Archive for the ‘CO2’ Category

Climate Change in Context

August 17, 2021

In my last post I showed some plots of temperature data derived from ice cores at Vostok base in Antarctica, which indicate we are close to the end of the Holocene.

Here are some more plots from the same data so we can put present concerns about warming in some context.  Please remember- temperatures calculated from ice cores have a resolution of from 20 years recently to 40 to 50 years in the mid-Holocene, to 80 to 85 years in the glacial maximum.  Temperatures shown may be regarded as a rough average of conditions over those intervals.  Also note this dataset is for one point on the earth’s surface, not a global average.  Nevertheless it is a very important dataset as it shows polar conditions over a very long period.

Figure 1:  Vostok temperatures relative to 1999 over the last 20,000 years

The previous glacial maximum had temperatures in the Antarctic about 9 degrees colder than now.  This was followed by a strong warming, the Termination of glacial conditions, resulting in 11,000 years of warm conditions, the Holocene.  The Holocene was not uniformly warm but featured fluctuations of up to 2 degrees above and below current temperatures.  I will look at this later, but first I shall take a closer look at the Termination.  

Figure 2:  Vostok temperatures during the Termination

Point A marks the start of the Termination warming.  Temperatures rose from A to B (by about 6.5 degrees in 3,000 years- about 0.2 degrees per 100 years- so not exactly “rapid” warming).  Temperatures then fell about 2 degrees, before rising even more sharply from C to D, the start of the Holocene.  Figure 3 shows temperatures in this final part of the Termination.

Figure 3:  Vostok temperatures in the steepest part of the Termination

Temperatures increased by about 5 degrees over a bit more than 1,100 years.  Yes, the warming rate was indeed steeper- 0.44 degrees per 100 years on average.  However, the temperature rose 1 degree in less than 50 years at the end of this period.

During the Termination, long term temperature rise was gradual, but punctuated by short periods of much more rapid rise.

Now let’s look at temperature change in the Holocene.

Figure 4:  Vostok temperatures 7,000 to 9,000 years ago

Conditions were not uniformly warm, with fluctuations from -1 to +.5C relative to 1999 over hundreds of years.  But there was one episode with a rise of 2.93 degrees in less than 100 years- now that’s rapid warming.

Figure 5:  Vostok temperatures in the last 2,020 years

More recently, temperatures rose 1.94 degrees in 155 years to 1602, and again 2.2 degrees in 44 years to 1809.

You will notice I have shown 3 datapoints showing 21 year mean annual surface air temperatures at Vostok (1970, 1990, and 2010, with zero at 1990).  This is merely for interest- instrumental air temperatures should never be appended to ice core data.  What it does show is that the rate of present temperature change is well within the range of natural variation.

This is also evident when a Greenland ice core series is compared with modern surface air temperatures.

Figure 6:  Greenland (GISP2) temperatures in the last 4,000 years

I have inserted the decadal average of -29.9 C at the GISP borehole from 2001-2010.  Notice how unremarkable that is.

As the fluctuations at GISP and Vostok have been occurring for thousands of years something other than carbon dioxide emissions must be responsible.

So what about carbon dioxide? Data in the next figure is from Dome Fuji, also in Antarctica.

Figure 7:  Insolation, temperature, and CO2 in the last 350,000 years

Notice that at no time in previous interglacials did carbon dioxide concentration exceed 300ppm, (and despite the higher temperatures than now there was no “runaway” warming.)    And as the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre says

There is a close correlation between Antarctic temperature and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (Barnola et al. 1987). The extension of the Vostok CO2 record shows that the main trends of CO2 are similar for each glacial cycle. Major transitions from the lowest to the highest values are associated with glacial-interglacial transitions. During these transitions, the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 rises from 180 to 280-300 ppmv (Petit et al. 1999). The extension of the Vostok CO2 record shows the present-day levels of CO2 are unprecedented during the past 420 kyr. Pre-industrial Holocene levels (~280 ppmv) are found during all interglacials, with the highest values (~300 ppmv) found approximately 323 kyr BP. When the Vostok ice core data were compared with other ice core data (Delmas et al. 1980; Neftel et al. 1982) for the past 30,000 – 40,000 years, good agreement was found between the records: all show low CO2 values [~200 parts per million by volume (ppmv)] during the Last Glacial Maximum and increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations associated with the glacial-Holocene transition. According to Barnola et al. (1991) and Petit et al. (1999) these measurements indicate that, at the beginning of the deglaciations, the CO2 increase either was in phase or lagged by less than ~1000 years with respect to the Antarctic temperature, whereas it clearly lagged behind the temperature at the onset of the glaciations. (My emphasis).

Therefore, carbon dioxide did not drive, but followed, temperature change in the past; past rapid warming did not lead to positive feedbacks and runaway warming; and the instrumental record is far too short to draw any definitive conclusion about recent warming, which cannot be differentiated from past Antarctic and Greenland temperature fluctuations.

There is no climate crisis.

CO2vid Watch: August

September 10, 2020

I have been wondering whether the largest real-life science experiment in history will show whether atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will decrease as a result of the Covid19-induced economic slowdown.

