosphere as a whole is a net producer of O2, thus a net absorber of CO2 at ~1 GtC/year…

richardscourtney

Ferdinand Engelbeen:
re your post at July 15, 2014 at 3:04 am.
Please read my post at July 15, 2014 at 2:47 am again because you have misunderstood it. I do not dispute that the oceans are probably net CO2 absorbers at present.
Richard

John Finn

johnmarshall says:
July 15, 2014 at 3:02 am
What you reported is blindingly obvious to many on the sceptic side but ignored by the climateer alarmists.

It’s not blindingly obvious to me and I consider myself sceptical of CAGW (not necessarily AGW). Most sceptics accept that the increase in atmospheric CO2 since ~1850 is human-caused. That does not mean they think the result will be catastrophic warming.

A C Osborn

Slightly off topic, but interesting. I was looking at historic CO2 levels on Wiki and someone from Australia (Creative Commons Attribution) has added a Graph with text on the right hand side.
The graph purports to show the relationship between CO2 and Temperature.
It shows a 4 degree rise of temperature at 400ppm of CO2, which we have just reached with no increase in Temperature and at 550ppm shows a 9 degree increase in temperature which it states “A 550ppm CO2 level correlates to +9° C temperature rise, which was previously enough to trigger self-reinforcing climate change feedback loops leading to the Permian Extinction Event with 95% planetary die-off.”
WOW we are all going to die when CO2 gets to 550ppm.
Of course it totally ignores the CO2 Lag of Temperature rise shown on Wiki’s other graphs.
How can they let that addition stand?

johnmarshall says:
July 15, 2014 at 3:02 am
Recent research has shown that volcanogenic CO2 is isotopically identical to that from fossil fuel use. Another blow to those of a nervous disposition
John, that is not true: subduction volcanoes have an isotopical “fingerprint” of around zero per mil δ13C, deep magma emissions are around -4 to -7 per mil and fossil fuel burning around -24 per mil. The atmosphere is currently below -8 per mil and decreasing…

