Existing studies may have misgauged how carbon is distributed around the world



Ocean’s heat cycle shows that atmospheric carbon may be headed elsewhere

As humans continue to pump the atmosphere with carbon, it’s crucial for scientists to understand how and where the planet absorbs and naturally emits carbon.

A recent study in the journal Nature Geosciences examined the global carbon cycle and suggests that existing studies may have misgauged how carbon is distributed around the world, particularly between the northern and southern hemispheres. The results could change projections of how, when and where the currently massive levels of atmospheric carbon will result in environmental changes such as ocean acidification.

By reexamining ocean circulations and considering the carbon-moving power of rivers, the study’s authors suggest that as much as 40 percent of the world’s atmospheric carbon absorbed by land needs to be reallocated from existing estimates. In particular, the Southern Ocean encircling Antarctica and forests in the northern hemisphere — while still substantial absorbers or “sinks” of carbon –may not take up as much as scientists have figured.

“The carbon story we got is more consistent with what people have observed on the ground,” said first author Laure Resplandy, an assistant professor of geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute.

“Rivers have been largely overlooked,” Resplandy said. “We need to better constrain the transport of carbon from the land to the ocean by rivers. Otherwise, this carbon is attributed to the land sink and is missing from the ocean sink. If carbon goes into the land or into the ocean, it doesn’t have the same impact.”

Resplandy and her co-authors used models and field observations to find that the world’s oceans transport heat between the northern and southern hemispheres in the same way that carbon is transported. The transport of heat, however, is easier to observe. By tracking this heat, the researchers discovered that the ocean in the southern hemisphere is a much smaller carbon sink than previously thought and that the land at the same latitude is an almost non-existent source of carbon.

At the same time, the land in the northern hemisphere is a much smaller sink, meaning that it absorbs less carbon than climate models had accounted for. Instead, the researchers found that this carbon is sent to the ocean by rivers and transported to the southern hemisphere by ocean currents with 20 to 100 percent more strength than previous studies and models had shown.

The world’s carbon “budget” is balanced by reconciling the carbon entering the atmosphere with the carbon being absorbed through oceans and land. But direct observations of carbon flux on land are difficult to obtain. As a result, the extent to which land absorbs or emits carbon is largely deduced by assigning it whatever carbon is left over after ocean data are considered. This has led to land being overestimated as a carbon source and sink, especially if rivers aren’t considered, the authors reported. Image courtesy of Laure Resplandy

For scientists, the world’s carbon “budget” is like a bank ledger, Resplandy said. The carbon being absorbed into the global cycle needs to match the carbon being emitted. While the ocean carbon cycle is well documented, direct observations of carbon flux on land are difficult to obtain and influenced by numerous factors. As a result, the extent to which land acts as a sink or source is largely deduced by assigning it whatever carbon is left over after ocean data are considered, Resplandy said.

“In the southern hemisphere, the ocean sink was overestimated. As a result, the land, which is deduced from observed atmospheric carbon dioxide and the assumed ocean sink in the same region, was found to be a source,” Resplandy said.

“This was highly surprising though as there is not a lot of land mass in the southern hemisphere to sustain this source,” she said. “Our new estimate reconciles this apparent discrepancy by suggesting that there is a weaker ocean sink and close-to-zero land flux in the south.”

In a commentary about the paper published in Nature Geosciences, Andrew Lenton, a research scientist at the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research in Australia, wrote that the researchers established a correlation between heat and carbon transport, and showed that the pre-industrial carbon cycle can inform the understanding of the cycle today.

The researchers “provided an important baseline for understanding and attributing changes in land and ocean sinks in response to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations,” Lenton wrote. “Their results demonstrate the importance of the pre-industrial carbon cycle in setting the distribution of carbon sinks in the present day, and the power of exploiting the relationship between ocean heat and carbon transport driven by large-scale circulation.”

Scientists need to know how much carbon is entering the oceans, and where, so that they can more accurately project environmental changes that have a global reach, Resplandy said. Oceans, especially in the southern hemisphere, naturally take up carbon and heat from the atmosphere. But the price paid is a warmer ocean and higher acidity that threatens marine life and sea-based economies such as fishing.

“Now it matters to do a better job understanding the ocean,” Resplandy said. “Our main point is that carbon gets re-distributed because it was wrongly allocated. A lot of people had different pieces, but all the pieces weren’t quite fitting together.”


The study: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0151-3

221 thoughts on “Existing studies may have misgauged how carbon is distributed around the world

  1. Let’s see. I guess that the takeaway is they needed to explain that trees and crops are not growing faster after all, and actually rivers suck up all that “carbon” and promptly deliver it directly the Great Barrier Reef so that it can be “acidified”.

    But the price paid is a warmer ocean and higher acidity that threatens marine life and sea-based economies such as fishing.

    It took them a while to get around to it, but I persevered until I found how this proves that things are much worse than anyone ever expected and we are doomed. No doubt, Republicans are to blame.

    What I don’t understand is how this effects family separation at the southern border. Isn’t that the only topic permitted on the MSM this month? I hear babies crying.

      • “” I hear babies crying.” Naw, that’s Rachel Maddow and her crocodile tears.”

        Conservatives are always claiming to be the most christian. Interesting that this site offers mostly insults and politics, and very little science.

        • Another misfire from the bottom shelf. What do you suggest, we treat fakers like Rachel M. with real consideration? How ’bout we just fake it?

          • I see. More christian comments. Of course they are faking when you say they are faking. Science is fake when Trump says it is fake.

          • The truth may be insulting, but it is still the truth.
            Something that you have no familiarity with.

          • Alley says Science is fake when Trump says it is fake. And Alley is fake when Alley…posts.

        • Apparently you’re unaware that the Obama, Bush and prior Administrations also separated kids from their parents in detention centers. When citizens go to jail, they’re also separated from their children.

          Illegal immigrants are detained because they have committed a crime. Adults awaiting trial or processing are detained, according to US law. Since you can’t put minors in jail for crimes committed by their parents, the families have to be separated.

          If Trump changes immigration law and procedure to allow illegally entering adults and kids to be incarcerated together, it will cost a lot of money to help law-breaking foreigners.

          • How absurd! Hoardes of children, including myself at 18 months old, were warehoused in rural nursery schools in UK during the War while their parents worked in urban targets or overseas postings. And then there were those years in boarding school!
            How barbaric?!

          • ‘Apparently you’re unaware that the Obama, Bush and prior Administrations also separated kids from their parents in detention centers.” I, for one, am unaware of that. I tried to find evidence for it, but couldn’t. Perhaps you can help.

            “Illegal immigrants are detained because they have committed a crime. Adults awaiting trial or processing are detained, according to US law.” It is not only illegal immigrants who are detained, it is also those who are seeking asylum. As far as I can tell, there is no law requiring detention for either.

            “Since you can’t put minors in jail for crimes committed by their parents, the families have to be separated.” I see. The detention centers housing thousands of children are not technically jails, so that makes it OK? You imply that children are not responsible for the decisions of their parents. Is it justified to deport those who as children came to the U.S. with their illegal immigrant parents, sending them to a country they might not even remember?

            “If Trump changes immigration law and procedure to allow illegally entering adults and kids to be incarcerated together, it will cost a lot of money to help law-breaking foreigners.” Obviously a change in law is not required. Nor is it required to incarcerate them. How will it cost more money to house them together rather than separately? How is it helping law-breakers to lock them up? Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor, and for this they can be held for months awaiting trial, despite the fact that nearly all those who are monitored (with a tracking bracelet, for example) show up for their court dates. And you are complaining about costs?

            I don’t defend illegal immigrants, and don’t advocate open borders. But I see no reasonable justification for separating children from their parents unless the parents endanger their children.

            OK, I’m done. This discussion is supposed to be about climate change.

        • “Conservatives are always claiming to be the most christian.”

          Do you have a WUWT example of that, Alley? I didn’t think so.

        • So many stereotypes, so little time.
          Some conservatives claim to be Christian, not all.
          I see that once again you are declaring any science that you disagree with to not be science.
          Finally, for someone who is pretty free with the insults, for you to whine about insults is rather hypocritical.

    • LOL! Jests aside though, for those who may not have noticed, you’ve described the new desperate tactic of linking the invented phenomenon of “climate change” to the neo-neo-Marxist travesty of actual justice, the obscurantist neologism we know and love as “social justice.” The scam may be crashing scientifically and on the public’s give-a-shyte meter, with bits and pieces falling off one at a time, but the PR bravely struggles on and so, anything that appears to move people …crying babies, included… will be harnessed to the propagation of the Cause. A weird time to be had by all….

      • Avi, have you not noticed it’s common around here to link the science of climate change to “Marxist” and “socialist” motivations? When people do this, it becomes much easier to believe that climate change is indeed an invented phenomenon, but this is a fallacy of reason. Science should be evaluated on its own merits, not through political ideology, but skeptics are no less guilty of muddying the waters than warmists.