Earlier I concluded:  “I expect there may be a small decrease in the rate of CO2 concentration increase, but it won’t be much, and I will be surprised if it turns negative.  A large La Nina later this year will lead to a CO2 increase a few months later, in which case there will be a larger downturn in annual CO2 change in 2021.

However, if the major cause of CO2 increase is fossil fuel consumption, there will be an extra large decrease in CO2 change in 2020 and 2021- and a noticeable jump if the global economy rebounds.”

The CO2 concentration number for August is now published: 412.55 p.p.m. (parts per million).  The seasonal drawdown of CO2 has begun, but CO2 concentration is still 2.61 ppm above the figure for August last year.  Figure 1 shows the 12 month change in CO2 at Mauna Loa since 2015-that is, January to January, February to February, March to March.

Fig. 1:  12 month change in CO2 concentration since 2015 to August 2020- Mauna Loa

Figure 2 is a monthly update for 2020 I will show as each month’s CO2 figures become available (and 2021 if necessary):

Fig. 2:  Updated 12 month changes in CO2 concentration for 2020- Mauna Loa

Figure 3 shows the 12 month change in CO2 concentration since the record began.

Fig. 3:  12 month change in CO2 concentration since 1958 to August 2020- Mauna Loa

Annual growth has been above zero since the mid 1970s, and has not been below 1 ppm since 2011. The annual rate of change is increasing, in other words CO2 concentration growth is accelerating.

Note that so far this year, 12 month changes continue to remain firmly in the normal or even upper range, and there is no sign of any slow down. And there won’t be!

This paper by J. Reid explains why.

http://blackjay.net/?p=1021%20%3Chttp://blackjay.net/?p=1021%3E

CO2 growth appears to be an entirely natural process.

Unless something dramatic happens, I don’t think I will continue this series any longer. There’s nothing to see.

CO2vid Watch: July

August 7, 2020

I have been wondering whether the largest real-life science experiment in history will show whether atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will decrease as a result of the Covid19-induced economic slowdown.

Earlier I concluded:  “I expect there may be a small decrease in the rate of CO2 concentration increase, but it won’t be much, and I will be surprised if it turns negative.  A large La Nina later this year will lead to a CO2 increase a few months later, in which case there will be a larger downturn in annual CO2 change in 2021.

However, if the major cause of CO2 increase is fossil fuel consumption, there will be an extra large decrease in CO2 change in 2020 and 2021- and a noticeable jump if the global economy rebounds.”

The CO2 concentration number for July is now published: 414.38 p.p.m. (parts per million).  The seasonal drawdown of CO2 has begun, but CO2 concentration is 2.61 ppm above the figure for July last year.  Figure 1 shows the 12 month change in CO2 at Mauna Loa since 2015-that is, January to January, February to February, March to March.

Fig. 1:  12 month change in CO2 concentration since 2015 to July 2020- Mauna Loa

Notice the amount of 12 month change has increased a bit more.

Figure 2 is a monthly update for 2020 I will show as each month’s CO2 figures become available (and 2021 if necessary):

Fig. 2:  Updated 12 month changes in CO2 concentration for 2020- Mauna Loa

Note that so far this year, 12 month changes continue to remain firmly in the normal or even upper range, and there is no sign of any slow down.

Watch for next month’s update, and enjoy the ride!

CO2vid Watch: June

July 13, 2020

I have been wondering whether the largest real-life science experiment in history will show whether atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will decrease as a result of the Covid19-induced economic slowdown.

Earlier I concluded:  “I expect there may be a small decrease in the rate of CO2 concentration increase, but it won’t be much, and I will be surprised if it turns negative.  A large La Nina later this year will lead to a CO2 increase a few months later, in which case there will be a larger downturn in annual CO2 change in 2021.

However, if the major cause of CO2 increase is fossil fuel consumption, there will be an extra large decrease in CO2 change in 2020 and 2021- and a noticeable jump if the global economy rebounds.”

(In a coming post I will update my expectations for the end of the year and next year.) 

The CO2 concentration number for June is now published: 416.39 p.p.m. (parts per million).  The seasonal drawdown of CO2 has begun, but CO2 concentration is 2.47 ppm above the figure for June last year.  Figure 1 shows the 12 month change in CO2 at Mauna Loa since 2015-that is, January to January, February to February, March to March.

Fig. 1:  12 month change in CO2 concentration since 2015 to June 2020- Mauna Loa

Notice the amount of 12 month change has increased a little.

Figure 2 is a monthly update for 2020 I will show as each month’s CO2 figures become available (and 2021 if necessary):

Fig. 2:  Updated 12 month changes in CO2 concentration for 2020- Mauna Loa

Note that so far this year, 12 month changes are in the normal or even upper range, and there is no sign of any slow down.

Watch for next month’s update, and enjoy the ride!

A Closer Look at CO2 Growth

June 11, 2020

For a while I have been looking at atmospheric carbon dioxide data from stations around the world.  This post draws together some observations, many of which are pretty much common knowledge- but some of what I’ve found is surprising.

