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Thursday, November 5, 2015

OCO-2 baffles deniers at WUWT and prompts more conspiracy theories

Sou | 9:23 PM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment

The OCO-2 project at NASA has a video showing the changes in atmospheric CO2 over a year or so, as measured by the OCO-2 satellite, which was launched last year. NASA put out a press release a few days ago:

"We can already clearly see patterns of seasonal change and variations in carbon dioxide around the globe," said Annmarie Eldering, OCO-2 deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Far more subtle features are expected to emerge over time."...
...Through most of OCO-2's first year in space, the mission team was busy calibrating its science instrument, learning how to process its massive amount of data, and delivering data products to NASA's Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES-DISC) in Greenbelt, Maryland, for distribution to the world’s science community.

Scientists are comparing OCO-2 data to ground-based measurements to validate the satellite data and tie it to internationally accepted standards for accuracy and precision. 

CO2 is a well-mixed greenhouse gas. Notice the legend - it spans just 15 parts per million by volume, from 390 to 405 ppmv. And I don't think the colours hit the extremes at any point during the year (you can check for yourself). It gets drawn down into plants on land and in the ocean and then released again as the seasons change.

More from the press release:
The first year of data from the mission reveals a portrait of a dynamic, living planet. Between mid-May and mid-July 2015, OCO-2 saw a dramatic reduction in the abundance of atmospheric carbon dioxide across the northern hemisphere, as plants on land sprang to life and began rapidly absorbing carbon dioxide from the air to form new leaves, stems and roots. During this intense, two-month period, known as the “spring drawdown,” OCO-2 measurements show the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide over much of the northern hemisphere decreased by two to three percent. That's 8 to 12 parts per million out of the global average background concentration of 400 parts per million. 

From the WUWT comments

While Anthony Watts is still on his sabbatical or wherever (he popped in briefly to say "thanks"), Ric Werme has posted an article about this at WUWT (archived here, cached here), which generated a lot of comments. There was a bit of a scrum, with some deniers wanting to show they are not at the extreme end of nuttery, unlike most at WUWT.

High Treason decides there's a conspiracy:
November 4, 2015 at 3:50 pm
The CO2 levels do not seem to coincide terribly much with human activity. Perhaps the delay is to allow manipulation of the data to fit the political narrative-how Lysenkoid. What would be more useful is to link CO2 levels from a particular area with plant growth rates to see if the 5ppm spread makes much difference to plant nutrition.

Piotr figures the satellite instruments are not finely tuned, in a logical fallacy of personal incredulity:
November 4, 2015 at 3:50 pm
I note the scale of different colours is not linear, (2,3,2,3,2,5 ppm for equivalent appearing changes in colour), and also the change from green to red represents a change of only 4 ppm from 398(ish) to 402. I have doubts that their satellite based instrument is genuinely accurate to that level with any reliability, and in any event that is such a miniscule change in magnitude of an already small number… 

M Seward sniggers nervously. He or she is wrong about the modeling. The more complex climate models do include vegetation:
November 4, 2015 at 3:54 pm
The ‘pull down’ of CO2 by plants in the northern spring must mean a huge concurrent energy storage as the endothermic plant chemistry stores very large amounts of energy in the chemical donds.
Not to mention all the transpiration that must take place as part of that, shunting LHV to the upper atmosphere.
And I gather the geniuses don’t even ‘model’ that. LOL. 

I don't know what Nicholas Schroeder is trying to argue, or where he gets his numbers from. Each year we're pouring around 40 billion tonnes of CO2 into the air.
November 4, 2015 at 4:09 pm
The major global C/CO2 reservoirs (not CO2 per se, C is a precursor proxy for CO2), i.e. oceans, atmosphere, vegetation & soil, contain over 42,000 Pg (Gt) of C/CO2. Over 90% of this C/CO2 reserve is in the oceans. Between these reservoirs ebb and flow hundreds of Pg C/CO2 per year, the great fluxes. For instance, vegetation absorbs C/CO2 for photosynthesis producing plants and O2. When the plants die and decay they release C/CO2. A divinely maintained balance of perfection for thousands of years, now unbalanced by mankind’s evil use of fossil fuels.
So just how much net C/CO2 does mankind’s evil fossil fuel consumption add to this perfectly balanced 42,000 Gt cauldron of churning, boiling, fluxing C/CO2? 3 Gt C/CO2. That’s correct, 3. Not 3,000, not 300, 3! How are we supposed to take this seriously? 

tomo is cautiously telling everyone she or he knows there's a climate conspiracy, else why would anyone want to know about CO2 sources and sinks just when the world leaders are gathering to discuss how to address the problem?
November 4, 2015 at 4:14 pm
One has to wonder about timing and COP21 and the interpretation of the OCO-2 results….
There is – I think – some cause to be wary about this…… 

temp isn't suggesting the data is wrong, just that the scientists are conspiring to spin it:
November 4, 2015 at 4:48 pm
If you review some of the still frames they released back in Nov and compare them to the model run you’ll see that are basically reversed. Their is a huge band of CO2 just where the “missing data” line is in the south. Its highly likely they haven’t figured out how to spin that data yet and because its the complete opposite of what was predicted by models they don’t want people pointing out the fact they are @ss backwards. 

