RealClimate logo

Unforced Variations: Jan 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 January 2014

First open thread of the new year. A time for ‘best of’s of climate science last year and previews for the this year perhaps? We will have an assessment of the updates to annual indices and model/data comparisons later in the month.

662 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Jan 2014”

  1. 601
    Tony Weddle says:


    Thanks for the correction, growth is an increase in the value of goods and services (adjusted for inflation). So I guess your vision is that the quality of goods and services improves, ad infinitum, so that the value of them increases. Of course, somehow everyone must earn enough to afford the increasingly valuable goods and services (because not selling them doesn’t generate an increase in total value and, consequently, in the economy). If that all happens, I’ve no argument with you other than the fact that even higher quality goods and services continue to consume resources. This can’t go on ad infinitum unless all resources are consumed only at their renewal rates (which they won’t be). Recycling can help reduce the rate of extraction of natural resources but can’t reduce it to zero.

    Having said that, if half the world (or more) aspires to reach the living standards of the other half (or less), then increasing resource use is needed. That would only hasten the onset of scarcity (and the increase in emissions).

    Services can only be a certain portion of an economy as people still need and want stuff. Even though the services sector has increased in developed markets, I’m not sure it has globally, as developing nations take up the slack of producing stuff.

    The upshot is that it’s difficult to see how economic growth can continue much into the future, though, if enough societies can remain stable for log enough and all the infrastructure (including international trade) can be made completely emissions free, then your notion of growing through quality improvements could, hypothetically, keep it going for some time.

  2. 602
    DIOGENES says:

    Kevin McKinney #599,

    Not getting bogged down by ‘paralysis by analysis’ does not mean we eliminate the analysis; it means we use it judiciously. Here’s another way of explaining our present situation.

    A few years back, a book was published called ‘Die Broke’. The author’s thesis was that the idea of working one’s life and being frugal, only for the purpose of leaving the assets acquired to one’s descendents, is foolish. Better to spend all the money while one is alive, and ‘die broke’. The author went on to state that the best of all worlds was to get a number of credddit cards, and die when all the cards have maxxed out.

    Well, as I have shown numerous times, we are out of carbon budget! We don’t have 500 GT remaining, or whatever numbers people choose to advertise; we are not only out of carbon budget, but I suspect more complete models including carbon feedbacks will show that we have started to run up our carbon credddit card charges. As a civilization, we have made a collective decision to ‘die broke’ with our credddit cards maxxed out, but carbon credddit cards rather than monetary credddit cards. Unlike the monetary approach, where the time of our demise determines how much credddit we have run up on the cards, in the carbon approach, the amount of credddit we have run up will determine our demise!

    The only option we have left if we want to avoid the Apocalypse is to cut carbon expenditures to the bone. We have run out of alternatives! Yet, what are we doing in practice? McKibben wrote an article last month for Rolling Stone ( He said, in part:

    “If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine”

    “We’ve built lots of new solar panels and wind towers in the past five years (though way below the pace set by nations like Germany). In any event, building more renewable energy is not a useful task if you’re also digging more carbon energy – it’s like eating a pan of Weight Watchers brownies after you’ve already gobbled a quart of Ben and Jerry’s.”

    If that’s not maxxing out your carbon credddit cards before your demise, I don’t know what is. And, there are absolutely no indications that America and other fossil fuel-rich nations will stop ‘revving the engine’ for the foreseeable future.

  3. 603
    Hank Roberts says:


    To coin the phrase, it’s climate science from scientists.
    Refreshing, as such things go. You can look the writers up and see their work.

  4. 604

    #602–“Not getting bogged down by ‘paralysis by analysis’ does not mean we eliminate the analysis; it means we use it judiciously.”

    Certainly. I wouldn’t claim otherwise at all. The only reason that I even raised this as a concern was that I took something or other in your initial comment about this issue to refer to a rather more extensive plan than I thought helpful. Apparently that was an error of interpretation on my part.

    As to the rest of your screed, I assume you were ‘just saying,’ since your comments don’t seem responsive to anything that I said. If so, well sure, “dying broke” is a decent metaphor.

  5. 605

    By the way, I’m having trouble these days with the comment box–the Captcha fails to appear most of the time, which of course makes commenting impossible.

    That’s in Safari, my normal browser; Firefox is working normally (as you might guess from the fact that you are reading this comment.) The issue just cropped up a couple of days ago; anybody else experiencing this?

    (Just how normally can be seen from the fact that Captcha presented two absolutely unreadable squiggles before coming up with “raEngli persecution.”)

