A Few Things Ill Considered

Mauna Loa is a Volcano

This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


Objection:

CO2 levels are recorded on top of Mauna Loa…a VOLCANO!! No wonder the levels are so high.

Answer:

Yes, it’s true, Mauna Loa is an active volcano.  In fact it’s the biggest volcano on earth! So, should we suppose that Charles Keeling didn’t know that? Well, no, he did know this. And using subtle scientific indicators like "wind direction" he was even able to ensure that his readings were not contaminated by any out gassing when it was occurring.  Ok, to be fair, it is not really always that simple, out gassed CO2 can be carried far away on a favourable wind, only to return much later on an ill one. But really, these are clever people, these scientists, and while mistakes are made, they are not usually such simple ones.

A quick look at the actual levels recorded makes it pretty hard to think there is any volcanic influence.  We have a nice, slow, steady trend with a regular up and down seasonal variation.  No spikes, no dips. Nothing random, as one would expect from an overwhelming volcanic influence. The record is here among other places.

But, ok, let’s throw out Mauna Loa. There are dozens of other sampling stations scattered all over the globe, including one in the Antarctic, far from cities, SUV’s, cement plants and active volcanoes. It also shows the same rise, though the southern hemisphere tends to lag a few years behind the northern hemisphere where the majority of the CO2 is produced. Here are nine others, same results.

Sorry, its all of us Joes, not the volcanos.


This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


“Mauna Loa is a Volcano” was first published here, where you can still find the original comment thread. This updated version is also posted on the Grist website, where additional comments can be found, though the author, Coby Beck, does not monitor or respond there.

Comments

  1. #1 erhart berger
    August 12, 2008

    Sorry, its all of us Joes, not the volcanos…

    sorry, we are not joes, some of us are meteorologicans and not only software developer, who spend a little interest in climatik sience and we do not copy anything from those having the same opinion. your page is bad enougth to read nothing further.

  2. #2 coby
    August 13, 2008

    oh, you’re a meteorologican are you? I guess you would know what you are talking about!

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. #3 Zwirko
    August 22, 2008

    Is there a particular scientific reason as to why the CO2 measuring stations are all roughly located along the 180-150 degree lines of longtitude?

  4. #4 coby
    August 22, 2008

    Hi Zwirko,

    I never noticed that before. I don’t know why but I would assume it is a question of wind currents and proximity to industrial centers etc. Also a bit of politics thrown in to consider friendly and non-friendly nations I suppose.

  5. #5 Wes
    March 14, 2009

    As a anthropogenic GW skeptic who lives on the slopes of Mauna Loa, I have one comment to add. Kilauea, an active volcano (Volcano National Park) located a few miles south of the NOAA lab where the famous Keeling graph was measured. Kilauea is at an elevation of 4190 ft and most of the eruptions which has been continuous from 1983 spews high levels of CO2 as well as other gases. The NOAA lab is at an elevation of 9000 ft and inversion layers continuously brings large amounts to it, skewing its measurements.

    And on the other hand, we put out 27 billion tons of CO2/yr but we have at any time 3600 billion tons of C02 in our atmosphere. So our man made C02 is only 0.75% of “natural” C02. It seems difficult to understand how such a small addition will lead to “catastrophic” consequences. And as we get out of the last ice age, receding for the last 10,000 years, it may be….getting warmer as part of a natural cycle? And as we get warmer, the overall biomass will increase especially in the northern hemisphere (where the majority of the land mass is) leading to greater biomass metabolism, leading to greater C02 output.

    And as to solar activity, God help us if we move to a Dalton Minimum (last seen in 1790). The sun has shown no significant sunspots for a long time now.

  6. #6 coby
    March 14, 2009

    Hi Wes,

    I think all of the evidence presented in the post shows that the scientists doing the measurements know how to account for weather patterns.

    As for the rest of your comment, I would like to refer you to the articles that address those specific points:

    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/03/natural-emissions-dwarf-humans.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/03/co2-rise-is-natural.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/03/global-warming-is-nothing-new.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/02/this-is-just-natural-cycle.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/04/its-sun-stupid.php

    I hope those links can answer your questions. Thanks for the comment!

  7. #7 Adam
    March 15, 2009

    I’ve been seeing “C02 is a small percent of atmosphere” or variations on that theme quite a bit lately.

