Good news! Climate study finds human CO2 fingerprint in Northern Hemisphere greening


Earth system models simulate Northern Hemisphere greening. Figure shows the spatial distribution of leaf area index trends (m2/m2/30yr) in the growing season (April-October) during the period of 1982-2011 in the mean of satellite observations (top), Earth system model (ESM) simulations with natural forcings alone (lower left) and ESM simulations with combined anthropogenic and natural forcings (lower right). CREDIT ORNL

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., June 29, 2016 — A multinational team led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory Climate Change Science Institute has found the first positive correlation between human activity and enhanced vegetation growth.

The research team, led by Jiafu Mao of the Ecosystem Simulation Science group in the Environmental Sciences Division, used new environmental data and strict statistical methods to discover a significant human-vegetation interaction in the northern extratropical latitudes, the section of the planet spanning 30 to 75 degrees north, roughly between the Tropic of Cancer and the North Frigid Zone above the Arctic Circle.

“This is the first clear evidence of a discernible human fingerprint on physiological vegetation changes at the continental scale,” Mao said.

With the absence of long-term observational records and suitable Earth system model (ESM) simulations, the human “touch” on northern latitude greening had not been previously identified. The team used two recently available 30-year-long leaf area index data sets, 19 ESM simulations and a formal “detection and attribution” statistical algorithm to positively attribute changes in vegetation activity in the extratropical Northern Hemisphere to anthropogenic forcings, or human-induced climate inputs such as well-mixed greenhouse gas emissions.

Leaf area index — the ratio of leaf surface area to ground area — is an indicator of vegetation growth and productivity derived from satellite imaging. The remote-sensing-based LAI datasets and ESM simulations showed a significant “greening” trend over the northern extratropical latitudes vegetated area between 1982 and 2011, indicating increased vegetative productivity.

When Mao and his colleagues accounted for internal climate variability and responses to natural forcings such as volcanic eruptions and incoming solar radiation, it was clear that the greening was inconsistent with simulations of purely natural factors and could only be explained by anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcings, particularly elevated carbon dioxide concentrations.

This anthropogenic greening effect has the potential to alter natural processes on a planetary scale. Continent-wide changes in vegetative productivity, such as those in the study, impact energy exchanges, water use and carbon budgets, accelerating or slowing the pace of climate change.

Accurate detection and attribution of changes in vegetation growth patterns are essential for strategic decision-making in ecosystem management, agricultural applications and sustainable development and conservation. This is the first time the detection and attribution algorithm has been applied to terrestrial ecosystem changes such as leaf area index trends, as it is typically used to study physical climate data such as extreme events and variations in temperature or precipitation.

Mao would like to see these long-term regional- and global-scale observational data sets used in similar studies as they become available. He says the detection and attribution algorithm could be applied to study broad-scale terrestrial ecosystem dynamics, and the framework developed for this study could be used to identify and correct potential errors in next-generation ESM simulations.


The study and its results are reported in the article “Human-induced greening of the northern extratropical land surface” in Nature Climate Change. Other ORNL participants and coauthors were Xiaoying Shi, Peter Thornton, Dan Ricciuto and Forrest Hoffman.

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June 29, 2016 1:06 pm

“This is the first clear evidence of a discernible human fingerprint on physiological vegetation changes at the continental scale,”
A classic example of how to turn good news to bad.

Reply to  Bitter&twisted
June 30, 2016 1:42 pm

So is this …

… has the potential to alter natural processes.

Incorrigible doom-sayers.

Alan Robertson
June 29, 2016 1:09 pm

Greening? Oh, but reduced protein content…
Think of the children!
Ps Cats kill birds

Reply to  Alan Robertson
June 29, 2016 1:34 pm

…and terrible sounding violins.
Oh, the humanity!

Mark from the Midwest
Reply to  Alan Robertson
June 29, 2016 1:39 pm

Once upon a time, at a rest stop in Wyoming, I saw a Golden Eagle snatch a small dog, so it can work both ways

Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
June 29, 2016 2:45 pm

That was me. I came back, reincarnated as a human – abeit a skeptical one.

Reply to  Alan Robertson
June 29, 2016 3:43 pm

Dogs kill birds too. Birds kill birds. So do snakes and a whole assortment of other animals, including humans. It’s called being on the food chain. But when it comes to birds, I only ever see cats blamed. And before anyone says they kill more, they don’t. I’ve had cats and dogs and my dogs have killed far more birds than my cats have. Perhaps because the dogs are faster.
As for this article, this statement is where they lost me:
“When Mao and his colleagues accounted for internal climate variability and responses to natural forcings such as volcanic eruptions and incoming solar radiation, it was clear that the greening was inconsistent with simulations of purely natural factors and could only be explained by anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcings…”
I wonder if “accounting for” just means they decided ahead of time. How is it “clear” that greening is inconsistent with natural factors when we’re constantly moving through cycles? It sounds like the same as saying warming “must be” caused by humans because it’s new to our memories, yet we’re coming up out of the LIA.

Reply to  A.D. Everard
June 29, 2016 8:10 pm

I picked up on the exact same sentence as A. D. Everard. “it was clear that the greening was inconsistent with simulations of purely natural factors and could only be explained by … ” is actually one of the logical fallacies (argument from ignorance). The fact that Sherlock Holmes used it doesn’t make it right. So unless there’s other supporting evidence, or unless there is a detailed correlation other than two things just happening to go in the same monotonic direction, then there is no substance to it. It is just a potentially interesting observation.

tony mcleod
Reply to  A.D. Everard
June 30, 2016 1:31 am

No, what it means is that despite the evidence you will continue your willful blindness to the detrimental affects humans can and are having on the biosphere. The damage is increasing and so is the rate of increase of that damage.
So yes, that would mean modern humans and their fossil-fuel driven antics and their pillaging of the natural world are to blame – something few on this blog seem willing to countenance.

Richie D
Reply to  A.D. Everard
June 30, 2016 5:38 am

RE: “When Mao and his colleagues accounted for internal climate variability and responses to natural forcings”
… but isn’t this (quantifying variability and natural forcing) exactly what skeptics say CAN’T be done, given the state of the art?