        • As one who often taunts the trolls with the tagline “Stop burning fossil fuels, we need more socialism”, I can’t help feeling referenced here.

          It’s not the case that I reject the scientific conclusions of warmists because I think they are socialists with a Trojan Horse scam. I conclude that their science is flawed and then turn attention to the question of their motivation for claiming to believe things that they should be able to see are false. I give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not stupid and conclude that they are disingenuous.

          “Scientists” who appeal to political concepts like consensus and who refuse to debate based on data but instead claim that the science is settled, demonstrate that they are ideologically motivated. We skeptics simply make that observation. And furthermore it is not only watermelons (green on the outside but red at their core) who push warmist agitprop. It’s also opportunists in large corporations, nominally capitalists, for example General Electric.

        • The motivation for the obviously faulty, in fact, merit-less science and its propagation is political and financial. Plenty of evidence for that.

    • And, poor seafaring schmuck [bum boatie] although I may be, I thought the science was settled.
      Absolutely settled. Didn’t Mann – the original Mann in Mann-made Global warming – suggest with his Olympic and Nobble prize winning ‘prestige’, and say so.

      Again [for the hundredth or thousandth time] it looks like this is another thing we do not know.

      It might even be one of those ‘unknown unknowns’.

      Who’d have thought that t5wenty years into the CAGW certainty – ‘The science is Settled’ – there is doubt.

      Auto – not loving models all the way down.

    • “What I don’t understand is how this effects family separation at the southern border. Isn’t that the only topic permitted on the MSM this month?”

      This is what is commonly called a feeding frenzy. I just watch True Crime stories on tv and movies during times like these. It will blow over in a few days and Trump will come out the winner.

      It doesn’t matter that Obama also separated children from adults who were charged with a crime. No feeding frenzy for Obama’s action. Just when Republicans are involved.

      I thought Geraldo Rivera was going to have a mental breakdown on Fox News this morning over this issue. Get a grip, Geraldo! I hate to see grown men cry.

      So what is Trump supposed to do? Put the kids in the parents jail cell? Don’t charge the parents for illegal entry, leave the kids with the parents, and release them into the United States? That’s his only two options thanks to the laws Congress has written.

      Of course, the Democrats who want open borders want Trump to just release anyone who shows up at our border into the country. I’m not voting for anyone who does something like that. We need to shutdown the flow of illegal aliens coming into the U.S. I’m expecting that Trump will eventually get this done.

      And Btw, those socalled “children” I saw, some of them looked pretty old to me. Lots of older teenagers. They will make good recruits for MS-13.

      • Many of them already are. As a non-scientist I am astounded seeing the comments on this attached to an article about CO2. I guess the giveaway about this article is the word carbon. It tells me all I need to know about the authors and the supposed serious study.

        What was exposed in the media and laid bare for American citizens, the forgotten bunch who make up this country, is that the Democrats care more about criminals at the border than citizens who committed a crime and were separated from their children. Those children are just as traumatized. I know because I helped a young woman who lost hers get one back out of the foster system. That kid is still having emotional issues 18 months later. She was never charged with a crime.

    • As I read the press release, my primary reaction was “Huh, all this time I thought we were told that “The Science Is Settled!”

      and then this gem:”Now it matters to do a better job understanding the ocean”.

      Holy Batcr8p, Batman! Who would have thought 75% of the earth’s surface might have an impact on CO2/carbon flux?

    • “Let’s see. I guess that the takeaway is they needed to explain that trees and crops are not growing faster after all, and actually rivers suck up all that ‘carbon’ and promptly deliver it directly the Great Barrier Reef so that it can be ‘acidified’.”

      Wow, you got all that from this article? Do you not see that this demonstrates a prejudice and lack of reason that undermines the credibility of climate change “skepticism”?

      • Hiya Kristi. Long time no joust

        What I did there is satire not serious analysis. Most people can recogniz that. Now admittedly most people decide on other people’s credibility primarily based on whether they perceive that the other person agrees with or opposes their worldview. So alarmists automatically dismiss me and close their minds to any arguments I might offer in serious analysis. That being the case why can’t I have some fun ridiculing them?

  2. “Resplandy and her co-authors used models and field observations to find that the world’s oceans transport heat between the northern and southern hemispheres in the same way that carbon is transported.”

    Chicken and egg. Did the models come before the field observations or the field observations before the models?

  3. Is this atmospheric carbon composed of tiny diamond crystals, or soot?

    It is the sign of times that nobody bothers to write the word “dioxide”. Why don’t we abbreviate United States to simply United?

    • Scousers always blame “United’ or maybe City (sorry, English soccer fans will understand 😉 )

    • Curious George,

      There is a good scientific reason to use carbon i.s.o. CO2: only in the atmosphere it is CO2. In seawater it is 1% CO2, 90% bicarbonates and 9% carbonates. In plants it is sugars, starch, cellulose and a lot of other chemicals…

      Thus either one need to calculate everything as “CO2 equivalents” or as “carbon equivalents”. The latter is choosen as most convenient as the amount of carbon doesn’t change when transferred from CO2 into carbonates or sugars or reverse…

      • In animals, fungi and microbes, C is also incorporated into a variety of compounds. Carbon chemistry is called “organic”, since C features so prominently in biochemistry.

        Carbon is in the amino acids from which living things make proteins, and in the nucleic acids vital to the genes coding for proteins, and to replication and reproduction.

        C is not only one of the most common elements in the universe, but the smallest one with a valence of four electrons, so it plays well with others, such as N and P (valence of 5), O and S (6) and the halogens (7).

        DNA consists of the five-carbon sugar deoxyribose, four nucleobases with four or five carbon atoms each, and a phosphate group.

        More essential trace gas carbon available in the air is a good thing, up to about 1200 ppm.

      • Would this be the reason why alarmists always photoshop to make any smoke or steam from cooling towers black? How does science refer to atmospheric soot?

        • Curious George,

          It is common practice for alarmists to show pictures of smokestacks and cooling towers in backlight, preferably late evening at sunset with some redish/brownish glow to show how dirty industry and power factories are… Of course, most of it is steam.

          Real soot is counted as “black carbon” in the aerosols inventories, completely separated from the carbon budget, as that in most cases doesn’t react with anything else, but can have a huge impact on the radiation budget, including ice melt if it is disposed on snow.

      • The switching between “carbon” and “carbon dioxide” is a good way to purposely confuse low-information readers who don’t know that burning a fuel containing 12 grams of carbon produces 44 grams of carbon dioxide, so that a confusion factor of 3.67 (=44/12) can be introduced into the minds of readers by switching between “carbon” and “carbon dioxide”.

        Also, “CO2 equivalent” is used to magnify the effects of emissions of other infrared-absorbing gases such as methane, which is thought to absorb 20 times as much infrared radiation as CO2. Then, is this factor of 20 on a mass or mole basis, considering that a mole of CO2 has a mass of 44 grams, and a mole of methane has a mass of only 16 grams?

        CO2 concentrations in air are frequently given as volume ppm, which in gases are proportional to moles, not mass. Since the average molecular weight of air is about 29 (which varies slightly by humidity) and that of CO2 is 44, the effect of additional mass of CO2 has only 66% (= 29/44) of the effect on the volume or mole ppm of CO2 in the air.

        Then, there is the fact that IR absorption is proportional to the concentration of CO2 in molecules per unit volume. At high altitudes, where atmospheric pressure is lower than at sea level, the number of molecules per cubic meter of all gases is lower than at sea level, even if the volume ppm of CO2 remains the same, so there is less IR absorption at high altitudes than near the surface. No wonder scientists didn’t actually find the “hot spot” at high altitudes predicted by climate models!

        But the average low-information reader doesn’t bother to work through all these conversions between mass and moles and between moles of carbon and moles of CO2, so they are easily led astray by AGW alarmists’ wording designed to confuse the innocent.

        • Steven Zell:

          The switching between “carbon” and “carbon dioxide” is a good way to purposely confuse low-information readers

          Scientists use carbon to describe the carbon cycle in whatever molecule that carbon is incorporated when exchanged between atmosphere and other reservoirs. It is the carbon cycle, not the CO2 cycle, as good as one uses the nitrogen or phosphor or kalium cycles to show the behaviour of these elements in the biosphere via fertilisers. Not the ammonia cycle or nitrate cycle for nitrogen.

          That is a good way to remove the confusion that you introduce by moving from CO2 in the atmosphere to carbohydrates in vegetation, as the amounts of carbon exchanged remain exactly the same in both the emitter and receiver.

          • BTW kalium = potassium for non-Dutch readers…

            On bags of fertilisers the for plants available N-P-K content is printed to show how much of each element can be taken by growing plants, whatever the form these are in the content.

