Undersea volcanoes may be impacting long-term climate change

by Alan Longhurst

I think this paper on on ocean tides, sea-floor volcanoes and Milankevitch cycles is a game changer.

Mid-ocean ridge eruptions as a climate valve

Maya Tolstoy

Abstract. Seafloor eruption rates and mantle melting fueling eruptions may be influenced by sea level and crustal loading cycles at scales from fortnightly to 100 kyr. Recent mid-ocean ridge eruptions occur primarily during neap tides and the first 6 months of the year, suggesting sensitivity to minor changes in tidal forcing and orbital eccentricity. An ~100 kyr periodicity in fast-spreading seafloor bathymetry and relatively low present-day eruption rates at a time of high sea level and decreasing orbital eccentricity suggest a longer-term sensitivity to sea level and orbital variations associated with Milankovitch cycles. Seafloor spreading is considered a small but steady contributor of CO2 to climate cycles on the 100 kyr time scale; however, this assumes a consistent short-term eruption rate. Pulsing of seafloor volcanic activity may feed back into climate cycles, possibly contributing to glacial/interglacial cycles, the abrupt end of ice ages, and dominance of the 100 kyr cycle.

M. Tolstoy, Mid-ocean ridge eruptions as a climate valve, doi:10.1002/2014GL063015, Geophys. Res. Lett. 2015 [abstract] [manuscript]

A post at WUWT includes the press release from Columbia University

The AGU also issued a press release [link]

Discussion

Over millennial time scales, even stronger tidal strengths must occur, so it is natural to enquire if the 41,000-year variation of the obliquity of the ecliptic (the key to the Milankovic theory of ice ages) may also have consequences for tidal forcing of climate state comparable to those tought to be forced by changing solar radiation. Indeed, computation shows that the deep ocean tide could act as a pacemaker to terminate ice sheets at every second or third obliquity; if correct, this would solve the difficulty of reconciling the 40-ka obliquity period with the 100-ka period of glaciations.

Further, while solar radiation simply delivers heat to the earth’s surface, the perturbation of ocean heat content and distribution by tide-producing forces modifies the poleward transfer of heat associated with the meridional overturning circulation. During glaciations, North Atlantic tides were twice as high as today and pelagic dissipation three times as strong, and ‘these feedbacks dwarf the astronomic forcing’ of Milankevitch, according to Munk and Bills, who further note that, although there are complications not yet considered such as the increased depth of the shallow seas due to ice melt, and the consequent increase in tidal dissipation…..but, they note, “the numbers will not go away”.[1]

Finally, a new study from Lamont-Doherty demonstrates a very clear relationship between variable tidal loading of the deep sea floor with mid-ocean ridge eruptions at the present time: these occur primarily during neap tides (when loading is reduced) and in the first six months of each year, suggesting a response to orbital eccentricity. Eruption of sea-floor volcanoes will contribute to atmospheric CO2 levels and act, according to the author of this act “as a climate valve“.

This study was based on analysis of 9 mid-ocean ridge eruption/dyking events of which 8 occurred during neap tides which form lows in the fortnightly tidal modulation and also preferentially between months when the Sun-Earth distance is progressively increasing each year. As the author suggests, this sensitivity to tidal loading of the crust at mid-ocean ridges should reflect eccentricity in Earth’s orbit; the 100kyr cycle must therefore have the strongest consequences for sea floor volcanic activity. Further, decreases in sea-floor loading during glacial periods must occur when much seawater is transferred as ice onto continental surfaces. All of this will enhance oceanic mantle spreading and increases in sea floor vulcanism.

I suggest that this study is a game-changer of which we shall hear much more: as so often with critical contributions, the paper is single authored a fact that should suggest some reflections on the current state of science.

[1] Munk, W. and B. Billins (2007) J. Phys. Oceanogr. 37, 135-147

 

380 responses to “Undersea volcanoes may be impacting long-term climate change

  1. but, but, we were told is wa CO2 that is the control knob!

  2. Could you please expand a bit on the last sentence? I don’t understand what you think the single author status says about the state of the science.
    Thanks

    • Alan Longhurst

      I am uncomfortable with the new custom that anybody who contributed anything to the production of a paper should be counted as an author. I think that science progresses best by thoughtful work by smart people prepared to carry the responsibility of challenging the concensus rather than by collaborative crowds. Exceptions, of course, for mega-projects that can only be done collaboratively – ike sniffing around Pluto.
      That is perhaps the inevitable response to a very long career during the last century.

      • That is an interesting observation. Another possibility is that no one wanted to sign on to such a speculative paper with no quantitative details of how much CO2 such a mechanism can account for in active vs. quiescent periods. I am not saying the mechanism is non-existent: I am saying I have no idea how much CO2 it can contribute and neither, evidently, does the author.

        Also: if it was a game-changer, it had a year to work its magic — apparently, it has not started changing the game for a year or so.

        But, yes, it may.

      • Oliver Manuel

        Alan,

        I share your opinion of group-think and group-authors. In March of 2001 we presented a paper at the Lunar Science Conference that explained the long-standing “Solar Neutrino Puzzle.”

        Within six months, one-hundred and seventy-eight (178) co-authors from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory lined up alphabetically to co-author a paper that claimed most solar neutrinos oscillate away before reaching the neutrino detectors.

      • Alan,

        ” I think that science progresses best by thoughtful work by smart people prepared to carry the responsibility of challenging the concensus rather than by collaborative crowds.”

        You are spot on. This is true for all human endeavors – crowds and cultures are conservative forces and, in general, do not encourage innovation. The lone wolf, free of inhibiting feedback, can develop an idea before the crowds of gatekeepers can crush it.

      • David Springer

        The number of authors is usually fluffed up as favors to others who repay them in a like manner. Publication-count is a critical measure of success in academia. In the commercial world where I have experience patent-count is an analogous measure. I included co-workers on my patents who had very little to do with the intellectual property itself but rather were people to whom I owed a favor or someone I wanted indebted to me.

        The single author status of this paper may be an indication that no one considers it a favor to be included as co-author given it undermines the notion that all atmospheric CO2 increase above 280ppmv since 1750 is due to fossil fuel consumption. The climatariat doesn’t want non-linear volcanism mucking up the anthropogenic blame-factor and few scientists in academia want negative attention from the academic climate cops.

      • ” most solar neutrinos oscillate away before reaching the neutrino detectors.”

        No, they don’t go ‘away’. They change into other ‘flavors’ that can be [and has been] observed. There is no ‘neutrino problem’ anymore.

      • “No, they don’t go ‘away’. They change into other ‘flavors’ that can be [and has been] observed. There is no ‘neutrino problem’ anymore.”

        That’s true. All we need to do now is to update the taste buds inside our underground neutrino detectors.

      • – “I think that science progresses best by thoughtful work by smart people prepared to carry the responsibility of challenging the consensus rather than by collaborative crowds.”

        Yes, agreed.

        “Whatever be the ideas suggested to crowds, they can only exercise effective influence on condition that they assume a very absolute, uncompromising, and simple shape. They present themselves then in the guise of images, and are only accessible to the masses under this form. These image-like ideas are not connected by any logical bond of analogy or succession, and may take each other’s place like the slides of a magic-lantern which the operator withdraws from the groove in which they were place one above the other.”

        “… the arguments they [crowds] employ and those which are capable of influencing them are, from a logical point of view, of such an inferior kind that it is only by way of analogy that they can be described as reasoning.
        The inferior reasoning of crowds is based, just as is reasoning of a high order, on the association of ideas, but between the ideas associated by crowds there are only apparent bonds of analogy or succession.”
        Gustave Le Bon

      • David Springer

        lsvalgaard | January 25, 2016 at 11:47 am |

        >>” most solar neutrinos oscillate away before reaching the neutrino detectors.”

        >No, they don’t go ‘away’. They change into other ‘flavors’ that can be [and has been] observed. There is no ‘neutrino problem’ anymore.

        Don’t be an ass, Leif. Neutrino “oscillation” has a well defined meaning in context and Manuel used it perfectly. Sort of like you, it’s old news too. You need to get used to the fact that you aren’t the smartest kid in room. Not in rooms like this. Not even close. Don’t confuse this into thinking I’m an iron sun proponent. I’m not. But I do acknowledge that the standard model has problems.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutrino_oscillation

        So are you still in the business of trying to erase the modern solar maximum by pencil whipping past sunspot counts? Enquiring minds want to know! LOL

  3. My impression, from long ago, was that tides are just long wavelength waves, whose phase velocity (what is seen) increases with wavelength until it equals the ocean depth. The amplitude grows in shallow water to conserve momentum, but ought to be pretty small in deep ocean.

    • Alan Longhurst

      Here’s a bit of text from that eBook ofiine which discussed here some months back

      During glaciations, North Atlantic tides were twice as high as today and pelagic dissipation three times as strong, and ‘these feedbacks dwarf the astronomic forcing’ of Milankevitch, according to Munk and Bills, who further note that, although there are complications not yet considered such as the increased depth of the shallow seas due to ice melt, and the consequent increase in tidal dissipation…..but, they note, “the numbers will not go away”.
      Munk, W. and B. Billins (2007) J. Phys. Oceanogr. 37, 135-147

  4. Oliver Manuel

    Heat from the interior of the Earth is another empirical fact overlooked by many of those claiming to understand the causes of climate change.

    • That possibility has always interested me but I couldn’t do a quantitative calculation. How about the idea that the crust is thinner in the Arctic than in the Antarctic like Newton discovered in 1666 (the pear shaped earth) which might explain a higher temperature volatility at the north pole and more ice at the south pole.There is a lot more energy down there than that falling on the earth’s surface. As the crust redistributes and the spinning core slows and spins the other way every so often changing the direction of the magnetic field there may be other mechanisms providing a north south oscillation of the core affecting the surface temperature.

  5. Has there ever been a paper that has not changed Judith’s Climateball game?

    You are what you eat, and the timing of Midocean ridge eruptions does not influence the rate of subduction of the carbonate platform rocks. MORB itself can contribute little to eruptive CO2, and the pace of tectonic transport keeps mid-ocaen ridges far from the digestive action – things may be more interesting at continental margins, or island arcs, but that’s hardly the paper’s focus .

  6. “decreases in sea-floor loading during glacial periods must occur when much seawater is transferred as ice onto continental surfaces.”

    Is the mass transported a significant fraction of the mass of the ocean or any continental plate? I suspect not.

  7. Glacial mass was enough to sink portions of the plates into the mantle; they are still rebounding to this day. I suspect the shift in mass was significant.

    • Absolutely. The icecap at the Younger Dryer period (9000BCE?) had pushed up berms so that when the icecap started melting the fresh water could not cross Russia and get to the Black Sea. However it could fill up the oceans creating a 300 ft water level difference between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. When the Mediterranean finally overflowed into the Black Sea the event was called Noah’s Flood – see the very interesting book of the same name by those Woods Hole guys Ryan and Pitman.

  8. Climate science is an egg.

  9. If that’s the case, the changes in spread rate should be recorded in the rocks somewhere, right? And those could be dated and compared to other proxies?

    • George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA

      Spreading rates are recorded by a combination of ocan floor magnetic anomalies and their width.

  10. Eruption of sea-floor volcanoes will contribute to atmospheric CO2 levels and act, according to the author of this act [sic] “as a climate valve”.

    They’ll also contribute to upwelling of warmed bottom water, carrying important micro-nutrients for plankton.

    This could have a variety of influences on atmospheric pCO2, as well as direct effects on the evolution of weather via dimethylsulfide, or DMS, as well as albedo changes.

  11. George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA

    The entire abstract makes a lot of sense as does the paper. This is a gme-changer.

    • Really George? I thought you were a real field geologist steeped in Compton. This paper is not even arm-waving, it’s more like arm-flailing.

      • David Springer

        Klein got a PhD in geology from Yale and taught at University of Illinois for twenty years, was director of NJ Marine Science Consortium for 3 years, and then became a consultant for the oil and gas industry working out of Houston.

        Sounds qualified enough to me. Certainly head and shoulders above clowns like Istvan and Mosher. And you’re a cut below them since they at least have the stones to make fools of themselves using real names.

  12. Latest book and documentary.
    ‘The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science’.



    http://www.drtimball.com

    Debate between Dr Tim Ball and Elizabeth May
    Scroll down to Ian Jessop part 1
    http://www.cfax1070.com/Podcasts

  13. The Columbia University press release has a good synopsis:

    “Tolstoy attributes this not only to the varying sea level, but to closely related changes in earth’s orbit. When the orbit is more elliptical, Earth gets squeezed and unsqueezed by the sun’s gravitational pull at a rapidly varying rate as it spins daily–a process that she thinks tends to massage undersea magma upward, and help open the tectonic cracks that let it out. When the orbit is fairly (though not completely) circular, as it is now, the squeezing/unsqueezing effect is minimized, and there are fewer eruptions.

    The idea that remote gravitational forces influence volcanism is mirrored by the short-term data, says Tolstoy. She says the seismic data suggest that today, undersea volcanoes pulse to life mainly during periods that come every two weeks. That is the schedule upon which combined gravity from the moon and sun cause ocean tides to reach their lowest points, thus subtly relieving pressure on volcanoes below. Seismic signals interpreted as eruptions followed fortnightly low tides at eight out of nine study sites. Furthermore, Tolstoy found that all known modern eruptions occur from January through June.”

    ====

    Where are the quantitative details: how much CO2 from these volcanoes can we expect in active versus quiescent periods compared to the CO2 already in the atmosphere? i.e. what percentage perturbation is this effect on the amount of CO2 that already exists?

  14. Some of the previous subsea volcanic stuff from this group has been pretty thoroughly debunked. So went and read the paper permthe link. No data. Pure speculation, based on previous papers, some already debunked.
    Color me more than just unimpressed. How the the hey does this stuff get published? Tectonic sea floor spreading eruptions affected by neap tides? Come on. Absurd on its face.

    • thanks. agree that it is short on quantitative details.

      • That’s a good sign for a game changer, right?

      • Well, it’s been out for a year and seems to not have changed the game much yet.

        Maybe if it had some indication of the amount of CO2 we can expect in active vs. quiescent periods it may begin to change the game.

        Hope someone is working on that part.

        It’s interesting speculation at this point.

    • It was rather thin gruel

    • Looks like we’ve found that common ground Seagrest was seeking.
      Arm waving is…arm waving.

    • Maybe it’s possible for a magma chamber to be in a delicate equilibrium, the sea level swings can induce harmonics? We would need a coupled geomechanics model with an extremely fine grid, but I’m not sure there’s a good description of the physical properties of magma?

      • Ferando, here I agree with Mosher. Most seafloor spreading ridges are not underlain by magma chambers. Those are usually subduction zone volcanos, or crustal ‘hot spots’ like Hawaii and Yellowstone.

      • ristvan – The oceanic crust only averages about 7 km thick. At the ocanic ridges the crust is even thinner in many cases, as the magma is getting in between and pushing the crust apart. See the images at Wikipedia and other places. There is effectively a magma chamber all along the ridges. At least that is the current thinking as THE driving force behind plate tectonics and continental drift.

        In addition, it is not ALL mid-ocean ridges she is talking about. It doesn’t take all of them. At hot spots, like the Galapagos Rift and the East Pacific Rise, the magma even works its way onto the sea floor. You probably know all this…

        As I read her paper, she is kind of sucking up to the global warming people – probably to get into their good graces for funding purposes.

        Making this about CO2 is inappropriate, IMHO. The HEAT could be much more of a problem. Especially since the Galapagos Rift is right where the surface hot plume starts every El Niño cycle. See the paper at Hot Cradle of El Niño at http://precedings.nature.com/documents/1764/version/1/files/npre20081764-1.pdf
        by Li-Guang Sun Zhou-Qing Xie 2008.

        It begins:
        “Here we propose that the El Niño is originated in the region of west-east oriented Galapagos ocean ridge and hydrothermal plumes. . .”

        Perhaps the reason El Niño originates there is an infusion of heat energy. Tolstoy even points out that the changes in the ocean ridges happens seasonally, due to gravity variations. And the Earth-Sun gravitational pull is increasing as the Earth approaches its closest point to the Sun.

    • David Springer

      Mosher and Istvan dissing a peer-reviewed paper published in GRL from a research group at Columbia University.

      That’s rich. You two clowns have immeasurable talent at making horse’s asses out of yourselves. Maybe there’s an essay “The South End of a Northbound Horse” in one of Istvan’s stupid self-published ebooks that he’s constantly hawking.

      • David, you would do well to google a little tectonic geology and educate yourself before making such silly assertions. I have published three ebooks, all with references and footnotes. None by the title you cite. And my publisher also resents your characterization. Else, why would it be taking a greater than 50% net cut? Please refer to comments on the state of the blog thread. You here exemplify what is bad, not good, about CE.

      • David Springer

        I count it as “self-published” when it’s a fee-for-publish outfit. It’s usually called “vanity press” which certainly fits your character well. You may take issue with that but it remains my opinion.

        You (and others) might be interested in this Alert about your publisher SPBRA at WRITER BEWARE® , part of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

        http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/alerts/#SBPRA

        SFWA is particularly relevant to your literary works so you should probably consider joining if not already a member!

    • Perhaps – but then again, something like this may explain the 60-odd year ocean cycles. After all, that also matches a 60-odd year lunar cycle. So changes in tides AND vulcanism providing the extra heat driving more water movement COULD be a “positive feedback” that explains a large amount of ocean variability.
      Maybe.

    • I read this as an idea only because it has no data. I won’t dismiss it because the shift of water to massive continental glaciers, and the dramatic changes in sea levels have to shift tremendous weight around the globe. If we buy the fact that the earth’s crust is pliable enough to move in plates, and the weight shift significant enough to depress continental areas, we should be willing to discuss the ramifications. Tides – not so much. I await data.

  15. The paper may be a game-changer on geological timescales but it appears to be saying that right now in Earth’s history the volcanoes ought not to be contributing a lot of CO2.

  16. Full disclosure. Didn’t read it yet. Comment pertains only to JC narrative.

    We are very much “in the market” for an explanation of seafloor spreading. Modern seismology excludes the mantle convection model. Contrary to ingrained intuition, rocks actually melt and extrude when pressure is reduced. Tidal influences could be beautiful.

    However, multiples of 41 kyr orbital “forcings” do not resolve well with 100 kyr periodicity. No known significant orbital forcings changed across the mid- Pleistocene transition from roughly 41 kyr to 100 kyr resonance. One hundred kyr spectra fall into the realm of eccentricity, the only known orbital parameter that actually changes the net earth energy input.

    Yet the strongest and most stable eccentricity forcing is ~410 kyr. Go figure.

    Stay humble. Game change would be good. We still have not figured it out yet.

  17. For 800,000 years glacial periods have ended abruptly once the orbit of the earth reaches a maximum orbital eccentricity. Milankovitch insolation theory cannot explain this 100,000 year cycle. The lunar and solar tides on earth are also affected by the same Milankovitch cycles. Their effect on ocean heat transfer and ice formation has been long documented. Maximum spring tides existing 15,000 years ago were likely at least 50% stronger than those today. This must have had the largest effect in polar regions and is directly linked to the 100,000 year eccentricity cycle. It therefore seems feasible that the moon really is indeed responsible for the regular glacial cycle.

    http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=5464

    • It snows when oceans are warm and the ice from a major ice age does take a hundred thousand years to melt and retreat. It snows when oceans are warm and thawed. then cooling happens. it does not snow when oceans are cold and frozen, ice does decrease and warming happens.

  18. Earth temperature is regulated, look at the data. NH and SH temperatures have been in the same bounds for ten thousand years. All this external stuff and all the internal stuff has no thermostat that can turn cooling on and off as needed. Only polar oceans can thaw and freeze to turn snowfall on and off as needed. The other stuff is just useless stuff.

  19. A study to bring home the point that humanity’s contribution to climate change is comparable to a gnat on a horse’s a…?

  20. “the paper is single authored a fact that should suggest some reflections on the current state of science”
    I think it just suggests that it is a very bad paper that no-one else would want to put their name to. As said above, it is arm-waving. It is even vague on time scale. And not at all quantitative on the actual amount of CO2 that might be produced.

    There is one attempt to be quantitative.
    “A CO2 production rate of ~2 x 10^12 mole/yr is ~0.088 gT/yr or ~0.041 ppmv of CO2. For instance, an increase of only 50% in the eruption rate over the ~5 kyr typical for abrupt ends to ice-ages would thus theoretically result in an ~100 ppmv rise in CO2.”
    The 50% is just plucked out of the air. But it corresponds to about 0.044 gT/yr CO2, or 0.012 gT/yr carbon. We burn about 1000 times that. This is no game-changer.

    Incidentally, .088 gT CO2 is about 0.011 ppmv CO2. They have used the conversion factor for C. It looks like the reviewing was as sloppy as the paper. Which may be how it got published.

    The evidence for tidal effect is based on just nine eruptions – very feeble. But even if true, it’s unlikely that the tides are doing any more than altering the timing of the eruption by a few days. Analogous to using explosives to trigger avalanches. The tides don’t create the CO2; they slightly modify the release time.

    • Nick

      This does all sound very unlikely, if intriguing. However in climate science our knowledge encompasses the ‘unknown knowns’ and the ‘known unknowns’ so lets defer to Shakespeare on this one and look forward to some better in-depth research;

      ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
      Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

      tonyb

      • Tonyb I thought you had confused Donald Rumsfeld with William Shakespeare .. until I read your 2nd par.

    • David Springer

  21. Nick Stokes | January 24, 2016 at 10:54 pm | Reply

    “the paper is even vague on time scale.
    This does not seem to qualify for vague, Nick
    “the ~5 kyr typical for abrupt ends to ice-ages
    “An ~100 kyr periodicity in fast-spreading seafloor bathymetry ”
    ” And not at all quantitative on the actual amount of CO2 that might be produced.”
    So can you enlighten us, oh learned one on the amount of CO2 that a volcano produces is?
    Or how much CO2 is produced by volcanoes yearly world wide?
    QI answer, nobody knows.
    “There is one attempt to be quantitative”.
    So he is quantitative then?
    ” an increase of only 50% in the eruption rate over the ~5 kyr typical for abrupt ends to ice-ages would thus theoretically result in an ~100 ppmv rise in CO2. The 50% is just plucked out of the air.”
    So what figure should he have picked out of the air maestro?
    ” The evidence for tidal effect is based on just nine eruptions – very feeble. But even if true”,
    More than 9 eruptions, 9 cases of eruptions [multiple occurring at a specified time]. So how many eruptions would be robust in your opinion?
    And if truth is only “feeble” what is your qualification for robust apart from the truth?

    ” it’s unlikely that the tides are doing any more than altering the timing of the eruption by a few days.”
    true.
    You did read the abstract?, no.
    Its at what stage of the Milankovitch cycles the eruptions become more frequent that’s what is important.
    If it is a bad paper Nick, attack the substance, not your preconceived windmills.

    Leave a Rep

    • Yes I agree. Usually his critiques are pretty good but in this case, IMO, it is weaker than the weak paper.

  22. I don’t understand why there is so much conversation about the CO2 contribution factor here. I find it ancillary considering CO2 emission is a feedback to heat change (oceans release more CO2 as they warm, retain more when they cool).

    Instead, the potential “game-changer” aspect to this paper is the consideration that extensive/decadal-scale volcanic eruption eras – such as those documented during the Dalton Minimum during the early 1800s – are highly correlated with climate changes (short- and long-term cooling primarily). More important than underseas eruptions, if volcanoes can and do erupt more often on *land* too during these regular intervals (the first 6 months of the year, when the Earth is “squeezed,” etc.) – as one would assume the “pulses” are not limited to the underseas areas only, but globally – then this increase in volcanic aerosol forcing could potentially cool the climate system during Little Ice Age-type climate periods too, not just on glacial/interglacial 100ky/10ky timescales. In other words, if there are decreases in eruptions (both undersea and on land) during warmer intervals like the MWP or CWP, and increases in eruptions during cooler periods (the Maunder, Dalton minimums/LIA), then this could be a natural contributor to the climate changes that have been observed in recent centuries and reconstructed from paleoclimate studies.

    After all, the latest OCEANS2k paper suggests that the long-term cooling of sea surface temperatures from the 1st millennium to the LIA was not due to solar activity forcing (minimums), but centennial- and global-scale explosive volcanism.