Latitude has almost learnt something about CO2 and photosynthesis, if only she or he could figure it out:
November 4, 2015 at 4:49 pm
so plants are pulling down more CO2 than we are emitting..
…for some reason those satellites are not orbiting over the poles
gee, I just don’t know what to make of this

Dog sez he knows that WUWT-ers are utter nutters, but thinks they make more noise than the majority. (Did I get that right?):
November 4, 2015 at 6:25 pm
I mean we already know that 0.3% of climatologists are either nut jobs or worse. And it’s well known that the loudest voices on the net are the minorities (the 0.3%)…Not just in science, but pretty much everywhere. Time and time again, you’ll read that the loudest voices are those who complain as opposed to those who don’t….
If the minority is always going to be the loudest, then how do we get the majority to become louder than them? 


  1. Been pondering the CO2 variation for a time and I do not believe it is trees and grasses but phytoplankton Green leaves on land do store carbon and eventually release it over time as the shed leaves rot. But this rotting process is slow especially in winter so seems unlikely to be cause of yearly cycles. The CO2 and O2 levels vary in rough synchronism so it is not caused totally be dissolving co2 in water (which releases NO co2)

    Respiration in plants releases co2 in dark and o2 in light - NH December = dark = increased Co2 decrease O2 and july = light =increased o2 decreased CO2. Deciduous trees do not respire in winter - no leaves (grasses do of course so may be part of the CO2 ripple)


    1. In the end that doesn't make sense to me. Suppose in spring a certain amount of CO2 is absorbed by plants for growing leaves etc. Lets call it A. Assuming those same leaves take more time for releasing that same amount of CO2, as you are suggesting, say, f.i. 3 years. Then after 1 year cycle the net amount of CO2 has dropped a little. Amount A was absorbed, but only 1/3 A was released. In the second year cycle the first round of shedded leaves is still rotting, releasing another 1/3A and on top of that the second round will add another 1/3A of CO2. In the 3rd year cycle the last 1/3 of the first round, the second 1/3 of the second round and the first 1/3 of the 3rd round add up to the original amount of CO2.
      From that time on every year the yearly amounts of CO2 taken up and released will be the same.
      Thus, when the time for the shedded leaves to release all the CO2 is n years, the after the initial n years the balance is restored.

  2. emsnews states
    "Correct, the only big land mass in the entire Southern Hemisphere is Antarctica which has zero any plants growing on it. It is nearly all ocean with a tiny bit if [sic ]Australia and the skinny part of South America."

    I often wonder how climate deniers find their way home at night.

    A lot of Africans and South Americans must be surprised to realise they live in the Northern Hemisphere. The statement is up there with one from around the time of the Pope's encyclical on climate change where at least one WUWT reader wanted to sent the pope back to Central America.

  3. Things that might be interesting if you're interested in facts rather than conspiracy theories.

    1) OCO-2 is in the A-train of satellites, meaning it crosses overhead at around 1.30 am and 1.30 pm. At the equator it takes about 16 days of orbits to get a single set of measurements for full coverage.

    2) OCO-2 works with reflected sunlight that passes through the whole atmosphere, so it doesn't do anything useful at night, it struggles in winter or if the Sun is low in the sky, and it doesn't measure CO2 if clouds are in the way. This explains some of the currently missing data, although some might be recoverable in future.

    3) OCO-2 takes measurements in two main ways: looking straight down, and pointed sideways to look at the "glint spot" where sunlight is reflected very well from water. One is good for land and one for oceans. Originally it switched between the two each 16 days, so that adds a complication. (A third method is used for testing)

    Measuring with satellites is very hard and it can take a long time to get the data prepared. The satellite takes time to get into the right orbit, then the instrument has to be decontaminated and tested - this might involve rotating the spacecraft or calibrating against surface targets. After that, the data is processed to "level 1" which is just the output converted to physical properties (e.g. changing a voltage to a radiance), with various quality control steps included plus time and location data added. The first OCO-2 level 1 release (version 5) was December 2014, about 5 months after launch. We are now on version 7r of the level 1 data and this seems pretty good.

    The CO2 data is so-called Level 2 data. This is where the physical properties (measured radiances) are converted into the measured property, in this case total CO2 through the full depth of the atmosphere. Complex computer simulations of the physics are used to do the calculations to convert radiances to CO2 (and other things, like surface pressure) and a huge amount of data has to be crunched. The analysis has to be checked for things like filtering out clouds, the effect of cloud shadows, changes in the reflectance of Earth's surface and so on. This is all checked against measurements from aircraft and on the ground, which takes time.

    Altogether I think the work of the OCO-2 team is very impressive and it's needed a huge amount of work time to get to this standard.

    Or if you believe WUWT, then you don't need to do any physics or testing and it's all a conspiracy because there were photos of Pluto.

    1. Terrific summary. Thank you Anon.

    2. Thanks anon it is even trickier than I thought. Devilishly clever these scientists. Bert

  4. I am surprised that some one at wuwt did not ask how these measurements are made if there is no such thing as CO2 acting as a greenhouse gas by absorbing and re-emitting the two characteristic IR wavelengths due to CO2's vibrational states. Or some mumbling about the tiny amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Surely the only thing in the atmosphere absorbing and re-emitting IR is H2O according to denialists. This signal would swamp any from CO2!

    These twits are not even consistent in their denial of the facts. They resort to conspiracy ideation when their ignorant tiny minds cannot even deal with simple science.

    I am most probably completely wrong about what denialists believe as it seems to change even in one of their garbled sentences let alone with time.

    The take home message is these idiots from wuwt have no idea how this satellite works but are expert enough to criticise the measurements.


    1. Consistency? Anything that looks like it could refute any / some part of science / global warming goes fine.. .. ;)


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