Southern ocean absorbs more CO2 than expected

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The uncertainty of science: Scientists have found that the ability of the southern ocean surrounding Antarctica to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide varies much more drastically than they had predicted.

In 2011, the ocean took in 4.4 gigatonnes of CO2, according to the study — more than 10% of the CO2 emitted by human activity at the time. That was roughly double what it absorbed a decade earlier. The increase marks a sharp turnaround from simulations published a few years ago, which suggested that the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 had dropped in the 1980s and 1990s, and predicted that this trend would continue.

“It doesn’t mean that our [climate-change] projections for the future are going to change dramatically,” says Nicolas Gruber, an environmental physicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, who co-authored the latest paper. Rather, he says, the study shows that the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon changes more drastically than researchers had anticipated. [emphasis mine]

Typical of much of the climate research community, the scientist above insists that just because their models were wrong is no reason to change them, or the reasoning behind them. We are going to charge ahead, regardless of the facts!


  • PeterF

    So the people who worship Gaia the earth other are unable to conceive of a living organism that can regulate itself.

    Apparently such a concept is contrary to all of their models that start with the assumption that humans are a disease.

    The earth meets all of the criteria for being classified as a living organism except for the ability to reproduce itself.
    If humans ever terraform another world we will have been shown to be a reproductive organ. just now reaching puberty.

  • D.K. Williams


  • Cotour

    This little story, which happened to me just the other day illustrates how a kind of person thinks related to how they see themselves in relation to existence, the earth and the universe and it explains to a degree how they get to the point where their logic must force them (and apparently everyone else) to commit suicide. I think they are more narrow, absolutist kind of thinkers, incorrectly seeing only black and white when they should be able to see the more fluid shades of gray which reality is composed.

    * A customer comes in the store this evening, he is a 71 year old man visiting his relatives in America with his wife and they are from England. A very nice, highly educated, distinguished and respectable man.

    In our conversation he lets it slip “Oh, I love Obama, I think he is great! Have you read any of his books? “.

    I have read parts of his books I say, they explain why and how he thinks what he thinks and what his philosophy is. He IMO has a Marxist foundation, he is the personification of the sixties radical, I say.

    He says “I really do not understand how Americans think”

    He says “Oh, I hate what the white man has done in the world.”

    I say, so you have white guilt? Your a self hater?

    No, no, no he says.

    I ask him, How do you like England? And he answers without any hesitation ” I hate England!”

    At which point I crack up and ask him, you hate England? And what do you think is going on here in America? Leftists and people like Obama are attempting to create England and what you hate right here in America. Put those two things together, you love Obama and you hate England, your an existential threat to yourself!

    We talked a bit further and he made his purchase and I walked into the back shaking my head and laughing hysterically as I thought about what he said. He will probably (?) be back and this conversation will continue, by the time I am done with him he will at the minimum be questioning his thought process or be a functional Conservative or he will come to the conclusion that he has to commit suicide to full fill his life’s purpose.

    That’s is how they see themselves, no let me correct that, that’s how they see everyone else that lives in any society that lives beyond subsistence level. They like very much how they are living, that’s just fine.

  • Cotour

    And here it is right on time, this is part of the leveling of America plan, alah the president and the U.N.

    Its like they want you to believe that the climate or maybe even the weather has never varied, ice caps have always just covered the poles, water levels have always been where they are now, drought has never before visited California, it is and has always been about the money and finding the legal mechanism to redistribute it.

    “Climate change”, it serves so many purposes.

  • Edward


    This reminds me of the typical climate-change believer/disciple. They are willing to explain how bad global warming is (or climate change or whatever buzz phrase), then they will climb into their CO2 producing car and drive to the take-out window for a meal of a methane producing bovine.

    They talk up a storm and tell you it is true, but they don’t honestly believe it themselves. Otherwise they would give up the car, the air conditioning, and the burger (this is equivalent to the suicide that you mention).

    It is pointless to point this out to them. First they will agree, but then they keep up their lifestyle, including the part in which they tell *you* to give up yours.

    Go figure.

    I doubt that the Englishman is going to react as you predicted.

    For some reason, the believers/disciples think of themselves as superior enough that they need not follow their own prescription, but you are the one who is inferior and must die (there is entirely too much of this thinking in the world, but that is another topic).

  • Cotour

    Then there is something like this.