    Considering a BAC of .4 can put you in a coma, and BACs between .3 and .6 have resulted in death, why are we still talking about small percentages not possibly having an affect? Personal incredulity is not a scientific argument.

    Coby –

    The last link the the post
    “Here are eight others, same results. ”
    is no longer functioning. I believe this is the link they changed it to:
    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/sio-keel.html

  8. #8 Crakar14
    March 15, 2009

    Adam, what the hell does blood alcohol got to do with C02 concentrations? By the way 385ppm equates to 0.0385% of the atmosphere so we really are taking about very very small changes arent we?

  9. #9 coby
    March 15, 2009

    Crakar, the point is this is an argument from ignorance. There are plenty of examples where extremely small concentrations cause significant chemical changes.

    Adam, thanks for the updated link, I have fixed it (and the three others that were broken!)

  10. #10 Adam
    March 15, 2009

    If you don’t buy that small percentages of *something* in a given system can have a large effect, then you are clearly beyond hope. If someone’s argument is based on the fact that they feel CO2 concentrations are too small to affect the temperature, then they have not even bothered to read the basic research, and are just parroting arguments they pick up from Limbaugh or George Will.

    We may be talking about smallish percentages, but relatively speaking, the changes are enourmous. We’ve ALREADY an increase in CO2 concentrations of ~54% over pre-industrial levels.

    I invite you to inhale some air that has a mere 8% less oxygen than normal and see what happens. And 8% is a lot less than 54%.

  11. #11 Crakar14
    March 15, 2009

    What? why are you talking about % of oxygen? Forget it Adam you are just jibbering now.

  12. #12 Adam
    March 15, 2009

    The point about oxygen it is just another example of a small changes can lead to large effects (death in this case about oxygen). I don’t know if you’re willfully ignoring the point, or if its just so mind-numbingly obvious that small changes can have big effects that it seems irrelevant.

    If your claim (and Wes’) is that global warming simply cannot be happening because of the relatively small concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere simply because it is a small concentration, it is a categorically false claim straight out of the Gee-Whiz! school of science.

  13. #13 Crakar14
    March 15, 2009

    Exactly how much does CO2 increase the global temp? I have looked at the IPCC reports and have found nothing in there which shows how they came to thier conclusions.

    Well sorry they do carry out a process of elimination, attribute warming to solar, cooling to vulcanism etc and in the end they had a little bit of warming left over and blamed it on CO2.

    Hardly a scientific approach is it? I tell what why dont you look at the relationship between solar activity and global temps, then look at the relationship between CO2 levels and global temps and tell me which one has correlation and which one does not.

    Here is a tip since around 2003 the sun has been almost blank of spots (2007 and 2008 are in the top 10)and temps have started to drop while Co2 levels have continued on thier merry (almost) linear rise.

  14. #14 Crakar14
    March 15, 2009

    Just to add a bit more, something of interest have a look at this story

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/03/15/edmonton-canada-bests-all-time-record-low-by-12-degrees-columnist-questions-climate-situation/#more-6242

    It is about how cold it is in Edmonton month of March coldst on record, now Coby would say this is only weather and 9 times out of 10 i would agree with him. You see when i here “coldest day in 20, 40 years” etc i dont pay attention but when it is the coldest since records began (in this case 1880) then you know something is going on.

    Now this is just one example of hundreds of 100 plus year record breaking low temps and snow falls etc, all this while CO2 levels are spiralling up to the dizzy heights of 385ppm.

    I read a scary story the other day that we are already too late to stop GW no matter what we do. My question is when will it start.

  15. #15 Adam
    March 16, 2009

    Dude, you’re committing that most common of denialist (not just GW, all strains of denialist) fallacies: the moving goal-post. First, there just wasn’t enough CO2 in the atmosphere to affect the temperature much. After that argument gets demolished, CO2 just doesn’t affect temperature at all! Or is it just not increasing fast enough to increase the temperature as much as the IPCC reports? Why don’t you work on nailing your argument down, rather than jumping around between arguments to whichever is most convenient for you at the time.