So I’ll start by listing some of this common and not so common knowledge:-

-The often quoted figures for global CO2 levels are not at all global, but are the local readings at Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

-The long term carbon dioxide record shows continuing increase at all stations, indicating greater output than sinks can absorb. 

-Southern Hemisphere CO2 concentration is increasing but more slowly than the Northern Hemisphere.  Their trends are diverging.

-Seasonal peaks in CO2 concentration occur in late winter and spring in both hemispheres.

-There is very great inter-annual variation in the seasonal cycle of CO2, which can be even more than the average annual increase.

-This inter-annual variation occurs at the same time in both hemispheres, even though the seasonal cycles are 6 months apart.  This implies a global cause, such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  Large volcanic eruptions also have an impact.  There are likely to be other factors.

-Sea surface temperature change precedes CO2 change by 12 to 24 months.  It is difficult to reconcile this with ocean out-gassing as a cause of the inter-annual CO2 changes.  It is nonsense to claim that CO2 change leads to sea surface temperature change.

-ENSO changes occur at about the same time as CO2 changes.

-CO2 concentration increases during La Ninas. 

-El Ninos precede higher sea temperatures by 4 to 6 months.

-Because of the “oscillation” part of ENSO events, strong events are followed by opposite conditions 16 to 24 months later.  In this way a strong El Nino will lead to strong ocean warming often followed by La Nina conditions and higher CO2 concentration.

-The slowing Southern Hemisphere trend and flattening curve at the South Pole lacks satisfactory explanation.

CO2 measuring stations

Geoffrey Sherrington has shown differences existing between NOAA and Scripps daily CO2 data at Mauna Loa, and that uncertainty in daily data must be much greater than the claimed 0.2 part per million.  His article confirmed my decision to use Scripps instead of NOAA data.  In this post I use Scripps monthly data from many stations across the Pacific, and data from the CSIRO station at Cape Grim in Tasmania, to compare observations from different locations.

Figure 1 shows the locations of stations in the Scripps network, and Cape Grim.

Figure 1:  Scripps stations and Cape Grim

Point Barrow is the most northerly part of the USA, and Alert is the most northerly part of Canada.

The often quoted figures for global CO2 levels are not at all global.  They are not the global average, nor are they representative of other locations.  They are in fact the local CO2 concentration from the slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawaii.  The trend in CO2 increase is similar to, but not the same as, those in other locations.

Figure 2 shows monthly CO2 concentrations from all of the Scripps stations.

Figure 2:  Monthly CO2 at all locations

It is clear that all stations show a similar rising trend, and all show seasonal variation of varying degrees.  However, few stations have long term records, and most have periods of missing data. 

Differences, similarities, and divergence

Figure 3 shows monthly differences from the Mauna Loa record of stations with fairly complete records. 

Figure 3:  Six stations’ difference from Mauna Loa

Monthly differences show huge seasonal variation, so Figure 4 shows 12 month average differences.

 Figure 4:  Six stations’ difference from Mauna Loa, 12 month averages

Clearly, there are major differences between the different records: 

-La Jolla has too many gaps for further analysis. 

-There are differences between Cape Grim and South Pole from about 1980 to the early 1990s.

-Southern Hemisphere stations (American Samoa, Cape Grim, and South Pole) are diverging from Mauna Loa, and from Barrow Point and Alert.  Figure 5 shows these trends more clearly.

Figure 5:  Barrow Point and South Pole difference from Mauna Loa, 12 month averages

While South Pole and Mauna Loa are strongly diverging, Barrow Point and Mauna Loa are becoming slightly more similar.

In Figure 6, the divergence of South Pole data is evident in monthly readings.

Figure 6:  Monthly CO2 concentrations, Mauna Loa, Barrow Point, and South Pole

Note how much larger the Barrow Point seasonal range is.  More importantly, note how South Pole data begin well within the Mauna Loa range, but 50 years later barely reach the bottom of the Mauna Loa range, as Figures 7 and 8 show.

Figure 7:  Monthly CO2 concentrations, Mauna Loa and South Pole 1965-1975

Figure 8:  Monthly CO2 concentrations, Mauna Loa and South Pole 2010 -2020

Why the divergence?  How can a well-mixed gas show a lower trend at the South Pole?  Why is it that the South Pole summer draw down has decreased and is now a plateauing?

Seasonal change

Now zooming in to look at seasonal swings in just two years, 2011 and 2012:

Figure 9:  Monthly CO2 concentrations, Mauna Loa, Barrow Point and South Pole

The Barrow Point range from low to high is nearly three times the size of the Mauna Loa range, and the South Pole range is tiny.  The peak concentrations at Barrow Point and Mauna Loa are in late spring, with a sharp drop at Barrow Point to August and a smoother curve at Mauna Loa to lows in autumn; while at the South Pole the annual curve is better described as a shallow rise in winter followed by a “peak” in spring and a long plateau over summer, with a very small decrease in late summer.  The next three plots show the timing of highs and lows at these three stations for the whole record.

Figure 10:  Timing of seasonal high and low CO2 concentrations, Mauna Loa

Annual lows are in September or October, and highs are almost always in May.