    • Carbon, carbon, carbon, carbon, carbon, carbon, carbon, carbon! Yes yes yes… Why don’t we call H2O hydrogen???? Carbon dioxide or CO2 has a nice ring to it. Chemistry is somewhat of an exacting science, perhaps we should treat it that way. And don’t even get me started on acronyms without explanation for the great unwashed…

      • “Why don’t we call H2O hydrogen?”

        Because we already have a perfectly good, short name for H2O. It’s called water.

  4. I still don’t understand how a warmer ocean can contain more CO2. It should drop. The fact that CO2 levels follow rising temperatures, with a certain lag, is caused by this effect, well, so I thought. Can anyone explain it to me?

    • Silly question scarface. Sure the extra heat drives out more CO2 and that deadly CO2 drives even more heating of the ocean. That’s no doubt why they overestimated the ocean carbon sink because they didn’t realize just how much worse it was than anyone had ever imagined. Now they know that most of the “carbon” in the Northern Hemisphere actually goes straight into the rivers, not into the trees and crops (don’t be ridiculous) and once it’s in the rivers, it flows into the ocean and the currents will drop it straight onto whichever coral need to be acidified and killed. Then after the killing is accomplished, maybe the water gets warmer and some of the deadly CO2 goes out, but all that extra CO2 that was falsely assumed to be making the planet greener, is really turning the ocean into something just short of battery acid. It’s amazing that ships don’t just corrode away from the bottom up.

      If we go back to how things were when the earth was perfect and totally, completely static in its climate for trillions of years up to 175 years ago, we will be able to understand how we are destroying the planet. Hope this helps clear things up for you.

      • Rich, go study Henry’s law, instead of parroting the news media. What’s clear to me is your religious zeal for anti-humanism.

          • Rich should just consider your quick reaction as a pat on the back for his parody of the useful idiots.

          • I should be more sarc savvy, particularly as I’m a fan of dry humor and folks like Brad Keyes and apparently Mr Davis.
            I missed a good opportunity to add a sarcastic supportive comment.

          • Rich should have put the sarc tag in

            [With all due respect and apologies to the venerable Pop Piasa, the mods note that it’s much more amusing to watch the inevitable kerfluffle that results from an absent /sarc… -mod]

      • I suspect yet again the authors are nor merely noting how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans but All the Carbon in the oceans. That will include phytoplankton and zooplankton which traps carbon in bodies and shells. Most of the carbon in the ocean is in these forms.

    • The amount of CO2 that goes into oceans depends not on Henry’s law but on partial pressure difference between the atmosphere and the ocean. As CO2 is increasing very fast in the atmosphere the ocean is taking more CO2 despite becoming warmer.

      • Great! I no longer need worry about beer or champagne going flat even on a hot summer day. Yet another benefit of more CO2 in the air.


      • Javier, we’ve seen an increase of 1 molecule per ten thousand since CO2 was 310 ppm. Does that amount to a measurable increase in partial pressure? Pardon my ignorance, but when the oceans again cycle cooler, won’t there be a noticeable increase in the maritime sinks? Besides that, where does the observed increase in aquatic flora fit into this?

        • Pop,

          An increase of 310 to 410 ppmv is an increase of 32% or 32 molecules per 100 already present in the atmosphere…

          The difference with partial pressure is a matter of water vapor: ppmv is expressed in dry air, while pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2 in μatm) is including water vapor, which may be 2-3% at sea level. Thus pCO2 in general is a little lower than ppmv.

          What is measured (yes really measured, no models!) is that the pCO2 of the oceans waters increases with 16 μatm/K. Thus even with a sudden increase of 1 K in the average oceans surface temperature, that is surpassed by the yearly increase of about 2 ppmv in only 4 years time…

          • Jim,

            It looks like that they have a lot of meltwater from sea-ice, but didn’t found the salinity data. Plus an increase in pH from fresh water looks rather questionable to me.

          • Ferdinand,

            I don’t believe there is much if any sea ice in that area, plus a quick look at the salinity data for 2014 does not show any meaningful drop until June. Data available here:


            I would note that such a rapid (and huge) local drop in CO2 levels in the near surface ocean waters at that time of the year could be activation of photosynthesis activity of phytoplankton. Open to other ideas, of course.

          • John,

            If you count that in that way, it is right, but that doesn’t say anything about its effect: an increase of 1 molecule HCN (hydrogen cyanide) in 10,000 molecules of N2/O2 is not that safe…

          • I recall going through this exercise myself several years ago when this question occurred to me…and yes, as I recall, I found the same thing. Namely, that the increase in atmospheric CO2 (increase in partial pressure) was a larger “forcing” than decrease in solubility due to ocean surface temps. So, yes, absent other variables, the oceans could be gradually neutralizing through absorption of CO2. (Of course, we know there are significant buffering carbonates and etc that essentially dwarf any increase in dissolved CO2, so the whole neutralization scare is largely irrelevant.)


      • So claimith did Javier, to wit:

        The amount of CO2 that goes into oceans depends not on Henry’s law but on partial pressure difference between the atmosphere and the ocean. As CO2 is increasing very fast in the atmosphere the ocean is taking more CO2 despite becoming warmer.

        But, but, but, nothing depends on Henry’s Law, ….. Henry’s Law simply defines the process of “absorption/emission” between a gas and a liquid, to wit:

        Henry’s law is one of the gas laws formulated by William Henry in 1803 and states: “At a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas that dissolves in a given type and volume of liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid.”

        An equivalent way of stating the law is that the solubility of a gas in a liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of the gas above the liquid:


        And “DUH”, ….. the ocean is taking up more CO2 …… every time it rains on the ocean.

    • My hypothesis is, it is a dynamic flow, and when circulation to the depths is impeded, it aggregates at the surface. See here for my reasoning.

      • Hello Bart,

        Missed you last time…

        As usual: the CO2 equilibrium between the ocean surface and the atmosphere is exactly the same for a static sample in a lab for the same temperature as the average ocean surface in full dynamics. That changes with about 16 ppmv/K or maximum 16 ppmv extra since the LIA. The rest of the 110 ppmv increase is from human emissions…

          • Bart,

            Again, it doesn’t make any difference: some 40 GtC CO2/year is injected in the atmosphere from upwelling waters near the equator (at a pCO2 of over 700) and again absorbed near the poles (at a pCO2 of less than 200).

            What counts is the (area weighted) average pCO2 difference between the atmosphere and the ocean surface, which is currently 7 μatm higher in the atmosphere than in the ocean surface.

            Apart from biolife, that mainly depends of the surface temperature. For the same average surface temperature the same average pCO2 exists in a single sample and the full dynamics of the whole ocean surface. In all cases the absorption or release is in linear ratio with the pCO2 difference (and wind speed for the mixing speed).

          • It does make a difference. The time scales for full equilibration are enormous. You are just asserting what you want to be true.

          • Bart,

            The e-fold time between the “mixed layer”, the upper few 100 meters of the oceans and the atmosphere is less than a year. That layer shows an increase in DIC (total inorganic carbon) that follows the increase in the atmosphere with a lag of a few years. That is all.

            The mixing with the deep oceans is of a different order: some 51 years e-fold time for any excess CO2 above the temperature dictated equilibrium level. Full equilibrium with the deep oceans will need a few hundred years.

            It is exactly that restriction that is responsible for the fact that not all human emissions (as mass) are removed the same year as emitted…

          • The last does not follow. All emissions will not be removed, but the remainder can be arbitrarily small. I have shown you calculations in which it all adds up.

      • As I understand it, there is indeed a dynamic flow. Cold, salty, dense water in the North Atlantic sinks to great depths where it flows ever so slowly around the ocean basins where it eventually upwells to the surface hundreds/thousands of years later. That’s the thermo-saline circulation. Since the water at the start of the “pipeline” is in equilibrium with current 400ppm CO2 and the water upwelling elsewhere is from older lower CO2 environments, there is a net stashing of some CO2 in the deep oceans.

        The next question might be. So what?

        • Thanks everyone, but after reading all your comments to my question, I’m still a bit confused. I’m glad there is no consensus though 🙂

          • Scarface,

            I will try to keep it simple:

            The solubility of any gas in any liquid depends of the temperature of the liquid and its specific solubility.

            The solubility of 1 bar CO2 (= 100% CO2 in the atmosphere) in fresh water is about 1.7 g/l at 20ºC.
            For the 0.0004 bar (~400 ppmv) CO2 in the atmosphere, it is accordingly lower, as per Henry’s law the ratio between atmosphere and liquid remains the same.

            See: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/gases-solubility-water-d_1148.html

            If the temperature increases, the solubility of CO2 gets less, thus you need more pressure to compensate for the higher temperature of the seawater to have the same amount of CO2 absorbed. That equilibrium changes with about 16 ppmv/ºC. Thus if all oceans increase in surface temperature with 1ºC, you need 16 ppmv extra pressure in the atmosphere.

