Remember EG Beck’s dodgy CO2 graph?


You really didn’t have to know anything at all about the history and practice of measuring CO2 to deduce that something was wrong with Beck’s theory that there were wild fluctuations in CO2 concentration that suddenly ended when the most accurate measurements started. But Energy and Environment published his paper.

Eli Rabett has links to comments from experts Harro Meijer and Ralph Keeling (the son of Charles Keeling), who explain where Beck went wrong. Meijer concludes:

It is shocking that this paper has been able to pass the journal’s referee system. “Energy and Environment” apparently has been unable to organise a proper peer review process for this paper, thereby discrediting the journal.

Well, I think E&E was already discredited, but it sure would be interesting to see who they got to review it. Jaworowski, perhaps?

While Keeling asks:

Is it really the intent of E&E to provide a forum for laundering pseudo-science?

Yes. Yes it is.


  1. #1 P. Lewis
    April 2, 2008

    Oh! Ian!! Spoilsport.

  2. #2 guthrie
    April 2, 2008

    I freely admit to tweaking Tim Curtin’s nose to see how he responds. His inability to comprehend what I wrote is not actually surprising. The simple fact that people can do good work when young and espouse nutty ideas when old and effectively retired, is one that he tries to avoid. I would assume because it describes himself, although I have no idea if he did any useful work when he was young.

    As for Gerhard Kramm, his missing the point will require some time to explain, so I’ll do it later.

  3. #3 P. Lewis
    April 2, 2008

    I freely admit to the above being, shall I say, a tad frivolous in wanting to make a point to and about but Dr Kramm. I make no apologies for that.

    He does seem to like to pick up on inconsequentialities and perceived inexactitudes (hence my frivolity); and he seemingly distorts context when it suits his purpose; to whit the following example:

    I already read Arthur Smith’s article, even though it is not “peer-reviewed”. First, Arthur Smith confirmed the result of G & T for the globally averaged temperature in the example of their section 3.7.4.

    First, neither is G&T’s ‘travesty’ peer reviewed. Second, Arthur Smith’s ‘confirmation’ of G&T’s reference to Hölder’s inequality and its consequences for average temperature Tave(t) always being less than or equal to the effective thermal radiation temperature Teff(t) is hardly worth mentioning (Dr Kramm’s reference to G&T’s 3.7.4), because it’s just setting the scene for where they become horribly misguided when they begin to apply this “well-known” result.

    But back to his statement

    Water vapor is emitted by any combustion process.

    Inconsequentially, I could easily intimate his context was combustion of hydrocarbons in air/oxygen, and so water vapour would be produced in that context. No argument. But because of Dr Kramm’s recent statements hereabouts (otherwise I’d not have entertained frivolity), I thought I’d pick up on the inexactitude.

    Now, Ian has provided you with examples of combustion in which oxygen is at least present. But you do not even need oxygen to initiate or sustain combustion (which is essentially just a chemical/oxidation reaction marked by the production of heat and light). Consequently, you won’t get water vapour in such a combustion reaction. In short, there are many combustion reactions that do not involve hydrocarbons and/or oxygen, so the statement

    Water vapor is emitted by any combustion process.

    is scientifically inexact at best; and scientists, even in blogs, IMHO should strive to be exact in their meaning. And they should strive to act like scientists rather than advocates (and advocacy is basically what Dr Kramm’s comment about Arthur Smith’s arxiv paper amounts to) — which I suppose is one of my real points, if anyone hadn’t divined yet.

    BTW: examples of combustion reactions not involving hydrocarbons or oxygen include the rather explosive formation of HCl from a hydrogen and chlorine mixture in the presence of light, the formation of PCl5, other chlorine or fluorine reactions with some metals/non-metals, and (IIRC) a schoolboy example with copper and sulphur in a hermetically sealed tube. There are lots more.

  4. #4 Barton Paul Levenson
    April 2, 2008

    Tim Curtin, giving a classic example of the fallacy of equivocation, writes:

    [[BJ: “Before the Industrial Revolution, before humanity’s appearance on the planet, the biosphere had already done a pretty good job of sequestering an equilibrium mass of carbon as ‘biomass’.”

    What was the volume of food crop and farm animal production in 1750? ]]

    Plainly he intends to argue that crop production is way up since 1750 and therefore it was the rise in CO2 that did it.