richardscourtney

Friends:
So people are aware of the complexity which some claim to understand in the almost complete absence of quantification, I again post the following summary.
Mechanisms of the carbon cycle
The IPCC reports provide simplified descriptions of the carbon cycle. In our paper, Rörsch et al. (2005), we considered the most important processes in the carbon cycle to be:
Short-term processes
1. Consumption of CO2 by photosynthesis that takes place in green plants on land. CO2 from the air and water from the soil are coupled to form carbohydrates. Oxygen is liberated. This process takes place mostly in spring and summer. A rough distinction can be made:
1a. The formation of leaves that are short lived (less than a year).
1b. The formation of tree branches and trunks, that are long lived (decades).
2. Production of CO2 by the metabolism of animals, and by the decomposition of vegetable matter by micro-organisms including those in the intestines of animals, whereby oxygen is consumed and water and CO2 (and some carbon monoxide and methane that will eventually be oxidised to CO2) are liberated. Again distinctions can be made:
2a. The decomposition of leaves, that takes place in autumn and continues well into the next winter, spring and summer.
2b. The decomposition of branches, trunks, etc. that typically has a delay of some decades after their formation.
2c. The metabolism of animals that goes on throughout the year.
3. Consumption of CO2 by absorption in cold ocean waters. Part of this is consumed by marine vegetation through photosynthesis.
4. Production of CO2 by desorption from warm ocean waters. Part of this may be the result of decomposition of organic debris.
5. Circulation of ocean waters from warm to cold zones, and vice versa, thus promoting processes 3 and 4.
Longer-term process
6. Formation of peat from dead leaves and branches (eventually leading to lignite and coal).
7. Erosion of silicate rocks, whereby carbonates are formed and silica is liberated.
8. Precipitation of calcium carbonate in the ocean, that sinks to the bottom, together with formation of corals and shells.
Natural processes that add CO2 to the system:
9. Production of CO2 from volcanoes (by eruption and gas leakage).
10. Natural forest fires, coal seam fires and peat fires.
Anthropogenic processes that add CO2 to the system:
11. Production of CO2 by burning of vegetation (“biomass”).
12. Production of CO2 by burning of fossil fuels (and by lime kilns).
Several of these processes are rate dependant and several of them interact.
At higher air temperatures, the rates of processes 1, 2, 4 and 5 will increase and the rate of process 3 will decrease. Process 1 is strongly dependent on temperature, so its rate will vary strongly (maybe by a factor of 10) throughout the changing seasons.
The rates of processes 1, 3 and 4 are dependent on the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The rates of processes 1 and 3 will increase with higher CO2 concentration, but the rate of process 4 will decrease.
The rate of process 1 has a complicated dependence on the atmospheric CO2 concentration. At higher concentrations at first there will be an increase that will probably be less than linear (with an “order” <1). But after some time, when more vegetation (more biomass) has been formed, the capacity for photosynthesis will have increased, resulting in a progressive increase of the consumption rate.
Processes 1 to 5 are obviously coupled by mass balances. Our paper assessed the steady-state situation to be an oversimplification because there are two factors that will never be “steady”:
I. The removal of CO2 from the system, or its addition to the system.
II. External factors that are not constant and may influence the process rates, such as varying solar activity.
Modeling this system is a difficult because so little is known concerning the rate equations. However, some things can be stated from the empirical data.
At present the yearly increase of the anthropogenic emissions is approximately 0.1 GtC/year. The natural fluctuation of the excess consumption (i.e. consumption processes 1 and 3 minus production processes 2 and 4) is at least 6 ppmv (which corresponds to 12 GtC) in 4 months. This is more than 100 times the yearly increase of human production, which strongly suggests that the dynamics of the natural processes here listed 1-5 can cope easily with the human production of CO2. A serious disruption of the system may be expected when the rate of increase of the anthropogenic emissions becomes larger than the natural variations of CO2. But the above data indicates this is not possible.
The accumulation rate of CO2 in the atmosphere (1.5 ppmv/year which corresponds to 3 GtC/year) is equal to almost half the human emission (6.5 GtC/year). However, this does not mean that half the human emission accumulates in the atmosphere, as is often stated. There are several other and much larger CO2 flows in and out of the atmosphere. The total CO2 flow into the atmosphere is at least 156.5 GtC/year with 150 GtC/year of this being from natural origin and 6.5 GtC/year from human origin. So, on the average, 3/156.5 = 2% of all emissions accumulate.
The above qualitative considerations suggest the carbon cycle cannot be very sensitive to relatively small disturbances such as the present anthropogenic emissions of CO2. However, the system could be quite sensitive to temperature. So, our paper considered how the carbon cycle would be disturbed if – for some reason – the temperature of the atmosphere were to rise, as it almost certainly did between 1880 and 1940 (there was an estimated average rise of 0.5 °C in average surface temperature).
It is that temperature effect which Ronald D Voisin has promoted in his essay above..
But the effect of temperature on atmospheric CO2 emission would be very different in an Ice Age because all the processes 1 to 7 and processes 8 and 10 would be different. There is no data which indicates seasonal variation in the last Ice Age and, therefore, the relationship of temperature and CO2 cannot be determined for that climate state.

Richard

Ferdinand Engelbeen cc John Finn
You quote the Revelle factor, but then dump the missing carbon in the deep ocean despite it never apparently going through the surface.
You do quote some sparse (low confidence) data for the deep ocean but then you seem highly confident with the result.
It seems you may be missing something…

Alan Bates says:
July 15, 2014 at 1:23 am
Remember that 12 g of carbon is 40 as carbon dioxide
________________________________________________________________________
MW CO2 is 44

Most interesting post, and most interesting comments thus far. Thanks to all, even the obvious propagandistic troll.
However, many folks seem to be thinking that more CO2 in the atmosphere is possibly a Bad Thing(TM). Why would you think that? The temperatures in this interglacial have been going up and down for thousands of years. Consider the following chart of GISP2 ice core data for the last 10,000 years:
http://iceagenow.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/GISP-last-10000-years.png
The Minoan Warming was hotter than the Roman Warming. The Roman Warming was hotter than the Medieval Warming. The Medieval Warming was hotter than the modern temperatures (not sure if we can call it a warming or not). And note the hottest warming was about 8,000 years ago well before the SUV became affordable and well before the winners started writing histories.
The temps go up and down regardless of mankind. Mankind does not make CO2 but only releases some that mother nature stored for future release. Why would we not welcome a much greener world that comes with more CO2 and warmer temperatures?
How many species died out in the Minoan Warming anyway? How bad was it 3,000 years ago during that warming? The Tao Te Ching is thought to have been written around 3,000 years ago but it does not mention any hard times due to the warm weather. If the climate being much warmer was such a problem, why did the ancients not leave us horror stories of those times?
Friends, and enemies also for that matter; the records reflect that mankind has precious little impact on the planetary climate. There does seem to be evidence that a warmer world causes a rise in CO2, but there is no evidence that is not a Good Thing (TM). And finally, if the world was really warming any at all, the government funded and controlled data sets would not have to be “adjusted” to hide the decline now would they?

