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  1. . . . and still accelerating.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 16 Jun 2010 @ 9:33 AM

  2. Please consider addressing the issue of methane hydrates in the context of the BP Gulf oil disaster and more broadly as to the impacts of methane hydrates released due to global drilling activities.

    Comment by John D. Wilson — 16 Jun 2010 @ 9:39 AM

  3. yes it’s a lot, but Nature is continuously burning (but also reabsorbing) almost 50 times as much carbon, so 250 000 Gulf oil spills !!

    [Response: The fact that the labile carbon recycling continuously through the earth system is much larger than that being released to the atmosphere via fossil fuel combustion is not relevant, and thus not the least bit comforting, as I’m sure you are quite well aware.–Jim]

    [Response: The natural carbon flux which is analogous to fossil fuel combustion is the natural degassing flux from the Earth in volcanic gases and deep sea hot spring fluid. This flux is about 100 times lower than fossil fuel CO2 emission. David]

    Comment by Gilles — 16 Jun 2010 @ 10:33 AM

  4. Sorry for being off topic, but maybe a bit of decent news about the arctic finally

    Comment by DeNihilist — 16 Jun 2010 @ 10:45 AM

  5. The human body absorbs about 1KW of power.

    Therefore shining a 1W laser on it should be no problem, yes?


    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 16 Jun 2010 @ 10:57 AM

  6. If you think the Gulf is bad.

    If they do continue with this deep water drilling game then us Brits have the Falkland Islands to worry about.

    Deepwater Horizon water depth: 5000ft
    Oil field North of Falklands: 9000ft
    Other fields around the Falklands could be over 9000ft

    Wonder what impact a spill in the Falklands would have on the Penguin population?

    Comment by The Ville — 16 Jun 2010 @ 10:58 AM

  7. yes 30 billion barrels of oil per year (in total liquid form) and each barrel 42 US Gallons (3.8 litres). Add in coal and gas usage and its unpleasant reading. However there is still time to turn back the tide so to speak but each year of inaction makes it harder and harder.

    Comment by pete best — 16 Jun 2010 @ 11:08 AM

  8. Well, at least the microbes will eventually eat the oil, but perhaps then the jellyfish population will bloom so much that the area around Florida will still be un-swimable for decades after the oil is gone. On the other hand, the rate of CO2 release will not go on for centuries, not even for decades at the present rate, as it has not been in the past century. There is simply not enough easily accessible oil and coal for this to happen. World wide production of conventional oil peaked in 2004 and total liquids production will peak by 2015 or 2030 (depending on whether you are talking to a pessimist or an optimist). Electric vehicles will be a majority of new vehicle production by 2030 and will replace nearly all other land transport by 2050, thus meeting the 50% decline in oil production by that time. This will happen due to economic favorability, assisted by some government policies in the early years. Only aircraft will still be using hydrocarbon fuels by 2100, simply because of the need to be light weight. As for biofuels, photovoltaics is about 40 times as productive of usable energy per acre. The source of electricity for the electric vehicles will not be coal, for new power plants in 2008 it had already been economically displaced in the US by natural gas (with a 50% reduction in CO2 release) and wind power (1). However natural gas is only a transition fuel for a few decades since production of it too will peak before 2050. But with the recent 50% drop in the price of solar photovoltaics, and an expected further 50% decline, the economics of power generation has been disrupted, especially for the distributed generation and building-integrated variety for air-conditioning loads. Several people are now showing graphs with (typically) about 70% of all energy supplies as being solar by 2100, the only viable option once both economics and the environment are included in scenarios.

    (1) Figures 3 & 9, The Role of Natural Gas in a Low-Carbon Energy Economy, Christopher Flavin & Saya Kitasei, Natural Gas and Sustainable Energy Initiative, World Watch Institute, April 2010.

    Comment by Brian Taylor — 16 Jun 2010 @ 11:13 AM

  9. @DeNihilist: Did you actually read the article carefully? It does not say anything about melting not happening, it just says, the way melting happens is different to what was expected from older data collections.

    Half-truths by self-declared “climate sceptics”.

    Comment by hydrate — 16 Jun 2010 @ 11:27 AM

  10. One can’t acknowledge that it’s a comparison of apples and oranges and then go on to do it anyways. Spilled oil affects people and the environment in completely different ways than CO2 emissions – it’s not just a question of immediate toxicity vs long-term toxicity. If we had some sort of metric that represents the health of the environment then maybe you could start to compare them – does such a metric exist? I understand the desire to try to frame the invisible CO2 catastrophe in terms of the very visible oil spill, but I think this particular comparison ends up doing a disservice to both problems.

    [Response: I didn’t “compare” them, that would have been to say something like “global warming is 5,000 times worse than the oil spill”. Putting the numbers together is just a way to visualize how much CO2 is being released. David]

    Comment by Will Holmgren — 16 Jun 2010 @ 11:37 AM

  11. We will be spending multiple billions of dollars to clean marshlands and beaches. Were they already doomed by unavoidable sea level rise?

    If left soiled, maybe people would stop burning incredible volumes of fossil fuels to go there to sit inside their AC’d hotel rooms.

    Comment by JCH — 16 Jun 2010 @ 11:41 AM

  12. “The emissions were avoided because the green revolution”
    “600 billion tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere – roughly a third of all human greenhouse-gas emissions between 1850 and 2005.”

    Is this is a convenient presumption?

    What does it mean if 1/3 of all human greenhouse-gas emissions between 1850 and 2005 have been prevented from entering the atmosphere?

    Have climate models taken this into consideration?

    Comment by Howard — 16 Jun 2010 @ 12:09 PM

  13. You are misinformed about the oil spill in the gulf (or just a day too soon).
    Originally was 1000 barrels per day, then 5000, 12000-19000, 40000 and latest 60000 berrels per day.
    Already 60 times the original estimmates.

    A month ago, there was estimates of 75,000 to 100,000 barrels per day by independent scientist analyzing the flow.
    We are getting there.

    Going back to your comment: based on approx 100000 barrels per day, we are looking at about 2000 oil spills per day.
    Still significant.

    Comment by Pierre-Andre Morin — 16 Jun 2010 @ 12:44 PM

  14. “We are burning a lot of carbon!”

    Seems like a no-brainer (except maybe to trolls and shills) but what do I know?

    I know this item got churned up on digg:

    “The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider. The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was “only a few dozen experts,” he states in a paper for Progress in Physical Geography, co-authored with student Martin Mahony.”
    The IPCC consensus on climate change was phoney, says IPCC insider

    Like the oil disaster, the b.s. spewage never seems to end…

    [Response: Mike Hulme sets Solomon and Morano straight – gavin]

    Comment by Radge Havers — 16 Jun 2010 @ 12:56 PM

  15. Have climate models taken this into consideration?

    All you need to know is how much CO2 is in the atmosphere, and how much it’s rising per year. This stuff’s measured. Details of the carbon cycle can never be a “gotcha!” for climate models. The CO2’s there, doesn’t matter how it got there.

    Now if one is trying to model the carbon cycle, rather than the climate’s response to rising CO2, then stuff like this matters. Though it’s hard to reconcile the claim you cite with observations of ocean acidification due to its being a CO2 sink, etc.

    Comment by dhogaza — 16 Jun 2010 @ 12:56 PM

  16. Predictably and conveniently, Gilles @3 forgets that the carbon nature continuously “burns” and reabsorbs is already part of the active carbon cycle, while the carbon in the spilled oil (and methane) and the unspilled fossil fuels that we burn has been locked out of the active carbon cycle, and therefore the atmosphere, for millions of years.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 16 Jun 2010 @ 1:15 PM

  17. Those who argue that carbon dioxide is a trace gas and therefore that our emissions can’t possibly have any appreciable effect upon the earth’s radiation balance and consequent surface temperature should be reminded that the cumulative anthropogenic carbon dioxide that exists within the atmosphere amounts to roughly two kilograms per square meter.

    This may not seem like much given the fact that it is widely dispersed throughout the atmospheric column. However, one should then ask how thick a cloud would have to be in order to amount to two kilograms per square meter and whether having such a cloud uniformly above the earth’s surface would be sufficient to alter surface temperatures.

    The biggest difference is the fact that clouds are opaque to both visible light and thermal radiation whereas carbon dioxide is transparent to visible radiation — which comes from the sun — but opaque to much of the thermal radiation that is emitted by the surface after visible light has been absorbed. And as I pointed out recently in another thread:

    … carbon dioxide reduces the rate at which thermal radiation leaves the system.

    You can see that here:

    CO2 experiment: Iain Stewart demonstrates infrared radiation absorption by CO2
    … and here:

    PIA11186: AIRS Global Distribution of Mid-Tropospheric Carbon Dioxide at 18-13 km Altitudes

    … where thicker carbon dioxide over industrial centers means that infrared radiation in certain electromagnetic bands isn’t able to escape except at higher, colder altitudes.

    Consequently the climate system has to heat up until it is able to compensate for an atmosphere that has become thicker (“more opaque”) to thermal radiation. At that point a new equilibrium is established at a higher heat content and higher surface temperature.

    At that new, higher equilibrium the total amount radiation (measured as energy) leaving the climate system will once again be equal to the total amount of radiation enter that system.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 16 Jun 2010 @ 1:17 PM

  18. Brian Taylor wrote (8):

    On the other hand, the rate of CO2 release will not go on for centuries, not even for decades at the present rate, as it has not been in the past century. There is simply not enough easily accessible oil and coal for this to happen. World wide production of conventional oil peaked in 2004 and total liquids production will peak by 2015 or 2030 (depending on whether you are talking to a pessimist or an optimist).


    However, the longer we remain addicted to fossil fuel the dirtier the fossil fuel will be that we make use of. Poorer quality coal and coal at greater depths that we have left alone so far as there was always higher quality, more accessible fossil fuel will be mined and burned even at a higher price.

    We will go after the shale oil that has been too expensive to compete with other sources of oil. We will produce synthetic oil from tar sands with nearly three times the carbon emissions per unit of energy.

    And as before it appears that we will continue to give subsidies to fossil fuel industries. Perhaps even increasing those subsides as we become more desperate.

    Given the investments in new methods of extracting more expensive, more carbon intensive energy from fossil fuel we are likely to lock ourselves in to its use. Once the investments have been made such non-traditional fossil fuels will continue to appear to have a lower per unit cost than much of the alternatives.

    Those industries that are already largely locked into fossil fuel use due to their own investments will for a while continue to thrive. They will do so a price that they will do their best to hide for a while, but will eventually be paid by all of us.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 16 Jun 2010 @ 1:52 PM

  19. Out of curiosity I’ve just done a similar calculation of the equivalence of anthropogenic radiative forcing to the Hiroshima & Nagasaki explosions, which at 3.79 watts/m^2 works out to 13 twin explosions’ worth of energy gained every second.

    TNT 3.8 calories/gram
    1 calorie = 4.8 joules
    1 watt = 1 joule/second
    (1 btu/second = ~ energy of a candle burning )

    1 watt is approximately 3.41214 BTU/h
    1000 BTU/h is approximately 293.071 W

    anthropogenic radiative forcing at 1.6 watts/m 2 = 818 trillion watts = 818 x 10 to the 12th (p 90 of Weaver’s “Keeping Our Cool”)

    Hiroshima had ~ 50 TJ (terajoules) of energy; Nagasaki ~ 92 TJ, so together they were ~ 142 TJ’s of energy

    818 TJ/Sec = 5.6, so constant radiative forcing is ~ 6 times greater than Hiroshima & Nagasaki happening once/second.
    142 TJ

    or if you include all anthropogenic forcings estimated at 3.79 w/m^2, then it would translate to: 3.79/1.6 = 2.36875 times more energy,
    so 2.36875 x 5.6 = 13 Hiroshima & Nagasaki explosions happening every second, in terms of simple energy gain (excluding indirect effects of explosions, just the instantaneous explosive energy accounted for.)

    While I believe that conservation & renewables are the best route out of a high-carbon energy system (see historical chart of estimates for nuclear construction from economist Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School,, it’s interesting to see the scale of forcing in other terms.

    Comment by Peter Shepherd — 16 Jun 2010 @ 3:16 PM

  20. The range is now estimated to be 35,000 bpd to 60,000 bpd.

    60,000 bpd would be a butt kickin’ fine oil well.

    Comment by JCH — 16 Jun 2010 @ 3:21 PM

  21. Pierre-Andre Morin (13)

    Over at TOD they have a relevant post about why the actual rate of oil leakage has increased over the last few weeks. I’m not saying that BP has not lied to us; only that it is quite likely that the leakage has actually increased over time.

    Comment by arch stanton — 16 Jun 2010 @ 3:34 PM

  22. 12 (Howard),

    It does not say “1/3 of all human greenhouse-gas emissions between 1850 and 2005 have been prevented from entering the atmosphere”.

    It does say that if we had cleared the necessary forests to produce the same amount of crops without the 20th century advances in agriculture, then we would have added more CO2, on top of would we have already, equivalent to about 1/3 of what we have added.

    What did you want the models to do about this?

    I think the main point is that if we cut fossil fuel usage, we still must find viable alternatives to maintaining agricultural output, rather than allowing land usage to cause other problems (I’ve already seen claims, in just the past day or two, that organic techniques are up to the challenge).

    So we have to think before we act (for a change), just like we need to think before we don’t act.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 16 Jun 2010 @ 3:43 PM

  23. RE: #13 Pierre-Andre’s point. My first reaction to the 4-figure barrels per day estimate was ‘hogwash; do they expect us to believe that BP would spend the enormous effort and money to drill a well that would expel only a few thousand barrels a day flowing full-open?’ Maybe hitting the sweet spot on a particular drill is a matter of odds, but they were pretty certain that it was a huge reservoir before they began the operation. A four-figure bpd rate estimate was as ludicrous as the deniosaurs’ low-ball claims for the effect of fossil fuel CO2 on climate.

    Comment by ghost — 16 Jun 2010 @ 5:55 PM

  24. I’d rather live in 2010 with oil spills and CO2 emissions than in 1020 and without them.

    I think a lot of folks forget that it wasn’t all harmony with nature and great quality of life.

    [Response: False dichotomy. I think I’d much rather have 2010 without the oil spills and CO2 emissions thanks. – gavin]

    Comment by Frank Giger — 16 Jun 2010 @ 7:53 PM

  25. Some interesting info regarding the escalating estimates, or rather the progressive erosion – maybe the specific quantity is less relevent than the fact that as soon as it’s stopped, they’ll be back to drilling – with no better preventive measures in place.

    Comment by flxible — 16 Jun 2010 @ 9:06 PM

  26. If only CO2 was visible….

    8 Brian Taylor: NO to natural gas. We don’t have time for transition fuels. We are in trouble too deep already.

    12 Howard: The Green Revolution allowed India to double its population. NO emissions were avoided because India doesn’t have that much more land to clear. India has mountains to the North and ocean to the South. Neither can be cultivated. India misappropriated the gain to population growth rather than to getting out of poverty. The Green Revolution caused more GW in the end.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 16 Jun 2010 @ 9:47 PM

  27. Several weeks ago I did an analysis of tying FF useage to CO2 levels using a standard convolution-based approach:

    I don’t know if anyone has done this before but it clearly shows how peak oil (peak FF really) analysis and AGW analysis are closely linked.

    Comment by WebHubTel — 16 Jun 2010 @ 10:06 PM

  28. “Predictably and conveniently, Gilles @3 forgets that the carbon nature continuously “burns” and reabsorbs is already part of the active carbon cycle, while the carbon in the spilled oil (and methane) and the unspilled fossil fuels that we burn has been locked out of the active carbon cycle, and therefore the atmosphere, for millions of years.”

