Archive for the ‘Paleoclimatology’ Category

A Geological Perspective on the “Irreversible Collapse” of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

May 17, 2014

It’s “old” news…

Figure 1 Map showing dated locations used to resolve Holocene grounding-line retreat to its present position in the Ross Sea Embayment. Although the detailed structure of past grounding-line positions is unknown, dotted lines show the simplest grounding-line pattern consistent with the dates in the text. (Conway et al., 1999)

Figure 1
“Map showing dated locations used to resolve Holocene grounding-line retreat to its present position in the Ross Sea Embayment. Although the detailed structure of past grounding-line positions is unknown, dotted lines show the simplest grounding-line pattern consistent with the dates in the text.”
(Conway et al., 1999)

The history of deglaciation of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) gives clues about its future. Southward grounding-line migration was dated past three locations in the Ross Sea Embayment. Results indicate that most recession occurred during the middle to late Holocene in the absence of substantial sea level or climate forcing. Current grounding-line retreat may reflect ongoing ice recession that has been under way since the early Holocene. If so, the WAIS could continue to retreat even in the absence of further external forcing…

The collapse (retreat of the grounding line) began about 20,000 years ago. It is irreversible because “the WAIS could continue to retreat even in the absence of further external forcing” and there are no topographic obstacles to prevent it from flowing downhill into the ocean.

One has to wonder why this paper didn’t merit panic+stricken headlines in 1999

It’s the same story, just from the other side of the peninsula.


H. Conway et al, 1999. Past and Future Grounding-Line Retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Science 8 October 1999: Vol. 286 no. 5438 pp. 280-283
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5438.280

(Full text available with registration.)

A Geological Perspective on Lovejoy’s 99% Solution

April 26, 2014

The hyping of Lovejoy, 2014 (L14) has been almost as unprecedented as his conclusions are unsupported…

Figure 1. Lovejoy's 99% solution.

Figure 1. Lovejoy’s 99% solution.

Lovejoy piles on with the sort of trash talk normally associated with activist bloggers, rather than professional scientific publications…

“This study will be a blow to any remaining climate-change deniers,” Lovejoy says. “Their two most convincing arguments – that the warming is natural in origin, and that the computer models are wrong – are either directly contradicted by this analysis, or simply do not apply to it.”

Lovejoy’s “analysis” addresses neither the natural variability of the Late Holocene climate, nor the abject failure of the computer models. That said, Lovejoy does deserve credit for trying an empirical approach, independent of models and at least paying lip service to natural variability. However, L14 is seriously flawed in at least three ways:

  1. Nothing in Earth Science is 99% certain.
  2. A fundamental misunderstanding of Holocene climate variability.
  3. A totally unscientific and demistrabky wrong assessment of equilibrium climate sensitivity.


Oh Say Can You See… Modern Sea Level Rise From a Geological Perspective?

December 19, 2013

Experts say the IPCC underestimated future sea level rise

A new study surveys 90 sea level rise experts, who say sea level rise this century will exceed IPCC projections
Wednesday 4 December 2013

John Abraham

It looks like past IPCC predictions of sea level rise were too conservative; things are worse than we thought. That is the takeaway message from a new study out in Quaternary Science Reviews and from updates to the IPCC report itself. The new study, which is also discussed in depth on RealClimate, tries to determine what our sea levels will be in the future. What they found isn’t pretty.


According to the best case scenario (humans take very aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gases), the experts think sea level rise will likely be about 0.4–0.6 meters (1.3–2.0 feet) by 2100 and 0.6–1.0 meters (2.0–3.3 feet) by 2300. According to the more likely higher emission scenario, the results are 0.7–1.2 meters (2.3–3.9 feet) by 2100 and 2.0–3.0 meters (6.5–9.8 feet) by 2300. These are significantly larger than the predictions set forth in the recently published IPCC AR5 report. They reflect what my colleagues, particularly scientists at NOAA, have been telling me for about three years.

The Guardian

Definition of climate “expert”: A parrot that can only say, “things are worse than we thought.”

The assertion of 0.7 to 1.2 meters (700-1200 mm) of sea level rise by 2100 is 100% unadulderated horse schist! This scenario would require an acceleration of sea level rise to a rate twice that of the Holocene Transgression and an average ice melt rate 24 times that of deglaciation. It is even highly unlikely that sea level will rise by as much as the ostensibly optimistic scenario (400-600 km).

A Geological Perspective of Recent Sea Level Rise

All of the estimated sea level rise since 1700 is represented by the light blue blob and dark blue line inside the black oval. Sea level isn’t doing anything now that it wasn’t already doing before All Gore invented global warming. And Holocene sea level changes have been insignificant relative to the Holocene transgression…
Figure 1. Sea 1evel rise since the late Pleistocene from Tahitian corals, tide gauges and satellite altimetry.

Defusing the Arctic Methane Time Bomb

December 9, 2013

The Arctic methane time bomb keeps on tickingFrom Scientific American


More Arctic Methane Bubbles into Atmosphere

A new study suggests more than twice as much of the potent greenhouse gas is bubbling out of the rapidly warming Arctic Ocean, speeding climate change

By Stephanie Paige Ogburn and ClimateWire

Arctic Ocean: A new study reports that methane releases from one part of the Arctic Ocean are more than twice what scientists previously thought.



If the Arctic Methane Time Bomb is really twice as bad as “scientists previously thought,” one of two things must be happening:

  1. The Arctic methane time bomb is about to go off and turn Earth into Venus.
  2. “Scientists” preconceptions about the climatic hazards of Arctic methane are very wrong.

Arctic methane is currently trapped in permafrost and in methane hydrate deposits. Some methane from these traps escapes to the atmosphere every year, particularly during warm summer months. However, there is absolutely no indication that this represents some sort of Arctic methane time bomb, ticking its way to some sort of carbon Apocalypse.


Permafrost is ground that is frozen below the active layer (~30-100 mm) for multi-year periods. Some Arctic permafrost has been frozen for at least several thousand years. The active layer may thaw seasonally; however the permafrost substrate remains frozen year-round. The frozen nature of the soil below the active layer prevents it from adequately draining. This results in a very boggy active layer with abundant decaying plant matter. As such, permafrost is generally very methane-rich.

A rapid and extensive thawing of Arctic permafrost could theoretically release a lot of methane into the atmosphere. There’s just very little reason to think that this is even a remote possibility now or in the foreseeable future.

News in Brief: Warming may not release Arctic carbon

Element could stay locked in soil, 20-year study suggests

By Erin Wayman
Web edition: May 15, 2013
Print edition: June 15, 2013; Vol.183 #12 (p. 13)

Researchers used greenhouses to artificially warm tundra (shown, in autumn) for 20 years. They found no net change in the amount of carbon stored in the soil.

Sadie Iverson

The Arctic’s stockpile of carbon may be more secure than scientists thought. In a 20-year experiment that warmed patches of chilly ground, tundra soil kept its stored carbon, researchers report.


Science News

In the Alaska experiment, they warmed the permafrost by 2°C over a 20-yr period (10 times the actual rate of warming since the 1800s) and there wasn’t the slightest hint of an accelerated methane release.

There is no evidence of widespread thawing of Arctic permafrost since Marine Isotope Stage 11 (MIS-11), approximately 450,000 years ago. None of the subsequent interglacial stages indicate widespread permafrost thawing, above 60°N, not even MIS-5 (Eemian/Sangamonian), which was about 2°C warmer than present day, possibly as much as 5°C warmer in the Arctic.

