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The World Is Breathing

In the September 2013 issue of the Nature Conservancy Magazine, Sanjayan, the lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy, wrote a short article about his visit to the Mauna Loa Observatory where the primary record of the world's carbon dioxide level is measured, the origin of the Keeling Curve. I cannot find this magazine article on line.

Before the trip, he writes 'I often struggled with something that was hard to sense in any daily way and whose effects were confounded by the chaos of weather. I agreed that climate change was happening, but I didn't necessarily feel it.'

Since he was visiting the observatory, he told the story that after Charles Keeling had recorded the carbon dioxide levels for a few years (starting in 1958) Keeling noticed the concentrations oscillated annually. 'He realized he was watching the planet breathe.' This oscillation is widely recognized as being caused by the seasonal changes in plants in the northern hemisphere, with the highest concentration usually in May and the lowest concentration in either September or October (the oscillation could be likened to a sine wave so the concentration changes little around the date of the actual peak).

During the visit Sanjayan is given a vial of air taken during a recent sample, at 395ppm. 'When I look at that vial, I stop intellectuallizing climate change - to me, it becomes absolutely real.'

This story just reinforces the notion of confirmation bias. Seeing the measurement of higher carbon dioxide levels is a confirmation of his concern about climate change, even though the measurement itself says absolutely nothing about the source of the higher levels. He just believes both the high levels must be from human activities and that higher levels must be bad. Sanjayan is convinced of climate change, even though the chaos of weather offers no confirmation for that belief, as he somewhat admits at the beginning of the story. At the time of this writing, events and records up to 2013 provide no clue of catastrophic global warming. The global temperature trend is flat using the GISS data since September 2001, using the Hadcrut4 data since December 2000, using UAH data since January 2005, using RSS data since November 1996. Arctic sea ice extent has remained within the normal (1981-2000) band for the entire year while Antarctic sea ice extent has remained above normal for almost all of the past two years. The US just had the quietest tornado season on record, the quietest hurricane season on record, the fewest forest fires since 1984, the second fewest number of hundred degree readings in about a century. The last major hurricane (category 3 or higher) to hit the US was Wilma in October 2005, the longest 'drought' on record. With all that not happening I agree it might be difficult for most scientists to 'feel' climate change.

When I discovered the carbon dioxide levels measured in Hawaii oscillate due to plants in the Northern Hemisphere, my first reaction was simply 'Wow!' Hawaii is the most isolated population center in the world, 2390 miles from California, 3850 miles from Japan, 4900 miles from China, and 5280 from the Philippines. The annual oscillation is generated by the earth's plant life (primarily that in the north; similar cycles are also observed at a station in Alaska and at another station in the Antarctic), like taking in a breath and then an exhale a few months later. What a breath it is for a natural seasonal cycle to change the carbon dioxide levels around the world like that. I find that revelation rather awesome. This is a reminder the amount of carbon dioxide from human sources is only about 3.4% of all sources. The natural cycles have much more impact on carbon dioxide levels than emissions from man.

For an excellent analysis of the carbon dioxide situation I strongly recommend the recent presentation by Professor Murry Salby available online (a little over an hour). He reviews ice core samples, current CO2 and methane samples, IPCC conclusions, and climate models. Analysis of ice cores indicates their carbon dioxide levels are underestimated. Only recently have measurements been taken of carbon dioxide levels around the world's land masses and the highest levels are found in large non-industrialized areas (like the Amazon or Congo), implying the natural sources dominate over human sources. Analysis of both the ice cores and recent samples confirm carbon dioxide levels are driven by temperature, not the other way around.

As I learn about the natural cycles involving weather and carbon dioxide, climate change alarmism (about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming) becomes absolutely a joke to me.

created - November 2013
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