    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v8/n9/full/ngeo2510.html
    Climate simulations using single and cumulative forcings suggest that the ocean surface cooling trend from 801 to 1800 CE is not primarily a response to orbital forcing but arises from a high frequency of explosive volcanism. Our results show that repeated clusters of volcanic eruptions can induce a net negative radiative forcing that results in a centennial and global scale cooling trend via a decline in mixed-layer oceanic heat content.

    Considering the paleoclimate record suggests that the globe has been in a period of volcanic quiescence since about 1920, and that significantly more volcanic eruptions were recorded during the Little Ice Age period (1300-1900), and that this has corresponded with cooler temperatures (LIA) vs. warmer temperatures (20th Century), could this paper provide a link to modern climate changes too, and not just the 100ky scaled changes?


    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024035
    Explosive volcanism resulting in stratospheric injection of sulfate aerosol is a major driver of regional to global climatic variability on interannual and longer timescales. Thirty eight (79%) of 48 volcanic events identified in the sulfate deposition record of the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 ice-core correspond to 37 (54%) of 69 cold events in this 1219 year period. We show this association to be statistically significant at the 99.7% confidence level

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n10/full/ngeo955.html
    Here we use a coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation model to show that the phasing of the multidecadal fluctuations in the North Atlantic during the past 600 years is, to a large degree, governed by changes in the external solar and volcanic forcings. We find that volcanoes play a particularly important part in the phasing of the multidecadal variability through their direct influence on tropical sea-surface temperatures, on the leading mode of northern-hemisphere atmosphere circulation and on the Atlantic thermohaline circulation.

    http://www.clim-past.net/10/921/2014/cp-10-921-2014.html
    Global and hemispheric mean surface temperatures show a significant dependence on solar irradiance at λ [wavelengths] > 250 nm. Also, powerful volcanic eruptions in 1809, 1815, 1831 and 1835 significantly decreased global mean temperature by up to 0.5 K for 2–3 years after the eruption. Reduction of irradiance at λ [wavelengths] > 250 nm leads to a significant (up to 2%) decrease in the ocean heat content (OHC) between 0 and 300 m in depth, whereas the changes in irradiance at λ < 250 nm or in energetic particles have virtually no effect. Also, volcanic aerosol yields a very strong response, reducing the OHC of the upper ocean by up to 1.5%. In the simulation with all forcings, the OHC of the uppermost levels recovers after 8–15 years after volcanic eruption, while the solar signal and the different volcanic eruptions dominate the OHC changes in the deeper ocean and prevent its recovery during the DM. Finally, the simulations suggest that the volcanic eruptions during the DM had a significant impact on the precipitation patterns caused by a widening of the Hadley cell and a shift in the intertropical convergence zone.

  23. Sorry, I’ve already suggested the link between mid-oceanic volcanoes and climate cycles so this is nothing new:

    http://scottishsceptic.co.uk/2015/02/17/the-caterpillar-theory-of-tectonic-plate-movement-its-just-simple-physics/

  24. Is this post part of the “anything but CO2” series?

    • “Is this post part of the “anything but CO2” series?”
      I think it would rather be “anything but us”.

      • Matthew,
        Are you really suggesting that undersea volcanoes are a known unknown? As I understand it, both the geothermal flux and the release of CO2 by volcanoes are not regarded as plausible drivers of modern climate change.

    • and Then There’s Physics: Is this post part of the “anything but CO2” series?

      That’s one way to put it, if CO2 is your only interest. But it is more like the series “How does everything affecting climate work?” Back when Hansen gave his testimony in the non-air-conditioned Senate, this was an unknown unknown. Now it is a known unknown. It might be the last of the unknown unknowns relevant to climate to become known, or there may be more to discover.

      • and Then There’s Physics: Are you really suggesting that undersea volcanoes are a known unknown? As I understand it, both the geothermal flux and the release of CO2 by volcanoes are not regarded as plausible drivers of modern climate change.

        Answer, yes, unless you can show that they are known knowns. I doubt that CO2 from undersea volcanoes is responsible for recent global climate change, but I regard the quantitative estimates as poor.

    • Is this post part of the “anything but CO2” series?

      Well… first you have to prove strong CO2 forcing before the other influences aren’t important.

      The only study is 0.2 W/m2 for a 22 PPM CO2 increase over 11 years. That isn’t strong forcing no matter how you slice it.

      ATTP can’t demonstrate a measurement of strong CO2 forcing, Further he can’t even claim all the CO2 rise is from man. Before the CO2 level hit 311 PPM the influence of emissions appears to be negligible. Other natural sources of CO2 and other anthropogenic warming sources further diminish the fossil fuel related warming attribution. Obviously something else is doing some forcing.

  25. dikranmarsupial

    If the natural environment (which includes undersea volcanoes) were a net source of CO2 into the atmosphere, then atmospheric CO2 would be rising at a rate faster than that of anthropogenic emissions. However we know, with very high certainty that this is not the case. Therefore we know that the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic and that the natural environment (including undersea volcanic activity) is a net carbon sink, opposing the rise.

    While undersea volcanic emissions may be relevant on geological time scales, it isn’t what is causing the modern rise in atmospheric CO2. This clearly isn’t a game-changer (at least if the game in question is the climate change over the last century and over the next).

    • While I was not impressed by the cited paper, lumping together biological sinks/sources with undersea volcanic activity answers a different question and tells us little beyond the (currently) limited scale of the volcanic activity itself.

    • Alan Longhurst

      When I suggested this paper was a game-changer, I didnt think it necessary to say that I was thinking in terms of Milankevitch scale processes like the author and the others I quoted above. Its interesting that Charles Keeling became interested in and published on the CO2 consequences of ocean tides when he’d got enough data from Mauna Loa to know what was going on today. And if Walter Munk decided that deep sea tides ‘dwarfed’ MIlankekevitch forcing, then I’m not going to quarrel with him…

      What subsea vulcanism might do today to our own CO2 problem is not relevant to the suggestions.

      • Some of us understood your meaning Alan. Others may possibly be too fixated on the last blip to see a broader perspective.

      • It is obvious from the abstract alone that the subject is discussed in terms of geological timescales. There are some people who want to talk only about the effect of this on the climate of the last one hundred years or so because that is all they have to discuss. Absent the last hundred years there is no global warming problem to worry about.

      • dikranmarsupial: “Yes, however that would not imply that the rise in atmospheric CO2 were natural, it might mean that the natural envrionment had opposed the rise less that year than it would otherwise have done. As I keep saying you have to consider the natural sinks and sources together. If the volcano erupted sufficient CO2 that natural emissions exceeded natural uptake, THEN in that year there would indeed be a natural component to the atmospheric increase.”

        Those are very strange conclusions that you are committing yourself to. In your view, if natural volcanic activity began to increase abnormally, and would very discernibly ‘produce’ (you would balk at using the word “cause”) an increase in the rate of atmospheric CO2 increase (since it would have the very same, shall I say ‘effect’ that an identical increase in antropogenic CO2 emissions would have had), it is only at the *exact* time where nature as a whole would turn into a net source that you would credit *any* of the volcanic influence on atmospheric CO2 concentrations with a causal role at all. Would you say that the rate of atmospheric CO2 increase would become 50% natural overnight? Some other fraction?

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard, if you claim you can make an attribution using the mass balance equation then that is a full blown attribution argument. To start saying it isn’t and there can be exceptions indicates you consider the argument invalid.

      • > if you claim you can make an attribution using the mass balance equation then that is a full blown attribution argument.

        Not if by “full blown argument” I mean something that goes beyond a simple mass balance argument, which only refers to two types of sinks as a whole.

        If Denizens claim that the mass balance argument leads to the absurd conclusion that volcans don’t exist, chances are there’s something wrong in the Denizens’ suggested presentation of the mass balance argument.

      • stevenreincarnated

        The mass balance equation as used by DM claims that all of the increase had to be anthropogenic. Because CO2 creates its own sinks you have to know how much sink the CO2 creates in order to know how much is staying in the atmosphere. It is quite possible that without aCO2 there could be an increase in atmsopheric CO2 naturally and mass balance equations do not prove that isn’t the case. I’ll just wait for you guys to come up with an equation that incorporates the fact that CO2 creates its own sinks and proves using mass balance that the rise was completely anthropogenic or even mostly anthropogenic since mass balance alone can’t even prove that.

      • > It is quite possible that without aCO2 there could be an increase in atmsopheric CO2 naturally and mass balance equations do not prove that isn’t the case.

        I’d be more worried about an argument with the same conclusion whatever premises you feed it, stevenreincarnated. I doubt the mass balance equation can prove that the raise in the CO2 budget is caused by aCO2 if there’s no aCO2 in the first place. It’s a balance: what does not come in can’t come out.

        Salby’s trick is dispelled as soon as you push it to that limit. So I suggest you be more subtle than that. Bartemis’ deamon was one try. Pierre-Normand’s composition trick was another one. What will it be next?

        Go Team!

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard, I think at least most the increase in atmospheric CO2 was caused by man. That is because I looked at potential sources and sinks and other evidence. Since you are cheer leading why don’t you cheer on your team to create the equation I asked for.

      • stevenreincarnated

        BTW Willard, P-N thinks all the increase was anthropogenic. We are both arguing over the validity of the argument and not the conclusion at all for P-N and hardly a difference worth arguing about for me.

      • > We are both arguing over the validity of the argument […]

        And I’m arguing that all the counter-arguments I’ve seen so far are themselves invalid.

        Pierre-Normand has attacked its inference by trying to split the terms into parts. This doesn’t work. Either he comes out with another way to attack the inference, or he switches to the premises of the mass balance argument. The latter moves implies he rejects the argument, contrary to what he claims.

        Argument mechanics ain’t rocket science.

      • stevenreincarnated

        I’m not suprised that you don’t see it, Willard. Now produce the equation I asked for and prove it.

      • And I’m not surprised you now switch to equations instead of defending your invalidity claim, stevenreincarnated. Here’s the argument, as far as I can reconstruct it (DM can correct me if I’m wrong):

        (0) What governs the rise in atmospheric CO2 is the difference between emissions and uptake; while there is a large exchange flux that is constantly swapping CO2 from the atmosphere with CO2 from the oceans and terrestrial biota, the exchange is a straight swap and has no effect whatsoever on atmospheric CO2 levels.

        (1) Natural uptake is the difference between natural uptake and natural emissions that governs the natural effect on atmospheric CO2.

        (2) Anthropogenic uptake is essentially zero,

        (3) The annual rise in atmospheric CO2 has been smaller than the volume of anthropogenic emissions (fossil fuel and land use) every year for the last 50 years.

        (4) If the environment were a net carbon source, the annual rise in atmospheric CO2 would be greater than anthropogenic emissions, not less.

        (5) Mass conserves itself and objects are permanent.

        (6) As a whole, the natural environment is therefore a net carbon sink OPPOSING the rise in atmospheric concentrations, not causing it; this is true regardless of the behaviour of individual fluxes.

        (7) As a whole, the natural environment is not the cause of the observed rise in atmospheric concentrations.

        (8) Anyone who’d dispute (6) or (7) needs to explain (3).

        If you want to dispute the validity of DM’s argument, you need to pick at least one number.

        ***

        This is my reconstruction of the 26 comments by DM on this thread:

        https://judithcurry.com/2011/08/04/carbon-cycle-questions

        I only added object permanence to hint at the fact that this argument could not be parsed by agents who are less than one month old.

        This isn’t DM’s argument alone – as he himself says, it was in WG1 and appeared in numerous papers on the carbon cycle.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard, if you look at the equation I have on this post you will find an f in the equation. That f represents the sinks created by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. With a complete lack of knowledge about f, which is what the mass balance only argument says you can have, you can produce any value of increasing atmospheric CO2 from natural sources that you desire. I went to the equation argument because words are being wasted. I made an equation that explains my argument just fine. Now prove it wrong and don’t bother arguing with me further until you can or at least think you can.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard. don’t tell me the equation DM used is in other paperwork. Show me. I will be happy to show you why it isn’t the same.

      • dikranmarsupial

        perhaps you should have read the paper to which I directed your attention earlier, which contains a reference to a journal paper in which you can find the mass balance equation (equation 1 – although written in a slightly different form). Given that you obviously don’t bother reading the papers that contain the answers to your questions, I rather doubt you will read this one either.

        Ironically Murray Salby has the mass balance equation as well, except that he didn’t take the step of considering anthropogenic sources and natural sources separately, which is a shame, as if he had done so, he would have instantly seen that the rise cannot be attributed to nature.

        You won’t find many journal articles written in the last fifty years asking whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic, because that particular scientific question was pretty much settled years ago, and it is largely only discussed on the blogsphere. Where you will find the mass balance equation is in papers that estimate the net terrestrial flux, which is generally achieved by finding the resudial left after considering the observed rise, anthropogenic emissions and oceanic fluxes, which are all much better constrained by our understanding of the physics than terrestrial processes.

      • > With a complete lack of knowledge about f, which is what the mass balance only argument says you can have, you can produce any value of increasing atmospheric CO2 from natural sources that you desire.

        It is untrue that the mass balance argument works in complete lack of knowledge. Nevertheless:

        – If that value of f doesn’t contradict (4), then (6) still follows and the argument remains valid;

        – If that f contradicts (4), then you disagree with one of the premises of the mass balance argument and your argument is not about validity in the first place.

        ***

        To show that an argument is invalid, you need to accept its premises and show that its conclusion doesn’t follow. However, one does not simply accept the conclusion of an argument and then claim it’s invalid.

        If you dispute the veracity of the premises, you can claim that the argument is unsound. However, one does not simply reject the premises of an argument and then claim to accept the argument.

        This should suffice to show that you and P-N are not playing home right now, stevenreincarnated.

        Pick a number.

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, if you will post the equation from the journal paper that will be helpful. If it is the same one that Salby uses then, if my memory serves me correctly, you have arbitrarily decided you could do a little separating of sinks which you can’t do without knowing f from my equation.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard, have you stopped beating your wife? If you have then get busy on that equation.

      • dikranmarsupial

        steve wrote “DM, if you will post the equation from the journal paper that will be helpful.”

        O.K. so you can’t even be bothered to click on a link. Sorry that really is a bit pathetic. If you want to learn about the carbon cycle, then you do need to read a paper or two, not just expect people to spoon feed you every step along the way, I suspect you are just playing games.

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, sorry I saw it asking for ID and assumed it was paywalled (shrug).

      • dikranmarsupial

        steve, you didn’t read the other one either, and in that case clicking on the link takes you straight to the .pdf file. It is clear that you are not really interested in the answers to your questions. If you were you would have downloaded my paper and read it, and seen a basic carbon cycle model that does model the change in sinks due to increasing atmospheric CO2, and seen that it is completely consistent with the mass balance exercise. The main reason that I wrote the paper was to be an accessible introduction for those that have been mislead by claims largely made on the blogsphere (e.g. Essenhigh’s residence time argument, Salby’s correlation etc.). Oddly enough it is of no use if people can’t be bothered to click on a link and read it! ;o)

      • Way more entertaining to posit that “CO2 creates its own sinks” than to read, Dikran.

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, I read yours. I think I’ve read it before. It’s the same arguments you make here. I don’t see in the other paper where they make arbitrary separations of sinks into natural and anthropogenic. I saw where they used the very basic mass balance equation which is the same one Salby uses. I scanned the paper several times although I do admit I didn’t read every word.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Equation Willard. If you can’t prove mine wrong then it is right as far as I’m concerned and it proves that mass balance alone proves nothing.

      • Mass balance is the single most important calculation when you have multi-phase flow, temperature and chemistry. This applies to earth sciences and process engineering. It is also critical to calculate it using different measurements to verify you are in the ballpark and can pass the straight-face test.

        This comment focus is puzzling to me, especially the comments from stevereincarnated. stevereincarnated needs to explicitly state his conceptual model on CO2 creating it’s own sinks because it sounds like impotent ravings about intelligent design. The best I can figure out is he believes that electrons are also capable of creating their own storage battery.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Horst, increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere forces the oceans to take more CO2 up and also likely increases biomass on the land but the oceans are a sure thing.. If you need further explanation let me know.

      • Argument, stevenreincarnated. You can’t prove DM’s wrong unless you pick a number.

        Once you accept that CO2 creates its own sink, Bartemis’ Daemon can sink it with an infinite number of control machines.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard, if I picked a number, and I could but I’m too lazy, it would be going beyond mass balance because that would indicate I know something about potential sinks.

      • You actually did, stevenreincarnated, but you simply can’t read.

        Hint: something about CO2 creating their own sinks.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard, I think Henry’s law covers that. If you want a value figure it out yourself unless you don’t think the laws of physics are likely to be accurate. Just don’t use it in an argument that is based on knowing only the mass balance equation. Don’t forget, I am the one saying that mass balance isn’t enough so it is perfectly reasonable for me to go beyond mass balance.

      • > Don’t forget, I am the one saying that mass balance isn’t enough it is perfectly reasonable for me to go beyond mass balance.

        As long as you recognize that doing so compels you to pick up a number, suit yourself.

      • stevereincarnated: You are talking about capacities of the hydro- and bio-spheres. CO2 creates no sinks, it flows to places it is welcome and flows from places it is not. I’m the crazy one:

      • stevenreincarnated

        Horst, I’m not too picky about what word people prefer as long as they understand they are talking bout the same thing.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard, I’ve already picked a number. I don’t have any interest in going back and picking it again. Remember I told you I thought at least most of the atmospheric increase was anthropogenic based upon, among other things, looking at potential sources and sinks? But you don’t need any of that since you have mass balance, right?

      • dikranmarsupial

        stevenreincarnated wrote “DM, I read yours. I think I’ve read it before.”

        Rubbish, if you had you wouldn’t be asking for equations for a model that included increased natural uptake due to increased atmospheric CO2 and you wouldn’t ask Willard for evidence that the mass balance argument wasn’t mine. Sorry, you are just playing games.

      • dikranmarsupial

        steve wrote ” I don’t see in the other paper where they make arbitrary separations of sinks into natural and anthropogenic.”

        it is in equation 1 of the Raupach paper I gave the link to. If you are going to play silly rhetorical games, it is better not to be quite so transparent about it!

        For a start there are no significant anthropogenic sinks, we are not currently performing any meaningful amounts of carbon capture and storage for instance. The division is also non-arbitrary. Natural sinks are natural processes that take CO2 out of the atmosphere; anthropogenic sinks would be artificial (i.e. man made processes, such as CCS) that take CO2 out of the atmosphere).

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, I didn’t ask for a model of CO2 uptake. I didn’t think the mass balanxce equation was yours, I thought and still do think you bastardized it separating sinks and that when you separated out sinks into anthropogenic and natural was where you caused yourself to make the error you have. Now this is the equation 1 you were talking about:

        C’a = FE +FS = (F foss + F luc) + (F landair + F oceanair)

        Where is the separation of the sinks?

        In fact if there isn’t one don’t bother responding. You are wrong. It is obvious you are wrong. And I have no interest in going over the same ground over and over. Make the equation I asked for.

      • stevenreincarnated

        I better specify where is the separation of the sinks into natural and anthropogenic sinks.

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, if you don’t think anthropogenic CO2 caused the increase in the sinks, what do you think caused it? Would we be at 160ppm CO2 now except for us? Thank goodness for us then, huh?

      • dikranmarsupial

        steve wrote “C’a = FE +FS = (F foss + F luc) + (F landair + F oceanair)

        Where is the separation of the sinks?”

        The sinks are already separated. There are no anthropogenic sinks – we don;t do any sequestration at the moment. The only sinks are natural ones, comprising the negative part of the landair and oceanair fluxes. If the oceans start to take more CO2 out of the atmosphere because CO2 levels have risen, that is not an anthropogenic sink, it is a natural one, because it occurs because of natural physical mechanisms rather than artificial ones.

        Do yourself a favour and actually read the papers that I have linked, CAREFULLY, don’t just skim them, and hopefully you will find your misunderstanding., However I can’t be bothered spoon feeding you any longer, especially as you appear unwilling to accept what is on the spoon, so I’ll leave it at that.

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, sorry I was a bit rude. We aren’t going to agree on this. I’m still positive you are the one in error but I’d rather not discuss it any longer. I am worn out on this topic.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Ok, I know this is a mistake but let me try one more time.

        You have two identical worlds.In world 1 you have a positive En and a certain percentage of those emissions are kept in the atmosphere.

        In world 2 you have a positive Ea and a certain percentage of those emissions are kept in the atmosphere.

        Now you combine the two worlds and you get a percentage kept in the atmosphere equivalent to world 1 + world 2.

        Because Ea is larger than the total of the two amounts that have gone into the sink you should now attribute all of the increase to Ea and En no longer contributes anything?

      • stevenreincarnated

        That should be because Ea is larger than the amount of the total that stayed in the atmosphere.

      • DM, ” There are no anthropogenic sinks – we don;t do any sequestration at the moment.”

        Nope, there is plenty of anthorpogenic sequestration going on, however, because of this narrow logic, some people are getting their account drained by the warm and fuzzy concept of carbon neutral.

        The South East US for example planted huge tree farms for mainly construction materials. Nearly 50% of each tree stays in the soil and nearly 50% of the harvested mass goes to construct homes that should last longer than 50 years. The UK then buys the wood meant for one long term purpose and burns it along with all the energy required to produce and ship the pellets. Now the UK has carbon Credit for creating a carbon source from and anthropogenic sink.

        Your concept of carbon mass balance creates a ponzi scheme.

        Now I know you must find some intellectual joy defending the simplistic equation to justify your existence in the Blog world, but man does both good and bad things. What you are doing is ignoring the good unless it happens to be your idea.

      • another thing that is interesting is that forests have a carbon uptake curve. They reach a point they approach a carbon source somewhere between 100 and a thousand years. As they approach that point, forestry management, that would be logging by the flannel impaired followed by replanting, starts a new local carbon cycle. If you don’t manage the forest and they burn or get taken over by invasive species or insects, they become an anthropogenic carbon source because there are no “natural” sources. Since 50% of the land surface is effectively “artificial” up to 50% of the land carbon sink/source is anthropogenic. One systemic termite solution in North America alone could erase the fossil fuel source account. And that could be just invasive termites, but that was a “pre-industrial” issue wasn’t it?

      • Don’t even humor him on the artificial line of thinking. Humans are part of nature, part of the biosphere. We might BE the equivalent of giant termites in his mind, but he cannot admit that as such, none of the carbon we are injecting into the cycle is UNnatural. If we ate the trees ourselves, deforestation caused by humans would be “natural” to him, but since we build things out of them, or burn them, it is not natural to him.

        Don’t enable his madness. Help him recover. :)

    • For the past 50 to 70 years, not a game changer. Past 2000, yep, could be a game changer or at least a game adjuster.

      Tropical ocean, solar and volcanic reconstructions tend to agree more with Lamb than Mann which makes the assumption of +/- 0.1 C of “natural” variability a bit difficult to swallow. Since there is more than just submarine volcanic CO2 to consider, the real game change might be doing science instead of defending scientists.

      • ATTP wrote: “Except – as Dikran has already pointed out – this isn’t strictly true.”

        No. It is strictly true that volcanoes are a net source. That this source is balanced out by weathering, sedimentation and subduction doesn’t make this claim “not strictly true”. The consideration that you are adducing is part of an argument for ruling out volcanoes as a causal agent of the atmospheric increase. But this has nothing to do with the ‘mass balance argument’, since this simplistic ‘mass balance argument’ treats the whole of “nature” as an undifferentiated entity, and concludes on the strength of the fact that is is, as a whole, a net sink, that it can’t be the cause of the increase. But this is a fallacy. Some *part* of nature (if not volcanoes, then maybe something else) can cause (part) of the increase, just as much as we can. In order to rule out volcanoes, or any other part of nature, you have to go beyond the ‘mass balance argument’.

      • > you are equivocating between the claim that “the natural environment” was opposing the rise (correct) and the claim that no part of the natural environment could have partially contributed to the rise (non sequitur).

        The claim of non sequitur implies that some part of the natural environment can do more than the whole of it.

        A balance argument without a balance somewhere ain’t a balance argument.

      • On balance, yes

      • Willard wrote: “The claim of non sequitur implies that some part of the natural environment can do more than the whole of it.”

