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Unforced variations: Dec 2011

Filed under: — group @ 1 December 2011

Open thread for December…

406 Responses to “Unforced variations: Dec 2011”

  1. 351
    wush says:

    Ron R, – My two pennies worth.
    Any form of fertilisation which enables a plant to perform better will be utilised to its advantage.
    Co2 enrichment is providing one of its essential building blocks of life, carbon, which it coverts into sugars for its vital energy processes. Its sole aim being to reproduce and perpetuate. So some of the extra sugars it produces through photosynthesis are utilised in the development of flowers and the development of its reproductive end product, seed, fruit, nut or tuber etc. The enrichment process will enable the plant to perform better, develop sweeter taste, with extra sugars, which makes it more attractive to something which is going to eat it and spread its seed or whatever it takes to reproduce. Co2 enrichment is used in some glasshouse crop production. It makes things grow to a greater potential end product of reproduction (fruits etc)
    If it is in the correct location where all other conditions suit it (its natural environment) the community will thrive. At the end result, co2 is a sugar enhancer. The building block of life. My guess is in evolutionary terms plants would benefit by having stronger healthier offspring (with more sugars to build from) and so may well grow faster to maturity, they might be bigger, but they would certainly taste better. (those sugary carbs, again). So ultimately they (plants) are energy storage devices.
    And our ongoing agricultural production provides an insight,
    Increasing atmospheric CO2: effects on crop yield, water use and climate
    CO2 enrichment increased agricultural weight yields by an 36%

    [Response: The sugars produced by photosynthesis are not synonymous with the common concept of sugar you are using here; you are confusing edibility with net primary production. Also, there’s a large literature on the effects of CO2 fertilization and it varies widely as a function of species and time scale studied. Definite benefits, as well as “definite uncertainties” have been identified.–Jim]

  2. 352
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Wush, Google Leibig’s law of the minimum. Carbon is almost never the limiting factor in growth of plants. That is not the mechanism by which CO2 increases growth in some plants. Rather, some plants respond to CO2 by transpiring less. This reduces loss of water, which can be a limiting factor. It seems to me that this might indicate that at times of high CO2, reducing water loss might be an evolutionary advantage–in other words times of high CO2 may be associated with more potential for drought.

    Note also that not all plants have this ability, and this includes many important food crops. Many weeds do have it, including poison ivy, which LOVES CO2.

    Again, do not confuse fetid with fertile.

    [Response: That’s not quite right Ray. Carbon is indeed very often limiting–which is exactly why many plants show a definite and positive response to increased CO2, and why some greenhouses elevate it. The biochemical basis for this is well known: the key enzyme of C3 photosynthesis acts as both a carboxylase and oxygenase, causing photorespiratory carbon loss (one of the great enigmas of evolution). Increasing the atmospheric [CO2] increases the intracellular [CO2], which drives the carboxylase reaction more strongly, relative to the reverse (oxygenase). And over geologic time there is longer term evidence for this also, namely the evolution of the CO2-concentrating C4 photosynthesis system as atmospheric CO2 levels dropped over the Cenozoic.–Jim]

  3. 353
    Dan H. says:

    Agreed. Greenhouse often pump in CO2 up to 1000 ppm, and along with fertilization, irrigation, and temperature control, can induce plants to grow larger and faster (some even introduce artificial light to prevent seasonal changes). Unlike animals, plant can live indefinitely (theoretically), and will continue to grow given adequate conditions. You may be interested in the results from the Aspen FACE experiment conducted in Rhinelander, WI.

  4. 354
    Jim says:

    OK time out for some more clarifications here.

    First, a general point: how plants respond to their environment is a very large and complex topic, with a positively enormous literature behind it that ranges from molecular biology of Arabidopsis to the global climate system. Be careful when making broad generalizations.

    Second, as I’ve said many times here, the primary fertilization effect of CO2 on plants is through an increased biochemical efficiency, which is to say a reduction in the loss of carbon already fixed via reduced photorespiration. This effect is strongest among the vast number taxa having the C3 photosynthetic system.

    How that increased biochemical efficiency gets translated into subsequent plant performance, as manifested in “bottom line” metrics such as e.g. carbohydrate and protein biosynthesis, plant size and competitive ability, and ultimately, fitness, is a separate set of topics upon which many careers have been, and are being, spent, and which is far too complex to go into here. Hopefully I will in the future get some time to pull together a list of open access review articles that summarize some key points.