    Of course I didn’t forget that, and I even mentioned it ! and of course I know that the consequences are not comparable- it was exactly meant to remind than merely speaking of a “huge” amount isn’t a proof of anything. “large” or “small” doesn’t mean anything for Nature. It was pretty obvious from the beginning that a single well can not produce a large part of the total world production, and so that conversely the world production must be much larger than a single spill , no? telling “we are releasing 5000 times the spill of one single well” means only ” one single well cannot yield more than 0.02 % of the total – fortunately !
    “I think I’d much rather have 2010 without the oil spills and CO2 emissions thanks. – gavin”
    Sure, as anybody, but the interesting question is : if it happens that you can’t have both, and you have to choose, which one are you ready to give up ? the answer seems pretty obvious for the world on average …

    Comment by Gilles — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:28 AM

  29. “I don’t know if anyone has done this before but it clearly shows how peak oil (peak FF really) analysis and AGW analysis are closely linked.

    I did that some years ago, and it is still posted on a forum (in French, sorry).

    with a simple exponential response function, corrected here

    to account for a multi- decay time (Bern Model).

    I used the multi- decay time Bern response fonction SOMME (Ai exp (-t/ti) ) (where you can put a constant A0 term describing the fact that a part of emitted CO2 will actually never be absorbed, contrary to the simple exponential function). Rather than performing the convolution, you can simply split each year emission X in N parts N.Ai, each one increasing the quantity of a “reservoir” Qi , and absorb each year a fraction -Qi/Ti. This is equivalent to simulate the eigenvectors of the multilinear differential system at the basis of the Bern model, and very simple to program even on an Excel spreadsheet.

    Comment by Gilles — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:46 AM

  30. I sure read this as undercutting much of what you all believe.

    William M. Gray * and Barry Schwartz
    Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

    [Response: Well, you could try reading a little more. The NCEP reanalysis used by Gray has very severe non-climatic trends in water vapour (because of the change of the observing network), and these are not repeated in any of the more modern reanalyses (ERA-40 even, or the Japanese version etc.) Thus the whole analysis appears to be based on correlations of non-climate influences and thus hardly likely to have much importance for anything. If you want to understand why water vapour feedback is indeed positive, please read the recent papers by Dessler or Sherwood. – gavin]

    Comment by Howard — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:55 AM

  31. I would like to add something for people who are into protecting our earth and environment. Now, with all the global issues that we have to embrace into our lives and our childrens lives, we should all do our part to help a least a little bit. Why not Eliminate your Electrical Bill and Save Thousands a year with Solar Panels for your Home, they are extremely easy to build and this will be an easy way for you to do your part in helping our planet and save a tonne of money at the same time. Think about it.

    Comment by Gregory Despain — 17 Jun 2010 @ 1:50 AM

  32. Hydrate @ 9, of course I read the full article. It’s a good news/bad news scenario. Good for today, but not good for tomorrow. Every now and then though, it is nice to get a bit of good news.

    Comment by DeNihilist — 17 Jun 2010 @ 2:20 AM

  33. How much CO2 is produced from combustion of 50,000 barrels of oil? How many tons of carbon in 50,000 barrels of oil?

    (50,000 barrels) (100 kg liquid fuel/barrel) (3.15 kg CO2/kg of fuel oil) ~ 15,750,000 kg CO2 ~ 4,295,000 kg C

    Answer: 50,000 barrels of oil contains 4,295 tons of carbon, which, when combusted or respired, results in 15,750 tons of CO2. Over a year, that amounts to 1.57 megatons of carbon emitted to the atmosphere.

    Total human contributions to the atmosphere have risen from about 4 billion tons per year in 1970 to almost 8 billion tons per year today (IPCC FAR CH2), reflecting an increase in energy demand as well as a shift to dirtier fuel sources with greater carbon:energy ratios.

    Dividing that out, we do indeed get ~5095 oil spills per year at current estimated rates! That’s a nice exam question, too.

    [Response: So I got the answer right? Whew! David]

    The toxicology of the oil mixed with the dispersant is another issue. The main impacts are probably going to be on regional biodiversity – and ecologists are now organizing a group to generate biodiversity reports for governments, along the lines of the IPCC – hopefully they’ll avoid the problems the IPCC has had, by learning from their mistakes:

    A search for IPBES in the U.S. media turns up zero hits, for some reason. However, Mexico is upset about the biodiversity impacts – here’s something from reuters:

    If scientists can prove the BP oil spill causes measurable harm to Mexico’s ecosystems, the country may sue BP. “We are looking for the most appropriate legal instruments to sue BP for impacting biodiversity,” [environment minister] Elvira said.

    There is a similarity to climate science here, in that the fossil fuel lobby would prefer that scientific data not be collected – no news is good news, and if there is no baseline data on species abundance and diversity in the oil patch, then there is no way to measure species loss in a ‘statistically robust’ manner – meaning that in the event of a lawsuit, BP might be able to avoid damages.

    That’s why programs like the National Biological Survey were attacked by fossil fuel interests – just as critical climate satellites like Triana were kept mothballed for a decade. The initial lowball estimates of the leak rate in the Gulf by BP fall into the same category.

    Clearly, here is an industry that thrives on secrecy and disinformation – not exactly a the scientific tradition. Given that fact, why are so many academic institutions in partnerships with the likes of BP – for example, the UC Berkeley – University of Illinois – BP partnership? Hey – look, it’s BP’s Chief Scientist – now in a top position at the Department of Energy.

    This is just symptomatic of a much larger problem – too many revolving doors between the fossil fuel industry and the federal energy agencies.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 17 Jun 2010 @ 3:01 AM

  34. I would argue that climate change is worse than the BP oil spill by a factor of 1000 or more by the metrics of (1) people killed, (2) animals killed, (3) species made extinct, and (4) land and ocean environments degraded. And I’m comparing climate change this year, not the future affects.

    In my climate talk, I discuss the six threat characteristics that humans respond to: (1) Immediate, (2) Visible, (3) Historical Precedence, (4) Caused by an Enemy, (5) Simple Causality, and (6) Direct Personal Consequences. The BP spill has 5-1/2 (not direct personal consequences for most people) and climate change scores zero. I think this why everyone is focused on BP when the bigger catastrophe is ignored.

    Comment by Dan Miller — 17 Jun 2010 @ 3:10 AM

  35. Those who argue that CO_2 is onlya trace gas and hence of no importance, might keep in mind that plants, and thus indirectly all carbon based life on the planet, depend on that trace gas for existence.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 17 Jun 2010 @ 4:03 AM

  36. “from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation”

    Does “deforestation” mean the carbon immediately released in the process of burning the trees down, or does this also include the amount of CO2 which would been *removed* from the atmosphere by those trees if they would still be there?

    [Response: A climax forest doesn’t remove carbon from the air in an ongoing way. It just sits there as a store of carbon. When a forest is growing toward climax it will take up carbon, filling up that reservoir. So the answer to your question is, it’s just the carbon from the trees and soils moving into the atmosphere. Rain forests are not really the lungs of the planet. David]

    Comment by Sascha — 17 Jun 2010 @ 5:58 AM

  37. 60,000 bpd would be a butt kickin’ fine oil well.

    According to The Oil Drum, one of the best ever.

    That’s a bit frightening.

    Comment by dhogaza — 17 Jun 2010 @ 8:13 AM

  38. I did that some years ago, and it is still posted on a forum (in French, sorry).

    Sorry for the misprint, my first computation using simple exponential absorption and REALLY proved reserves (something that is never done in any SRES scenarios – wonder what “proved” means for these people) is here

    same with the Bern absorption model in the original link. Done in 2007, at this date, the fit predicted a maximum of CO2 emission per capita in…2008.

    Comment by Gilles — 17 Jun 2010 @ 9:00 AM

  39. {Response: A climax forest doesn’t remove carbon from the air in an ongoing way. It just sits there as a store of carbon. When a forest is growing toward climax it will take up carbon, filling up that reservoir. So the answer to your question is, it’s just the carbon from the trees and soils moving into the atmosphere. Rain forests are not really the lungs of the planet. David]}

    So David, what is your take on the vast agreement between the major Canandian forest Co.s and the enviromental groups to halt logging in the Canadian Boreal Forests? This agreement, FWIU, is for 3 years so that a plan can be devised that would end up protecting a huge majority of this forest.

    In my limited reading, I have seen discussions, that forestry could in actuallity be a net gain in the sequestrian of CO2 by the fact that the wood harvested is used in building, not burned, thus creating a semi-permanent “bank of carbon” and the new growth is now taking up CO2 at a higher rate, thus capturing new CO2.

    Does this sound reasonable?

    [Response: I guess I don’t really buy lumber as a carbon sequestration option, better overall to avoid cutting would be my guess, but I don’t know the details of how much of the wood ends up in lumber, and how long before that is expected to burn or decompose. There is actually a comparable amount of carbon per acre in cities as there is in forests, though, when you add up all the lumber and books etc, I have heard. David]

    Comment by DeNihilist — 17 Jun 2010 @ 9:07 AM

  40. Fascinating number, that 5,000, thanks.

    Dan Miller, #34, very interesting.

    David, #36, recent studies are questioning the carbon equilibrium model of old forests, because they undervalue soil and smaller woody species carbon accumulation (sorry, I don’t have the link handy, but call a good forest carbon guy). It’s also the case that climax forests are becoming rare, and they should be the baseline, not 50 year old “managed” forests (google green carbon eucalyptus).

    To RC: The deniers that are starting to show up here are irritating. I suggest you either refrain from publishing their posts or politely direct them to wattsupwiththat, climateaudit, or climatedepot. RC readers are just not interested in poorly documented nonsense.

    Comment by mike roddy — 17 Jun 2010 @ 10:11 AM

  41. It’s reasonable if you think that it’s not possible or just too tarn inconvenient to grow trees elsewhere…

    An old-growth forest is far more ecologically stable and diverse than perma-teen-tree forests.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 17 Jun 2010 @ 10:33 AM

  42. I try to keep an unbiased position on climate change and just learn the facts. Some scientist friends of mine are naturally defensive of the IPCC and the peer review process. “It is flawed, but it is the best system we have.” I read content and comments on this site and others, ‘alarmists’ and ‘deniers’,(I dislike those terms but readers immediately understand what I mean), in an attempt to become and stay informed. In doing so I place great emphasis on peer reviewed research and well referenced papers out of respect of my more learned friends’ belief in the system. I tend to discount significantly anything else. It does seem to me that the ‘alarmists’ like to think they are on the side of Science. I guess that is why I get more annoyed when I read on this and other pro AGW blogsites, comments which have no basis in science, are not referenced and worse, are simply juvenile personal attacks on those who do not agree with the authors line of thinking. It does their cause no good. I also do not like to see misinformation (deliberate or otherwise). At comment 14 in response to the posting about Hulme discussing the ‘IPCC Consensus’ and the story taken up by prominent bloggers, one of your experts wrote: [Response: Mike Hulme sets Solomon and Morano straight – gavin] This implies that the article refutes what Solomon and Morano said. I went to the hyperlinked reference and it certainly read like Hulme was trying to imply he had been taken out of context. But then I re-read Hulme’s paper and on pages 10 and 11 it quite clearly states: “Without a careful explanation about what it means, this drive for consensus can leave the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism. Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields.” While Hulme may now be trying to say he didn’t mean the IPCC had claimed the consensus of thousands of scientists – that’s what he clearly implied in his paper. But more than that, I have heard on more than one occasion the IPCC Chairman claim the consensus of thousands of scientists, and that cry was taken up readily by the likes of Gore, Obama, and in Australia our own Prime Minister and his ministers and many other supporters. I did not ever hear a single ‘alarmist’ correcting their statements, nor did I read it on this site. So it is disingenuous of Gavin to post that reference implying that Soloman and Morano had got it wrong. This site should be better than that.

    [Response: Sorry, but Solomon and Morano are wrong, and the claim that thousands of scientists agree with the IPCC consensus (as defined here) is correct. Please review this list. Hulme’s comment was a clumsy way of stating that the detailed text in each of the IPCC chapters is only closely reviewed by the relevant experts in the field (how could it be otherwise?), but the main conclusions have been agreed with by many thousands of other relevant experts. Solomon would have you believe that no-one but a few dozen experts agrees with the IPCC conclusions. That is simply untrue. – gavin]

    Comment by James — 17 Jun 2010 @ 10:39 AM

  43. denihilist, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Carbon science shows that when a site is logged, 80- 85% of the carbon is released into the atmosphere. Of the 15-20% that is captured in wood products such as lumber, decay begins immediately.

    The original Kyoto protocols forbade the accounting for even this 15-20%, since the wood is just replacing other wood products that have decayed into the atmosphere.

    By contrast, even a hot forest fire only releases about 20% of the site carbon into the atmosphere. The rest is retained as charcoal, woody debris, and surviving boles. This is the opposite of both intuition and prevailing wisdom. Bottom line: using wood products in great quantity is similar in its effects to driving gas fired cars or using fossil fuel fired electricity.

    I don’t expect to persuade you, denihilist, but many carbon scientists who specialize in atmospheric and fossil fuel issues are not aware of this key data.

    Comment by mike roddy — 17 Jun 2010 @ 10:43 AM

  44. DeNihilist, wood from the Canadian boreal forest is overwhelmingly used to make pulp and paper, not construction lumber. Most of that paper ultimately ends up in a landfill, even if it is first recycled.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:08 AM

  45. Re 14 & 42
    Gavin I wasn’t arguing about whether thousands of scientists support the IPCC conclusions – I know they do, but when AR4 was published the IPCC clearly implied that all contributors to the report were in consensus and the specific figures of 2500 and 4000 scientists were bandied around, and continue to be reported. You can define consensus however you like, but that doesn’t change what the IPCC Chairman and many world leaders implied, and in fact what most members of the public understood by what they were being told. Hulme I think was quite rightly stating that it was wrong to claim that all the contributing scientists agreed with the IPCC conclusions. In fact that claim probably muddied the waters for the pro AGW camp as various contributors came out of the woodwork and publicly stated they did not support the IPCC conclusions. Hulme was indeed clumsy, but it was in his following damage control quote, not his original quote: “I did not say the ‘IPCC misleads’ anyone – it is claims that are made by other commentators, such as the caricatured claim I offer in the paper, that have the potential to mislead.” So here he is trying to say firstly that the claim of 2500 scientists in consensus was a ‘caricature’ claim made by others and has a potential to mislead. What you are arguing Gavin is that there is indeed a consensus – I accept that (by your definition). My point was that Solomon and Marano correctly quoted Hulme, and you tried to imply otherwise. You are welcome to argue that Solomon tried to imply that there are only a few dozen supporters of the IPCC’c conclusions (something I don’t think even Solomon would believe), but that is another matter altogether. I’m probably nitpicking but I believe this site to be factual and impersonal as science should be.

    Comment by James — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:41 AM

  46. #3 response
    David: Where can I learn more about volcan degassing and other natural fluxes of co2?

    Comment by Nube — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:54 AM

  47. Thanx Jim, didn’t know that. CFU, very good point about diversty. Sometimes I find that I look only at the small CO2 issue, must remind myself to look deeper.

    Comment by DeNihilist — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:54 AM

  48. The Hulme affair is simply another sign of the bankruptcy of folks like Morano. It’s a meta-argument essentially about tone and style, nothing to do with science itself.

    Forget “consensus,” this is way beyond that level. We don’t discuss “consensus” around Newtonian-scale mechanics because the day for that form of assessment is long past, just as it is in this case.

    Instead, think about substantial dissent. Actual scientific, substantial dissent can be accurately gauged by publications. How much substantiated dissent in the form of publications do we find against the broad and useful conclusions of the IPCC reports? Virtually none.

    Arguing with the likes of Morano on their own synthetically concocted terms is folly. Throw it back, keep the the focus on demands for dissent.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:23 PM

  49. 42 (James),

    Go back and read the whole paper, not just selected sections, and think about what you are reading. What Hulme said is very clear when taken in context, and very easily either misrepresented or, as in your case, simply misunderstood when taken out of context.

    This is exactly like “hide the decline”, “no statistically-significant global warming” since 1995, and “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming”. If you don’t bother to actually read enough to establish and understand the context, and think about what is being said, and what the words actually mean instead of what they can be twisted to mean, then you will get into trouble.