The last interglacial stage (MIS-5, Sangamonian/Eemian) was considerably warmer than the current interglacial and sea level was 3-6 meters higher than modern times. It was particularly warmer in the Arctic. Oxygen isotope ratios from the NGRIP ice core indicate that the Arctic was approximately 5°C warmer at the peak of MIS-5 (~135,000 years ago).

It also appears that it was significantly warmer in the Arctic during the Holocene Climatic Optimum (~7,000 years ago) than modern times. The Arctic was routinely ice-free during summer for most of the Holocene up until about 1,000 years ago. McKay et al., 2008 demonstrated that the modern Arctic sea ice cover is anomalously high and the Arctic summer sea surface temperature is anomalously low relative to the rest of the Holocene…

Modern sea-ice cover in the study area, expressed here as the number of months/year with >50% coverage, averages 10.6 ±1.2 months/year… Present day SST and SSS in August are 1.1 ± 2.4 8C and 28.5 ±1.3, respectively… In the Holocene record of core HLY0501-05, sea-ice cover has ranged between 5.5 and 9 months/year, summer SSS has varied between 22 and 30, and summer SST has ranged from 3 to 7.5 8C (Fig. 7).

McKay et al., 2008

Vaks et al., 2013 found no evidence of widespread permafrost thawing above 60°N since MIS-11, not even during MIS-5…

The absence of any observed speleothem growth since MIS 11 in the northerly Lenskaya Ledyanaya cave (despite dating outer edges of 7 speleothems), suggests the permanent presence of permafrost at this latitude since the end of MIS-11. Speleothem growth in this cave occurred in early MIS-11, ruling out the possibility that the unusual length of MIS-11 caused the permafrost thawing.


The degradation of permafrost at 60°N during MIS-11 allows an assessment of the warming required globally to cause such extensive change in the permafrost boundary.


There is clear evidence that the Arctic was at least 5°C warmer during MIS-11 than it is today…

Several so-called “superinterglacials” have been identified in the Quaternary sediment record from LakeEl’gygytgyn (Melles et al.,2012). Among these “superinterglacials”, marine isotope stage (MIS) 11c and 31 appear to be the most outstanding in terms of their temperature, vegetation cover, in-lake productivity, and in the case of MIS11c also duration (Melles et al.,2012). Quantitative climate reconstructions for MIS11c and 31 at Lake El’gygytgyn imply that temperatures and annual precipitation values were up to ca. 5°C and ca. 300mm higher if compared to the Holocene (Melles et al.,2012)

Vogel et al., 2013

The best geological evidence for the Arctic methane time bomb being a dud can be found in the stratigraphy beneath Lake El’gygytgyn in northeastern Russia. The lake and its mini-basin occupy a 3.58 million year old meteor crater. Its sediments are ideally suited for a continuous high-resolution climate reconstruction from the Holocene all the way back to the mid-Pliocene. Unlike most other Arctic lakes, Lake El’gygytgyn, has never been buried by glacial stage continental ice sheets. Melles et al., 2012 utilized sediment cores from Lake El’gygytgyn to build a 2.8 million year climate reconstruction of northeastern Russia…

The data from Melles et al., 2012 are available from NOAA’s paleoclimatology library. And it is clearly obvious that Arctic summers were much warmer than either the Eemian/Sangamonian (MIS-5e) and the Holocene (MIS-1)…

MIS-11 peaked a full 5°C warmer than the Holocene Climatic Optimum, which was 1-2°C warmer than the present.

Referring back to Vaks et al., 2013, we can see that there is no evidence of widespread permafrost melting above 60°N since the beginning of MIS-11…

Since we know that the Arctic was about 5°C warmer during the Eemian/Sangamonian (MIS-5e) than it currently is and that there is no evidence of widespread permafrost melt above 60°N, it’s a pretty good bet that the MIS-11 Arctic was 6-10°C warmer than the Holocene Climatic Optimum.

The lack of evidence of permafrost melt during MIS-5 tends to indicate that MIS-11 may have been more than 5°C warmer. So, the notion that we are on the verge of a permafrost meltdown is patently absurd.

Methane Hydrate Deposits

Methane hydrates (or gas hydrate) are composed of molecules of methane encased in a lattice of ice crystals. These accumulations are fairly common in marine sediments.

Gas hydrate is an ice like substance formed when methane or some other gases combine with water at appropriate pressure and temperature conditions. Gas hydrates sequester large amounts of methane and are widespread in marine sediments and sediments of permafrost areas.


99% of methane hydrate deposits are thought to be in deepwater environments. The only way that climate change could destabilize these deposits would be through a sudden drop in sea level. The thermocline of the deepwater deposits changes very little (not at all at depth) even with 20 °C of surface warming over a 1,000-yr period.

Methane Hydrates and Contemporary Climate Change

By: Carolyn D. Ruppel (U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole, MA) © 2011 Nature Education

Citation: Ruppel, C. D. (2011) Methane Hydrates and Contemporary Climate Change. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):29

Methane Hydrate Primer

Methane hydrate is an ice-like substance formed when CH4 and water combine at low temperature (up to ~25ºC) and moderate pressure (greater than 3-5 MPa, which corresponds to combined water and sediment depths of 300 to 500 m). Globally, an estimated 99% of gas hydrates occurs in the sediments of marine continental margins at saturations as high as 20% to 80% in some lithologies; the remaining 1% is mostly associated with sediments in and beneath areas of high-latitude, continuous permafrost (McIver 1981, Collett et al. 2009). Nominally, methane hydrate concentrates CH4 by ~164 times on a volumetric basis compared to gas at standard pressure and temperature. Warming a small volume of gas hydrate could thus liberate large volumes of gas.

A challenge for assessing the impact of contemporary climate change on methane hydrates is continued uncertainty about the size of the global gas hydrate inventory and the portion of the inventory that is susceptible to climate warming. This paper addresses the latter issue, while the former remains under active debate.


Fate of Contemporary Methane Hydrates During Warming Climate

The susceptibility of gas hydrates to warming climate depends on the duration of the warming event, their depth beneath the seafloor or tundra surface, and the amount of warming required to heat sediments to the point of dissociating gas hydrates. A rudimentary estimate of the depth to which sediments are affected by an instantaneous, sustained temperature change DT in the overlying air or ocean waters can be made using the diffusive length scale 1 = √kt , which describes the depth (m) that 0.5 DT will propagate in elapsed time t (s). k denotes thermal diffusivity, which ranges from ~0.6 to 1×10-6 m2/s for unconsolidated sediments. Over 10, 100, and 1000 yr, the calculation yields maximum of 18 m, 56 m, and 178 m, respectively, regardless of the magnitude of DT. In real situations, DT is usually small and may have short- (e.g., seasonal) or long-term fluctuations that swamp the signal associated with climate warming trends. Even over 103 yr, only gas hydrates close to the seafloor and initially within a few degrees of the thermodynamic stability boundary might experience dissociation in response to reasonable rates of warming. As discussed below, less than 5% of the gas hydrate inventory may meet these criteria.

Even when gas hydrate dissociates, several factors mitigate the impact of the liberated CH4 on the sediment-ocean-atmosphere system. In marine sediments, the released CH4 may dissolve in local pore waters, remain trapped as gas, or rise toward the seafloor as bubbles. Up to 90% or more of the CH4 that reaches the sulfate reduction zone (SRZ) in the near-seafloor sediments may be consumed by anaerobic CH4 oxidation (Hinrichs & Boetius 2002, Treude et al. 2003, Reeburgh 2007, Knittel & Boetius 2009). At the highest flux sites (seeps), the SRZ may vanish, allowing CH4 to be injected directly into the water column or, in some cases, partially consumed by aerobic microbes (Niemann et al. 2006).