    Attention, Tim. “The biosphere” does not equate to “food crop and farm animal production.” The latter is a subset of the former. There is no reason to believe the total mass of the biosphere has changed appreciably since 1750. More and more of it has consisted of man and man’s domestic organisms, but that doesn’t mean there’s more animal and vegetable mass on the planet.

  5. #5 Barton Paul Levenson
    April 2, 2008

    Herr Kramm,

    The forcings estimated for the anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the IPCC reports include the effect of water vapor feedback. There’s no point in listing a separate forcing for water vapor, because in the model used, it hasn’t got one.

    The physical basis for this is that water vapor has a very short residence time in the atmosphere. The average molecule of water vapor stays in the air nine (9) days. There is a very active cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation on Earth which keeps cycling water between the ocean/land and the air.

    CO2, on the other hand, resides in the atmosphere for an average of 200 years. So that’s what we have to be concerned about. We could artificially double water vapor tomorrow, and in a month most of the excess would be gone. Not so for CO2.

  6. #6 Eli Rabett
    April 2, 2008

    Why Gerhard, how nice of you. Now, if you practice your reading skills, it might occur to you that Arthur showed quite clearly that G&T were indulging in an April fools prank.

    What Arthur demonstrated is that to maintain radiative balance (sun energy in equaling the IR radiation out) for a rotating planet, the average temperature must always be higher than that for a planet with an assumed uniform temperature. He also showed that having greenhouse gases in the atmosphere produces a significant warming at the surface no matter what you assume the temperature distribution across the globe.

    In other words, G&T have played you and a whole lot of other denialists for fools. Of course this is difficult to admit, so you are reduced to silly hand-waving and obfustication. Stick around, you might learn something.

  7. #7 Bernard J.
    April 2, 2008

    It seems that one only needs to disappear for a day and the world changes. If I am to believe him, Tim Curtin has given up the ghost – although I am dubious about the permanence of his resolve!

    A hat-tip to Barton, at #204, for excellently making a point that would have myself if I hadn’t been so slow. I wonder whether Tim C will read and ponder? There are many other points of rebuttal that I would like to address, and to which I feel compelled to address, but Endnote and several hundred references are calling more strongly…

    It’s a shame that Tim disappeared, because I was going to admit to some fallibility on my part. In the Lemon et al paper (I wonder if it left a sour taste in his mouth?) I took the decrease in ambient atmospheric CO2 from a graph (fig. 3). As it was dawn when I checked it I was a bit rough and ready in my scanning, and I interpreted the maximum decrease to be 5ppm.

    On closer inspection of the graph, I have to concede that the decrease in CO2 is close to 6ppm – I was out be a grievous 20%! Still, a 6ppm decrease represents only 1.8% of the atmospheric CO2 concentration in 1971, and it gives an effective crop CO2 level at 1m that is a little more than the zero value Tim C was trying to stir up with his ‘we need more CO2‘ antics. In fact, going by this work, there is still 98.2% (to a redundant decimal point) of CO2 remaining in the area of a corn crop photosynthesising in the mid-day sun.

    I have another link somewhere that guesses that the figure ‘may’ decrease by ‘up to’ 10%, but I can’t find the url at the moment. I will try to locate it for completeness.

    Nevertheless, even with a 10% decrease, one could not justify Tim C’s comment about CO2 being used up in five minutes in the vicinity of a corn crop. Tim was playing very loose with the facts.

    Oh, and there is so much more, but so little time to spare when I have a supervisor breathing down my neck!

  8. #8 Alex Deam
    April 5, 2008

    I’m a relatively new subscriber of Scienceblogs, and yet it hasn’t taken me long to realise what a lying idiot Tim Curtin is.

    For instance at #69 he says to Sod “BTW, I have never called you a pedophile or wife beater (at least not yet!).”
    Meanwhile I happen to read the comment where [he DOES exactly that](

    “Sod: I am (hopefully for the last time) breaking my self-denying ordinance not to respond to pseudonymous twerps like you, on the grounds that people like you and Dano and Jody et al are probably one or all of the following: (1) cowards; (2) wife beaters, (3) pedophiles, and (4) all of the above, so likely to lose their jobs if your employers knew you were using company time to post garbage on sites like this, as has evidently become your fulltime occupation.”

    Sure this has already been said above, but Tim doesn’t seem to have acknowledged this and I think we should all remind him of this any time he makes a typically denialist comment!

  9. #9 Gerhard Kramm
    April 25, 2008

    Dear all,

    I stated that “water vapor is emitted by any combustion process. The clouds over smoke stacks mainly consist of droplets formed by water vapor condensation.” This clearly means that I did not talk about explosives. Only idiots use explosives in a fire chamber.

    Here is a reduced chemical scheme (principal reaction paths, methane illustration) that can be found, for instance, in Cox (1995), Combustion Fundamentals of Fire, Academic Press, p. 264:

    (i) Fuel break-up

    CH4 + OH –> CH3 + H2O

    (ii) Formaldehyde formation

    CH3 + O –> CH2O + H

    (iii) Carbon monoxide formation

    CH2O + OH –> CHO + H2O

    CHO + H –> CO + H2

    (iv) Carbon monoxide oxidation

    CO + OH < ==> CO2 + H

    (v) Hydrogen-oxygen chain branching and propagation

    H + O2 < ==> OH + O

    OH + OH < ==> H2O + O

    (vi) Three-body chain-breaking and radical termination

    H + O2 + M –> HO2 + M

    H + OH + M –> H2O + M

    I think that H2O is still water vapor. Please read also the chapter 7 of this book. This chapter is dealing with fire chemistry.

    I was engaged for a while in theoretical and experimental studies of the fire spread in large industrial buildings. Believe it or not, I am familiar with the physical and chemical processes of combustion.

    Sincerely yours

    Gerhard Kramm

  10. #10 Gerhard Kramm
    April 25, 2008

    To # 189


    you stated: The article is crystal clear: it SUPPORTS the Rahmsdorf position. it SUPPORTS rahmsdorf attacks on “sceptics”. it does DISAGREE with the terms and words used, in those attacks.

    This article of the Spiegel-Online (,1518,505095,00.html) does not SUPPORT Rahmstorf’s attacks. It is a report, nothing more.

    Gerhard Kramm

  11. #11 Gerhard Kramm
    April 25, 2008

    Here are some excerpts from the papers of Neftel et al. (1982) and Neftel et al. (1985):

    (i) Neftel et al. (1982, Nature 295, 220-223)

    “The originally recovered Camp Century and Boyd Station cores are generally of poor quality between the 400 and 1,200 m depths and the ice is heavily fractured. In these depth intervals the measured CO2 values exhibit large scattering. This might be due to contamination by drilling fluid, a mixture of diesel fuel (88%) and trychlorethylene (12%), penetrating through small cracks into the ice. In these fractured ice zones, we measured several samples at each sample depth. Its small size meant that the sample was probably uncontaminated and we conclude that the lowest CO2 values best represent the CO2 concentrations of the originally trapped air of these depth intervals. In the larger samples (300 g) contamination is almost inevitable and the measured CO2 concentrations tend to be higher than the air originally occluded in the ice. This is one reason for the high CO2 values obtained during the climate optimum given by Berner et al. for the Camp Century core.”

    (ii) Neftel et al. (1985, Nature 315, 45-47):

    “Based on porosity measurements, the time lag between the mean age of the gas and the age of the ice was determined to be 95 yr and the duration of the close-off process to be 22 yr (ref. 4). Theses values are, of course, evaluated for one particular core representing the present situation (1983), assuming a homogeneous enclosure process and do not taking into account the sealing effect of observed impermeable layers.”


    “The measurements using the needle crusher, published previously [there are three references, one of them is Neftel et al., 1982 mentioned before], were performed using a slightly modified procedure and exhibited generally lower CO2 concentrations by 15 p.p.m.v. ….. In 1982 an intercalibration study with the Grenoble laboratory [it follows one of the three references mentioned before] was performed using the small crusher with the older measuring procedure. Based on our new results, the agreement of the intercalibration must be viewed as a discrepancy, which we will try to resolve in the near future with a new intercalibration series.”

    Obviously, there were various problems with all these ice core analyses. Hitherto, I served as a reviewer for 15 different scientific journals; and all editors did follow my suggestion. As a reviewer I would never recommend manuscripts of such a poor scientific quality for publication.