    This is a serious problem, a recurring theme, and a trap that anyone who tries to keep an unbiased opinion should not fall into so easily.

    It’s happened often enough. You’d think that people that consider themselves to be intelligent would learn.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:25 PM

  50. This comment relates to the BP well failure and how to compare it to our global combustion of fossil carbon to the degree that the out of control well has become a point source for CH4 and CO2 released into the environment. This release is a point source associated with fossil carbon exploration, development, and production. My inquiry relates to how such releases, particularly the methane, are included in climate models, and specifically how the fossil carbon industry’s exploration, development, and production byproducts released in the high northern latitudes are factored in (or not) and impact “apples and oranges” comparisons in unexpected ways. It seems to me that point sources, depending on where they occur, can have quantitatively determinable greater or lesser impacts that can be used in modeling and be better than what can be determined using averages and totals.

    As background, the problem I am trying to solve is why the climate models got the rate of ice loss in the Arctic as wrong as they have. And the same with AGW triggered releases of Arctic methane from land and sub-sea floor methane hydrates that appear to be unfolding a couple of centuries ‘early’ as “Large-scale Controls of Methanogenesis Inferred From Methane and Gravity Spaceborne Data,” by Bloom et al, appears to have identified. Mishaps, such as the catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf, would provide variability, as do market forces’ impact on exploration, development, and production activities of the industry. Given the strength of methane as a GHG, and its seasonal variability in the high northern latitudes (~50 ppb?), in conjunction with its increase (50 ppb) over the last decade, has me wondering if the fossil carbon industry is playing a yet poorly understood role in masking science’s capability to see the lit fuse of the methane time bomb; to see what is screwing up the climate models; challenging experts who have been long in their fields of study to see dynamics differently.

    Dlugokencky et al in “Observational constraints on recent increases in the atmospheric CH4 burden,” determined the variability in Arctic methane identified in the related analysis (as compared to a strong increase in 2007) merits this conclusion “near-zero CH4 growth in the Arctic during 2008 suggests we have not yet activated strong climate feedbacks from permafrost and CH4 hydrates.” This assertion is influenced by a belief that the shift to chronic emissions of methane in the Arctic will happen slowly. What if the noted variability is partially due to the activities—and/or lack thereof—of the fossil carbon industry (i.e. mishaps—or lack there of; spurts and contractions of exploration, development, and production activities)? Giving additional credence to this questoin is Ed’s noting, in an email, that “detection of this [feedback] signal will take time with the existing monitoring network.” What if what we are missing/leaving out/averaging is an important factor? What if a point sourse in the high latitudes, even if small, systemically has a strong multiplier effect either regionally or otherwise? What if—as Joe Romm did in January on CP concerning Ed’s paper—we don’t what to see what is otherwise hidden in plain sight (i.e. professionally go out on a limb with an unwanted reality)?

    The fossil carbon industry, even when they operate safely, release these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in the course of their doing business. I believe mitigation of this has improved over time, but out of control wells like BP’s current one in the Gulf, and expanded exploration, in general, create point sourse/regional variabilities. I am wondering how and if these have been included in the models. Help!?!

    From what I can observe from the data I have accessed as a lay person, methane levels seems to concentrate in the Arctic as the solar nadir is reached in the northern hemisphere which is when CH4 can do the most to lessen the seasonal cooling. The flaring done up in Prudhoe Bay in the ’70s, Siberia’s natural gas development, the black gold boom and bust in Alberta relative to natural gas, including coal field wells, teh signature of all of these would appear to be hard to see from surface air sampling sights used in the NOAA study (). And it looks like they would not part of what was factored into the analysis involved in the School of Geo-Sciences study. What Katey Walter Anthony’s work, among others who spend more time in the field, than in labs and on computers, demonstrates to me is that regardless of what the models generate with their data crunching, we are not in Kansas anymore. As I enter my third year of watching “ice out” unfold in the Arctic, maybe it is the definition of what the signature of the trigger is that needs to change.

    Does this question about what the fossil carbon industry’s point sourse emission in the Arctic contirbutes to model dynamics merit further consideration? Are the models such that they can adequately factored in variable point source forcing? Have point sources been dealt with, at best, through averages and with ranges? If the answers are yes, yes or no, yes, could those who have been professionally caught—so-to-speak—flat-footed relative to observed changes unfolding in the Arctic think about shifting perceptions, definitions, and gases and, to be of renewed help to humanity and policy making, pull out all the stops regarding the possibility that it now is all about methane in the Arctic?

    Comment by Greg Robie — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:45 PM

  51. Well, people are looking at the lumber and thinking “money”. Of course they’ll gloss over the problems. Money is at stake. Yours. And they want it.

    Of course, some aren’t ignoring it, they aren’t looking (so that they don’t see a problem). For these a nudge is all that’s needed unless they’ve already “invested” themselves in the idea.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:47 PM

  52. re #46 the US gelological survey site.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:48 PM

  53. Whoops! After clicking the “submit Comment” button—and headed to get a snack—I remembered I left out the high northern latitude sites which were used in the NOAA study. The high northern latitude sites used to calculate the zonal averages are:

    Alert, Canada 82N
    Barrow, Alaska 71N
    Cold Bay, Alaska 55N
    Shemya, Alaska 53N
    Zepellin, Spitzbergen 79N
    Station M, North Atlantic Ocean 66N

    Comment by Greg Robie — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:51 PM

  54. #42
    Hulme has clarified his position and even rejigged his “disingenuous” statement as noted here. He now acknowledges that the “caricature” statement was too broad for his point. See:

    In that comment, I also make similar points to Gavin’s:

    Yet surely, broad acceptance of the IPCC’s main findings by the scientific community as a whole represents an undeniable scientific consensus. The evidence for this scientific consensus on AGW, in a wider sense, is overwhelming. It can be seen in the corpus of published scientific research (as noted by Oreskes in her landmark Science piece of 2004), and in the statements of all the world’s prominent scientific bodies.

    At most, Hulme’s point amounts to a distinction between different levels of “consensus”. And just as importantly, it implicitly distinguishes between the *crafting* and the *acceptance* of that consensus.

    In other words, it is “disingenuous” or worse, to cite Hulme in support of the statement “that a handful of scientists make up the ‘consensus’”, as one commenter did above.

    It is also seems that Hulme fails to understand the nature of climate science disinformation. If this latest incident has a siver lining, it may be in finally alerting him to the true dynamic at play here.

    I think I may have been the first to post on the matter, within hours of Mike Hulme’s original “correcting” statement:

    I’m planning a second post on the matter. Meanwhile, back to regular programming.

    [Response: Can you do everyone a favor and distinguish between Solomon (Lawrence) and Solomon (Susan) in your write-up of this! Many readers will find this really confusing! Otherwise, good stuff. As we’ve said before, the lack of perfection of IPCC cuts both ways.–eric]

    Comment by Deep Climate — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:54 PM

  55. Centuries?

    [Response: Atmospheric CO2 started rising after 1750, a few centuries ago. For the future, the usual estimate of coal inventory is that there’s enough to last for a century or more, so long-term geochemical models often release CO2 in a bell curve, a few centuries wide. Winding down ~ 2300 or so. David]

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:55 PM

  56. The persons who do the detailed review are what matters. They control the messafe. The rest of the signees assume they did their job.
    The questions surround those detailed reviewers. Are the objective and unbiased. Many people question that.

    Comment by tom — 17 Jun 2010 @ 1:16 PM

  57. Re #45, Plenty of implying going on in this post. However you are suggesting that the IPCC is a pro AGW organisation and produces a pro AGW document called the FAR, SAR, TAR and AR4. This pro AGW document is not fair and objective on the sciene of AGW ?

    Comment by pete best — 17 Jun 2010 @ 1:20 PM

  58. James: “You are welcome to argue that Solomon tried to imply that there are only a few dozen supporters of the IPCC’c conclusions”

    And here we have James saying that Solomon lied to the people.


    (note: I can quote you 100% accurately and still be dead wrong

    Happy with me quoting you correctly now?)

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 17 Jun 2010 @ 1:57 PM

  59. James@42, Do not mistake the IPCC position for scientific consensus. It may be a measure of it, but the consensus is considerably more subtle and robust than the words on the summaries. If you want to gauge consensus, look at the peer-reviewed literature. Look at whose work is subsequently cited. Scientists who take issue with particular wording in an IPCC document still support the consensus every time they publish research based on the consensus model of Earth’s climate. I think it is safe to say nothing of lasting value has been published in the last decade that did not buy into the consensus.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Jun 2010 @ 2:17 PM

  60. >>60,000 bpd would be a butt kickin’ fine oil well.

    >According to The Oil Drum, one of the best ever.

    Thus, presumably a higher risk of blow-out when drilling it. Hmm…

    Comment by GFW — 17 Jun 2010 @ 2:23 PM

  61. This is so funny, I’m sobbing. It’s a must watch, no matter where you stand on fossil fuel use:

    Eight Presidents and 36 Years Later

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 17 Jun 2010 @ 2:51 PM

  62. DeNihilist@4
    Sorry to hammer you some more, I should be hammering the Vancouver Sun. The Vancouver Sun is not exactly the best source of information nor is any other Canadian newspaper who’s name ends in Sun.
    Mr. Haas who flew over the ice probably saw(?) or rather measured multiyear ice that was several meters thick, in fact, if my sources are correct, up to 14 meters thick as an extreme case.
    Unfortunately for Haas et al. our very own Canadian arctic researchers actually went sailing (or steaming or dieseling) through that very same thick ice as if it was not there and that was in a wimpy icebreaker called the Amundson for some reason.
    Our arctic research cowboys verdict was: ROTTEN ICE.
    Sure it was multiyear, sure it was thick but it was waterlogged and weak.
    Dr. Barber who is bearded paradoxically seems to imply that the generally warmer temps in the arctic have allowed more H2O in the air and increased snowfall in the fall( sorry, autumn) which insulates the sea ice later on from the extremely low air winter temps and thus keeps the old motliyear ice weak and slushy over the winter.
    The end of the IPY (international polar year) was celebrated(?) in OSLO very recently and was mentioned on this website a couple of topics ago.
    There you can see Dr. David Barber’s presentation about North Polar thick and very weak and thinning ice.
    The bearded Dr. Barber has a hairy sense of humour which you may notice when you see the polar bear adapting to the tropical climate in the new Canadian arctic but only during his presentation, I presume.
    Dr. Barber’s expectation, with respect to the existence of end of northern summer arctic sea ice cover, has dropped precipitously in a decadal fashion so to speak like the sea ice extent itself. Thus since and starting in 1980 Dr. Barber’s estimate changed from “who knows when”, to “around 2100” in 1990, then “probably 2150” in 2000, and now in 2010 Dr. Barber thinks there will be no end of summer sea ice cover to speak of somewhere between 2013 and 2030.
    I wonder if in 2020 we will be able to still call his expectation wrong. Optimistically I hope that we all come to our senses and you will be able to call that estimate wrong again sometime between 2050 and 2100. Dr. Barber and I will be out cold by then, I presume.

    Comment by jsobry — 17 Jun 2010 @ 3:54 PM

  63. jsobry @ 62, that was definitely not a hammering. LOL. I get what you are saying, after all, the insulation value of snow is what makes igloos work.

    Comment by DeNihilist — 17 Jun 2010 @ 4:27 PM

  64. David in #55,

    Thanks, I was reading this as maintaining the current burn rate for centuries.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 17 Jun 2010 @ 8:52 PM

  65. If you calculate the volume of oil that we consume each year it comes out to 5 km**3! Double that to account for coal and gas (and peat), and you have a couple of mountain ranges worth of fossil fuels vanishing each year. If we can just get people to visualize the volumes, then the fact that the changes we are making to the atmosphere are not trivial ought to be obvious.

    About the oil spill rates. IIRC about a day into the disaster an ROV saw no leaking oil. This implies that the volume leaked until that time was less than the volume of the avove ocean floor piping (roughly 1000 barrels). So the initial estimate of 1000 bpd was probably made in good faith. Then as erosion, both of the blowout preventer, and of the reservoir just kept reducing the resistance to flow. So the early 5000bpd estimate was probably also in good faith. Then the BP lawyers appaently got control “admit no higher figures”. It could be that all these various numbers that have been thrown out are in the ballpark correct for when they were made.

    Comment by Thomas — 17 Jun 2010 @ 10:21 PM

  66. 61 Bob (Sphaerica): I’m not laughing, and it is NOT about energy independence. Energy independence is irrelevant to what RC is all about. WHO doesn’t matter. What matters is HUMAN production of CO2, not energy, and not Them vs Us. Not a single one of those 8 presidents understood or understands GW. Obama’s speech was not good enough because Obama does not understand that GW is an EXISTENTIAL threat to Homo Sapiens, the species, not a political issue. GW threatens the Existence of the human race, not Them vs Us.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 18 Jun 2010 @ 4:33 AM

  67. Thanks, David, for giving me a good start to my latest blog post: And You Think the Oil Spill is Bad?

    Human emissions of CO2 equate to almost 8,000 spills per day assumimg 40,000 bbl. per day.

    Texas Crude Oil Density = 873 kg / cubic meter
    1 cubic meter = 264.172 gallons
    1 barrel of oil = 42 gallons
    42 gallons * (1 cubic meter / 264.172 gallons) = .15898 cubic meters / barrel
    .15808 cubic meters / barrel * (873 kg /cubic meter) = 138.8 kg / barrel of oil

    Each barrel spilled adds 138.8 Kg (0.1388 metric tons) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Each day 5552 metric tons of oil are released into the Gulf.

    In the past few years humans are adding CO2 at a rate of nearly 2 ppm per year which is equivalent to 15.6 Gt (billion tons) CO2 per year.

    15,600,000,000 tons CO2 per year / 365 days / 5552 metric tons oil per day = 7,698 oil spills per day.

    The amount of CO2 emitted EACH DAY is comparable to almost 8,000 Gulf Oil Spills EACH DAY!

    Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
    Selden, NY
    Global Warming: Man or Myth?
    My Global Warming Blog
    Twitter: AGW_Prof
    “Global Warming Fact of the Day” Facebook Group

    Comment by Scott A Mandia — 18 Jun 2010 @ 6:21 AM

  68. @David “There is actually a comparable amount of carbon per acre in cities as there is in forests, though, when you add up all the lumber and books etc, I have heard.”

    Not quite. There is more carbon per acre in cities than in agricultural land, but less than in a mature forest. The calculation is quite simple, of course, but the data are difficult to track down in some cases and there is a lot of variation depending on climate zone, soil, etc.

    Comment by John D. Wilson — 18 Jun 2010 @ 6:38 AM

  69. Hey David,

    Could you please clarify the 5000×40,000 brl/day value for me… Looking at the IEA site I am seeing an estimate of total oil consumed on the order of 85m +/- 2 brl/day, globally:

    Are you talking about total fossil (mineral) carbon…?

    Dave Cooke

    [Response: Based on total CO2 emissions of about 10 Gton C / year. Check out Le Quere, Nature Geoscience 2: 831, 2009. David]

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 18 Jun 2010 @ 6:59 AM

  70. #42 James

    Just because alarms are ringing, does not mean that those that understand the alarm are alarmists. If a building is on fire and you hear the alarm and see the fire, you are not an alarmist if you take appropriate action.

    You also call RealClimate a pro AGW web site? Actually the articles are about the science in general and not really pro or con but for context, I believe this to also be a mis-characterization. I for one am against AGW, I don’t like it one bit. I think I can safely assume that others here are against it as well.

    As to the blog articles on this site not being referenced? You are kidding right? Or have you not really read the articles on this site?

    Your characterization of “juvenile personal attacks on those who do not agree with the authors line of thinking” is equally misplaced, apparently on par with your general assertions.