    And and you seriously suggesting that one particularly cold record in one specific location disproves GW? C’mon man, that’s one of the most basic errors you can commit, give yourself more credit than that.
    That’s no more disproof of GW than this is proof thereof.
    http://www.register-herald.com/local/local_story_069221305.html

  16. #16 Crakar14
    March 16, 2009

    I was just merely highlighting the fact that the global temps have been dropping whilst CO2 has been steadily rising. Anyway how different is this than people pointing to hot weather as a sign from God that GW is real.

    I will respond in a more appropriate topic “its the sun stupid”

    Cheers

  17. #17 Matt Bennett
    March 16, 2009

    Morning Crakar,

    Repeating fallacies again I see….

    Have you bothered to look at the trend line, the PROPER trend line? The long term trend is ‘up and ever up’ with 11 of the hottest years on record lying amongst the last 13. Drawing a (very) short trend line from an abormally high arbitrary starting year is disingenuous (to be nice). You are not so stupid as to not know this, so stop repeating this nonsense. Have a look at the unequivocal graph here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/04/warming-stopped-in-1998.php

    The trend is CLEARLY a rapid rise. If your ‘cooling’ stretched over 30-40 years it might be of more relevance.

  18. #18 Adam
    March 16, 2009

    Crakar –

    You demonstrated only that recently Edmonton has had an extremely low temperature. As Matt says, you did NOT demonstrate that global temperatures are decreasing.

    And people who say that “isolated hot event” is caused by global warming are wrong. We can expect to see increasing temperatures and more record breaking temperatures, but unless there’s a global trend, the individual events are meaningless. Taken together, however, we can learn something. And again, as Matt says, the global trend is pretty unequivocal.

  19. #19 Crakar14
    March 16, 2009

    Good morning Matt, One of your peanuts got me in the eye, seriously i dont agree with you about repeating fallacies. Anyway how about the globe has not warmed since 1998 is that better? I would be happy with that statement.

    My intention was not to demonstrate anything to do with global temps i was merely highlighting the fact that Edmonton is experiencing its coldest March on record and records date back to 1880 also they broke the cold record for one day by 12 i assume F that is a huge number agreed.

    I stated when these types of events happen then you know something is going on, just what i do not know. I could be GW i am not saying it isnt. Maybe i should have been a bit clearer there sorry about that.

    Adam the minister for climate change (Wong) here in Australia stated the heatwave in Australia (2009) which was only bettered by the heatwave of 1908 was caused by GW. I am glad that you agree that she was wrong to say that.

    I posted a couple of links in “its the sun stupid” which offers an alternative theory to the AGW one but as yet the post has not appeared.

    Cheers

  20. #20 Matt Bennett
    March 17, 2009

    Careful Crakar, I know very well what Penny said and, though it was wrong of her to say that, I think you’re taking it a little out of context. No single day of hot weather or record temperature (high OR low) can be unequivocally attributed to AGW and of course she knows that. However, global warming undoubtedly DOES raise the baseline temp averages thus allowing unusual temp spikes to launch from a higher starting point and enter new record territory that would not have been possible before. I’ve no doubt this is exactly what we saw in Victoria earlier in the year. A week or more of pretty much unprecedented high temps (44-49 Deg C) were what laid the groundwork for the fire’s devastation. You could have done all the back-burning in the world and it wouldn’t have made any difference to a firestorm that leaps 300m ahead in seconds. But that’s another topic. Isolated events can’t become poster children for either side but you must also be willing to see the truth when multiple lines of evidence point to the same conclusion – that’s where denialists fall down. They think AGW is a house of cards – one link disproved, it all comes crashing down. In fact, it is more like a rock solid pyramid of built on 30 years of carefully honed blocks, each fitting in place with the evidencial load spread over a wide, firm base. A tweak to a block here or there ain’t gonna change its shape.

  21. #21 Adam
    March 17, 2009

    Anyway how about the globe has not warmed since 1998 is that better? I would be happy with that statement.

    This again? It’s not even worth the reply.
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/garbage-is-forever/
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/04/warming-stopped-in-1998.php

    Crakar, you really need to stop making these blatantly incorrect arguments. It’s too easy to tear down. At least with some of your other arguments it requires some research and analysis.

  22. #22 Ward
    April 6, 2009

    I normally don’t take sides in arguments such as this preferring to carefully draw my own conclusions and then keep them to myself but when i see something as dumb as the comment i just read by Adam i have to say something. A BAC of .4 is equal to 40%. Think about it .08 or 8 percent is when it becomes illegal to drive in most states.