Reply to  A.D. Everard
June 30, 2016 5:38 am

Tony McCleod — No, if you read the phrase “could only be explained by”, you will clearly see the logical fallacy that is put there on purpose to draw the reader away from the fact that the writer is trying to lead us into the belief that this greening is bad, even though the writer has no proof of that. He has used a couple of simulations to try to pin down the causes of the greening. But these simulations do not cover every conceivable potential cause for the greening.
Basically, he is saying “Trust me. I know what I am talking about”, but clearly he does not.
I am not denigrating his simulations. They certainly suggest avenues of further investigation. I am, however, denigrating his misleading choice of words when he says “could only be explained by”. Such hyperbole is political, not scientific.

Mickey Reno
Reply to  A.D. Everard
June 30, 2016 6:42 am

“their fossil-fuel driven antics” HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Good one, Tony.
In which of these “antics” do YOU participate? Do you eat food purchased at a grocery store? Do you watch TV, use a computer (yes) or turn on electric lights? Do you heat your home in the winter, or use AC in the summer? Do you drive your car to your job? Which “antics” are YOU willing to give up?
And if you are willing to give up these things, and more, how would your behavior scale up and effect our society if everyone was forced to give them up? Do you think you could change the whole of society in such a backward-looking way without starting a war? I know I would fight back against a forced conversion by eco-loon totalitarians. Do you envision all of us becoming subsistence farmers? Can you not imagine any negative consequences, not only to people, but to the environment as well, if you were able to order such a conversion? Please do try. And I will do my utmost to not call you… well, this is a good place to stop.

Reply to  Alan Robertson
July 3, 2016 5:41 pm
June 29, 2016 1:09 pm

Didn’t NASA do something similar within the last few weeks? Mao does assume CO2 rise is anthropogenic, though, and not a result of warming.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 29, 2016 1:17 pm

That’s the political spin to get published – can’t say its just natural greening

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 30, 2016 1:10 am

Well it could be because the rise is for all practical purposes totally anthropogenic. Take all anthropogenic CO2 away from the atmosphere and there is no rise.
Apparently a frequently asked questions section is needed here. Anthony, do you have any interest in building common arguments section like the aeroplane buried into Greenland ice etc?

Brett Keane
Reply to  Hugs
June 30, 2016 2:49 am

” Hugs
June 30, 2016 at 1:10 am
Well it could be because the rise is for all practical purposes totally anthropogenic. Take all anthropogenic CO2 away from the atmosphere and there is no rise.”: Murry Salby shows that not to be true.

Reply to  Hugs
July 1, 2016 6:50 am

Take all the anthropogenic emission to date out of the air and we starve to death because there’s barely be enough co2 left for plants.

Reply to  aaron
July 1, 2016 1:10 pm

Nobody knows what the percentage of anthropogenic co2 is. Nobody knows because of the dynamics of the sinks. The function of the increase year over year in relation to the sinking could or could not be entirely natural in orgin. From 1850 till now there were no negative numbers despite the sinks being many times larger in 2015 in relation to anthropogenic co2, or were the sinks always that large? The earth is finite in size and volume, there isn’t some far away unknown place for the co2 to escape to.
One of the things CAGW isn’t talking about is that the sinks in relation to anthropogenic co2 are starting to eat into that production at an expanding rate. There is a discrepancy between the amount that NOAA has attributed to the ocean and land sinking and the amount that makes its way into the atmosphere. It has been suggested that rate of discrepancy maybe even higher since I over weighted the atmosphere. Less atmosphere with the same amount of co2 equals more co2 per volume. 2 molecules more is equal to 24 billion metric tons. That’s a lot of missing co2 each year. ( or 12 bmt depending on how you look at it. But considering that total production is 38 bmt, 12 bmt is nearly a third). The increase in co2 due to El nino is what it should be this year. For the past 10 years and at least since 1998, the rate per year should have been at least 3.0 ppm, not below 3.0 ppm and should have been at least 3.5 to 5 or 6 ppm.
* all numbers for co2 levels are from NOAA website from last year. I’ve seen were the numbers have, er, been changed. For example 1999 was stated at 0.88, then at 0.93, and I’ve seen numbers that are in the 1.9 range for that year. Additionally, 7 years from 1998 were below 2.0 ppm.
Really hard to explain that.
I watched the numbers remain the same year after year until an issue was made. And then, Violia!

June 29, 2016 1:10 pm

Not a word about Climate change in the article, other than the name of the institute. I’m not complaining, just noting.
A few hundred ppm of extra CO2 in the atmosphere is good for plants, and inconsequential for CAGW.

Steve R
Reply to  TA
June 30, 2016 11:58 am

I always wondered about the marriage between the “Greens” and the “CAGWs” . They really dont seem to have much in common.

June 29, 2016 1:11 pm

“…Mao would like to see these long-term regional- and global-scale observational data sets used in similar studies as they become available…”
That’s a pity that Mao has been dead for sometime…

Bob Boder
Reply to  janus100
June 29, 2016 1:21 pm

“if go around carrying pictures of chairman Mao
you aint gona make it with anyone anyhow”

Reply to  Bob Boder
June 29, 2016 4:10 pm

ya know it’s gonna be, alright.

Reply to  Bob Boder
June 29, 2016 5:02 pm

those days are gone my friend.
we thought they’d never end.