    Point of fact: There is consensus among thousands of (relevant) scientists on the general understanding of human caused global warming in both cause and effect. It’s the stuff in the noise, below the major identified signal, that is still in the realm of general uncertainty. Uncertainty in the noise does not alter the certainty level s regarding the signal.

    #45 James

    The scientists were (and are) in consensus on the general estimations regarding the climate signal in relation to understanding cause and effect. The definition of the word consensus is not up to your opinion. The reason is because there is a ‘consensus’ view of the definition. Try looking up the word. It seems you do not know the actual definition of consensus.

    Do you really think Gavin is making up a new definition for the word consensus?

    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt

    ‘Fee & Dividend’ Our best chance for a better future –
    Learn the Issue & Sign the Petition

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 18 Jun 2010 @ 8:05 AM

  71. “Your characterization of “juvenile personal attacks on those who do not agree with the authors line of thinking” is equally misplaced, apparently on par with your general assertions.”

    It’s also a pretty juvenile personal attack on those who don’t agree with James (or those James agrees with).

    Isn’t it ironic?

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 18 Jun 2010 @ 9:17 AM

  72. David:

    Based on total CO2 emissions of about 10 Gton C / year. Check out Le Quere, Nature Geoscience 2: 831, 2009. David

    1 Gt C equals 3.67 Gt of CO2 so if all the carbon is CO2 that would mean 36.7 Gt CO2.

    [Response: Yes]

    Not all of this is CO2, true?

    [Response: Not clear what you’re asking here. ]

    Also, natural sinks remove about 1/2 the CO2. That is why I used 2 ppm/yr as my “spill” which equals 15.6 Gt CO2 or just under 8,000 spills per day equivalence.

    Am I doing something incorrect here?

    [Response: Not that I can see. David]

    Comment by Scott A Mandia — 18 Jun 2010 @ 9:20 AM

  73. I don’t mean to intrude, but how can I pose a question about the likely impacts of sea level rise on coastal areas?

    Comment by Hunt Janin — 18 Jun 2010 @ 9:48 AM

  74. To 4 DeNihilist

    This is the latest data (graph) from the National Snow and Ice Data Center

    It appears to me (others more knowledgeable please correct me if I am wrong) that the Arctic sea ice extent is currently below the record low level set in 2007 for this time of the year. It remains to be seen if this trend continues for the rest of the summer.

    Comment by Waqidi Falicoff — 18 Jun 2010 @ 12:12 PM

  75. “I don’t mean to intrude, but how can I pose a question about the likely impacts of sea level rise on coastal areas?”

    By asking.

    However, if that is the question then the answer is: coastal areas will flood.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 18 Jun 2010 @ 12:27 PM

  76. Hunt, early Monday (6 AM EDT) on my blog, I will be posting a general overview of the impact of sea level rise on coastal regions.

    Comment by Scott A Mandia — 18 Jun 2010 @ 12:49 PM

  77. Waqidi Falicoff, Arctic sea ice extent was below 2007 at this time of year in 2005 and 2006 as well:

    While 2010 is currently below even those years, it’s still early yet.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 18 Jun 2010 @ 12:55 PM

  78. Thanx Waqidi for the reply. Just remember, extent is a crap shoot, you could have large very thin extent or small very compact extent and the ice volume could be the same.

    To me the real measure is volume and density of said volume.

    Comment by DeNihilist — 18 Jun 2010 @ 1:31 PM

  79. Waqid Falicoff #74,

    Not only are you correct, the so called “recovery” this year was mostly outside the Arctic Ocean proper. The steep rate of decline that has defined this year’s melt has been that late forming ice giving way to the laws of thermodynamics. The bit of a leveling of the slope of the melt curve going on now is due to the ice in the Arctic Ocean needing to absorb more heat before its disappearance gets into high gear.


    Ongoing ice loss in James Bay and on the sides of Greenland constitute most of the ongoing loss. If you slide the curve for the average over to extend this year’s data curve you can get an approximation of where things are headed—and you can use this graph to see a whole years cycle at once.

    As a lay generalist, I am predicting the 4 million sq Km2 level will be readily passed this year, and I will not be surprised if this year’s melt ends up closer to the 3 million level than the 4 million one.

    And because this kind of ice loss is happening about 80 years sooner than what was thought to be an educated guess 5 years ago, I posted what I did in comment #50. I really would like feedback relative to my hypothesis that fossil carbon exploration, development, and production—mishaps and market-driven variables included—could be a missing part of the “why” of this.

    Comment by Greg Robie — 18 Jun 2010 @ 1:50 PM

  80. I assume that both thin ice and rotten ice would be more susceptible to breakup by wave action into smaller floes. Such smaller floes could then spread out while staying over the 15% ice cover standard for measuring extent, giving a higher than normal extent reading for the given volume of ice. However, such small thin and rotten floes would be subject to rapid melting when it gets well underway. One would then expect a rapid decline in measured extent, as the the ice coverage in large areas falls below the 15% standard. If this is true, I would expect to see the slope of the extent curve falling significantly over the next few weeks. (I realize that winds and currents are also important factors in measured ice cover.) Sorry this is so convoluted, but, any comment?

    Comment by Ron Taylor — 18 Jun 2010 @ 3:17 PM

  81. Hunt Janin (73) — I think you aleady asked your question. The short answer is disruptive.

    A paleoclimate example is provided by the shellfish, etc., populations off the east coast of South America during the sea level rise of 120+ meters during the transition from LGM to Holocene. This happened sufficiently rapidly at some stage that the near-shore marine life couldn’t migrate fast enough and the populations were exterpated. The populaions were only restored during the stability of the Holocene.

    In contrast, this didn’t happen along the west coast of South America as the continental “shelf” is quite steep there so the coastline mostly just moved up, not inland, during the transition.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Jun 2010 @ 4:36 PM

  82. Greg Robie, #50
    If this can be quantified and identified i’m sure this will show up in temperature charts, as with mt pinatubo and similar events.

    David, 36#

    “A climax forest doesn’t remove carbon from the air in an ongoing way. It just sits there as a store of carbon. When a forest is growing toward climax it will take up carbon, filling up that reservoir. So the answer to your question is, it’s just the carbon from the trees and soils moving into the atmosphere. Rain forests are not really the lungs of the planet.”

    mike roddy, #40

    “recent studies are questioning the carbon equilibrium model of old forests, because they undervalue soil and smaller woody species carbon accumulation (sorry, I don’t have the link handy, but call a good forest carbon guy). It’s also the case that climax forests are becoming rare, and they should be the baseline, not 50 year old “managed” forests”

    scientific studies indicate carbon neutral logging might not be possible, and the soil in some logged areas continues to release carbon for up to a decade after the trees are cut.

    Terra preta soils are found mainly in Amazonia, where Sombroek et al. estimate that they cover at least 0.1 to 0.3%, or 6,300 to 18,900 km² of low forested Amazonia (cited by Denevan and Woods); but others estimate this surface at 10.0% or more (twice the surface of Great Britain). Plots of Terra preta exist in small surfaces averaging 20 hectares, but near-900 acres’ surfaces have also been reported. They are found among various climatic, geological and topographical situations. Their distribution either follows main water courses, from East Amazonia to the central basin of Amazonia, or are located on interfluvial sites (mainly of circular or lenticular shape and of a smaller size averaging some 1.4 ha), see also distribution map of Terra Preta sites in Amazon basin. William I. Woods (soil biologist/archaeologist at the University of Kansas) estimates that around 10% of the original terra comum appears to have been converted to Terra preta. According to William Balée (anthropologist at Tulane University in New Orleans), the spreads of tropical forest between the savannas could be mainly anthropogenic – a notion with dramatic implications worldwide for agriculture and conservation

    Comment by prokaryote — 18 Jun 2010 @ 4:46 PM

  83. prokaryote #82, relative to methane, what is outgasing from the gulf well enters the atmosphere at a latitude where its impact is less, in terms of insulating the Arctic in winter, than it would be if this was happening in the high northern latitudes (see animated methane distribution graph here: . My inquiry concerns how the climate models—if they can—factor in releases, planned or otherwise, of GHG from fossil carbon industries in and near the Arctic. I am sorry if my writing in comment #50 wasn’t clear.

    Comment by Greg Robie — 18 Jun 2010 @ 9:57 PM

  84. The paper on carbon and farming is so much BS. where in it does it address the carbon released by “modern” ag techniques such as extensive tillage and the use of chemical fertilizers which have reduced carbon/organic matter levels in farmland massively from as much as 20% organic material to the more common – big ag – 1 to 2%?

    So much balderdash. This is what comes of non-systems thinking. Looking at a single component of a massively complex system is less effective than the blind describing one part of an elephant.

    Logic, wherefore art thou?


    Comment by ccpo — 18 Jun 2010 @ 10:26 PM

  85. Comment: Does “deforestation” mean the carbon immediately released in the process of burning the trees down, or does this also include the amount of CO2 which would been *removed* from the atmosphere by those trees if they would still be there?

    [Response: A climax forest doesn’t remove carbon from the air in an ongoing way. It just sits there as a store of carbon. When a forest is growing toward climax it will take up carbon, filling up that reservoir. So the answer to your question is, it’s just the carbon from the trees and soils moving into the atmosphere. Rain forests are not really the lungs of the planet. David]

    This is why many forest-based carbon offset credits for trading on global carbon market exchanges are bogus. Keeping a forest intact is a good idea for other reasons, but it does absolutely nothing to remove CO2 from the atmosphere – CO2 put there by the combustion of fossil fuels. Hence forests are a bit more like a camel’s hump than a camel’s lungs – that’s where the carbon is stored. If you want planetary lungs, go with the phytoplankton – small mass, rapid turnover, low carbon storage, but lots of oxygen production.

    Compare the situation with carbon with that of water. Burning fossil fuels is like delivering water to the Earth via comet. The added water will quickly circulate throughout the hydrosphere via evaporation and precipitation, and will also be incorporated into the cryosphere. However, if you want to remove the water, you can’t – you’d have to ship it off-planet or bury it in a geologically stable form.

    For example, consider the long-term fate of the 50,000 barrels of oil per day being released – what fraction will enter the atmosphere as CO2 or volatile organics? What fraction will stay in the ocean, and of that, how much will eventually be oxidized to CO2 and how much will get buried in sediments? That’s a far trickier question, but that’s the carbon cycle for you.

    Hence, scientifically valid fossil CO2 offsets are very rare indeed, and none of the proposed mechanisms – from preserving forests to dumping iron in the oceans to building wind turbines and solar panels – would actually remove fossil CO2 from the atmosphere. Biochar soil amendments are the closest thing to a permanent carbon storage mechanism, and that just moves the carbon to the soil fraction.

    Salt, once added to soup, is as hard to remove as oil. The same goes for fossil CO2 and the atmosphere, biosphere and oceans.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 19 Jun 2010 @ 3:27 AM

  86. I like anologies..
    Here is another that gives some insight in the huge amount of CO2(and other GHG’s) humans emit..

    Our weight in gas daily

    AUSTRALIA’S emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest per capita in the Western world — apart from tiny Luxembourg — and have grown by 1.5 tonnes a head since 1990, United Nations figures show.

    The figures, released this week, show that in 2004, Australia emitted almost as much carbon and other greenhouse gases as France and Italy, which have three times our population.

    Australia’s emissions in 2004 totalled 26.4 tonnes of greenhouse gases per head, more than the US (24.1 tonnes) and more than twice the levels in the European Union, where emissions averaged 11 tonnes per head.

    Australia pumps out 72.5 kilograms of greenhouse gases per head per day. That means every day, Australia sends up greenhouse gases roughly matching the body weight of its people.

    Comment by Harmen — 19 Jun 2010 @ 3:29 AM

  87. OT technical question: Gavin, Mike, Ray, anybody knowledgeable, please indulge me.

    I just looked through a 2010 climatology textbook that listed mean annual temperatures by latitude band. Averaging both hemispheres, I found (N = 9 points) that Ts fit the sine of latitude to R^2 = 0.999.

    Huh? Is this a real relation? With all the things that affect local temperatures–not just latitude and insolation, but land/sea/ice coverage, albedo, elevation, cloud cover, precipitation, winds, currents… how can it work out this neatly? Has anyone noticed this relation before? Is it a real constraint on the climate? It’s amazing if true!

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 19 Jun 2010 @ 4:51 AM

  88. BTW, ccpo–the Renaissance English word “wherefore” means “why?” not “where?” Juliet asks “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” because she wishes he had a different (last) name.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 19 Jun 2010 @ 4:52 AM

  89. 50 & 83 Greg Robie: Why is there more methane the farther north you go? And why does it vary with the seasons? It doesn’t end at the Arctic Ocean boundary or the boundary of Antarctica. Are you saying that methane releases from the fossil fuels industry dominate the methane content of the atmosphere? If so, why isn’t the peak at Saudi Arabia’s latitude? So you think outgassing from methane hydrates on the Arctic Ocean floor competes with the fossil fuel industry? Your writing is fine, but ESRL didn’t answer our questions. “The measurements have been processed (smoothed, interpolated, and extrapolated)”.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 19 Jun 2010 @ 7:31 AM

  90. Good post to put things in perspective. Of course, from a holistic perspective the Gulf oil spill is a concomitant issue of AGW, since we are drilling for this oil primarily to burn it. Acid rain, ocean acidification, local pollution, increased crime (yes, in a car driving area where there are less walkers and cyclists, crime is higher), increased taxes for roads & their maintenance (from lots of heave ICE vehicle driving) — all these are concomitant AGW issues. More wars (in oil-rich countries), and so on. Loss of money from our inefficient/profligate lifestyles, and so on.

    We could choose a win-win-win-win-win situation by mitigating AGW, or we could choose a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose-BIG LOSE (from AGW knock-on effects) situation by failing to mitigate AGW.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 19 Jun 2010 @ 9:46 AM

  91. OT question – I just wrote on a denialist blog that I figured under a worst-case BAU scenario, the GHGs released by nature in positive feedback fashion due to the warming might actally exceed our human GHG emissions, I said maybe in 100 yrs, but that it would be a good Q to put to the scientists.

    So is that too soon, or when might that happen — the natural GHG emissions due to the warming (from melting ocean hydrates and permafrost and GW-enhanced forest fires, etc) exceeding our human emissions (note that we’ve probably already reached peak oil, and some say we only about about 100 yrs of coal left, so our emission would be probably by going down within 100 years).

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 19 Jun 2010 @ 9:52 AM

  92. 62
    jsobry says:
    17 June 2010 at 3:54 PM

    Sorry to hammer you some more, I should be hammering the Vancouver Sun. The Vancouver Sun is not exactly the best source of information nor is any other Canadian newspaper who’s name ends in Sun.
    Mr. Haas who flew over the ice probably saw(?) or rather measured multiyear ice that was several meters thick, in fact, if my sources are correct, up to 14 meters thick as an extreme case.
    Unfortunately for Haas et al. our very own Canadian arctic researchers actually went sailing (or steaming or dieseling) through that very same thick ice as if it was not there and that was in a wimpy icebreaker called the Amundson for some reason.
    Our arctic research cowboys verdict was: ROTTEN ICE”

    1. Instead of Mr. Haas, please give him his due title of Dr. Haas

    2. Speaking of your own Canadian scientists, Dr. Haas is a professor at the University of Alberta ( Last time I looked at the map, Alberta was in Canada. Have they moved it?

    3. Dr. Haas has an extensive publication record of ice and sea ice research.

    4. Haas’ so-called visual observation flight was in fact in a converted DC3 aircraft crammed with geophysical instrumentation which seems to be more than your cruise joy riders could come up with.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 19 Jun 2010 @ 10:16 AM

  93. Barton, I think that’s not terribly surprising, as insolation drives climate to a very high degree, and other factors likely average out to some extent. In testing A-to-D converters at GHz frequencies, we get a pretty good idea of disturbances to a sinusoidal output with a 4-point sampling. Of course it will fail locally–you won’t get the same temperature in Quito and Manaus.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Jun 2010 @ 11:08 AM

  94. Well Mr Steckis it looks like those ‘cruise joy riders’ achieved much more with less by being at the appropriate altitude.

