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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pangaean nuttery by Anthony Watts at WUWT

Sou | 5:19 PM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts sometimes complains that he and his blog are the subject of ridicule yet he keeps coming up with the ridiculous. I think he's getting worse. He knows that his bread and butter is the bottom 8%. The hard-core "dismissives" and scientific illiterati. Some of the "doubtful" at WUWT are starting to dismiss the pseudo-science peddled by Anthony.

Today Anthony has written an introduction to another of his copy and paste press releases (archived here). He wrote:

How Earth avoided global warming before SUV’s
From the European Association of Geochemistry, a claim that looks to be little more than paleo-dowsing. Though, ya gotta love the silly claim that Earth would have hit a runaway greenhouse effect like Venus, had it not been for some mountains forming, sucking up all the CO2. Plus we’ve seen the Earth hit 5000PPM CO2 in the past, and it didn’t turn into Venus...
...Of course it all just more model output, there’s no real earth science going on -all guesswork, no actual measurements.

How ignorant is Anthony Watts? Let me count the ways...

How much can you find wrong with Anthony's headline and two paragraphs? I'll list a few things.
  1. global warming before SUV's - that's pure denialism. The implied suggestion from idiotic deniers is that if the world warmed in the distant past it couldn't have been from human activity therefore it can't be from human activity now. Anthony fails logic 101.
  2. Paleo-dowsing - Anthony tries to make out that the research isn't scientific. This coming from someone who doesn't even understand temperature anomalies from a baseline! You've also got to wonder if Anthony knows the meaning of the verb "to dowse".
  3. ya gotta love the silly claim - another attempt by Anthony to mock actual science. Remember when Anthony tried to claim that global warming was caused by steampipes in Russia?
  4. claim that Earth would have hit a runaway greenhouse effect like Venus - this is yet another illustration that Anthony Watts doesn't read what he copies and pastes. The press release states that even if the mountains hadn't formed and CO2 had risen sharply, it would NOT have led to a runaway greenhouse effect.
  5. we’ve seen the Earth hit 5000PPM CO2 in the past, and it didn’t turn into Venus - Anthony again shows he didn't read the press release he posted. The article clearly says that there wouldn't have been a runaway greenhouse effect. Also, he seems to be oblivious to the fact that in the past when there was more than 5000 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, the sun was quite a bit fainter. And Earth has been hotter in the distant past than it is now, because there was more atmospheric CO2. Anthony has no concept of radiative forcing or the different factors that affect global surface temperatures.
  6. just more model output...all actual measurements. Anthony Watts couldn't be more wrong. The measurements are there. That's why the scientists developed a model, to see if they could explain the actual measurements.  Of course it could be that Anthony thinks that because there weren't any people back then, then there couldn't be any measurements. He's scientifically illiterate so that explanation would fit. And it's his scientific illiteracy that would be behind his claim that sophisticated scientific modeling isn't science. Does he really think that funding organisations would fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars on supercomputers and scientists just for kicks? How does he think that other scientific disciplines work? How does he think he gets his weather forecasts? Anthony is behaving the same way as the most uneducated of his ignorant readers.

Once again, Anthony doesn't provide any link to the article he copied and pasted. I found the press release at It's not about a published paper. This time its about a presentation by Yves Goddéris and colleagues to a conference, the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Sacramento, California. I found an abstract on the conference website. While it makes good reading, it doesn't seem to be about quite the same thing as the press release, though it's not unrelated.

The CO2 paradox

The abstract focuses on the impact of vascular plants on past climates. The press release is about how the formation of a huge mountain range on Pangaea prevented a big rise in atmospheric CO2. The scientists looked for an explanation to a paradox. The paradox was that, because Pangea was so huge, its vast inland areas became very dry. That meant that rock weathering was greatly reduced. This in turn meant that CO2 should have risen. But it didn't.

Mountains could resolve the paradox

During that same period a gigantic mountain range was formed on Pangea, the Hercynian mountains, stretching from what is now the Appalachians, through Ireland, England France, the Alps in Germany and further east. This enormous mountain range was in the humid tropics. Their steep slopes eroded, which because of the heat and humidity, meant that there was rock weathering which removed CO2 from the air.