June 29, 2016 1:14 pm

If it proves to be repeatable, then surely it is good news that anthropological CO2 is helping plants, not causing the end of the world.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Jack
June 29, 2016 1:30 pm

The team used … 19 ESM simulations … it was clear [based on Mao, et al.’s assumptions] that the greening was inconsistent with simulations of purely natural factors …

Sure, this is repeatable. Run it a 20th time, a 99th time, a 1000th, time and you will get virtually the same result. That would prove exactly — nothing.
CO2 causes greening. Yup.
Sounds like they are devotees of the “mass balance” view of natural sources and sinks of CO2. This is a BIG (and, imo, faulty) assumption, written into their simulation code.
Yes, certainly all CO2, human or not, would cause greening. This study is a subtle snake-in-the grass designed to implicate human CO2 emissions in affecting climate, now, in 3 steps (Mao’s 3 Step Program):
1. Human CO2 is a significant driver of plant greening in the Northern Hemisphere (where global warming was conjectured to manifest itself most clearly).
2. Plant growth causes “climate change.”
3. Human CO2 causes “climate change.”
So, BUY OUR WINDMILLS!!! (and some solar, too)
(yes, I realize that Mao isn’t likely into hustling windmills or the like — his funding depends on their wishes (Enviroprofiteers work hand-in-hand with the Envirostalinists who control Mao’s budget)).
Aside: Why would you call yourself “Mao?” Nobody names their son Ad0lf…. for a reason….

Mark from the Midwest
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 1:43 pm

I’ve done work with a guy named Mao; in his late 20’s, very smart, extremely polite, hard working, and not the least bit interested in U.S. pop culture. If American youth don’t get off their duffs the future will belong to China.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 1:51 pm

And, obviously, Mao’s parents were good little Communists (or little Mao would have been working in China in a factory, earning very little). However, it still is weird, to me. Why name your little boy after a brutal mass murderer (regardless of his political party affiliation — here, the same as Mao the 20-something guy’s parents)???

Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 2:00 pm

Janice, Mao is a family name, not a given name, and not that uncommon, like Castro is for Spanish speakers.

Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 2:43 pm

There was an actor named Adolphe Menjou. He died in 1963 without changing his name. Does the extra “e” in his name give him a free pass?

Rhoda u
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 2:55 pm

Last night I was watching the inexplicable game of baseball when up to bat came Starlin Castro. Plays for the NY Yankees. Turns out his middle name is DeJesus. Some parents.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 3:30 pm

Thank you, Tom Halla, I did not know that. And yet… Are there any H1tlrs (spelled correctly) in the phone book? …
Hi, Trebla — No, lol, still WEIRD. Heh.
Hi, Rhoda — Interesting. And there is a town in California, Castroville, that has yet to change its name… And that brings up another WEIRD thing: why do so many Latinos name their boys “Jesus?” Jesus = God (per the paradoxical doctrine of the Trinity (3 = 1, yet 3 separate Beings at the same time)). They are calling their kid, effectively, “God.” “Hey, God, hurry up, we have to leave NOW!” I’ve asked a Spaniard and a Mexican-American and others and they just shrug and have no idea why… And Maria for a man… Well! Life’s mysteries are…. off topic —aaaaaaargh … stopping.

Monna Manhas
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 4:02 pm

Hi Janice.
“Jesus” is the Spanish form of “Joshua”. In fact, the original Jesus was more likely really named Joshua or Yeshua. But the New Testament was originally written in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic – so it became “Jesus”.
It’s just one of those translation things.

Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 7:01 pm

To be precise, Tom, Mao is a surname. “Family name” is often defined as “surname”, but the term can also be used for names which, in some naming systems, associate a person with a particular family but which do not function in the same way as a surname.

Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 7:38 pm

The church I attended in California had someone with the surname Hittler (two “t”s). There are at least four saints called (some variant of) Adolph. For that matter, someone might name their child after Harpo Marx. As for Mao, there is more than one Chinese word commonly transliterated that way (Chinese being tonal and English not). One of them means cat. I believe Mao Zedong was one of the others. And there are languages other than Chinese in which Mao is a word. Playing around with Google Translate finds meanings like stomach, rummage, and unintentional, and Google Translate has virtually none of the world’s languages.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 7:59 pm

This seems to be the right place for it:
“…coauthors were Xiaoying Shi, Peter Thornton, Dan Ricciuto and Forrest Hoffman.”
The name of the type of coincidence when we find a guy named Forrest working on observations of the amount of tree cover is called, “Nominative Determinism.” You are your name.
Just thought everyone would want to know that. Learn a little every day. We are surrounded by examples of this remarkable and rather entertaining phenomenon.

Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 9:09 pm

The Chairman’s surname is written with the character that means “hair”. In Mandarin it is pronounced with a rising tone. (Second tone.) Don’t ask how it is pronounced in other varieties of Chinese.

Lou Maytrees
Reply to  Janice Moore
July 1, 2016 6:13 am

Its also pronounced ‘hey soos’ or ‘ hey seus’, not jesus.

Reply to  Jack
June 29, 2016 6:57 pm

“If it proves to be repeatable, then surely it is good news that anthropological CO2 is helping plants, not causing the end of the world.”
On the contrary. Dark foliage reduces the Earth’s albedo. Less heat is reflected, more absorbed.
We’re doomed.

Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 1:16 pm

correlation between human activity and enhanced vegetation growth.

So, no causation.
This article touts a grossly misleading half-truth: the well-known CO2 = greening link is the truth; that human CO2 emissions are the cause is the l1e (I say “l1e” because they KNOW that they do not know to be true what they are asserting as fact).
btw: How is this bogus study “Good news?” It is not good news or bad news. It is just junk.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 4:13 pm

You hit the centrally important point, Janice. There is no such thing as a “formal “detection and attribution” statistical algorithm to positively attribute changes…”(my bold)
Attribution — the assignment of a causal source — can be done only by means of a valid scientific theory. Never by statistics. Never ever by statistics.
Climatologists have totally run off the boards with statistics. They misuse it all over the place to assign causality. It is a fatal error of method and of thinking. Doing so not science. Climatology is no longer science. It is mere narrative.