  6. 606
    Mal Adapted says:


    But beware: Repeating is key in climate messaging. Always assume you write for a first time visitor, first time reader. Ofc, repeating just to win an argument is not helpful.

    Wouldn’t this mean that each of your comments would longer than the previous one 8^)?

  7. 607
    prokaryotes says:

    Mal Adapted, no because everybody can think abstract and can build on the current state of preconception (based on the latest), thus you need to frame the current situation and address questions and implement a FAQ to enhance the process of swarm learning.

  8. 608
    TomB says:

    Is there a correlation between the spike in North Pacific water temperatures and the blocking high off the west coast that is causing the jet stream to swing up north and into the Canadian arctic and then down into the Midwest. Would it be reasonable to opine that at least some of the severe weather can be attributed to ocean warming?

  9. 609
  10. 610
    Hank Roberts says:

    Question for the scientists reading along, if any care to comment:

    I read that “the 15-17 year trend is near zero, and no such interval has occurred since the 1970s”

    But that’s the trend in air temperature, it’s what we have.

    Can we compare using ocean temps to add to the air temperature data?

    For the most recent 15-17 year period, we know the warming continued, going into the oceans.

    What was happening in the 1970s?

  11. 611
    prokaryotes says:

    Hank Roberts, maybe more related to intelligence, A Swarm-Based Learning Method Inspired by Social Insects

    Though, you need to stay focused on the actual context here, the meaning of swarm learning is a very broad term. Call it internet learning if you prefer that. The internet is the perfect platform for information sharing and learning, which has been shown to accelerate evolution and drive major trends for society in all aspects.

    Relevant to the context at hand

    Google’s Schmidt calls climate-change deniers ‘liars’
    The media ‘doesn’t believe in facts,’ but the internet will come to the planet’s rescue

    “You can hold back knowledge, but you cannot prevent it from spreading,” Schmidt told his audience at his company’s “How Green Is the Internet? Summit” in Mountain View on Thursday. “You can lie about the effects of climate change, but eventually you’ll be seen as a liar.”

    When they discuss this problem, he said, “The media gets confused because they don’t believe in facts, and public-policy people get confused because they don’t believe in innovation.”

    But an increased number of people in developing countries sharing information, Schmidt believes, will eventually lead to a global understanding of the threat of climate change. “It may take five years or ten years,” he said. “A true global emergency, which is underway, will eventually be noticed by the people whose water sources dry up, are victims of terrible variations in climate, on and on – we all know what the issues are.”

    Schmidt told the Summit attendees that these directly affected, internet-enabled people will be open to their messages of increased efficiency and green technology. “You’ll have an audience that you didn’t have before, and they’ll show you what the market looks like,” he said. “And they’re amenable to solutions that address both their need to move to modernity as well as their need to be respectful to the globe.”

    Getting back to climate change, Schmidt said, “The framing goes something like this: there’s a real problem. The math doesn’t work. The solution is the use of the internet to create an awareness and empower individuals. You empower those individuals to come up with creative solutions.”

    Those solutions, he said, should be focused on “not making the climatic situation worse” while improving people’s lives.

    “It’s not that complicated,” Schmidt said. “I think that it’s an opportunity that, working with Google and others, we can get these messages out.”

    And, one would hope, spark some of the ingenuity that he referred to – and quickly. “What you all are trying to do,” Schmidt told his audience, “and what we are trying to do together to innovate in this space, is the only solution that I can see that can reverse the math that we’re going to see in the next couple of decades.” URL

    Eventually you need the media reporting the facts. And my impression is, that it’s happening.

  12. 612

    #604/5/6–Hmm, apparently I’m also having trouble with inadvertent double posts. Sorry ’bout that.

    FWIW, I prefer the second of the two duplicates (#605.)

  13. 613
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenes wrote: “McKibben wrote an article last month for Rolling Stone …”

    Yes, and McKibben quite correctly chastises the Obama administration for expanding US fossil fuel extraction, which is obviously the opposite of what is needed, and moreover is in blatant contradiction to Obama’s own rhetoric about global warming.

    And McKibben also correctly points out that the Obama administration’s support for rapid deployment of wind and solar, while a distinct improvement over past policies, falls far short of what Germany and other countries have demonstrated is possible, and far short of what is needed. Moreover, the emission reductions represented by the growth of wind and solar are more than offset by the expansion of fossil fuel extraction that the administration has promoted and continues to promote.