            Currently the increase is about 2 ppmv/year or in about 8 years, the CO2 pressure in the atmosphere is higher than what is needed to push more CO2 in the warming oceans…

          • And, then it flows to the depths and back up again, on timelines stretching into nearly a thousand years.

            This system is not so simple.

        • don k,

          More or less right, with a few additions: the waters at the poles still are undersaturated in CO2 (pCO2 of 150 μatm, with 400 μatm in the atmosphere), while at the equator the upwelling waters are oversaturated (750 μatm vs. 400 μatm in the atmosphere). Mainly a matter of temperature (and some enriching in the deep oceans by dropouts from the surface).

          That makes that there is a lot of CO2 (about 40 GtC/y) moving from the equator to the poles via the atmosphere. The CO2 fluxes were in dynamic equilibrium with the atmosphere at about 280-290 μatm (~ppmv) pre-industrial. As CO2 in the atmosphere increased, the equilibrium changed as more CO2 pressure in the atmosphere reduces the outgassing at the equator and increases the uptake near the poles. That results in about 3 GtC/y extra uptake by the deep oceans.

          See further:

          • “The CO2 fluxes were in dynamic equilibrium with the atmosphere at about 280-290 μatm (~ppmv) pre-industrial. “

            Such tight regulation is simply incompatible with the claim that the levels are extraordinarily sensitive to human inputs. Regulation is either high bandwidth (tight control and insensitivity) or low bandwidth (loose control and high sensitivity). You can’t have both.

            The narrative relies entirely upon ice core records that cannot be independently verified. They are a weak link in the chain of logic.

          • Bart,

            The increase of about 100 ppmv between a glacial and an interglacial period needed about 5,000 years or 0.02 ppmv CO2 change per year.

            In recent decades humans added about 4 ppmv/year, resulting in about 2 ppmv/year increase, about a 100-fold the historical changes.

            With an observed e-fold decay of about 51 years for any extra CO2 above equilibrium, it is no problem to follow the slow changes over glacial – interglacial periods, but it is a problem for the sinks to follow current human emissions…

            Ice cores are inherently verified:
            – An overlap of 20 years between high resolution ice cores and the atmosphere at the South Pole.
            – A “bootstrapped” overlap between ice cores with extreme differences in precipitation, temperature and resolution.

          • Bart,

            There are several independent sources which roughly validate the ice core CO2 data. Ice core CO2 data are direct measurements of CO2 in (ancient) air which are highly accurate with a repeatability of +/- 1.2 ppmv (1 sigma) for the same core at the same depth. The other sources are indirect proxies which have a far worse repeatability, but sometimes a higher resolution and spanning a longer period (2 million years for foramins).
            Even direct measurements of 100 years ago over the oceans with the old wet chemical methods (+/- 10 ppmv) shows values around the ice core measurements for the same period.

            In fact, its is the same problem as when C.D. Keeling introduced the NDIR method for measuring CO2 in the atmosphere: there was no direct validation possible, as the old wet methods were far less accurate….

  5. So basically they’re substituting a new set of assumptions for the old ones, none of them actually reflecting observations because there are still no actual MEASUREMENTS of the “sources” and “sinks” of CO2, mostly just assumptions, estimates, and “models” built from assumptions and estimates.

    IOW, the usual hogwash, as long as they can spin it to an “It’s worse than we thought” headline.

  6. So, 95% of the annual carbon emission is due to natural processes. 5% is said to be the human contribution. Also, if humans stopped emitting CO2, the earth’s temperature would return to normal, whatever that is.
    The statement is totally incredulous. It means that the global warmers blame that 5% for the changing climate. 5% of 400 ppm is 20 ppm. Now, global warmers want you to actually believe that 20 ppm of Co2 is responsible for any perceived change in climate.
    Doesn’t anyone else find that assertion complete idiocy?

    • Idiocy? Then what’s the alternative that will cause the Earth’s ice caps to melt by 2014

    • John Shotsky,

      Wrong reasoning: 95% of all annual carbon emissions are natural, but 97.5% of all annual carbon sinks are natural too. Nature is a net sink for about half human emissions, the other half (in mass, not the original molecules) remains in the atmosphere. That is what increases the global CO2 level, not the natural (mainly seasonal) cycle, which is more sink than source.

      If that has much effect is a different question, In my opinion very little…

        • R. Shearer,

          With more plants in combination with the higher CO2 pressure in the atmosphere, the amounts absorbed indeed are increasing. Still not enough in combination with the oceans to absorb all human emissions in the same year as emitted (as mass, not the original molecules). As humans emit more and more CO2 (except in economical crisis), the “airborne” fraction remained about the same over the last 60 years:


          The calculated increase is based on human emissions at one side and the observed sink rate in ratio to the extra CO2 above equilibrium for the current average ocean surface temperature.

      • Wrong reasoning. This is a dynamic feedback system in which sinks expand in reaction to increased partial pressure. The portion of sink activity that responded to our inputs would not have come into being without that addition, and so can be properly classified as artificial sink activity. When you move it to the artificial side of the ledger, you find nature on its own is a net source.

        • Bartemis says: “sinks expand in reaction to increased partial pressure”
          This is false.

          They do not expand, and they do not contract.
          Bartemis is clueless as to what nature does.
          Bartemis does not understand what “expand” and “contract” means in a natural process.

        • For example, photosynthesis is not rate limited by the partial pressure of CO2 . It is rate limited by the presence or absence of H2O. This is the reason that Death Valley remains barren even with 400 ppm of CO2

          • More CO2 means more water available for plants, since they need leave their stomata open for less time.

            C3 plants most certainly flourish under higher CO2. They do much better under true greenhouse conditions, ie 1200 ppm, than under the starvation diet of 400 ppm.

        • The oceans are a sink for CO2. The oceans do not “expand” with increasing partial pressure of CO2. When CO2 was at 280 ppm, they remained at the same size as they were when CO2 was at 400 ppm. They did not “expand”.

        • Bart:

          When you move it to the artificial side of the ledger, you find nature on its own is a net source.

          Seems impossible to me:

          natural vs. human:

          Natural sources (N): 200 GtC/year in
          Natural sinks (S): 200 GtC/year out (at equilibrium)
          Human emissions (A): 9 GtC/year
          Human caused sinks (AS): 4.5 GtC/year

          Increase in the atmosphere:
          X = N – S + A – AS = 4.5 GtC/year

          If nature was more source than sink:

          N = 210
          S = 200
          A = 9
          AS = 4.5
          that gives X = 14.5 which is not what is observed.

          At maximum the extra AS can reach A and then the increase of CO2 caused by humans stops. Any more increase in the atmosphere then is caused by natural causes.

          • If AS = A, you have

            X = N – S = 4.5 GtC/year

            and nature is a net source.

            You are engaging in circular logic here. You assume you know N and S based on your assumptions about A and AS. But, you do not actually know N and S.

          • Bart,

            Again wrong reasoning:

            AS doesn’t depend of A of one year, AS depends of the total CO2 pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere above equilibrium.

            The observed e-fold rate for the sinks is roughly 0.02 times the pressure difference between actual and equilibrium CO2 pressure.
            Expressed in GtC above equilibrium that is a factor about 0.01.
            For 110 ppmv (232 GtC) difference that is 2.15 ppmv (4.5 GtC) per year extra sink (ES), no matter the origin of the extra CO2.

            In the first year of human emissions, with a fixed level of 9 GtC/year and starting at equilibrium fluxes (eqf) that gives:

            In: eqf + 9
            Out: eqf + ES = eqf + 9 * 0.01 = eqf + 0.1
            End year 1: X = 8.9 above equilibrium

            Year 2:
            In eqf + 9
            Out: eqf + 17.9 * 0.01 = eqf + 0.2
            End year 2: X = 17.7 above equilibrium


            For a fixed emission level of 9 GtC/year or 4.5 ppmv/year, the equilibrium between A and AS is reached at 4.5/0.02 = 225 ppmv above the temperature controlled equilibrium or about 515 ppmv.

            The bulk of the natural fluxes as well as in as out are seasonal and mainly temperature dependent, hardly CO2 pressure dependent. The growth and wane of leaves on trees did hardly change over the decades, neither changed the seasonal difference in CO2 solubility over the oceans, while CO2 increased with over 90 ppmv in the past 60 years and the net sinks increased in a surprising linear rate with the increase in the atmosphere above the temperature controlled equilibrium…

          • You keep going around in circles. No. AS depends on cumulative A, and depending on the speed of response, it can be arbitrarily close to A.

            This is very basic feedback theory.

            The rest is just your rationalization and asserting what you want to be true.

