Friday, 8 November 2013

Who sets the CO2 percentage?

The search for clearer explanations continues. Thus this late comment.

Even before man and factories and cars, there was CO2 in the air.   However 98% of all CO2 is in the huge oceans, oceans which weigh 400x as much as the air above.   The situation is exactly like a carbonated drink with the top off.  Why didn't all the CO2 in the oceans just bubble up into the air?   Why doesn't it all just leave the oceans today?   So why was the CO2 level in the air at 0.03% in 1960, as shown below?  

Answer that and you have the key to the whole situation, the key which scientists know and you are never told.   The key is a thing called gaseous equilibrium and the amount of CO2 is determined by well known indisputable science described by Henry's law.   This continually balances the amount of CO2 in the water against the air.  We cannot change this.

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So who decides how much CO2 is in the air?   Us?   Can you just add CO2 and see it go up, as people seem to think.   Like water in a bucket.    Should the CO2 from burning fossil fuels just add to that already there, as is suggested below?

File:Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Apr2013.svg

This is the steady rise of CO2 which is the subject, from 0.032% to 0.040% in fifty years.
and over a longer period

Going back even further

All showing the rapid increase in CO2 from around 0.028% to 0.040%, an increase of 0.012% in 0.028% which is around 40%.   Of course it looks much more because zero is not shown.

and the conclusive connection is made by graphs like these

which show that the rise above 0.03% is totally unprecedented, so it must be man.   It is obvious, so it is true.    Is it?

If the % CO2 in the air is set by temperature and pressure of the great reservoir, the oceans, you are getting a direct measure of temperature.   The point of the graph is its emphatic conclusion, so how can it be wrong? Quite easily.

Even the smallest peak on the graph is 1,000 years wide.   The CO2 increase which is the subject of this whole argument is less than 150 years old and the dramatic bit only 30 years.   If this had happened before, would we see it on this time scale?   No.   Everything would be averaged out over hundreds if not thousands of years.   If the world's oceans heat by one degree over a hundred years and cool down over a hundred years by one degree, the spike could be high and extremely narrow and it would not be visible, averaged over a thousand years and a thousand years is a very small distance on this graph.    We simply would not see it.   The graph based on ice core samples does not have the accuracy or resolution in time to say this does not happen all the time and the scaling is used to convey a sense of drama.  

What you can see is that we are at the very warmest part of a known set of cycles with maximum CO2 as the oceans are warmer than ever.   The pattern shows it will get colder from here, the oceans will take more CO2 and we are on a downhill slope.  Modern man left warm Africa some 70,000 to 50,000 years ago, at the middle of the ice age.   We are now in a boom warm time, especially in the Northern Latitudes.   Early man was confronted with ice across Europe and we bemoan the lack of ski fields, but it will soon be cold again, very cold.   Our complaints about Global Warming may soon appear very silly.

You also have to wonder if people are picking their samples carefully.  Here is another source without the peak bolted on.

This sample of temperature, CO2 and dust over the same period (CO2 in Green) does not show the dramatic rise.   Is it possible that the previous graph used to prove man made CO2 rise has been welded on to the ice core graph, adding the modern graph of CO2 in the air to the one from the samples in the ice cores?   If this has been done, is it valid?   The measuring techniques are quite different although they in principle measure the same thing.

Looking at the sampling too.  Yes fine details like individual years are sometimes visible as thin stripes in the cores.   However gas is not ice.  Is it possible the gas can migrate in the ice through adjacent layers, reducing the accuracy of large variations?  Probably.    So while the ice core CO2 is interesting, the first graph and its loud conclusion about industrialization are suspect, not only with what looks like glued on data measured in a different way and a misleading origin on the Y vertical axis which makes it all look far more dramatic, but also because the problems of resolution and leaching have not been mentioned.   It is possible the CO2 in ice cores has a resolution of hundreds of years at best, an averaging.   That is not good enough to see spikes over 50 years.    The 20th century climb may not be unusual at all.

So none of this defeats the simple idea that the 50% aerial CO2 increase in the last 150 years is natural and a result of slight but rapid warming over a short term and outgassing from the oceans.    It could be reversed as quickly and this may have happened many times before.   There is a clear indication though that CO2 levels are set by temperature, which again indicates it is all controlled, as it is must be, through equilibrium with the large amount of CO2 in the  oceans.    Only the arrogance of man would conclude that we can somehow override these natural mechanisms and change CO2 vapour pressure or increase CO2 levels against the world wide processes which dictate it.

The reality of the CO2 is that it is the gas at the top of the lemonade bottle, a tiny part of what is in the ocean.   How much is in the atmosphere is not set by accident, but the result of equilibrium between the huge reserves in the ocean and the air pressure above.   It is puzzling that people can use the massive exchanges between the air and ocean to attempt to explain where the C14 went, but cannot apply the rules which govern all such exchanges.    The amount of CO2 is not random, arbitrary and able to be topped up by man.   It is all part of a system of equilibrium.   As was seen after the atomic bombs, if you add CO2, it quickly vanishes into the huge pool.   Does it really matter where?   What matters is that the equilibrium is not changed.   Otherwise we would have chaos and the amount of CO2 in the air would be completely arbitrary.  Scientists cannot have it both ways with their Bern cycle but also with arbitrary levels of CO2.

Postscript:   For those who like to think man has an impact on the oceans.

The oceans are 1.3 billion cubic kilometers.   So per person with 6 billion humans, this is 230 million cubic metres of water for each human.    In olympic swimming pools at 2,500 cubic metres, this is 100,000 Olympic swimming pools for every human.

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