    What McKibben does NOT say is that expanding renewable energy generation is in itself unhelpful — he says that “building more renewable energy is not a useful task IF you’re also digging more carbon energy“.

    What McKibben does NOT say is that the amount of fossil fuels that might be burned specifically to build and deploy wind and solar will, in itself, push us “over the edge”.

    What McKibben does NOT say is that ending subsidies and supports for fossil fuel extraction, and implementing policies to greatly accelerate the phaseout of fossil fuels, will require “severe economic sacrifices”.

    What McKibben’s analysis really shows is that (1) we have the necessary solutions in hand, and there are no significant technological or economic obstacles to rapidly deploying them on a scale that gives us a fighting chance at averting the worst outcomes of AGW, and that (2) the only real barrier is the entrenched wealth and political power of the fossil fuel industry.

  14. 614
    Hank Roberts says:

    > The internet is the perfect platform for information sharing …

    Yeah, right, the ultimate in information sharing.
    Any advertising agency will tell you that throwing multiple copies of the same thing in everyone’s face everywhere they go reaches them best.

    Alas, hypertext was such a good idea.
    Too bad it never worked in practice.

  15. 615
    prokaryotes says:

    Hank, the point is messaging and as everybody knows, repeating is key when you lack coverage and are confronted with misinformation. Focus.

  16. 616
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I’m in the annoying process of repeating myself but please check this out:

    The full text of the Redford TV ad reads as follows:

    “Hello, I’m Robert Redford. Climate change is happening fast. We’ve got to stop making the problem worse, and that means reducing carbon pollution from its biggest source, coal-fired power plants. The good news is that President Obama has pledged to act. I just hope the President has the courage of his convictions. Please, urge the President to make dirty power plants clean up their carbon pollution. Thank you.”

    Media outlets can download high-quality materials for the Redford “Courage to Act” campaign:

  17. 617
    sidd says:

    Re: ocean heat content 1970-1980

    Levitus (2012), fig 1

    GRL, v39, L10603, doi:10.1029/2012GL051106 2012

    lotsa noise, pre ARGO


  18. 618
    Dave Peters says:

    Something to watch for, given the sticky planetary wave and this Clipper parade persistence in the US, if it continues into February, is stress on the movement of propane. Metropolitan gas distributors meet greatly expanded winter heating loads with a combination of enhancements, one of which is to inject propane/air from liquid storage tanks. Late into an unusually cold winter, adjusting propane moves by rail, but for those watching the revolutionary liquid hydrocarbon extraction patterns here these last few years, a comparatively huge volume of petroleum and diluted bitumen has been moving by rail also. A tank car might well be worth its weight in bitcoins this week.

    The general public has but a minimal comprehension of the gravity of a mass loss of service continuity for exposed cities.

  19. 619
    MARodger says:

    HadCRUT4 December 2013 temperature is now posted. The annual figure was posted a couple of days back & I note the denialists have been celebrating the lack of official announcement as some sort of victory.
    The full list of rankings for 2013 global temperature are:-

    UAH ranks as 4th hottest.
    RSS 10th hottest.
    GISS 7th hottest.
    NCDC 4th hottest.
    HadCRUT4 8th hottest.

  20. 620
    Peter Shepherd says:

    It would be interesting to know if this new discovery affects both ECS & Earth System climate sensitivity:

    Rapid Soil Production and Weathering in the Western Alps, New Zealand
    Isaac J. Larsen, Peter C. Almond, Andre Eger, John O. Stone, David R. Montgomery, and Brendon Malcolm
    Science 1244908Published online 16 January 2014 [DOI:10.1126/science.1244908]

    Seen via:

  21. 621
    prokaryotes says:

    Peter Shepherd, if the weathering process of breaking down rock into soil is twice as fast as has been estimated in the past, the carbon cycle feedback needs to be updated. Though, it is not clear how this feedback is constructed. But the extra carbon ends up in the Ocean and waterways, so this suggest it may accelerate ocean acidification and various other things like infrastructure damage from acid rain.

    It is interesting to note that this study even points out mountain uplift.

    Biogeochemical weathering

    The process of mountain block uplift is important in exposing new rock strata to the atmosphere and moisture, enabling important chemical weathering to occur; significant release occurs of Ca2+ and other ions into surface waters.

    Dissolution and carbonation

    A pyrite cube has dissolved away from host rock, leaving gold behind
    Rainfall is acidic because atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in the rainwater producing weak carbonic acid. In unpolluted environments, the rainfall pH is around 5.6. Acid rain occurs when gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are present in the atmosphere. These oxides react in the rain water to produce stronger acids and can lower the pH to 4.5 or even 3.0. Sulfur dioxide, SO2, comes from volcanic eruptions or from fossil fuels, can become sulfuric acid within rainwater, which can cause solution weathering to the rocks on which it falls.