Methane emitted at the seafloor only rarely survives the trip through the water column to reach the atmosphere.


Global Warming and Gas Hydrate Type Locales

Methane hydrates occur in five geographic settings (or sectors) that must be individually evaluated to determine their susceptibility to warming climate (Figure 1). The percentages assigned to each sector below assume that 99% of global gas hydrate is within the deepwater marine realm (McIver 1981, Collett et al. 2009). Future refinements of the global ratio of marine to permafrost-associated gas hydrates will require adjustment of the assigned percentages. Owing to the orders of magnitude uncertainty in the estimated volume of CH4 trapped in global gas hydrate deposits, the percentages below have not been converted to Gt C.



Catastrophic, widespread dissociation of methane gas hydrates will not be triggered by continued climate warming at contemporary rates (0.2ºC per decade; IPCC 2007) over timescales of a few hundred years. Most of Earth’s gas hydrates occur at low saturations and in sediments at such great depths below the seafloor or onshore permafrost that they will barely be affected by warming over even 103 yr. Even when CH4 is liberated from gas hydrates, oxidative and physical processes may greatly reduce the amount that reaches the atmosphere as CH4. The CO2 produced by oxidation of CH4 released from dissociating gas hydrates will likely have a greater impact on the Earth system (e.g., on ocean chemistry and atmospheric CO2 concentrations; Archer et al. 2009) than will the CH4 that remains after passing through various sinks.

Contemporary and future gas hydrate degradation will occur primarily on the circum-Arctic Ocean continental shelves (Sector 2; Macdonald 1990, Lachenbruch et al. 1994, Maslin 2010), where subsea permafrost thawing and methane hydrate dissociation have been triggered by warming and inundation since Late Pleistocene time, and at the feather edge of the GHSZ on upper continental slopes (Sector 3), where the zone’s full thickness can dissociate rapidly due to modest warming of intermediate waters. More CH4 may be sequestered in upper continental slope gas hydrates than in those associated with subsea permafrost; however, CH4 that reaches the seafloor from dissociating Arctic Ocean shelf gas hydrates is much more likely to enter the atmosphere rapidly and as CH4, not CO2. Proof is still lacking that gas hydrate dissociation currently contributes to seepage from upper continental slopes or to elevated seawater CH4 concentrations on circum-Arctic Ocean shelves. An even greater challenge for the future is determining the contribution of global gas hydrate dissociation to contemporary and future atmospheric CH4 concentrations.


Nature Knowledge

The infamous photos, often posted by alarmists, of methane bubbling up from the Arctic sea floor and lake beds account for less than 1% of global methane hydrate deposits. These deposits are unstable in any temperature regime at depths of less than 200 m. They were already bubbling long before Al Gore invented CAGW.

Arctic Methane Time Bomb Defused

A substantial permafrost thaw above 60° N would require the Arctic to warm by more than 5°C relative to current conditions

A substantial destabilization of methane hydrate deposits is highly unlikely even with 20°C of warming relative to current conditions.

Arctic methane time bomb defused… QED.


McKay, J. L.; de Vernal, A.; Hillaire-Marcel, C.; Not, C.; Polyak, L.; Darby, D. (2008) Holocene fluctuations in Arctic sea-ice cover: dinocyst-based reconstructions for the eastern Chukchi Sea. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, Volume 45, Number 11, 2008 , pp. 1377-1397(21)

Miller, K.G., et al. (2005) The Phanerozoic Record of Global Sea-Level Change. Science. Vol. 310 no. 5752 pp. 1293-1298 DOI: 10.1126/science.1116412

Melles, M., J. Brigham-Grette, P.S. Minyuk, N.R. Nowaczyk, V. Wennrich (2012) 2.8 Million Years of Arctic Climate Change from Lake El’gygytgyn, NE Russia. Science. Vol. 337 no. 6092 pp. 315-320. DOI: 10.1126/science.1222135

Ruppel, C. D. (2011) Methane Hydrates and Contemporary Climate Change. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):29

Vaks, A., et al. (2013) Speleothems Reveal 500,000-Year History of Siberian Permafrost. Science. Vol. 340 no. 6129 pp. 183-186. DOI: 10.1126/science.1228729

Vogel, H., Meyer-Jacob, C., Melles, M., Brigham-Grette, J., Andreev, A. A., Wennrich, V., Tarasov, P. E., and Rosén, P.: Detailed insight into Arctic climatic variability during MIS 11c at Lake El’gygytgyn, NE Russia, Clim. Past, 9, 1467-1479, doi:10.5194/cp-9-1467-2013, 2013.

A Simple Test of Marcott et al., 2012

March 11, 2013

The Gorebots are al atwitter about this new paper…

Science 8 March 2013:
Vol. 339 no. 6124 pp. 1198-1201
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228026

A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years

Shaun A. Marcott, Jeremy D. Shakun, Peter U. Clark, Alan C. Mix

Surface temperature reconstructions of the past 1500 years suggest that recent warming is unprecedented in that time. Here we provide a broader perspective by reconstructing regional and global temperature anomalies for the past 11,300 years from 73 globally distributed records. Early Holocene (10,000 to 5000 years ago) warmth is followed by ~0.7°C cooling through the middle to late Holocene (<5000 years ago), culminating in the coolest temperatures of the Holocene during the Little Ice Age, about 200 years ago. This cooling is largely associated with ~2°C change in the North Atlantic. Current global temperatures of the past decade have not yet exceeded peak interglacial values but are warmer than during ~75% of the Holocene temperature history. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model projections for 2100 exceed the full distribution of Holocene temperature under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios.


Marcott et al., 2012 is behind a paywall; however the supplementary materials include a link to their proxy data.

This paper appears to be a text book example of creating a Hockey Stick by using a low resolution time series for the handle and a high resolution time series for the blade…

Let’s test one of the 73 proxies.

I picked ODP-1019D, a marine sediment core from just offshore of the California-Oregon border because it has a long time series, is a an annual reconstruction and has a nearby long time series instrumental record (Grants Pass OR).

ODP-1019D has a resolution of 140 years. Grants Pass is annually resolved…

Let’s filter Grants Pass down to the resolution of the Marcott et al. reconstruction…

Grants Pass sure looks very anomalous relative to the rest of the Holocene… Right?

Well, not so fast. ODP1019D only has a 140-yr resolution. The record length at Grants Pass is less than 140 years. So, the entire Grants Pass record would be a single data point in the ODP-1019D record…

While, the most recent ~140 years might be warmer than most of the rest of the Holocene in this particular area, does anyone else notice what I did?

The Grants Pass/ODP-1019D area has been warming at a fairly steady rate for 6,500 years…

I don’t know how many of these proxies I will have time to analyze… Probably not very many. Maybe this could become a WUWT crowd-sourcing project.

A Brief History of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Record-Breaking

December 3, 2012

The World Meteorological Organization (I always think of Team America: World Police whenever “World” and “Organization” appear in the same title) recently announced that atmospheric greenhouse gases had once again set a new record.

Greenhouse gases reach another new record high!

Records are made to be broken

I wonder if the folks at the WMO are aware of the following three facts:

1)  The first “record high” CO2 level was set in 1809, at a time when cumulative anthropogenic carbon emissions had yet to exceed the equivalent of 0.2 ppmv CO2?


Figure 1. The Original CO2 “Hockey Stick.”  CO2 emissions data from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC).  The emissions (GtC) were divided by 2.13 to obtain ppmv CO2.

 2) From 1750 to 1875, atmospheric CO2 rose at ten times the rate of the cumulative anthropogenic emissions…


Figure 2. Where, oh where, did that CO2 come from?