  5. 355
    Ron R. says:

    Lots of poison oak in the Middle Miocene Ray. The growing season was pretty much year round as there was no winter as we know it. Today the growing season is again lengthening and for the same reason, rising CO2. Perhaps the two together, elevated CO2 and a longer growing season will result in more and vibrant growth. A tropical future perhaps? The worry is people. Can’t see a natural habitat without “managing” it. If people don’t allow the extra growth we’ll be left with just the higher CO2.

    [Response: You still seem to be confusing the separate issues of growth rate and maximum size. They are not necessarily coupled. The growing season is continuous in the wet tropics as well, but the trees are no bigger than the eucalypts and some of the conifers of the seasonal temperate zone, smaller in fact.–Jim]

    Anyway, it would be interesting if someone did a comparison of the ratio of tree ring numbers to total size of the trees at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest as an indicator of Miocene growth speed and size, or just compared their average total size to the averages of those same trees today. I’m just interested because I’m interested in that time, the Miocene, particularly the Barstovian. Oh to have a time machine!

    [Response: I think it’s been done. I’ve looked at the fossilized rings on upright stems on Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone and the fossil redwoods in Sonoma County (CA) and didn’t see anything particularly out of the ordinary growth wise. I think the Yellowstone trees are Miocene–Jim]

    Can’t think of much else to say right now. Thanks.

  6. 356
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim, Thanks for the correction. I’m just a physicist. My wife’s the ecologist, so your correction may keep my hand from getting slapped at the dinner table. ;-)

    [Response: I never put “just” and “physicist” together Ray, given that I am a physics moron. Anyway, hopefully she can correct us both.–Jim]

  7. 357
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Compared to biology, physics is easy. We even have problems that can be solved exactly. Biology always reminded me of what von Neumann said about math to a student who said he was having trouble understanding: “Young man. In math you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.”

    I have tremendous respect for folks that take on problems as tough as living organisms.

  8. 358
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ron R. again ignores the unnatural rate of increase in CO2 from fossil fuel use; trusting in evolution, eh?

  9. 359
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Here’s a question — anything more on “colder winters in a warming world”? About GW increasing frequency of negative arctic oscillations (see and

    I know this would be difficult to prove and take years or decades of data and evidence to be sure about.

    But it came up recently on a blog in which someone from Australia was complaining about their very cold start to summer there.

    Would Australia have something comparable to a negative arctic oscillation (from the Antarctic region perhaps), and could these be logically (even if empirical evidence is not enough yet) be linked to GW…assuming they are indeed getting more frequent cold summers or cold snaps.

  10. 360
    David B. Benson says:

    wush @350 — Actually dust is not strictly necessary but aerosols (almost) are. Turns out that some micro-organisms are swept aloft during oceanic evaporation and those act as aerosols from the standpoint of condensation nuclei. These page
    is a starter, but fails to distinguish well between the smaller condensation and cloud-sized droplets not to mention to growth into drops large enoough to fall.

  11. 361
    Susan Anderson says:

    Stating the obvious, I find it interesting that deniers, fake skeptics, whatchamacallem are averse to considering they might be wrong. The idea that someone who asserts one position without deviation through thick and thin might feel entitled to call themselves a skeptic is just wrong.

    One thing that is unique about “skeptics” is that they are totally unskeptical. So dangerous!

  12. 362
    Ron R. says:

    Jim and Hank. Not to worry, I hear you. I’m just throwing some thoughts out there.

    Wush’s comment at 351 is interesting. Not ignoring Jim’s response, I’ll just add that we have a horse, a grazer of course. In the spring when the new grass comes in it is indeed “sweet”. It becomes irresistible to her. Sugar represents concentrated energy and thus most animals love it. Grazers co-evolved with grasses. Even though grass phytoliths have been found from the Cretaceous (in coproliths) grasses appear to have taken off around the time of the beginning of the lowering of global temps 14.5 – 13 mya (though some authorities put it’s radiation as early as 5.5-6 mya). Coincidentally this is also the beginning of the Clarendonian Chronofauna. A connection? Could sugars in grasses have been the main ingredient that led to the megafauna?

    [Response: It might well be relatively sweet, but it’s also much lower in lignin, tannins, phenols and similar compounds that reduce digestability.–Jim]

    Anyway, eating this grass warms up a horse, so much so that their feet can actually get too hot and they could get a dangerous malady called laminitis or founder and become lame. You can literally feel the hot in their hooves. I’ve not researched how wild horses deal with it except to note that in the wild horses live much shorter lives than in domestication.