Reply to  Pat Frank
June 29, 2016 4:35 pm

So-called “epidemiology” does the same thing; main conclusion, life correlates with death. 😉

Janice Moore
Reply to  Pat Frank
June 29, 2016 6:32 pm

Dear Dr. Frank,
Thank you, so much, for that affirmation (and elucidating amplification). I have forgotten if you were ever a teacher (in addition to being a professional scientist). Whether you were or not, you certainly walk this earth (as so MANY of the fine technically saavy people here do) bearing within you that lovely treasure: a teacher’s caring heart. Thanks for taking the time to let a non-tech know she was correct! You scientists and engineers and geologists and biologists and chemists and physicists and math pros (, et al.) of WUWT are THE GREATEST!
Your grateful student (through the years, here),

Pat Frank
Reply to  Pat Frank
June 29, 2016 7:32 pm

You’re too modest and far too kind, Janice. Your posts on technical and legal matters are always astute.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Pat Frank
June 29, 2016 7:42 pm


Lou Maytrees
Reply to  Janice Moore
July 1, 2016 3:55 am

So CO2 is not a plant food now? More CO2 in the atmosphere is not ‘causation’ for the greening everyone knows about? Then what is it that causes the greening?

Bruce Cobb
June 29, 2016 1:17 pm

Oh noes! CAGG has begun. Watch for those triffids – they’re nasty buggers.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
June 29, 2016 2:05 pm

Dense vegetation makes it difficult for the tiny pika to thrive, they have been found scrambling (catastrophically) to higher altitudes.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Bernie
June 29, 2016 3:41 pm

LOL, Bernie.

Tom in Florida
June 29, 2016 1:19 pm

“This is the first clear evidence” because “the greening was inconsistent with simulations of purely natural factors ”
Just wanted to be sure that that the evidence was empirical fact.

Peta in Cumbria
June 29, 2016 1:46 pm

So no chance at all that greening is caused by…
a.Shed loads of nitrogen fertiliser being thrown around by farmers – hey come on, we all know the ever increasing amount of food being grown to feed extra mouth just falls down out of the sky.
b. No chance that sulphur dioxide from power statioons and vehicles exhausts is making things grow – we all know UK farmers just throw extra sulphur at their crops because its fun to do.
c. No chance that it extra NOx from all the extra diesel vehicles on the road – remember? – those high mpg & fuel efficient ones effectively mandated by government 20 or 25 years ago?
d. No hope that the extra greenery came from a widescale move to winter-sown arable crops, from spring sown crops – where the fields are brown/bare for maybe Septemebr compared to being brown from September to May inc. previously.
e. No hope that all the extra soot from diesel vehicles is having a fertilising effect – yes – soot is a *very* good soil conditioner. Mother Nature knows trick or two when it comes to starting wildfires and thats before she launches all that CO2 NOx and SO2 up with the smoke
So what have we got – preconceived notions from smallminded brains.
You can’t really blame them though, they, like most of the rest of the world, are addicted to carbohydrates – and Thats What That Stuff Does to People.

Chris 4692
Reply to  Peta in Cumbria
June 30, 2016 7:29 pm

Also the density of planting of crops, especially corn, has increased by about 20% during the time of the study.

Roland Hirsch
Reply to  Peta in Cumbria
July 1, 2016 7:31 pm

You are correct that the things you mention are not the cause of the greening.
There is no dispute that higher levels of CO2 improve plant growth. They do this by reducing the loss of water when plant stomata open to bring CO2 in. This is why arid lands are now able to support plant growth. It is why greenhouses add CO2 to the air.
This paper is the latest of a large number that point out the benefits of higher CO2 in the atmosphere. See the web site for hundreds of papers on this topic.
This is one of the major arguments against the people who promote action against CO2 emissions, indeed perhaps the strongest argument for the position on climate taken by most of the readers of WUWT.

Pamela Gray
June 29, 2016 1:46 pm

By natural factors I assume they also include Native American efforts to manage the Willamette Valley prior to the White Man invasion (she said tongue in cheek). Hmmm. I guess that I must be among the “unnatural” people as I try to manage this glacial till ground in the hopes it could become a garden. S’cuse me while I go change the water to the next tree.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Pamela Gray
June 29, 2016 1:59 pm

Hi, Pamela 🙂
Thanks for sharing that intriguing article (and right on point — burning was (and still is) a great way to put nutrients back into the soil). Hey, is the author, Sonja Gray your relative?
I must admit, though, I was pretty disappointed when I clicked on that link — I hoped it was a photo or two of your new garden (figured you were helping the public, there). Lol, well, best wishes for gardening success! Good for you to persevere with that kind of soil to work with. I hate gardening, but, I love the results — so, I do it (or, er, WILL do it, when I have a place to do it, lol).
Take care,
P.S. Hope the good news (truly good news, heh) you shared several months ago is still walking down the street with you… holding your hand… 🙂

Pamela Gray
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 3:01 pm

Yep. Great guy.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Janice Moore
June 29, 2016 3:32 pm

Now, THAT is good news! Oh, Pamela — that really made my day. Smiling!
(thanks, so much, for responding)

Cliff Hilton
June 29, 2016 2:32 pm

CO2 has gone up about 50-70ppm in this time frame. Is it possible to get this kind of greening? A greenhouse should be able to duplicate the greening…no? Is that small of an increase capable of contributing to that much greening? Or are the simulation an exaggeration? Is it really that green?

Reply to  Cliff Hilton
June 30, 2016 1:14 am

Yes, the greening is real and replicable in lab. It is not a problem, unless one is a chicken little.

Lou Maytrees
Reply to  Cliff Hilton
July 1, 2016 4:23 am

Yet CO2 has not just gone up ’50-70ppm’, its gone up over 40% since the late 1800s. A 40%+ addition is not a small amount of extra CO2.

Reply to  Lou Maytrees
July 3, 2016 1:14 am

What makes you think ’50-70 ppm’ is not a small amount of CO2?
Are you suggesting that we are not still at near starvation CO2 levels?