3) Cumulative anthropogenic emissions didn’t “catch up” to the rise in atmospheric CO2 until 1960…


Figure 3. It took humans over 100 years to “catch up” to nature.

The emissions were only able to “catch up” because atmospheric CO2 levels stalled at ~312 ppmv from 1940-1955.

The mid-20th century decline in atmospheric CO2

The highest resolution Antarctic ice cores I am aware of come from Law Dome (Etheridge et al., 1998), particularly the DE08 core.  Over the past decade, the Law Dome ice core resolution has been improved through denser sampling and the application of frequency enhancing signal processing techniques (Trudinger et el., 2002 and MacFarling Meure et al., 2006).  Not surprisingly, the higher resolution data are indicating more variability in preindustrial CO2 levels. 

Plant stomata reconstructions (Kouwenberg et al., 2005, Finsinger and Wagner-Cremer, 2009) and contemporary chemical analyses (Beck, 2007) indicate that CO2 levels in the 1930′s to early 1940′s were in the 340 to 400 ppmv range and then declined sharply in the 1950’s. These findings have been rejected by the so-called scientific consensus because this fluctuation is not resolved in Antarctic ice cores.  However, MacFarling Meure et al., 2006 found possible evidence of a mid-20th Century CO2 decline in the DE08 ice core…

The stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentration during the 1940s and 1950s is a notable feature in the ice core record. The new high density measurements confirm this result and show that CO2 concentrations stabilized at 310–312 ppm from ~1940–1955. The CH4 and N2O growth rates also decreased during this period, although the N2O variation is comparable to the measurement uncertainty. Smoothing due to enclosure of air in the ice (about 10 years at DE08) removes high frequency variations from the record, so the true atmospheric variation may have been larger than represented in the ice core air record. Even a decrease in the atmospheric CO2 concentration during the mid-1940s is consistent with the Law Dome record and the air enclosure smoothing, suggesting a large additional sink of ~3.0 PgC yr-1 [Trudinger et al., 2002a]. The d13CO2 record during this time suggests that this additional sink was mostly oceanic and not caused by lower fossil emissions or the terrestrial biosphere [Etheridge et al., 1996; Trudinger et al., 2002a]. The processes that could cause this response are still unknown.

[11] The CO2 stabilization occurred during a shift from persistent El Niño to La Niña conditions [Allan and D’Arrigo, 1999]. This coincided with a warm-cool phase change of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation [Mantua et al., 1997], cooling temperatures [Moberg et al., 2005] and progressively weakening North Atlantic thermohaline circulation [Latif et al., 2004]. The combined effect of these factors on the trace gas budgets is not presently well understood. They may be significant for the atmospheric CO2 concentration if fluxes in areas of carbon uptake, such as the North Pacific Ocean, are enhanced, or if efflux from the tropics is suppressed.

From about 1940 through 1955, approximately 24 billion tons of carbon went straight from the exhaust pipes into the oceans and/or biosphere.

Figure 4. Oh where, oh where did all that carbon go?

If oceanic uptake of CO2 caused ocean acidification, shouldn’t we see some evidence of it? Shouldn’t “a large additional sink of ~3.0 PgC yr-1″ (or more) from ~1940–1955 have left a mark somewhere in the oceans?  Maybe dissolved some snails or a reef?

Had atmospheric CO2 simply followed the preindustrial trajectory, it very likely would have reached 315-345 ppmv by 2010…

Figure 5. Natural sources probably account for 40-60% of the rise in atmospheric CO2 since 1750.

Oddly enough, plant stomata-derived CO2 reconstructions indicate that CO2 levels of 315-345 ppmv have not been uncommon throughout the Holocene…

Figure 6. CO2 from plant stomata: Northern Sweden (Finsinger et al., 2009), Northern Spain (Garcia-Amorena, 2008), Southern Sweden (Jessen, 2005), Washington State USA (Kouwenberg, 2004), Netherlands (Wagner et al., 1999), Denmark (Wagner et al., 2002).

So, what on Earth could have driven all of that CO2 variability before humans started burning fossil fuels?  Could it possibly have been temperature changes?  

CO2 as feedback

When I plot a NH temperature reconstruction (Moberg et al., 2005) along with the Law Dome CO2 record, it sure looks to me as if the CO2 started rising about 100 years after the temperature started rising…

Figure 7. Temperature reconstruction (Moberg et al., 2005) and Law Dome CO2 (MacFarling Meure et al., 2006)

The rise in CO2 from 1842-1945 looks a heck of a lot like the rise in temperature from 1750-1852…

Figure 8. Possible relationship between temperature increase and subsequent CO2 rise.

The correlation is very strong.  A calculated CO2 chronology yields a good match to the DE08 ice core and stomata-derived CO2 since 1850.  However, it indicates that atmospheric CO2 would have reached ~430 ppmv in the mid-12th century AD. 

Figure 9. CO2 calculated from Moberg temperatures (dark blue curve), Law Dome ice cores (magenta curve) and plant stomata (green, light blue and purple squares).

The mid-12th century peak in CO2 is not supported by either the ice cores or the plant stomata.   The correlation breaks down before the 1830’s.  However, the same break down also happens when CO2 is treated as forcing rather than feedback.  

CO2 as forcing

If I directly cross plot CO2 vs. temperature with no lag time, I get a fair correlation with the post DE08 core (>1833) data and no correlation at all with pre-DE08 core (<1833) data…

Figure 10.  Temperature and [CO2] have a moderate correlation since ~1833; but no correlation at all before 1833.

If I extrapolate out to about 840 ppmv CO2, I get about 3 °C of warming relative to 275 ppmv.  So, I get the same amount of warming for a tripling of preindustrial CO2 that the IPCC says we’ll get with a doubling.

Figure 11. CO2 from the Law Dome DE08 core plotted against Moberg’s NH temperature reconstruction.

Based on this correlation, the equilibrium climate sensitivity to a doubling of preindustrial CO2 is ~1.5 to 2.0 °C.  But, the total lack of a correlation in the ice cores older than DE08 is very puzzling.

Ice core resolution and the lack a CO2-temperature coupling before 1833

Could the lack of variability in the older (and deeper) cores have something to do with resolution?  The DE08 core is of far higher resolution than pretty well all of the other Antarctic ice cores, including the deeper and older DSS core from Law Dome.

Figure 12. The temporal resolution of ice cores is dictated by the snow accumulation rate.

The amplitude of the CO2 “signal” also appears to be well-correlated with the snow accumulation rate (resolution) of the ice cores…

Figure 13. Accumulation rate vs. CO2 for various ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland.

Could it be that snow accumulation rates significantly lower than 1 m/yr simply can’t resolve century-scale and higher frequency CO2 shifts?   Could it also be that the frequency degradation is also attenuating the amplitude of the CO2 “signal”?

If the vast majority of the ice cores older and deeper than DE08 can’t resolve century-scale and higher frequency CO2 shifts, doesn’t it make sense that ice core-derived CO2 and temperature would appear to be poorly coupled over most of the Holocene?

Why is it that the evidence always seems to indicate that the IPCC’s best case scenario is the worst that can happen in the real world?

Brad Plummer’s recent piece in the Washington Post featured a graph that caught my eye…

Figure 14. The IPCC’s mythical scenarios.  I think the shaded area represents the greentopian range.

It appears that a “business as usual” (A1FI) will turn Earth into Venus by 2100 AD. 

But, what happens if I use real data?

Let’s assume that the atmospheric CO2 level will rise along an exponential trend line until 2100.

Figure 15. CO2 projected to 560 ppmv by 2100.

I get a CO2 level of 560 ppmv, comparable to the IPCC SRES B2 emissions scenario…

Figure 16. IPCC emissions scenarios.