        Is that difficult to imagine? Since the whole of the environment increasingly is a net sink (and hasn’t always been), then its contribution to the atmospheric increase is negative. Therefore, a single natural source (a volcano, say) that increases its output will contribute some positive share to the atmospheric increase. Since a positive number is larger than a negative number, yes, one can say that a part of the environment (the volcano) has contributed more than the whole environment (an increasingly large net sink).

      • It is strictly true that volcanoes are a net source. That this source is balanced out by weathering, sedimentation and subduction doesn’t make this claim “not strictly true”.

        Except volcanoes are simply the physical mechanism that outgasses from the lithosphere. The reservoir is the lithosphere. If volcanic outgassing is in balance with the removal of CO2 back into the lithosphere, then the lithosphere cannot be a net source of CO2. If the lithosphere is not a net source, the oceans are not a net source, and the biosphere is not a net source, what’s left?

      • ATTP: “Except volcanoes are simply the physical mechanism that outgasses from the lithosphere. The reservoir is the lithosphere. If volcanic outgassing is in balance with the removal of CO2 back into the lithosphere, then the lithosphere cannot be a net source of CO2. If the lithosphere is not a net source, the oceans are not a net source, and the biosphere is not a net source, what’s left?”

        Why are you arguing this? This is common ground. But we were discussing the mass balance argument. DM believes, and argues, that just because nature as a whole is a net sink, therefore, individual sources (e.g. volcanoes) can’t possibly be causally responsible for any fraction at all of the recent atmospheric increase. (I agree with the conclusion, but not with the argument).

        The argument that you just gave is a description of our knowledge of the slow carbon cycle, and it indeed rules out volcanoes as a significant cause of the increase, simply because they are part of a carbon neutral cycle that didn’t change significantly. But that can’t be deduced from DM’s argument. His argument is fallacious because it enables him to dismiss any possible share of the causal attribution of the recent atmospheric increase to any natural causal agent merely on the ground that nature as a whole is a net sink.

      • Why are you arguing this?

        Well, because I’m suggesting that if you consider all the reservoirs from which CO2 could originate (lithosphere, oceans, biosphere, fossil fuels) then the only reservoir that is a net source is fossil fuels, which we’re burning. As I understand it, that is essentially the basis for the mass balance argument.

        DM believes, and argues, that just because nature as a whole is a net sink, therefore, individual sources (e.g. volcanoes) can’t possibly be causally responsible for any fraction at all of the recent atmospheric increase.

        I don’t know that this is what DM believes, but I’ll leave it for DM to clarify. I must admit that I had taken it as obvious that volcanoes (or the lithosphere) was not a source and so didn’t think I had to include it explicitly. This may have caused some of the confusion in this discussion.

      • ATTP-“Well, because I’m suggesting that if you consider all the reservoirs from which CO2 could originate (lithosphere, oceans, biosphere, fossil fuels) then the only reservoir that is a net source is fossil fuels, which we’re burning. As I understand it, that is essentially the basis for the mass balance argument.”

        There is no reservoir that is ONLY a net source, and not a sink. It’s simply not possible according to the mass balance argument. The mass balance argument insists that what goes into the system must either come out of the system somewhere else, get used up or generated by the system, or remain in the system and accumulate.

        Fossil fuels consist of organic materials-plants and animal matter. Living plants and animals are made up of carbon, and plants and animals (which includes humans) exchange carbon throughout their lives. When they die, they decay, and that releases the carbon in their cells back into the cycle. If they decay on the surface, that carbon gets released into the atmosphere. If they decay buried under rocks and sediment, that carbon is sequestered or stored in the “sink” that is their surroundings.

        We drill into the Earth and extract that “fossil fuel” from it’s “sink”, the earth’s crust/lithosphere. The original source of the now fossil fuel, was originally the biosphere. It is burned and enters that atmosphere. Then trees, plants, soil, oceans etc take that carbon into their cycles again.

        You are creating a “reservoir” called “fossil fuels” which does not exist in reality. The reservoir in which fossil fuels are stored, is the LITHOSPHERE. The lithosphere is both a sink and a source. The fossil fuel was once part of the biosphere, which is both a sink and a source. Pretending that there is some kind of unnatural reservoir out there called “fossil fuels” doesn’t make it so. Fossil fuels are created by the biosphere, and then absorbed by the lithosphere. Now they are in the atmosphere, and will cycle back into the other reservoirs again. They went into the system in one place and came out of it somewhere else. Mass balance.

      • > yes, one can say that a part of the environment (the volcano) has contributed more than the whole environment (an increasingly large net sink).

        Then either one can do some double accounting, or one can pay lips service to the balance argument while forgetting about the balance.

        Take your pick.

      • ATTP: “Well, because I’m suggesting that if you consider all the reservoirs from which CO2 could originate (lithosphere, oceans, biosphere, fossil fuels) then the only reservoir that is a net source is fossil fuels, which we’re burning. As I understand it, that is essentially the basis for the mass balance argument.”

        This argument would also be inconclusive. That’s the main trouble with the mass balance argument: it’s just an accounting consideration. But in order to infer something about causation, you need to supplement this with a physical argument. That’s because only knowledge of the physical/causal principles to govern a physical system tell you what would have occurred in counterfactual circumstances.

        The Earth actually has warmed about 1°C over the last century. This means that, other things being equal, if we had not released any CO2, the oceans would have (eventually) released some 16ppm CO2 in the atmosphere just because of the warming (and Henry’s law). That would mean that nature might have been responsible for 13% of the increase. But we know that anthopogenic CO2 caused this temperature increase, so we still are responsible for about 100% of the increase. But this is not a result from accounting. It is an inference from physics. If the cause of the warming had been different, the accounting would be the same, but our share of the causal attribution would be lower, and the mass balance argument would give an incorrect result.

      • > This argument would also be inconclusive.

        Inconclusive for what, and how would this be related to anything DM said?

        This kind of incomplete sentence is a bane to sound argumentation.

        ***

        > That’s the main trouble with the mass balance argument: it’s just an accounting consideration.

        As far as accounting considerations are concerned, it’s conclusive enough for DM’s claim that “If the rise is less than anthro emissions, then the sum of all other sources/sinks must be negative.”

        You can dispute the additivity premise, the observations for the empirical one, but you can’t say that DM’s conclusion doesn’t follow from these premises.

        At best you can argue that anthropocentric interference goes beyond that arithmetic, but some authority experts may find that counterintuitive.

      • Willard said: “You can dispute the additivity premise, the observations for the empirical one, but you can’t say that DM’s conclusion doesn’t follow from these premises.”

        You haven’t paid attention to the argument. I’ve always acknowledged that you can conclude from the mass balance argument that nature (the sum total of natural sources and sinks) is a net sink. This has never been under dispute. What has been under dispute is that from this argument (and the only premise about anthropological emissions being larger than the rate of atmospheric concentration increase over the period of reference) one can further conclude that man is exclusively responsible for the increase. It is *this* causal attribution that is under dispute. It doesn’t follow from the premise, though it can be established on the basis of further physical considerations and data.

      • “You haven’t paid attention to the argument. I’ve always acknowledged that you can conclude from the mass balance argument that nature (the sum total of natural sources and sinks) is a net sink.”

        This makes no sense. Mass balance, by definition, implies that a balance is achievable. If the sum total of natural sources and sinks does not balance (it is a net sink) then what good does it do to use the mass balance argument in the first place?

      • > I’ve always acknowledged that you can conclude from the mass balance argument that nature (the sum total of natural sources and sinks) is a net sink.

        That’s not how I read this:

        Some *part* of nature (if not volcanoes, then maybe something else) can cause (part) of the increase, just as much as we can. In order to rule out volcanoes, or any other part of nature, you have to go beyond the ‘mass balance argument’.

        Once you accept that kind of possibility, no balance argument can ever follow. Accounting can’t be immuned from a “something else” it hasn’t taken into account. Appealing to ignorance can dissolve any knowledge claim whatsoever.

        ***

        > What has been under dispute is that from this argument (and the only premise about anthropological emissions being larger than the rate of atmospheric concentration increase over the period of reference) one can further conclude that man is exclusively responsible for the increase.

        Who disputed this except you? The emphasized bit indicates the shadow of a strawman. Attribution is never as simple as detection. Any Clue player can attest to that.

        ***

        Here’s your challenge:

        [F]ind some other situation where X causes the amount of Y in Z to rise while taking more Y out of Z than it puts in. Can you find an every day example of X, Y and Z where this would be reasonable (e.g. X = me, Y = money, Z = bank account)?

        https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/24/undersea-volcanoes-may-be-impacting-long-term-climate-change/#comment-760276

        Only meeting that challenge would indicate that everyone is not in violent agreement after all.

        If you think you can meet that challenge, you are hereby invited to write a guest post at AT’s presenting the balance argument and your limitation to it. It could be at AT’s. At Judy’s would be fine too.

      • Yes, Willard, I may be the only one here explicitly disputing this argument. I said that it was the argument under dispute in order to stress that it was this argument, and not another one, that was the locus of disagreement.

        As for Dikran’s challenge, it is impossible to meet, and only displays his (and your) missing of my point. I never suggested that nature could contribute positively to the atmospheric CO2 increase (some positive attribution fraction) while removing more atmospheric CO2 than it releases. This is the trivial conclusion from the mass balance argument that I accept.

        What I claim, rather, is that under those conditions, it is still possible for something natural (a new big volcano, say, or several volcanoes — something that is part of nature) to be causally responsible for a positive fraction of the atmospheric increase, in spite of the fact that nature as a whole still contributes negatively. This is what Dikran is disputing. But this is such a simple and trivial idea that I don’t see why it is so stubbornly resisted. How is it that a new car on the streets can causally contribute to a minute fraction of the atmospheric CO2 increase, but an extra volcano (assumed uncompensated by some consequent increase in weathering processes) can’t?

      • Willard wrote: “Then either one can do some double accounting, or one can pay lips service to the balance argument while forgetting about the balance.”

        There is no double accounting involved in the argument. The fallacious argument that I am disputing is the argument that if a whole family gets poorer then, Joe, who is a member of that family, can’t positively contribute to the increase in average wealth of the nation. He can do so, provided only that he personally increases his wealth without occasioning a compensating detriment to others. The mere fact that he has siblings who do poorly doesn’t cancel his own causal contribution to the rise of the national average (and total).

      • Aphan wrote: “This makes no sense. Mass balance, by definition, implies that a balance is achievable. If the sum total of natural sources and sinks does not balance (it is a net sink) then what good does it do to use the mass balance argument in the first place?”

        Balance doesn’t mean equilibrium or steady state. What must balance just is the sum total of the carbon mass in all the reservoirs (lythosphere, oceans, atmosphere, biomass) at different times. Mass is conserved. The argument simply is that if the rate of human emissions is larger than the rate of increase of the atmospheric concentration over some period, then all the other reservoirs (biomass and oceans) must collectively constitute a net sinks over that period. For otherwise some carbon would be disappearing.

      • “What must balance just is the sum total of the carbon mass in all the reservoirs (lythosphere, oceans, atmosphere, biomass) at different times. Mass is conserved. The argument simply is that if the rate of human emissions is larger than the rate of increase of the atmospheric concentration over some period, then all the other reservoirs (biomass and oceans) must collectively constitute a net sinks over that period. For otherwise some carbon would be disappearing.”

        The amount of carbon stored in natural sinks-the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere and the biosphere are so large that the only way they could ever NOT be net sinks is if the Earth exploded. So a given.

        But Humans aren’t producing fossil fuels in and of themselves and injecting them into the system. They were already there and injected into it at a prior time. If they existed to be stored in the lithosphere’s sink, then at some point in time before that, the biosphere’s sink contained them etc. Biosphere sink, moved to lithosphere sink, now moved to atmospheric and ocean sink. In order for them to be injected back into the system by humans, they must be withdrawn from their previous sink-the lithosphere, which then becomes less of a sink and more of a source, and the atmosphere and the oceans become more sinks than sources.

        But that does not mean that the oceans and biosphere and lithosphere’s contributions to the atmosphere cannot also be changing up or down at the same time naturally. Again, there is no such reservoir as “humanity” or “fossil fuels”. They are both part of the biosphere and lithosphere currently. They are natural. They are part of the carbon cycle, they are part of the mass which must be conserved. We’re not upsetting the carbon cycle because we are not creating and adding carbon to it that has never existed before. We are simply moving it from one part of the system to another part.

      • “What I claim, rather, is that under those conditions, it is still possible for something natural (a new big volcano, say, or several volcanoes — something that is part of nature) to be causally responsible for a positive fraction of the atmospheric increase, in spite of the fact that nature as a whole still contributes negatively. This is what Dikran is disputing. But this is such a simple and trivial idea that I don’t see why it is so stubbornly resisted. How is it that a new car on the streets can causally contribute to a minute fraction of the atmospheric CO2 increase, but an extra volcano (assumed uncompensated by some consequent increase in weathering processes) can’t?”

        You have two divisions in a company that produces widgets. Division A always makes a profit producing big widgets. Division B loses money producing little widgets, year after year. Profits keep increasing.

        Which division is responsible for all of the increase in profit?

        Division B jumps up and has a slightly better year than the average, but still loses money. Company makes a little more profit than usual.

        Which division is responsible for all of the profit?

      • Ooops! Let’s modify that to both divisions making identical widgets in different factories.

      • Don Monford asks: “Which division is responsible for all of the profit?”

        Division A still is responsible for all the profit. But this assumes from the get go that responsibility can only be ascribed to a divisions as a whole (just like Dikran assumes that “nature” can only be ascribed causal responsibility as a whole). Suppose worker Willie White in division B is solely responsible for the reduced rate of loss incurred by his division as a whole. Suppose the widgets that he personally manufactures sell at a higher profit than the average widgets manufactured by workers in division A. Would it not make sense that all the the workers of division A *and* Willie White share among themselves the credit for the profit made by the company. After all, were it not for Willie’s independent efforts, the company would have profited less.

      • Aphan wrote: “The amount of carbon stored in natural sinks-the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere and the biosphere are so large that the only way they could ever NOT be net sinks is if the Earth exploded. So a given.”

        You misunderstand the meanings of “net sink” and “net source” as used in ecology and Earth sciences. A reservoir acts as a net sink for carbon over some period of time if and only of the amount of carbon that it contains is larger at the end of the period than it was at the beginning. Since the number of carbon atoms doesn’t change significantly over time, all the terrestrial reservoirs can’t be sinks over the same period, and all of them can’t be sources. Furthermore, the some total given up by the net sources must be taken up collectively by the sinks.

      • Ok…I’ll agree to the “net” thing, but then you went back into plain old sinks and sources in your response.

        “Since the number of carbon atoms doesn’t change significantly over time, all the terrestrial reservoirs can’t be sinks over the same period, and all of them can’t be sources. Furthermore, the some total given up by the net sources must be taken up collectively by the sinks.”

        Yes, they can all be sinks and sources depending on how long the time frame is and what forms the carbon atoms are in at any given time. One gives up some carbon (source) at one point, and absorbs some later (sink). All of the reservoirs exchange carbon with each other all day every day.

      • Don Monford “Ooops! Let’s modify that to both divisions making identical widgets in different factories.”

        It’s still the same company, right? The same planet, at least? I don’t think my response ought to change. If Dikran would *assume* that the factories can only be ascribed responsibilities as wholes, then he would simply be assuming his purported conclusion, that no separable part of nature can share with us some fraction of the causal attribution for the increase.

      • > What I claim, rather, is that under those conditions, it is still possible for something natural (a new big volcano, say, or several volcanoes — something that is part of nature) to be causally responsible for a positive fraction of the atmospheric increase, in spite of the fact that nature as a whole still contributes negatively. This is what Dikran is disputing.

        Quote where he disputes this.

        There’s no need to invent new big volcanos. Mt. Pinatubo recently had a palpable effect on the atmosphere. One does not simply dumb 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide and ash in Mordor with no palpable effect on the atmosphere. DM only needs to assume, for the balance argument to work, is that this was soaked in by all the other natural processes. Even you accept this.

        Taking a real example matters insofar as it can help me get my point across: I don’t think DM disputes that Mt. Pinatubo exists, or that it cannot cause any warming because nature is net negative.

        Do you really believe DM disputes that Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 did not have an effect on the atmosphere?

      • Oh, Pierre. So worker Willy is little widget producing volcano and we should transfer him to Division A? Willy doesn’t want to move and he will quit if we try to transfer him. Willy is a Division B guy.

        Division B is a net sink for our money. We have to close it down.

      • In an effort to try to end this:

        What happens if we get really confused and shut down Division A, instead of Division B?

      • > The fallacious argument that I am disputing is the argument that if a whole family gets poorer then, Joe, who is a member of that family, can’t positively contribute to the increase in average wealth of the nation.

        Nice example, which may indicate a preference for individuals over families.

        If the net worth of Joe’s family’s in the red, then I duly submit that Joe’s success only helps soak in the debts of Jack, William and Averell, and all the other Daltons who owe money to the bank.

        Ma won’t like if you only focus on Joe, Pierre-Normand.

      • Willard: “Taking a real example matters insofar as it can help me get my point across: I don’t think DM disputes that Mt. Pinatubo exists, or that it cannot cause any warming because nature is net negative.

        Do you really believe DM disputes that Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 did not have an effect on the atmosphere?”

        There is no ‘mass balance argument’ for temperature. What I am telling you is that the argument that he endorses — his interpretation of the mass balance argument — commits his to the quite unreasonable claim that Mt Pinatubo could not possibly have been causally responsible for any fraction of the small increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration that followed. He would probably resist the conclusion (let us hope) but then he would have to retract his general argument. Here is another formulation of my objection to his understanding of the mass balance argument, and his response:

        PNH: “Yes, the natural environment *as a whole* (excluding the atmosphere, of course) being a net sink is opposing *whatever* causes the atmospheric CO2 rise, including, possibly, some natural causes! This is what the ‘mass balance argument’ can not rule out, namely, that there might be other natural causes for the increase besides us [e.g. Mt. Pinatubo]. The mere fact that all the natural sinks, taken together, are larger than all the sources, including us, doesn’t single us out as the only source that can possibly be causally responsible for the atmospheric increase.”

        DM: “Again, all you are pointing out is that the natural carbon cycle [h]as elements that are sources and some that are sinks. We all know that, however it is the net response of the natural carbon cycle that determines whether the rise is anthropogenic or natural or a bit of both. The mass balance argument rules out “natural” and “a bit of both”, which leaves only “anthropogenic”.”

        Notice that since the Eruption of Mt Pinatubo didn’t emit so much CO2 that nature as a whole would have ceased to be a net sink, he is committed to claim that the rise is 100% anthropogenic (DM: “the mass balance argument rules out… “a bit of both”) and that, therefore, the causal contribution of Mt Pinatubo is 0%. This is where his argument leads.

      • > This is where his argument leads.

        You wish, Pierre-Normand.

        I’m going to tell you a little secret: you’re exploiting the composition fallacy. It fails, because the fact that the whole of the natural carbon cycle is net negative doesn’t imply the same for all the processes within it. DM has never made that inference, and it’s all yours.

        In accounting, what you’re trying to sell can get you in jail. Ma wouldn’t be proud: she never wanted her sons to be accountants.

        ***

        Here’s where DM’s argument leads:

        [T]he mass balance argument establishes that the natural environment is a net carbon sink. For me this i[s] sufficient to conclude that the natural environment as a whole is opposing the rise rather than causing it. Nowhere here have I said anything different, as I have only been considering the natural carbon cycle as a whole, because has I have repeatedly pointed out, cherry picking a natural source is a zero-sum game. The part of the rise due to the cherry picked source is exactly cancelled by a corresponding increase in the net sink formed by the remainder of the natural carbon cycle. So at the end of the day, it is only the net natural response that is relevant.

        https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/24/undersea-volcanoes-may-be-impacting-long-term-climate-change/#comment-760324

        Your disagreement seems to be situated at the second sentence. There’s something in the combination of “whole” and “cause” that seems to bug you. Lackoff might blame the idea of systemic causation. The continuum between detection and attribution may play its part too. Whatever that is, this is where the absurd conclusion that volcans contribute zilch comes from, and not DM’s balance argument.

        See how detection works?

      • Willard: “I’m going to tell you a little secret: you’re exploiting the composition fallacy. It fails, because the fact that the whole of the natural carbon cycle is net negative doesn’t imply the same for all the processes within it. DM has never made that inference, and it’s all yours.”

        You seem unable to keep track of the argument. The issue between DM and me isn’t whether Mt Pinatubo, or any other individual natural CO2 source, is a source. Duh… Trivially it is a source. Volcanoes are net sources. There is no disagreement there. The issue is whether the eruption of Mt Pinatubo can be ascribed some positive fraction of the total causal attribution for the atmospheric CO2 increase over some given period. Not all natural sources contribute causally to the increase since some of them are part of a carbon neutral cycle that didn’t vary at all (or negligibly) during the period under consideration. It is exceptional events, which bring a natural cycle out of whack, that count towards attribution.

        I insisted that some natural sources could, under some such circumstances, be ascribed some fraction of the attribution. The mass balance argument doesn’t rule that out. That would mean that the attribution is some percentage anthropogenic, and some complementary percentage natural. DM clearly rules that out. He said that inasmuch as the total natural contribution is negative (a net sink) therefore the mass balance argument “rules out ‘natural’ and ‘a bit of both’, which leaves only ‘anthropogenic’.” (Those were his words).

        But weren’t you agreed with me that it is entirely consistent with nature as a whole being a net sink that Mt Pinatubo could be ascribed some fraction of the attribution for the atmospheric CO2 increase, and that therefore it could be “a bit if both”?

      • “I insisted that some natural sources could, under some such circumstances, be ascribed some fraction of the attribution. The mass balance argument doesn’t rule that out. That would mean that the attribution is some percentage anthropogenic, and some complementary percentage natural.”

        So do you want to count some natural sources as something other than natural? Volcanoes are natural freaking sources, period. If you accept that natural sinks exceed natural sources, then WTF are you going on about? This is really a waste of time.

      • Don Monford wrote: “So do you want to count some natural sources as something other than natural? Volcanoes are natural freaking sources, period. If you accept that natural sinks exceed natural sources, then WTF are you going on about? This is really a waste of time.”

        No. I wan’t to count excess CO2 released by sudden increases in volcanic activity as part of the *natural* attribution to atmospheric CO2 increase. I am not saying this is likely to have occurred recently, only that if it were to occur, it would have to be accounted as a positive fraction of the total attribution. If, for instance, the excess volcanic emissions were 33% of the anthropogenic emissions over some period, the attribution over that period would be 25% natural and 75% anthropogenic.

        This really is no different than a case where the Chinese would release 33% a much as the rest of the world. In that case the causal attribution for the anthropogenic increase would be 25% Chinese and 75% non-Chinese (i.e. rest of the world) assuming, in this case, 0% natural attribution.

        The bizarre viewpoint, for me, is DM’s intepretation of the mass balance argument according to which, as long as the total contribution from nature (including, of course all volcanic sources) is net negative (mainly because oceans are a huge sink) the attribution must be 100% antropogenic, and any effect from increased volcanic activity is therefore automatically discounted.

      • Well, I thought about it and had another drink. I am now convinced that volcanoes are partly responsible. If we are worried about CO2 we will start pumping concrete into those suckers as fast as we can. If we aren’t concerned about CO2, it doesn’t matter and we can save our concrete for something else. But filling in all those ballcanoes would create a lot of jobs. Hmmmm!

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre wrote “As for Dikran’s challenge, it is impossible to meet, and only displays his (and your) missing of my point. I never suggested that nature could contribute positively to the atmospheric CO2 increase (some positive attribution fraction) while removing more atmospheric CO2 than it releases. This is the trivial conclusion from the mass balance argument that I accept.”

        Yes and we know that the nature removes more CO2 from the atmosphere than it releases, so we know from this that nature does not contribute positively to atmospheric CO2 increase.

        “What I claim, rather, is that under those conditions, it is still possible for something natural (a new big volcano, say, or several volcanoes — something that is part of nature) to be causally responsible for a positive fraction of the atmospheric increase, in spite of the fact that nature as a whole still contributes negatively”

        This is just saying that nature includes sources as well as sinks, but we already know that already. Just to be clear why this is irrelevant, lets go back to the mass balance equation:

        dC = Ea + En – Un

        next lets cherry pick volcanoes (Ev) and separate that contribution from the rest of the natural influence, then we have

        dC = Ea + Ev – (En – Ev) – Un

        The effect of picking out the volcanic emissions is now that the “residual” natural net sink is now En – Ev – Un, i.e. it has strengthened by exactly Ev! It is a zero-sum game you are playing.

        Now the mass balance analysis also shows that the net natural sink has been growing over time, so if some natural source (say Ev) has been strengthening with time, it means that some other natural source has been weakening (or sinks strengthening) by an even greater amount. Again picking out volcanoes tells you nothing.

        I am not claiming that the natural environment does not contain sources, nor that some of those sources have strengthened. Indeed we know that most of the sources have strengthened with time, just that the sinks have increased even more (which is partly due to the fact that there is simply more carbon cycling through the “fast” carbon cycle because we have released it from the lithosphere by burning fossil fuels). See Figure 6.1 from the most recent IPCC WG1 report (read caption carefully). The point is that to apportion the rise between man and nature, it only makes sense to look as nature as a whole, rather than cherry pick just the sources and forget that the remainder then becomes an even bigger net sink.

      • “This is just saying that nature includes sources as well as sinks, but we already know that already. Just to be clear why this is irrelevant, lets go back to the mass balance equation:”

        No. That’s not at all what I am saying. I’ve explicitly corrected you several times on that very point but you keep ignoring my answer. Let me try to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ once again. A particular natural source may, or may not be, causally responsible for some fraction of the total attribution of the atmospheric increase. Whether it causally contributes or not to the increase would depend on a specific causal analysis of the different components of the carbon cycles (fast and slow). The source increase *would* be a causally responsible for a positive fraction of the total attribution *if* it had occurred *without* an exactly compensating rise of some other sink(s) as a causal result of it. For instance, a sudden and large rise in volcanic emissions would likely not be immediately cancelled by an equal rise in weathering and subduction. So, over some definite period (a few decades, say) it could be responsible for some fraction of the total attributions of the increase. That would show up as a noticeable bump in the Mauna Loa record that we most definitely aren’t responsible for.

        And this could occur in spite of the fact that your flawed interpretation of the mass balance arguments would still yield the verdict “anthropogenic”, and rule out “a bit of both”, just because nature as a whole would still remain a net sink during all the duration of the relevant period of analysis.

      • dikranmarsupial

        ” The source increase *would* be a causally responsible for a positive fraction of the total attribution *if* it had occurred *without* an exactly compensating rise of some other sink(s) as a causal result of it. For instance, a sudden and large rise in volcanic emissions would likely not be immediately cancelled by an equal rise in weathering and subduction.”

        As I have repeatedly pointed out, the mass balance analysis shows that there HAS been an increase in the natural sinks (or a weakening of other natural sources) that MORE than compensates for the increase in the sources. The carbon cycle does not respond to increases in individual sources and sinks, it essentially responds to the atmospheric concentration. Note as per the IPCC diagram, most of the natural sources are strenthening, but the sinks are strengthening faster.

        The natural sources contribute to the rise, the natural sources oppose the rise, but whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic or a bit of both depends on whether nature as a whole is a net source or a net sink. All you are pointing out is that there are natural sources and there are natural sinks, you don’t appear to understand that, but that is all you are saying.

      • dikranmarsupial: “As I have repeatedly pointed out, the mass balance analysis shows that there HAS been an increase in the natural sinks (or a weakening of other natural sources) that MORE than compensates for the increase in the sources.”

        You are equivocating. It “more than compensates” in the sense that nature as a whole remains a net sink, which I not only acknowledged but indeed always call your attention on. But it doesn’t necessarily prevent the independent variation in the source from having an effect on the evolution of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Do you deny that a super-volcano could ever possibly be causally responsible for creating a discernible bump in the Mauna Loa record? Don’t you agree that this sudden deviation from the underlying trend would be a deviation that can’t be ascribed to us?

        “The carbon cycle does not respond to increases in individual sources and sinks, it essentially responds to the atmospheric concentration.”

        Sure. It is precisely for that reason that both human interference (e.g. fossil fuel burning) or abnormal natural events (e.g. sudden variations in the rate of volcanic emissions) could be equally effective in affecting the rate of atmospheric CO2 increase. And the second sort of event (natural) could occur even in circumstances where nature as a whole would remain a net sink.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre normand wrote “You are equivocating.”

        No equivocation. The mass balance argument shows that the natural sinks have increased by more than the amount required to compensate for any increase in natural sources. Requiring that a specific natural sink exactly compensates for an increase in a specific natural source is a clearly unreasonable requirement.

        “It “more than compensates” in the sense that nature as a whole remains a net sink, which I not only acknowledged but indeed always call your attention on. But it doesn’t necessarily prevent the independent variation in the source from having an effect on the evolution of the atmospheric CO2 concentration.”

        yes, as I said, natural sources contribute to the increase and natural sinks oppose the rise, but whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic depends on whether nature is a net source or a net sink. All you are pointing out is that there are mechanisms in the natural carbon cycle that tend to increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. We already know that, they are called “natural sources”.

        “Do you deny that a super-volcano could ever possibly be causally responsible for creating a discernible bump in the Mauna Loa record?”

        Yes of course, there hasn’t been one.

        “Don’t you agree that this sudden deviation from the underlying trend would be a deviation that can’t be ascribed to us?”

        Yes, however that would not imply that the rise in atmospheric CO2 were natural, it might mean that the natural envrionment had opposed the rise less that year than it would otherwise have done. As I keep saying you have to consider the natural sinks and sources together. If the volcano erupted sufficient CO2 that natural emissions exceeded natural uptake, THEN in that year there would indeed be a natural component to the atmospheric increase.

      • dikranmarsupial: “The natural sources contribute to the rise, the natural sources oppose the rise, but whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic or a bit of both depends on whether nature as a whole is a net source or a net sink.”

        Yes, this is what you are committed to say. Here is a challenge for you.

        Consider Scenario-1. This scenario is the actual of 20th century anthropogenic emissions history, and the actual atmospheric CO2 concentration history from 1957 to 2000 (the Mauna Loa record). Volcanic emissions are negligible (equal to less than 1% of anthropogenic emissions, say).

        Scenario-2 covers the same period and has the same starting point (i.e. same CO2 concentration in 1957) except that the rate of anthropogenic emissions at any time is only 90% of the rate in Scenario-1, and there naturally occurs a huge, sudden and sustained increase in volcanic emissions equal to 20% of the anthropogenic emissions from Scenario-1.

        Let us suppose that the airborne faction is roughly constant and the same across the two scenarios. This means that the cumulative emissions from 1957 to 2000 (anthropogenic+volcanic) in the second scenario, and consequently the total increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, are 10% higher in the second scenario. But the cumulative anthropogenic emissions alone are 10% lower.

        Would you say that the total atmospheric CO2 increase (from 1957 to 2000) in Scenario-1 is 100% anthropogenic? I would agree, of course.

        Are you really prepared to say, though, that the roughly 20% higher increase in scenario-2 also is 100% anthropogenic in spite of the fact that volcanoes entirely account for the difference? Isn’t that what your paragraph quoted above commits you to say since nature as a whole is a net sink in both scenarios? (Myself, I would say the causal attribution is roughly 82% anthropogenic (=90%/110%) and 18% natural, though there may be room for quibble over the best causal attribution method).

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre Normand wrote “Consider Scenario-1. This scenario is the actual of 20th century anthropogenic emissions history, and the actual atmospheric CO2 concentration history from 1957 to 2000 (the Mauna Loa record). Volcanic emissions are negligible (equal to less than 1% of anthropogenic emissions, say).”

        O.K., and during that time, the natural sink has taken up about half of anthropogenic emissions.

        “Scenario-2 covers the same period and has the same starting point (i.e. same CO2 concentration in 1957) except that the rate of anthropogenic emissions at any time is only 90% of the rate in Scenario-1, and there naturally occurs a huge, sudden and sustained increase in volcanic emissions equal to 20% of the anthropogenic emissions from Scenario-1.”

        Making anthropogenic emissions 90% of those in Scenario-1 is an unnecessary complication AFAICS it adds nothing to the explanation and just makes the calculation unnecessarily difficult, so for the moment I’ll just leave them as the were (because the behaviour of the natural sources and sinks, other than volcanoes, depends on anthropogenic emissions).

        In that case, the natural environment would have absorbed 30% of anthropogenic emissions, rather than 50% (all things being otherwise equal). The natural environment is still a net carbon sink.

        “Let us suppose that the airborne faction is roughly constant and the same across the two scenarios. This means that the cumulative emissions from 1957 to 2000 (anthropogenic+volcanic) in the second scenario, and consequently the total increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, are 10% higher in the second scenario. But the cumulative anthropogenic emissions alone are 10% lower.”

        making anthropogenic emissions 10% lower means that a fair comparison between Scenario1 and scenario 2 is impossible, and you can only consider the attribution in each scenario separately. In both scenarios, comparing them with eachother is misleading.

        “Would you say that the total atmospheric CO2 increase (from 1957 to 2000) in Scenario-1 is 100% anthropogenic? I would agree, of course.”

        yes.

        “Are you really prepared to say, though, that the roughly 20% higher increase in scenario-2 also is 100% anthropogenic in spite of the fact that volcanoes entirely account for the difference?”

        Yes, because the natural environment is still a net sink. In scenario 1 there is variation in the strengths of the various natural sources in sinks, and yet you agree that the rise is 100% natural in that case.

        “Isn’t that what your paragraph quoted above commits you to say since nature as a whole is a net sink in both scenarios? (Myself, I would say the causal attribution is roughly 82% anthropogenic (=90%/110%) and 18% natural, though there may be room for quibble over the best causal attribution method).”

        YET AGAIN, I have to point out that you are ignoring the natural sinks, in both cases the natural sinks dominate the natural sources. In scenario 2 they are less dominant than in scenario 1, but in both cases the natural environment is opposing the rise. The volcanic episode in scenario one just means that it is opposing the rise less strongly. “Opposing less strongly” is not “causing”.

        Consider this, I share a bank account with my wife, and I put in £1,000 per month and take out nothing. She takes out £1500 and puts in £1000. That is scenario 1. In scenario2, I put in £900 and take out nothing, and she now takes out £1500 and puts in £1200. According to your argument, part of the increase in the balance is now due to my wife. That is clearly absurd as she is still taking more money out of the account than she is putting in. As I keep saying you are playing a zero-sum game.

      • Dikranmarsupial wrote: “Consider this, I share a bank account with my wife, and I put in £1,000 per month and take out nothing…”

        I tried maybe 20 times to respond to this or your previous Smith/Jones analogy, but my response never shows up. I tried breaking it into bits, removing special words of characters, with or without quoting you, it just won’t appear. Maybe I can post it elsewhere or e-mail it to you? Do you have a website?

      • > The issue is whether the eruption of Mt Pinatubo can be ascribed some positive fraction of the total causal attribution for the atmospheric CO2 increase over some given period.

        What you said goes beyond that, Pierre-Normand. You infer from DM’s argument that he the quite unreasonable claim that Mt Pinatubo could not possibly have been causally responsible for any fraction of the small increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration that followed. There’s nothing in DM’s argument that forces him to reach that conclusion. The only way this conclusion can be reached is to switch from the properties of wholes to the properties of parts.

        In other words, you’re transforming the balance argument into a full-blown attribution argument for all the components of CO2 sources in the carbon cycle.

        That’s a fallacy, and your only way out is to brush that aside and repeat the argument you made 50 times.

        ***

        I’m still waiting to see where Pekka disputes any of what DM said.

      • Pierre-Normand Houle

        Willard “In other words, you’re transforming the balance argument into a full-blown attribution argument for all the components of CO2 sources in the carbon cycle.”

        No. My position is that the mass balance argument, all by itself, is silent on causation. It tells us that nature as a whole is a net sink. It doesn’t tell us how the shares of the causal attribution for the total atmospheric CO2 increase are distributed between the anthropogenic contribution and various potential natural processes.

        DM positions, that he has repeated maybe 20 times in this thread, if you would only care to read, is that the attribution for the CO2 increase is 100% anthropogenic provided only that nature as a whole is a net sink.

      • “…that the attribution for the CO2 increase is 100% anthropogenic provided only that nature as a whole is a net sink.”

        Got any evidence that contradicts that? Speculation about ballconanoes hypothetically kicking up and spewing more CO2 doesn’t get it. What if those ballcaanoes do erupt more frequently and more fiercely? Aren’t we then really potentially in the deep dookey, if we don’t limit the CO2 that we have control over? You are making the argument for ACO2 mitigation.

        How many more times are we going to have to put up with kenny and his boys coming in here and easily knocking down these Skydragon level arguments?

      • > My position is that the mass balance argument, all by itself, is silent on causation.

        Your “silent” goes a bridge too far, Pierre-Normand.

        Whatever caused a net deficit can’t be a source of profit. Even if you use a debet to leverage yourself out of your misery, unless you eventually get something in, you face bankcrupcy. While teh Donald bootstrapped himself at least thrice, he needed some anthropogenic interference to do so.

        The only other alternative I can conceive is some kind of Gnome Underpants Plan:

        I don’t think this plan preserve the mass balance argument.

      • > The only other alternative I can conceive is some kind of Gnome Underpants Plan: […]

        An example of such plan would be to posit anthropogenic sinks. It’s quite possible that Senior favors a Gnome plan like that. It’s hard to tell how strong is his favoritism, for he never commits himself toward the IPCC’s attribution statements.

        In any case, this kind of Gnome Plan could meet DM’s challenge, e.g.

        If the natural environment is a net sink explain why it is the source of the rise.

        https://judithcurry.com/2011/08/04/carbon-cycle-questions/#comment-97287

        The explanation would be that there’s some aCO2 sources that got sinked in.

        (Bartemis’ argument is a generalization of that and drowns the attribution problem into a logical impossibility.)

        That said, one can’t assume anthropogenic sinks and accept DM’s balance argument. Its main premise (that there must be more CO2 overall than aCO2) goes against it.

      • Willard, “That said, one can’t assume anthropogenic sinks and accept DM’s balance argument. Its main premise (that there must be more CO2 overall than aCO2) goes against it.”

        That is the problem with a simplistic “global” balance argument. When you get into regional accounting for carbon credits and other schemes, a nation or group can create an anthropogenic sink. It make little sense to have a “global” simplification that cannot be used regionally, other than pressing an agenda. Same thing with “global” temperature anomaly that includes mainly irrelevant high latitude temperatures that are so short in duration they tend to be distributive of longer term analysis.

        If you are going to analyse a multi century record, adding cute little spikes at the end isn’t Kosher. Maintaining a consistent uncertainty margin and uniform smoothing tends to be more “realistic”.

      • Pierre-Normand Houle

        Dikranmarsupial wrote: “Consider this, I share a bank account with my wife, and I put in £1,000 per month and take out nothing…”

        Dikran, my earlier comment on your Smith/Jones analogy was finally released from moderation. It is there: https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/24/undersea-volcanoes-may-be-impacting-long-term-climate-change/#comment-760367

      • Pierre-Normand Houle

        Willard: “Your “silent” goes a bridge too far, Pierre-Normand.”

        Look, we are agreed that the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 is 100% anthropogenic. We are also agreed (Dikranmarsupial, you and me, and even Don Monford) that the mass balance argument constitutes very strong evidence for this in light of the very high correlation between the atmospheric concentration and cumulative human emissions, and in light of other lines of evidence (isotopic, etc.) carefully laid out by Ferdinand Engelbeen.

        The point of disagreement (between Dikranmarsupial and me) merely concerns the causal attribution of isolated natural events that would hypothetically contribute to the atmospheric CO2 increase. I think you are agreed with me that a sudden large volcano that would produce a discernible bump in the Mauna Loa record of atmospheric CO2 concentration would be causally responsible for this sudden deviation from the slow anthropogenic increase trend. So, in that case, the attribution of the total atmospheric CO2 increase (over the several previous decades and until after the volcano released additional CO2) would become a little less than 100% anthropogenic. According to Dikranmarsupial, the attribution would still be 100% anthropogenic. He would say (and did indeed say) that the effect from the volcano only represents nature being temporarily opposing our emissions less strongly. I claim, rather, that nature would have causally contributed a little something to the increase, such that the anthropogenic attribution would be a little bit lower than 100%.

        In other words, if we were to first notice such a bump in the Mauna Loa record, I would claim that the question whether the sudden step increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration (2ppm, say) is anthropogenic or natural would would very much depend on the particular cause of the increase. If it is a super-volcano, then it is natural; if it is ten thousand coal powered super-factories in China, then anthropogenic. But according to DM, as long as nature still is a net sink on the whole, the attribution for the total CO2 excess (including the new step increase) would still be 100% anthropogenic regardless of the specific source. I disagree. This is why I am saying the mass balance argument is silent on the issue. You have too look at the specific cause of the increase and, regarding the historical past, consider such things as the very strong correlation between cumulative emissions and atmospheric concentration. Those considerations are an ineliminable part of the argument for 100% anthropogenic attribution.

      • ATTP: Except volcanoes are simply the physical mechanism that outgasses from the lithosphere. The reservoir is the lithosphere. If volcanic outgassing is in balance with the removal of CO2 back into the lithosphere, then the lithosphere cannot be a net source of CO2.
        So you disavow this theory?
        http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/04/13/3646211/boom-youre-dead/
        I’m so convinced CAGW is a sceptic meme

      • > The point of disagreement (between Dikranmarsupial and me) merely concerns the causal attribution of isolated natural events that would hypothetically contribute to the atmospheric CO2 increase.

        I think you disagree more than him about that, because this question is not the object of his argument. It amounts to a (mostly silly) zero-sum game to him.

        Furthermore, I believe this point of contention is mostly semantic, for it implies various conceptions of causality, attribution, and perhaps accounting.

        ***

        Once you agree that nature’s a net sink, you can’t dispute that it makes sense to say that the rise in CO2 is anthropogenic, or that humans are responsible for it. The problem is the word “cause”:

        What does “people are causing this” mean? Does it mean people are responsible for all of the warming, most of the warming, some of the warming? “At least the majority of it” captures the consensus opinion, I believe. The possibility of the anthropogenic forcing being superimposed on a natural background cooling is not, as far as I know, excluded. Though it complicates the clarity of public communication, “more than all of it” is actually a possibility.

        http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2015/01/more-than-all.html

        The semantic problems caused by causation goes back to Hume at the very least. Add to this percentages and even Judy can feign misunderstanding.

        ***

        > I think you are agreed with me that a sudden large volcano that would produce a discernible bump in the Mauna Loa record of atmospheric CO2 concentration would be causally responsible for this sudden deviation from the slow anthropogenic increase trend.

        DM would agree too, if that were the case. I don’t think it is. If it was, the balance argument would still be valid. Its soundness may vary.

        ***

        > So, in that case, the attribution of the total atmospheric CO2 increase (over the several previous decades and until after the volcano released additional CO2) would become a little less than 100% anthropogenic.

        If all natural CO2 processes are a net sink, it would be strange to say that there’s a natural process N that is by itself a net source.

        Also note that this kind of claim presumes that we’ve made a full-blown attribution study of all the different sources and sinks, whereas the balance argument only needs to take two boxes as a whole into account.

        ***

        > He would say (and did indeed say) that the effect from the volcano only represents nature being temporarily opposing our emissions less strongly. I claim, rather, that nature would have causally contributed a little something to the increase, such that the anthropogenic attribution would be a little bit lower than 100%.

        The last part may not follow: if you say that nature have causally contributed a little something, then you also need to say that it causally removed a lot of the same thing, because in the end, we are all agreed that nature is a net sink.

        Another reason why the “little bit lower than 100%” may not follow is because of the possibility that humans themselves could have increased nature’s sinks:

        Is it legitimate to claim that 200% of the atmospheric rise in CO2 is anthropogenic? As with the rise in temperature, ‘natural’ processes have negated some of the total impact of the anthro influence.

        https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/mass-balance/#comment-71573

        ***

        DM’s argument is equational, which I believe presumes at least additivity and distributivity. Its sole purpose is to establish a hard constraint on Nature’s overall contribution: were it positive, it would add to humanity’s, which we know is positive.

        The only way out would be to find human sinks. This would refute one of the argument’s premises, i.e. (2).

      • Pierre-Normand Houle

        dikranmarsupial,

        This is just to notify you, in case you don’t already know, that this topic has been taken up by ATTP at his blog.

    • Dikran, your “Therefore we know that the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic….” is incorrect. The increase is due to the sum of all changes in all sources and sinks. Anthro emissions are just one term in that (probably lengthy) equation, hence not the cause of the outcome.

      • dikranmarsupial

        David, no, this is basic arithmetic (assuming conservation of mass). If the rise is less than anthro emissions, then the sum of all other sources/sinks must be negative.

        dC = Ea + En – Un

        where dC is rise in atmospheric CO2, Ea is anthropogenic emissions, En is natural emissions, Un is natural uptake. Rearranging:

        dC – Ea = En – Un

        if the left hand side is negative (which is what we actually observe) then the right hand side must be negative as well, which means that En < Un, in other words, the natural environment is a net carbon sink.

        P.S. I know this wasn't the claim of the original article, but "volcanoes cause the rise in CO2" is a fairly common misunderstanding of climate.

      • Dikran, you have missed my point. The issue is causation, not arithmetic. That the sum of natural sources and sinks is negative does not exclude these as part of the cause of the change. The change is the net result of everything that happens. You cannot pick one term out of the equation and call it the cause of the result.

      • dikranmarsupial

        David, the arithmetic shows that the natural environment is a net carbon sink. Do you agree with that?

      • David Wojick,

        The Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 concentration record and the cumulative anthropogenic emissions over that period have a correlation 0.9995 (r^2 = 0.999). If the cause is natural, it does a remarkable job of mimicking the effect that ought to be expected anyway from the magnitude of our emission and the satisfaction of Henry’s law.

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, you can’t prove it mathematically. You have to actually look at sources and sinks and corroborating evidence.

        C’ = (Eneq + Enchange + Ea) – {Eneq + (Enchange + Ea)f}

        C’ = change in atmospheric concentration
        Eneq – natural emissions at equilibrium
        Enchange = change in natural emissions
        Ea = anthropogenic emissions
        f = percentage of emissions lost to the atmosphere due to created sinks

      • David, the arithmetic shows that the natural environment is a net carbon sink. Do you agree with that?

        Semantic bait-and-switch here.

        It depends what the meaning of “is” is.

      • You cannot pick one term out of the equation and call it the cause of the result.

        There is no anthropogenic sink. Anthropogenic influences are a source only and they are larger than the increase in atmospheric CO2. All other factors (biosphere, oceans) are a net sink. Given this, how can the anthropogenic emissions not be the source?

      • Given this, how can the anthropogenic emissions not be the source?

        Straw man.

      • attp, “There is no anthropogenic sink. ”

        Of course there is, currently it is negative, but that can be changed. Every ton of biomass construction material is close to 40% carbon, rebuilding soils with carbon is an anthropogenic choice, etc. In fact, using plastics instead of steel would change the anthropogentic sink.

      • ATTP, the mass balance argument all by itself is a little weak. It is strong when supplemented with other reasonable assumptions, which is not what you are doing here. Ferdinand Engelbeen understands this pretty well, which is why he never relies singly on that argument.

        The main reason why humans emissions are the cause of the increase isn’t because we are a net source. It is rather because the source that we provide has increased and disrupted the previous balance that was maintained between all the other sources and sinks.

        Suppose Pat and Chris have a joint bank account. Pat makes regular deposits while Chris makes regular withdrawals at roughly the same constant rate. The bank balance remains roughly constant. Then you start making deposits on you own. The bank balance starts to rise. But it is not merely because you are a net depositor that you are responsible for the increase, since Pat also is a net depositor (and may even deposit more than you do). The reason why *you* are responsible for the increase is because, let us assume, Pat and Chris would have continued to make balancing deposits and withdrawals without your intervention. This extra assumption is required in order to ascribe you the full responsibility for the increase.

        So, the quite reasonable assumption that the mass balance argument must be supplemented with, in order for us to take the full responsibility of the recent atmospheric CO2 concentration increase, is that, were it not for our emissions, nature would not have magically contrived to increase its net emissions in a way that exactly mimics the effect expected from our actual contribution.

      • dikranmarsupial

        “Of course there is, currently it is negative,”

        I’m sorry, that is pure sophistry. By convention source and sink activities are positive quantities, otherwise we would just talk of net fluxes (which can be positive or negative).