    Some minerals, due to their natural solubility (e.g. evaporites), oxidation potential (iron-rich minerals, such as pyrite), or instability relative to surficial conditions (see Goldich dissolution series) will weather through dissolution naturally, even without acidic water.
    One of the most well-known solution weathering processes is carbonation, the process in which atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to solution weathering. Carbonation occurs on rocks which contain calcium carbonate, such as limestone and chalk. This takes place when rain combines with carbon dioxide or an organic acid to form a weak carbonic acid which reacts with calcium carbonate (the limestone) and forms calcium bicarbonate. This process speeds up with a decrease in temperature, not because low temperatures generally drive reactions faster, but because colder water holds more dissolved carbon dioxide gas. Carbonation is therefore a large feature of glacial weathering.

    Related (see image of feedbacks and sensitivity)

  22. 622
    Tony Weddle says:


    But the extra carbon ends up in the Ocean and waterways, so this suggest it may accelerate ocean acidification and various other things like infrastructure damage from acid rain.

    At least this is one thing that won’t happen. The estimates might have been wrong but the actual measurements of ocean acidification, and so on, will already include the real rate of weathering.

  23. 623
    prokaryotes says:

    Tony Weddle, it is unclear how far this new signal is established in time and space. Maybe the accelerated weathering of rocks have yet to be accounted for to reflect the real magnitude of acceleration.


    As the world’s oceans turn more acidic, a cheaper and more accurate sensor would be useful—inspiring a new $1-million award

    Basic chemistry teaches that dissolving carbon dioxide in seawater will increase acidity. With atmospheric CO2 levels rising—touching 400 parts per million for the first time in millennia this past May—it is therefore a safe bet that the world’s oceans are becoming more acidic. But just how much more? And how much do those levels change from place to place—at the coast or out in open waters, or at the surface versus in the depths?

  24. 624
    Edward Greisch says:

    For the first time, a politician sent a survey that includes climate change.
    From: Tom Udall
    Subject: Survey: What issues are important to you in 2014?

    What issue is most important to you in 2014?

    Income Inequality

    Climate Change

    Creating more jobs

    Ending the effects of Citizens United

    Reforming the filibuster
    Why does that issue matter to you?

    Albuquerque Mailing Address: PO BOX 25766 Albuquerque, NM 87125 | Email: info@tomu

  25. 625
  26. 626
    Dave Peters says:

    Has anyone heard of a geoengineering proposal to pump seawater onto Antarctica as a means of countering sea level rise?

  27. 627
  28. 628
    prokaryotes says:

    Coursera: Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided

  29. 629
    flxible says:

    The video of the rock fall is here

    Don’t know why someone would want to live below crags like that, but I suppose it illustrates why folks shrug off climate change … never happened before.

  30. 630
    wili says: (thanks to prok)

    Look at the bit from just about the hour mark. He points out multiple crises that are crashing around our heads in the next few years to decades, and points out that “solving these problems generates no new wealth.”

    id est, capitalism will not solve any of these problems since there is no freakin’ profit in it.

  31. 631
    wili says:

    Australia’s BOM is moving toward predictions of and El Nino later this year. This coincides with similar predictions at NOAA. Hansen has also said that he thinks that an El Nino is likely coming up.

    How much stock should we put in such prognostications given past failures, the fact that this time of year is a particularly bad season for accurate predictions, and the fact that these are predictions for events many months out? At what point might we have more confidence in them?

  32. 632
    Tony Weddle says:


    Interesting talk by Tainter. He said, in a roundabout way, that all societies must collapse eventually (because all societies have to maintain themselves by solving problems and solving problems increases complexity and increasing complexity eventually leads to collapse) but seemed reluctant to say that in the Q&A.

  33. 633
  34. 634
    prokaryotes says:

    Increasing complexity without regulations, eventually may lead to collapse.

    At the beginning Tainter also points out how a lack of regulation contributed to the financial crisis.

  35. 635
    wili says:

    Tony (@#632), I’m not sure about all societies. The San society in southern Africa, for example, has probably lived pretty much the way it is now (or was till a few years ago when it was disrupted by modernity) for thousand or even tens of thousands of years. He may say that most if not all _civilizations_ must collapse.