          • Bart,

            The above is the response possible for a simple linear process: the amount of CO2 that is extra sinking is directly proportional to the extra CO2 pressure in the atmosphere. That process is surprisingly linear in the past 60 years with a e-fold rate of about 51 years,
            That is not fast enough to remove all A in the same year as emitted, currently it gives about AS = A/2 and (not) by coincidence that is about the same average ratio over the past 60 years.
            The not coincidence is that CO2 emissions increased slightly quadratic over time and so did the sinks and thus the increase in the atmosphere leading to a rather fixed “airborne fraction”.

            Thus indeed AS depends (indirectly) of cummulative A, that is what I say already for years, or more accurate AS depends of what the CO2 level is in the atmosphere above equilibrium per Henry’s law:


            The response of oceans and biosphere, the two main CO2 sinks, to any extra CO2 pressure in the atmosphere is not fast enough to remove all A in the same year as emitted…

          • “That process is surprisingly linear in the past 60 years with a e-fold rate of about 51 years…”

            Not possible – if the sinks were that efficient, we wouldn’t have the nominal equilibrium level we do now. You are fundamentally treating anthro and natural CO2 on a different footing, and nature has no means of discrimination between the two.

            Moreover, it is again circular logic. You assumed anthro is driving the rise, so you come up with an e-fold rate of 51 years, which indicates that anthro must be driving it.

          • Bart has his own circular argument regarding sources and sinks, any anthropogenically sourced CO2 can not (by his definition) be absorbed by a natural sink. Any photosynthetic plant which absorbs CO2 from fossil fuels automatically becomes a ‘human caused’ sink.
            Bart further requires that all human sourced CO2 be absorbed, therefore if CO2 increases it must be a natural source exceeding the natural sinks(by his definition).

          • You are very confused.

            The only substantial sink capacity is natural. But, those sinks are reactive. When they have more CO2 available, they sink more CO2. And, when more CO2 is available from artificial sources, they expand their sink capacity in response.

            That expanded capacity due specifically to artificial forcing can reasonably be designated as artificial sink capacity, as it would not be there without the artificial forcing.

            Thus, that portion of capacity which was created in response to artificial forcing belongs on the artificial side of the ledger. It would not exist if the artificial forcing had not been there.

            In order to determine if nature is a net sink or not, we have to look at what would be the case without any artificial forcing. It is thereby not valid to count only natural forcing minus ALL sink activity. You have to remove that portion of sink activity that was induced by artificial means.

      • Two points FE
        Which 2.5% of all annual carbon sinks are not natural ?
        Did I miss the proof that CO2 was constant until man arrived. Did somebody prove that the world was in perfect equilibrium?

        • ghl,

          CO2 was not constant in the past, but over the past 800,000 years CO2 levels were in ratio with temperature, with an extremely good correlation (for a natural process) between the two.

          That ratio (for Antarctica) is about 8 ppmv/K. On global scale that is about 16 ppmv/K. Not by coincidence the same ratio as the change in solubility of CO2 in seawater.

          Thus before humans, CO2 changes were following T changes with 600 to several thousands of years at a maximum “speed” of 0.02 ppmv/year.

          In the past decades humans injected about 4.5 ppmv/year which resulted in an increase of 2.15 ppmv/year or 100 times faster than in the past… Even if ice cores have a worse resolution the farther you go in the past, the 110 ppmv increase in 160 years time would be measurable in any ice core of the past 800,000 years.

          Humans do release a lot of CO2. There are no specific human sinks (even new forests in some countries are more than compensated by more slash and burn in other countries). Thus all sinks are natural.

          On the other side: if all increase of CO2 is from humans, the 2.5% extra sink over source is 100% caused by humans. Still not enough to remove all human CO2 (as mass) out of the atmosphere in the same year as emitted, thus again all increase is by human emissions.

  7. somewhat OT…
    mr watts, or other authors, in 2016 (iirc) had posted how some measurements were usin g ship hull intake temp sensors.
    does anyone remember link or tag I can search for?
    not having luck on my end.

    • Carbon TriOxide? or the carbonate ion? The former is pretty hard to form and the second is all over the place including my favorite, oysters.

    • Good question as it has been gathering data for years. Obviously the data is “inconvenient” so it’s not being shared with the MSM. The data …. how much I don’t know …. is there for the public so I’m surprised no one has done a private analysis and reported their findings.

      • The OCO-2 data are very noisy, which creates opportunity for mischief in an attempt to clean it up with interpolation and modeling. (The animation showing the altitude of the CO2 is an example of that.) Raw and semi-processed data are available, but it would take a considerable personal commitment to try to work with it. Besides a background in how to process the data, one would probably need specialized software and/or programming skills. Personally, I’m disappointed that JPL hasn’t processed more of the data for publication. A successor may be placed on the International Space Station, but I’m not sure that there is sufficient interest from the alarmist community because the initial results from OCO-2 aren’t a resounding endorsement of many of the claims about the importance of anthropogenic CO2.

    • SMC
      The first release of 30 images from NASA occurred on the 15th of April 2016. They revealed a perfect understanding of the annual carbon cycle. Not one skeptic found them, was interested in them, or has used them for evaluation. I have provided links to that report several times previously and the only feedback was negative. Not one person looked at the images as a stand alone without my comment and asked themselves – this doesn’t look like the carbon cycle presented.

      The link to that very detailed summary using these images was sent to the very helpful people I communicated with at NASA OCO2 department. It included the natural atmospheric cycle between hemispheres of transport from the NH to the SH that occurs between late May and October which is so poorly understood, and why it occurs. Just look at the Mauna Loa cycle. The images and my report contradicted the current thinking of both sides of the discussion, skeptic and alarmist alike. The first 30 images from NASA revealed all to those folks with an open and inquiring mind. Following my report subsequent images were severely lacking in detail including the original 30, and now they are all not available. The images you get now from the OCO-2 website are all about greening.

      Everybody knew that the OCO-2 satellite was up there, and where the OCO-2 website site was but nobody looked. Isn’t the current discussion about CO2. Now they are gone. Ah well. I still have a set of the originals.

      • Ozonebust, I remember some of the first images from OCO2. They didn’t match the models, they didn’t show what was expected. Since then, refined data and images have been scarce. I’ve been to the JPL website for OCO2 trying to find (relatively) easy to understand data and imagery and, unless things have changed fairly recently, they aren’t there. The raw data is/was there, if you have the tools and patience (which I don’t), you can interpret it. What I got out of the original imagery is, major sources of CO2 are not what the CAGW crowd expected them to be. Major source of CO2 were not what the skeptic crowd expected them to be… I thought it was pretty neat. But, as far as the leftists are concerned, it didn’t support the message, it was out side the message or it was against the message, therefore the data is verboten.

      • Ozonebust,
        Actually, I do remember seeing a sequence of OCO-2 images some time back. And, I remember someone having an unconventional interpretation, which I took issue with publicly here. If you are that person, then your statement “Not one skeptic found them, was interested in them, or has used them for evaluation.” is not accurate. You also said, “Everybody knew that the OCO-2 satellite was up there, and where the OCO-2 website site was but nobody looked.” That is also less than accurate, since I can say authoritatively that I did look, which is why I remarked above about the quality of the data.

  8. “We really do not know what we are pontificating about” would be a motto for Climate Science, particularly political Climate Science. So they do not really know the CO2 balance, either?

  9. So OCO isn’t giving them the story they want? I’m curious if they used it, since they didn’t mention it in the brief.

    • You are quite correct in suspecting that OCO-2 isn’t telling them the story they expected.
      It will take the science team scientists a while to get their heads around it, and admit everything they thought they understood, they don’t. Right now there is lots of disbelief to overcome.

      Sort of like when the first telescope observation of Jupiter ~400 years ago clearly showed 4 moons going around Jupiter. That couldn’t compute. It took a while to grasp their fundamental model was wrong at its core.

      • The killer was the phases of Venus, which showed the Ptolemaic model false. It didn’t necessarily confirm the Copernican model, since Tycho’s mixed system wasn’t ruled out, but the simpler, purely heliocentric model rightly won the day.

    • OCO2 was ” designed to collect space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to characterize sources and sinks (fluxes) on regional scales ” https://oco.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/

      Perhaps the problem was that it succeeded?
      “the total amount of carbon released to the atmosphere from all land areas increased by 3 gigatons in 2015, due to the El Nino. About 80 percent of that amount — or 2.5 gigatons of carbon — came from natural processes occurring in tropical forests in South America, Africa and Indonesia” https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?CFID=d3be3e4f-b4c1-427b-b173-7359cb47e6e4&CFTOKEN=0&feature=6973

      • betapug,

        It is known that a lot of tropical forests change from CO2 sinks/neutral to large sources of CO2 during an El Niño, due to drought conditions. That reverses in neutral to La Niña conditions. That gives that less CO2 is taken away by land + oceans combined than in other years, but still humans with about 9 GtC emissions/year are responsible for the increase and still nature is a (smaller) sink in such conditions.