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand, the fact that the natural environment is a net sink is well established. Do we really have to mention every line of evidence every time the topic comes up. The mass balance argument isn’t weak, it is sufficient to demonstrate that the natural environment is a net carbon sink as the only assumption is conservation of mass (which is pretty solid) and the observational data (e.g. Mauno Loa) and emissions estimates (which are also sufficiently reliable for there to be little doubt as to the conclusions).

        Ferdinand does an excellent job on this topic though.

      • dik, “I’m sorry, that is pure sophistry.”

        Not really, making fossil fuel carbon a demon is sophistry. Land abuse related carbon is the “source” of about 1/3 of the carbon in the atmosphere and also reduces the “sink” rate by about 1/3. Changing that priority could reverse the sign. It is math not sophistry.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand, BTW you bank analogy doesn’t get to the key point in the mass balance argument. If Pat notices that the balance is rising more slowly than his net transactions then he knows that Chris is taking more money out than he is potting in (assuming conservation of money), and hence Chris is opposing the rise.

      • dikranmarsupial,

        Engelbeen wouldn’t make this mistake. Volcanoes also are a net source, and yet they are likely responsible for 0% of the increase (and not even 1%). As it happens, we emit at a 100 times higher rate, but that is immaterial to the present argument. Even if volcanoes were emitting at the same rate as us, and were exactly balanced by large natural sequestration processes, we would still be responsible for 100% of the increase. So, the fact that something is a net source (volcanoes), while everything else balances out, doesn’t show that it is the cause of the increase. (In that scenario, everything including us, but excluding volcanoes, would balance out, at current rates.)

        In order to ascribe to *us* the full responsibility of the increase, it is necessary to assume that the rate of the other processes would have remained in balance even if we hadn’t increased our emissions. The almost perfect correlation between the rate of atmospheric increase and our cumulative emissions, and the lack of an explanation why nature would have contrived to cause the recent increase absent our emissions, is sufficient to justify the ascription of responsibility to our emissions.

      • Just to clarify something. Are there actually people on this thread, who’ve been involved in discussing climate change for some time, who are essentially disputing that the rise is anthropogenic?

        Dikran is correct that the mass balance argument is pretty irrefuteable. The oceans currently takes in more than it emits. The biosphere takes in more than it emits. Anthropogenic emissions by far exceed any anthropogenic sink and the total amount of anthropogenic emissions is more than twice the increase in atmospheric CO2. In other words, more than half of what we’ve emitted is somewhere else, and it’s not back in fossils; it’s in the oceans and in the biosphere. Somehow, I get the impression that there are some here who still seem to think that – despite this – the rise might not be anthropogenic.

      • Pierre,

        In order to ascribe to *us* the full responsibility of the increase, it is necessary to assume that the rate of the other processes would have remained in balance even if we hadn’t increased our emissions.

        I know what I think you’re trying to suggest, but I don’t really agree. What you’re essentially saying is that we have to rule out the possibility that atmospheric concentrations could have risen in the absence of our emissions. So, let’s imagine that this is possible and then consider what would happen if we then started emitted CO2. In such a scenario, the natural “sinks” are actually emitting more than they take in, so our emissions should add to that so that the rise in atmospheric concentration should be greater than our total emissions. However, it’s not; the natural “sinks” are taking in more than they emit and hence cannot be a source of increased atmospheric CO2 even in the absence of our emissions.

      • Ken,

        Yes there are – and I’m not one of them. In fact I agree with you, but would also note that we cannot claim to know what current CO2 levels would be if there had never been any anthropogenic emissions.

      • dikranmarsupial,

        You are missing the point. Suppose there are N+1 depositors and N ‘withdrawers’. Everyone deposits or withdraws at the same rate. Each depositor could invoke the ‘bank balance argument’ in order to claim that he/she is fully responsible for the increase since he/she is a net depositor while everyone else together (“nature”) balances out. If, however, one depositor had joined the team at some time, and the previously stable bank balance had started increasing as a result, then he/she would be entitled to take credit as the causal agent of the increase. That is, unless it was already agreed among the other participants that they would adjust their rates of deposits anyway in order to increase the bank balance at the precise time when the new depositor actually joined. In any case, the bank balance argument is insufficient for causal attributions.

      • Pierrre,
        Except, in this case every depositor – bar one – takes out more than they put in.

        JA,

        but would also note that we cannot claim to know what current CO2 levels would be if there had never been any anthropogenic emissions.

        In the sense that we cannot rerun the world again from the mid-1800s to see what would have happened without our emissions, this is probably a true statement. On the other hand, we do know that the oceans and biosphere are net sinks of CO2, so it would be rather strange if one – or both – would have been significant sources of CO2 in the absence of our emissions, but suddenly become sinks in the presence of our emissions.

      • Ken – yes, but given the large uncertainties in natural sinks and sources as well as in anthropogenic emissions (e.g. the recent large adjustments to estimates of Chinese emissions) it is impossible to go beyond broad brush statements. So I’d agree that you could say ‘atmospheric CO2 is increasing, and most or all of the change is probably due to human activity’ but not if you tried to go beyond that.

        It reminds me rather strongly of the situation with global temperature records.

      • JA,

        So I’d agree that you could say ‘atmospheric CO2 is increasing, and most or all of the change is probably due to human activity’ but not if you tried to go beyond that.

        Why? We have a reasonably good idea of how much atmospheric CO2 has increased. We have a reasonably good idea of how much CO2 we’ve emitted. The latter is almost certainly more than twice as big as the former. Under what plausible scenario could the rise be anything other than anthropogenic?

      • > Not really, making fossil fuel carbon a demon is sophistry. Land abuse related carbon is the “source” of about 1/3 of the carbon in the atmosphere and also reduces the “sink” rate by about 1/3.

        So unless fossil fuel is fully responsible for the carbon in the atmosphere, it can’t be a demon. Interesting. Once upon a time, there used to be a stadium full of demons:

        There have been various demonologies (classifications of demons) in Christian demonology and classical occultism and Renaissance magic. Classification systems are based on the nature of the demon, the sin with which they tempt people, the month in which their power was strongest, the saints that were their adversaries, or other characteristics.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classification_of_demons

        But wait. Why are you waving demons around, Cap’n?

      • ATTP, you are assuming that the rates of the natural sinks and sources are independent of our emissions. This can’t be assumed, and it is in fact false. Suppose some skeptic (such as Ian Plimer) is right and there has been an increase in the rates of CO2 emissions from undersea volcanoes that is (at least) just as large as our own emissions. This would entail (from mass balance) that the rates of the oceanic and biomass sinks have been roughly 3 times what we thought they were. The mass balance argument can’t rule that out since everything still balances out on those assumptions. (I am assuming an airborne faction of 50% for simplicity). Your so called ‘mass balance argument’ then still purport to show that we are fully responsible since we a are a net source, the rate of atmospheric increase is only half as much as our emission rate, and the rest of nature (including the volcanoes) are a net sink. But this is absurd since our role, and the volcanic role, are perfectly symmetrical. You could make the same causal attribution argument on behalf of the volcanoes and lump us up with the rest of nature. In that case, nature (including us) would be a net sink, and volcanoes a net source!

        Of course, there is massive evidence that we are nearly 100% responsible. Engelbeen carefully laid that evidence out many times (carbon isotopes, rate of oxygen depletion, CO2 ice core record, Henry’s law, etc.) But the mass balance argument only is a small part of the argument since, by itself, it doesn’t rule out scenarios similar to the generic one described above.

      • ATTP wrote: “Except, in this case every depositor – bar one – takes out more than they put in.”

        Read again. The depositors only make deposits and the ‘withdrawers’ only make withdrawals.

      • Ken, because as P-N has pointed out there are too many unknowns.

      • > there are too many unknowns.

        How many should there be, Jonathan?

      • Willard, it isn’t arm waving, the cause needs that bad guy, demon, to maintain traction. Coal makes a great bad guy, but land use is responsible for more ACO2 than coal used for power generation. If the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, it doesn’t matter which path you start down, unless there is a demon to change priorities. .Demons are great motivators.

        With the carbon credit trading scheme, land use to sequester carbon is more valuable than carbon “neutral” land use and should remain that way.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Pierre-Normand Houle |

        “ATTP, the mass balance argument all by itself is a little weak. It is strong when supplemented with other reasonable assumptions, which is not what you are doing here.”

        Exactly right. Pekka and I tried to explain why the mass balance argument was insufficient to DM years ago and he hasn’t gotten it yet. Good luck.

      • Willard, congratulations on demonstrating both your pedantry and stupidity in a single line.

      • I searched the net a little and found a good discussion of the mass balance argument.

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/salby_correlation_conundrum.html

        This is a good post by dikranmarsupial. But you have to go to the comment section. Tom Curtis makes the point that although it isn’t a sound deductive argument (for purpose of causal attribution), it is nevertheless a correct inductive argument. I agree with this. It is rendered plausible, and indeed very strong, with the adjonction of reasonable auxiliary hypotheses regarding what would have happened (couterfactually) had we not emitted CO2 at the rate we actually did. The fact that it isn’t deductively valid is demonstrated by the simple counterexamples that I provided. (As David Hume already knew centuries ago, one can’t prove causal relationships deductively).

      • Read again. The depositors only make deposits and the ‘withdrawers’ only make withdrawals.

        I know that’s what your analogy was. My point was that this isn’t really comparable with what you’re trying to represent. A comparable analogy would be one in which all bar one takes our more than they put in. If the carbon cycle consisted of a whole bunch of things that emitted CO2 and a whole bunch of other things that took in CO2, then I’d agree. However, it doesn’t really. The natural “sinks” all absorb more than they emit. The only process that emits more than it takes in is the anthopogenic processes.

      • JA, It is kind of funny how illogical the Willard can be. He(they) lump all things Man as bad then pick what they think is worst to drive policy. Man has lots of choices and lots of sources and sinks he can tweak to find a better balance.

        Hemp or pot is popular with the more liberal set and the pot lovers have busted their butts creating products to replace steel, wood and conventional oils because they are mainly motivated to have more, better and cheaper pot. They are working the cleanse a demon and actually have some pretty good ideas. They even have hemp oil based epoxies to manufacture hemp based composites.

        http://eprints.usq.edu.au/23672/

        What the heck, turn them lose and see what they can do. They alarmists seem to forget that there are thousands of ideas out there and quite a few ways of skinning catfish.

      • Suppose some skeptic (such as Ian Plimer) is right and there has been an increase in the rates of CO2 emissions from undersea volcanoes that is (at least) just as large as our own emissions.

        Okay, sure, this is technically possible, but you need another “new” source (such as a significant increase in volcanic outgassing).

        Look, I agree that the mass balance argument isn’t the only – or even the best – argument. There are plenty of others, as you indicate. However, even disputing the mass balance argument requires some extremely unlikely scenario.

      • ATTP,

        You are not paying attention at all. Volcanoes don’t absorb more CO2 than they emit, now, do they? Volcanoes are net sources exactly as we are, only much smaller, (as we have very good reason to believe). But just in case we are wrong and they are as large a source as we are (yes, I know this is wildly implausible), then your mass balance argument, if valid, could lead you to conclude that they, not us, are exclusively responsible for the atmospheric increase since they still would be a net sources while everything else lumped together (including us) would be a net sink. And it could *also* lead you to conclude that we are entirely responsible of the increase since we *still* would be net source while everything else, including volcanoes, would *still* be a net sink. Those are the only premises that your argument rest on. An argument that can prove two contrary propositions from a set of consistent premises is invalid. We, and volcanoes, can both be exclusively responsible for the increase. The ‘mass balance argument’, as you are using it, is deductively invalid (as Tom Curtis has also shown, slightly differently, in the SkepticalScience comment section that I linked to above).

        This shows that the mass balance argument isn’t enough, all by itself, to prove that we (or anything else) are causally responsible for the atmospheric increase.

      • “We, and volcanoes, can[‘t] both be exclusively responsible for the increase.”

      • ATTP — “Look, I agree that the mass balance argument isn’t the only – or even the best – argument.”

        The reason why it’s not “the best” is because it is logically invalid.

        “There are plenty of others, as you indicate. However, even disputing the mass balance argument requires some extremely unlikely scenario.”

        There isn’t really a need to use other arguments instead of making use mass balance considerations. ‘Mass balance’ rests on a conservation principle. It is perfectly fine (and indeed mandatory) to make use of it as a constraint in the context of a sound inductive argument, or as part of a challenge addressed to the skeptic for him/her to explain how nature would have contrived to mimic the effect from our emission without our intervention given that it now is acting as a sink.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand, the question is whether the natural environment AS A WHOLE is a net source or a net sink. Sure individual elements of the natural environment are net sources, e.g. volcanoes, but if you consider volcanoes separately, then the remainder of the natural environment is an even bigger net sink.

        “. Suppose there are N+1 depositors and N ‘withdrawers’. ”

        No, the mass balance argument allows us to determine the overall effect of the natural environment, but makes no argument about the individual components. If you want to make arguments about multiple depositors and multiple withdrawers, then feel free, but it means you are no longer talking about the mass balance argument, but one fo your own devising. I think it is rather counterproductive to do so, without first agreeing that the mass balance argument does show that the natural environment (taken as a whole) is a net sink or showing that this is not the case, but sadly that seems the nature of blog discussion.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand writes “You are not paying attention at all. Volcanoes don’t absorb more CO2 than they emit, now, do they”

        The CO2 emitted by volcanoes is however balenced on long timescale by carbon subducted with the ocean floor. In working out whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic, you need to consider the net result of all natural uptake and emissions, rather than just looking at the sources.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand On the SkS comment thread to which you refer, the discussion with Tom is more to do with the definition of “cause”. The mass balance analysis doesn’t itself show that the rise is anthropogenic, it only shows that the natural environment is a net carbon sink, and Tom and I fully agree on that point AFAICS.

        Now personally I think it stretching the definition of “cause the increase” to a case where something causes an increase by taking more out than it puts in. The use of such reasoning would be considered laughable if applied to more familiar scenarios, such as “I caused by bank balance to rise by taking more money out than I out in”, or “I caused the number of cookies in the cookie jar to rise whilst taking more out than I put in”. Definitions of “cause” based on what would have happened anyway are easily shown to be invalid in such a context as well. Why such strained definitions are applied to CO2 and nothing else AFAICS is a question I’ll leave for others to answer.

      • ATTP said attp, “There is no anthropogenic sink. ”

        I don’t understand this argument.

        Isn’t it the additional pressure created by the human emissions raising the atmospheric CO2 which is causing the natural sink to take up additional CO2?

        But for our increased emissions the natural sink wouldn’t take up more CO2 – right? Doesn’t that make it anthropogenic?

        Will this work the same way on the way down.

        If we lower our CO2 emissions and the pressure decreases and the natural sink drops back to a lower value (with a lag I am sure) – will we blame humans for that or call that nature?

      • Another thought.

        Is UHI natural or anthopogenic?

        I mean the urban islands heat up naturally more than the rural areas because of all the concrete, blacktop and air conditioning.

        But is that a natural result of our actions or not?

        I always blamed it on humans and called it anthropogenic – but now I am wondering if I should – given that the increase in sink is considered natural (even though it wouldn’t have happened but for our increased CO2 emissions).

      • I don’t understand this argument.

        I was simply pointing out that we emit CO2 into the atmosphere, but do not remove any CO2 from the atmosphere. The oceans emit and absorb, the biosphere emits and absorbs and – as Dikran points out above – even volcanoes are in balance with the slow carbon sinks. Therefore if our total emissions is less than the amount by which atmospheric CO2 has increased, then some of our emissions must have been taken up by the natural sinks. Hence, the only system that emits more than it absorbs is us.

        Of course, as Pierre points, there are many others lines of evidence supporting that the rise is anthropogenic (isotope ratios, oxygen abundance, …) but the basic mass balance argument shows that the oceans and biosphere are taking in more than they give out (they are taking in some of our emissions) and hence can’t be the source of the rise in atmospheric CO2.

      • “The oceans emit and absorb, the biosphere emits and absorbs and – as Dikran points out above – even volcanoes are in balance with the slow carbon sinks. Therefore if our total emissions is less than the amount by which atmospheric CO2 has increased, then some of our emissions must have been taken up by the natural sinks. Hence, the only system that emits more than it absorbs is us. ”

        But we’re not sure that they are in balance at all. There’s too much uncertainty to even begin to say that. The “amounts” absorbed and emitted by oceans and biosphere are estimated, with error margins that could swallow the “human Co2” contribution several times over.

        http://www.whoi.edu/fileserver.do?id=214944&pt=2&p=215869

        To assume that the Earth’s systems were in perfect balance/equilibrium with emission and absorption constant prior to human industrialization is absurd. The planet was still coming out of a global ice age-and had not stabilized when the Little Ice Age occurred. After that, the planet has gone back to it’s previous warming towards equilibrium again, and may or may not yet have reached where it would have been had no Little Ice Age occurred at all. The Earth SHOULD be warming and releasing more CO2 as it warms naturally even without human influence.

        “The seasonal variations in heating penetrate into the ocean through a combination of radiation, convective overturning (in which cooled surface waters sink while warmer more buoyant waters below rise) and mechanical stirring by winds. These processes mix heat through the mixed layer, which, on average, involves about the upper 90 m of ocean. The thermal inertia of a 90 m layer can add a delay of about 6 years to the temperature response to an instantaneous change (this time corresponds to an exponential time constant in which there is a 63% response toward a new equilibrium value following an abrupt change). As a result, actual changes in climate tend to be gradual. With its mean depth of about 3800 m, the total ocean would add a delay of 230 years to the response if rapidly mixed. However, mixing is not a rapid process for most of the ocean so that in reality the response depends on the rate of ventilation of water between the well-mixed upper layers of the ocean and the deeper, more isolated layers that are separated by the thermocline (the ocean layer exhibiting a strong vertical temperature gradient). The rate of such mixing is not well established and varies greatly geographically.” http://www.oco.noaa.gov/roleofOcean.html

        The idea that the warming of the oceans is occurring in lock step with increasing Co2 in the atmosphere is flawed at it’s very foundation. Thermal inertia of all layers beneath the well mixed layer is so slow that we know that none of the surface temperature increases over the past 200 years has even BEGUN to show up as warming in the deeper layers YET. The warming of the oceans was pushed into movement by something other than human CO2 increases and continues steadily even when land/surface temps pauses.

        The idea that atmospheric CO2 and/or retained heat from that CO2 could possibly be warming the oceans below the mixing layer in perfect lock step with increases in atmospheric CO2 is completely and utterly unscientific and defies all known thermodynamic laws. It’s simply not possible. FIRST- The rising of ocean temps in layers below the 90m “mixed layer” LAGS surface temp rising by more than 500+ years! (Our warming hasn’t even registered in the deeper layers yet) SECOND-If ocean warming IS perfectly correlated with atmospheric CO2 levels rising, and a causal relationship does exist, then it can only go ONE way… WARMING oceans are causing changes in our atmosphere, NOT warming atmosphere is causing changes in our oceans. The laws of thermal inertia cannot be ignored.

      • ATTP-“Therefore if our total emissions is less than the amount by which atmospheric CO2 has increased, then some of our emissions must have been taken up by the natural sinks. Hence, the only system that emits more than it absorbs is us. ”

        Huh? If atmospheric CO2 has increased by say, 100 ppm, and our “total emissions is less than that amount (less than 100 ppm)” let’s say our total emissions amount to 80 ppm, then 20 ppm of the emissions are coming from SOMEWHERE ELSE. If the increase is 100 ppm, and we emit 80, and the oceans “sink” 40 of OUR emissions, then another 60 ppm is coming from SOMEWHERE ELSE. Your comment makes no sense.

      • dikranmarsupial,

        “The CO2 emitted by volcanoes is however balenced on long timescale by carbon subducted with the ocean floor.”

        Of course it is, but now you are moving beyond the ‘mass balance argument’ and bringing into consideration the causal history of the sources and sinks. The current mass balance, and relative sizes of the various sources and sinks (including the current rate of human emissions) are the only physical magnitudes that figure in the premises of the mass balance argument. If you want to invoke past history, you are moving beyond the mass balance argument.

        “In working out whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic, you need to consider the net result of all natural uptake and emissions, rather than just looking at the sources.”

        Curiously, you seem to have completely forgotten the content of your exchange with Tom Curtis on this issue. I am indeed looking at *all* the sources and sinks (and all the depositors and withdrawers, in my banking analogy). In my volcano scenario, the volcanic emission rates mirror the anthropogenic emission rates (now, and at all time, let us suppose). The other natural sinks and sources are adjusted to satisfy the mass balance while maintaining the historically observed atmospheric concentrations. Hence, we are a net source and “nature” as a whole (including volcanoes) is a net sink while atmospheric concentration increases. By your ‘mass balance argument’, on that basis alone, we are responsible for the increase. But, by the very same argument, volcanoes being a net source, while the rest of nature* as a whole (including us) is a net sink, it logically follows that volcanoes are entirely responsible for the increase. Is your argument rather entirely hinging on your tacking the label “natural” on volcanoes to disqualify them as possible causal agents?

        Again, I agree that looking a the history of the past variations (volcanoes roughly constant and naturally balanced by sedimentation and rock weathering, and humans emissions increasing rapidly) one can reasonably infer that we are responsible. But this goes beyond the mass balance argument.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand wrote “Of course it is, but now you are moving beyond the ‘mass balance argument’ and bringing into consideration the causal history of the sources and sinks”

        No, it was you that moved beyond the mass balance argument by considering individual sources and sinks, I was just pointing out why this is misleading. Considering volcanoes is effectively just cherry picking the source side of a mechanism of the carbon cycle without considering the sink side.

        The mass balance argument just shows that the natural environment as a whole is a net carbon sink. It never ceases to amaze me that some are unable to accept this simple fact.

      • dikranmarsupial wrote:

        “Pierre-Normand On the SkS comment thread to which you refer, the discussion with Tom is more to do with the definition of “cause”. The mass balance analysis doesn’t itself show that the rise is anthropogenic, it only shows that the natural environment is a net carbon sink, and Tom and I fully agree on that point AFAICS.”

        Well, this is exactly what I have been arguing from the beginning, before I even pulled thia SkS thread from Google. I have said that the mass balance argument needs to be supplemented with more assumptions (very reasonable assumptions indeed) in order to secure attribution — i.e. to ascribe a cause. I never denied that the mass balance argument is insufficient to show that the environment as a whole is a net sink. This is trivial. But it hardly establishes, all by itself, that we are the cause of the increase.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand wrote “But, by the very same argument, volcanoes being a net source, while the rest of nature* as a whole (including us) is a net sink, it logically follows that volcanoes are entirely responsible for the increase.”

        No, the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 is greater than annual volcanic emissions, so the analysis would say that part (the smaller part) of the rise is from volcanoes and part (the larger part) due to the rest of nature (including us). Including anthropogenic emissions with the rest of nature is clearly ridiculous. If we are part of nature then climate change can only be natural by definition (which suggests it is a useless definition).

      • Thank you for the kind words, Jonathan. How many unknowns would be just enough?

        ***

        > Demons are great motivators.

        You just switched to the plural, Cap’n.

        Here’s the state-of-the-art in that game:

        I was told that the UK government tried to encourage IPCC to extend the scope and title of the WG1 Radiative Forcing chapter to go beyond RF, but (as Roger says) the IPCC is still rather conservative in this respect, despite the progress made over the last 2 reports. RF (and related metrics like Global Warming Potential, which then get used to calculate “CO2-equivalents”) are neat and well-understood by policymakers, and I think this is why there is such inertia here. However, if you work out your “carbon footprint” using a tool which uses standard CO2e values based on GWP and hence on RF, my guess is that this does not really reflect your true impact on climate because of all the other factors that it does not include. Nevertheless, the general view seems to be that a simple and workable metric is the way to go, as it at least gives people something to go on (much like the 2 degree target!).

        https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/assessing-anthropogenic-global-warming/#comment-58649

        Seems that the complete who’s who in your demonology is far from clear.

        As a well-known expertise expert might say, it’s not science, but it’s important.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand. O.K. you agree that the natural environment is a net carbon sink, so the question is, how can something cause an increase while taking more out than it puts in?