    I’ve wondered if the evolution of grasses, C4 in particular, was a coevolutionary response to help keep grazers warm at night. Anyway, anything sweet induces heat in horses (and other grazers?). To keep our horse warm on freezing nights, if she’s not been out grazing I give her some grain which has molasses on it.

    [Response: I can’t see it. For one thing, C4 grasses are generally less nutritious than C3 grasses, due to their unique anatomies, which increase their lignin concentrations and thus reduce digestability. A response to decreasing atm. CO2 over time, perhaps accompanied by drying, and knowledge of photosynthetic limitations is much more explanatory.–Jim]

    I don’t claim to be an expert in anything we’ve been discussing just posting some ideas.

  13. 363
    Ron R. says:

    Jim @ 355.

    [Response: I think it’s been done. I’ve looked at the fossilized rings on upright stems on Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone and the fossil redwoods in Sonoma County (CA) and didn’t see anything particularly out of the ordinary growth wise. I think the Yellowstone trees are Miocene–Jim]

    Thanks for that link. I’ll look at it. if I am full of it I’m full of it. I don’t have any special stake in these ramblings. Just cogitating.


  14. 364
  15. 365
    Anna Haynes says:

    We need a congressional climate hearing.

    [Response: Because they’ve worked so well in the past? ;-) – gavin]

  16. 366
    adelady says:

    Lynn Vincentnathan ” But it came up recently on a blog in which someone from Australia was complaining about their very cold start to summer there.

    Would Australia have something comparable to a negative arctic oscillation?”

    Even if we had such a thing we don’t need it in a La Nina year. Whoever’s complaining should count their blessings (and instal a rainwater tank) until the next el Nino lines up with the Indian Ocean monster to make our lives hot, dry and difficult yet again.

    You wouldn’t think we’d just got over a decade long drought would you? How soon they forget. Sigh.

  17. 367
    wush says:

    Thank you Jim for your response @ 351
    I know plants produce many different carbohydrates, (sugars and starch) and that photosynthesis initially produces simple carbohydrates. Is it correct to say that through photosynthesis the first sugars to arise are hexose sugars, probably glucose and fructose and that by enzyme action or hydrolysis these are converted to the monosaccharide and disaccharides, like sucrose and also to starch. These products being translocated to other parts of the plant and will undergo various other enzyme processes to build further foodstuffs like complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats. All of which are built up from co2 supplied from the atmosphere. So complex carbohydrates will be present in sweet fruits, green leaves and underground storage organs, but they could just as easily be stored in lignin in my willow firewood.

    [Response: Yes, you’ve outlined the carbohydrate basics well, and that the source of all is atmospheric CO2. Some technical points. Cellulose is the really important carbohydrate of course (the most abundant organic compound on earth), and lignin is not actually a carb, but a polyphenol. And get some better firewood :)]

    I agree there are up sides and down sides to co2 enrichment. Plants have evolved to survive in loads of different environments and will respond in different ways.I don’t get the “confusing edibility with Net Primary Production “bit, sorry! Isn’t some of the total NPP converted to edible NNP. I’m not confusing it, I am stating that extra co2 gives extra NPP. Is it not reasonable to conclude that in a carbon rich environment more carbon would be used in all the various processes within the plant.

    [Response: Reasonable after the fact, yes, since it was the empirical observations that came first, not apriori predictions based on knowledge of the underlying biochemistry. However, because of the existence of things like: biochemical “downregulation” (i.e. a decreasing response or “acclimation” over time), changes in stomatal number and aperture (which reduces CO2 capture by the leaves (“stomatal conductance”)), changing plant respiratory and photosynthetic rates as functions of weather, plant size, internal allocation decisions, light levels, etc., the increased atmospheric CO2 is not necessarily translated into a measurable benefit to the plant, or at least not as much as would occur in the absence of such things. Given how diverse plants are in their structure and function, and the different possible time scales involved, there is a lot of uncertainty of response from taxon to taxon–Jim]

    Say in storage organs, fruits, nuts etc. (I think) some of which results in sweet edible stuff for us, and anything else that eats it I suppose. So there is increasing biophysical efficiency resulting in a greater amount of vegetable matter produced annually or each growing season.