Figure 11:  Timing of seasonal high and low CO2 concentrations, Barrow Point

Lows are always in August, while highs are spread across late winter to late spring, with a plateau from February to May (and extending twice into June).

Figure 12:  Timing of seasonal high and low CO2 concentrations, South Pole

At the South Pole, seasonal highs are reached in spring or early summer, with lows in late summer and early autumn, with one instance in June.

Inter-annual changes

While the seasonal cycles appear to be regular, the timing and size of seasonal changes can vary considerably from year to year.

The next plots show detrended data since 1985 for several locations (few have good data before 1985).  Detrending allows us to compare inter-annual variation more easily.  We do this for each record by subtracting the trend.

Figure 13:  Detrended monthly CO2, Mauna Loa

Figure 14:  Detrended monthly CO2, Barrow Point and Alert

Figure 15:  Detrended monthly CO2, South Pole and Cape Grim

While the seasonal range is different for each location, there is remarkable similarity in timing of changes, for example the late 1980s- early 1990s and 2009-2013.  Note how close Cape Grim and South Pole are, although Cape Grim is at 40.68 degrees South, 49 degrees north of the South Pole.  The South Pole data appear to be representative of a large part of the Southern Ocean.

Because the detrended data retain enormous seasonal variations, it is necessary to show the detrended data (this time from 1979) with monthly means subtracted, for Barrow Point in the far north, Mauna Loa in the middle, and South Pole at the extreme south.  Here are the seasonal signals:

Figure 16: Seasonal signals of monthly CO2 data

As an example, Figure 17 compares detrended data from Barrow Point with monthly means:

Figure 17:  Detrended monthly CO2 with monthly means, Barrow Point

Subtracting the monthly means shows the residual variation in carbon dioxide for Barrow Point:

Figure 18:  Detrended monthly CO2 with seasonal signal removed, Barrow Point

Figure 19 combines the three stations:

All three records follow the same pattern, with a large increase from 1979 to the late 1980s, followed by decrease in the 1990s.  There appears to be another steep increase from 2012 to the present.  Notice that Mauna Loa and South Pole values can be from 1 ppm below to 2 ppm above the trend, while at Barrow Point the range can be from 4ppm below to 5 ppm above the trend, which is about 2.5 ppm per year. 

However, there is still a large amount of variation in the monthly figures.  A centred 13 month rolling mean makes comparison much easier.

Figure 20:  Centred 13 month mean of detrended monthly CO2 with seasonal signal removed

The similar pattern followed by stations from north to south, from the Arctic Ocean, across the Pacific, to the Antarctic, far from any industrial or cropping contamination, is immediately obvious.  The Barrow Point record appears to lag behind Mauna Loa and South Pole data by from one to five months.  South Pole can be a few months ahead to a few months behind Mauna Loa, even though South Pole absolute monthly concentration peaks are from four to seven months later.

Ocean temperature effects

In Figure 14 of my post on 2nd May, Will Covid-19 Affect Carbon Dioxide Levels? I showed that CO2 change lags one year behind sea surface temperatures (SSTs).  The next plot shows the centred 13 month mean of HadSST4 data, scaled up to compare with CO2 data.

Figure 21:  Scaled, centred 13 month mean of detrended monthly HadSST4 and CO2 data with seasonal signal removed

Now the same data with SSTs lagged 12 months…

Figure 22:  Scaled, centred 13 month mean of detrended monthly HadSST4 and CO2 data with seasonal signal removed, HadSST4 lagged 12 months

Large change in CO2 concentrations appears closely linked with sea surface temperature a year before- (or even two years, as between 2002 and 2010).  Sea surface temperatures have a global effect.

ENSO effects

Another cause of CO2 variation is the El Nino- Southern Oscillation (ENSO) which appears in the swings between El Nino and La Nina conditions.  ENSO has a great effect on weather conditions globally, affecting winds, clouds, rainfall and temperature.  Figure 18 shows how CO2 levels respond to the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), which is a good indicator of ENSO conditions.

Figure 23:  Centred 13 month means, scaled SOI and detrended CO2 levels

CO2 increases in La Ninas.  The pattern becomes more intriguing when we plot inverted SOI levels with sea surface temperatures, as in Figure 19.

Figure 24:  Scaled, centred 13 month mean of detrended monthly HadSST4 with seasonal signal removed and scaled inverted SOI

Inverted SOI data indicate SST data 4 to 6 months later.  (The early 1980s and early 1990s don’t match because of the huge volcanic eruptions of El Chichon and Pinatubo.)  In other words, an El Nino will raise ocean temperatures, and a La Nina will lower ocean temperatures, 6 months later.  Because of the oscillating nature of ENSO, El Ninos and La Ninas approximately reflect each other 16 to 24 months later, as Figure 20 shows.  (Again, El Chichon and Pinatubo have a large impact.)

Figure 25:  Scaled SOI, normal and inverted

That pattern recurs, with varying lag times, throughout the whole 144 year SOI history.