    If jsobery had not introduced Dr Barber’s findings at #62 then I would have.

    Comment by Lionel A Smith — 19 Jun 2010 @ 11:50 AM

  95. Ike Solem in # 85 correctly dismisses (many) forest offset credit programs as bogus, but not for the correct reason, in my opinion. Yes, “climax” forests have no net carbon uptake, but Earth does not suffer from an excess of climax forests nor will it. Old forests short of climax still have considerable potential to increase their stores of carbon (Luyssaert et al. 2008).
    Past deforestation and conversion of older forests to plantations and other younger stages leaves a considerable potential for forest carbon stores to be increased. Canadell and Raupach (2008) provide an admittedly unrealistic upper bound estimate that forests could absorb and store sufficient carbon by 2100 to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 40 – 70 ppm. The fraction of this that might be achievable could still be significant.

    Comment by Rick Brown — 19 Jun 2010 @ 12:44 PM

  96. Barton #87, surely you mean the cosine of latitude?

    Pretty neat.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 19 Jun 2010 @ 12:59 PM

  97. Well, let’s not muddy the waters by suggesting that Dr. Haas–this may be the first agreement with R. Steckis that I have, Professor Haas has earned the honorific–thinks everything is hunky-dory in the Arctic. What the Vancouver Sun chooses to characterize as “reassuring news” is basically is that “it could be worse.”

    Dr. Haas’ prediction is this: “The more likely scenario is that the ice will continue a decline that has been underway for at least 30 years. . .”

    It doesn’t really matter, but Dr. Haas is not Canadian; he is a German who just took up a position at UAB, supported by an Alberta Ingenuity Scholarship (whatever that may be.) Wanted to look up his GRL paper, but didn’t find it–is it “forthcoming?”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 19 Jun 2010 @ 1:17 PM

  98. Ike Solem – how many climax forests are there? It can’t be very many. If a forest is approaching the point where carbon loss through tree death equals carbon take up by living trees, that is very easily solved. Cut down the dying trees, which are going to be quite large, and process them. Lumber has value. Lumber that has old-growth characteristics can have very high values. Check out red spruce guitar tops. The tree culling operations might even be self-sustaining.

    There are many things we build with steel, and other fossil-fuel intensive materials, which require a lot of fossil-fuel combustion to make, that could be just as well made with wood. It’s possible to take wood from a tree to a finished product with almost no fossil-fuel combustion at all.

    I believe one climax forest is red cedar on the west coast. Red cedar will replenish in its own shade. If houses are built correctly, cedar siding and roofing can last a very long time. Clay tile has to be made in a kiln. Asphalt shingles require fossil-fuel combustion and are a slow-motion oil leak into the water table. Cedar shingles can be manufactured with almost no fossil fuels, and were so made for centuries.

    Large trees that have no commercial purpose could be placed in long-term storage to prevent the sequestered carbon from returning to the cycle.

    Comment by JCH — 19 Jun 2010 @ 2:12 PM

  99. Edward Greisch #89

    As far as I know anthropogenic methane (including that generated by the fossil carbon industry) is a small part of what goes into the atmosphere. That said, the increase in CH4 in the atmosphere, since measuring it started (1978), is, primarily, our contribution. From what I know as a lay generalist, the methane distribution in the NOAA graph ( ) confirms our impact: methane has its highest concentration where the land mass is which the bulk of humanity occupies. I think methane shifts north thanks to how the Ferrel and Polar cells interact with seasonal changes in temperature. With the onset of winter, the Polar jet slides south and functionally encompassing more of the mid-latitudes in the Polar Cell. Our relatively warm crisp fall and cold winter air rises to the top of the troposphere and is down drafted in the Arctic latitudes. If our incinerating of Scotchguard® treated furniture in the mid-latitudes can result in Inuit women having it in their breast milk, can’t methane migrate north using the same atmospheric dynamics?

    Concerning my inquiries, one of them is whether the climate science modeling is yet complex enough to include point sources of GHGs. My impression is that it is not—as per your observation about data averaging. A second question concerns how methane’s GHG forcings are treated relative to latitude. It seems to me that if a strong greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere at the time of year when, historically, “normal” cooling is needed to preserve sea ice and permafrost, over time, even a small feedback can make a big difference, and/or a small difference can function as a big feedback at a particular location.

    At this point the ‘common wisdom’ appears to be that a 50 ppb shift in the Arctic seasonally, or over a decade, is not a big deal—and using averages, it isn’t. Even so, given what is being observed ‘earlier’ than the models predicted, SOMETHING(s) is/are a big deal. What if the big deal is that what feels like such is not a big deal is, in fact, a big deal? What if something that is important (like fossil carbon industry mishaps and market-driven variability) are being averaged or smoothed or extrapolated away? Data collection in the Arctic is still grossly inadequate to what the region represent for identifying where we are concerning tipping points and public policy; for determining when CO2 being the most important gas transitions to methane holding that position in the modeling as the methane time bomb becomes the prime GHG variable? (And revisiting an earlier analogy discussed here on RealClimte concerning these gases, brakes, and accelerators, I would offer for consideration the applicability liquid fuel first stage rocket engines and solid fuel boosters and the dynamics we are trying to model accurately and rationally feel about.)

    If what I heard from Copenhagen a year ago in March is true, there are only about 20 scientists focused on studying methane on this planet. An unintended consequence of this could be the creation of a bias relative to carbon dioxide. Such a bias would feed into defining what is felt to be important and what is less so. Once such a bias becomes established, the observer becomes part of what is being observed . . . but is able to feel this isn’t so. And the fact remains: the current models have not got the modeling for the Arctic right.

    Things I’m considering when thinking about this:

    Are any of the spikes in the NOAA graph measurements of a reported, under-reported, or not reported mishaps like BP’s well in the Gulf? Could the lack of a comparable strong increase in methane in 2008 be the result of wells being shut down and/or exploration slowed as the global economy collapsed with Wall Street? In Alberta this year there will bring a huge reduction (~10X) in wells being drilled in coal fields for natural gas due to the collapse in the price of natural gas. Is there data being collected that can see if this change leaves a signature? Similarly, and Ironically, BP instituted huge reductons in leakage of methane from its natural gas fields in New Mexico over a couple a years. Can that be observed when averages and smoothing and extrapolating are employed? Can the methodology used in the work at the University of Edinburgh relating methane released with wetlands in the high norther latitudes be adapted to look at the activities of the fossil carbon industry? Help!?!

    I approximate an expert when it comes to insulation and construction. A rule of thumb is that you have to double the insulation to cut heat transfer from conduction in half. Point sources of GHGs in the high northern latitudes from the fossil carbon industry could both be highly variable, unprecedented in terms of geological history (which informs the climate models), and misunderstood (due to what is felt to be known and trustworthy). Again, looking at the NOAA graph I see spikes of 200-300 ppb. That is no doubling, but given the exponential nature of heat loss relative to temperature difference, these would model a lot different than an ‘inconsequential’ average of 50 ppb. Over time—something that seems to be the true when looking at the data in the graph—that could add up to something. If there are multipliers involved in subsequent crunchings of methane’s averages in the models, such would add up to a lot more. Could this be decades re: ice loss . . . or centuries re: the lit fuse of the methane time bomb?

    I am hoping others with better knowledge than I can follow up on my questions—if answers are not readily available—and if they are, a URL please (and thank you).

    Comment by Greg Robie — 19 Jun 2010 @ 3:29 PM

  100. The denialists always claim the scientists don’t have a consensus, but denialists really don’t agree on much except that the scientific consensus is wrong.

    I got a comment from a poster who couldn’t spell “consensus” or make his subject and verb agree. It read:

    Snapple, can you please provide the exact scientific finding or mathematical formula that proves global warming is being caused by man burning fossil fuels.

    Please no more concensus rubbish….

    Just provide the precise verified formula that shows that fossil fuels causes global warming and that excludes every other factor including the sun as the cause of global warming.

    That Morano sends them over.

    It seems that conservative organizations are praising the “science” articles in Pravda.

    Comment by Snapple — 19 Jun 2010 @ 3:36 PM

  101. #98 “Cut down the dying trees, which are going to be quite large, and process them. Lumber has value”. Any idea of the roles of mature, dying, dead, fallen trees in a forest ecosystem JCH? Your idea for removing them would turn forests into managed plantations, and would certainly result in loss of biodiversity and forest function, the loss of large numbers of species that rely on different successional stages, and probably, in the long run, the effective loss of the forest itself.

    Comment by David Horton — 19 Jun 2010 @ 3:52 PM

  102. Barton Paul Levenson (87) — Surely cosine of latitude when the equator is taken as zero arcdegrees.

    As Ray points out, that will agree with irradiance and then maybe albedo plus poleward heat redistribution accounts of the result. So maybe an accident of Terra’s climate, inapplicable to other bodies with atmospheres?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Jun 2010 @ 4:39 PM

  103. 69 David Cook said and David responded:
    “Could you please clarify the 5000×40,000 brl/day value for me… Looking at the IEA site I am seeing an estimate of total oil consumed on the order of 85m +/- 2 brl/day, globally:

    and David responded:

    “Response: Based on total CO2 emissions of about 10 Gton C / year. Check out Le Quere, Nature Geoscience 2: 831, 2009. David]”

    I don’t have access to Nature from home, and many RC readers won’t have access to Nature at all without paying for it, but I’m thinking that the discrepancy is coal.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 19 Jun 2010 @ 5:54 PM

  104. Oops. Yes, Barton, please clarify–I would think the temperature has to follow cos(latitude). If it’s really 90 degrees out of phase, that would be remarkable.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Jun 2010 @ 8:33 PM

  105. 87. fiting latitutinal temperature as a function of cos(latitude) won’t work very well, no matter what function one chooses. Any function of cos(theta) is an even (symmetric) function, but our planets climate has a large north south assymetry, caused largely by the large antarctic icecap. In order to get a decent fit, one would have to include one or more assymetric terms I would choose sin(theta) and sin(2*theta).

    Comment by Thomas — 19 Jun 2010 @ 9:36 PM

  106. snapple: the formula for proof of AGW is:

    CHn+O2 = CO2 + Hn

    I.e. when you burn a hydrocarbon in an oxygen rich atmosphere, you get CO2 out.

    Everything else falls out of climate science (there is no anthropogenic climate science, it’s just natural climate and what makes that natural climate. One of which is the role of CO2 in determining the climate of the planet earth).

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 20 Jun 2010 @ 3:27 AM

  107. Sine, guys. Sine. R^2 = 0.999. Maybe I’d get the same figure for cosine, since they’re intimately linked. Haven’t tried it yet. When I graphed the two series it looked like a sine curve to me, so that was what I used. No, it’s isn’t a misprint or a mistake. Just a fit.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Jun 2010 @ 6:05 AM

  108. Thomas,

    I used the average between the two hemispheres.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Jun 2010 @ 6:06 AM

  109. Thomas, If you look at the temperatures, they are dominated by solar radiation to a first approximation. Everything else is a second order effect–including the oceans. You’ll get a much better fit to an even function than an odd, which would place the hottest temperatures at the pole.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Jun 2010 @ 6:22 AM

  110. Ray at 109. You can always separate out the even an odd portions of a function and fit them temporarily:
    Feven(x) = .5*(F(x)+F(-x)) , Fodd(x)=.5*(F(x)-F(-x))
    Then Feven = sumof An*cos(n*theta)
    and Fodd = sumof Bn*sin(n*theta)
    The first series starts at n=0, the second at n=1.

    Decompostion into even/odd components can sometimes make things clearer.

    Comment by Thomas — 20 Jun 2010 @ 11:22 AM

  111. Ray 104,

    Try Ts = 299 – 53 * sin theta and see what you get.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Jun 2010 @ 1:38 PM

  112. Barton Paul Levenson (111) — This is too bizarre. Theta runs from what value at the north pole to what value at the south pole, please?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Jun 2010 @ 4:36 PM

  113. David, may I impose on you one more time? Have been reading about Charcoaling to sequester CO2 the last couple of days. Some conflicting opinions. What is your thumbnail take on this issue?


    Comment by DeNihilist — 20 Jun 2010 @ 9:07 PM

  114. @92 Titular controversy.
    1) I am sure that Mr. Haas can be simultaneously Dr. Haas. There is no way that I can give him his due title as I think he deserved that when he wrote his thesis and earned his PHD. If on top of that he is a professor at the University of Alberta so much the better for him.
    But I do not think that I in any way have offended Mr. Haas by calling him Mr. Haas. In fact I never bothered to check on that when I wrote my somewhat lighthearted update and never thought about it.
    I do in fact live in Alberta and happen to know quite a few professors at that university because my wife works there. I have never called any of them doctor this or that.
    It is totally irrelevant to me what your title is whoever you may be. All I am interested in is what you say or do at any given moment in time. This does in no way remove from the person in question her or his title or anything they may have done to earn it.
    I now realize that I called Mr. Barber Dr. Barber in my update but that was only because I was looking at his presentation and there it said Dr. Barber which I just copied. I am sorry if this oversight offends you but in any case there was no intention to do so. I am very sure that Dr. Haas was, is, or will be a fine scientist or not whether I address him as Mr. or Dr.
    2) Allready covered. I am fully aware of the whereabouts of Dr. Haas, the province of Alberta and my chosen country Canada.
    3) Dr. Haas, I am sure, has a very good academic record otherwise he would most likely not have been accepted at the university of Calgary. I do not see how this has any bearing on the thickness and strength of multiyear ice at all.
    4) As I mentioned earlier this was and is a lighthearted update to the observation that DeNihilist made. I just happened to have watched Mr. Barber’s presentation in OSLO, Norge (Norway to you) on the occasion of the end of the International Polar Year. The reason I watched this is that it was referred to in a previous topic on this website but a few days ago.
    It seemed to me that perhaps based on what the Vancouver Sun reported that Dr. Haas had said, he may have spoken too soon and his conclusions notwithstanding his eminent academic credentials may not be up to snuff with respect to the total picture in tis particular case.
    The Canadian arctic cowboys, I jokingly referred to, you may rest assured were equiped with a fantastic array of scientific instruments on board their ice breaker as well.
    I will not mention the fact that these arctic cowboys are part of a large scientific team in a rather large Canadian arctic scientific research project.
    The only real difference to me was that they actually sailed through the 4 to 14 meter thick ice while Dr. Haas simply flew over the ice with his instruments. To me, actually breaking through the ice and seeing it give way like so much slush seems like touching the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, to me, flying over the ice can in no way give the same experience no matter how sophisticated your equipment is. Perhaps I am wrong in taking that view.
    Perhaps Dr. Haas’ instruments could not tell him that the thick ice was rotten or perhaps the Canadians were just drunk when they went sailing through the thick ice and they were in fact just standing still instead.
    But I can assure you that the titles of the respective scientists has absolutely nothing at all to do with the veracity of their respective statements, explanations, hypotheses or theories.
    It is precisely this veracity we are after not their titles.

    Comment by jsobry — 20 Jun 2010 @ 10:53 PM

  115. @98 and @101
    Apparently we have about 2 billion dead pine trees mostly in British Columbia and some in Alberta, victims of the mountain pine beetle. The fear is that the beetle will jump across to the great boreal Canadian forest east all the way to the Atlantic coast and Newfounland. Also claimed is the fact that the beetle is spreading so successfully because of warmer winters here about. The warmer winters are only local here so I can make no claim that this is related to global warming allthough I am sure of it in my own quiet way.
    I have tried to think of a smart way to somehow sequester the trees and remove their carbon from the current carbon cycle.
    Apparently the forestry folks have no use for them.
    Sofar I have not been able to come up with any reasonable and rational solution. Where are our geo-engeneers?