  18. 368
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE GW & CO2 fertilization. Here’s what I recently wrote:

    What might global warming and its effects mean for food and food production? First we need to address the argument that elevated carbon dioxide levels increase crop production. Aside from this being disingenuous because the CO2 is also causing warming and other effects that could be harmful to crops, there is evidence that increasing CO2 will not help crops as much as expected, and may even harm some crops and sea life, never mind the warming (Cline 2007: 23-26). While earlier enclosed studies showed increased growth with added CO2, recent open field studies show less increase and even a decline of some crops (Long, et al. 2006, Cruz, et al. 2007: 480). Furthermore, crops were found to be less nutritious (Högy, et al. 2009), and had greater pest damage (Hunter 2001). In the real world, crop growth is affected by many factors beyond CO2, including other nutrients, water supply, climate, extreme weather events, soil moisture, toxins expected to increase with global warming, and soil acidification from CO2 (Oh and Richter 2004). So while CO2 may moderately enhance crops up to a point, these other factors are expected to limit the potential enhancement and even lead to eventual declines. When the impact of warming is considered, a nonlinear relationship regarding crop productivity has been found for mid and high latitudes — the U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan and Northern China — with increased yields projected up to around 2050, after which the warming causes sharp decrease (Schlenker and Roberts 2009). A more recent study has found that climate change has already reduced some crops globally, despite CO2 fertilization and improved technology (Lobell, et al. 2011). As for sea life, an important human food supply, CO2-caused ocean acidification is having negative impacts on zooplankton (at the base of the food chain), shellfish, fish, and coral reefs, home to one-fourth of sealife (Rogers and Laffoley 2011; Doney, et al. 2009; Hoegh-Guldberg, et al. 2007; Munday, et al. 2010).

    Crops yields could decrease [in South Asia and Asia] 30 percent by 2050 (Cruz, et al. 2007: 479), perhaps even more if CO2 and increasing diurnal temperatures harm rice yields (Cruz, et al. 2007: 80; Welch, et al. 2010).

    Cline, W. R. 2007. Global Warming and Agriculture. Washington, DC: Center for Global Development and the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    Cruz, R. V., H. Harasawa, M. Lal, S. Wu, Y. Anokhin, B. Punsalmaa, Y. Honda, M. Jafari, C. Li, and N. Huu Ninh. 2007. “Asia.” Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contributions of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. M. L. Parry, O. F. Canziani, J. P. Palutikof, P. J. van der Linden, and C. E. Hanson (eds.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 469-506.
    Doney, S. C., V. J. Fabry, R. A. Feely, and J. Kleypas. 2009. Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2 Problem. Annual Review of Marine Sciences 1: 169-192.
    Hoegh-Guldberg, O., P. J. Mumby, A. J. Hooten, R. S. Steneck, and E. G. P. Greenfield, C. D. Harvell, P. F. Sale, A. J. Edwards, K. Caldeira, N. Knowlton, C. M. Eakin, R. Iglesias-Prieto, N. Muthiga, R. H. Bradbury, A. Dubi, M. E. Hatziolos. 2007. Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318(5857): 1737-1742.
    Högy, P., H. Wieser, P. Köhler, K. Schwadorf , J. Breuer, J. Franzaring, R. Muntifering and A. Fangmeier. 2009. “Effects of elevated CO2 on grain yield and quality of wheat: results from a 3-year free-air CO2 enrichment experiment.” Plant Biology 11: 60-69.
    Hunter, M. D. 2001. “Effects of Elevated Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Insect-Plant Interactions.” Agricultural and Forest Entomology 3: 153-159.
    Lobell, D. B., W. Schlenker, and J. Costa-Roberts. 2011. “Climate Trends and Global Crop Production Since 1980.” Science 333(6042): 616-620.
    Long, S. P., E. A. Ainsworth, A. D. B. Leakey, J. Nösberger, D. R. Ort. 2006. “Food for Thought: Lower-Than-Expected Crop Yield Stimulation with Rising CO2 Concentrations.” Science 312(5782): 1918-1921.
    Munday, P. L., D. L. Dixson, M. I. McCormick, M. Meekan, M. C. O. Ferrari, and D. P. Chivers. 2010. “Replenishment of fish populations is threatened by ocean acidification.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(29):12930-12934.
    Oh, N-H., and D. D. Richter, Jr. 2004. “Soil acidification induced by elevated atmospheric CO2” Global Change Biology 10.11: 1936-1946.
    Rogers, A. D., and D. d’A. Laffoley. 2011. International Earth System Expert Workshop on Ocean Stresses and Impacts. Summary Report. International Program on the State of the Ocean. Oxford.
    Schlenker, W., and M. Roberts. 2009. “Nonlinear Temperature Effects Indicate Severe Damages to U.S. Crop Yields under Climate Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 106(37): 15594-15598.
    Welch, J., J. R. Vincent, M. Auffhammer, P. F. Moya, A. Dobermann, and D. Dawe. “Rice Yields in Tropical/Subtropical Asia Exhibit Large but Opposing Sensitivities to Minimum and Maximum Temperatures.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(33): 14562-14567.