Reply to  BigWaveDave
July 3, 2016 5:00 am

0.005 to 0.007 %? That’s large? That’s percent, the actual amount is 0.00005 to 0.00007. No other gasses have latent heat energies? And the difference between the latent heat energy of nitrogen and co2 is so great that adding that amount of co2 is larger than the 79 % of N that makes up the atmosphere… or if it’s just replacing O2….. noooo.
Talk to me when co2 levels jump from 7 as in Seven percent to 9%. If anthropogenic co2 was all of the extra co2, we’ve barely moved it in 150 years 1 tenth of 1 %. I’m pretty sure that from the records of production, sinks and the amount that’s out there that the increase is not all man made. Or the opposite, that we have saved ourselves from something worse than climate change. Depletion of co2 in the atmosphere.
The sinks are currently so large and the amount of co2 that isn’t accounted for, we ( the world) would have to produce 18 to 24 bmt (billion metric tons), which is 1 and a half to 2 times what the world produced in 1965, just to maintain the co2 level at its current level.
I’d predict catastrophic events if we shut down all production of co2. There is every indication that the sinks are increasing. At the current rate, co2 levels without additional anthropogenic co2 would be below industrial levels in 40 years or less, and in 60 crops would begin to fail. … and if the vaulted theory of AGW is correct, it’d be a double blow to crop production, yields would definitely fall. Yields would fall along with temperature and co2.

ferd berple
June 29, 2016 2:44 pm

Climate study finds human CO2 fingerprint in Northern Hemisphere greening
Since no two fingerprints are alike, exactly who’s fingerprint was it they found? I’m betting its Bill Clinton’s.

Johnny Cuyana
Reply to  ferd berple
June 29, 2016 3:55 pm

ferd b: i am with you in sentiment … i believe; but this might just be a less than ideal choice of words … as, just as easily, the author could have used “imprint”, “overprint”, etc. yeah?

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  ferd berple
June 29, 2016 8:04 pm

No, Bill Clinton would leave a print from a different digit, but I bet that one’s on file with the FBI also.

June 29, 2016 3:19 pm

This isn’t really new. CSIRO using the same approach found the footprint of human greening – mostly in the tropics.
11% more plant growth 1982-2011.
How much plant growth do they claim for the “extratropics”?

Reply to  PA
July 1, 2016 7:14 am

Doesn’t MODIS specifically analyze photosynthetic active light specta?

Reply to  PA
July 1, 2016 7:37 am
Yep, we look at available light in key wavelengths that be be used for photosynthesis. We also look at the radiation produced by photosynthesis.

Reply to  aaron
July 1, 2016 9:29 am

1 chlorophyll molecule can “capture” ~ 2-3 photons of light per second. The “excitation” energy resulting then has to be passed along for photosynthesis to go forward.
That energy’s acceptance in what is categorized as a reaction center requires electron toggling (redox reaction/reduction) of what “accepted” that energy. It is the reduced acceptor of excited energy shunting some energy back to chlorophyll (in the thylakoid membrane of a chloroplast) that then fluoresces.
By the way this is not the same as phosphorescence; which, although unlike fluorescence is radiation-less decay of excited electrons, also “wastes” some energy in performance of photosynthesis. Excitation energy is basically vibrational energy of atom orbital electrons which a photon caused to resonate; so in photosynthesis the chloroplast ends up processing electrons with different spins in an orbit. When electrons “decay” from the excited state classified as a triplet, the eventual down shifting to the low energy stable state (“ground” state) entails the triplet let go of a photon & this is the event of phosphorescence.

Reply to  aaron
July 1, 2016 3:28 pm

They are studying the ratio of blue/red to green from the sound of it.
Presumably olivine and some other minerals count as a plant.

June 29, 2016 3:30 pm

This has to be horrible news some how. Lefty has to spin this into the worst possible finding ever.

Reply to  Logos_wrench
June 29, 2016 3:49 pm

Simple. That greening is all Aubrey progeny. Little Shop of Horrors. (Great movie version, if you do not grok the reference.)

Reply to  ristvan
June 29, 2016 4:00 pm

Feed Me

Reply to  Logos_wrench
June 29, 2016 4:22 pm

Didn’t they already try the “weeds are growing faster now” BS ?

Mayor of Venus
Reply to  philincalifornia
June 29, 2016 5:49 pm

I recall a paper specifically claiming poison oak and/or poison ivy would grow better because of global warming. I find it believable, but directly because of enhanced carbon dioxide. So yes, the bad weeds are part of the greening.

Reply to  philincalifornia
June 29, 2016 6:01 pm

Yeah, I should’ve carried on the sentence to specify “faster than all the nice cuddly plants”.

Reply to  philincalifornia
June 29, 2016 6:11 pm

Sure, but it just came back up . .

June 29, 2016 3:38 pm

Can’t get into the tips section
U-Turn! Scientists At The PIK Potsdam Institute Now Warning Of A “Mini Ice Age”! – See more at:
Aren’t these the guys that said we are heading for an Ice Age
Then we are all gonna fry
Now we are heading for an Ice Age again.
How cyclical 😀

June 29, 2016 3:43 pm

first they convince you that 250 ppm CO2 is not limiting……..

Michael Jankowski
June 29, 2016 4:16 pm

Spin will be that invasive species and poison ivy are expanding faster than other plants…

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
June 29, 2016 4:25 pm
Reply to  Michael Jankowski
June 29, 2016 5:03 pm

Anecdotally, it seems that vine growth is indeed responding more rapidly to the increased CO2 than that of other plants. I’ve noticed this in my own garden and in the forests in my region. Control of vines, nuisance and otherwise, requires a lot more work than it used to and there are a great many more trees with vines reaching into their crowns than there were a decade or two ago.

Reply to  Slipstick
June 29, 2016 5:25 pm

You’re just getting older…. 😉

Reply to  Slipstick
June 29, 2016 5:52 pm

Well, there is that…but it doesn’t explain the trees.