        Consider a bank account shared between two families, the Smiths and the Jones. If the Smiths notice that their net transactions results in £100 per month more being put into the account than is taken out, but the balance rises at only $50 per month then they know that the Jones take $50 more out of the account than they put in. It doesn’t matter that Pa Jones puts in $1000 more in per month than he takes out, the Jones are not causing the balance to rise, the Smiths are. Attributing the rise in CO2 to anthropogenic and natural causes is like attributing the rise in the balance to the Smiths and the Jones’. If Pa Jones is a big net contributor, then that means some other member of the Jones family must be big net spender. Likewise volcanoes may be a net carbon source, but that just means that other elements of the carbon cycle are bigger net sinks, and the anthropogenic/natural attribution needs to consider all natural sinks and net sources.

        Here is a challenge, find some other situation where X causes the amount of Y in Z to rise while taking more Y out of Z than it puts in. Can you find an every day example of X, Y and Z where this would be reasonable (e.g. X = me, Y = money, Z = bank account)?

      • dikranmarsupial wrote:

        “No, it was you that moved beyond the mass balance argument by considering individual sources and sinks, I was just pointing out why this is misleading. Considering volcanoes is effectively just cherry picking the source side of a mechanism of the carbon cycle without considering the sink side.”

        It is not cherry picking to single out volcanoes as a *possible* cause any more than it is cherry picking to single out humans as a cause. As I suspected you are bewitched by the label “natural” that induces you to conceive humans as outside of nature. I never neglected “the sink side”. I am objecting to your ruling out volcanoes as possible causal agents by fiat simply through conceptually lumping them up with the rest of “nature” and calling that “a sink”. This is not an argument; this is semantics. We may be the only intentional agents in the natural world but we hardly are the only efficient causes. You are correct that what disqualifies volcanoes as a causal antecedent of the atmospheric increase is that they are part of the regular cycle that was balancing out before the industrial revolution (and have been for millions of years). But that is an empirical-historical fact that goes beyond the mass balance argument.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierr-Normand “It is not cherry picking to single out volcanoes as a *possible* cause any more than it is cherry picking to single out humans as a cause.”

        Sorry, that is just silly. Separating sources/sinks between those that are natural and those that are anthropogenic is obviously the one that is most policy-relevant. If we are not responsible for the rise in atmospheric CO2 there is no reason to limit fossil fuel use, and to make that determination you need to contrast the anthropogenic influence on the carbon cycle with the natural.

      • “Pierre-Normand. O.K. you agree that the natural environment is a net carbon sink, so the question is, how can something cause an increase while taking more out than it puts in?”

        dikranmarsupial, let me respond to this separately. “The premise of your question is false”, as Ted Cruz would say to a TV reporter who bugs him about his past voting record. I would never say that “the natural environment” causes the increase (or causes some percentage of the increase). It is not the amorphous mass of “nature” that causes things to happen in the climate system. It is some specific causal agent within nature — some natural agent we may say (meaning something apart from humans). Volcanoes, for instance. Even though “nature” takes in more than it gives, this hardly rules out that volcanoes give in more than they take, does it? Volcanoes are a part of nature that gives more than it takes even though nature as a whole takes more than it gives. This should solve your conundrum. Both volcanoes, and us, give more than they take. So, prima facie, we are both candidates for any atmospheric increase and the mass balance argument can’t discriminate between volcanoes and us all by itself as possible causal agents for the atmospheric increase. (Though plenty other arguments can rule volcanoes out).

      • dikranmarsupial

        Sorry Pierre-Normand that is just sophistry, as is trying to say that man is part of nature (note the Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines “natural” as ” existing in nature and not made or caused by people…”). We all know that some aspects of the carbon cycle are sources, the question is how much of the rise is natural and how much is anthropogenic. It is the net effect of natural sources and sinks that defines the contribution from the natural environment.

      • This should solve your conundrum. Both volcanoes, and us, give more than they take.

        Except – as Dikran has already pointed out – this isn’t strictly true. Volcanoes are likely roughly in balance with the slow carbon sinks; essentially they release CO2 from the lithosphere at about the same rate as it is taken back into the lithosphere through weathering. In fact, it may well be that with the enhanced CO2 content of the oceans/atmosphere/biosphere that volcanoes are now releasing CO2 more slowly than it’s being taken up by the slow carbon cycle.

      • dikranmarsupial,

        “Sorry, that is just silly. Separating sources/sinks between those that are natural and those that are anthropogenic is obviously the one that is most policy-relevant.”

        Where do those strawmen come from? Of course causal attribution is policy relevant! Let me add that, of course humans and not volcanoes are entirely responsible for the recent atmospheric CO2 concentration increase. I am arguing that the ‘mass balance argument’ doesn’t all by itself establish that we are causally responsible. And you acknowledged this point recently. But strangely, you are ruling out volcanoes a priori on the ground that considering them as a possible cause of the increase constitutes cherry picking. You say that they must be considered together with the natural sink that balances out their emissions over long time scales. Of course! That’s my point! You must go beyond the simplistic ‘mass balance argument’ that threat the whole of nature as an amorphous blob and single us out as the only possible source responsible for the increase — just because we emit more than the rest of the natural sinks and source take out.

      • dik, “If we are part of nature then climate change can only be natural by definition (which suggests it is a useless definition).”

        Pretty much. Since over 50% of the land surface has been modified in some way by man over the past few thousand years you have to decide what portion of that is “natural” or “anthropogentic”. Then you have to estimate the atmosphere to “natural” sink equilibrium value. Then perhaps “pre-industrial” man was “natural” and only post industrial man is the villain. According to Gurney and Eckel’s, land shifted from a net source to a net sink in the past thirty years. Is that “natural” or “anthropogenic?” Since man has screwed with >50% of the land surface and helped increase atmospheric CO2, looks to me like man has a CO2 sink. Or is that “natural” man’s doings?

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre Normand wrote “Where do those strawmen come from?”

        There was no straw man, you asked “It is not cherry picking to single out volcanoes as a *possible* cause any more than it is cherry picking to single out humans as a cause. ”

        and I pointed out that the division between anthropogenic is policy relevant, much more so than the division between “volcanic -v- everything else (including us)” and secondly because volcanic activity is part of the natural carbon cycle, but anthropogenic emissions are not. As it is policy relevant and there is a genuine linguistic distinction between natural and anthropogenic influences, it obviously isn’t cherry picking, unlike singling out volcanoes.

        That is why it is reasonable to consider the natural environment as a whole against anthropogenic influences. Which is why the natural environment as whole being a net sink means that it is opposing the rise, rather than causing it.

      • A few thoughts, or points.
        ATTP: Your position requires that all other sources and sinks of CO2 remain static and not vary at all. We don’t have even the slightest evidence that this is true. Yes man has added Co2, and we are almost certainly at cause for some to all of the rise in CO2, but claiming that we can be sure it’s 100% anthro is activism and not science. Remember a warming trend has been underway since 1800 at least and that had to have some effect since the official position is that warming causes a positive feedback of released CO2 from sinks. There is nothing wrong with claiming high probability that anthro is the main factor, but your losing your boy scout science badge by asking people to take it on faith that its all anthro. You don’t have the data or the science to back that up. I say this over and over in this debate, it is OK to express a position without having to exaggerate beyond what is sensible. Your acting like CO2 PR agent and not acting like a scientist. I doubt undersea volcanoes are a significant source of atmospheric CO2, but a source of ocean heat is another thing entirely.

        In GENERAL: The biggest question in regards to the sea temps, is how does Co2 forced warming accumulate in colder water and not dissipate as it would normally do? We understand how solar heating can penetrate and warm the top layers, but that doesn’t work for a warm breeze. There is no mechanism that would take the modest surface heating at the very surface, from higher air temps, take it into the ocean and then concentrate it and bring it back to the surface for events like the blob and el nino. Basic physics says that if warm water goes down due to currents and mixing, the heat will dissipate in the colder water at depth. It should not accumulate, period. This alone makes the claims of Co2 induced el nino complete garbage. This on top of the fact that heat transfer from air to water is horribly inefficient. The Volcanic component of creating heat spikes, brought to the surface by currents, due to periods of increased eruption, makes much more sense. Since we don’t have a clue how much volcanism happens under the sea, we cannot discount or prove these assertions. But we also cannot say how much of the ocean heat content rise is from CO2 either since we don’t know these inputs. Every single joule of undersea volcanism goes into the ocean water heat content. A tiny bit of the air temps will transfer into the water. Co2 is not a good fit for ocean warming, no matter how good its PR people are.

        So much of the Climate change debate focuses on trying to ignore unknowns and trumpeting up known factors. This is shoddy science at best, dishonesty at worse. Yes we know Co2 has risen and it is certainly a factor in climate changes, but we don’t have a grasp on the rest of the inputs (positive or negative) in the natural systems. And yes they matter immensely and no they are not static and have never been static. The ocean heat is a perfect example of this, since we have no clue how many undersea volcanoes there are and no idea how much heat they add into the ocean. Any attempt to claim robust understanding of man-made increases in ocean heat content without that data, is activism.

      • Your position requires that all other sources and sinks of CO2 remain static and not vary at all.

        No, it doesn’t. Do you want to try reading it again.

      • dikranmarsupial

        “ATTP: Your position requires that all other sources and sinks of CO2 remain static and not vary at all”

        If you mean the mass balance analysis, then no, there is no such requirement. In fact the mass balance analysis reveals that the natural net sink has been strengthening over the last fifty years, which requires the other sources and sinks of CO2 to change, rather than to remain static. The only assumption of the mass balance analysis is that of conservation of mass.

      • dikranmarsupial wrote:

        “We all know that some aspects of the carbon cycle are sources, the question is how much of the rise is natural and how much is anthropogenic. It is the net effect of natural sources and sinks that defines the contribution from the natural environment.”

        I know what the question is. The question is: are we responsible or is something else responsible (or some combination)?. And I even agree on the answer: we are exclusively responsible (causal attribution to man is roughly 100%). You can just drop the label “nature” from the equation since it ought not to play any role in the argument that singles out something (either us or something else) as the cause of the atmospheric increase.

        You want to conclude from the fact that “nature” (meaning all sources and sinks except us) is a net sink that therefore “nature” can’t be the cause, and therefore we are exclusively responsible. The trouble with this argument is that it would lead the exact same conclusion if, ex hypothesi, volcano emissions had increased at the very same rate as our emissions, while atmospheric CO2 concentration histories had been the same (and natural sinks would have taken the slack on order to satisfy mass balance). This illustrates that, on your view, nothing can possibly happen in nature that can account for any fraction of the causal attribution whatsoever so long as “nature” as a whole remains a net sink. Isn’t that absurd?

      • dikranmarsupial

        PIerre-Normand You may have a different question that you are interested in, but that doesn’t mean that the mass balance argument is not a fully sufficient answer to the question that I posed in the way that I posed it.

        For the purposes of policy, it is almost irrelevant what parts of the natural carbon cycle are sources and which are sinks and to what degree, what matters is how the natural carbon cycle influences atmospheric CO2 and how anthropogenic emissions influences it. The mass balance argument shows that the natural environment is opposing the rise, just as we would expect from Le Chatellier’s principle.

      • To clarify.

        Your position is that the mass balance always came to net of zero (or extremely close to it) before man added in Co2.

        But the historical temps that showed a long term cooling with rebound in temps (before increased Co2), then Co2 induced warming apparently is assumed to be most of the warming after that. The fundamentals of climate change and models say that warming creates positive feedbacks from natural sinks and sources. Are you claiming that these reactions to warming only come from anthro warming and not the natural warming? The very fundamentals of climate theory indicate that there should have been increased in natural CO2 into the atmosphere at the same time man was ramping up their own Co2 production. You can’t have it both ways, it can’t be a positive feedback and also not an increasing natural source.

      • Dikranmarsupial wrote: “That is why it is reasonable to consider the natural environment as a whole against anthropogenic influences. Which is why the natural environment as whole being a net sink means that it is opposing the rise, rather than causing it.”

        Yes, the natural environment *as a whole* (excluding the atmosphere, of course) being a net sink is opposing *whatever* causes the atmospheric CO2 rise, including, possibly, some natural causes! This is what the ‘mass balance argument’ can not rule out, namely, that there might be other natural causes for the increase besides us. The mere fact that all the natural sinks, taken together, are larger than all the sources, including us, doesn’t single us out as the only source that can possibly be causally responsible for the atmospheric increase.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Brandon wrote “Your position is that the mass balance always came to net of zero (or extremely close to it) before man added in Co2. ”

        No, the mass balance analysis makes no assumptions whatsoever about whether natural sources and sinks were in balance before man added in CO2. It is an analysis of what has happened over the last 50 years that we have had instrumental records of CO2 (Mauna Loa). Over that time the rate of atmospheric increase has been less than anthropogenic emissions, which proves that the natural environment has been a net carbon sink, and hence has been opposing the rise, rather than causing it. See, no reference at all to pre-industrial balance.

      • > Even though “nature” takes in more than it gives, this hardly rules out that volcanoes give in more than they take, does it?

        Yet, being part of nature, volcanoes can’t give more than what nature takes.

        ***

        > The reason why *you* are responsible for the increase is because, let us assume, Pat and Chris would have continued to make balancing deposits and withdrawals without your intervention. This extra assumption is required in order to ascribe you the full responsibility for the increase.

        I’m not sure how the mass balance argument can work without that assumption, so your claim that it would be “strong when supplemented with other reasonable assumptions” looks unwarranted to me.

        ***

        Talk about “efficient” causality is mere Aristotelian semantics, BTW.

      • dikranmarsupial

        “Yes, the natural environment *as a whole* (excluding the atmosphere, of course) being a net sink is opposing *whatever* causes the atmospheric CO2 rise, including, possibly, some natural causes! ”

        Again, all you are pointing out is that the natural carbon cycle as elements that are sources and some that are sinks. We all know that, however it is the net response of the natural carbon cycle that determines whether the rise is anthropogenic or natural or a bit of both. The mass balance argument rules out “natural” and “a bit of both”, which leaves only “anthropogenic”.

      • That I can agree with. I thought we were talking on a longer timeline than that.

      • dikranmarsupial

        The analysis can be extended back further using the ice core data. The ice core data certainly suggests that the carbon cycle was reasonably closely balance prior to the industrial revolution as the trend in atmospheric CO2 during that time was very small by comparison. Of course there are issues with ice core data that don’t crop up with purposely collected instrumental observations. However that is not required to show that the natural environment has opposed the post-industrial rise in atmospheric CO2.

      • dikranmarsupial wrote: “The mass balance argument shows that the natural environment is opposing the rise, just as we would expect from Le Chatellier’s principle.”

        Is the Le Chatellier’s principle basic arithmetic? For the upteenth time, let me move back the goalpost where it originally was. I’ve insisted from the very beginning that the ‘mass balance argument’ is insufficient all by itself to determine causal attributions; it must be supplemented by auxiliary assumptions. So, yes, Le Chatellier’s principle enables us to constrain the flux at the ocean/atmosphere boundary. Together with considerations of mass balance, and independent estimates of terrestrial sinks and sources (terrestrial biomass) it limits how much volcanoes, for instance, could have contributed to the increase. (And there are plenty more lines of evidences that serve as constraints, such as carbon isotope ratios, oxygen depletion, etc.) But none of those pieces of the puzzles are included in the ‘mass balance argument’ that your are touting as the proof that we are “the” cause because “nature” opposes the rise. If you drop Le Chatellier’s principle (and other pieces of evidence) from the argument, then it might still be the case that nature as a whole opposes the rise, while volcanoes would put out more CO2, and contribute a larger share of the atmospheric increase, than we do. I am not saying this is a plausible scenario; only that the mass balance argument wouldn’t rule it out.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pierre-Normand wrote “let me move back the goalpost where it originally was.”

        Actually, as I initiated the line of discussion, the goalposts were originally where *I* placed them. The question is whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic or a bit of both; the mass balance argument rules out “natural” and “a bit of both”, which leaves “anthropogenic”. Pointing out that the natural carbon cycle includes sources as well as sinks (which is all you are really doing) doesn’t change that one iota.

      • dikranmarsupial wrote: “Over that time the rate of atmospheric increase has been less than anthropogenic emissions, which proves that the natural environment has been a net carbon sink, and hence has been opposing the rise, rather than causing it. See, no reference at all to pre-industrial balance.”

        I don’t see any reference to Le Chatelier’s principle either. Again, you are equivocating between the claim that “the natural environment” was opposing the rise (correct) and the claim that no part of the natural environment could have partially contributed to the rise (non sequitur).

      • Your comment makes no sense.

        Well, yes, but that’s because I got it the wrong way around. It should have been “if total emissions are more than” as is actually the case. The increase in atmospheric CO2 is a little less than half of what we’ve emitted.

      • Well there you go. Getting things wrong way round is a problem. :)

      • dikranmarsupial

        “I don’t see any reference to Le Chatelier’s principle either.”

        this is cheap rhetoric. I mentioned that the findings of the mass balance argument are what we would expect from Le Chatellier’s principle, but that doesn’t in any way suggest that Le Chateliers’ principle is *required* to support the mass balance analysis. It is a shame that discussions of climate end up with this sort of debating class nonsense.

        “Again, you are equivocating between the claim that “the natural environment” was opposing the rise (correct) and the claim that no part of the natural environment could have partially contributed to the rise (non sequitur).”

        In deciding whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic or a bit of both, then it is only the net response of the natural environment that is relevant. You could pick out any natural source and ask if it is contributing to some of the rise, but if you pick it out, then that means the net sink formed by what remains of the natural carbon cycle increases by EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT.

      • and Then There’s Physics: Are there actually people on this thread, who’ve been involved in discussing climate change for some time, who are essentially disputing that the rise is anthropogenic?

        There are people who dispute that the exact quantitative effects of human activities have been accurately estimated.

      • Willard, “Seems that the complete who’s who in your demonology is far from clear.”

        The father of the demonology would be Hansen with the coal death trains and climate catastrophe that will end human civilization. Those are pretty big shoes. A carbon balance that tends to emphasis fossil fuels which might be only half of the anthropogenic impact and calls land “natural”, when man has abused 50% of the land area, tends to reinforce Hansen’s demon.

        In reality there aren’t any demons, coal trains of death or a climate situation that will end civilization, just another potential problem that needs to be dealt with “responsibly” Though I have to admit, irresponsible actions could nip this particular problem in the bud as well, just not so “humanely”.

      • dikranmarsupial: “Again, all you are pointing out is that the natural carbon cycle as elements that are sources and some that are sinks. We all know that, however it is the net response of the natural carbon cycle that determines whether the rise is anthropogenic or natural or a bit of both. The mass balance argument rules out “natural” and “a bit of both”, which leaves only “anthropogenic”.

        So, you are retracting your earlier claim that you were agreeing with Tom Curtis that the mass balance argument only establishes that nature is a net sink and doesn’t prove that the increase is anthropogenic. You also asserts that the mass balance argument (as applied to to recent measurements of atmospheric CO2 concentration and estimates of human emissions) rules out “a bit of both”.

        This is very strange, It there a fundamental law of nature, or a logical law, that would make it impossible, say, for volcanoes to increase fourtyfold their outputs over the coming decade — a few super-volcanoes, say? And would that not add up significantly to our own relentless emissions (supposing we don’t mind the catastrophe) and causally contribute some share of the subsequent atmospheric increase? That would be a clear case of “a bit if both”. And yet it would still be ruled out by the mass balance argument, on your view, since nature as a whole would *still* be a net sink on that scenario.

      • dikranmarsupial

        “So, you are retracting your earlier claim that you were agreeing with Tom Curtis that the mass balance argument only establishes that nature is a net sink and doesn’t prove that the increase is anthropogenic. ”

        More misrepresentation. Tom and I agree that the mass balance argument establishes that the natural environment is a net carbon sink. For me this in sufficient to conclude that the natural environment as a whole is opposing the rise rather than causing it. Nowhere here have I said anything different, as I have only been considering the natural carbon cycle as a whole, because has I have repeatedly pointed out, cherry picking a natural source is a zero-sum game. The part of the rise due to the cherry picked source is exactly cancelled by a corresponding increase in the net sink formed by the remainder of the natural carbon cycle. So at the end of the day, it is only the net natural response that is relevant.

      • dikranmarsupial wrote: “In deciding whether the rise is natural or anthropogenic or a bit of both, then it is only the net response of the natural environment that is relevant. You could pick out any natural source and ask if it is contributing to some of the rise, but if you pick it out, then that means the net sink formed by what remains of the natural carbon cycle increases by EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT.”

        No, you are misconstruing my argument. I never suggested that just because I can single out a natural source that this makes it causally responsible for some share of the atmospheric increase. I merely pointed out that the mass balance argument doesn’t rule out that this source (meaning the causal agent) could have been causally responsible for some share of the increase. That would be the case if, for instance, it has increased its output independently, and the other natural sinks would not have completely wiped out this increase. Indeed, since the airborne faction has remained roughly constant in spite of our rapidly increasing emission rate, it would be expected that another cause of natural increase (a big volcano hidden somewhere, say) would add the same share of its increase (the airborne fraction * its increase) to the atmosphere.

      • “volcanoes cause the rise in CO2″ is a fairly common misunderstanding of climate.”

        Under water volcanoes can cause a heat bloom that will drive CO2 towards upper columns of water as well as eruptions causing turnover.

        It’s entirely possibly that a large deep eruption could produce a fair % of our yearly output in one event.

        Changes in long term oceanic cycles can possibly imo just as possibly cause an increase of CO2.

        I remember a documentary about a lake in Africa where a lot of people were found dead along the shore, with one survivor standing on the back of a truck, all were unharmed in any way.
        The theory was that something disturbed the deep lake water and released a lot of CO2, which pushed air away and everyone but the guy standing up on top of the truck suffocated, one tiny event released an intense burst of CO2. This can happen in the oceans too I would imagine

      • dikranmarsupial

        “That would be the case if, for instance, it has increased its output independently, and the other natural sinks would not have completely wiped out this increase. ”

        No, the mass balance analysis shows that the net natural sink has grown over time. This means that if some natural source had been increasing, then the natural sinks have been growing even faster and have indeed wiped out this increase. However, it matters not one iota. The mass balance tells us the net natural sink. If you take out a natural source, the remaining net natural sink increases by exactly the same amount, that is basic arithmetic – it is a zero-sum game if you consider both the natural sources and the natural sinks, it is only the net flux that actually matters,

        “Indeed, since the airborne faction has remained roughly constant in spite of our rapidly increasing emission rate, …”

        No, the fact that the airbrne fraction has been approximately constant is essentially BECAUSE anthropogenic emissions have been rapidly increasing. It is just what you would expect if you drive an approximately first order system with an exponentially rising signal.

      • > The father of the demonology would be […]

        As much as I’d love to play squirrels with you, Cap’n, I suggest we leave that subthread to Pierre-Normand’s mischaracterization of the false balance argument.

      • PNH: “So, you are retracting your earlier claim that you were agreeing with Tom Curtis that the mass balance argument only establishes that nature is a net sink and doesn’t prove that the increase is anthropogenic.”

        dikranmarsupial: “More misrepresentation. Tom and I agree that the mass balance argument establishes that the natural environment is a net carbon sink. For me this in sufficient to conclude that the natural environment as a whole is opposing the rise rather than causing it.”

        But you had said: “The mass balance analysis doesn’t itself show that the rise is anthropogenic, it only shows that the natural environment is a net carbon sink, and Tom and I fully agree on that point AFAICS.”

        Can I be excused for paraphrasing “doesn’t itself show” with “doesn’t prove that”? Of course I grant you that the argument can be supplemented with auxiliary assumptions. However, in the post that I was replying to, you didn’t make use of any other assumptions except for the claim that if some source is singles out as natural (“cherry picked”, have you earlier said) then some natural sink must compensate for it. But you can’t assume this, since what is at issue precisely is the determination of the causes of the atmospheric increase. And saying that some natural causal agent caused some fraction of the increase just is to say that it *wan’t* totally cancelled by a natural response from the other sources and sinks. It’s too easy to rule out natural causes if you entitle yourself to just assume that they are cancelled by opposite natural effects.

        You also ignored the rest of my post where I describes a straightforward scenario where the atmospheric increase would be “a bit of both” and where your interpretation of the mass balance argument commits you to deny this just because nature a a whole still is a net sink in that scenario.

      • “No, the mass balance analysis shows that the net natural sink has grown over time. This means that if some natural source had been increasing, then the natural sinks have been growing even faster and have indeed wiped out this increase.”