So, business as usual will likely lead to the same CO2 level as an IPCC greentopian scenario.  Why am I not surprised?

Assuming all of the warming since 1833 was caused by CO2 (it wasn’t), 560 ppmv will lead to about 1°C of additional warming by the year 2100.

Figure 17. Projected temperature rise derived from Moberg NH temperature reconstruction and Law Dome DE08 ice core CO2.
Projected Temp. Anom. = 2.6142 * ln(CO2) – 15.141

How does this compare with the IPCC’s mythical scenarios?  About as expected.  The worst case scenario based on actual observations is comparable to the IPCC’s best case, greentopian scenario…

Figure 18. Projected temperature rise derived from Moberg NH temperature reconstruction and Law Dome DE08 ice core CO2 indicates that the IPCC’s 2°C “limit” will not be exceeded.



  • Atmospheric CO2 concentration records were being broken long before anthropogenic emissions became significant.
  • Atmospheric CO2 levels were rising much faster than anthropogenic emissions from 1750-1875.
  • Anthropogenic emissions did not “catch up” to atmospheric CO2 until 1960.
  • The natural carbon flux is much more variable than the so-called scientific consensus thinks it is.
  • The equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) cannot be more than 2°C and is probably closer to 1°C.
  • The worst-case scenario based on the evidence is comparable to the IPCC’s most greentopian, best-case scenario.
  • Ice cores with accumulation rates less than 1m/yr are not useful for ECS estimations.

The ECS derived from the Law Dome DE08 ice core and Moberg’s NH temperature reconstruction assumes that all of the warming since 1833 was due to CO2.  We know for a fact that at least half of the warming was due to solar influences and natural climatic oscillations.  So the derived 2°C is more likely to be 1°C.  Since it is clear that about half of the rise from 275 to 400 ppmv was natural, the anthropogenic component of that 1°C ECS is probably less than 0.7°C.

The lack of a correlation between temperature and CO2 from the start of the Holocene up until 1833 and the fact that the modern CO2 rise outpaced the anthropogenic emissions for about 200 years leads this amateur climate researcher to concluded that CO2 must have been a lot more variable over the last 10,000 years than the Antarctic ice core indicate.

Appendix I: Another Way to Look at the CO2 growth rate

In Figure 15 I used the Excel-calculated exponential trend line to extrapolate the MLO CO2 time series to the end of this century.  If I extrapolate the emissions and assume 55% of emissions remain in atmosphere, I get ~702 ppmv by the end of the century, with an additional 0.6°C of warming.  A total warming of 2.5°C above “preindustrial.”  Even this worse than worst case scenario results in about 1°C less warming than the A1B reference scenario.  It falls about mid-way between A1B and the top of the greentopian range.

Appendix II:  CO2 Records, the Early Years

Whenever CO2 records are mentioned or breathtaking pronouncements like, “Carbon dioxide at highest level in 800,000 years” are made, I always like to take a look at those “records” in a geological context.  The following graphs were generated from Bill Illis’ excellent collection of paleo-climate data.

Greenhouse gases reach another new record high! Or did they? The “Anthropocene” doesn’t look a heck of a lot different than the prior 25 million years… Apart from being a lot colder.

The “Anthropocene’s” CO2 “Hockey Stick” looks more like a needle in a haystack from a geological perspective. And it looks to me as if Earth might be on track to run out of CO2 in about 25 million years.

One of my all-time favorites! Note the total lack of correlation between CO2 and temperature throughout most of the Phanerozoic Eon.

In the following bar chart I grouped CO2 by geologic period.  The Cambrian through Cretaceous are drawn from Berner and Kothavala, 2001 (GEOCARB), the Tertiary is from Pagani, et al. 2006 (deep sea sediment cores), the Pleistocene is from Lüthi, et al. 2008 (EPICA C Antarctic ice core), the “Anthropocene” is from NOAA-ESRL (Mauna Loa Observatory) and the CO2 starvation is from Ward et al., 2005.

“Anthropocene” CO2 levels are a lot closer to the C3 plant starvation (Ward et al., 2005) range than they are to most of the prior 540 million years.

[SARC ON] I thought about including Venus on the bar chart; but I would have had to use a logarithmic scale. [SARC OFF]

Appendix III: Plant Stomata-Derived CO2

The catalogue of peer-reviewed papers demonstrating higher and more variable preindustrial CO2 levels is quite impressive and growing.  Here are a few highlights:

Wagner et al., 1999. Century-Scale Shifts in Early Holocene Atmospheric CO2 Concentration. Science 18 June 1999: Vol. 284 no. 5422 pp. 1971-1973

In contrast to conventional ice core estimates of 270 to 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv), the stomatal frequency signal suggests that early Holocene carbon dioxide concentrations were well above 300 ppmv.


Most of the Holocene ice core records from Antarctica do not have adequate temporal resolution.


Our results falsify the concept of relatively stabilized Holocene CO2 concentrations of 270 to 280 ppmv until the industrial revolution. SI-based CO2 reconstructions may even suggest that, during the early Holocene, atmospheric CO2 concentrations that were .300 ppmv could have been the rule rather than the exception.

The ice cores cannot resolve CO2 shifts that occur over periods of time shorter than twice the bubble enclosure period. This is basic signal theory. The assertion of a stable pre-industrial 270-280 ppmv is flat-out wrong.

McElwain et al., 2001. Stomatal evidence for a decline in atmospheric CO2 concentration during the Younger Dryas stadial: a comparison with Antarctic ice core records. J. Quaternary Sci., Vol. 17 pp. 21–29. ISSN 0267-8179…

It is possible that a number of the short-term fluctuations recorded using the stomatal methods cannot be detected in ice cores, such as Dome Concordia, with low ice accumulation rates. According to Neftel et al. (1988), CO2 fluctuation with a duration of less than twice the bubble enclosure time (equivalent to approximately 134 calendar yr in the case of Byrd ice and up to 550 calendar yr in Dome Concordia) cannot be detected in the ice or reconstructed by deconvolution.

Not even the highest resolution ice cores, like Law Dome, have adequate resolution to correctly image the MLO instrumental record.

Kouwenberg et al., 2005. Atmospheric CO2 fluctuations during the last millennium reconstructed by stomatal frequency analysis of Tsuga heterophylla needles. Geology; January 2005; v. 33; no. 1; p. 33–36…

The discrepancies between the ice-core and stomatal reconstructions may partially be explained by varying age distributions of the air in the bubbles because of the enclosure time in the firn-ice transition zone. This effect creates a site-specific smoothing of the signal (decades for Dome Summit South [DSS], Law Dome, even more for ice cores at low accumulation sites), as well as a difference in age between the air and surrounding ice, hampering the construction of well-constrained time scales (Trudinger et al., 2003).

Stomatal reconstructions are reproducible over at least the Northern Hemisphere, throughout the Holocene and consistently demonstrate that the pre-industrial natural carbon flux was far more variable than indicated by the ice cores.

Wagner et al., 2004. Reproducibility of Holocene atmospheric CO2 records based on stomatal frequency. Quaternary Science Reviews. 23 (2004) 1947–1954…

The majority of the stomatal frequency-based estimates of CO 2 for the Holocene do not support the widely accepted concept of comparably stable CO2 concentrations throughout the past 11,500 years. To address the critique that these stomatal frequency variations result from local environmental change or methodological insufficiencies, multiple stomatal frequency records were compared for three climatic key periods during the Holocene, namely the Preboreal oscillation, the 8.2 kyr cooling event and the Little Ice Age. The highly comparable fluctuations in the paleo-atmospheric CO2 records, which were obtained from different continents and plant species (deciduous angiosperms as well as conifers) using varying calibration approaches, provide strong evidence for the integrity of leaf-based CO2 quantification.