[Team leader Dr Yves Goddéris said] "We believe that it is this which led to the dramatic drop in atmospheric levels of CO2. We estimate that if it hadn't been for the formation of the Hercynian mountains, the atmospheric CO2 levels would have reached around 25 times the pre-industrial level, meaning that CO2 levels would have reached around 7000 ppm (parts per million). Let me put that into a present-day context; the current atmospheric CO2 levels are around 400 ppm, so this means that we would have seen CO2 rise to a level around 17 times current levels. This would obviously have had severe effects on the environment of that time. But the formation of the mountains in fact contributed to the greatest fall in atmospheric CO2 in the last 500 million years."
The team believes that even if the mountains had not formed and CO2 levels rose sharply, this would not have led to a runaway greenhouse effect as happened on Venus, because the increasing temperatures would have led to rocks being ultimately weathered, heat compensating for the scarcity of water. Rock weathering would have removed CO2 from the atmosphere, thus stopping the rising temperatures.
"So it would eventually have been self-correcting" said Dr Godderis, "but there's no doubt that this would have stalled Earth's temperature at a high level for a long, long time. The world would look very different today if these mountains had not developed when they did.
This is a new model which explains some of the events in the 80 million years following the start of the Carboniferous period, and of course the ideas need to be confirmed before we can be sure that the model is completely accurate. The take-home message is that the factors affecting atmospheric CO2 over geological periods of time are complex, and our understanding is still evolving."

Fascinating, isn't it. I'll have to keep my eyes open for a published paper.  When you think about all the science that underpins these ideas it puts Anthony Watts ignorant idiocy into perspective.

From the WUWT comments

I can hear some groans at Bill Illis' comment which is effectively "scientists don't know nuffin'". Except it was Bill who didn't bother reading the article and says (excerpt):
June 11, 2014 at 9:22 pm
They got the timing completely backwards here.

ATheoK is another denier of the "scientists don't know nuffin'" kind but only demonstrates his own scientific illiteracy when he says (excerpt):
June 11, 2014 at 10:08 pm
Don’t you just love these new fangled computer models. They can take arid environments and turn them into humid equatorial environments just by growing some mountains. No mention of how tall the mountains were… I wonder how many mountain passes the computer modelers programmed in.
Steep slopes of the Hercynian mountains… Steep? I suppose the model required steep mountains for some reason? The odd thing about steep mountains is that above certain altitudes, they tend to keep moisture as perennial snowcaps. Steep mountains with heights under the snowcap level look sort of funny if they’re mesa shaped.
Mountains on Earth have difficulty retaining steep slopes because gravity wins. Weathering is a complex process where the more complex the mineralization, the quicker the weathering. There are exceptions where large resistant granitic massifs are elevated. But whole mountain chains composed of massifs are about as believable as funny models.

u.k.(us) says, somewhat irrelevantly:
June 11, 2014 at 10:38 pm
” Rock weathering would have removed CO2 from the atmosphere, thus stopping the rising temperatures.”
Not a word in regards to salt water /heat capacity.

Yves Goddéris, Yannick Donnadieu and Sebastien Carretier. "Critical zone and carbon cycle in the deep time." Goldschmidt 2014. 


  1. Here's another complementary CO2 paradox from paleoclimate, this time from the early Cenozoic. And this time, tectonic uplift and weathering provided both source *and* (geologically transient) sink.

    From Torres et al. (2014) Sulphide oxidation and carbonate dissolution as a source of CO2 over geological timescales:

    The observed stability of Earth’s climate over millions of years is thought to depend on the rate of carbon dioxide (CO2) release from the solid Earth being balanced by the rate of CO2 consumption by silicate weathering. During the Cenozoic era, spanning approximately the past 66 million years, the concurrent increases in the marine isotopic ratios of strontium, osmium and lithium suggest that extensive uplift of mountain ranges may have stimulated CO2 consumption by silicate weathering, but reconstructions of sea-floor spreading do not indicate a corresponding increase in CO2 inputs from volcanic degassing. The resulting imbalance would have depleted the atmosphere of all CO2 within a few million years. As a result, reconciling Cenozoic isotopic records with the need for mass balance in the long-term carbon cycle has been a major and unresolved challenge in geochemistry and Earth history. Here we show that enhanced sulphide oxidation coupled to carbonate dissolution can provide a transient source of CO2 to Earth’s atmosphere that is relevant over geological timescales. Like drawdown by means of silicate weathering, this source is probably enhanced by tectonic uplift, and so may have contributed to the relative stability of the partial pressure of atmospheric CO2 during the Cenozoic. A variety of other hypotheses have been put forward to explain the ‘Cenozoic isotope-weathering paradox’, and the evolution of the carbon cycle probably depended on multiple processes. However, an important role for sulphide oxidation coupled to carbonate dissolution is consistent with records of radiogenic isotopes, atmospheric CO2 partial pressure and the evolution of the Cenozoic sulphur cycle, and could be accounted for by geologically reasonable changes in the global dioxygen cycle, suggesting that this CO2 source should be considered a potentially important but as yet generally unrecognized component of the long-term carbon cycle.

    Overview here.

    The dismissives can crouch and gibber in desperate denial, but the processes of physical climatology will continue to operate on every physical and temporal scale.

    And it is a marvel.

    1. Oops. That should be:

      "tectonic uplift and weathering provided both sink *and* (geologically transient) source."


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