    (But reCaptcha counters: never hummiS)

  36. 636

    On the Larson et al study #621 et seq: I am a Bear Of Very Little Chemistry, but if I’ve got this right, the surprisingly rapid rate of soil production won’t increase acidification, because it’s already a step further on in the process.

    That is, the calcium bicarbonate is the *product* of carbonic acid formed from atmospheric CO2, and as it ends up in the ocean, this happens:

    3. Calcium carbonate is precipitated from calcium and bicarbonate ions in seawater by marine organisms like coral

    Ca++ + 2HCO3- -> CaCO3 + CO2 + H2O
    the carbon is now stored on the seafloor in layers of limestone

    (Note: calcium bicarbonate only exists as an ionic solution–a concept, by the way, that’s owed to Svante Arrhenius; that’s what he won his Nobel for, and boy, was *that* a scientific struggle! The bicarbonate ‘is’ the Ca++ + 2HCO3 in the precursor side of the reaction diagram. And, lest I sound wise on chemistry, let me say I know just barely enough to understand what I wrote, and no more. And a good chunk of it comes from Dr. Archer’s “The Long Thaw”–see link at bottom of post for those who haven’t already encountered it.)

    So I’d conclude that the rapid soil formation rates are not increasing ocean acidification, but probably rather increasing the buffering capacity of seawater. Though no doubt this is very important for understanding the carbon cycle in the requisite detail. [Wild and perhaps unlikely speculation omitted here.]

    Note: still having to use Firefox to post, as Safari is still mostly not presenting a Captcha box. So far, I haven’t heard that anyone else is having this problem–is that the case out there in Internetworld?

  37. 637
    wili says:

    Tom, also note that at about the hour and 14 minute mark, in response to a question Tainter does point to one example of a major civilization intentionally and successfully simplifying in order to (at least in part) survive–the Byzantine Empire.

    (Interesting, since the term ‘Byzantine’ has come to mean something like ‘inscrutably complex’!

    (And again, reCaptcha quips: theoretical LACPeo)

  38. 638
    DIOGENES says:

    Interesting perspective on the recent European Climate Targets from the NewScientist. Not only are the targets grossly inadequate for what is required, but it’s not clear how enforceable they are and whether they will be met.

    “Latest European climate targets may never be met

    17:24 22 January 2014 by Fred Pearce

    Europe has proposed fresh targets for cutting its greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030. But officials baulked at imposing national targets for investment in renewable energy, leaving it unclear how the overall targets will be reached.

    Today’s white paper on climate and energy proposes that the 28 nations of the European Union (EU) should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The EU has already nearly met its existing target of a 20 per cent cut by 2020.

    The European Commission (EC) also suggests upping the current target for the share of energy obtained from renewable sources like wind and solar power. But this increase will only be from 20 per cent of the total in 2020 to 27 per cent in 2030. Moreover, INDIVIDUAL NATIONS WILL NOT BE COMMITTED TO THE TARGET, SO IT IS UNCLEAR HOW IT WILL BE ENFORCED.

    Officials hope the targets will set a benchmark for United Nations negotiations on future emissions, which aim to conclude in Paris at the end of next year. But before that, THE TARGETS HAVE TO BE APPROVED BY EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS. With growing concern about Europe’s high energy prices, that could be hard.

    Kind of vague

    EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard insisted the proposed targets were “ambitious”. She said the emissions target must be met with domestic actions alone, with no contribution from “offset projects” such as paying poor nations to plant and protect forests.

    But environmental groups reacted with dismay, complaining that the targets were not tough enough. Europe “must agree to cut greenhouse gases by at least 55 per cent by 2030 if they wish to play a meaningful role in a new climate deal,” says Greenpeace UK’s director John Sauven. Climate Action Network, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, called for a target of 45 per cent of energy coming from renewable sources.

    EU officials also disappointed many environmentalists by backing out of planned tough controls on shale gas. Instead, companies wanting to extract gas by fracking will only need to meet basic local environment and safety standards. The EU also postponed new targets for improving energy efficiency.

    In December, Kevin Anderson of the University of Manchester, UK, fired off a letter to the EC. He complained that the targets were being developed “IN A VACUUM OF SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE” that overestimated our chances of keeping global warming below 2 °C. Anderson called for 80 PER CENT CUTS IN GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY 2030.

    Chaos in Europe

    European energy policy is in disarray because of concern that high prices are choking off economic recovery. As a result, COUNTRIES WOULD NOT ACCEPT NATIONAL TARGETS FOR RENEWABLES. Countries like Poland are keen to stick with burning domestic coal. Others, most notably the UK, want to follow the US path: exploiting what they hope will be cheap shale gas reserves. The UK also wants a nuclear option.