Which is why SSTs will probably increase to about February of 2021…

Figure 26:  Scaled SOI, normal and inverted, and detrended HadSST4

…and with them, CO2 concentration.

Figure 27:  Scaled SOI, normal and inverted, and detrended HadSST4, with South Pole CO2 data

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is soi-inv-sst-co2-1.jpg

Discussion

The long term carbon dioxide record shows continuing increase at all stations, indicating greater output than sinks can absorb. 

CO2 concentrations and trends, while similar, have discernible differences at different locations, notably between the hemispheres.

CO2 concentrations at Southern Hemisphere stations are increasing, but more slowly than those in the Northern Hemisphere, such that their trends are diverging.

On the long term CO2 rise are seasonal rises and falls, most likely due to seasonal vegetation, crop, and phytoplankton growth and decay. 

Peaks in CO2 concentration occur after winter and spring in both hemispheres- February to May at Barrow Point, April and May at Mauna Loa, and September-December at the South Pole.  This is not due however to a six month delay in CO2 mixing from sources in the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern, otherwise the South Pole trend would be the same.  It is lower, and becoming more so. 

There is great variety in seasonal range of CO2 at different locations, with greatest variation in the Arctic and the least in the Southern Hemisphere.

The amount and timing of these seasonal rises and falls varies from year to year.  These inter-year changes in CO2 concentrations can be as much as or greater than the normal annual increase.

Even though the South Pole station is far from the Southern Ocean, especially in winter when sea ice extends further, and even further from any vegetated land areas, its data appear representative of a great part of the Southern Hemisphere.

Small inter-annual changes in sea surface temperatures have a large impact on these changes in CO2 concentrations at South Pole and Mauna Loa about 12 to 24 months later.  There can be a further delay of up to five months in the effect at Point Barrow. 

This is not controversial.  According to the CSIRO, these variations “have been shown to correlate significantly with the regular El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and with major volcanic eruptions. These variations in carbon dioxide are small compared to the regular annual cycle, but can make a difference to the observed year-by-year increase in carbon dioxide.”

While sea surface temperature rise precedes CO2 concentration increase, there is no evidence at all of CO2 concentration change preceding sea surface temperature change.

With an apparent approximate 12 – 24 month delay between ocean temperature change and inter-annual CO2 change, changes in ocean out-gassing and absorption rates appears to be an unlikely mechanism.  Changes in land vegetation, forests, crops, and oceanic phytoplankton, moderated by the changing circulation, rainfall, cloud, and temperature patterns of ENSO events, appears to be a more likely mechanism, with the much smaller land area of the Southern Hemisphere accounting for the much smaller changes. 

The unresolved problem

This does not however explain the decreasing amount of summer draw down at the South Pole, and the divergence from Northern Hemisphere data.   Perhaps Southern Ocean phytoplankton are not decreasing as much during winter, so the CO2 sink is slightly increasing, slowing the CO2 growth trend a little and smoothing the CO2 growth curve.  Who knows?  I have yet to see a satisfactory- or any- explanation.

CO2vid Watch: May

June 8, 2020

I have been wondering whether the largest real-life science experiment in history will show whether atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will decrease as a result of the Covid19-induced economic slowdown.

Earlier I concluded:  “I expect there may be a small decrease in the rate of CO2 concentration increase, but it won’t be much, and I will be surprised if it turns negative.  A large La Nina later this year will lead to a CO2 increase a few months later, in which case there will be a larger downturn in annual CO2 change in 2021.

However, if the major cause of CO2 increase is fossil fuel consumption, there will be an extra large decrease in CO2 change in 2020 and 2021- and a noticeable jump if the global economy rebounds.”

(In a coming post I will update my expectations for the end of the year and next year.) 

The CO2 concentration number for May is now published: 417.07 p.p.m. (parts per million).  That’s an increase of 0.86 ppm over the April figure, and 2.41 ppm above the figure for May last year.  Figure 1 shows the 12 month change in CO2 at Mauna Loa since 2015-that is, January to January, February to February, March to March.

Fig. 1:  12 month change in CO2 concentration since 2015 to May 2020- Mauna Loa

Notice the amount of 12 month change has decreased a little.

Figure 2 is a monthly update for 2020 I will show as each month’s CO2 figures become available (and 2021 if necessary):

Fig. 2:  Updated 12 month changes in CO2 concentration for 2020- Mauna Loa

Note that so far this year, 12 month changes are in the normal or even upper range, and there is no sign of any slow down.

Watch for next month’s update, and enjoy the ride!

CO2vid Watch: April

May 7, 2020

In my last post I wondered whether the largest real-life science experiment in history will show whether atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will decrease as a result of the Covid19-induced economic slowdown.

I concluded:  I expect there may be a small decrease in the rate of CO2 concentration increase, but it won’t be much, and I will be surprised if it turns negative.  A large La Nina later this year will lead to a CO2 increase a few months later, in which case there will be a larger downturn in annual CO2 change in 2021.

However, if the major cause of CO2 increase is fossil fuel consumption, there will be an extra large decrease in CO2 change in 2020 and 2021- and a noticeable jump if the global economy rebounds.”