    Due to word limitations I did not get into how elevated CO2 (in an experiment in Japan) has been found to induce floret sterility in rice and could reduce yields by 40% — it’s cited in the Cruz (IPCC) source on Asia….the famous glaciergate chapter.

    [Response: Thanks for backing up your statements with citations! I think however, that your overall assessment of CO2 fertilization effects is biased toward the negative. The Lobell etal 2011 paper is one example.–Jim]

  19. 369
    Ron R. says:

    Jim. Thanks for your comments. I’m assuming you are correct about the C3 vs C4 grasses nutrition wise. Okay leaving the C4 grass type out, I’ve wondered if the evolution of grasses was a coevolutionary response to help keep grazers warm at night and could the increased sugars in leaves (and general increase in productivity) resulting from elevated CO2 have been the driver for the evolution of the megafauna?

    [Response: Grass evolution makes the top 10 list of important events in plant evolution, and was almost certainly driven by grazing pressure, I don’t think there’s much doubt about that, but not likely for that reason. More to do with the enormous selective advantage of having two different types of meristems located near the ground, with still others at the bases of leaf blades, and hence all +/- protected from large herbivores, giving the ability to quickly regenerate leaf and reproductive tissues after being munched, repeatedly. Not to mention the advantages of wind pollination mechanisms (pollinator independence)–Jim]

    An interesting comment:

    “Elevated CO2 also leads to changes in the chemical composition of plant tissues. Due to increased photosynthetic activity, leaf nonstructural carbohydrates (sugars and starches) per unit leaf area increase on average by 30-40% under FACE elevated CO2 (Ainsworth 2008; Ainsworth & Long 2005)”

    One other question. Does the closing off of stoma also mean less O2 available to us?

    [Response: No. Stomates do not close permanently. They’re highly regulated, moment by moment. The oxygen is free to go as soon as the water is split.–Jim]

    I’ve not had the time to look at your other link from yesterday yet. Will get to it. Thanks.

  20. 370
    wush says:

    Jim, My very basic understanding of the subject has been much improved, and indicates a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, (shouldn’t jump to conclusions) thank you for your help.
    I needed firewood to bring down cost of buying it. It is very wet where I live so got some salix viminalis x schwerinii and other fast growing hybrid salix. Not the best firewood in the world, ok if it is seasoned well, but Wow! does it grow fast. Must be all that….. No! don’t go there. H2o.

    [Response: :) Like weeds!]

    Speaking of water, I recently posted about there being a lot more dust in the atmosphere. Probably more then 100% more than current climate models use at present. Wouldn’t this dust not only add to changes in the weather but also act to provide some essential and trace elements for plant growth when it is precipitated out or deposited. Dust from dry areas moved to wetter areas exponentially in a warming world.

    [Response: Yes, the common term being “dry deposition”, having its own cadre of researchers, particularly with respect to nitrogen.]

    One last question; Do you think plants will make it rain more in our warming climate and if so should this be factored into climate models if it isn‘t already? Difficult though!

    [Response: Plants, particularly trees, are indispensable w.r.t. hydrological regulation, both on the ground and in the air, pretty much always and everywhere. Beyond that your question is too involved to answer simply. Evapotranspiration is factored into climate models, yes.]

    Pollen may increase chance of rain.
    Pope’s results, published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL), showed that pollen grains can become active cloud condensation nuclei at supersaturations of 0.001% and lower – conditions that are not unusual in the atmosphere.
    Pollen Count Rising Due To Global Warming, More CO2
    The study found that ragweed grown in an atmosphere with double the current carbon dioxide levels produced 61 percent more pollen than normal. Such a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide is expected to occur between 2050 and 2100.
    My jumping to conclusions says, increasing warmth and increasing moisture equates to less stressful conditions, humidity, less evapotranspiration but with turgidity maintained, (for those that thrive in these conditions, like nearly all of them) so optimum metabolism maintained. Add nutrition from dust and the cotwo effect and hey presto you’ve got obesity or mega fauna. All the food you want to eat. See done it again!

  21. 371
    EFS_Junior says:

    Well over at WTFUWT? they have the following post;

    I’ve made three posts over there, but only two were let through, here is the verbatim copy of the post that didn’t make it through.

    From the title “Hansen’s Arrested Development” to the picture included to these sentences;

    “James Hansen has taken time off between being arrested to produce another in the list of his publications”

    “Normally these days I prefer to only deal with scientific papers, which of course leaves activist pleadings like Hansen’s stuff off the list.”

    I see no less than four direct ad hominem attacks.

    All four, right at the very beginning of this post (all before the “Continue reading →” page break).

    Should anyone trust someone who’s first line of attack are four direct ad hominem attacks?

    I don’t.

    And somehow, the person posting all this trash talking (Willis), does not even remotely understand the scientific subject matter being discussed in either Hansen’s or Loeb’s papers.

    Apparently, the poster (Willis) thinks this is all just some sort of a joke. Seriously.

    Go figure. :-(

    The part where I say “I don’t.” should also include “But then again, I never did trust anything that Willis ever said, to begin with in the first place.”

  22. 372
    Rod B says:

    Susan (361), I’m a skeptic and readily admit that it’s possible some, much, even all of my skepticism might be incorrect.

  23. 373
  24. 374
    Dan H. says:

    I have a real issue with people posting ad hominem attacks instead of focusing on their real work. Unfortunately it is not restricted to Willis, but is rampant. It has even affected some of the posters here.

  25. 375
  26. 376
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, long time no see. I would characterize you as more a contrarian than a skeptic. ;-)

  27. 377
    Hank Roberts says:

    (actually ‘methane’ and correct in the actual article)

    is quite good, including a lot of links and information and some quite thoughtful comments about peer review, politics, WTF, and a Pielke inversion.

  28. 378
    wush says:

    SteveF@373, Can I ask why you dismiss this so emphatically?
    When you read stuff like this it seems likely there may be a grain of truthdust in it;-
    There is twice as much dust in the atmosphere as there was 100 years ago.
    extraxt;- But first, researchers need to figure out why dust levels are rising in the first place.
    “We don’t know,” said Natalie Mahowald, an atmospheric scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. “It’s probably a combination of agriculture and pasture-usage as well as climate change because a lot of regions are getting drier, and that would increase desert dust.”

  29. 379
    wush says:

    Hank Roberts @375. Living organisms have found ways to deal with temperature and relative humidity by regulating their metabolic rates whereas inanimate objects cannot. I can only think your reason for providing the link was to demonstrate that higher levels of temperature and humidity are detrimental to plants. Ecosystems adjust whereas inanimate material decomposes.

  30. 380
    EFS_Junior says:


    We can dismiss the “extraterrestrial dust” hypothesis simply because it does not follow from the scientific method, in that this hypothesis is not falsifiable, in and of itself, unless, of course, you have a whole bunch of “expertise dust” (e. g. of known origin, like you know collected from space (e. g. above Earth’s atmosphere)) that’s been collected over these past 800kyr.

    We could also inspect the expertise of the claimant, such as there pervious publications on “extraterrestrial dust” or their training/work experience in the field of “extraterrestrial dust” or the fact that “extraterrestrial dust” can not even make it to Earth’s surface, given that it would all burn up in Earth’s atmosphere in the first place.

    Or considering that some “extraterrestrial dust” just might make it to Earth’s surface, that the amounts of this “extraterrestrial dust” would have to exceed Earth generated dust by at least O(1) to perhaps O(10) or even O(100).

    We also know that right now, all the dust in Earth’s atmosphere is sourced from the Earth itself, we call it wind induced dust storms, or windborne particulates, or anthropogenic particulates, either from point sources (fossil fuel generation stations, production of chemicals, and transportation), or non-point sources (land use changes and agriculture).

    See also;

    There is nothing in those articles to even remotely suggest that the majority of dust seen in Earth’s atmosphere has ever come directly from space (versus Earthly origins of dust that everyone sees every day) over these past 800kyr.

    We can only conclude one thing with certainty, Dr. Curry will post garbage less often often than WTFUWT? does.

  31. 381
    Hank Roberts says:

    > wush
    The decomposers in the ecosystem speed up.
    That’s the point of the article, how to anticipate and avoid the consequences of warmer temperatures.

    > ecosystems adjust

    Within limits we can talk about fairly well, there’s a lot of published work.
    You know this familiar example of rate of change with warming?

    The current rate of change is unnaturally fast.

    Natural changes have been too fast for some organisms.

    Ecosystems get simpler with rapid changes.

  32. 382
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    Ray @352:

    Google “rubisco”.

  33. 383
    Hank Roberts says:

    Hat tip to comp.risks:

    Why data matters for public policy (Vint Cerf)

    First posting in the new Google “Policy by the Numbers” Blog (Google – Policy by the Numbers) [via NNSquad]

    “As a computer scientist and engineer, I’ve always been fascinated by the
    process that determines how policies and institutions are created. Unlike
    computing systems, policymaking is anything but binary. An unpredictable
    combination of special interests, money, hot topics, loyalties and many
    other factors shape legislation that passes into law. Now, more than
    ever, we need to use data to build sound policy frameworks that facilitate
    innovative breakthroughs. In order to inspire confidence in the future
    (and the markets), governments have to lead by using today’s facts to
    place big bets on-not against-a better tomorrow.”

  34. 384
    Hank Roberts says:

    The rest of that post from Vint Cerf:

    “To get conversations rolling, Google’s public policy team will be sharing data insights here on this blog. We’ll also be inviting researchers, policymakers and thought leaders to contribute their interpretations of various data sets and what they mean for public policy. This forum will be open to ideas, and we welcome everyone to leave comments discussing their opinions.

    Measurement and analysis provide the checks and balances we need to build a better future in the information age. When we don’t examine the numbers, policy is all too often created at the expense of the next generation. The Internet generates 2.6 jobs for every one lost, and today the world’s data is doubling every two years. We need to make sure that we sustain the laws that got us the open Internet we have today, and that sound policies are in place to keep this unparalleled engine of growth going.

    Public discussions that are grounded in numbers reveal whether laws are effective and relevant or failing to protect citizens’ interests. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts; the facts speak for themselves and it is folly to ignore them. With this blog, we hope to spark policy debates, foster discussions among policymakers and constituents and help citizens exercise their right to hold governments accountable.

    posted by Vint Cerf, Internet architect and policy enthusiast”

  35. 385
    jyyh says:

    “Elevated CO2 also leads to changes in the chemical composition of plant tissues. Due to increased photosynthetic activity, leaf nonstructural carbohydrates (sugars and starches) per unit leaf area increase on average by 30-40% under FACE elevated CO2.”

    that’s one study which I should read if I worked on this. I’m not challenging their results, but just saying things work differently in labs and nature. I had imagined the plants would create more phenols and other almost undigestive compounds in elevated CO2 in response to pests, which would have increased in number in elevated temperatures at higher CO2. After all, the interplay between animals and plants has been (presumably) approximately in balance at least since the end of the carboniferous (Should again check why that ended).

  36. 386
    jyyh says:

    sorry, meant Permian, there are some theories of the Permian-Triassic extinction having a biological origin while I thought the Siberian traps were the confirmed reason for it.

  37. 387
    Anna Haynes says:

    Re my #365 comment saying, “We need a congressional climate hearing”, I’d like to reply to Gavin’s ironic response “Because they’ve worked so well in the past? ;-) ” –

    No. Because I do think there could be coercion and/or undisclosed interested-party funding at play, and I’ll continue to wonder about it until I hear the relevant researchers answer Qs about this, under oath.
    (For me, at least, this persistent doubt impacts their credibility.)

  38. 388
    Dan H. says:

    Many of us feel that politicians and bureaucrats have had too much input into the climate debate. I doubt that a congressional hearing will resolve anything.

  39. 389
    David B. Benson says:

    How long does it take to convert a primitive atmosphere into the modern one? Not how long did it take, but what is a minimum time estimate?

  40. 390
  41. 391
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts @390 — Thank you. 2.0–2.5 billion years, it seems.

  42. 392
    prokaryotes says:

    Im looking for a small list about “How to deal with a media frenzy?” This was posted on RealClimate, by a commenter about 2 years ago, in light of Phil Jones contact with the media.

    Does somebody remember the particular RC post? Thanks.

  43. 393

    As always there is an excellent synopsis on Dr Masters site about 2011 tornadoes,
    horrendous year of destruction, NOAA should be proud of saving so many lives.
    But I am interested in the mechanics of such events. They are not random, nor are they easily forseeable
    unless we study hard the reasons behind this mayhem.

    I like to propose that cold stratospheric air linked in part with ozone depletion had something to do with spring time Southeastern US Upper Air profile steep temperature differentials, a great difference should cause fiercer tornadoes. The cold air bit comes from where I am, and it is a great deal interesting again just now, GCM’s suggest that a warmer troposphere is intrinsically linked with a colder stratosphere, we experience this in the Arctic as I write. A warm Arctic troposphere co-exists with a very cold stratosphere.  The key cause is thinner Arctic sea ice. There seems to be an explanation for everything, again more study and discussion is needed.

    Must finally praise computer modelers! They have unraveled many mysteries that would have remained so, was it not for their efforts.

  44. 394
    Ron R. says:

    (captcha incorrect. Again)

    I think the Yellowstone trees are Miocene–Jim]

    I Finally got to that link.

    The Yellowstone trees you refer to in that link are of Eocene age.

    Still though, point taken. High CO2 (even higher than the Miocene) but no mention of unusual size (though I’m not sure a systematic comparison was actually made sizewise).

    And yet: “Since photosynthesis and stomatal behavior are central to plant carbon and water metabolism, growth of plants under elevated CO2 leads to a large variety of secondary effects on plant physiology. The availability of additional photosynthate enables most plants to grow faster under elevated CO2, with dry matter production in FACE experiments being increased on average by 17% for the aboveground, and more than 30% for the belowground, portions of plants (Ainsworth & Long 2005; de Graaff et al. 2006). This increased growth is also reflected in the harvestable yield of crops, with wheat, rice and soybean all showing increases in yield of 12–14% under elevated CO2 in FACE experiments (Ainsworth 2008; Long et al. 2006).”

    Hank Roberts — 20 Dec 2011 @ 12:40 PM
    trusting in evolution, eh?

    Not trust. Hope.

  45. 395
    Hank Roberts says:

    > … I’m not certain …

    > … and yet
    > …

    Yes, but, for example …


  46. 396
    wush says:

    Ron R @394
    Might tree size be dictated by how windy it was then? If it was warm and sub tropical at that time it may not have been too windy and trees would have grown larger. Especially as these conditions of warmth and humidity are less stressful to growth and higher co2 levels does result in increased biochemical efficiency for many plants, at least in their initial growth stages. Just a thought!
    Quote;- Most botanists thought that the law of nature behind Da Vinci’s formula was an efficient way to transport sap to leaves. Eloy disagrees. He thinks trees are structured as they are in order to protect themselves from damages caused by the wind.
    Quote;- their growth is determined by the need to withstand wind stress on their branches.

  47. 397
  48. 398
    Hank Roberts says:

    wush, got cites for your “if it was” and “especially as … does result” statements? Why do you believe these are true in any general way?

    The climate change problem for biology is the rate of change; we know pretty well the limits of evolutionary change — where climate has changed in the past, we know if the plants and animals moved with the change or died out.

    We’re changing the world something like 10x to 100x faster than natural changes have occurred (other than the odd asteroid impact or other excursion).

    Claiming faith, or hope, or trust that biology will pull our chestnuts out of the fire at just the right time seems Panglossian aka cornucopian.

  49. 399
    Ron R. says:

    Not sure that went through.

    Unfortunately wish, I’m not expert enough to say for sure. But at 14.5 mya temperatures began to drop with the buildup of the antarctic ice sheet. That brought strong winds from the sea which created an upwelling along the coast leading to such vast deposits as the California Monterey Formation. Before that, with a mostly uniseasonal climate it would seem that winds should have been less strong.

    As for trees preferring less windy conditions, again I’m not sure but that seems reasonable. Trees do get hard and woody, as a necessity so as to support their own weight and to withstand the winds. Some trees are rather tall and are buffeted by the wind. Course the tallest trees that would experience the most winds have needle like leaves which make it easier for the wind to go through, which would seem to support your comments. Mexican fan palms which rise to a height of 100′ have leaves with deep serrations which allows wind to travel through without too much damage. My guess is that a big reason trees are structured the way they are is so as to maximize their exposure to the sun (phototropism). They want to be able to obtain sunlight all day, and since the sun moves during the day and throughout the year and they cannot (quickly enough at least) they have leaves on all sides. Some plants will even follow the sun throughout the day (known as solar tracking or heliotropism).

    Anyway, I like to imagine a world with deciduous trees as tall as conifers.

  50. 400
    wush says:

    Ron R @399
    Sorry Ron, I don’t know my Eocene from my Miocene. I thought the period you were referring to was 50 to 40 mya. When your link said:-
    Based on the fossil record, Yellowstone’s climate was warm, almost subtropical.
    That seems like a favourable climate to be growing in and imo growth would be greater. With a cooling climate I suppose deciduous trees were able to adapt better than subtropical species. The coniferous spp would probably be able to cope even better in a harsher climate hence the boreal forests. I too like the thought of deciduous trees reaching maturity and I always thought they were constrained by their ability to transport nutrients from roots to leaves (as well as day length and phototropic ability) but the link I provided gave the alternative view of height restricted by wind. I thought it interesting.
    Where I live nearly all our native deciduous woodland is gone and we replace it with ugly forests of non-native evergreen conifer plantations of Sitka spruce, they grow fast and turn a profit I suppose but they are monogenic wastelands as far as the ecosystem is concerned.