  10. Ye Gods ! Last time WORDS FAILED ME !
    BUT not this time !
    I have the exact word for this that best sums it up :
    PIFFLE !

  11. Using the emotive word Carbon that makes it sound ‘bad’ as the black/sooty stuff we see on chimneys etc., instead of the photosynthesising life enabling ‘good’ gas Carbon Dioxide is like using the explosive word Hydrogen for the life essential liquid Water.

  12. FTA: “…the extent to which land absorbs or emits carbon is largely deduced by assigning it whatever carbon is left over after ocean data are considered.”

    In other words, they are employing fallacious reasoning by using process of elimination when they do not have full information.

    Our emissions do not significantly drive atmospheric concentration. The rate of change is proportional to appropriately baselined temperature anomaly.


    Because it is a rate of change relationship, the arrow of causality is from temperature to CO2, not CO2 to temperature. If there were, in addition, a significantly positive CO2 to temperature relationship, that would comprise an unstabilizable positive feedback loop, and we would have reached a saturation condition eons ago.

    The whole brouhaha is a total fiasco, brought on by assuming the outcome, and then trying to fit the data to that assumption. It will continue to be misjudged until temperatures produce an undeniable divergence with emissions data. There is already a significant divergence, but it is rationalized by assuming sink activity is increasing. It isn’t. We simply do not have a large impact.

    • Bart,

      As usual: your relationship between T and the CO2 rate of change is completely bogus.

      First, there is no lag between T and dCO2/dt variability, so you can’t show that T changes cause dCO2/dt changes or reverse.

      Second, the real relationship – with a lag – is between T and CO2 changes and between dT/dt and dCO2/dt changes.

      Here the first enlarged for the Pinatubo and 1998 El Niño period:


      Which shows that the influence of temperature changes precedes the CO2 changes, which are small (+/- 1.5 ppmv) and after a few years are near zero around the trend which has nothing to do with temperature.

      Then the influence of dT/dt on dCO2/dt:


      Which shows that dT/dt is the driving force for dCO2/dt and also shows that the main response to temperature changes is from (tropical) vegetation: dCO2/dt changes and d13C/dt changes are synchronous and opposite to each other. If the oceans were the main reactant, CO2 and δ13C changes would parallel each other.

      Problem for your theory: vegetation is an increasing sink for CO2 (as good as the oceans), thus not the cause of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere…

      • Both the short term and the long term variation match. Dismissing the excellent match of the long term trend in the rate of change with the temperature anomaly trend is wishful thinking.

        • Bart,

          It is beyond doubt that the short term variability and long term trend are from different processes. The short term variabilty is caused by the influence of temperature changes on vegetation. That has zero connection with the long term trend, as vegetation is a net, increasing sink for CO2.
          There is no temperature dependent process in this world which gives you 110 ppmv extra from an increase of 1 K in temperature.
          The trend in dCO2/dt is from the slightly quadratic increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, not from temperature.

          The correlation of T changes (up, down, up, flat) and CO2 changes (slightly quadratic up) is by far inferior to the correlation with the accumulated emissions (slightly quadratic up) at twice the increase in the atmosphere:


          • Bart,

            I know, you don’t like any observation that refutes your theory. In this case, you don’t like any observation, as your theory violates every single known observation. Must be a record…

            All what you have is a nice match of a lot of noise in the CO2 rate of change with the T variability, but as good with the dT/dt variability, as dT/dt has exactly the same variability, only 90 degrees shifted back.

            The observations show that all CO2 rate of change variability is caused by the response of vegetation to fast T rate of change variability.
            If you have a different explanation for the opposite CO2 and δ13C rate of change changes, then I like to hear that.

            The observations show that vegetation is an increasing sink for CO2.

            Thus the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere and the variability of the increase per year have nothing to do with each other.

            That makes that you have zero proof that the CO2 increase in the atmosphere is natural…

          • These are not observations, these are your interpretations of observations.

            The proof that it is natural is the excellent agreement between the rate of change and temperature anomaly in both the short term variability and the long term trend. You want to ignore the match in the long term trend, but that is capricious. The odds of that match being happenstance are negligibly small.

    • Here goes Bart again with is claim that correlated data points somehow proves causation. Someone please remind him that lining up two squiggly lines proves nothing?

  13. well mixed my behind … anyone who still thinks its well mixed has well mixed mush for brains

  14. They used “models and field observations” for their research. Well, wouldn’t be interesting to know the proportion of one to the other. Scientific research into models can only produce theories, of course – and theories are a dime a dozen.

  15. the extent to which land acts as a sink or source is largely deduced by assigning it whatever carbon is left over after ocean data are considered

    As far as I know it is reverse: uptake by the biosphere can be measured by looking at the changes in δ13C and O2 after accounting for fossil fuel use. The difference in mass balance was assigned to deep ocean uptake… But even the latter can be deduced from the pCO2 differences between ocean waters and atmosphere and wind speed.

    See for land uptake:
    For ocean uptake:

    • Ferdinand–

      These links are rather old (2000 and 2001). Has there been an update on the data collected back then? Feely estimates annual ocean uptake at 2.2 +- 0.4 Pg C. Any changes to that estimate since then?

      • Lance,

        As far as I know not, but haven’t been actively searching in recent years. All what I know is that they still measure O2 and δ13C at several base stations, but the most recent δ13C data that were published are from 2013. Would be interesting to see how the recent strong El Niño influenced the CO2 uptake by the biosphere…

        A fast search with Google still didn’t show anything new. Only models, models, models,…

      • Lance,

        Indeed, only last year, Ralph Keeling et al published a paper (“Atmospheric evidence for a global secular increase in carbon isotopic discrimination of land photosynthesis”) where they admitted that having incorporated the most recent δ13C data, their model could not match the actual observations without the addition of a new variable. They state that “no plausible combination of sources and sinks of CO2 from fossil fuel, land, and oceans can explain the observed 13C-Suess effect unless an increase has occurred in the 13C/12C isotopic discrimination of land photosynthesis”.

    • Ferdinand,

      The Global Carbon Budget 2016 data (often used as a basis for plots such as this: http://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/images/GCP_Carbon_Cycle_Budget_2016.png)
      estimates the land sink by a simple arithmetic subtraction of estimated emissions less atmospheric growth less oceanic sink … see here:

      The view that you can estimate the land sink based on the δ13C data alone is a stretch to say the least, given that the oceans play a huge role in whichever hypothesis you prefer: emissions driving atmospheric growth or oceanic release driving growth. Even the second author here (Ralph Keeling) had to admit recently that his model could not match the actual δ13C observations, so he had to invoke a new variable!

      And as for the O2/N2 data, the assumption that CO2 can be absorbed by the oceans without any impact on the atmospheric O2 content (the so-called “oxygen balance”) is, as far as I can see, unsupported by ANY evidence whatsoever. I see multiple papers that illustrate that the two (CO2 and O2) change together in opposite directions in all circumstances, though not necessarily in the same ratio. What does change in the same ratio over time is the overall increase in atmospheric CO2 vs the overall decline in O2/N2.

      • Thanks Jim for the links…

        Unfortunately again all based on models for the partitioning between oceans and biosphere… I am not that pessimistic that you can’t deduce a lot from δ13C and O2/N2 changes. Of course you need a lot of data from ocean measurements, as that is crucial for both the O2 and δ13C budget between the atmosphere and the biosphere.

        But if you have good temperature data, the oxygen solubility in seawater is known, while pCO2 differences and wind speed can determine CO2 exchanges.
        I still wonder why there is no update of the works of Battle, Bender, Feely and others based on measured data, not models…

        • Ferdinand,

          I agree that there seems to be a lack of recent data-driven papers. My impression is that the experts do not actually have a good handle on what is going on, particularly with respect to the ocean-air fluxes of CO2 and O2. Take this paper for example:


          See Figure 5 … not only does it show a very strong and instantaneous relationship between CO2 absorption and O2 release, the authors conclude (no other option as far as I know) that this must be largely a reflection of oceanic influence since the O2:CO2 exchange ratio is 3.96 in one case, way above the ratio for biosphere exchange (1.1) or, for that matter, fossil fuel burning (1.4). This evidence is contrary to one of the key assumptions behind the so-called oxygen balance model.