The Antarctic ice cores lack adequate resolution because the firn densification process acts like a low-pass filter.

Van Hoof et al., 2005. Atmospheric CO2 during the 13th century AD: reconciliation of data from ice core measurements and stomatal frequency analysis. Tellus 57B (2005), 4…

Atmospheric CO2 reconstructions are currently available from direct measurements of air enclosures in Antarctic ice and, alternatively, from stomatal frequency analysis performed on fossil leaves. A period where both methods consistently provide evidence for natural CO2 changes is during the 13th century AD. The results of the two independent methods differ significantly in the amplitude of the estimated CO2 changes (10 ppmv ice versus 34 ppmv stomatal frequency). Here, we compare the stomatal frequency and ice core results by using a firn diffusion model in order to assess the potential influence of smoothing during enclosure on the temporal resolution as well as the amplitude of the CO2 changes. The seemingly large discrepancies between the amplitudes estimated by the contrasting methods diminish when the raw stomatal data are smoothed in an analogous way to the natural smoothing which occurs in the firn.

The derivation of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) to atmospheric CO2 is largely based on Antarctic ice cores. The problem is that the temperature estimates are based on oxygen isotope ratios in the ice itself; while the CO2 estimates are based on gas bubbles trapped in the ice.

The temperature data are of very high resolution. The oxygen isotope ratios are functions of the temperature at the time of snow deposition. The CO2 data are of very low and variable resolution because it takes decades to centuries for the gas bubbles to form. The CO2 values from the ice cores represent average values over many decades to centuries. The temperature values have annual to decadal resolution.

The highest resolution Antarctic ice core is the DE08 core from Law Dome.

The IPCC and so-called scientific consensus assume that it can resolve annual changes in CO2. But it can’t. Each CO2 value represents a roughly 30-yr average and not an annual value. 

If you smooth the Mauna Loa instrumental record (red curve) and plant stomata-derived pre-instrumental CO2 (green curve) with a 30-yr filter, they tie into the Law Dome DE08 ice core (light blue curve) quite nicely…

The deeper DSS core (dark blue curve) has a much lower temporal resolution due to its much lower accumulation rate and compaction effects. It is totally useless in resolving century scale shifts, much less decadal shifts.

The IPCC and so-called scientific consensus correctly assume that resolution is dictated by the bubble enclosure period. However, they are incorrect in limiting the bubble enclosure period to the sealing zone. In the case of the core DE08 they assume that they are looking at a signal with a 1 cycle/1 yr frequency, sampled once every 8-10 years. The actual signal has a 1 cycle/30-40 yr frequency, sampled once every 8-10 years.

30-40 ppmv shifts in CO2 over periods less than ~60 years cannot be accurately resolved in the DE08 core. That’s dictated by basic signal theory. Wagner et al., 1999 drew a very hostile response from the so-called scientific consensus. All Dr. Wagner-Cremer did to them was to falsify one little hypothesis…

In contrast to conventional ice core estimates of 270 to 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv), the stomatal frequency signal suggests that early Holocene carbon dioxide concentrations were well above 300 ppmv.


Our results falsify the concept of relatively stabilized Holocene CO2 concentrations of 270 to 280 ppmv until the industrial revolution. SI-based CO2 reconstructions may even suggest that, during the early Holocene, atmospheric CO2 concentrations that were >300 ppmv could have been the rule rather than the exception (⁠23⁠).

The plant stomata pretty well prove that Holocene CO2 levels have frequently been in the 300-350 ppmv range and occasionally above 400 ppmv over the last 10,000 years.

The incorrect estimation of a 3°C ECS to CO2 is almost entirely driven the assumption that preindustrial CO2 levels were in the 270-280 ppmv range, as indicated by the Antarctic ice cores.

The plant stomata data clearly show that preindustrial atmospheric CO2 levels were much higher and far more variable than indicated by Antarctic ice cores. Which means that the rise in atmospheric CO2 since the 1800’s is not particularly anomalous and at least half of it is due to oceanic and biosphere responses to the warm-up from the Little Ice Age.

Kouwenberg concluded that the CO2 maximum ca. 450 AD was a local anomaly because it could not be correlated to a temperature rise in the Mann & Jones, 2003 reconstruction.

As the Earth’s climate continues to not cooperate with their models, the so-called consensus will eventually recognize and acknowledge their fundamental error. Hopefully we won’t have allowed decarbonization zealotry to bankrupt us beforehand.

Until the paradigm shifts, all estimates of the pre-industrial relationship between atmospheric CO2 and temperature derived from Antarctic ice cores will be wrong, because the ice core temperature and CO2 time series are of vastly different resolutions. And until the “so-called consensus” gets the signal processing right, they will continue to get it wrong.


Anklin, M., J. Schwander, B. Stauffer, J. Tschumi, A. Fuchs, J.M. Barnola, and D. Raynaud. 1997. CO2 record between 40 and 8kyr B.P. from the Greenland Ice Core Project ice core. Journal of Geophysical Research 102:26539-26545.

Barnola et al. 1987. Vostok ice core provides 160,000-year record of atmospheric CO2.
Nature, 329, 408-414.

Berner, R.A. and Z. Kothavala, 2001.  GEOCARB III: A Revised Model of Atmospheric CO2 over Phanerozoic Time, American Journal of Science, v.301, pp.182-204, February 2001.

Boden, T.A., G. Marland, and R.J. Andres. 2012. Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2012

Etheridge, D.M., L.P. Steele, R.L. Langenfelds, R.J. Francey, J.-M. Barnola and V.I. Morgan. 1998. Historical CO2 records from the Law Dome DE08, DE08-2, and DSS ice cores. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A.

Finsinger, W. and F. Wagner-Cremer. Stomatal-based inference models for reconstruction of atmospheric CO2 concentration: a method assessment using a calibration and validation approach. The Holocene 19,5 (2009) pp. 757–764

Fischer, H. A Short Primer on Ice Core Science. Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern.

Garcıa-Amorena, I., F. Wagner-Cremer, F. Gomez Manzaneque, T. B. van Hoof, S. Garcıa Alvarez, and H. Visscher. 2008. CO2 radiative forcing during the Holocene Thermal Maximum revealed by stomatal frequency of Iberian oak leaves. Biogeosciences Discussions 5, 3945–3964, 2008.

Illis, B.  2009. Searching the PaleoClimate Record for Estimated Correlations: Temperature, CO2 and Sea Level. Watts Up With That?

Indermühle A., T.F. Stocker, F. Joos, H. Fischer, H.J. Smith, M. Wahlen, B. Deck, D. Mastroianni, J. Tschumi, T. Blunier, R. Meyer, B. Stauffer, 1999, Holocene carbon-cycle dynamics based on CO2 trapped in ice at Taylor Dome, Antarctica. Nature 398, 121-126.

Jessen, C. A., Rundgren, M., Bjorck, S. and Hammarlund, D. 2005. Abrupt climatic changes and an unstable transition into a late Holocene Thermal Decline: a multiproxy lacustrine record from southern Sweden. J. Quaternary Sci., Vol. 20 pp. 349–362. ISSN 0267-8179.

Kouwenberg, LLR. 2004. Application of conifer needles in the reconstruction of Holocene CO2 levels. PhD Thesis. Laboratory of Palaeobotany and Palynology, University of Utrecht.

