Scientists fear climate change speed-up as oceans fail to hold greenhouse gases

Via R4 and mt, Scientists fear climate change speed-up as oceans fail to hold greenhouse gases. Its about the North Atlantic, which is absorbing less CO2 over the last 10 years (note that the article, wrongly, says holds half; Slioch, who does a rather good job in the comments, picked that one up).

But airbourne fraction is still about 55%, so this can’t be happening globally. [Update: I now consider that to be dubious, it will get re-considered in an upcoming post -W]

12 thoughts on “Scientists fear climate change speed-up as oceans fail to hold greenhouse gases”

  1. Thanks for the pointer — and in that Scotsman thread someone’s posted a pointer to what appears to be the in-press draft of the paper described, for those who want a look. Some yellow hilighting therein may be points yet to be checked, it’s clearly not in final form.


  2. Not sure about what time frame we are talking about here… when should we se this as a % change in the atmosphere?

    [That would depend on how much of the ocean were doing the same. If it all were, over the last 10 years, decreasing its CO2 uptake, then we should see atmos changes over the same period -W]


  3. Poor Tamino has some bloke claiming this backs up their pet theory of oil films on the water reducing Co2 uptake by the water.


  4. It should also be noted that Slioch is one of the people who, like myself, spend some time on the Hootsmon pointing out errors made by denialists and generally educating posters about climate change. Slioch is definitely one of the better posters.
    To some extent, we are the people between yourself, realclimate etc, and the public, since us well informed laypeople number more and cover a greater area of the internet.

    [Yep, we definitely need people to help “fan out” the truth -W]


  5. Also of concern must be this, found while “RTFR” on arctic ice:

    Synopsis of the 1993 SCICEX trip.

    “Title: Arctic Ocean Methane
    PI(s): Keith Kvenvolden, USGS
    Point of Contact: Keith Kvenvolden

    SCICEX Cruise: 1993

    Abstract: In this project, we have shown that methane a “greenhouse gas” is present throughout the arctic ocean. In surveys conducted mainly between 120 and 230 degrees longitude using the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine Pargo (1993) and the Canadian ice breaker Louis S. St. Laurent (1994), we showed that methane is present in water beneath the permanent ice at variable concentrations near the surface that usually *exceed* the atmospheric equilibrium concentrations of about 4 nanomolar by factors of about 1.3 to 4. Methane concentrations decrease with depth.”

    If the arctic ice is melting off at a faster rate, then more of this “trapped” methane is being released. Don’t know much about dispersal rates, or life of methane, but could this have an effect on future melt?

    I have read before that methane is worse than CO2. Are there any studies showing increased methane in the atmosphere, like there is for CO2?

    [Curious. The only thing I know of relevance is that the methane atmos lifetime is only about 10 years -W]


  6. Yes but I guess that not all the area is involved in this process? Or did you mean that if all the area that are supposed to do this does it we would see it by now?


  7. Eli:

    All I found was the synopsis of the SCICEX trips:

    There was no easy link to the rest of the paper.

    My real question was: if “trapped” methane is being released, and that methane exceeds atmospheric concentrations by a factor of 1.3 to 4, would this increased methane show up in some monitoring system somewhere?

    P.S. The PI’s e-mail address is available, maybe he knows where the rest of the study is located. It appears this synopsis is located on Columbia Univ server, maybe they have the rest. Or since the PI worked for the USGS, we might look there.

    More research…


  8. About the CO2 uptake rate change…
    What I meant to ask was,
    I guess that the flux will change differently for different ocean patterns but… The change in rate suggests that hmm we let out about 7pg some goes in to oceans some to lad biota… around 2pg to oceans? Ten years would give about (starting year 0 ending 1pg decrease) 5pg less… of the 70 released 5/70 is about 7 % that is in the margin of error counting in changes in biota? And I as you say it’s probably not global still… it could be? Might be getting something wrong here however…

    [I can only do ppmv. But if the oceans are absorbing 25% of the emitted CO2, and that dropped by half over the whole of the oceans, then instead of E*(1-1/4-1/4) in the atmos we should see E*(1-1/4-1/8). Hmm, actually the ratio of those two is small enough that it could perhaps be in the data -W]

    Somthing about CH4:


  9. I’ve been looking for this paper: the draft pointed to from the article is a bit difficult to read on a screen and I’ve only had short time to mull it over. So, have I got this right? The partial pressure between the dissolved CO2 and the atmosphere is increasing? And it’s not just temperature related because that effect just accounts for 20% of the problem.

    My swivelly-eyed loonie theory of surface pollution (not just oil film, guthrie, surfactant as well) actually predicted this result. It also suggested that windspeed in the boundary layer should be increasing (the air couples less with the water surface, that’s why oil on troubled waters smooths things over), which I am pleased to see one of the graphs confirms. So far, then, a lovely paper.

    I hope someone is working on oceanic stratocumulus cover (accounting for SST rises & AGW, the main point of my hypothesis) and population changes of C3, C3/4 and C4 phytoplankton (which will cover the isotopic smoking gun problem). And a calculated temperature profile of the atmosphere which would result from stratocu reduction over the oceans causing global warming would be nice.

    A good theory makes predictions. My hand-wave, back of a fag packet hypothesis predicted the wind speed increase and the difference in CO2 partial pressures between the air and the ocean. (If I’ve read the paper right that is. If I’ve got this wrong I’d like to walk off whistling innocently). Score 2 for the loonies.

    I don’t count the prediction of falling biological pull down — that’s so obvious it goes without saying. Oh, maybe a half then, I’ve got to get on.

    A brief sketch of the oil sheen/surfactant idea is on my website. No, it wasn’t entirely serious when I put it up, but the more I read the better it looks (which my son advises me is a sure sign of poor science).

    Oh, yes, methane: there was a study. It was probably mentioned in NS some years ago as a prediction that methane levels would show an uptick as the effects of acid rain wore off. It’s the tundra IIRC.



    has some numbers which suggests airborne fraction has inceased from 40% to 46%:

    “Specifically, oceans and plant growth absorbed only around 540 kilograms per metric ton (1,190 pounds per short ton) of the CO2 produced in 2006, compared with 600 kilograms per metric ton (1,322 pounds per short ton) in 2000. Coupled with an emissions growth rate of 3.3 percent–triple the growth rate of the 1990s”


    “All told, human activity released 9.9 billion metric tons (2.18 X 1013 pounds) of carbon in 2006, up from just 8.4 billion metric tons (1.85 X 1013 pounds) in 2000.”

    “international team of researchers reports in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.”

    Are those figures likely to be more accurate than your airborne fraction still at 55%?

    [Who knows? I only got my number from the WMO, what do they know? However, looking at fig 2 of Canadace et al (PNAS 2007) its very clear that you would not want to draw a trend in airbourne fraction from 2000 to 2006 – the variability is huge. Even going back as far as 1958 they struggle to get a stat sig trend -W]


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