          Evidence for the failure to establish a common basis for the attribution of CO2 to land/ocean sources and sinks is nicely provided by the latest Global Carbon Budget data (2017). I mentioned the 2016 data previously as an illustration of the arithmetic approach to pretending to estimate the size of the terrestrial sink. In the 2017 estimates they dropped this approach and provided independent model-driven estimates for land and ocean sink sizes and, of course, they do not match the actual data when combined! In any event, anyone who averages the output from a bunch of different models and expects a meaningful result is rather missing the point of models. The 2017 estimates (version 1.3) can be found here:


          The irony of having all these very complex models is that the actual longer term global relationships between observed parameters is remarkably simple:

          Atmospheric δ13C-CO2 declines linearly with 1/CO2 (incremental CO2 has a constant δ13C of -13 per mil)
          Atmospheric δ18O-CO2 is flat, no increase/decrease over time
          Atmospheric O2 declines linearly with CO2 increase (O2:CO2 constant at circa 2.1)

    • Try this–
      This would be an interesting paper to read because the abstract does not say much. One of the citations (open access) is from a group studying the transport from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, this one concluding that the flood of 2011 turned the shelf ocean transport from a net sink (from terrestrial runoff) to a net source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

      Last two lines from conclusions– “The effects of enhanced removal of modern litter and surface soil carbon from terrestrial ecosystems that are experiencing more flooding (via climate change) on regional CO2 exchange, utilization of older soil carbon, and terrestrial carbon budgets remain largely unknown. This positive feedback resulting from global warming can be expected to occur where we see a greater turnover and loss of organic carbon from terrestrial environments that are experiencing more flooding and thawing.”

      I studied the floods of the 1970s some, still quite an impression, massive, the first big flood satellite photos. This river system has been concluded to take 2/3 of runoff material of the US. The 1973 flood was impressive especially since high runoff occurred again in 1974 and especially again in 1975, but both 1973 and 2011 required opening the Morganza spillway. It is worth a visit, out of the way it is. The spillway almost went in 1973, required lots of work.

  16. “…the land at the same [southern] latitude is an almost non-existent source of carbon.”

    That isn’t what the OCO-2 satellite maps show! The Amazon Basin appears to be a major source of CO2, as are areas in sub-Saharan Africa.

    • Yes, and a substantial part of that CO2 is produced anaerobically. This is where I disagree with Ferdinand. I do not believe Oxygen balance can be used to accurately constrain CO2 respiration from soils.

  17. If I remember correctly carbon does not exist for very long as a free atom. Why are people talking about atmospheric carbon without specifying the combination in which it exists?

    • Possibly for polemical purposes, but it does make for easier accounting.

      Please see Ferdinand’s explanation above, at 10:44.

    • Roger,

      That is because one wants to look at the flow of carbon in whatever form it exists at any moment. It is CO2 in the atmosphere, mostly bicarbonates in the oceans, cellulose in plants,…

      If you calculate the carbon flows, the balance must be right: no carbon is destroyed or created from nothing – except tiny amounts of 14C by cosmic rays…

      That makes comparisons of carbon flows easier, no matter in what kind of molecule that carbon is incorporated…

  18. The physical chemistry and biology of carbon dioxide is profoundly influenced by the kinetics of interconversion of aqueous carbon dioxide and bicarbonate. Carbonic anhydrase, which increases the uncatalyzed rate by up to seven orders of magnitude (x10000000 faster) is one of the most ubiquitous enzymes in nature. Until climate CO2 models recognize that the ocean surface is covered in a catalytic biofilm monolayer, I will continue to assume that they are profoundly wrong.

    They are just guessing, based on incorrect assumptions about equilibrium.

    • Quiet, no one is supposed to acknowledge this.

      I would make one comment though, the anhydrase is a catalyst, as all enzymes are.

  19. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/it/thumb/6/6c/PlaggenEpipedon.JPG/220px-PlaggenEpipedon.JPG

    The above link shows a picture of top soil over a layer of CACO3. The
    caption for the picture says that the topsoil was created over time
    by humans spreading manure on it. It was not. The topsoil is a
    product of aerobic microbes oxidizing hydrocarbons upwelling from
    below. The hydrocarbons, probably natural gas, rise until they hit
    the limestone barrier. The barrier is a consistent thickness, except
    at the right hand side of the photograph, where it is cracked.

    The prevailing wind in the photo is from right to left

    The consistency meters the hydrocarbons through at an even
    rate, but builds some back pressure. This back pressure is relieved
    somewhat at the crack, allowing a greater flow at that point. There
    the microbes have more to eat than in the surrounding soil,
    making the topsoil darker (richer). The crack also allows the aerobic
    microbes to follow the gas through the rock layer, enabling
    them to eat some of the build up of gas under the rock,
    until they run out of oxygen.

    The amount of CO2 generated enriching topsoil varies greatly
    around the world, making a measurement of CO2 output impossible.

    This source of CO2 means that plants have always had a local
    supply of CO2, which means that there has not been a risk of

    The above and the fact that no one knows how many volcanoes are
    under the surface of the ocean, the amount of CO2 and hydrocarbons
    they emit, how much the ocean precipitates, and the amount that
    rises to the surface means that any carbon balance anyone puts
    out is at best is a WAG,

    • Jerry,

      I do not agree with your last alinea: undersea volcanoes emit CO2 under an enormous hydraulic pressure, in an undersaturated solution, thus most of it is directly dissolved in the deep oceans. Only if the top of the volcano is not far from the surface, it happens that gases reach the surface…

      • I agree that deep volcanoes CO2 production does not reach the surface.
        I probably did not explain it correctly. It joins the CO2 already dissolved
        from the surface, and then precipitates or becomes shells then limestone.

        My point is that no one knows the amount.

        Le Chantalier’s rule keeps the ocean from becoming “acedic”

      • Ferdinand,
        What you say is only partially true. The deep sea vents will enrich the water with CO2, which will reach the surface eventually through upwelling. The water acts as a time delay for any particular molecule. However, because the sea vents have been operating for a much longer period of time than the deep ocean circulation time, a steady-state situation has probably been achieved where solution rate equals out-gassing rate. So, I think that Jerry’s point that we really don’t have good quantitative numbers is valid. All we really know is that upwelling waters have been enriched with CO2 by decomposition of organic material ‘raining’ down the water column, by dissolution of carbonates, and by the introduction of magmatic CO2 at Black Smoker vents. I don’t think that anyone has a good handle on how those contributors partition, and how the partitioning varies across the world.

    • That’s interesting. Also consider that nearly all the peat around today was created since the beginning of the present inter-glacial period.

  20. It’s strange how they keep changing the nomenclature. First the problem was called global warming and the culprit was carbon dioxide. When they realized they didn’t know whether the climate would warm or cool they changed the name to climate change. That way they could blame it on us no matter what happened. And now they change carbon dioxide to just carbon. Do they want us to fear and despise the carbon in diamonds, lead pencils, plastics and the 18% of our human bodies which is made of carbon?

  21. It does start out like it is a study trying to reach some objective truth about some topic.

    But then, as you keep reading, you realize that they don’t care one iota what the facts really are at all. Just like all of climate science. Get a paper out. Get the academic credit. Help the cause. Rinse and repeat. Collect at go.

  22. Carbon? Isn’t that the stuff that comes out of diesel exhausts? You know the black sooty fumes?

    Oh they mean Carbon Dioxide? The stuff that makes our planet habitable?

    So this isn’t a scientific report then?

    Even I know the difference between Carbon Dioxide and Carbon, and I know which one I would be most happy to breath, along with some nitrogen and oxygen!




    • Roger,

      Scientifically speaking, it is the carbon cycle, because it is about carbon in whatever form it may be exchanged between different molecules in different reservoirs on earth. Carbon black is not included in the carbon cycle, but set apart in aerosols, as it is irrelevant in the big carbon cycle, but relevant for its radiation properties.

      One speaks about the oxygen cycle, even when that oxygen is created from water in plants or reverse by decay or digestion of plant material.

    • You exhale CO2, which your friendly neighborhood plants use to make sugar, while from water producing O2 for you to inhale. It’s a win-win.

  23. ” the researchers established a correlation between heat and carbon transport, and showed that the pre-industrial carbon cycle can inform the understanding of the cycle today.”

    This study made the same mistake as the following study 2 articles over about glaciation and friction.
    They used a model to establish the correlation between heat and carbon transport and then decided that all the models were wrong about the correlation. How can you establish a correlation without looking at real data? They admitted that all the links of the carbon cycle cannot be measured. The unanswered question is what was different about their model than the other 125 GCM models in the world studying climate change? Obviously they had to change the code in their model so that their model would produce different results. On what basis did they change the code? Real life observations? If that were true they wouldn’t need the models. They could just calculate everything. So they obviously changed the code based upon some assumption that enabled them to obtain different results than the rest of the 125 GCMs. So they started with an assumption and changed their model that would agree with their assumption. If you cant measure the carbon cycle without models then how can you establish an accurate correlation between heat/ temperature and carbon in the 1st place? THIS ISNT SCIENCE. THIS IS JUNK SCIENCE. IT ISNT EVEN BELIEF IN THE MODEL AS BEING AN ALL KNOWING PREDICTOR ( WHICH IS BAD ENOUGH) BECAUSE THEY HAD TO CHANGE THE CODE BEFORE RUNNING THE SIMULATIONS. That makes this study worse than useless because based on their conclusion they are asking the rest of the GCM community to change all of their models based upon an assumption.