Volcanoes – during little ice age periods volcanic emissions rise. The effect is not strong.

RH

Man began increasing CO2 when he discovered fire. I think we shouldn’t be suckered into denying that atmospheric CO2 is increasing due to human activity. The argument is about what the increase does to the planet. Personally, I think the increase is good and the earth is breathing a little easier now. So to Mother Earth, I say, you’re welcome.

The ice cores showed a 600-800 year lag between temperatures and CO2. And 800 years ago was the MWP.

tomcourt says:
July 15, 2014 at 3:38 am
You quote the Revelle factor, but then dump the missing carbon in the deep ocean despite it never apparently going through the surface.
The 7 μatm difference in CO2 pressure between atmosphere and ocean surface is the global average. In the tropical upwelling zone it is 350 μatm more CO2 pressure in the oceans vs. atmosphere and near the poles the opposite: 250 μatm more pressure in the atmosphere vs. the oceans. Thus the ocean surface near the poles is by far undersaturated. See:
http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/pubs/outstand/feel2331/exchange.shtml
The polar waters are sinking in the deep keeping the extra CO2 with them and returning to the surface some 500-1500 years later. Both the deep sinks and sources are less than 5% of the ocean surface, largely bypassing the rest of the surface layer. The largest part of the ocean surface is quite isolated from the deep oceans, but has a fast exchange with the atmosphere.
The ocean sink/source is partly seasonal, mainly the surface layer and partly continuous, mainly the deep ocean circulation. The latter is estimated at around 40 GtC/year, based on the reduction of the human δ13C “fingerprint” and the reduction of the 14C bomb test spike of the 1950’s. The ocean surface layer simply follows the atmospheric CO2 composition and levels…

richardscourtney

RH:
At July 15, 2014 at 4:03 am you say

Man began increasing CO2 when he discovered fire. I think we shouldn’t be suckered into denying that atmospheric CO2 is increasing due to human activity. The argument is about what the increase does to the planet. Personally, I think the increase is good and the earth is breathing a little easier now. So to Mother Earth, I say, you’re welcome.

NO! You are confusing politics with science. And the politics and the science each says you are wrong.
Human activities emit some CO2. That may be inducing a rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration or it may not. An understanding of the carbon cycle is required to determine whether it is or not.
Simplistic and silly arguments are applied to assert unjustifiable certainty that the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration is anthropogenic (i.e. results from human activities) or is natural. For example, there has been mention in this thread of the circular so-called ‘mass balance argument’. This ‘argument’ makes the improbable assumption that the carbon cycle was in balance (so unchanging) prior to the anthropogenic emission. The ‘argument’ then says the rise is more than the anthropogenic emission, and claims this must mean the anthropogenic emission caused the rise. But of course, it means nothing of the sort: it only means the ‘argument’ ASSUMED there would have been no change in the absence of the anthropogenic emission.
Real science is needed to gain a much greater understanding of the carbon cycle.
And that brings us to the politics.
The anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis consists of three parts; viz.
1.
Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are causing the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration.
2.
The rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration is overwhelming the atmospheric system to substantially increase the greenhouse effect (GHE).
3.
The increase to the GHE will result in harmful global warming (GW).
There are reasons to doubt each of those three components, but if any one of them were found to be wrong then the entire AGW hypothesis would have been found to be wrong.
So, in conclusion, the scientific and the political requirements each says that Point 1 should be questioned.
Richard

philjourdan says:
July 15, 2014 at 4:18 am
The ice cores showed a 600-800 year lag between temperatures and CO2. And 800 years ago was the MWP.
Yes, and that may give an increase of maximum 8 ppmv over the LIA, not the 100+ ppmv increase which we see today…

John Finn

philjourdan says:
July 15, 2014 at 4:18 am
The ice cores showed a 600-800 year lag between temperatures and CO2. And 800 years ago was the MWP.

