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Hemispheric timing shows oceans are source of CO2?

By Dennis T. Avery
web posted April 6, 2009

Australia's Tom Quirk, an Oxford-trained research physicist, noted that carbon 14 molecules from nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and '60s took some years to travel through the atmosphere between the northern and southern Hemispheres.

Quirk further noted that about 95 percent of the CO2 from fossil fuels has been emitted in the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, there should be a lag between the variations in CO2 levels at the Northern Hemisphere's stations such as Mauna Loa, and Southern Hemisphere stations such as Antarctica.

But he has found no time differences between the CO2 variations in the two hemispheres.

"The seasonal variations in CO2 and the lack of time delays between the hemispheres suggest fossil-fuel-derived CO2 is almost totally absorbed locally in the year it is emitted," he says. "This implies that natural variability of the climate is the prime cause of increased CO2, not the emissions of CO2 from the use of fossil fuels."

Dial back to 2006, when Al Gore's released his movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Mr. Gore showed us 400,000 years of the ice record from Antarctica's Vostok glacier. Temperatures and CO2 levels in the ice record moved radically up and down together through four Ice Ages and four interglacial warmings—including the Modern Warming.

Then Gore got on a lift truck and soared himself 30 feet into the air, drawing upward a horrifying graph that predicted a parboiled planet.

Gore told us that more CO2 in the atmosphere meant higher temperatures. That was the huge technical error in his movie. More recent Antarctic studies, on more refined time scales, have shown that instead of causing warming, the CO2 levels respond to warming—slowly.

Apparently, the oceans absorb massive amounts of CO2 from the air every time they cool. The oceans hold at least 70 times as much CO2 as the air, and cold water holds more of any gas under the laws of physics. Since 1850, the planet had been slowly and erratically warming as we transitioned out of the Little Ice Age. Atmospheric CO2 rose slowly. This was the warming phase of the solar-linked Dansgaard-Oeschger cycle that happens every 1,500 years.

The environmental movement gave Dansgaard and Oeschger the "environmental Nobel"—the Tyler Prize—in 1996 because they thought the Antarctic ice record proved that CO2 regulates our global temperatures. But today we know that the correlation between CO2 and temperatures over the past 150 years is only 22 percent. The correlation with sunspots is 79 percent.

Now the most accurate ocean temperatures ever recorded—from the Argo diving floats—say the oceans stopped warming in 2003. Global surface temperatures have followed, dropping sharply over the last several years.

Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., the former Colorado State Climatologist, wrote in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in 2003, "it is the change in ocean heat content that provides the most effective diagnostic of global warming and cooling."  Nor does Dr. Pielke think there is any place on earth that a large amount of latent warming could be "hidden." 

Josh Willis, a loyal Jet Propulsion Laboratory bureaucrat, says the global and ocean cooling "does not contradict the climate models. In fact, many climate models simulate four to five year periods with no warming in the upper ocean from time to time." However, a quick survey of the climate models has failed to find any such no-warming predictions published.

We must face the fact that the earth is now cooling, and any drastic actions to reduce fossil fuel emissions are premature. Dr. Kanya Kusano of Japan's Earth Stimulator Project recently advised his government that the need for such actions is based on an "unproven hypothesis." 

Scientific maxim:  If you theory doesn't fit observed reality, change your theory. ESR

Dennis T. Avery is an environmental economist, and a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to cgfi@hughes.net.


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