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Five Thousand Gulf Oil Spills

Filed under: — david @ 16 June 2010

That’s the rate that people are releasing carbon to the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation today. I know, it’s apples and oranges; carbon in the form of oil is more immediately toxic to the environment than it is as CO2 (although CO2 may be more damaging on geologic time scales). But think of it — five thousand spills like in the Gulf of Mexico, all going at once, each releasing 40,000 barrels a day, every day for decades and centuries on end. We are burning a lot of carbon!

177 Responses to “Five Thousand Gulf Oil Spills”

  1. 51
    Completely Fed Up says:

    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.

  2. 52
    Completely Fed Up says:

    re #46 the US gelological survey site.

  3. 53
    Greg Robie says:

    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

  4. 54
    Deep Climate says:

    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]

  5. 55
    Chris Dudley says:


    [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]

  6. 56
    tom says:

    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.

  7. 57
    pete best says:

    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 ?

  8. 58
    Completely Fed Up says:

    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?)

  9. 59
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  10. 60
    GFW says:

    >>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…

  11. 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

  12. 62
    jsobry says:

    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.

  13. 63
    DeNihilist says:

    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.

  14. 64
    Chris Dudley says:

    David in #55,

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

  15. 65
    Thomas says:

    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.

  16. 66
    Edward Greisch says:

    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.

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 69
    L. David Cooke says:

    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]

  20. 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

  21. 71
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “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?

  22. 72


    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]

  23. 73
    Hunt Janin says:

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

  24. 74
    Waqidi Falicoff says:

    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.

  25. 75
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “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.

  26. 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.

  27. 77
    Jim Eager says:

    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.

  28. 78
    DeNihilist says:

    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.

  29. 79
    Greg Robie says:

    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.

  30. 80
    Ron Taylor says:

    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?

  31. 81
    David B. Benson says:

    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.

  32. 82
    prokaryote says:

    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

  33. 83
    Greg Robie says:

    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.

  34. 84
    ccpo says:

    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?


  35. 85
    Ike Solem says:

    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.

  36. 86
    Harmen says:

    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.

  37. 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!

  38. 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.

  39. 89
    Edward Greisch says:

    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)”.

  40. 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.

  41. 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).

  42. 92
    Richard Steckis says:

    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.

  43. 93
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  44. 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.

  45. 95
    Rick Brown says:

    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.

  46. 96
    Martin Vermeer says:

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

    Pretty neat.

  47. 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?”

  48. 98
    JCH says:

    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.

  49. 99
    Greg Robie says:

    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).

  50. 100
    Snapple says:

    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.

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