Bingo! (the CO2 blog version, that is). In my post

John Finn says:
July 15, 2014 at 3:05 am

I made the following comment

The “one engineer” appears to have very little understanding of, for example, the 800 year lag. Mind he’s not alone in this. I’m often reading that the current CO2 increase is due to the lag since the MWP. Utterly staggering!

just over an hour later the inevitable happens ……

richardscourtney

Ferdinand:
I apologise if this is a duplicate but my previous posting vanished and has still not appeared after nearly two hours.
re your post at July 15, 2014 at 3:04 am.
Please read my post at July 15, 2014 at 2:47 am again. It does NOT say the oceans are not a net sink. It says the oceans could be responsible for the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration if they were a net sink and also if they were a net emitter. I explain this but you only see things through your own understanding and this hinders your ability to appreciate other interpretations, and there are many possible different interpretations.
Richard

Chris Wright

It’s certainly an intriguing idea that much or all of the modern CO2 increase was caused by natural warming, either by relatively short term warming of the oceans, increased biological activity or a longer term effect, typically with a lag of 800 years.
But it seems to me it can be easily tested by measuring CO2 levels during the MWP. If there were no significant CO2 increases during the MWP then the modern CO2 increase was probably not natural, and was indeed man-made. If it was man-made, mankind should take the credit, because the warming has been of enormous benefit to humanity and the increased CO2 has also made the planet greener (though apparently the greenies don’t like the idea of a greener planet).
Chris

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
For the record, I am moderately convinced we humans and our burning of so much carbon-containing fuel are responsible for a significant part of the increase in CO2 of the last few decades. However, if we try to stop burning, we will be killing and enslaving our fellow humans in the process. We must continue to produce more and cheaper fuel and electricity. Otherwise we are killing people today. Consider well. “Green” thinking pretends it will save people in the future, but it kills people today. We must continue to drill, frack, and burn while we can, today.

richardscourtney

Ferdinand Engelbeen:
In my post at July 15, 2014 at 3:35 am I wrote

It is that temperature effect which Ronald D Voisin has promoted in his essay above..
But the effect of temperature on atmospheric CO2 emission would be very different in an Ice Age because all the processes 1 to 7 and processes 8 and 10 would be different. There is no data which indicates seasonal variation in the last Ice Age and, therefore, the relationship of temperature and CO2 cannot be determined for that climate state.

And I boldened it so it would be noticed by people who only skimmed that long post.
But an hour later at July 15, 2014 at 4:35 am you write

Yes, and that may give an increase of maximum 8 ppmv over the LIA, not the 100+ ppmv increase which we see today…

No. As I explained, nobody knows what the difference between the two climate states would provide.
You build on assumptions, assumptions, and assumptions.
We need evidence which we don’t have.
Richard

richardscourtney says:
July 15, 2014 at 4:34 am
if any one of them were found to be wrong then the entire AGW hypothesis would have been found to be wrong.
That is the fundamental problem with many skeptics: because it is one of the cornerstones of the AGW hypothesis, it must be wrong and that should be proven with all arguments possible, even the most absurd.
This ‘argument’ makes the improbable assumption that the carbon cycle was in balance (so unchanging) prior to the anthropogenic emission.
Nobody makes an assumption, the facts speak for themselves: the current natural variability around the trend, caused by vegetation, is +/- 1 ppmv over the past 50+ years:
http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/klim_img/dco2_em2.jpg
Ice cores can detect +/- 1.2 ppmv change over periods longer than their resolution, which is between 10 years and 600 years. Over the past 10,000 years, the whole Holocene, with a resolution of ~20 years, there is no outbreak of CO2 measured of more than a few ppmv. A sustained change of 2 ppmv over 20 years or a one-year peak of 40 ppmv would be detected. Even the worst case resolution would show the current increase of CO2 over the past 800,000 years…
But even if there were larger variations in the past, that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t have human emissions and oceans emitting more CO2 than they absorb at the same time, except if you have another sink, for which is no proof.

richardscourtney

Chris Wright:
At July 15, 2014 at 4:51 am you say

But it seems to me it can be easily tested by measuring CO2 levels during the MWP.