    In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, CO2 EMISSIONS HAVE BEGUN RISING AGAIN: coal burning hit a record high last year, nuclear power plants are shut and expansion of renewables has stalled at 17 per cent. Last week, its energy minister announced plans to CUT SUBSIDIES FOR RENEWABLES BY A THIRD.

    European leaders insist they won’t give up their role as world leaders in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But with NO NATIONAL TARGETS FOR RENEWABLES OR IMPROVED ENERGY EFFICIENCY, it is increasingly unclear how they will achieve their aims.”

  39. 639
    Hank Roberts says:

    the surprisingly rapid rate of soil production won’t increase acidification

    Yep, conflated sulfate with carbonate, then got the carbonate reaction path backwards, as I read it. Someone is wrong on the Internet again.

  40. 640
    prokaryotes says:

    Enhanced chemical weathering as a sink for carbon dioxide, a nutrient source and a strategy to mitigate ocean acidification

    Chemical weathering is an integral part of both the rock and carbon cycles and is being affected by changes in land use, particularly as a result of agricultural practices such as tilling, mineral fertilization, or liming to adjust soil pH. These human activities have already altered the terrestrial chemical cycles and land-ocean flux of major elements, although the extent remains difficult to quantify. When deployed on a grand scale, Enhanced Weathering (a form of mineral fertilization), the application of finely ground minerals over the land surface, could be used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The release of cations during the dissolution of such silicate minerals would convert dissolved CO2 to bicarbonate, increasing the alkalinity and pH of natural waters. Some products of mineral dissolution would precipitate in soils or be taken up by ecosystems, but a significant portion would be transported to the coastal zone and the open ocean, where the increase in alkalinity would partially counteract “ocean acidification” associated with the current marked increase in atmospheric CO2.

    Other elements released during this mineral dissolution, like Si, P, or K, could stimulate biological productivity, further helping to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. On land, the terrestrial carbon pool would likely increase in response to Enhanced Weathering in areas where ecosystem growth rates are currently limited by one of the nutrients that would be released during mineral dissolution. In the ocean, the biological carbon pumps (which export organic matter and CaCO3 to the deep ocean)may be altered by the resulting influx of nutrients and alkalinity to the ocean. This review merges current interdisciplinary knowledge about Enhanced Weathering, the processes involved, and the applicability aswell as some of the consequences and risks of applying the method.

  41. 641
    wheelsoc says:

    Here’s a question relating to dendroclimatology.

    Somebody described the field as “a mess” and brought up the idea of CO2 fertilization specifically. The general claim is that we don’t know how big of an effect it is and can’t account for it if we can’t quantify it. The conclusion seems to be that all previous dendro-based reconstructions of temperature have a bias which makes the past look colder since CO2 concentrations were lower, hence slower-growing trees than in recent times.

    I’ve been trying to find out whether this is the case, but I can’t read any paywalled articles, so I can’t access much.

    1) I know CO2 fertilization has been proposed in the literature as a confounding factor when interpreting some records. What’s the current prevailing opinion on its significance? How good are we at taking into account?

    2) I know sampling sites are chosen to try and limit the number of confounding factors, i.e. studies about precipitation look for trees stressed mostly by water availability. How is the potential fertilization from atmospheric CO2 concentrations controlled for when selecting sites for tree rings that are used as proxies for temperature?

    3) Some recent research indicates that enhanced CO2 availability increase the efficiency of water use by trees, because it’s easier to pull sufficient amounts of the gas from the atmosphere without having to leave their stomata open and let water escape. That seems to be subtly different from a direct “CO2 fetilization” effect, where carbon dioxide is simply the limiting factor to growth because there’s not enough of it. Not the same issue? Different implications for interpreting dendro data?

    4) What else should I know about this, and where can I look?

    Thanks in advance.

  42. 642
    prokaryotes says:

    The answer is not that easy, rad here on page 228 and before about all the factors which can determine ocean ph.