 Figure 1 shows the 12 month change in CO2 at Mauna Loa since 2015-that is, January to January, February to February, March to March (as in Figure 6 of my previous post):

Fig. 1:  12 month change in CO2 concentration since 2015- Mauna Loa

The CO2 concentration number for April is now published: 416.21 p.p.m. (parts per million).  That’s an increase of 1.71 ppm over the March figure, and 2.89 ppm above the figure for April last year.  Figure 2 is the April update on Figure 1.

Fig. 2:  Updated 12 month change in CO2 concentration since 2015- Mauna Loa

Notice the amount of 12 month change has increased, despite at least two months of downturn in China and at least a month in most other countries.

Figure 3 is a monthly update for 2020 I will show as each month’s CO2 figures become available (and 2021 if necessary):

Fig. 3:  Updated 12 month changes in CO2 concentration for 2020- Mauna Loa

Figure 4 shows the range of 12 month changes for each decade since the record began in 1958:

Fig. 4:  Updated 12 month changes in CO2 concentration all decades- Mauna Loa

Figure 5 shows the same, but just since 2000:

Fig. 5:  Updated 12 month changes in CO2 concentration since 2000- Mauna Loa

Note that so far this year, 12 month changes are in the upper range, and there is no sign of any slow down.

Watch for next month’s update, and enjoy the ride!

Will Covid-19 Affect Carbon Dioxide Levels?

May 2, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has already caused a huge downturn in many industries world-wide- especially tourism, manufacturing, and transport.  Prices of oil and thermal coal have fallen dramatically.  The first impact was on China, as this plot from the World Economic Forum shows:

Fig. 1:  Industrial production in China

Industrial production has fallen by 13.5% in January and February, and exports have dropped by 17%.  While China may be recovering from the virus, the rest of the world is not and knock-on effects from low Chinese production of essential inputs will hold back recovery in other countries.

So the question is: if atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are largely a product of fossil fuel emissions, and if fossil fuel emissions decrease, will we see a reduction in the rate of increase of CO2, and if so, how much?

This is the biggest real life experiment we are ever (I hope) likely to see.

Background:

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing, as in Figure 2.

Fig. 2:  CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa

Cape Grim in Tasmania samples the atmosphere above the Southern Ocean and shows a similar trend, with much smaller seasonal fluctuations:

Fig. 3:  CO2 measurements at Cape Grim

But what we are vitally interested in, is how much we may expect CO2 concentration to change.  We can show change, and remove the seasonal signal, by plotting the 12 month differences, i.e., March 2020 minus March 2019.  Thus we can see how much real variation there is even without an economic downturn.  And it is huge.

Fig.4:  12 month change in CO2 concentration- Mauna Loa

Fig. 5:  12 month change in CO2 concentration- Cape Grim

Not very much smaller at Cape Grim.

However, the Mauna Loa record is the one commonly referred to.  Figure 6 shows the 12 month changes since 2015.

Fig.6:  12 month change in CO2 concentration since 2015- Mauna Loa

We will keenly watch the values for the remaining months of 2020, and then 2021.

My expectation?

I will be very surprised if there is much visible difference from previous years at all, as the following plots show.  Figure 7 shows the time series of annual global CO2 emissions and scaled up atmospheric concentration from 1965 to 2018 (the most recent data from the World Bank):

Fig. 7:  Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Concentration to 2018

Fig. 8:  Carbon Dioxide Emissions as a Function of Energy Consumption to 2018

There is a very close match between emissions and energy consumption of all types- including nuclear, hydro, and renewables.

Fig. 9:  CO2 Concentration as a Function of Carbon Dioxide Emissions to 2018

Again, it is close, they are both increasing, but with some interesting little hiccups….

So what is the relationship between change in atmospheric concentration and change in emissions?

Fig. 10:  Percentage Change in CO2 Concentration as a Function of Percentage Change in Carbon Dioxide Emissions to 2018

Not very good correlation: 0.01.

Fig. 11:  Percentage Change in Energy Use, GDP, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions to 2018

GDP fluctuates much more than energy or emissions, which are very close, and if anything tends to follow them.

Figure 12 is a time series of annual percentage change in energy and emissions and absolute change in CO2 concentration.

Fig. 12:  Percentage Change in Energy Use and Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Absolute CO2 Change to 2018

You will note that during the three occasions (1974, 1980-82, and 2008-09) when global emissions growth went negative (as much as minus two percent), CO2 concentration barely moved, and still remained positive, and on two occasions when CO2 concentration increased by 3 ppm or more (1998 and 2016), emissions increase was much reduced. 

Ah-ha, but that’s because the volume of the atmosphere is so huge compared with the amount of greenhouse gases being pumped out- according to the Global Warming Enthusiasts.

In Figure 10 I showed that there was little relationship between annual change in CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentration.  Figure 13 shows what appears to have a much greater influence on CO2 concentrations: ocean surface temperature. 

Fig. 13:  Annual Change in CO2 Concentration as a Function of Change in Sea Surface Temperature (lagged 1 year)

Remember the correlation of CO2 with emissions in Figure 10 was 0.01.  The correlation between CO2 and lagged SSTs is 0.59.  That’s a pretty devastating comparison.