        So, you are saying that if volcanic activity has increased, then the natural sinks must have wiped out their increase. But why would natural sinks chose to wipe out specifically, and entirely, the increase from the volcanoes, and not any fraction at all of the increase from industrial activity? This is a fallacy. You ought only to conclude from the mass balance argument that whatever the several causes of the increase might be (natural and/or anthropogenic), the natural sinks have increased fast enough such that nature as a whole has remained a net sink.

        You argument is very strange, because it leads you to conclude that as long as the natural sinks are larger than all the sources combined (natural+anthropogenic) then only human being have any power to contribute some fraction of the atmospheric increase, and no volcano (or any other natural event) can possibly be causally credited with any fraction of the atmospheric increase unless it would be so large as to make nature as a whole a net source.

      • P-N, you are a far more patient man than I.

      • ATTP: “On the other hand, we do know that the oceans and biosphere are net sinks of CO2, so it would be rather strange if one – or both – would have been significant sources of CO2 in the absence of our emissions, but suddenly become sinks in the presence of our emissions.”

        If one (biosphere) sink is dependant on CO2 concentration, as it appears to be, then this would not be “rather strange” at all – rather the opposite!

      • If one (biosphere) sink is dependant on CO2 concentration, as it appears to be, then this would not be “rather strange” at all – rather the opposite!

        Was there ever period after we started emitting CO2, when the atmospheric concentration rose faster than our emissions? I think the answer is no, which would seem to suggest that nature has been a net sink ever since we started emitting. Now, maybe you could argue that one part of nature was a net source for a while, but I think would require some circumstances that we might have noticed, like significant die-off of parts of the biosphere. Do you have any evidence to suggest that either atmospheric concentration, for a while, rose faster than our emissions, or that some part of nature acted as a net source after we started emitting?

      • Pierre, “You argument is very strange, because it leads you to conclude that as long as the natural sinks are larger than all the sources combined (natural+anthropogenic) then only human being have any power to contribute some fraction of the atmospheric increase, and no volcano (or any other natural event) can possibly be causally credited with any fraction of the atmospheric increase unless it would be so large as to make nature as a whole a net source.”

        They probably stick with the simplistic argument because it is almost impossible to actually account for shifts in “natural” sink efficiency. Land use “sourcing” and land sink efficiency reversed with basic conservation practices, both agricultural and preservation but LUCF some reason excluded in Kyoto, probably because it was grossly underestimated. Since human exercise considerable control over what is or isn’t “natural” in biosphere and lithosphere, it just total screws their man versus nature logic up. Now that their grand “biofuel solution” is proving to be problematic, they cannot really go there can they?

      • Pierre-Normand Houle | January 25, 2016 at 9:01 am |
        David Wojick,

        The Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 concentration record and the cumulative anthropogenic emissions over that period have a correlation 0.9995 (r^2 = 0.999). If the cause is natural, it does a remarkable job of mimicking the effect that ought to be expected anyway from the magnitude of our emission and the satisfaction of Henry’s law.

        You made that up.

        The correlation with fossil fuel emissions is pretty poor and getting worse. It was ok from about 1950 to about 1992 Before that it was garbage and with the flattening of emissions growth it is going off the rails again.

        The CO2 level is rapidly decoupling from emissions. The 7.0 GT/Y environmental absorption in 2014 (CDIAC) is the sound of doom for CAGW.

      • stevenreincarnated

        P-N, you can also prove that natural gas combustion doesn’t add to CO2 atmospheric concentrations

        steven | July 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
        Ok, lets make this simple. If natural gas produces less than 50% of anthropogenic co2 place it over on the En side. It is called natural gas after all. Your formula now proves it didn’t contribute either.

        It didn’t work for me but maybe it will for you.

      • Just to clarify something. Are there actually people on this thread, who’ve been involved in discussing climate change for some time, who are essentially disputing that the rise is anthropogenic?

        Probably. What do you mean by “anthropogenic”? What do you mean by “is”?

      • dikranmarsupial, your Smith/Jones analogy is a good one but it only needs a slight modification in order to uncover this blind spot of your. The Smiths are a metaphor for mankind, while the Jones are a metaphor for nature, let us suppose. We assume that the Smiths are collectively depositing money at a higher rate than the rate at which the bank account balance increases (1$/day, for a 50¢/day rate of increase). From this fact, we can infer that the Jones collectively withdraw money at a higher rate than they deposit. They are a net drag (-50¢/day) on the account balance. So far we must be in agreement.

        Now it seems that you want to infer that the Smiths are entirely responsible for the increase in the bank balance. Indeed, we can even attribute to them *more* than 100% of the account balance increase, *if* the only other possible candidate for attribution was the *whole* Jones family. But you also want to infer that no individual member of the Jones family is causally responsible for any positive share of the account balance increase. What about Sue “super-volcano” Jones? She deposited money at a rate 9 times higher than the whole Smith family (9$/day), let us suppose. But, you say, that doesn’t count, since the other members of the Smith family must have collectively withdrawn money an even larger rate (9.5$/day), such that the account balance still only was increasing at half the rate the whole Smith family was depositing money. But this just is to restate that the whole Jones family contributed less than nothing (they’re a net sink). It doesn’t necessarily take anything away from the *effect* produced by Sue Jones on the bank balance!

        Imagine Sue Jones hadn’t made any deposits, other things being equal. How much would the account balance varied? Certainly much more that it would have varies had the whole Smith family made no deposit at all, other things being equal. 9.5 times more, in fact.

        We can further adjust this analogy such that all the the members of the Jones family apart from Sue (they are ‘the oceans’, les us say) adjust their rates of deposits/withdrawal so as to maintain the rate of increase of the bank balance at 50% (constant airborne fraction) of the total deposits from the Smiths *and* from Sue. In that case, the Smith family would be causally responsible for 10% of the increase, and Sue Jones would be causally responsible for 90% of the increase, in spite of the fact that the Jones family as a whole (including Sue) still is a drag on the account balance. That’s because if the Smith family ceases to make deposits at any time, the rate of increase of the bank account will diminish by 10%, whereas if Sue “super volcano” Jones alone stops to make deposits at any time, the rate of increase will drop by 90%.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Pierre-Normand Houle | January 25, 2016 at 7:45 pm |
        “Yes, Willard, I may be the only one here explicitly disputing this argument.”

        No, you aren’t the only one. You aren’t the first one. The only reason I have an equation for CO2 contributors is because DM challenged me to create one that showed the mass balance equation wasn’t proof that man was responsible for the entire rise in atmospheric CO2.

      • stevenreincarnated wrote: “Exactly right. Pekka and I tried to explain why the mass balance argument was insufficient to DM years ago and he hasn’t gotten it yet. Good luck.”

        That makes three of us then. Pekka’s spirit still lives.

      • Pierre, “That makes three of us then. Pekka’s spirit still lives.”

        There are quite a few others but is kind of like the surface temperature record, a tenth of a degree is half a trillion and 40 ppm is a trillion and a few decades. They don’t want to consider such trivialities.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Dallas, the argument we are talking about isn’t over what actually caused the increase in atmospheric CO2. It is about whether or not you can prove it was all anthropogenic using a mass balance equation.

      • Steven, I know. The 40 ppm is roughly the impact of the reduction in land sink efficiency, not an emission just a reduction in the rate of Un(land). Un(ocean) could be another 10 to 40 ppm, but unless you expand the simplistic balance equation you cannot assign attribution to anything other than post industrial man..

      • > steven | July 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm |

        I can’t locate that comment.

        However, I can locate that other thread about the balance argument:

        https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/06/quantifying-the-anthropogenic-contribution-to-atmospheric-co2/

        I can’t locate any point of disagreement between Pekka and DM.

        I haven’t read all of DM’s 127 comments, however. Only Pekka’s.

      • dikranmarsupial

        FWIW, Pekka’s second post on that thread is shown below. Pekka was a genuine contributor to discussion of climate, a sad loss. Perhaps he was thinking of Bartemis rather than Pekka?

        Pekka Pirilä | May 7, 2015 at 3:39 pm |

        Bartemis,

        Mass balance is an excellent argument, when the masses considered are large enough to assure that uncertain factors cannot distort much the conclusions. This is a perfect case of that.

        The cumulative anthropogenic release and the cumulative increase in the atmospheric CO2 are so large that it’s virtually certain that other factors have negligible influence on the interpretation of those numbers.

        Sometimes common sense allows for reliable assertions.

      • stevenreincarnated

        You will find my comment and those of Pekka near the end of the comment section on this post:

        https://judithcurry.com/2011/08/04/carbon-cycle-questions/#comments

      • dikranmarsupial

        Pekka clearly changed his mind between 2011 and 2015 as the quote I gave clearly demonstrates. The objection that Pekka raises on the other thread is incorrect because the “additional” source of CO2 would have to be extra-terrestrial as the mass balance argument already includes all natural sources and all natural sinks (no numbers are ever assigned to them, so they are not restricted to known natural source and sink mechanisms, a distinction that perhaps Pekka was not aware of at time of the earlier thread).

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, how could he change his mind about simple mathematics? Why don’t you do as I asked some 3 1/2 years ago and make an equation that incorporates the fact that increasing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 creates a sink and prove your point that way. Show my equation is wrong. I’m sure once you do that you will realize that there is no other way to define the sink created as anything other than an anthropogenic sink and that is where you logic is breaking down.

      • dikranmarsupial

        stevenreincarnated the mass balance equation is not a model of the carbon cycle, and you will not understand it if you treat it as such. It is a statement of a constraint that the carbon cycle must obey and nothing more, it doesn’t tell you why the natural environment is a (growing) net sink, just that it is. If you want a model of the carbon cycle, you could start off with the very basic models given in my paper ((http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ef200914u), but do pay attention to the caveats which explain why such simplistic models cannot be used for meaningful quantative analysis.

      • stevenreincarnated

        DM, I threw my hands up on this long ago. The bottom line is you required an equation from me which was a reasonable request. Now I require one from you showing mine is wrong.

      • dikranmarsupial

        The error is in your interpretation of the equation. Relabelling part of the natural response to increasing atmospheric CO2 levels as being anthropogenic doesn’t mean that it is anthropogenic.

        Consider this, I share a bank account with my wife. She decides she wants the balance to be £100 and if it is in excess of that, then she will adjust her transactions to remove half of the excess each month. We begin with the balance at £100. If I start depositing £200 a month and taking out £100 then she will take out £50 more a month than she otherwise would have done. In this case, that £50 is her opposition to the rise, it isn’t my action, it is hers. Your argument is equivalent to saying that that £50 should be counted as my withdrawal, rather than hers, which makes no sense whatsoever.

      • David Springer

        …and Then There’s Physics | January 25, 2016 at 9:56 am |

        “Just to clarify something. Are there actually people on this thread, who’ve been involved in discussing climate change for some time, who are essentially disputing that the rise is anthropogenic?”

        Are there actually people who think CO2 rise is an all or nothing question in regard to anthropogenic causation?

    • Alan, I was confused about this because the game being discussed here is decade to centuries climate change. You might have made it clearer that this was not your topic. The rapid onset of ice ages might be relevant.

    • The dickrant marsupial argument is somewhat simplistic but correct. Pierre-Normand with help from Englebeen correct. This argument is not productive.

    • dikranmarsupial | January 25, 2016 at 7:12 am | Reply
      If the natural environment (which includes undersea volcanoes) were a net source of CO2 into the atmosphere, then atmospheric CO2 would be rising at a rate faster than that of anthropogenic emissions. However we know, with very high certainty that this is not the case.

      Nope, not true.

      In fact we know that anthropogenic emissions (fossil fuel) are only responsible for less than 1/5 of the CO2.

      Land plants absorb 120 GT of carbon a year. Growth has increased 60% since 1900 (11% from 1982 to 2010). 9.8 GT is 8.2 percent of 120. So from 1982 to 2005 the increase in growth completely compensated for all the additional emissions.

      What is missing is the 180 GT and the 40 GT/Y of lost carbon sink from burning rainforest which for most of the 20th century was an annual 2 GT of emssions with 0.5 GT/Y of carbon sink destroyed .

      The rise in CO2 is mostly do to the oceans and burning the rainforest.

      The burning is down to 1 GT/Y with 0.25 GT/Y of carbon sink destroyed .Indonesia is almost out of rainforest Which is good because they are irresponsible.

      http://www.drmartinwilliams.com/conservation-and-environment/indonesian-forest-destruction-corruption-plays-a-role.html
      In 1987, 2 million hectares, 1.4 million of primary rainforest, were destroyed in Kalimantan Watch

      The rise in CO2 will attenuate as the sink destruction winds down.

      • PA wrote: “Nope, not true.”

        PA, you are misreading dikranmarsupial. What he said about net sources and net sinks was correct. You changed the topic to gross sources. The anthopogenic net sources can’t be larger than the rate of atmospheric increase while, at the same time, the rest of nature would also be a net source. That would means that the sum total of the carbon being delivered to the atmosphere by both man and nature would at least twice larger than the carbon actually accumulating there.

      • “The anthopogenic net sources can’t be larger than the rate of atmospheric increase while, at the same time, the rest of nature would also be a net source. That would means that the sum total of the carbon being delivered to the atmosphere by both man and nature would at least twice larger than the carbon actually accumulating there.”

        There IS NO ANTHROPOGENIC NET SOURCE! Humans are NOT creating carbon, or CO2 out of thin air and inputting it into the system. PERIOD. The SOURCE of fossil fuels is the lithosphere, where those fossil fuels were “sunk” eons ago. Before that, they were part of the biosphere. Nature puts CO2 into the atmosphere and pulls it out again every day…from the biosphere, the oceans, the lithosphere etc. NATURE is the SOLE SOURCE and the SOLE SINK of every carbon atom. It moves between natural sources in a cycle of give and take. Humanity is natural. Humanity cannot make or destroy matter. All they can do is move it around, manipulate it. But humans are NOT a source of matter.

      • PA, “The rise in CO2 is mostly do to the oceans and burning the rainforest.”

        On a recent timescale possibly, but over a longer time scale you have plenty of desertification, logging and other land abuse that wasn’t really reversed until a few decades ago. Land has only returned to a net sink in the past few decades which is a better explanation for the reduction in correlation with fossil fuel emissions.

        Lowell Stott though estimated warming of the southern oceans could have contributed about 30 ppm over the past few thousand years. In the Law Dome CO2 reconstructions CO2 shifted from a decreasing trend to increasing about 5000 years ago. .

      • “NATURE is the SOLE SOURCE and the SOLE SINK of every carbon atom.”

        Sure, but some of the carbon atoms that nature moves from its reservoirs to the atmosphere are being given a little kick by us on the way. We also help nature drilling holes and digging pits into itself. Those processes are customarily being dubbed “anthropogenic”, though you are free to use another name.

      • “Sure, but some of the carbon atoms that nature moves from its reservoirs to the atmosphere are being given a little kick by us on the way.”

        Volcanoes kick them around all the time. Earthquakes too. And plate tectonics…On the land, on the ocean floor. The Earth BURNS and melts and grinds and dissolves it’s carbon over and over and over again. Cosmic rays hit nitrogen in the atmosphere and creates Carbon 14, radiates it into existence….talk about a kick! And while humans are not a carbon source, we ARE a sink. We eat carbon, wear carbon, grow in carbon amounts from childhood to adulthood, and the more of us there are, the more carbon we store! Humanity…the biosphere’s carbon reservoir. :)

      • Pierre-Normand Houle | January 25, 2016 at 9:20 pm |
        PA wrote: “Nope, not true.”

        PA, you are misreading dikranmarsupial. What he said about net sources and net sinks was correct. You changed the topic to gross sources. The anthopogenic net sources can’t be larger than the rate of atmospheric increase while, at the same time, the rest of nature would also be a net source.

        Well… let me think about that…

        If the natural environment (which includes undersea volcanoes) were a net source of CO2 into the atmosphere, then atmospheric CO2 would be rising at a rate faster than that of anthropogenic emissions. However we know, with very high certainty that this is not the case.

        Well, as stated at the current time this is true.

        Therefore we know that the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic and that the natural environment (including undersea volcanic activity) is a net carbon sink, opposing the rise.

        Technically this is true too. But the rise is only 20% due to fossil fuel, so reducing fossil fuel is only going to have a minor impact. The anthropogenic influence is mostly unrelated to fossil fuel.

        If we are not responsible for the rise in atmospheric CO2 there is no reason to limit fossil fuel use, and to make that determination you need to contrast the anthropogenic influence on the carbon cycle with the natural.

        Hit the nail on the head. Since fossil fuel is responsible for a small fraction of the problem attacking fossil fuel isn’t going to solve anything.

        The current emissions aren’t really the problem. Vegetation should be an increasing sink, there shouldn’t be a problem.

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112715002443
        We update global GHG forest emissions…
        The net effect on the atmosphere was net emissions of 0.8 Gt CO2 yr−1 in 2011–2015.

        Forests instead of acting as a net sink are actually a source (because of anthropogenic activity).

        As far as the original Tolstoy paper, not much to work with there. It is estimated that 80% of the worlds volcanoes are in the ocean, on thinner crust so the possibility that ocean volcanic emissions are contributing is there… but there doesn’t seem to be enough information to argue for or against.

    • dikranmarsupial | January 25, 2016 at 7:12 am

      “…were a net source of CO2 into the atmosphere, then atmospheric CO2 would be rising at a rate faster than that of anthropogenic emissions.”

      There’s that stupid, pseudo-mass balance argument again. Totally and completely wrong.

    • dikranmarsupial | January 26, 2016 at 3:27 am |

      Stupid, stupid, stupid.

      dC = Ea + En – Un

      but

      Un = Una + Unn

      Una is a response to Ea. It exists only because of Ea. This is how dynamic systems work. Sink activity is proportional to total input. You can only make the claim of anthropogenic attribution if En-Unn is negative, NOT if En-Un only is negative.

      This is just dumb beyond belief. I can’t believe you are still peddling this idiotic line, and worse, that there are so many stupid people who fall for it.

    • Pierre-Normand Houle | January 25, 2016 at 9:55 am |

      “The almost perfect correlation between the rate of atmospheric increase and our cumulative emissions and the lack of an explanation why nature would have contrived to cause the recent increase absent our emissions, is sufficient to justify the ascription of responsibility to our emissions.”

      It is far less than “perfect”. A much better relationship exists between temperature anomaly and the rate of change of CO2.

      Here is a toy model that demonstrates equal treatment of anthropogenic and natural inputs, and shows how the dCO2/dt = k*(T – T0) relationship can arise in a realistic, physically viable way.

      Let

      A = atmospheric CO2 content
      O = oceanic content
      alpha = steady state proportionality
      tau = rapid time constant to equalize proportions of oceanic and atmospheric content
      H = human inputs
      tau_long = very long sequestration time constant

      dA/dt = (O – alpha*A)/tau + H
      dO/dt = (alpha*A – O)/tau + U – O/tau_long

      U is upwelling CO2, and O/tau_long is the rate at which CO2 is removed from the surface oceans. In the steady state, without any H, we have

      O1 = tau_long*U
      A1 = tau_long*U/alpha

      Let us insert a temperature dependence on tau_long, so that tau_long = tau_long1 + beta*(T – T0), where tau_long1 is a constant, and beta is a temperature sensitivity constant.

      We now linearize the equation. Let A = A1 + deltaA and O = O1 + deltaO. We get

      d(deltaA)/dt = (deltaO – alpha*deltaA)/tau + H
      d(deltaO)/dt = (alpha*deltaA – deltaO)/tau + U – (O1+deltaO)/(tau_long1 + beta*(T – T0))

      But, to first order significant terms, (O1+deltaO)/(tau_long1 + beta*(T – T0)) = O1/tau_long1 + deltaO/tau_long1 – (O1*beta/tau_long^2)*(T – T0). Set k = O1*beta/tau_long^2/(1+alpha). We have

      d(deltaA)/dt := (deltaO – alpha*deltaA)/tau + H
      d(deltaO)/dt := (alpha*deltaA – deltaO)/tau + (1+alpha)*k*(T – T0) – deltaO/tau_long1

      But, deltaO is small, and tau_long1 is large, so this is approximately

      d(deltaA)/dt := (deltaO – alpha*deltaA)/tau + H
      d(deltaO)/dt := (alpha*deltaA – deltaO)/tau + (1+alpha)*k*(T – T0)

      With tau short, we get the approximate solution for deltaA as

      d(deltaA)/dt := H/(1+alpha) + k*(T – T0)

      With alpha large, this becomes

      d(deltaA)/dt := k*(T – T0)

      Setting the change in atmospheric CO2 concentration to A/atmospheric_volume, and redefining k appropriately, then gives us

      dCO2/dt := k*(T – T0)

  26. I recall reading that tidal energy is about one third of all ocean mixing energy, hence it is directly relevant to ongoing climate change, short and long term.

  27. I don’t think this paper’s conjecture is meant to have any relevance to the recent warming, but, nevertheless, if the conjecture is true, we should be in a period of relatively *low* seafloor vulcanism right now.

  28. Another physics question is whether the ocean depth change owing to tides in fact would increase pressure at the bottom, if the simple and usual explanation of tides were true. The water weighs less where it’s deep, which is how you drive the tides in the first place, according to this explanation.

    • rhhardin,

      Yes, that’s true, however the author mentions “times of maximum extensional stresses” rather than variations in loading (pressure) as the primary effects of “tidal forcing”.

      • stevenreincarnated

        P-N, watching you over at aTTP I have decided you have more patience than any single human deserves so we will be putting a patience tax on you.

  29. dikranmarsupial

    Incidentally, for the paper to be a gamechanger with respect to long term climate, that would require climate sensitiuvity to CO2 to be reasonably high. If ECS is low, then the CO2 from the volcanoes isn’t going to have much of an effect on climate. Also it leave the puzzle as to why temperature seems to lead CO2 in the ice core record.

    • Alan Longhurst

      In the eBook ppsted recently here I looked at all the papers I could find that stated a ‘before or after’ conclusion concernnig CO2 at deglaciations: 7 said CO2 lagged, 3 said CO2 was coincident, 3 said it led.

      Take your pick….

    • Dikran is 100% correct that if volcanic CO2 is the de-glaciation driver, TCS/ECS must be very very high. This is the first clue that the paper is junk science.

  30. Geoff Sherrington

    For years I have been blogging about the arrogance of the current assumptions that surface sea level changes can mean anything when very little is known about the lower 50% of the oceans where they are deep. This 50% includes mid ocean ridges whose changes in unmeasured geometry and unmeasured changes in bottom warming of the oceans might make a mockery of confidence that sea level change is only driven by atmospheric GHG changes.
    Omitting the deep 50% is an error at elementary school level.

  31. We don’t know natural flows well enough to measure the impact of human activity on the carbon cycle.
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2654191

  32. Alan Longhurst, thank you for presenting the paper. To me this is just a recent move in the game, what Kuhn referred to as normal science. In this game, the CO2 enthusiasts built an early lead, so to speak, but the CO2 opponents have been consistently chipping away at the lead (so it seems to me). This paper is bound to spark a rally, so to speak, of more research and mathematical modeling. One of the interesting comments of the paper is that feedbacks in the climate system amplify the effects of small variations in insolation. That would be interesting if it could be confirmed and quantified.

    I am not expecting any game changers or paradigm shifts in the CO2-Climate science, merely lots of industrious normal science, eventually producing much more complete mechanistic understandings and more accurate estimates of the diverse CO2 effects at the surface of the Earth, in the oceans, and in the atmosphere. But that’s just me.

    Thanks again for presenting the paper.

  33. Berényi Péter

    Meridional Overturning Circulation (a.k.a. Thermohaline Circulation) is not driven by thermodynamics, but by deep turbulent mixing caused by internal waves breaking at mid ocean ridges or continental margins of complex geometry. Internal waves themselves are generated by tides and winds, that is, by pure mechanical forces.

    About half the mechanical energy input is provided by tides, so tidal pattern is a major driver of climate indeed.

    Downwelling at the ice / water interface is a secondary effect, it could not go on for long without an active process elsewhere, replenishing buoyancy, otherwise the abyss would eventually get saturated with cold water of high salinity and all deep circulation would grind to a pathetic crawl.

    So, it’s not only about volcanoes, but tidal forcing has a much more direct effect on ocean currents as well.