    Is Ocean Acidification an Open-Ocean Syndrome? Understanding Anthropogenic Impacts on Seawater pH

  43. 643
    prokaryotes says:

    Regulation of Open-Ocean and Coastal pH in the Anthropocene

    The rapid increase in the capacity of humans to impact the key processes regulating the functioning of the biosphere into the Anthropocene (Steffen et al. 2007) has extended to a capacity to impact marine pH (Table 1). Human activities can act on marine pH through impacts propagated through the atmosphere, freshwater discharges and direct impacts on ecosystem components (Table 1). Accordingly, there are three main vectors of anthropogenic impacts on marine pH: (1) emissions of CO2, and other gases affecting marine pH, to the atmosphere; (2) perturbation of watershed processes affecting the inputs of nutrients, organic and inorganic carbon, acids and carbonate alkalinity to the ocean; and (3) impacts on ecosystem structure (Table 1). These drivers add to the processes operating prior to the human perturbation to regulate marine pH in the Anthropocene.

    Impacts of Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions on Seawater pH

    The impacts on marine pH derived from anthropogenic CO2 emissions have received the greatest attention and have led to a growing spectrum of research programs focused around the paradigm of OA by anthropogenic CO2 (Caldeira and Wickett 2003; Raven et al. 2005; Doney et al. 2009). CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and land use change since the industrial revolution have caused an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations from 280 to 390 ppm (globally averaged mean surface value for 2011; Thomas Conway and Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL, http://www.​esrl.​noaa.​gov/​gmd/​ccgg/​trends/​). The global oceans have absorbed about 40 % of the anthropogenic carbon emissions (Sabine and Tanhua 2010), leading to a decline in pH evident in surface open-ocean time series (Caldeira and Wickett 2003; Raven et al. 2005; Doney et al. 2009). In addition to impacting surface water pH, accumulation of anthropogenic carbon in deeper waters is leading to shoaling of the horizon for aragonite saturation (Feely et al. 2010). Accordingly, upwelling of waters acidified by anthropogenic CO2 has led to a further decrease in surface pH, as reported in the eastern Pacific Ocean along the west coast of North America, from central Canada to northern Mexico, where shoaling of the layer of seawater undersaturated with aragonite increased the frequency and magnitude of coastal acidification associated with upwelling events (Feely et al. 2008, 2010).

    Human emissions of reactive sulfur and nitrogen, derived from fossil fuel combustion and agriculture, have led to increased deposition of strong acids (HNO3 and H2SO4) and bases (NH3) to the ocean, hence affecting seawater pH (Doney et al. 2007). Whereas these effects on open-ocean pH are calculated to be minor, they can be higher, at rates of 0.02–0.12 × 10−3 pH units per year (<10 % of OA by anthropogenic CO2), in coastal ecosystems (Doney et al. 2007), where atmospheric deposition is intense and the waters can be more weakly buffered.
    Impacts of Anthropogenic Watershed Perturbations on Seawater pH

    Changes in land use over the past centuries have affected the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrients in the coastal zone strongly (Nixon 1995; Doney 2010; Hooke and Martín-Duque 2012). In particular, human activity has altered the watershed export of organic and inorganic carbon, carbonate alkalinity, acids and nutrients to the ocean, affecting pH (Aufdenkampe et al. 2011). However, these impacts are largely restricted to the coastal ocean, where these inputs are received.

    Deforestation, agricultural (Oh and Raymond 2006), mining (Brake et al. 2001; Raymond and Oh 2009) and urban/suburban practices (Barnes and Raymond 2009) were linked to direct changes in the delivery of buffering capacity to streams and rivers. These changes have the potential to alter the concentrations of inorganic C species expected through the mixing of freshwater and seawater in estuaries, thereby affecting pH in coastal water (Aufdenkampe et al. 2011). Mining activities typically yield an increase in acid export, leading to a decline in pH in the receiving coastal waters (Brake et al. 2001; Raymond and Oh 2009). In an extreme example, a pH of <3 was reported in the estuarine reaches of the Río Tinto estuary, SW Spain (Elbaz-Poulichet et al. 1999). Alteration of tropical acid sulphate soils also releases large amounts of acids (Wilson et al. 1999; Johnston et al. 2009), affecting coastal waters containing vulnerable organisms, such as corals in the inner Great Barrier Reef ecosystem (Powell and Martens 2005).

    Watershed processes, including export of alkalinity, derived from the weathering of carbonate rock and the use of lime in agriculture to reduce soil acidity (West and McBride 2005) can affect the magnitude of the alkalinity buffer in coastal waters. Changes in land use and increasing precipitation and/or runoff can also enhance alkalinity export from land to coastal ecosystems through chemical weathering (Raymond et al. 2008). These changes may counteract the tendency for pH to decline from OA due to anthropogenic CO2 or increase in heterotrophy from eutrophication (sensu Nixon 1995). For example, the alkalinity export from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico has increased by almost 50 % over the last 50–100 years due to increasing areas of cropland and increasing precipitation over the watershed (Raymond and Cole 2003; Raymond et al. 2008). Although freshwater discharge accounts for a large part of enhanced alkalinity export, concentrations of alkalinity in rivers have increased over time (Fig. 2a). Long-term records of river alkalinity from other areas (Fig. 2b, c) suggest a common global trend of increasing alkalinity exported from land to coastal ecosystems, which can lead to changes in pH on the order of 0.02–0.04 pH units, sufficient to offset more than a decade of OA.