Figure 14 shows how in most years SST change precedes CO2 change throughout the entire CO2 record.

Fig. 14:  Annual Change in CO2 Concentration and Sea Surface Temperatures

There is little evidence for CO2 increase causing SST increase, while there is evidence that SST change (or something closely associated with it) leads to CO2 change.   The largest changes coincide with large ENSO events.

Conclusion:

Therefore, I expect there may be a small decrease in the rate of CO2 concentration increase, but it won’t be much, and I will be surprised if it turns negative.  A large La Nina later this year will lead to a CO2 increase a few months later, in which case there will be a larger downturn in annual CO2 change in 2021.

However, if the major cause of CO2 increase is fossil fuel consumption, there will be an extra large decrease in CO2 change in 2020 and 2021- and a noticeable jump if the global economy rebounds.

As I said, a very large real life experiment. So watch this space!

The Renewable Energy Transition

July 11, 2019

The Australian Greens’ number one aim in their Climate Change and Energy Policy is:

“Net zero or net negative Australian greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2040.”

And the Lowy Institute believes that Australia can set an example for the rest of the world.  In their article ‘An Australian model for the renewable-energy transition’ published on 11 March 2019, they assert that across the world “A very rapid transition to renewables is in process” and that “Most countries can follow the Australian path and transition rapidly to renewables with consequent large avoidance of future greenhouse emissions.”

Time for a reality check.

In this assessment I use energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions data from the 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

First of all, greenhouse gas emissions.  In the BP Review,

…carbon emissions … reflect only those through consumption of oil, gas and coal for combustion related activities, and are based on ‘Default CO2 Emissions Factors for Combustion’ listed by the IPCC in its Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (2006).  This does not allow for any carbon that is sequestered, for other sources of carbon emissions, or for emissions of other greenhouse gases. Our data is therefore not comparable to official national emissions data.

Excluded sources would include for example cement production and land clearing.  However, given that we are focussing on the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables, that is not a problem.

Figure 1 shows the growth in carbon dioxide emissions (from fossil fuels) since 1965.

Fig. 1: Global CO2 emissions in millions of Tonnes

CO2 emissions global

The big hitters are China, the USA, and India, who together account for more than half of the world total.

Fig. 2: CO2 emissions by the Big Three and the rest

CO2 emissions top3 rest

Note that America’s emissions peaked in 2007 and have since declined.  China’s emissions rose rapidly from 2002 to 2013.  From a low base, India’s emissions growth rate is practically exponential.

Figure 3 shows how Australia “compares”.

Fig. 3: CO2 emissions by the Big Three and Australia

CO2 emissions top3 Oz

Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels peaked in 2008.

The BP Review’s CO2 emissions data are based on fossil fuel combustion, so I now look at energy consumption since 1965.  Energy units are million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE), from the BP Review, “Converted on the basis of thermal equivalence assuming 38% conversion efficiency in a modern thermal power station.”

Fig. 4: Global energy consumption by fuel type in millions of tonnes of oil equivalent

World energy cons 65 to 18

(Note:

Apart from 2009 (the GFC) gas has risen steadily, especially the last five years.

Since the oil shocks of the seventies and early eighties and apart from the GFC, oil has mostly enjoyed a steady rise.

Coal consumption increased rapidly from 2002 to 2013 (mostly due to Chinese expansion) followed by a small decrease to 2016.

Hydro power has seen a steady increase.

Nuclear power peaked in 2006 and declined slightly before increasing over the last six years.

Wind and Solar are in the bottom right hand corner.  Both are increasing rapidly but are dwarfed by other forms of energy.)

How close are we to the renewable energy transition?  Figures 5 to 9 show 1965 – 2018 energy consumption for conventional sources (fossil fuels plus hydro and nuclear) and the total.  The gap between conventional and total energy use is filled by renewables OF ALL TYPES- solar, wind, geothermal, bio-waste (e.g. sugar cane bagasse), and bio-mass used for electricity production, (but excluding firewood, charcoal, and dung).  I have highlighted the gaps with a little green arrow.

Fig. 5: Total and conventional energy consumption in millions of tonnes of oil equivalent

World energy cons 65 to 18 fossil hydro nuclear

In 2018, renewables of all types accounted for just 4.05% of the world’s energy, fossil fuels 83.7%.  So much for rapid transition to renewables.

The next three plots show energy consumption of the big emitters.

Fig. 6: Total and conventional energy consumption- China

CO2 emissions China

4.38% of Chinese energy came from renewables in 2018.  Nuclear and hydro power have increased enormously over the past 15 years and make up 10.35% of usage but fossil fuels (mostly coal) make up 85.3% of energy consumption.

Fig. 7: Total and conventional energy consumption- USA

CO2 emissions USA

Renewables accounted for 4.51% of US energy.  Fossil fuel and total energy consumption peaked in 2007 but has recently started increasing mostly due to gas and oil use.   (Coal has slipped from more than a quarter of the fossil fuel total in 2007 to less than a sixth in 2018.)  Fossil fuels make up 84.3% of energy use.