    In the 4th report of the Working Group I of the IPCC, “Historical Overview of Climate Change Science” (chapter 1) both papers of Neftel et al. discussed before are referenced. Let me quote it:

    “To place the increase in CO2 abundance since the late 1950s in perspective, and to compare the magnitude of the anthropogenic increase with natural cycles in the past, a longer-term record of CO2 and other natural greenhouse gases is needed. These data came from analysis of the composition of air enclosed in bubbles in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. The initial measurements demonstrated that CO2 abundances were significantly lower during the last ice age than over the last 10 kyr of the Holocene (Delmas et al., 1980; Berner et al., 1980; Neftel et al., 1982). From 10 kyr before present up to the year 1750, CO2 abundances stayed within the range 280 ± 20 ppm (Indermühle et al., 1999). During the industrial era, CO2 abundance rose roughly exponentially to 367 ppm in 1999 (Neftel et al., 1985; Etheridge et al., 1996; IPCC, 2001a) and to 379 ppm in 2005 (Section 2.3.1; see also Section 6.4).”

    Obviously, the highly doubtful results of Neftel et al (1982, 1985) plaid a prominent role in the assessment by the Working Group I of the IPCC. It is the great merit of Ernst-Georg Beck to gather much more reliable results than those of the various ice core analyses. All lead authors and contributing authors of the Working Group I of the IPCC were not able to do this job.

    Sincerely yours

    Gerhard Kramm

  12. #12 Chris O'Neill
    April 26, 2008

    I stated that “water vapor is emitted by any combustion process.

    I wasn’t aware that all fuels contain hydrogen. Thank you Dr. Kramm. You are so informative.

  13. #13 Eli Rabett
    April 26, 2008

    Beck makes sense if you are silly enough to think that measuring CO2 in the middle of Paris tells you something about the background level more than the coal fire in the house nearby. Obviously someone is.

  14. #14 Gerhard Kramm
    April 27, 2008

    To #213

    Hi carrot muncher,

    I am familiar with the problems of local measurements and the use of their results in larger scale inventories because I am engaged in the flux aggregation procedures indispensable for regional and global scale models. These problems are not restricted to concentration measurements, but also to the observation of meteorological quantities like wind speed, temperature, solar and terrestrial radiation.

    To put the CO2 measurements gathered by Beck in a broader picture, we need an improved spatial-time frame. This is indispensable and some people working on that. On the other hand, the criticisms of Meijer and Ralph Keeling are, at least, as inappropriate as than some of Beck’s conclusions. Let me described an example:

    One of the flux aggregation method is based on the so-called blending height concept. This height is defined as the hight at which the influence of the heterogeneity in the properties of the earth’s surface can be neglected. Crude estimates lead to 100 meters or so (see. e.g., Martin Claussen’s papers in the Journal of Hydrology 166, 1995).

    In the case of gaseous emission sources heterogeneously distributed, a comparable height might be still higher that the blending height. Perhaps, it might be more comparable with the top of the planetary boundary layer. In chemical modeling, concentration values observed in the free troposphere are customarily used as background concentrations.

    We know that often a larger difference between the near-surface concentrations and those of the free troposphere exist. Thus, what we have to do is to estimate how large such differences can be under various conditions.

    In his comment Meijer was chatting about temperature inversions and their role to prevent the exchange of air below and above the inversions. I know from my own observations of inversions over the city of Cologne, Germany, using SODAR techniques, ground based measurements and a tethered sonde system concurrently, that strong inversions do not continuously prevail. When the vertical wind shear becomes too strong, such inversions can break up and air from above and below the inversions may be mixed. After a while new inversions are formed.

    By the way, I already compared the Barrow data with those of Mauna Loa for various months. Hitherto, I did not find difference larger than 7 ppmV.

    Finally, I am not willing to accept that results of such a poor quality like those of Neftel et al. (1982, 1985) are compared with those which satisfy Charles Keeling’s standard. I wonder whether his son Ralph does accept such a comparison.

    Sincerely yours

    Gerhard Kramm

  15. #15 Joe Lumo
    August 6, 2008

    #184 luminous beauty said: “water vapor isn’t a forcing, it is a self-limiting feedback.”

    Yes, water and how it acts at various temperatures and altitudes (and phases) is basically a dynamic negative feedback loop in the climate system.

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