Reply to  Slipstick
June 30, 2016 7:21 pm

Hi Slipstick, – Your observation on vines is in line with an experiment boosting CO2 on honeysuckle vines back when CO2 was 350ppm (~1991). After a bit less than 2 months on 675ppm CO2 the non-native Japanese honeysuckle increased it’s biomass by 135% (vs. at 350ppm). What you may find curious is that under 1,000ppm CO2 the increase in biomass was 67% (vs. 350ppm).
So we should realize that more CO2 is not always going to mean more is better for the plant. You remark about controlling vines & Japanese honeysuckle in 1971 was determined by the USDA as capable of eliminating native flora in southeastern USA.
Another anamoly of CO2 from that 1991 experiment was that the US native “Coral” honeysuckle vine under enriched CO2 increased biomass a maximum of 40% (vs. at 350ppm). So despite both vines being Lonicera simply raising CO2 does not mean the effect is similar (other than being more biomass than at 350ppm).
At 1,000ppm CO2 the most notable feature was about 36% greater height of the main vine stem. This is evidence that CO2 at certain levels alters the partitioning of plant assimilates; the
popular celebration of more green leaf area does not usually stop to look at this nuance.
Back to those 2 Lonicera vines: the native “Coral” one grew 4 times more branches on elevated CO2 than it would at 350ppm CO2, while the non-native “Japanese” one only grew 3 times more branches on elevated CO2 than it would at 350ppm CO2. The way the non-native vine had so much more biomass at elevated CO2 than the native vine at elevated CO2 was because the non-native vine grew branches that all together were 6 times longer than at 350ppm.
Guess you better keep a new file handy to keep the machete sharp for slashing the vines in seasons to come. Elevated CO2 lets them get a jump-start in the tree understory before seasonal tree leaves fill out blocking the vine leaves; those precocious vine leaves getting more
sun gives the vine an improved growth rate.

H. D. Hoese
June 29, 2016 4:22 pm

Since I grew up during WWII with a father named Adolf, spelling changed to Adolph, I know a little about family names (I have three last names). Jesus is a common Texas/Mexican name, pronounced Hey-soos, and there is an Adolfo street a few miles away. None of these necessarily have anything to do with anything else.
More on point, I live where either water or nitrogen can be limiting. Hard to believe CO2 effect would be easy to analyze. Local “political leaders” have a fear of nitrogen, just like carbon dioxide, but they do not seem to know the difference between them. Our sewer plant, not very well, pumps nitrogen into the atmosphere.

June 29, 2016 4:27 pm

Don’t most climate skeptics acknowledge that human emissions of CO2 are adding somewhat to the atmospheric total?
Why wouldn’t that extra CO2 aid the “greening” of the planet, and not just the Northern Hemisphere?

John MacDonald
Reply to  JohnWho
June 29, 2016 5:25 pm

SH will be the next paper. Then they’ll do the planetary paper. One must maximize the production of learned papers.

June 29, 2016 4:33 pm

“When Mao and his colleagues accounted for internal climate variability and responses to natural forcings such as volcanic eruptions and incoming solar radiation, it was clear that the greening was inconsistent with simulations of purely natural factors and could only be explained by anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcings, particularly elevated carbon dioxide concentrations.”
Despite Donald Rumsfeld’s famous advice:
“…there are known knowns; things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”,
Climate science accounts for all the known knowns, declares that there are no known unknowns and then ignores the possibility of unknown unknowns when describing the impact humanity has upon its environment.

Reply to  MSO
June 29, 2016 4:36 pm

“The college idealists who fill the ranks of the environmental movement seem willing to do absolutely anything to save the biosphere, except take science courses and learn something about it.”
― P.J. O’Rourke

Brian H
Reply to  MSO
June 30, 2016 12:23 pm

He forgot the unknown knowns …

Alec aka Daffy Duck
June 29, 2016 4:40 pm

Makes poison ivy grow faster 😉

June 29, 2016 4:48 pm

So once again the skeptics are proven correct: Atmospheric CO2 increases will have beneficial effects.

June 29, 2016 4:50 pm

Don’t worry. In two weeks there will be another study out refuting this one.

June 29, 2016 4:56 pm

Cry, the beloved turtles

June 29, 2016 6:37 pm

“…found the first positive correlation between human activity and enhanced vegetation growth…”
What about the NVDVI maps that NASA have been displaying for years? What about the recent paper regarding a similar study using the leaf index?
The benefits of CO2 have been there for all to see. But they did not want to see benefits.
At around 150 ppm plants cease to grow because the partial pressure is too low and because evapo-transpiration is too high. The optimum is at least double the present level of 400 ppm.
What is not yet known is how much of the global effect results from limits on photosynthesis and how much from the impact on evapo-transpiration.
It is known that C3 and C4 plants respond differently to elevated CO2. So the evolution ot the C4 photosynthetic pathway is probably a response to falling CO2 levels on geological time scales.
Plant physiologists have been curiously quiet about how these questions relate to cost-benefit studies. Not absolutely silent, as some skeptics have noted spin doctors active upon that field too. But that would be another blog.

June 29, 2016 7:18 pm

The world is greening. Things are improving. Here’s a link to a story that presents ten charts that show how the world is getting better. Here’s the list:

1 – Over the last 30 years, the share of the global population living in absolute poverty has declined from 53% to under 17%.
2 – in the last 16 years, the number of children in these conditions has been reduced by more than 50%.
3 – the percent of our disposable income spent on food has dropped by more than 50 percent, from 14% to less than 6%.
4 – In the last 25 years, under-five mortality rates have dropped by 50%.
5 – Guinea worm is a nasty parasite that used to affect over 3.5 million people only 30 years ago. Today … the parasite has almost been eradicated.
6 – At its peak, 89.1 out of 1,000 teenage women were giving birth. Today, it’s dropped under 29 out of 1,000.
7 – Over the last 700+ years, the number of homicides per 100,000 people has decreased to almost zero.
8 – As recent as the early 80s and mid-90s, there were over 50 violent crime victims per 1,000 individuals. Recently, this number has dropped threefold to 15 victims per 1,000 people.
9 – In the U.S. in 1820, the average person received less than 2 years of education. These days, it’s closer to 21 years of education, a 10X improvement.
10 – global literacy rates have increased from around 10% to close to 100% in the last 500 years.

We could be heading for an Earthly paradise … as long as the eco-loons don’t derail the process.