    Isn’t Antarctica in a state of increasing ice cover at the present rate of fossil fuel burning? The sea level has in the past been 200′ higher, the sea level has in the past been 200′ lower, I strongly suspect that whether humans existed on the earth or not the same exact thing would go on at about the same rate as before, more or less.

    But there is the fear / panic factor that this article accentuates that and IMO is what this article is mostly about. To be clear I am not saying that pollution does not have its effects or should not be dealt with on a continuing basis as technology advances.

  • Cotour

    “After 10,000 years, under a “burn it all” scenario, the sea will rise by as much as 200 feet.”

    Who here reading this thinks that humanity will still be burning significant amounts of oil in the next, say 50 years? 100 years?

    I would say that significant technological advances in power generation, transportation and industry would in the next 25 to 50 years pretty much eliminate the significant use of oil. Where is that figured into this calculation? In 10,000 years where will human beings be in the universe? We are going to be spending all that time busily burning oil? Really?

    Technology advances will soon reach a point where even the oil industry will not be able to rig the game and keep the technology Genie in the bottle. There are going to be too many idealistic millenial billionares that will drive this new technology into existence for it to be controlled as in the past.

    This seems a major flaw in “climate change” theory, this I do not think will even be an issue in 25 to 35 (?) years, oil consumption is more likely to be much less, very significantly less in that time than much more.

    Am I off the rails on this?

  • pzatchok

    I don’t think the Earth as a whole will significantly reduce its oil usage at anytime foreseeable in the future.

    As third world peoples standard of living goes up their use of oil will also increase. I’m including all the products made from petroleum not just burning it in vehicles or power plants.

    Now our use of petroleum will get increasingly cleaner and efficient. And recycling will help keep the environment from being damaged as much as it could be.

    Environmentally I am more worried about fresh water and its inefficient use effecting the worlds environment. Especially the eventual over salinization of local areas from desalination plants in areas with little fresh water.

  • Edward

    Cotour wrote: “Am I off the rails on this?”

    Probably not. We are working on technologies that could replace much of our fossil fuel usage in the next few decades. Your prediction is reasonable.

    I think it depends upon whether fusion power becomes viable and takes hold better than fission power did. In the 1950s, it was predicted that fission power plants would be so common and inexpensive that we would remove the meters from our homes, but it didn’t turn out that way. I hope that fusion works out better.

    Solar and wind may eventually be a measurable amount of power generation (as opposed to <1% today), but the Germans discovered that 20% generation capability is too much, as the fluctuations due to cloud cover or calm air wreak havoc with the power grid. I suspect that we cannot count on these being much more than 5% of overall power generation, assuming 15% capability and 33% "duty cycle."

  • Cotour

    I think the dream is individuals being able to efficiently produce and store their own energy (electricity and hot water) in combination with a hardened grid system that is accessible either hard wired or broadcast if / when necessary. You might produce energy and contribute to the grid when you can but you are also able to run in isolation.

    At some point in the future I would think there will be super conducting materials that operate at reasonable temperatures and that, among other advances will be major game changers.

  • Edward

    Cotour wrote: “You might produce energy and contribute to the grid when you can but you are also able to run in isolation.”

    It is the problem with the potential 20% variation on the grid that the Germans ran into that could make this solution less desirable than you may think.

    The room temperature superconductors would reduce line losses, making long-distance “transportation” of electricity more efficient, and that could also reduce fossil fuel usage.

    It may also be that we find ways of recovering “waste” heat, making energy usage even more efficient, further reducing fossil fuel usage, and (an added bonus) masking our presence from potential invading space aliens looking for life in other galaxies. ;-)

  • Edward

    From the article: “In 2011, the ocean took in 4.4 gigatonnes of CO2, according to the study — more than 10% of the CO2 emitted by human activity at the time. That was roughly double what it absorbed a decade earlier.”

    Also from the article: “Heinze says that climate models have assumed that oceanic uptake of CO2 varies less than land uptake (in part because the land sees continual fluctuations in factors such as deforestation and agricultural practices).”

    It is interesting to note that the article relates the CO2 increase with human activity, rather than natural CO2 emissions, such as vegetation decomposition, volcanoes, natural wildfires, and other CO2 sources. These natural sources are many times greater than human activity sources, which are around 2% of the amount that nature puts into the atmosphere.

    So, if nature can contribute to atmospheric CO2 concentrations, why can’t nature contribute to aquatic CO2 concentrations, such as decaying marine life? Why does the author assume that humans — with our relatively minute production — be the only possible or the most likely source?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *