Friday, 22 November 2013

Our ABC - C-14 levels tell us nothing at all.

I wrote to Australia's ABC Science department and they corresponded well and anonymously and really attempted to be helpful, but it seemed the same old stuff laced with a few put downs.   Inter alia the following was said

They referred me to Wikipedia which contains this graph and I quote one email exactly

For the purposes of analysing the proportion of C02 being contributed from the burning of fossil fuels, C-14 levels tell us nothing at all.

We see from your blog that you don't appear to understand radioactive decay. If you understood that C-14 eventually decays into a stable form of Nitrogen, you would know that the entire premise of you blog entry is incorrect.

Yours in Science

ABC Science

Actually as a nuclear physicist, I do understand radioactive decay and equilibrium and this graph tell us nearly everything.   This is all school boy physics and mathematics.   C14 has a half life of 5740 years, so it does not change in one lifetime.  The fact that C14 eventually turns into Nitrogen is irrelevant.     Incidentally   C12 is 99% of all CO2C13 is a tiny 1%.   C14 is 1x10-12, or a thousand billionth of 1%.  So C14 is unbelievably small in concentration but easy to detect.    This is mixed evenly with all the other CO2.  The chance of a C14 meeting another C14 is ridiculously low.

The very hard thing for people to understand is that if all the C14O2 vanishes as shown so clearly in the graph, it is swept up in normal CO2, so all CO2 must vanish.  There is also no sign of any of this C14Oreturning to the atmosphere as it is going to precisely zero, the old C14 level of 100% which has been constant for thousands of years.

So what happens to C14O2  happens to all CO2.  including all man made CO2.  It all disappears quickly and permanently in the space of 50 years.

Where it all goes is not shown in this graph.    We can guess.  The carbon in trees, plants and wood are only comparable in size to the atmosphere.     No, it is all gone and the only candidate is a massive storehouse of CO2 and that means the oceans.   So C14 does tell us everything about all CO2 and specifically fossil fuel CO2

PS. The business of where CO2 goes is a separate thing, the next logical step. The only conclusion of this post is that most CO2 goes into the ocean within 50 years or less, mostly never to return in our lifetimes.    The Bern cycle, burning trees, Henry's law, CO2 measurements, bushfires, algae and so much are about what happens next, but you need none of them.    The conclusion is inescapable.   
PPS. Hans Suess, an Austrian scientist and one of the founders of UCSD noted the dilution of C14O2  by industrial gases after 1890.   The effect was under 2%, although people now try to dispute this.  As the fossil fuel CO2  has no  C14 the effect would be much larger if the fossil fuel gas stayed in the atmosphere.  The unavoidable conclusion was that it didn't.   Even now the ultimate level is still the historic level, which confirms all new gas vanishes.  The contention that 33% of the gas is fossil fuel gas is wrong or concentrations of  C14O   would head to 2/3 of the historic levels. 

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