Home > Blog Author, Bob Dillon's Literature > Where Does The CO2 GO?

Where Does The CO2 GO?

We—the various striped scientists of the AGHW skeptical community—feel exonerated that land, sea surface, and lower troposphere temperatures have been shown to be flat since 1998.

We already knew that atmospheric temps were cyclic on glacial and millennial Malankovich scales and even reproducible down to 200 yr. and 87 yr. deVries/Suess and Gleissberg time frames.  Recently Landscheidt and Scafetta separately have described earth, solar, and planetary magnetic and gravitational perturbations down to 60, 30, 20, and 10 year cycles — which explains most of the 1910-1945 warming and 70% of the 1975-1998 warming. We knew that C02 was trivial compared with solar energy in determining earth’s temperature. We knew that more, not less, C02 was beneficial to both plant and animal life. We have known for a long time that a warmer world is positive for vegetation, animal, and human health and survival.

We are indeed happy to show that there has been no global temp rise in the past 15 years….and, since atmospheric C02 is still rising, this discrepancy implies that there is no correlation between C02 and temp. We are, however, at a loss to explain why C02 continues to rise at Mauna Kea and other sites since 1958, and this is still a major problem for our interpretation of 20th and 21st century energy needs. Most of the explanations I come across invoke “less climate sensitivity” to C02 than that put forth by the IPCC and alarmists. With our understanding of the Malankovich cycles, solar magnetic cycles, cosmic ray flux/cloud effect, ocean heat buffer/ energy considerations, long wave radiation absorption variability, isotopic carbon half-life studies, thermohaline and other current systems, —–we pretty much have a lock on the long term causes of atmospheric temperature change. It is, of course, the sun, with modulations via the above natural phenomena. However, C02 keeps rising (290-390ppm) and as such it will continue to be an “anthropogenic demon” among us. We need to explain this rise and predict the fall before we can further demote C02 to a result, rather than a cause. And a result it is…..

A few CO2 observations:

Total atmosphere C02 = 748-780 Gtons
Total fossil fuel C02 = 4% = 30 Gtons (96% = natural)

Isotope 13C/12/C mass balance calculation suggests a C02-C half-life of 5.4 years. (18%/yr.) This equates to 135 G Ton total C02 turnover/year, or a fossil fuel C02-C turnover of 6 G Ton/year.

atm C02 C                                    780 Gtons
surface ocean                              1000 Gtons
deep ocean                                  38,000 Gtons
Veg, soils, detritus                      2300 Gtons
Limestone and Carbonate compounds – rock, coral, shells        110 million Gtons

Half-life of atm C02 = 5.3 – 7.6 years
Total C02 flux = 135-200 Gtons/year
Anthropogenic C02 flux = 6 Gtons/yr.  (Keep in mind that anthropogenic C02’s contribution to the greenhouse effect – 0.14%  (4% of C02 is anthropogenic and 3.6% is C02’s contribution to GH effect). Most estimates are lower than this.

What happens to this C02?

Green plants and microorganisms utilize it for growth and metabolism. (percentages vary wildly). Forests contain up to 80% C02-C in its soil (from dead vegetable and animal matter) rather than in the trees themselves (again percentages vary greatly). The oceans are by far the largest C02-C sink. 30% here is due to the organic nutrient biological pump. 70% of C02-C is governed by the thermal solubility pump:

C02 + H20 = H2C03 = H+ + HC03- = (+ Ca+) CaC03 + H+

This equation is retrograde temperature dependent….a cooler temp will shift the equation to the right and more C02 will be taken out of the atmosphere.C02 in the atmosphere is in equilibrium with carbonic acid HC03- dissolved in the oceans, which is in turn close to CaC03 saturation and in equilibrium with Carbonate shells of organisms and CaC03 (limestone) in and adjacent to the oceans. This system is a buffer which is governed by Henry’s Law whose constant is strongly temperature dependent. This system can handle several times the partial pressure of C02 in the atmosphere vs. water dissolved C02, but the ocean has many other buffering systems and therefore a near infinite buffering and storage capacity for C02. Stable 13C/12C isotopes show that atmosphere C02 is in chemical equilibrium with ocean bicarbonate and lithosphere carbonate. Equilibrium constants show a ratio of 1:50 of atmosphere C02 : ocean C02. Thus, at a constant temperature, a doubling of atmosphere C02 would require 50X more C02 to be supplied to the oceans for equilibrium. This amount might challenge the extent of fossil carbon. At the same time the ocean bicarbonate is in equilibrium with sedimentary CaC03 (limestone and its derivatives) which is estimated to contain 140,000 X the C02 present in today’s atmosphere. The above reactions of dissolution, buffering, and precipitation are instantaneous and are limited only by CO2 availability and temperature. Ocean circulation slows this process. 14C isotopes show the circulation time for carbon in the upper ocean is several decades. The Thermohaline Circulation explains much of this.

The reason we have not seen Mauna Kea C02 fall the last 50 years is due to the slow down of the ocean’s THC. The THC was weak from 1910-1940 and from 1970-1994. (This is also superimposed on a warming trend for the past 200 years as we have gradually come out of the LIA). A weak THC results in less evaporation cooling, less upwelling of cold water, more energy accumulation, and cool surface water gradually warming over 20 years. Since 1994 a stronger THC causes more evaporation cooling, more upwelling of cold water, net energy depletion, and after a similar lag, surface water gradually cools. Cooler surface water will gradually increase the C02 sink via retrograde temperature dependent bicarbonate equation and the infinite buffering capacity of bicarbonate. Mauna Kea C02 will start to fall and this hated molecule will eventually be demoted from its “anthropogenic demon” status to its simple bicarbonate intermediary. Buffering chemistry is instantaneous, but it does take a decade or two for the THC to do its job.

Dr. Tom Segalstad has a nice review of this chemistry at:


His home page has fascinating kitchen table experiment video, and headings 2,3,4, and 5 are brief and to the point.

  1. April 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm

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