  44. 644
    prokaryotes says:


    Inputs of organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus to coastal ecosystems have increased greatly (Nixon 1995; Howarth et al. 1996; Conley 2000; Stedmon et al. 2006; Sharp 2010). Although eutrophication is the major concern related to these inputs, the pH of coastal waters is also influenced through the enhanced CO2 uptake from primary production and CO2 release from respiration associated with increased nutrient inputs. When in balance, primary production and respiration processes result in large diel variability (Table 2), but are essentially CO2-neutral; however, over longer timescales, spatial and/or temporal decoupling of these processes can change pH drastically (Borges and Gypens 2010; Provoost et al. 2010; Cai et al. 2011). The effects of eutrophication on carbonate chemistry can exceed that of OA from anthropogenic CO2 by either increasing pH, when enhanced CO2 uptake by primary producers prevails (Borges and Gypens 2010), or by decreasing pH, where enhanced respiratory CO2 release prevails (Cai et al. 2011), a condition often associated with coastal hypoxia (Feely et al. 2010).

    Impacts on pH by Anthropogenic Changes in Coastal Habitats

    Coastal ecosystems contain multiple habitats that play an engineering role, affecting the physical and chemical properties of the ecosystem (Gutiérrez et al. 2011). These ecosystems include vegetated coastal habitats (seagrass meadows, macroalgal beds, salt marshes and mangroves) and coral and oyster reefs, among others (Gutiérrez et al. 2011). All coastal engineering communities support intense metabolic processes, including high primary production, respiration and calcification rates, thereby affecting CO2, CO3 −, and alkalinity concentrations and surface water pH. However, many metabolically intense coastal habitats are experiencing global declines in their abundance at rates in excess of 1 % per year (Duarte et al. 2008; Ermgassen et al. 2013). These shifts in coastal habitats have major, although largely unreported, consequences for coastal pH, affecting both their mean values and variability. Likewise, the restoration and redistribution of these habitats may affect pH in coastal ecosystems significantly. For instance, Arctic warming may allow the poleward spread of macroalgae and seagrasses, which could affect the pH of the coastal waters of these highly vulnerable regions seasonally.

  45. 645
    prokaryotes says:

    The chemical weathering of rocks (limestone) might help to counter some effects of OA but what above study didn’t mentioned is that more weathering also means more erosion (see Fig 2 from another study “Quantifying the degradation of organic matter in marine sediments: A review and synthesis”), hence uptake of organic matter flux.

    Coastal ecosystems may show acidification or basification, depending on the balance between the invasion of coastal waters by anthropogenic CO2, watershed export of alkalinity, organic matter and CO2, and changes in the balance between primary production, respiration and calcification rates in response to changes in nutrient inputs and losses of ecosystem components.

  46. 646
    Hank Roberts says:

    >> the extra carbon ends up in the Ocean and waterways,
    >> so this suggest it may accelerate ocean acidification
    >> and various other things like infrastructure damage
    >> from acid rain

    > bicarbonate, increasing the alkalinity and pH
    > … the increase in alkalinity would partially
    > counteract “ocean acidification”

    Thanks for posting a good cite that gets the chemistry right.

  47. 647
    Tony Weddle says:


    From my admittedly brief research, I’m not sure the San can be called a society as it seems they exist(ed) in small independent groups of only a dozen or so, occasionally getting together for “social” occasions. But maybe it’s a pointer to the kind of “society” we can look forward to. Existing for 20,000 years would be an achievement.

  48. 648
  49. 649
    DIOGENES says:

    PK #648,

    With the Abbott government, did you expect different?

  50. 650
    wili says:

    TW at #647 wrote: “…I’m not sure the San can be called a society…” ???
    What definition of ‘society’ are you using here? It’s not one I am familiar with. Google “hunter-gatherer societies” and you will get many scholarly and semi-scholarly references. Is there some sociological definition of society that excludes small scale groups that I am unaware of?

    “…it’s a pointer to the kind of “society” we can look forward to.” Indeed.