    Comment by jsobry — 21 Jun 2010 @ 12:22 AM

  116. 114
    jsobry says:
    20 June 2010 at 10:53 PM

    “The only real difference to me was that they actually sailed through the 4 to 14 meter thick ice while Dr. Haas simply flew over the ice with his instruments. To me, actually breaking through the ice and seeing it give way like so much slush seems like touching the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, to me, flying over the ice can in no way give the same experience no matter how sophisticated your equipment is. Perhaps I am wrong in taking that view.”

    Your are certainly wrong in that view. A ship mounted observation can only measure the ice that the ship can pass through. An aircraft can measure any location on the ice pack. I doubt that there is 14m thickness of rotten ice in the ice pack. This was only measured in the Beaufort Sea. Rotten ice is not multi-year ice. Haas measured thick multi-year ice.

    The fact remains that ships have limitations that aircraft do not have. Until a full grid survey of the Arctic Ocean is conducted (I know. At great expense) these arguments will continue to exist.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 21 Jun 2010 @ 6:01 AM

  117. P.S. The decaying multi-year ice that the ship passed through measured between 6 and 8 metres. 14 metres is not even mentioned and is nearly double that of Barber’s observations.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 21 Jun 2010 @ 6:05 AM

  118. @114–

    One of the things I wondered about the Haas paper was, where did Dr. Haas look, compared with where Dr. Barber’s team looked? I still don’t know about the latter, but Neven posted a link to an author PDF of the Haas paper, which reveals that the overflights (carried out, BTW, with the towed monitor ‘bird’ just 20 m above the ice!) covered 7 segments in different parts of the Arctic basin, totaling over 2,000 km.

    Seems like a good sample, but there’s still lots of room for the two expeditions to cover largely different areas. And if you look at the Haas data, the remaining really thick ice was found in the area directly north of Ellesmere Island–consistent with what we already knew.

    Here’s Neven’s link:


    Yes. Several American states have problems with bark beetles, too, and apparently for analogous reasons. This crisis is a great example of severe economic impacts *now*–

    Annual spending on beetle control in the Rocky Mountain region is apparently in the range of $70-80 million:

    Cumulative costs in British Columbia have become fairly eye-popping:

    “Since 2001, the Province has committed more than $756 million to battle the mountain pine beetle, mitigate future impacts and promote regional economic development within the mountain pine beetle epidemic zone. The Government of Canada has committed $200 million since 2006, and has promised a further $800 million to help B.C. reduce the effects of its pine beetle infestation.”

    Alberta, too, has big problems, though not quite as bad as BC:

    “Over the three fiscal years since a large inflight of mountain pine beetles was carried into west-central Alberta in July 2006, Alberta has allocated approximately $210 million to fight infestations in the province.”

    Ecological effects are potentially severe, and there has been formal attribution to climate change (so you can be less diffident about that, I think, jsobry):

    Here are some maps of affected jurisdictions:

    And lastly, a local Colorado piece on folks using beetle-killed wood (sometimes called “denim pine:”)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Jun 2010 @ 7:53 AM

  119. David 112 — Theta, the latitude, is 90 degrees at the north pole and 0 degrees at the equator.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Jun 2010 @ 8:35 AM

  120. jsoby 115,

    Make biochar out of them.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Jun 2010 @ 8:36 AM

  121. BPL – I am reading up on this at the moment. What’s your take on this – postives? negatives?


    Comment by DeNihilist — 21 Jun 2010 @ 9:16 AM

  122. DeN,

    I’m not sure what you’re asking about.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Jun 2010 @ 2:20 PM

  123. DeNihilist (113) — Which David? I’m certainly in favor of biochar for carbon sequestration.

    Barton Paul Levenson (119) — I think I’ve finally caught on; lets see if I have it. The two hemispheres are averaged and then treated as northern only. So you could have used


    to obtain the same result (and cut down on several commenters confusion). Ok.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Jun 2010 @ 3:06 PM

  124. LOL! David Benson. Yup, coulda been more specific. It was directed at the David who started this post. :)
    BPL, asking about your opinion on Biochar, just starting to read up on it now, so I’m trying to get some opinions from those who may have already formed those opinions.


    Comment by DeNihilist — 21 Jun 2010 @ 8:11 PM

  125. DeN,

    It looks like a good idea–improves soil quality as well as sequestering carbon. It would be difficult to do it on a large enough scale to solve the whole problem, but it should certainly be part of the solution.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 22 Jun 2010 @ 4:38 AM

  126. JCH, #88, No. Vegetation is too thick in PNW mature coastal forests to allow for much selective logging. Cedar is not a long lived product, especially as roofing. I repeat my earlier point: wood products recovered from industrial logging represent 15-20% of the logging that occurs on site. Wood is more carbon intensive than steel in the same application, by a lot

    (my work is at,

    It’s also not the case that removing the largest trees allows for automatic regeneration to fill their storage niche. That’s not the way it works in an actual forest. The largest trees play key roles in shading, microclimate capture of clouds, and insect predator and wildlife habitat- especially when they topple and rot on the ground for decades. If you keep logging the big trees, the forest becomes unhealthy, which means less carbon sequestration.

    RC managers- this subject is a constant source of ignorant posts and comments here on Realclimate. I suggest that you recruit a scientist who understands the forest carbon cycle to straighten all of this out. A good candidate is the guru on the subject, Dr. Harmon of Oregon State. You may also want to consider Hansen from UC Davis and Franklin from UW.

    Comment by mike roddy — 22 Jun 2010 @ 3:08 PM

  127. #126 Thanks Mike Roddy. And I agree on a forest article for RC, although you might want to consider something on the Australian forests too.

    Comment by David Horton — 22 Jun 2010 @ 6:34 PM

  128. David Horton-

    Thanks for your support. We really need to get Gavin & company up to speed here, for all of our sakes. Temperate forest carbon cycling analysis is not well understood even by a lot of biologists and forest scientists. Again, Harmon is the man here, or Mackey from Australia.

    For a Down Under perspective, Google green carbon, a book on old growth Australian eucalpyt forests, available for free on the Web. The author, Brendan Mackey, does what someone should have done here a long time ago: established natural forests as carbon baselines, not currently degraded ones. This changes everything, and in a positive way: sequestration opportunities are enormous, if we just allow natural processes to heal our terribly massacred temperate forests. No input on “management” or “fire prevention” from timber industry foresters, please!

    Comment by mike roddy — 22 Jun 2010 @ 9:26 PM

  129. roddy, here is a bit of the pine beetle story, see where they mention fire supression

    Comment by DeNihilist — 22 Jun 2010 @ 10:27 PM

  130. #128 There is a current push to get native forests ground up to produce “biofuel” (I think that is the euphemism) to both use in Australia and sell elsewhere. The reason is the drop in demand for woodchips, so to keep up their profits these companies are now selling this appalling process as a source of “renewable energy”.

    And the foresters continue to provide misleading information on the use of prescribed burning, and on the need to “manage” forests. All of this at a time when my gut feeling is that Australian forests are starting to feel the direct effects of rising temperatures, and the effects of increasing bushfires.

    [Response: That’s exactly the reason that prescribed burns and thins are more needed than ever, i.e. rising temps on top of x years of fire reductions. Getting some energy or commercial product out of it is not inherently bad. A lot of it depends on how it’s done. jim]

    Comment by David Horton — 22 Jun 2010 @ 10:28 PM

  131. roddy, a bit more background for your article

    Comment by DeNihilist — 22 Jun 2010 @ 10:35 PM

  132. Mike, what do you think of the common practice of forest thinning? Usually lots of small trees and limbs are placed in piles and burned. The goal is to reduce flammability of forests which have had too many decades of fire suppression. Carbon wise, I would think burying this stuff rather than burning it might enhance carbon storage. Whatever is done we have a lot of forests which are suffering bacause of fire suppression and/or grazing. Thinning makes a tempting source for biomass.

    Comment by Thomas — 22 Jun 2010 @ 11:01 PM

  133. #132 Thomas – we shouldn’t be “forest thinning”. Normally the forest floor is in equilibrium between the amount of leaf, bark, twig falling and the amount rotting away and being incorporated into the soil as organic matter, returning nutrients to the forest. The litter (and fallen trees and branches) is also structurally important as the home of a huge number of small animals as well as fungi and bacteria.

    During drought this balance changes because the decomposition rate slows and therefore there is a build up. A return of wetter conditions will see it reduced again. By burning you are not only removing nutrients and structure but exposing the forest floor to drying and erosion and weed infestation. Forests don’t “need” burning, burning is bad for them, especially at short intervals. Australian plants are not adapted to fire. There is a great deal of mythology about fire in Australia, which is not helpful when we need healthy forests more than ever in the face of global warming. There is discussion of some of these issues here

    [Response: I’m sorry but most of these statements are wrong. There is a great deal of literature regarding the patterns and importance of fires in forests and elsewhere. Artificially reducing fires, and then increasing the potential evapotranspiration rate, is a recipe for disaster which is now being realized in places like the western N America. Furthermore, there are all kinds of fitness traits directly related to fire adaptation, as is well known.–Jim]

    Comment by David Horton — 22 Jun 2010 @ 11:50 PM

  134. @23 ghost:

    “My first reaction to the 4-figure barrels per day estimate was ‘hogwash; do they expect us to believe that BP would spend the enormous effort and money to drill a well that would expel only a few thousand barrels a day flowing full-open?’”

    Of course not … but _it wasn’t full-open_.

    You seem not to have followed #21’s link to the explanation of why the flow rate really did start small and increase since then — at
    (“BP’s Deepwater Oil Spill – Why the Flow Rates are Increasing and Open Thread 2”)

    Then you went on: “A four-figure bpd rate estimate was as ludicrous as the deniosaurs’ low-ball claims for the effect of fossil fuel CO2 on climate.”

    The first was not ludicrous at all; it was realistic. But your failure to inform yourself about the actual situation (hint again: NOT “full-open”) did result in your making a posting about as ludicrous as the second of those.

    Comment by Richard Woods — 23 Jun 2010 @ 1:12 AM

  135. 114,115,116
    Why argu about who measured what? I just go to U of Washington Polar Science Center and gaze in horror on their chart of Arctic Seaice Volume, now 2700 Km3 below 2007 and sinking like a rock.

    Comment by w kensit — 23 Jun 2010 @ 2:27 AM

  136. #135–

    I know how you feel, kensit. I’ve said it before, but the other day I greeted Cryosphere Today’s map on my computer screen with profanity, so striking was the ice retreat. As much as I feel a dramatic loss of extent could be helpful politically at this point, I just can’t feel good about seeing it disappear so quickly.

    And yet–PIOMAS, the UW the ice chart model you mention, needs thickness data, and it needs much more of it if possible. Hopefully Dr. Haas’ overflight program will continue over the next couple of seasons as planned, and hopefully we’ll get shipborne and iceborne in situ measurements as well.

    Whether we like the results or not, we need to lock down as precisely as possible just how bad this situation is.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Jun 2010 @ 7:37 AM

  137. Thomas, I agree with David Horton, that forest thinning is almost always useless or counterproductive. There is no “waste” in nature, and fallen limbs and litter are needed for nutrient cycling and water capture. Biomass operators put out all kinds of bad data, about both forests and carbon.

    As for fire, it depends on the ecosystem. Western North American forests are adapted to fire, including hot ones. Most tropical forests are not, and it sounds from David as if Australian forests aren’t, either. In a North American forest, only about 20% of the site carbon ends up in the atmosphere after a fire.

    Denihilist, you’re right, and in the case of our own National Parks such as Yosemite, they do controlled burns in spring and fall to compensate for the historical shortage of lighting induced fires. Western forests are not only adapted to fire, they depend on it- and the large trees of all species generally survive, which is why older forests contain many species hundreds of years old. Their bark is thicker, and enough of the tree (especially the roots) survives fire to allow for regeneration. I also agree that fire suppression is a problem in the West, and it’s hard to fix it at this stage.

    I recommend that you google the website of George Wuerthner on this general subject. He’s a forest ecologist out of Montana.

    [Response: Where this idea that thinning is “bad” or “counterproductive” came from I don’t know, but it is very wrong. If you remove an important thinning agent (i.e. fire) from a vegetation type for an extended period of time, and that agent’s probability of increased intensity increases with it’s removal, then some type of thinning becomes necessary to reduce this risk. It is absolutely not “useless”. As for spring burning, the reasons are that (1) fires are far more controllable than they are in the summer because fuel moisture is higher, and (2) visitation rates are lower. You are correct in general on the strong adaptations to fire in W N AM, but for trees, stump/root sprouting is in general (with a few notable exceptions like redwood and some oaks) not one of them. More important are morphology features such as branch self pruning and bark thickness. Shrubs are another story however.–Jim]

    Comment by mike roddy — 23 Jun 2010 @ 8:24 AM

  138. 133,137. I was especially thinking about the forests in the US southwest, where I used to live. Especially the ponderosa pine forests are supposed to have many times the historical tree density. This is normally attributed to fire suppression, although I think grazing played a large role as well. Forest managers in this area are primarily concerned about catastrophic fires, especially in the urban forest interface area. I agree about mature forest that are in long term quasi equilibrium. But, we have a great deal of forest area that has been disturbed to a far from equilibrium state.

    [Response: Correct. Great increases in density, fuel loads, fuel connectivity, and fire risk. Far out of their long term range of variability (ROV). Huge, huge problem.–Jim]

    I am not sold on the idea, that the natural state of the forest maximizes carbon retention. I think this means that there probably exists a management regime that allows a higher density of carbon then the natural state. That doesn’t mean that present management practices do that, just that I think it likely that some unnatural perturbations increase carbon density.]

    [Response: It’s best not to use the term “natural”–too vague. Better to talk in terms of either historical ROV, or in terms of concepts like potential carrying capacity. The problem with maintaining a higher-than-historical ROV in carbon or tree density in fire prone forests, is that you increase the chance for high intensity fires.–Jim]

    Comment by Thomas — 23 Jun 2010 @ 9:23 AM

  139. This quote came from an item at,

    “BP was able to have several safety checks waved because of the high-level interest by the White House and Pentagon in tapping the Gulf of Mexico bonanza”

    This bonanza was a oil field 35,000 ft. down, under the Gulf. It sounds like there is more to this story then put out by the mass media. It also may add credence to comments by other oil companies, as to the reasons BP was able to cut corners, and still get by with government safety inspections. Here is the link:

    Comment by J. Bob — 23 Jun 2010 @ 10:04 AM

  140. Kevin McKinney and W Kensit, Quit’yer bitchin’ and hop to. There are deck chairs to rearrange…

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Jun 2010 @ 10:09 AM

  141. You are correct in general on the strong adaptations to fire in W N AM, but for trees, stump/root sprouting is in general (with a few notable exceptions like redwood and some oaks) not one of them.

    Odd factoid is that the atypical stump/root sprouting of redwoods is the major reason why northern spotted owl are able to nest with some success in second-growth redwoods as long as there are large enough nesting trees available (the crown of young growth surrounding a redwood stump is perfect for wood rats, which then feed the owls, among other things)

    Totally off topic but interesting to me, at least.

    [Response: That makes two of us!–Jim]

    Comment by dhogaza — 23 Jun 2010 @ 11:20 AM

  142. In a climax forest carbon loss equals carbon gain. Wouldn’t that mean the forest floor is getting more carbon than at any other time in the forest’s existence. I think borrowing a bit of it for long-term storage is not likely to result in the eventual death of the forest.

    [Response: Yes, the amount of forest soil carbon being sequestered is maximal, but so (potentially) is the amount being respired (there’s more to decay), thus the ~ steady state. But, be careful with your first statement; “climax forest” is a term with a long history, which originally denoted ~ stasis wrt species composition (i.e. succession near its endpoint). It may or may not mean that carbon has been maximized–depending on the forest type involved. I agree in general with your last statement.–Jim]

    Comment by JCH — 23 Jun 2010 @ 11:48 AM

  143. JIm, I’m sorry but the statements are not “wrong”, I am talking about Australian forests where the idea that “there are all kinds of fitness traits directly related to fire adaptation” is simply mythology. Forests (and some individual trees) can survive fire, like they can survive other disasters, by a range of adaptations. But these are not adaptations to fire and indeed most Australian shrubs and trees while they may or may not survive a single fire will certainly not survive the series of fires of prescribed burning. Whether that is true for American forests I don’t know.