  24. Geez, my take away from this article is that they “discovered” apparently to their surprise that rivers flow into the oceans and carry with them a lot of stuff. The other take away that is more important, again we have “warmists” stating they know so little about the systems, 40 years later, to predict what is really happening. If the models have not correctly “modeled” carbon previously then it is more evidence that the models are wrong. Finally if we don’t know the carbon system today with all our tools how in the heck could be possibly understand what the carbon cycle was in pre-industrial times especially when they are arguing the importance of rivers and Southern Ocean currents. Of course they used a model to model.

    I have great faith that the marine life in the ocean can adapted to most everything we throw at them except being put on the dock. Most marine fish have developed reproductive systems that allow them to adapt relatively quickly to changing environments.

  25. “As humans continue to pump the atmosphere with carbon, it’s crucial for scientists to understand how and where the planet absorbs and naturally emits carbon.”

    This, from a university?

  26. Are they talking about Carbon or Carbon Dioxide?? I think they are talking about CO2. That’s like saying H2O (water) is Hydrogen or Oxygen… Let’s get our terms straight.

  27. I found this article difficult to read: it gave me a headache. Every time I encountered the word ‘carbon’ I had to stop and think, in the context of the argument, ‘do they mean carbon, or do they mean carbon dioxide?’. Such sloppy use of the word suggests that the article is not written with a technically educated audience in mind. Either that or the authors are accustomed to doctrine-speak.

  28. “the currently massive levels of atmospheric carbon ”
    If one is going to say such a thing they must note relative to what and when. We’re barely in the zone where CO2 is adequate for good photosynthesis and at 400 ppm way less than previous geological periods.

  29. Hard to believe that this was written by a supposedly prestigious university – “currently MASSIVE LEVELS of atmospheric CARBON will result in environmental changes such as ocean ACIDification”. Reads like advocacy PR. Emphasis added.

  30. Does anyone know what happened to the OCO-2 graphic that showed most of the CO2 coming from non-industrial regions?

    • It is still around. It has been published here on WUWT several times, including by myself. It was first presented publicly at the 2014 AGU meeting in SF, so it should be in their proceedings, even if it isn’t available at the JPL OCO-2 website.

  31. “Oceans, especially in the southern hemisphere, naturally take up carbon and heat from the atmosphere. But the price paid is a warmer ocean’

    Except that the Southern Ocean is almost universally warmer than the overlying atmosphere they would have it naturally taking up heat from, and according to Bob Tisdale’s latest update Dec. 2016, prior to the 2016 nino spike, Southern Ocean temperatures were declining.

  32. There’s too much attention paid to the Petit ice cores by warmists. Antarctica today is mostly cooling (contrary to the CO2 driver hypothesis) while the rest of the world is apparently warming (up to 1998 anyway). The facile warmist excuse is that Antarctica is just somehow different to the rest of the planet climate-wise. Yet logic would tell them if it’s different now then it was always different hence temperature and CO2 rises in Antarctica should coincide with cooling in the rest of the world. Apart from that conundrum they also have to ignore geological data, stomata data and even Arctic ice-core data in order to posit a CO2-temperature link. Then they have to steadfastly ignore the fact that, even in their preferred Antarctic ice-cores, temperatures started to fall while CO2 levels were at their peak.

    As James Lovelock admitted they were all ‘misled by the Antarctic ice cores’ but that’s quite easy if you treat fossil fuels as a universal bogeyman; blamed for global cooling and acid rain prior to the global warming hysteria and now blamed for imaginary early deaths from Nox/particulates.

    The idea of the ocean being a CO2 sink rather than a source, contrary to physics in a warming world, is a conclusion derived directly from the assumption of a ‘missing sink’ which in turn comes from the assumption that the enormous amounts of natural CO2 sinks and sources were somehow ‘in balance’ prior to the industrial age coupled with the myth of ‘pre-industrial CO2’ that arose entirely from a horrendous bias in CO2 data selection by steam engineer Guy Callendar that was dismissed at the time by Slocum as rank bad science and even worse statistics.

    Not that current CO2 data collection at Mauna Loa is any better than Callendar! I’ve seen raw CO2 data and it is nothing like that reported at ML; it varies by 100ppm from one hour to the next even in the desert. That ML throw out 80% of the data rather than use the normal distribution of all data to find the base value (as engineers would do) is merely biased data-mining.

    • Jasg,

      “[atmospheric CO2] varies by 100ppm from one hour to the next even in the desert”

      I have not seen any data in the desert, but it is certainly true that local diel variations can be as much as 200 ppm or more. However, it would be a mistake to assume a normal distribution because that would clearly be wrong. On land, in the daytime, photosynthesis dominates and removes most if not all CO2 down to a “background level”. Then it creeps back up again at night until the sun comes up the next day. This description of the diel cycle is a generalisation of course, but only because wind and other factors can have an effect.

      The objective of siting the Mauna Loa observatory where it is located was to minimise the diel changes so that the background level could be measured. The reliability of the Mauna Loa data is very well supported by multiple observatories around the globe, including at the South Pole.

      For a specific example of the diel cycle see Figures 12 and 13 here:


      And proof of the non-normal distribution of hourly data, see page 80 here:


      The concept of a baseline or background level is, in my view, beautifully illustrated by the two-minute data shown on page 79 of Wilson’s PhD thesis and this corresponds to the annual cycle as measured at Mauna Loa, for example.

      • Jim,
        However, as discussed here on WUWT, with windy conditions, what is being sampled at the summit of ML is probably ground-level CO2 concentrations lofted to the top by orographic uplift.

        • Clyde,

          Yes, there certainly could be some “contamination” of the Mauna Loa (MLO) data. If you look at the hourly data, there are plenty of minor deviations from the general trend but the effect of these is largely removed from the daily data. The weekly data also show some deviations from trend, which may or may not be valid, but looking at the weekly data on a year-on-year basis it is easy to identify the consistent significant variations from the annual cycle (e.g. the annual slowdown in growth rate in Jan/Feb, which appears to almost disappear during a strong El Niño).

          Although I do not feel that the MLO data are compromised to any significant degree, I tend to focus on the South Pole data unless I am looking at latitudinal differences.

    • Jasg,

      Ice cores ice shows in part the temperature of Antarctica, but also of the catch area where the water vapor originated. In that way it is a proxy for a large part of the Southern Oceans.

      The T-CO2 link is there for all inland ice cores of Antarctica, ice cores of the Arctic (Greenland) are unreliable for CO2 levels, due to inclusions of frequent highly acidic volcanic dust from nearby Iceland. Stomata data are a proxy, which reflects local CO2 data, not global. Local data over land are very variable if taken near sources and sinks like vegetation, less variable in deserts and mpuntain tops and in the middle of the oceans…

      At last, Mauna Loa shows exactly the same averages (+/- 0.1 ppmv), no matter if you include or exclude the outliers.

      Here all the raw data plotted (2004):

      Here only the selected data plotted:

  33. Please Gentlemen,

    A lot of people here take exception about the fact that near every scientific article about CO2 talks about the carbon cycle, not the CO2 cycle.

    The simple reason is that one can’t compare the fate of CO2 in the atmosphere with CO2 in water (only 1% CO2 in seawater, 90% in form of bicarbonates, 9% carbonates), nor with CO2 in plants: CO2 in plants is immediately converted to a host of chemicals called carbohydrates (sugar, starch, cellulose), not CO2hydrates, and many other chemicals.

    The same reason as why in the biosphere one talks about the nitrogen cycle and the phosphor cycle, while these elements are all in different chemical forms at different parts of the cycle.

    There is nothing of a conspiracy or “hiding the truth” in using the only part that doesn’t change in a cycle no matter in what molecule that element is incorporated, it only makes comparisons a lot easier: 60 GtC going from the atmosphere into vegetation and back in the atmosphere over the seasons is easier to follow in a mass balance than 180 Gt CO2 from the atmosphere converted into 300 Gt carbohydrates in vegetation and back over the seasons (*)…

    (*) I haven’t calculated the exact ratio’s…

    • Yep. It’s the carbon cycle, not the carbon dioxide cycle. The exchange of carbon dioxide gas between the oceans, soil, biosphere and atmosphere are just part of the carbon cycle.

  34. I wonder if anyone can answer these questions.

    Why is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere only measured in one place – Mauna Loa? And is it significant that there is a volcano there?

    Also does anyone take CO2 readings where they live, and if so what do they use? I would really like to take my own readings here in the UK. A NASA video I watched showed CO2 swirling around the planet in different concentrations and so I don’t understand how one measurement defines the planet.


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