Reply to  commieBob
July 1, 2016 7:49 am

Item #3 is in regard to USA. When I have to hire farm laborers in poor countries the men almost always show up without having eaten, the local wage is never so high in relation to cost of food as in the USA. I usually provide something to eat after the 1st hour or so to tide workers over until mid-day meal. For that matter, at hiring the men always prefer that meal to be explicitly
included as part of the agreed deal. If I “pay” too much above prevailing wage then that causes problems in the social realm & my being a foreigner becomes more of an issue than what I hoped to be achieving.

Adam from Kansas
June 29, 2016 7:26 pm

I can see the possible effects of rising Co2 in my own area. Plant growth in our yard seems to be quite a bit higher compared to many years past and the area cottonwoods may see their cotton fly into July for the first time I can remember (and Spring came early this year).
Of course, that is on top of our Mulberry trees producing longer than usual with more berries (to the point where it overlapped into black walnut season). A lot of trees in the area also have larger than usual leaves in many spots (this has been happening in cases for a while now, but the increase in size seems to be coming earlier and earlier in the year).
I also wonder about the possible effects of adding fertilizer to the Co2 enrichment because a friend of ours is seeing her hostas grow out of control (in that they’re just massive). Ours are not as big, but we don’t fertilize them that much either. Our clemetis also doesn’t seem to be going dormant so much in the Summer either (like it used to).
In conclusion though, I don’t see how gardeners are going to suffer because their plants keep getting bigger (the big garden companies will just create smaller varieties). It’s actually nice to see things becoming bigger and greener regardless of temperature.

Tom in Florida
June 29, 2016 7:51 pm

This is a Trojan Horse report. They slip in the “fact” that they can distinguish the effect of human produced CO2 inside a report that has a conclusion that will gather the acceptance of skeptics. If this “fact” goes unchallenged it will be used over and over as if it were indeed proven to be so.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 29, 2016 8:12 pm

+1.. I have a lot of problems with the co2 story. This is a feel good story and we ( the skeptics) are buying into it. It’s a smoke screen for something else. It has the CAGW qualities of a set up. I’m not buying a cook book here. I think you’re right Tom.

Mike M the original
Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 30, 2016 2:28 am

Perhaps but then there is the ever present concern by any government funded research group as to who will butter their bread tomorrow. Mentioning the human fingerprint nonsense is a “foot in the door” for future funding.

June 29, 2016 8:00 pm

Oh, come on! About ten years ago, UK gardeners had noticed that, while the temperature was the same as it was 40 years before, the Spring flowers were blooming two weeks earlier. It was the higher CO2 which made plants more able to grow at cooler temperatures and thus they can bloom earlier in the Spring, in effect extending the growing season. This is not news, guys. It is completely logical and expected.
It probably will take a miracle before somebody actually states that warming, which simply means longer summers and less chilly winters, and CO2 enrichment BOTH extend the growing season. The dishonest agitprop that says that warming will hurt crops is so wrong. They want the public to have no idea what real world climate and growing seasons are about.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 29, 2016 8:08 pm

Has anybody considered the effect increased CO2 will have on growth rate of kudzu? The damned stuff pretty much takes over as it is; it doesn’t need any more help. Maybe more CO2 plus more warming will result in winter-hardy kudzu. Then human civilization is doomed; the only survivors will be goats.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 30, 2016 2:22 am

… the only survivors will be goats.

Cute llamas will also survive; how can that be bad? 🙂
Similar to many other plants, kudzu grows like crazy where you don’t want it and can be hard to grow where you do want it. The solution is obvious. Promote kudzu’s use as a hangover remedy and people will try to grow it. Once it becomes desirable, it will die out everywhere. This is similar to the way we can cause rain by washing our cars.

Mike M the original
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 30, 2016 2:32 am
Patrick MJD
June 30, 2016 2:17 am

Models again?

June 30, 2016 3:41 am

Maybe OT, but I must get my friend the Pawnbroker to paint his balls like that instead of the traditional gold colour.
And yes, I did mean to say exactly that.

June 30, 2016 4:13 am

Reblogged this on Climate Collections and commented:
Yes, Greening. Ergo, good news.
Tying it to Anthropogenic causes, weak.
Top commenter:
Janice Moore June 29, 2016 at 1:16 pm
… correlation between human activity and enhanced vegetation growth.
So, no causation.
This article touts a grossly misleading half-truth: the well-known CO2 = greening link is the truth; that human CO2 emissions are the cause is the l1e (I say “l1e” because they KNOW that they do not know to be true what they are asserting as fact).
btw: How is this bogus study “Good news?” It is not good news or bad news. It is just junk.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Hifast
June 30, 2016 9:23 am

Well! Thank you, very much, Hifast! Cool! 🙂

June 30, 2016 6:08 am

[…] has found the first positive correlation between human activity and enhanced vegetation growth.
Absolute nonsense. Are you really suggesting that providing more food for plants will actually make them grow more? Science, at least 97% of it, has long ago proven that CO2 is a major pollutant.

June 30, 2016 6:38 am

That study didn’t find anything except that their model of natural change is still short a few bricks.

Janice Moore
Reply to  H.R.
June 30, 2016 9:27 am

Heh. Yup!

June 30, 2016 8:05 am

After witnessing years of statistical malpractice by environmentalists and climate ‘scientists’, I see little reason to trust ‘a formal “detection and attribution” statistical algorithm’ without further details.

Janice Moore
Reply to  tadchem
June 30, 2016 9:27 am


June 30, 2016 8:36 am

But all these extra plants are bad, not good.
For one, they’ve got no protein in them.
Not even the green photosynthetic enzyme rubisco, so they don’t even photosynthesize, oil-industry funded den1ers just run around spray-painting them green.
Plus they’re den1er plants with incorrect political views.
So no – this is not good news for our planet at all.

Joel Snider
June 30, 2016 8:39 am

Of course, the obvious spin will be that, since the ‘greening’ has a human finger print, than THAT is the new threat that will destroy the planet and kill us all.

Brian H
June 30, 2016 12:31 pm

The world will be overrun with herbivores! Flee, fly to the remaining arid deserts while you can!