    [Response: David, you cannot be serious. Australia is one of the type cases for plant adaptation to fire. What do you call epicormic and lignotuber sprouts in the Eucalypts, neutral mutations from genetic drift? There is a suite of universally recognized plant adaptations to fire, many of them related to reproductive/regeneration strategies, and you will find them all in Australia ]

    And as for the essential nature of “thinning” this is forest manager talk. How do you imagine the forests survived without the graduates of forestry schools looking after them prior to a few thousand (indeed a few hundred) years ago?

    [Response: Yes it sure is, forest manager and scientist talk. It’s not a question of forest survival. It’s a question of trying to undo mismanagement of the natural fire regime over the last century plus, i.e. ecological restoration to a more stable state to prevent catastrophic fire in the future. That is objective #1, and deservedly so, from many angles–Jim]

    Comment by David Horton — 23 Jun 2010 @ 2:57 PM

  144. Ray (#140)–

    Rearrange deck chairs? I’m in the band, and “Nearer My God To Thee” is too low in Eb for the current vocalist.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Jun 2010 @ 5:55 PM

  145. Why did the rate of global warming on the temperature of the earth “become” less over the last ten years. How much co2 is being released per day from the oil spill.

    Comment by Matthew Adams — 23 Jun 2010 @ 8:33 PM

  146. #133 David Horton

    With regard to fire and Australian forests. Many of the points you make with regard to fire are generally wrong, though they may be correct is some specific situations.
    For a start many Australian plants do have strong adaptations for fire.
    1. After fire many eucalypts and other trees can rapidly regenerate entire foliage from completely blackened denuded trunks and branches. This is because of the presence of numerous epicormic buds buried deeply within the very thick bark (which itself helps protect the tree from fire.
    2. Many plants have seed pods (many eucalypts, Banksias etc) that will retain their seeds for many years until soon after being burnt.
    3. The propogation of numerous Australian plants has been a major horticultural problem for revegetation projects etc. Collected seed for many species had negligable levels of germination. That is until fairly recently when it was realized that exposing the seeds to the smoke of burning vegetable matter stimulates hugely the rates of germination. In some cases germination rates have risen from negligable to almost 100%. In fact I often buy packets of ‘smoke’ to added to native seeds collected from the bush to increase germination rates.
    4. The very high oil content of eucalyptus leaves itself has been considered an adaptation to increase chances of fire and hence increase its chances of reproduction in competition with other plants.
    Secondly, many Australian soils have very low fertility and much of the fertility they do have is because of high levels of charcoal which helps with soil structure and water retention. Presumably this charcoal has come from fires burning through the forests (Not sure of any other likely source). The level of charcoal can be quite high. Agriculture has caused a fairly rapid loss of this charcoal, partly because there is no replenishment due to fire.
    However I also believe you are correct in opposing very frequent burn offs as part of forest management. Many Australian forests are very floristically diverse with a rich variety of species (unlike forests in many other parts of the world) many of which can take years to mature and produce seed. Frequent burnoffs can turn such diverse forests into monoculture tree farms fairly quickly. In addition the forest litter is important for the fauna population. As an example, the Department of Environment and Conservation in Western Australia recommend a burn off cycle of 52 years, with intervals of 13 years, 13 years and 26 years. This is not necessarily optimum for anything, but the best tradeoff between fire control requirements and ecological sustainability.

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 23 Jun 2010 @ 8:43 PM

  147. #143 Jim, no, I’m sorry. The adaptations that are referred to as “fire adaptation” are simply general adaptations to recovery after disaster (storm, flood, drought) and can also assist recovery, in some species, after a fire disaster. That some species are able to recover after fire does not mean they are adapted to fire, and it most emphatically does not men they need fire to survive.

    [Response: Baloney. Why do a number of the eucalypts have deeply buried epicormic buds and/or bud primordia in the cambium or even the outer xylem, if not to protect them from excessive heat and provide an immense competitive advantage after a fire (to give just one example)? Read the work of Burrows and others, e.g: Burrows, 2002. Epicormic strand structure in Angophora, Eucalyptus and Lophostemon (Myrtaceae) – implications for fire resistance and recovery. New Phytologist 153:111-31.]

    And mismanagement of a natural fire regime? Well, maybe, if you include in that the mismanagement of “prescribed burning”. But having said that it is clear that we have so altered the landscape with land clearing, weed infestation, roads, splitting up forests into small units, grazing and so on, that we can’t really allow the natural regime of occasional big fires, even if you could ignore (which you can’t) the presence of homes, businesses, infrastructure, in fire prone areas and the need to protect them. Have a look at some of the stuff I’ve written about this at length. It really isn’t possible to discuss this at length in this format.

    [Response:1. No, mismanagement in the sense of drastically altering the historical spatio-temporal disturbance dynamic without considering the possible consequences, such as system stability and resilience. 2. Prescribed burning is not mis-managed except in the sense that there is not nearly enough of it in many places. 3. The fragmentation of the landscape helps prevent fire spread, but it does not generally reduce fire intensity in those areas with elevated fuel loads. 4. I have read some of your writings and I find them to be in direct contradiction to consensus scientific understanding on even the most basic fundamentals and that you have some rather severe misconceptions on the nature of fire, fire management, vegetation and climate change. That is obviously going to raise some objections at a site devoted to opposing such things.]

    Comment by David Horton — 23 Jun 2010 @ 10:12 PM

  148. #145 Andrew, sorry, but no. Don’t want to go through it in detail here, check out what I have written. But briefly – recovering after damage is not an adaptation to fire per se; most eucalypts don’t have thick bark; seed pods are adaptation to drought, not fire. In fact opening inadvertently, after fire is not a good thing; All plants respond to smoke, it is just a function of being a plant, not fire adaptation. The ingredient is obtained as readily from burning straw as leaves; may trees in other countries contain oil and burn just as fiercely. The oils are an adaptation to pests and herbivores, and drought – why would you think a tree would adapt to make itself burn more fiercely?; Fertility doesn’t come from charcoal – and burning leaf litter and the top few inches of soil removes organic matter.

    Comment by David Horton — 23 Jun 2010 @ 11:35 PM

  149. So a simple question on biochar gets all of this. Simply wonderful!
    Thanx to all so far, I have really learned a lot.

    Comment by DeNihilist — 24 Jun 2010 @ 1:33 AM

  150. #149–

    “But wait, there’s more!”

    Here’s a link to multiple sources discussing biochar use to increase soil fertility and sequester carbon; there’s some discussion of FF industry disinformation.

    Included is Dr. Bill Woods’ book, “Amazonian Dark Earths”–he is at U Kansas and has DVDs on the topic available if you ask nicely.

    The Wikipedia entry on “biochar” is quite substantial, fairly recently updated, and has lots of references to pursue. (I won’t link to it, since finding it will present no problems!)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 24 Jun 2010 @ 8:15 AM

  151. I found this follow-on link (I accessed it through the link given above) quite interesting:

    In it, Dr. K.C. Das, of the University of Georgia, tells Congress ever-so-politely that they really need to revisit the existing biofuels legislation in order to mitigate unintended consequences currently holding back various promising lines of research. It’s evident that Prof. Das is operating with a practical knowledge and appreciation of American agriculture as it actually exists today, as well as the scientific background that one would naturally expect.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 24 Jun 2010 @ 8:34 AM

  152. #148 David Horton,
    Well I, and many many ecologists and botanists would disagree with you. I have read most of the page on fire on your website and I agree with some points but disagree with many others. However I note that there is not a single reference to refereed publications. Until you provide suitable references which have gone through the process of peer review, I think it is reasonable to treat it in the same way as any other unrefereed opinion piece.
    There is ample literature of the effects of fire on many plants.
    For a start I would agree that not many plants actually require fire though there are some. For example there are a few pyrogenic flowering species; most are monocots but there are a few dicots (1).
    There are other types of dependence too. “Banksia hookeriana is a highly nonsprouting serotenous shrub restricted to the fire prone northern sandplain scrub-heaths of Western Australia.” The seeds are maintained in tightly closed pods as an arial seed bank. Seeds accummulate up to a maximum after about 15 years. There are losses to insects, decay and spontaneous opening, but essentially all the fertile seeds are maintained in the closed pods. Fire triggers the release of most or all of the seeds a short time afterwards, and the seed germinates in the next growing season. (5)
    Another example is Banksia cuneata, which “is a large florierous shrub or tree confined to seven small populations in southwestern Western Australia, The stand at the study site consisted of groups of even aged, fre sensitive plants, suggesting recruitment is usually dependent on recurrent fire.”(3) Again seeds accumulated and were maintained as an arial seed bank for 19 years of the study site. While there were small losses due to prefire release there were no plants produced from these. However “most of the 17,100 viable canopy stored seeds were released within 24 hours of a hot autumn fire, whereas wet dry cycles were required following milder fires.”(3)
    I’d say, (and the authors consider) that the species are dependent upon fire to a large extent. Note that at least Banksia Cuneata is fire sensitive so it burns and doesn’t survive. However its seeds are spread on empty ground where they are likely to have a higher chance of growing and so the parent tree is likely to have better reproductive success.
    There is also much indirect evidence that fire plays a major part in ecological communities. For example “a world without fire had very different vegetation zones compared with the actual vegetation geography.” In their modelling for example, Navjot et al (4) state “when fire was ‘switched off’, dense tree cover increased from 27% to 56% of the vegetated Earth surface and more than half (52%) of the current global distribution of tropical savannas were transformed to angiosperm-dominated forests.” (5) and “recurrent disturbance plays an important role in maintaining a tree-grass balance (6). Given the high flammability of savannahs, it seems that disturbance due to fire is particular importance.”
    Clearly without fire, certain types of plant could become scarce to extinct in some environments, crowded out by other species. Under those circumstances it is not unreasonable to suggest that certain species are dependent upon fire for survival.

    why would you think a tree would adapt to make itself burn more fiercely?

    I can think of several reasons. If a tree can make its foliage and surrounding vegetation burn more fiercely, there is likely to be less competition for its offspring and hence give them a better chance of survival and a higher reproductive success for the parent. If the tree can survive even better. After all, reproductive success is what it is all about, not necessarily survival of the tree itself.
    Such a scenario has been suggested before. Mutch has suggested that “Plant species which have survived fires for tens of thousands of years may not only have selected survival mechanisms, but also inherent flammable properties that contribute to the perpetuation of fire-dependent plant communities.” (7)
    Fire may also be important and advantageous for fauna too (8).
    For a more comprehensive review with references try (9)
    etc etc. There are so many published studies in a similar vein that I am surprised that you are making such generalized statements about fire and plants. I am sure there are situations where fire is not so important but they are likely to be very regional.
    In answer to your specific points.

    Recovering after damage is not an adaptation to fire per se;

    as above, it may be if it increases reproductive success.

    most eucalypts don’t have thick bark;

    many do and many have deeply buried epicormal buds which survive fire (and what other advantage would they provide _ though this is not an argument I would persue.)

    seed pods are adaptation to drought, not fire.

    What evidence is there for that. In fact the Banksia species I noted above retained almost all the viable seeds through 19 years of average rainfall (1970s to 1980s), yet opened within 24 hours of a fire.

    In fact opening inadvertently, after fire is not a good thing;

    inadvertently it may not be a good thing, but if you have evolved to open after a fire then it would be the best thing to do.

    All plants respond to smoke, it is just a function of being a plant, not fire adaptation. The ingredient is obtained as readily from burning straw as leaves;

    That may be true but there was not much paper or straw in forests millenia ago. Plus smoke is smoke and still indicates a fire close by.

    many trees in other countries contain oil and burn just as fiercely.

    Perhaps fire is also important for some forest plants in those other countries too.

    The oils are an adaptation to pests and herbivores, and drought

    I agree they certainly affect herbiverous fauna but what evidence do you have that the increased fire intensity is not advantageous to the plant’s reproductive success.

    Fertility doesn’t come from charcoal

    Depends upon what you mean by fertility. Charcoal certainly helps water retention and probably retention of many ionic compounds, which in turn is likely to help plants to prosper.

    and burning leaf litter and the top few inches of soil removes organic matter.

    Fire certainly removes organic matter. However in every bush fire I have ever walked around (several hundred), even in the most intense ones, there has always been lumps of partly burnt timber, charcoal etc. In the normal situation I am sure this would have been cycled into the soil; eg by burrowing insects or other fauna. Each fire might not produce much but over the millenia it would have built up to the sort of levels seen even now in undisturbed areas of native vegetation. Skjemstad et al (10) found that up to 30% of soil carbon, or 0.8 % by weight of soil is charcoal in a series of samples of Australian soils.
    (1) Andrew J. Denham and Tony D. Auld “Flowering, seed dispersal, seed predation and seedling recruitment in two pyrogenic flowering resprouters” Australian Journal of Botany 50(5) 545 – 557.
    (2) Enright, N.J., Lamont, B.B. and R. Marsula, (1996) “Canopy seed bank dynamics and optimum fire regime for the highly serotinous shrub, Banksia hookeriana”, J. of Ecology, 84, 9-17
    (3) Lamont, B. B., Connell S.W., and Bergl S.M., (1991) “Seed Bank and population dynamics of Banksia cuneata: The role of time, fire, and moisture”, Bot. Gaz. 152, 114-122.
    (4) Navjot S. Sodhi, Paul R. Ehrlich, “Conservation Biology for All”, Oxford University Press, 2010.
    (5) Bond, W.J., Woodward, F.I. & Midgley, G.F. (2005) The global distribution of ecosystems in a world without fire. New Phytologist 165: 525-538.
    (6) Sankaran M., Hanan, N. P., and Scholes, R.J. 2005 “Determinants of woody cover in african savannas” Nature, 438, 846-849.
    (7) RW Mutch, “Wildland fires and ecosystems–a hypothesis”, Ecology, 1970.
    (8) R. J. Taylor, “Plants, fungi and bettongs: A fire-dependent co-evolutionary relationship”, Austral. Ecology Vol. 16 Issue 3, Pages 409 – 411
    (9) N.D. Burrows, “Linking fire ecology and fire management in south-west Australian forest landscapes”, Forest Ecology and Management
    Volume 255, Issue 7, 20 April 2008, Pages 2394-2406
    (10) Skjemstad,J.O., P. Clarke, J.A. Taylor, J.M. Oades and S.G. Mcclure “The chemistry and nature of protected carbon in soil”,Australian Journal of Soil Research 34(2) 251 – 271

    [Response: Thanks Andrew, nice summary. If I get time (unlikely) I’ll add some to it.–Jim]

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 24 Jun 2010 @ 10:58 AM

  153. Andrew, Jim – We are inadvertently heading way OT, and I don’t want to extend this much further unless you want to set up a new post on forests and fires and climate change or something. I am familiar with the literature over many years, and have contributed to it. I do try to avoid talking baloney Jim, and you might be surprised to learn that there are many plant ecologists that agree with me (there is a division between the “fire manager”/”fire ecologist” group and actual ecologists I find).

    This whole business began in Australia with a mistaken view of the use of fire by Aborigines and the effects that fire had on the prehistoric landscape. From that basis – assuming that fire had been used extensively, and had modified the landscape – people began looking for the “adaptations to fire” that they were sure must be there.

    Whether you think that a couple of species of Banksia with slow opening pods are evidence that Australian flora is adapted to fire and needs to be burnt regularly (the corollary that flows from this for fire managers) or that the vast numbers of species that can’t survive frequent fires are evidence against seems to depend on the preconceptions you see the data with.