    • Alan Longhurst

      Once you start in on the global thermohaline circulation, best forget most of what you’ve read and depend on – for instance –

      Carl Wunsch
      What Is the Thermohaline Circulation? Science 298, 8 Nov 2002
      “The conclusion from this and other lines of evidence is that the ocean’s massflux is sustained primarily by the wind, and secondarily by tidal forcing The ocean is thus best viewed as a mechanically driven fluid engine, capable of importing, exporting, and transporting vast quantities of heat and freshwater.”

      and also

      Carl Wusch/Raffaele Ferrari
      Ann. Rev. Fluid Mech. 2004. 36:281–314
      Vertical mixing, Energy and the general circulation of the oceans

      • > best forget most of what you’ve read and depend on […]

        Why?

      • Alan Longhurst

        Willard

        You ask why? Simple. NOAA thinks it works like this –
        “These deep-ocean currents are driven by differences in the water’s density, which is controlled by temperature (thermo) and salinity (haline). This process is known as thermohaline circulation”.

        Carl Wunsch and others know better but nobody seeks to notice.

      • Alan Longhurst, thank you for those references.

      • alan Longhurst: Carl Wunsch and others know better but nobody seeks to notice.

        Are you saying that Carl Wunsch’s judgment is the last word on the subject? The thermohaline circulation is presented in textbooks, not as purely an NOAA invention.

      • > Carl Wunsch and others know better […]

        So it is best forget most of what we’ve read and depend on, including what the NOAA says, because Carl Wunsch and otters know better.

        Who are these otters, Allan, and why do you think they know better?

      • Longhurst is spot on. The purveyors of the “great conveyor belt” view of ocean circulation are oceanographic amateurs relying upon their simplistic visualization of mere reading knowledge. By contrast, Wunsch and others are highly experienced physical oceanographers, with far deeper understanding of oceanic dynamics.

      • So Wunsch and some unnamed otters are right because they “are highly experienced physical oceanographers,” right?

        I’ve read about that kind of argument somewhere. I think it has a latin name. Which one was it, again?

      • Willard:

        If you prefer mere reading knowledge to real-world experience, rigorously analytically interpreted, then there’s a term that fits: scientific novice. No doubt it can be translated into many languages. Realistic comprehension is far more valuable than polemical stances. While THC indeed is real, it’s but a minor, snail-paced adjunct to wind-driven circulation.

  34. The paper suggests that seafloor eruption rates:

    …may be influenced by sea level and crustal loading cycles at scales from fortnightly to 100 kyr. Recent mid-ocean ridge eruptions occur primarily during neap tides and the first 6 months of the year, suggesting sensitivity to minor changes in tidal forcing and orbital eccentricity.

    Does anyone have an estimate for the change in mass/force represented by a meter or so of daily change to an average water depth of 2500 meters? A change of one-in-2500 would seem to exceed any reasonable attempt to extract a signal given the poor quality of data available.

    The concept of non-glacial crustal loading appears, at best, to be a proxy for the gravitational forces that directly effect the changes in the crust and, therefore, mid ocean volcanism. The water is not the only mass that responds to changing gravitational forces.

  35. If I had a model for every model that needed another model to explain it, and a model to harmonize the results with all of the other models that needed models to explain them, and if I then averaged of all the models, I’d be a model climatologist.

  36. If undersea volvanism were significantly influenced by neap vs normal tides, you would expect a 125+ m change in sealevel next to and nearby loss of glacial mass on Iceland to be obvious. I haven’t read that.

    The world flexes. Maybe like bending a wire, you can have a bend too many, but individual bends are unimportant.

  37. Maya has been banging on about this since her first paper in 2008. TEDx talk in 2013 available on Youtube.
    It is true that seasonal seismic activity was shown for the Himalayas for quakes above Richter 3. Was subsequently shown to be related to the monsoon water cycle with a lag. There is no such hydrological cycle in the oceans.
    Her explanation for the claimed undersea seismic clustering in the first half of the year is the change from closest to furthest solar approach in earths orbit. Problem is, mirror image ‘solar tidal’ tensions occur in the second half of the year. No explanation about why the mirror image does not also release stress and strain.
    Other people have been unable to replicate her supposed semiannual subsea seismic clusters. (I have a reference archived somewhere that I will dig up.) And, she claimed the peak was Feb. No one has been able to replicate that. And, why only in the deep oceans, not for example all around the Pacific Ring of Fire?
    Finally. while it may be true that volcanos produce seismic activity, it is even more true that there are many more seismic events than volcanoes–at least land based.
    Until there is a lot more confirmatory research of her thesis by others, color me quite skeptical.

    • ristvan-
      But what about the hydrothermal venting that is NOT associated with seismic activity? Just like Yellowstone and Sweden and New Zealand have vast pots and fields in which sulfur and Co2 and hot water, among other things, rise from the surface into the atmosphere 24/7, there are places on the ocean floor that vent those same things into the oceans 24/7. I’m assuming that it is because there ARE such vents, that we don’t have more large explosive eruptions on land or on the ocean floor because they “vent” some of the pressure away that would build up and cause such explosions.

      The “amount” of Co2 and sulfur spewed into the atmosphere on land from actual volcanoes that are not erupting, much less vents, is NOT well measured or even quantified. A dig into the topic left me stunned at how poorly measured/quantified it was a very long time ago, and how we’re not actually monitoring the emissions from most of the active land volcanoes we currently know about either. So when they say the affect of emissions from land volcanoes is “minimal” they are parroting something that they don’t even KNOW TO BE TRUE in the first place. Much less what we know from the 10% of the ocean’s floor we’ve actually explored or mapped. We literally have NO IDEA how much hydrothermal + volcanic activity is happening on the ocean floor. Period. We haven’t even begun to monitor the input of the chemicals and heat into the oceans from the hot spots we DO know about on a daily, weekly, or yearly level.

      So how can anyone possibly state with any degree of confidence that “volcanic/hydrothermal” emissions are minimal, when we don’t even know what they actually ARE?

      • Aphan – A dig into the topic left me stunned at how poorly measured/quantified it was…

        Did you check out the references in this article?

      • Check out the references here-http://carbon-budget.geologist-1011.net/

      • We have no idea how much heat convection occurs between the crust and oceans, no real idea how much of what is spewed out by underwater volcanoes, and we don’t know very much about the deep chasms and what goes on there. We do know that water down in some places reaches 100s of degrees because the water cannot turn to vapour or gas in that pressure.

        We only discovered the volcanoes under Antarctica recently, so we don’t even really know if we have identified all active volcanoes.

        This is one huge gap in knowledge when considering a climate system, and obviously the sun is nowhere near given it’s due in terms of magnetic and energy transfer via magnetic connections.

        I completely understand that we “cant know everything”, my only issue is the portrayal of so much certainty in so many papers that are literally missing half of the information needed to make an accurate assessment. Too much obfuscation of the uncertainty.

      • Casey does a good job of showing how the strong variability of volcanic emissions makes it difficult to come up with an accurate estimate for global averages. But none of his arguments (based to a substantial degree on data for very powerful eruptions) come close to calling for a revision of global emissions upward by two orders of magnitude.

      • Aphan, the uncertainty monster strikes. I dunno. Did not check because everybody else dunno also. Get used to dunno.

  38. I can’t get too excited about this post, although it is a good topic and an easy post to read and understand. I’ll ask two question, how long have we had volcanic activity? How long has there been a marked increase in CO2 emissions?

  39. Aside from the eruptions, there are hundreds of hydrothermal vent fields, black smokers etc on the ocean floors that vent extremely hot water, CO2, and other chemicals into the oceans 24/7, 365 days a year just in the areas we have mapped so far. Extrapolated across the entire ocean floor, there could be tens of thousands of them. Measurements need to be taken, heat, CO2 etc quantified, then calculations made and added to the climate data.

    Who will do it? If government won’t fund it because it works against some agenda, where does the money for ocean floor exploration come from? For now, it gets hand waved off as “insignificant” “too small to contribute to climate change”. I find it very telling when “scientists” or self proclaimed truth seekers blow off, ignore, or prevent discussions about unknowns. Especially when those unknowns might actually change the way we view the world, but negate their own personal theories in the process.

    • Folk on this blog often talk about the problems in science.
      The problem may lie entirely with government.
      The government is becoming one of the last growing secure employers in the economy.
      It is creating it’s own huge, very powerful, vested constituency.
      As a result, scientific curiosity takes a back seat to political concerns.
      I doubt we should worry about climate as a science.
      We should worry about climate as political tool.
      That’s where the game is.

  40. Aphan – Measurements need to be taken, heat, CO2 etc quantified, then calculations made and added to the climate data.

    Who will do it?

    It’s being done. Start here.

  41. Seems an interesting line of inquiry. But why not poke about more and conclude/declare less? The great bulk of Earth beneath our feet or flippers is a lot to ignore.

    Publish-or-Perish is an impertinence and an obstacle.

    • All about the money, you have to sell your soul and an alarming number of scientists work on studies that their education never prepared them for.

      Then you have Piers Corbyn, no astrophysics degree, but. with 86% accuracy on long range forecasts using solar physic and lunar cycles and planet alignments, with no consideration for AGW effects.

      When asked on BBC by s smug fool “and tell me what peer reviewed papers you have published” Corbyn brilliantly replied, “I am peer reviewed high accuracy of model predictions and observation” something the IPCC can only wish for

      What I find astounding is the whole premise is based on assumption. Firmly on assumption, assumption. That assumption is we are the cause of the rise in CO2. However convincing the correlation, rate of emissions has never matched CO2 growth 1980 to 2015 when we really cranked it up, there was no reaction from CO2 growth.

      So, one can fairly assume that temperature is not driven by CO2 as much as assume it is. Sensitivity is low, that’s just the bottom line, and gets lower and lower.

      Hansen watched one too many Venus documentaries and got stoked on his brownies and went off on a tangent.

      Mann’s debacle when trying to explain the blizzard is global warming shows how too many scientists think they are climatologists without the years of knowledge and experience one must surely need to get to grips with such a huge task, understanding it all.

      • Well, Mike just needs to clear up how the monster blizzards of 1717, 1888, 1899, 1922 etc did it without our help.

        Or is CO2 only connected with a blizzard if its date has 2 as its first digit…and if it is given a cutesie-pie name? The luvvie media does relate more to a Jonas or a Sandy rather than to a Knickerbocker, a Great Colonial or (God forbid) a Great White.

  42. The Medium is the Message… We can predict a monotonic increase in CO2 and that is all the Left needs to know about global warming. Since the Left’s real objective is to use the fear, superstition and ignorance of a dysfunctional society to take over the economy, we do not need to know about undersea volcanoes, recurring solar activity and ENSO events on decadal, centennial and millennial climate cycles, cosmic radiation as our solar system skitters through the spiraling arms of the Milky Way at the edge of the galaxy, the interaction between the Earth the big planets of Jupiter and Saturn on the Earth’s rotation, axis, magnetosphere, etc.

  43. I pointed at this several times over at WUWT and got my head ripped off.

    It is easy to see the heat flow all over the oceans at http://www.heatflow.und.edu/marine.jpg

    Data at http://www.heatflow.und.edu/data.html

    For the vast majority of the oceans, the heat flow up from the crust is negligible or even less. However, at one small region in particular, there is an incredible amount of heat coming up. That region is on and very near the equator at the eastern end of the ENSO regions.

    I am not the only one who suggests this.
    Hot Cradle of El Niño at http://precedings.nature.com/documents/1764/version/1/files/npre20081764-1.pdf
    by Li-Guang Sun Zhou-Qing Xie 2008.

    It begins:
    “Here we propose that the El Niño is originated in the region of west-east oriented Galapagas ocean ridge and hydrothermal plumes. . .”

    I agree. Tolstoy has hinted for some time that she also agrees.

    It doesn’t have to be connected to the TOTAL heat added to the climate system. We all know that the El Niño itself adds some heat energy to the climate system – bit no one yet knows where that heat energy is coming from in the first place. Does it just appear like magic?

    Science and magic don’t belong in the same discussion, so SOMETHING is adding heat to the system, and that something, somehow, does so on a regular basis – and can ramp up somewhat consistently.

    One of Tolstoy’s earlier papers discussed just this – that at certain times of the year the Galapagos heat flow increases and that at other times it diminishes. This SEEMS to make no sense, but it is something real, nevertheless.

    Put that together with the work of Li-Guang Sun Zhou-Qing Xie and you have the beginnings of a new hypothesis. And that hypothesis will turn out to be that
    1.) The Galapagos Ridge and its neighboring Easter Pacific Rise – the two fastest spreading and highest heat flow points in the oceans AND WORLD – are the triggers for the the El Niño, and that
    2.) With El Niño being the source of most of the heating in the climate in the last several decades,
    3.) The conclusion will be that the periodic increases in heat flow from these two close-by ocean ridges are the REAL source of the global warming that has been observed.

    It is no coincidence that the El Niño early stage warm-up begins in the eastern end of the ENSO regions – right off the coastline where the phenomenon was first seen. Bob Tisdale over at WUWT continues to argue for it starting in the western Pacific, but every time the first warm-up is in the eastern end of the ENSO equatorial region, not the west.

    Watch the surface temps in the Gaqlapagos region (the dot off the coast of Ecuador) SURGE at the beginning of the 1998 El Niño:

    So, a few people are asking WHY is that heat building up right there? And they are beginning to see that there is a possible connection to the heat flow coming from the ocean ridges there.

    I took the measured data from heatflow and in the region bounded by 85°W-95°W and 20°N-20°S the data points suggest a heat flow from the crust of 0.264 watts per square meter for this region. Narrowing the region down by latitude, 10°N-10°S gave 0.299 W/m^2. 5°N-5°S gave 40.470 W/m^2. 2°N-2°S gave 0.520 W/m^2. The max heat spot was 85°W-95°W within 0.62°N-0.51°N – a whopping 0.997 W/m^2.

    Expanding the width of the region to 85°W-110°W and between 2°N-2°S, the average reading was STILL over half a watt per square meter (0.512 W/m^2).

    Those half watts add up. And the question of currents and dissipation and periodicity and other changes over time come into it. Does the ocean blend this extra heat? If so, does it ALWAYS blend this heat? Can this heat build up?

    Tolstoy’s other works show that there is a seasonal aspect to it. Do the currents change and have something to do with that? There are all sorts of questions to ask, and Tisdale doesn’t want to ask those questions, because he is convinced it all starts in the Western Pacific Warm Pool.

    I don’t think so.

    • Isn’t that perhaps also the area were the impact of changes in solar activity may be at its highest?

    • SG, this comment is NOT ‘to rip your head off’.
      If what you say were so, it would already be evidenced in the deep water sampling of the ARGO float system, however imperfect the coverage. I know of no such evidence.
      Perhaps you could go into the on line ARGO data, pick out your geographic region of interest like Tisdale does for ENSO, and do the analysis for us to prove or disprove your hypothesis. The data is available. Go for it.
      Me, I think Bob Tisdale has ENSO nailed. ENSO is a solar SWR mediated charge-discharge oscillator, with the charge/discharge phases controlled by SST, the resulting trade winds, and the resulting delta SLR between western and eastern equatorial Pacific given the present continental configuration (isthmus of Panama closed the Pacific/Atlantic connection about 2.5 mya). See Deffeye’s third geology book on oil prospects for an amusing side riff on this speculative idea, which I merely repeat here.

      • Agree that Bob can explain maybe 85%. Bob cannot explain why Enso changes global mean sea level. Enso does not create energy. Volcanism doesn’t either, but it can add it to the ocean. If the solar warmed water piling up at Indonesia were the cause of mean sea level rise, it would show up during the late stages of ninas. It doesn’t.

        There is the problem that there is no hot signal at the surface of the oceans along the ridges, and as you point out nobody has found one in the argo either.
        Warm water does rise, but water also has exceptional specific heat. A hot volcanic signal sufficient to raise mean sea level might not make it much more than 100 meters off the abyssal floor.
        Ordinary tidal forces just move water around, they don’t increase mean sea level.
        Dunno piled higher and deeper.

      • There is this notion that EL Nino discharges heat. There’s your problem. The 97-98 EL Nino discharged some heat. OHC went down.

        That’s one.

  44. Increased MOR volcanism, caused by whatever mechanism, cyclic or otherwise results in an increased volume of mafic volcanic available for serpentinization. Serpentinization is a strongly exothermic reaction. There is certainly an increase in volcanic related CO2 however the simple heating of the surrounding seawater would necessarily (on a small scale) heat the oceanic waters, decreasing their capacity to carry dissolved CO2. Long lived and major MOR eruptive events and corresponding increased and well documented serpentinization rates should theoretically cause an increase in atmospheric CO2.

  45. Any CO2 bubbling up from the deep ocean would probably be absorbed. So, nada for the atmosphere, but what about the lessening alkalinity of the ocean? This has been going on for millions of years and the ocean allegedly soaks up half of man-released CO2.

    • Agreed, but if there is constant volcanism and ongoing exothermic alteration of mafic rocks on the sea floor around spreading ridges, the temperature of the of the ocean must increase. Increased water temps = decreased dissolved CO2. More volcanism = more CO2 and higher water temps. I have no idea of the magnitude of the effect but 2/3rd’s of the crust is variably serpentinized mafic volcanics on the floor of the oceans. Probably accounts for something.

  46. This is pretty much the norm. Politically, economically, socially and emotionally focusing on improving land sink efficiency has a more immediate and positive mental message that would likely have as large or larger impact on climate than “necessarily” more expensive and energy austerity. Most of the intellectual Illuminati are still stuck on fear as the only motivation even though it is obviously counter productive. The best climate adaption programs are a healthy economy and food surpluses.

    • captdallas2 0.8 +/- 0.3 | January 25, 2016 at 9:55 pm | Reply

      The best climate adaption programs are a healthy economy and food surpluses.

      And burning cheap fossil fuels so the third world will stop polluting so much.

  47. Pierre-Normand Houle

    Dikranmarsupial,

    In this analogy, your wife represents “nature” as a single column in a general ledger. Thus, this analogy, like you previous one (Smith and Jones) is misleading since it blinds you to the fact that “nature” has causally independent parts. Let me come back to your Smith/Jones case since it only needs a slight modification in order to uncover your blind spot. (You can also refer to my response to Don Monford regarding the widget manufacture.)

    The Smiths are a metaphor for mankind, while the Jones are a metaphor for nature, let us suppose. We assume that the Smiths are collectively depositing money at a higher rate than the rate at which the bank account balance increases (1dollar per day, for a 50cents rate of increase). From this fact, we can infer that the Jones collectively withdraw money at a higher rate than they deposit. They are a net drag on the account balance (-50cents/day). So far we must be in agreement.

    Cont…

    • dikranmarsupial

      “like you previous one (Smith and Jones) is misleading since it blinds you to the fact that “nature” has causally independent parts. ”

      No, in the Smith/Jones example there was more than one Jones representing different aspects of the natural carbon cycle. You clearly didn’t understand the example as it was designed to make that very distinction.

      • Pierre-Normand Houle

        DM wrote: “No, in the Smith/Jones example there was more than one Jones representing different aspects of the natural carbon cycle. You clearly didn’t understand the example as it was designed to make that very distinction.”

        Yes. I perfectly understood this and the rest of my response treated that case in details, on that very interpretation. But I am unable to post it for some reason. There seems to be a trigger word by I can’t figure which one.

    • … then one day a Jones gets embarrassing photos of one of the younger Smiths and demands hush money off the books. It seems this Jones was formerly a Smith until in circa 1750 when she started drinking heavily and fell into the right crowd. No true Jones would ever resort to blackmail.

      This “gray” economy wasn’t discovered until a Jones newborn with an unmistakably Smith nose and eyes became public. From that day forward it was difficult determine linage in some parts of the nation, there Smiths, Jones, Smith-Jones and Jones-Smiths. The hyphenated tended to have no concept of time and tradition and oddly were addicted to Almond granola mass produced in Jones-Smithville.

  48. Pierre-Normand Houle

    Now it seems that you want to infer that the Smiths are entirely responsible for the increase in the bank balance. Indeed, we can even attribute to them *more* than 100% of the account balance increase, *if* the *only* other possible candidate for causal attribution is the *whole* Jones family. Indeed you also want to infer that no individual member of the Jones family is causally responsible for any positive share of the account balance increase. What about Sue “super-volcano” Jones? She deposited money at a rate 10 times larger than the whole Smith family, let us suppose. But, you say, that doesn’t count, since the other members of the Smith family must have withdrawn money an even larger rate (10.5 larger, say), such that the account balance still only was increasing at half the rate at which the whole Smith family was depositing money. But this just is to restate that the whole Jones family contributed negatively (they’re a net sink). It doesn’t necessarily take anything away from the *effect* produced by Sue Jones herself on the bank balance!

    Cont…

  49. Pierre-Normand Houle

    PNH: “In this analogy, your wife represents “nature” as a single column in a general ledger…”

    I’m trying to post the continuation but am unable to. So ignore that post.

    • dikranmarsupial

      I suspect your posts are just getting held up in moderation and will appear if given long enough. Not too sure what triggers posts to be sent for moderation on this site, but presumably you are writing something that triggers the filter.

  50. http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/co2_origin.html#The_mass_balance

    “The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere of over 70 ppmv (~150 GtC) since the accurate measurements at the South Pole and Mauna Loa started is about 70% of the increase since the start of the industrial revolution. This is based on measurements at a lot of places where “background” levels of CO2 can be measured (see “where to measure”), with minimum interference of local sinks and sources of CO2. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in pre-industrial times is based on ice cores, which are more smoothed: averaged over ~10 years for the high resolution ice cores of Law Dome over the past 150 years to ~560 years over the 800,000 years of Dome C. Nevertheless there are proxies with a better resolution in time, which also point to lower CO2 levels prior to the emissions.

    As the first graph shows, in any year of the past over 50 years, the emissions are larger than the increase in the atmosphere. That means that the total mass balance of all natural variables (temperature, ocean pH, vegetation) which influence CO2 levels, is always towards more sink than source over any year.

    The natural seasonal exchange between vegetation and oceans at one side and the atmosphere at the other side is estimated at about 150 GtC/yr. But that is not of interest for what the change is over a year, as most of the natural releases are absorbed within the same year. The difference after a year is not more than +/- 2 GtC, mainly caused by temperature changes (El Niño, Pinatubo eruption). Thus the natural variations over a year are smaller than the emissions. No matter how high the natural seasonal turnover might be, in all years over the previous near 50 years, the natural CO2 sinks were larger than the natural CO2 sources… Thus it is near impossible that natural sources were responsible for (a substantial part of) the increase of CO2 in the past 50 years. Except that – pure theoretically – a similar, but enormous increase in natural emissions and sinks that parallels the human emissions may give the same result.

    But such an enormous (factor 3) increase in natural circulation needs a lot of proof:
    – the increase should mimic the human emissions at exactly the same rate. Thus the near tripling of human emissions and increase rate in the atmosphere should be paralleled with a near tripling of the natural turnover: from an estimated 150 GtC in and out within a year to some 450 GtC in and out. But there is not the slightest indication of an increase in turnover. To the contrary: the recent estimates of the turnover rate in the atmosphere indicate a reduction of the turnover of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is probably the result of a more or less constant exchange rate in a growing total mass of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    – any extra exchange from oceans or vegetation would leave a fingerprint in the 13C/12C rate of change caused by human emissions and in the 14C/12C rate of change from the 1950-1960’s atomic bomb spike. But that is not the case.
    – there is no known temperature related natural physical process that may increase the CO2 releases without at least a partial negative feedback from increased pressure related uptake by the oceans and vegetation.

    This proves that human emissions are the main cause of the increase of CO2, at least over the past near 50 years. But there are more indications for that…”

    _________________________________________

    Here is the meat of the mass balance argument, from above:

    ” …in all years over the previous near 50 years, the natural CO2 sinks were larger than the natural CO2 sources… Thus it is near impossible that natural sources were responsible for (a substantial part of) the increase of CO2 in the past 50 years. Except that – pure theoretically – a similar, but enormous increase in natural emissions and sinks that parallels the human emissions may give the same result.”

    But such an enormous (factor 3) increase in natural circulation needs a lot of proof:”

    Does anybody have any proof? Any evidence? Anything other than theoretical speculation?

    When I started out as a mostly disinterested uninformed denier amused that sighentists were claiming that a tiny increase in the air of the gas that made the fizz in Coca Cola could burn up the planet, “But da ballcanoes coulda done it!” was appealing to me, for about a minute.

    It’s silly to waste time arguing about this. Out.

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