July 1, 2016 7:45 pm

In 100 years, we should be back to the CO2 levels of the dinosaurs. You know what that means!

Roland Hirsch
July 1, 2016 7:48 pm

It is distressing to see so many negative comments about this paper, and its lead author. The fact is that this paper is one of a large number that support the best argument against the climate alarmists; namely, that in fact more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is good, not bad. See for many more research papers that show the same results.
Higher levels of CO2 greatly improve plant growth, and substantially reduce the need for water for irrigation of food crops. There is no dispute that human activities have resulted in increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the air. It is in dispute whether this is good or bad. Papers like this one support the position that this is good, and go directly against the position of the climate action activists.
We should be pleased to see papers like this that argue so strongly against the idea that we need to cut CO2 emissions, and especially to see them in major journals like this one. This paper is not an outlier: the science is supported by hundreds of others, and by basic concepts in plant science, such as how plants absorb CO2 and lose water, as well by as the fact that the plants evolved under conditions of much higher CO2 concentrations.
I hope that the next time a paper like this is highlighted on WUWT the comments will be more positive and informed about the science.

Reply to  Roland Hirsch
July 2, 2016 4:40 am

There are two separate issues. Skeptics have been arguing for years that co2 is beneficial to plant growth. That is not what we are finding fault with. CAGW has been good at combining 2 issues so that it is difficult to refute one but not the other. For example, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was warm at least in the US. Basically the way GW was presented, you couldn’t say it was warming without saying in a 50 page thesis as to why it wasn’t co2 causing it. Warming yes, co2 causing it no.
The second issue here is ” human fingerprint ” . The way this is worded is to get skeptics to agree that humans are the major source of additional co2. I’m not agreeing to that. And that is the cause of negative comments about this paper. In 20 years I’ve gone from thinking that they don’t know all the sources of co2, to thinking that maybe CAGW is right about the ratio of isotopes ( and the argument I presented early on that ( again a detailed explaination) that radioactive materials reside in the earth, skewing the line of thought that since it’s buried it’s not subject to solar and cosmic radation)…. back to they really don’t know. And the reason they don’t know is because of the ratio of the sinks to anthropogenic co2, and that from the 1850s, there are no negative numbers in the co2 added per year.
CAGW has been trying through different papers to use that line of thought of ” human fingerprints “. As to say… we’ll over here you agreed, when it was helpful to the skeptic side of the argument, that co2 has a human fingerprint, but when it’s negative you dont…. that’s the problem. With regards to this paper, the only thing I’m agreeing with is that the increased co2 has been beneficial to plant life.
CAGW uses a lot of speculation in their statements. None of which has stood.
Everything CAGW has done has been to try to prove how bad co2 is. I have documentation from PEI where research was granted to try to prove that co2 caused plants to uptake an increase in heavy metals. (It didnt). Not one word of increased plant growth or hardiness. Nearly all of the research has been slanted that way. Very biased research. I’m not jumping up and down over a report that skeptics have been claiming for the last 20 years. In fact some of the warmist have claimed just the opposite. It’s all in the archives on watts up.

Roland Hirsch
Reply to  rishrac
July 2, 2016 8:48 am

rishrac, Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
In fact there are hundreds (indeed, probably thousands) of research papers in reputable journals that demonstrate that higher CO2 improves plant growth and greatly improves plant hardiness against drought. See for links to many of these papers. I don’t see any reason to criticize a paper in a major journal that says this is true, based on new information and modeling. The authors of this paper and the one that preceded it in Nature Climate Change are not warmists. They should be thanked for being willing to do research and publish papers that argue strongly against the warmist argument that increased CO2 concentration is uniformly bad.
There is no question that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere worldwide is higher today than it was 100 years ago. And there is no question that there is far more combustion of carbon-containing fuels, mostly fossil fuels, today than there was 100 years ago. So, what is the cause of the increased concentration of CO2? Does the increased burning of fossil fuels not contribute in any way to the increased CO2 concentration? To claim this requires finding an alternative source of all of the increased CO2 in the atmosphere. This source would have had to come into being within the past century, and would have to be easy to identify, given the large magnitude of its contribution. I’m not aware of any such source. Are you?
We need to recognize that there are many scientists who are doing objective research in the climate field, and getting it published, and not automatically criticize them for saying that humans are producing some of the added CO2 in the atmosphere. Another very important group of scientists are studying the impact of a warmer climate on health. There are many research papers that demonstrate that more deaths occur in cool or cold weather than in warm or hot weather, and that warmer weather will reduce the number of deaths. Again, this is an area that we should applaud.

Reply to  Roland Hirsch
July 2, 2016 10:31 am

To answer your question about other sources of co2. The amount we emit in comparison on a planetary scale is amazingly small. To show, even in the smallest amounts of increase from 1850 to 1900 is not logical without some other source. We produce in 1 year what it took 30. The earth and it’s systems are finite. There is no way of producing a balanced co2 system or knowing what it is.
Pattern recognitions and number sequence does not come easily to most. I didn’t start out looking at co2 levels per year. I was looking at temperature increase associated with co2. The dimensional array of the pattern of co2 is what caused me to start looking at the function of the logarithmic rise. There are some major problems with the co2 record to attribute it all to anthropogenic co2.
NOAA currently had 19 bmt (billion metric tons) being sunk of the 38 bmt produced. When you do the math with how much ends up in the atmosphere, there is a lot of missing carbon that is unaccounted for. Every year from 1998 1.5 ppm/v, and some years over 2.. missing. That is a very large amount of the co2 produced. To put that in prespective, at least 6 bmt net (minus the sinking) went missing in 2006.
What has alarmed me about studying the co2 story are 2 things. The first is how large, or potentially large the co2 sink is. And the second, is that in view of sink, how close we may have been in going under. In my mind there is no question that if the sinks are variable, then so too are the sources. I don’t know which is a function of the other, whether they are mutually interdependent or independent of each other.
It has occured to me that the record could be in error.

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