Kouwenberg, LLR, Wagner F, Kurschner WM, Visscher H (2005) Atmospheric CO2 fluctuations during the last millennium reconstructed by stomatal frequency analysis of Tsuga heterophylla needles. Geology 33:33–36

Ljungqvist, F.C.2009. Temperature proxy records covering the last two millennia: a tabular and visual overview. Geografiska Annaler: Physical Geography, Vol. 91A, pp. 11-29.

Ljungqvist, F.C. 2010. A new reconstruction of temperature variability in the extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere during the last two millennia. Geografiska Annaler: Physical Geography, Vol. 92 A(3), pp. 339-351, September 2010. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0459.2010.00399.x

Lüthi, D., M. Le Floch, B. Bereiter, T. Blunier, J.-M. Barnola,  U. Siegenthaler, D. Raynaud, J. Jouzel, H. Fischer, K. Kawamura,  and T.F. Stocker.  2008. High-resolution carbon dioxide concentration record 650,000-800,000 years before present. Nature, Vol. 453, pp. 379-382, 15 May 2008.  doi:10.1038/nature06949

MacFarling Meure, C., D. Etheridge, C. Trudinger, P. Steele, R. Langenfelds, T. van Ommen, A. Smith, and J. Elkins (2006), Law Dome CO2, CH4 and N2O ice core records extended to 2000 years BP, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L14810, doi:10.1029/2006GL026152.

McElwain et al., 2001. Stomatal evidence for a decline in atmospheric CO2 concentration during the Younger Dryas stadial: a comparison with Antarctic ice core records. J. Quaternary Sci., Vol. 17 pp. 21–29. ISSN 0267-8179

Moberg, A., D.M. Sonechkin, K. Holmgren, N.M. Datsenko and W. Karlén. 2005.
Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data. Nature, Vol. 433, No. 7026, pp. 613-617, 10 February 2005.

Morice, C.P., J.J. Kennedy, N.A. Rayner, P.D. Jones (2011), Quantifying uncertainties in global and regional temperature change using an ensemble of observational estimates: the HadCRUT4 dataset, Journal of Geophysical Research, accepted.

Pagani, M., J.C. Zachos, K.H. Freeman, B. Tipple, and S. Bohaty. 2005. Marked Decline in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations During the Paleogene. Science, Vol. 309, pp. 600-603, 22 July 2005.

Rundgren et al., 2005. Last interglacial atmospheric CO2 changes from stomatal index data and their relation to climate variations. Global and Planetary Change 49 (2005) 47–62.

Smith, H. J., Fischer, H., Mastroianni, D., Deck, B. and Wahlen, M., 1999, Dual modes of the carbon cycle since the Last Glacial Maximum.  Nature 400, 248-250.

Trudinger, C. M., I. G. Enting, P. J. Rayner, and R. J. Francey (2002), Kalman filter analysis of ice core data 2. Double deconvolution of CO2 and δ13C measurements, J. Geophys. Res., 107(D20), 4423, doi:10.1029/2001JD001112.

Van Hoof et al., 2005. Atmospheric CO2 during the 13th century AD: reconciliation of data from ice core measurements and stomatal frequency analysis. Tellus 57B (2005), 4

Wagner F, et al., 1999. Century-scale shifts in Early Holocene CO2 concentration. Science 284:1971–1973.

Wagner F, Aaby B, Visscher H, 2002. Rapid atmospheric CO2 changes associated with the 8200-years-B.P. cooling event. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:12011–12014.

Wagner F, Kouwenberg LLR, van Hoof TB, Visscher H, 2004. Reproducibility of Holocene atmospheric CO2 records based on stomatal frequency. Quat Sci Rev 23:1947–1954

Ward, J.K., Harris, J.M., Cerling, T.E., Wiedenhoeft, A., Lott, M.J., Dearing, M.-D., Coltrain, J.B. and Ehleringer, J.R.  2005.  Carbon starvation in glacial trees recovered from the La Brea tar pits, southern California.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 102: 690-694.

The Atlantic Magazine’s “5 Charts About Climate Change That Should Have You Very, Very Worried”… Worried about scientific illiteracy.

November 27, 2012

I ran into this gem on Real Clear Energy this morning…

Figure 1. The only thing to worry about here is the scientific and mathematical illiteracy of the authors of this article.

The article cites terrifying new reports commissioned by the World Bank and the CIA and then launches into a graphical cornucopia of nonsense.


Frankenstorm-steria: Five degrees of Separation from Reality and Eleventy Gazillion Joules Under the Sea

November 2, 2012

 I ran across this really bizarre blog post from “The Energy Collective” on Real Clear Energy…

This bit is just “nutty”…

Five degrees:

The Atlantic ocean is five degrees warmer than is was when most of you were born. Let that sink in for a minute. The entire Atlantic ocean averages five degrees warmer.

What does that mean for hurricanes? Hurricanes get their power by feeding on the warm water under them. That means that a warmer Atlantic has a lot more fuel to contribute. How much more? Hard to say for sure but the the number is astronomical. Take the top inch of ocean surface below hurricane Katrina (125,000 sq. miles) then run out the math to heat that volume by five degrees. What you get is an amount of energy in that water eight times greater than was released in all the nuclear tests in the history of the world.


“The Atlantic ocean is five degrees warmer than is was when most of you were born.” Really?
I was born in 1958. I don’t have a handy temperature plot of the Atlantic Ocean, but the folks a the UK Hadley Center & Climategate CRU do have a plot of Northern Hemisphere sea surface temperatures. If the Atlantic has warmed by 5 degrees since 1958, it should show up on this plot, unless the North Pacific Ocean has been cooling…

Figure 1. HadSST Northern Hemisphere (Hadley/CRU via Wood for Trees)

I get a warming of 0.3-0.5°C since I was born… And only about 0.6°C of warming since the last time a Whig held the presidency…

Figure 2. HadSST… What five degrees?

The author noted that, “We’ve only been aware that the earth revolves around the sun for some 500 years.” This is true. It’s also true that New England was hit by at least four storms, rivaling Sandy, between 1300 and 1650 AD. But our temperature records only go back to about 1850.

Fortunately, there are little critters living in the oceans called “Foraminifera,” or Foram’s as we tend to call them in oil exploration. Foram’s have the capacity to act as geochemical thermometers. Globigerinoides ruber is a particularly good geochemical thermometer. Back in 1996, Lloyd Keigwin of WHOI published a really good paper in which he reconstructed a 3,000-yr record of the sea surface temperature of the Sargasso Sea.

Keigwin was able to calibrate his proxy temperature series to a 50-yr long instrumental record (Station S). Station S matches the HadSST NH quite well…

Figure 3. HadSST and Sargasso Sea Station S (Keigwin, 1996)

If we add in the Foram proxy record, we can see how warm the Atlantic Ocean was back when those pre-1650 monster storms hit New England…

Figure 4. HadSST, Sargasso Sea (Keigwin, 1996) and Major New England Hurricanes (Donnelly, 2001)

The 1351 AD (±56-yr) storm occurred when the Atlantic was most likely a bit cooler as when I was born. The 1425 (±21-yr) storm occurred when the Atlantic was most likely a bit warmer than I was born. The 1635 and 1638 storms occurred when the Atlantic was a lot cooler than when I was born. And the 1815 storm occurred when the Atlantic was a bit cooler than when I was born.

It appears to me that the climatological state of the Atlantic Ocean hasn’t really been a controlling factor in the frequency of major storms hitting New England. If a climatologically warm Atlantic was the cause of these monster storms, the Medieval Warm Period must have been a veritable hurricane nightmare…

Figure 5. HadSST, Sargasso Sea (Keigwin, 1996) and Major New England Hurricanes (Donnelly, 2001)

And the Minoan Warm Period must have been an absolute hurricane apocalypse, even though the Atlantic was only about 2°C warmer than when I was born.