  23. #23 Adam
    April 7, 2009

    Ward –

    A BAC of .4 is equal to .4%
    A BAC of .08 is equal to .08%

    To get to 8% alcohol in the blood, you’d need to drink 27 beers in one hour (assuming the entirety of the alcohol went into your bloodstream, which isn’t the case).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_alcohol_content

  24. #24 Crakar14
    April 7, 2009

    To Adam,

    Since satelite observations began (1979) the Earth has warmed by about 0.2C as of March 2009. Thats with 30 years of GW with CO2.

    To Matt,

    Firstly you say “Careful Crakar, I know very well what Penny said and, though it was wrong of her to say that, I think you’re taking it a little out of context.”

    You then go on to agree with what i said.

    Context? The woman said the bushfires were caused by AGW Ergo the woman is an idiot.

    As far as raising the baseline refer to my response to Adam.

    Cheers

  25. #25 Adam
    April 8, 2009

    Crakar –

    I presuming you’re using the information from here:
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/04/march-2009-global-temperature-update/

    Is that correct?

    In any case, we still haven’t learned our lesson about using weather data to discern long-term trends, it seems. A single month is no more or less useful than a single day (and I’ll say the exact same thing if one month turns out to be particularly hot).

  26. #26 coby
    April 8, 2009

    Crakar, since 1979 the earth has warmed by about .4oC, not .2, though the actual mean value today can not be know until years from now, that is the reality of statistics.

    If you would bother to reference your factual claims, you might avoid being incorrect so often.

  27. #27 Crakar14
    April 8, 2009

    The margin depends on what source but anyway lets use your figure of 0.4C. Now i thought you said you need 30 years to get a trend in climate so i say after 30 years of man spewing out billions upon billions upon billions of CO2 and pushing us to the brink of climageddon we have only gone up 0.4C, (and on current trends this figure will get even smaller) which could quite easily be attributed to natural causes (re the theory is untested). But now you have changed the rules again, now we have to wait an undisclosed amount of years before we can see what the real change in temp is from 1979 to 2009.

    So how many years beyond 30 do we need to wait before we can see a 30 year trend?

  28. #28 Matt
    February 19, 2010

    We’ve been around the block a few times with environmentalism and oil consumption. I’m just tired of the back and forth. I’m planting my flag with Al Gore and all of his earnest dorkiness.

    The countries that embraced green tech in the 70’s are doing much better than the US is. Sure we had a good run here and there…but we didn’t factor in the costs of oil dependency. Wars are expensive, price spikes are expensive.

  29. #29 geof barrington
    April 5, 2010

    hey matt ,
    why dont you plant your flag with phil jones and michael mann and their earnest dorkiness ? they are a good pair of liars to follow .

  30. #30 skip
    April 6, 2010

    Another drive-by. Someone who read on climateaudit that the hockey stick is broken and thinks he has the world figured out.

    Coby: I’ve said it once; I’ll say it again: You’ve got to have a Hall of Fame for people like Geof.

  31. #31 albert
    March 1, 2011

    Wow – One of the reasons Mauna Loa was selected as a CO2 monitoring spot was because it was so far from, well, everything and atmospheric gases would be well mixed by the time they reached Mauna Loa. If it winds up that Mauna Loa is well placed to measure ocean absorption of CO2, that would be off the irony scale!

  32. #32 alan
    March 1, 2011

    This is just due to Koyoto and the Bush recession reducing emissions thus proving AlGore is right! The global temperature trend has been flat so CO2 must not be rising. If the famous volcanoes Mona Loa is the station where global CO2 is measured where does the second graph get it’s data from?

  33. #33 Wow
    March 1, 2011

    The global temperature trend is up.

    Despite the sun being very much less active recently.

    So if the sun is cooler, but the earth is warmer than it was last time the sun was this quiet, it’s warmer.

    CO2 is higher too.

    Coincidence?

    No.

  34. #34 Retrograde Orbit
    April 2, 2011

    Also it seems like a Scandinavian researcher [Bischof, W. (1960): Periodical variations of the atmospheric CO2-content in Scandinavia. Tellus 12, 216-226] measured CO2 abundance in between 1955 and 1959. While he did not find a rising trend, his average of 315 – 331 ppm is in reasonable agreement with the Mauna Loa starting values.

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