Fig. 8: Total and conventional energy consumption- India

CO2 emissions India

Only 3.4% of India’s energy comes from renewables.  India’s energy consumption is growing very rapidly, and 91.6% of consumption is from fossil fuels.

What of Australia, supposedly setting an example for the rest of the world to follow?

Fig. 9: Total and conventional energy consumption- Australia

CO2 emissions Australia

After years of building solar and wind farms, and at enormous expense, renewable energy of all types accounts for just 5% of Australia’s energy use- and the Greens aim to have zero net emissions in 21 years from now.

In the past 10 years, renewable consumption has increased by 5.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent- but fossil fuels have increased by 6.4 million tonnes.  While coal use has dropped by 12 million tonnes, this has been more than replaced by 18.4 million tonnes of oil and gas.  That’s not much of a rapid transition.

Figure 10 shows in order renewables consumption in all countries.  Remember, this includes all types including geothermal energy and bio-mass.

Fig. 10: Comparative penetration of renewables

Renewable cons %

Australia at 5 % renewable consumption is 19th and ahead of the big emitters, the USA, China, and India.

Perhaps the Extinction Rebellion activists who are unhappy with lack of action against climate change in Germany, the UK, and Australia, could glue themselves to the roadways in China, India, or Russia.

There is no rapid renewable energy transition.   Oil, coal, and gas are cheap and readily available and are powering growth in developing economies.  At some time in the future there will not be enough accessible fossil fuel to sustain the world’s economies alone; uranium too will one day be in short supply.  However, necessity and technological innovation, not legislation, will drive the adoption of alternative fuels.

Rumours of the imminent death of fossil fuels appear to be greatly exaggerated (with apologies to Mark Twain).

More Footprint Comparisons

June 18, 2019

In my previous post I showed different ways of comparing carbon dioxide emissions.

Here are some more, unashamedly with an Australian focus, in different formats.

As in my last post I use data from the Global Carbon Atlas for fossil fuel emissions for 2017 (the most recent data available), and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data from the World Bank, also for 2017. GDP for each nation is calculated in current US dollars.

Percentages

Figure 1 shows cumulative percentages of 2017 fossil fuel emissions for all 202 countries with available data.

Fig. 1:  Cumulative CO2 emissions 2017 expressed as percentages

Globalco2 cum %

China, the USA, and India are the big hitters.  China produces 28.5% on its own.  Australia, in 16th place, produces 1.2% of global emissions, a bit behind Canada at 1.66%, and just ahead of the UK at 1.12%.  France and Italy are just over 1% each.  The remaining 183 countries each produce less than 1% – many much less.

Earth Hours

Earth Hour, where some people show how virtuous they are by switching off their lights for an hour in order to reduce emissions, might provide another way of comparing emissions.  I next compare emissions by units of “Earth Hours”.  One Australian Earth Hour is the amount of CO2 emissions reduced when:

Across Australia, all lights powered by fossil fuels; all stoves, fridges, air conditioners, and other appliances; all battery chargers; all street lights, traffic lights, and emergency lighting; all hospitals, schools, shopping centres, and telecommunications including computers; all mining operations; all transport- cars, trucks, trains, and aircraft; all farming operations; all water pumping; all manufacturing industry small and large, including steel and aluminium; all building and construction:  are shut down for one hour.

That is one Australian Earth Hour.

One Chinese Earth Hour is equal to 23.82 Australian Earth Hour units- Australia could run for 23 hours and 48 minutes on the equivalent amount of emissions. The value for America in Australian Earth Hours is 12 hours and 45 minutes; India, 6 hours; Russia, 4 hours; Japan, 2 hours 54 minutes. The value for the UK is 55 minutes and 53 seconds worth of Australian emissions output.

At the other end of the scale, El Salvador’s hourly emissions would last Australia for one minute.  Tuvalu’s total emissions are the equivalent of one tenth of one second of Australia’s emissions.

Efficiency

Here’s another idea.  Australia is the world’s 13th largest economy, and achieves this with emissions per dollar of GDP that put us in 105th place.  For all nations the average CO2 emissions per US dollar of GDP is 485 grams per dollar.  What if all countries were as efficient as Australia?  That is, they all had the same amount of emissions as Australia: 312 grams of CO2 per dollar of GDP.

Figure 2 shows what global emissions would look like if all nations were as efficient as Australia.

Fig. 2:  Global fossil fuel emissions currently and at Australia’s rate per dollar GDP

Global Oz efficiency

Or, to put it another way, Figure 3 shows the effect on the global economy for the same level of emissions.

Fig. 3:  Global GDP currently and at Australia’s emissions rate per dollar GDP

Global GDP Oz efficiency

That’s a potential increase of 37.7%.

Conclusion

Australia is punching above its weight in regard to efficiency of fossil fuel emissions per dollar of GDP.  Our carbon footprint is tiny compared with the big three- China, the USA, and India.  While there is always room for us to improve, if every country behaved as well as we do, the world would be a better place.