Well, that’s enough on the “five degrees”… On to the really nutty bit…

Gazillions of joules!

A five degree rise for just the first inch of ocean, for a static area 900 miles in diameter (the size of hurricane Sandy) requires 95-million terajoules of energy. If we assume it gets used the most efficiently it can be, a ton of coal gets you about 35 gigajoules. That means we’d need a cube of coal .9 of a mile/side to generate the energy needed to heat just that first inch of water five degrees. All that energy is a fraction of the heat being trapped, just a fraction. We’re going to see a lot more storms get charged up this way.

The best way to alarm the scientifically illiterate is to convert 0.8°C into eleventy gazillion joules.

Ocean Heat Content for the upper 700 meters of the oceans increased by about 16 gazillion (10^22) Joules over the last 40 years or so! 16 gazillion is a huge number! Unfortunately for Warmists, 16 gazillion is a very tiny number relative to the volume of the top 700 meters of the oceans and the heat content that normally resides in the oceans…

Figure 6. Change in Ocean Heat Content from Levitus et al., 2009 via Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations (

16 gazillion Joules is enough heat to increase the average temperature of the upper 700 meters of ocean by a whopping 0.168 degrees Centigrade.

The average temperature of the upper 700 meters of ocean is somewhere in the ballpark of 10 degrees Centigrade…

Figure 7. Approximate average oceanic thermocline (Windows to the Universe).

How much heat content is required to raise the temperature of the upper 700 meters of ocean from 0 to 10 degrees Centigrade?

A bit less than 950 gazillion Joules.

16 gazillion is less than 2% of 950 gazillion.

More fun with gazillions of Joules

This is a graph from a Skeptical Science post…

Figure 8. An unreliable representation of recent changes in Earth’s total heat content (Skeptical Science).

Frightening, right?

In addition to lacking any context, the title of the graph is amazingly and ignorantly wrong. There’s a lot more to the Earth than water, ice and air… There’s that whole solid(ish) thing in the middle.

The heat flow at the surface (the coolest part of the solid Earth) of the Earth is ~47 Terawatts (TW). A Joule is 1 Watt*second of power. 47 TW is 47,000,000,000,000 joules per second (47*10^12 J/s). Over the 40-yr period (1969-2008) the Earth’s heat flow transferred 6 gazillion (10^12) Joules of heat from the interior to the surface. That 6 gazillion is a very tiny fraction of the total heat content of the Earth (~12,600,000,000 gazillion Joules). So the SkepSci graph doesn’t even come close to capturing the “change in the Earth’s total heat content.”

Here’s a little more context… Unsurprisingly, ocean heat content and sea surface temperature are highly correlated…

Figure 9. Cross-plot of ocean heat content (Levitus, 2009) and sea surface temperature (Hadley/CRU via Wood for Trees).

So, we can very easily estimate OHC from SST to see what the OHC was
doing before we started measuring it…

Figure 10. Historical ocean heat content calculated from HadSST and OHC (Levitus, 2009).

Wow!!! The OHC had to have increased by 13 gazillion Joules from 1910-1941. How did that happen? CO2 was mired in the “safe” range of 310-320 ppmv (assuming Antarctic ice cores are accurate sources of paleo-CO2 data).

Hurricane Sandy’s Unprecedented Storm Surge

October 31, 2012

Funny thing… Hurricane Sandy’s unprecedented storm surge was likely surpassed in the New England hurricanes of 1635 and 1638. From 1635 through 1954, New England was hit by at least five hurricanes producing greater than 3 m storm surges in New England.  Analysis of sediment cores led to the conclusion “that at least seven hurricanes of intensity sufficient to produce storm surge capable of overtopping the barrier beach (>3 m) at Succotash Marsh have made landfall in southern New England in the past 700 yr.”  All seven of those storms occurred prior to 1960.

Figure 1. Hurricane Sandy’s estimated maximum storm surge compared to historical storm surges in southern New England (Donnelly et al., 2001)

Even funnier thing… The 1635 and 1638 hurricanes occurred before Al Gore invented global warming…

Figure 2. Storm surges of Hurricane Sandy and southern New England (right y-axis) plotted with HadCRUT3 and Moberg et al., 2005 northern hemisphere temperature reconstructions.

Even more funny thing… The 1600’s were the coldest century of the last two millennia…

Figure 3. HadCRUT3 and Ljungqvist, 2009 northern hemisphere temperature reconstructions.

But the funniest thing is that the 1600’s were possibly the coldest century of the Holocene since the 8.2 KYA Cooling Event…

Figure 4. Central Greenland temperature reconstruction (after Alley, 2000).

Disclaimer: I’m not implying that Hurricane (AKA post-tropical cyclone) Sandy or its devastating effects on millions of people are funny. I’m only saying that efforts to link this storm to global warming are .


Donnelly, Jeffrey P.; et al. (2001). “700 yr Sedimentary Record of Intense Hurricane Landfalls in Southern New England”.
Geological Society of America Bulletin 113 (6): 714–727.

Moberg, A., D.M. Sonechkin, K. Holmgren, N.M. Datsenko and W. Karlén. 2005.
Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data.
Nature, Vol. 433, No. 7026, pp. 613-617, 10 February 2005.

Early Triassic: Catastrophic Global Warming!!!

October 19, 2012

Who would have ever guessed that there were SUV’s back in the Permian?

Apparently the end-Permian extinction may have so thoroughly wiped out plants, that the carbon cycle broke down…

Tropical Collapse in Early Triassic Caused by Lethal Heat: Extreme Temperatures Blamed for ‘Dead Zone’

A paleogeographic reconstruction of the Early Triassic world (Smithian substage) around 252-247 million years ago, showing a ‘dead zone’ in the tropics. Marine reptiles (ichthyosaurs), terrestrial tetrapods and fish almost exclusively occurred in higher latitudes (>30 °N and >40 °S) with rare exceptions. (Credit: Yadong Sun, University of Leeds

ScienceDaily (Oct. 18, 2012) — Scientists have discovered why the ‘broken world’ following the worst extinction of all time lasted so long — it was simply too hot to survive.

The end-Permian mass extinction, which occurred around 250 million years ago in the pre-dinosaur era, wiped out nearly all the world’s species. Typically, a mass extinction is followed by a ‘dead zone’ during which new species are not seen for tens of thousands of years. In this case, the dead zone, during the Early Triassic period which followed, lasted for a perplexingly long period: five million years.

A study jointly led by the University of Leeds and China University of Geosciences (Wuhan), in collaboration with the University of Erlangen-Nurnburg (Germany), shows the cause of this lengthy devastation was a temperature rise to lethal levels in the tropics: around 50-60°C on land, and 40°C at the sea-surface.

Lead author Yadong Sun, who is based in Leeds while completing a joint PhD in geology, says: “Global warming has long been linked to the end-Permian mass extinction, but this study is the first to show extreme temperatures kept life from re-starting in Equatorial latitudes for millions of years.”

It is also the first study to show water temperatures close to the ocean’s surface can reach 40°C — a near-lethal value at which marine life dies and photosynthesis stops. Until now, climate modellers have assumed sea-surface temperatures cannot surpass 30°C. The findings may help us understand future climate change patterns.


Science Daily

One slight problem with their hypothesis: The Early Triassic rise in atmospheric CO2 followed behind the rise in temperature:

Figure 1. Phanerozoic Temperature and CO2 (modified after Berner, Royer & Veizer)


The only way their findings will ever “help us understand future climate change patterns,” will be if they finally accept the fact that the carbon cycle is driven by the climate cycle.


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