We cannot measure CO2 levels 1000 years ago because we lack a time machine.
This goes to the crux of the vehemence with which some people champion the ice core data (which shows low CO2 in the MWP) while others champion the stomata data (which shows similar CO2 to now in the MWP). In fact neither of these two proxies provides a direct indication of past atmospheric CO2 concentration although each of them has usefulness.
Richard

richardscourtney says:
July 15, 2014 at 3:35 am
No. As I explained, nobody knows what the difference between the two climate states would provide.
Richard, I indeed only skimmed your lecture, as you always repeat the same points, as good as I do… But your first point was already several times refuted, as that has nothing to do with the question of what caused the CO2 increase in the atmosphere:
At present the yearly increase of the anthropogenic emissions is approximately 0.1 GtC/year. The natural fluctuation of the excess consumption (i.e. consumption processes 1 and 3 minus production processes 2 and 4) is at least 6 ppmv (which corresponds to 12 GtC) in 4 months.
Simply said: the increase of human emissions over time has not the slightest interest for the increase in the atmosphere. Even if it was zero, the increase would still be 100% human if the rest of the atmosphere still remains a net sink, whatever the seasonal or year-by year ups and downs…
There is no data which indicates seasonal variation in the last Ice Age and, therefore, the relationship of temperature and CO2 cannot be determined for that climate state.
Again, the seasonal variation is not of the slightest interest for the carbon balance. What is of interest is that the whole earth shows a remarkable constant ratio between temperature and CO2 levels, until a few centuries ago: 8 ppmv/°C. That is the net result of all unknown natural processes, including seasons, year by year variability and the (very) long term changes in oceans and the biosphere during ice ages and interglacials…

Sensorman

Just curious – plants undergo cellular respiration (releasing CO2) continuously, and only absorb CO2 during photosynthesis (presumably more CO2, on daily average, than is released during respiration). Rate of photosynthesis itself must be a complex function of temperature, insolation, and probably a bunch of other factors (light wavelength distribution? humidity? barometric pressure? nutrition?). As a gross example, increased cloud cover would presumably slow down PS and therefore cause higher local CO2 levels over vegetation-covered land. There’s a lot of green out there. Is the net rate of CO2 absorption (really a delta between two very large quantities) due to plants (daily, seasonally, as function of temperature) well understood? I would have thought uncertainties in this kind of factor would swamp man’s contribution…

Richard111

Dumb layman questions again: why should the ocean warm? If its rate of cooling reduces surely its rate of absorption of CO2 reduces? Doesn’t that imply an increase in atmospheric CO2?

Steve from Rockwood

If we’re going to blame man for CO2 emissions we should start with the Egyptians.
@Alan Bates…
1PgC is 10^15 gram of carbon or 10^12 Kg of carbon or 10*9 metric tonnes.

Chris Wright says:
July 15, 2014 at 4:51 am
But it seems to me it can be easily tested by measuring CO2 levels during the MWP.
Fortunately, we have a time machine which tells us that the CO2 levels during the MWP were a lot lower than today: ice cores:
http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/klim_img/law_dome_1000yr.jpg
Richard doesn’t like ice cores, as they show that he is wrong. Ice cores give the exact average CO2 levels of any time in the 800,000 years past, be it always as a mixture of several years. Much can be learned from:
http://courses.washington.edu/proxies/GHG.pdf
The above ice core of Law Dome has a resolution of ~10 years and a repeatability of measurements of ~1.2 ppmv (1 sigma). That shows that the LIA had ~6 ppmv less than the MWP with a lag of ~50 years after the ~0.8°C temperature drop. Again some 8 ppmv/°C as over the full 800,000 years past. Thus the maximum warming since the LIA is good for only 8 ppmv CO2 increase, not the 100+ ppmv…
BTW, stomata data have a much better resolution, but suffer from a local CO2 bias, which may change over the centuries, not reliable for absolute CO2 levels of the past…