    Just to pick up on a couple of Andrew’s points. The business about smoke. The original contention was that the effect was due to something unique in burning Eucalyptus and uniquely applied to some Australian species. If those things had been true you might well work out how this adaptation had occurred. When I first saw these experiments I was convinced that maybe here was a unique piece of evidence for fire adaptation. However the experiments continued, and the effect (a) has nothing to do with smoke from Australian plants with some unique ingredient, but can result from any kind of burnt vegetable matter and (b) the effect isn’t just on Australian plants but on pretty much every plant that it has been tried on, no matter what their evolutionary history from whatever part of the world they originated. Whatever is going on here in terms of plant physiology it has nothing to do with adaptation of Australian plants to fire.

    This thick bark business is puzzling. Large numbers of Eucalypts shed their very thin bark seasonally. They can all however recover with shoots from trunk or leaves after drought has caused the tops to die back, or when they are damaged by fire (as long as the damage isn’t too severe). Being able to recover after a setback is a general survival mechanism, not a fire adaptation.

    I still don’t understand the charcoal business. It is mainly valuable in soil structure and aeration. I guess it does break down over time, but very slowly, and you would be far better off with the organic matter in the soil that hadn’t been carbonified (if that’s a word). In addition when the fire sterilises the top layers of soil it is killing the very organisms that break down organic matter. The removal of leaf litter also lets the soil dry out which also reduces decay rates.

    Are the oils in pine trees an adaptation to fire? How exactly could you evolve such an adaptation?

    Jim, you might bear in mind that I’m not an idiot. I’ve been thinking about and studying this for a long time. The prescribed burning regimes (as well as the practice of thinning) in Australia have serious consequences for the ability of forests to survive at all, let alone survive climate change. I make no apology for continuing to question the basis for the procedure, it has feet of clay.

    [Response: I didn’t say you were an idiot, I said you had serious misconceptions. If these were only related to the fire adaptations of Australian plants that would be one thing, but your larger, nonsensical objection to the use of controlled burning is extremely misguided and dangerous. Climate change makes thinning and/or controlled burning only that much more necessary than it already was. You seem to believe it’s necessary to discount the role of past vegetation management practices in order to bolster the argument that climate change is 100% responsible for increased fire damage/risk. This is neither correct nor necessary.–Jim]

    Comment by David Horton — 24 Jun 2010 @ 3:45 PM

  154. Jim. I Would second David’s request for a specific post on this topic.
    This has to be one of the most enthralling and scientific debate that I have witnessed ever in blog land! OK, I don’t get out much. :)As regards to natives using fire before us Europeans descents arrived, I will try to find my archive on this subject.

    [Response:Thanks, I’m glad it was interesting to you. I’ve been planning a couple of posts on the relationship between climate, fire, and land management for a while. It’s strictly a question of time availability.–Jim

    Again, thanx to all who have posted here, real good stuff!

    Comment by DeNihilist — 24 Jun 2010 @ 9:15 PM

  155. David
    Just a few points I would like to make.

    1. I make no claims about whether the original Australian inhabitants practiced firestick farming. I do not have sufficient knowledge to discuss this in any sort of depth. However this is probably largely irrelevant to whether Australian plants are fire adapted since it is likely to have been important only over the last 40,000 years at the very most and probably much, much less if at all. It may of course have had an effect on the species composition of many environments if it occured at all.

    2. I am also bemused by the assumption that fire adaptation means that fires must be very frequent. There are many studies which show that frequent fires are also detrimental to many fire adapted species. The sort of fire frequency that is generally considered as reasonable from experimental results even for fire adapted species suggests intervals of 10 to 40 year between fires.

    2. With regard to fire adaptation. I mentioned a few species which exemplified specific adaptations to fire In fact there are many species with similar structures and with apparently similar life histories, and it seems reasonable to conclude that those adaptations in other species are likely to be, at least in part, adaptations to fire also, until proven otherwise.

    3. The types of fire adaptation are quite diverse and can be quite subtle. For example there are many specific instances all over Australia where fire produces effects such as synchronized flowering and seed production.(1, 2) In one instance fire causes mass reproduction in Eucalyptus delegatensis (Mountain Ash), which seems to be a strategy to reduce seed predation by ants, with the result that fires greatly enhance the reproductive success of the parent tree (even though it is a fire sensitive species)(3). I would call that fire adapted.

    Another major factor in many eucalypt forests seems to be the ability of eucalypts to chemically suppress germination and establishment of many species in unburnt forest. Seeding, germination and successful establishment predominantly only occurs after fire, due to reduced competition and altered microenvironment which could well include combustion of inhibitory chemicals in the forest litter. I would also call that fire adaptation.(4, 5)

    So with all the published work showing specific instances of direct and circumstantial evidence for fire adaptation, then it seems to me that if you want to insist that most Australian flora is not fire adapted then you are going to have to show that such adaptations do not enhance the reproductive success of those plants.

    However as you said, this is getting way off topic and so I will say no more.

    <1) Gill, A.M. (review) (1981) "Adaptive responses of Australian vascular plant species to fires" in Gill, A.M., Groves, R.H. and Noble I.R. (eds) 'Fire and the Australian biota' Aust Acad Sci: Canberra.
    (2) Gill, A.M. (review) (1981) “Coping with fire”, in Pate J.S. and McComb A.J. (eds) The biology of Australian plants (UWA press).
    (3) O’Dowd, D.J. and A. M. Gill, “Predator satiation and site alteration following fire: Mass reproduction of Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) in southeastern Australia”, Ecology, 1984, 1052-1066.
    (4) Wellington A.B. and Noble, I.R. (1985) “Post fire recruitment and mortality in a population of the mallee Eucalyptus incrassata in semi-arid south eastern Australia”, Journal of Ecology, 73, 645-656.
    (5) Bell, D.J. and Williams J.E. (review) (1997) “Eucalypt ecophysiology”, in Williams E. and Woinarski J. “Eucalypt ecology: individuals to ecosystems”, University of Cambridge press.

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 24 Jun 2010 @ 10:59 PM

  156. I think the topic of this thread is scale.

    And the scale of the climate change problem is something many people don’t understand..

    So i found this interesting talk online today on scale and climate change.

    Roger Revelle Centennial Symposium: Powering the Planet!

    Comment by Harmen — 26 Jun 2010 @ 3:20 AM

  157. Sorry to have lost the thread, which is becoming quite interesting. Jim (Bouldin?)- if you email me at I can refer you to some of the relevant studies.

    In my opinion, Jim, you hold two common opinions that make great intuitive sense, but are not supported by data. One is that wood product “carbon storage” actually means something. No. I repeat: after industrial logging, about 15-20% of the carbon in the onsite vegetation that is harvested or disturbed ends up in wood products, and replaces wood products that have already decayed. This means we’re going around in circles when it comes to sequestration, with a small amount at that.

    [Response: ??? I’ve said nothing one way or the other on that topic.]

    I’ll also repeat the statement that about 20% of the carbon on a site is released to the atmosphere during and after a fire, and, as you know, a variety of fire dependent species (including insect predators) are able to develop habitat.

    As for thinning, this is a complex and controversial subject, obviously. It’s true of course that many Western forests are overgrown, due to warming, and, especially, human site alterations with regard to species mix and size. Older forests tend to not be overgrown, because the large trees outcompete others and hog the sunlight, resulting in less flammable understory.

    One could make a case for thinning in, say, overgrown pine habitat in the PNW Cascade Range, but not in the coastal forests, or even in most of the Sierras. Weurthner thinks it’s useless even in the drier forests of the Northern Rockies.

    In the real world, what usually happens with thinning is that “foresters”- who are not biologists- are given the task of making it economical. That means removing the large trees, which is much worse than doing nothing.

    Again, check out the work of Hansen, Harmon, Franklin, and Weurther on this subject.

    And I repeat my request for input from carbon scientists whose work I have come to know and respect. Forest carbon science is a rarified field, and only a few have true expertise here.

    [Response: I am familiar with the work of all of them. There are many folks working on the carbon cycle and on fire, including a couple of us here. I find a number of your statements to be either wrong or questionable, based on knowledge of the literature and on my own research program, which focuses directly on forest change and land management, and now, climate. I don’t base my judgments and statements on intuition, believe me. There will be posts on these topics when the time and energy avails.–Jim]

    Comment by mike roddy — 27 Jun 2010 @ 8:18 PM

  158. Thanks for sharing your expertise here, Jim. We have a few areas of disagreement, but Realclimate needs a post devoted strictly to the forest carbon cycle, written by someone better qualified than I. The best person to write it is the man many consider to be the guru on the subject, Dr. Harmon of Oregon State. Your UC Davis colleague Chad Hansen could perhaps write a separate post on fire.

    Are you amenable to this suggestion? Alternatively, if you write this post, please give me some notice and I will alert forest carbon scientists of my acquaintance to weigh in- including Franklin of UW, Heath of USFS, and Shulte of Planck.

    This whole subject is badly neglected on all of the climate blogs, and is not well addressed by IPCC, either- due to timber industry bullying of the relevant committees, over sideshows like HWP accounting and leakage. The main thing we need to do is deforest less, and stop considering various industry “treatments” as having any value. This seems to be an area of disagreement between us as well.

    [Response: The “main thing” we need to do is to get the science right, regardless of who wants what to be the case.–Jim]

    Comment by mike roddy — 28 Jun 2010 @ 10:05 AM

  159. This issue came up several years ago when somebody commented that old-growth forests no longer add carbon. At the time posters seemed to think trees stop growing. So I questioned the reasons why people believe a mature forest cannot add carbon. It quickly became apparent that the reason is not science; it’s a management choice, one of which is the management choice to do nothing to the forest ever again.

    To say the forest management has failed in the past is not a scientific argument. I don’t dispute that forest management has failed and have no doubt that the science shows that failure, but does the science also say forest management cannot work? I rather doubt that. What forest strategy will create the largest carbon storage?

    Comment by JCH — 28 Jun 2010 @ 11:03 AM

  160. 159: JCH said about forest management:

    You might be interested in reading Stewart Brand’s book “Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto”. Towards the end he claimed that prior to 1492 the American Indians managed North America. I have no idea whether that is a reasonable claim, but it was an interesting read. He should have had an editor with a big red pen force him to thin it down about 50 pages.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 28 Jun 2010 @ 11:26 AM

  161. John E. Pearson (160) — Also read “ancient Forests”. There is little doubt that some Amerinidans practiced a form of (mild) forest management.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Jun 2010 @ 5:09 PM

  162. I think 2 or 3 (?) years ago, in an issue of “National Geographic”, it was stated that earthworms (or at least the familiar kind?) had been wiped out (naturally) in North America before Europeans came, and the new species caused a significant change in … leaf litter, as I recall reading. (PS I wonder what Robins ate before this?)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Jun 2010 @ 7:00 PM

  163. Patrick – there have alway been earthworms in N America – there are some who say some of the 1/3 or so of types that are “invasive” are a problem with consuming detritus in northern forests. Earthworms also contribute significantly to agricultural soil health fertility.

    Comment by flxible — 28 Jun 2010 @ 7:42 PM

  164. 161 David Benson said: read “Ancient Forests”

    Who’s the author? I found several books with “Ancient Forests” in the title at amazon but none with that exact title.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 28 Jun 2010 @ 8:31 PM

  165. I wouldn’t think “old growth” is necessarily carbon neutral. If the conditions were constant we would expect longterm equilibrium. But climate, atmospheric chemistry, and the balance of species are changing, primarily as a result of anthropomorphic effects. So the carbon storage in the future “equilibrium” state is not likely to be the same as it was in preindustrial times. Also we have some forests whose detritus accumulates in the form of peat or organic matter in permafrost. These forests are obviously sequestering carbon in the soil/swamp/permafrost.

    Comment by Thomas — 28 Jun 2010 @ 9:04 PM

  166. According to
    “Native earthworm species have never been documented in most of the Great Lakes region of North America. Any native North American species of earthworms (in the family Megascolecidae) that may have been living in the region were extirpated when glacial ice sheets covered the Upper Midwest 11,000 to 14,000 years ago, leaving the glaciated areas of North America worm free.”
    the extensive glaciated areas of N America were worm free, and human activities have introduced exotic worms.

    “Lacking a powerful detrivore such as earthworms, decomposition of the annual leaf litter in earthworm-free hardwood forests is controlled by fungi and bacteria. In this situation, decomposition is slower than accumulation of new litter and the result is the formation of a thick, spongy forest floor, often called a “duff layer”.
    The introduction of worms has therefore resulted in a transient reduction of carbon stored in wooded areas of N America that were previously worm free.

    I wonder if the growth of new forest/prairie ecosystems as glaciers retreated caused a transient drawdown of CO2 which contributed to the Younger Dryas cooling event?

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 29 Jun 2010 @ 7:59 AM

  167. Re 163 flxible, 166 Brian Dodge – thanks.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Jun 2010 @ 1:48 PM

  168. The oil spill is nothing to laugh at but I just saw a kid wearing a t-shirt that cracked me up. BP – We’re bring oil to America’s shores. I died laughing because BP’s billion dollar image change to their new sunflower logo is forever going to be associated with the worst environmental disaster to strike America. Check out the shirt here –

    Comment by merc92 — 29 Jun 2010 @ 5:20 PM

  169. Sorry guys, bad comparison or analogy in my opinion. This spill is VERY bad and for now more serious than AGW.

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 1 Jul 2010 @ 5:46 AM

  170. Against expectations, world CO2 emission not even down in crisis year 2009: growth China, India nullifies decrease OECD:

    Comment by Kees van der Leun — 1 Jul 2010 @ 3:42 PM


    Comment by Jacob Mack — 1 Jul 2010 @ 5:37 PM

  172. Jacob Mack @ 169:

    FOR NOW, yes. But the bigger take-away should be that drilling ever harder to reach fields brings with it ever greater risks.

    Sooner or later we were going to experience one of them …

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 3 Jul 2010 @ 6:31 PM


    “… I wonder if the reason for the sparse pickings in the waters off the Alaskan coast last year could be related to findings about the effects of offshore drilling upon marine life that resulted in a professor being purged from the University of Alaska?

    Research into what is causing sharp reductions in marine mammal populations that feed in Alaska can be dangerous to a scientific career, as another scientist, Dr. Peter Watts, explains in the interview below. (Actually it is only dangerous if you think science is about telling the truth. That is why Dr. Watts decided to write honest fiction instead.)…”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Jul 2010 @ 8:40 PM

  174. The Feel-Good Spill of the Decade

    It begins:

    “Dead zones suffocating 20,000 square kilometers of ocean. Endangered wetlands, disappearing at the rate of over 300 Ha/day. Clouds of black viscous poison soiling the coastlines of four states.

    And then the Deepwater Horizon blew up.

    What, you thought those apocalyptic descriptions were of the spill? You thought the Gulf of Mexico was some pristine marine wilderness before those nefarious assholes from BP came along and ruined everything?

    What are you, twelve?

    Everything I’ve just described was old news long before April 20….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Jul 2010 @ 8:42 PM

  175. On the topic of carbon sequestration in forests, some of you may be interested in an article in the June issue of BAMBOO, The Magazine of the American Bamboo Society:
    Bamboo as Carbon-Sink, by Dr. Walter Liese, Department of Wood Biology, University Hamburg. My mother and I edit the magazine, so I can send a copy (pdf) or link to anyone who contacts me at

    Comment by Don Shor — 4 Jul 2010 @ 12:37 AM

  176. Hank – taking the virtual tour along the Gulf of Mexico from Corpus Christi to Mobile, the most common plant one will see:

    the chemical plant

    The Gulf of Mexico is a chemical cesspool, and not many residents give a flip. It’s the economy. When I moved to Texas in 1980 the Kemp Ridley was already threatened – by shrimp eaters.

    Comment by JCH — 6 Jul 2010 @ 2:22 PM

  177. I sincerely pray that BP are able to completely stop the spill as soon as possible. The severe weather we’ve been having recently have not helped either.

    Comment by Sherlyn Dudak — 8 Jul 2010 @ 1:40 PM

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