“One volcano puts out more toxic gases – one volcano – than man makes in a whole year. And when you look at this ‘climate change,’ and when you look at the regular climate change that we all have in the world, we have warm and we have cooling spells.” -John Raese

Every year, dozens of volcanoes actively erupt across the Earth’s surface. In addition, other active volcanoes continue to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and even dormant volcanoes and other fissures in the Earth contribute to our overall carbon dioxide content. If we want to understand the effects that humanity is having on our atmosphere, we need to understand the natural contribution first.

The atmosphere of the Earth, although only 5.15 x 10^18 kilograms in mass (just under 0.0001% of the Earth’s mass), plays a tremendous role in defining the properties of our surface. Image credit: Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin / Russian Space Agency Press Services.

Tremendous advances in measuring these natural contributions have occurred since the 1990s, as we’ve now quantified to a much-improved precision the effects of these natural components. Volcanoes of all types, on average, emit somewhere in the ballpark of 645 million tons of CO2 per year, with occasional large eruptions adding tens or possibly even a hundred million tons to that total.

Hundreds of active and dormant volcanoes worldwide, like the ones shown here in Kamchatka, continually degas and emit CO2. Image credit: Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin / Russian Space Agency Press Services.

But that’s barely 2% of what humanity emits in a given year. Come find out the science of volcanic CO2, and put humanity’s contributions into its valid scientific perspective.

Comments

  1. #1 CFT
    June 6, 2017

    Oh Nooooooooooes!! Quck, everyone, stop breathing while there’s still time!
    Too bad Ethan didn’t mention the number one greenhouse gas. Water vapor. Damn. Too bad our planet is 71% covered with water and the damn sun keeps evaporating it. Maybe if they pass a bunch more expensive laws that would tax evil sunlight and oceans it would change things…
    .
    Better yet, they should try this.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml54UuAoLSo
    .

    Ethan conveniently didn’t mention what percentage carbon dioxide plays in the global greenhouse effect next to water vapor.
    .
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/02/08/thanks-to-the-ipcc-the-public-doesnt-know-water-vapor-is-most-important-greenhouse-gas/

  2. #2 Alan G.
    BFE
    June 6, 2017

    Except for the sentence where he specifically lists it as a “heat-trapping” gas. Then goes on to say it works in conjunction with CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Good catch.

  3. #3 Dean
    June 6, 2017

    People who think watts’ site has anything to do with honesty or reality will never be taken seriously.

  4. #4 anneb
    Amsterdam
    June 6, 2017

    @CFT #1, yes water is a strong greenhouse gas, but it was mentioned in the article.

    The amount of water in the atmosphere depends on temperature and other circumstances such as the size of the ice caps and size of snowy areas in winter.

    Water is abundant and can be added and removed, the other greenhouse gasses cannot be easily removed.

    Water can be a buffer: if it gets hotter more water is vaporized and so may produce more clouds that protect the earth from more incoming solar heat. However, a hotter climate may also be more dry and therefore there may be fewer clouds above land heating the earth even more.

    And if you think of the ice caps, water may cause a positive feedback: ice caps reflect heat into space, but when they melt, the blackish ocean underneath appears, taking up even more heat than before the melt. The warmer ocean helps melting more of the ice caps and so on.

    The positive feedback loops (another one is the methane feedback loop) may be started by us committing C02 to the atmosphere at a rate much higher than the natural (vulcanic) rate. In contrast with water, these gasses are not at natural equilibrium with their liquid phase and cannot be removed.

  5. #5 eric
    June 6, 2017

    [CFT]Too bad Ethan didn’t mention the number one greenhouse gas. Water vapor…

    [AlanG]Except for the sentence where he specifically lists it as a “heat-trapping” gas.

    [AnneB] yes water is a strong greenhouse gas, but it was mentioned in the article….

    Party poopers! Here CFT was on a nice self-righteous rant and you ruined it with facts.

  6. #6 John
    Baltimore
    June 6, 2017

    As a rule of thumb, it is best to not demonize one’s opponents.

  7. #7 CFT
    June 7, 2017

    @eric,
    I know what cult you belong to. I’ve read the glossy brochures and I don’t subscribe to it. So you can all dog pile on however much you like, it’s not convincing me of anything, scientific truth is not a democracy or a popularity contest.
    .
    Your reading comprehension also sucks. Read the article on THIS site, not mention of water vapor. I’m responding to what Ethan said on THIS blog site, not on Forbes. On your pithy comment I went to that site, and found Ethan is still blatantly proposing that carbon dioxide is what is driving the climate… are you serious?
    .
    http://principia-scientific.org/atmospheric-carbon-dioxide-lags-temperature-the-proof/
    .
    Have you actually ever studied geologic and historical climate change history or did you just watch Al Gore in his silly movie get his graphs backwards?
    .
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/earthnews/3310137/Al-Gores-nine-Inconvenient-Untruths.html
    .
    In any case, the first 20ppm of CO2 is responsible for over 50% of the pre industrial levels at 280ppm greenhouse effects. The gas forcing effects of carbon dioxide are not and have never been linear, they are logarithmic, if you double the CO2, the effects do not double and the effects diminish considerably.
    .
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/08/the-logarithmic-effect-of-carbon-dioxide/
    .

    The earth has also had much much higher levels of CO2 in the past, and it did not cause any adverse ‘run away’ climate activity, so that fear mongering argument is off the table. The ice core geologic record also clearly indicates that CO2 change follows temperature change, it does not lead it. Last I checked, the cause MUST precede the effect. The lag between temperature change and CO2 is about a few hundred years, temperature always leading CO2, not following. Political green hand-waving does not change this.
    .
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/23/new-research-in-antarctica-shows-co2-follows-temperature-by-a-few-hundred-years-at-most/
    .
    Simply put, the tail does not wag the dog.

    if you were being scientific and looking for carbon dioxide to be the cause of climate change, this is where you would find your smoking gun, and the evidence we have does not indicate that at all, quite the opposite in fact.
    .
    Perhaps Ethan should look up at the sun (it’s is supposed to be his specialty) more often when considering the climate instead of down his nose at human industrial activity.
    .
    http://principia-scientific.org/new-papers-show-solar-activity-impacts-enso-refuting-claims-sun-has-little-impact-on-climate/
    .

  8. #8 Rick Whitten
    Iowa
    June 7, 2017

    CFT, yes, water is the primary greenhouse gas in earth’s atmosphere. BUT, the amount of water in the atmosphere is controlled by earth’s temperature. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. A column of air can hold up to 5% water vapor, or almost none.

    Averaged over earth’s surface and over the four seasons, the amount of water vapor in the air is relatively constant, related to average temperature. If there is some other forcing to cool the earth, then there will be less water vapor, which means less greenhouse gas, which means more cooling, etc. And the converse for warm forcing. WATER VAPOR AMPLIFIES WARMING OR COOLING FROM OTHER FORCING.

  9. #9 SteveP
    Bunker C
    June 7, 2017

    The tendency of simians to band together in tribes, teams, and clans with common misperceptions is a fascinating part of the human experience. Among the cultural values of the Fossil Fuel tribe ( the FoFu), for instance, is the belief that anyone without the same stripes as them is a foe, so an outsider trying to help the FoFu understand their existential predicament is a little like a naturalist trying to warn a badger away from a leg hold trap.

    Despite their acquisition of language and reasoning skills, the FoFu are a puzzle. They have yet to realize that a near ubiquitous, persistent, steadily accumulating , acidic, non-condensing infrared active waste product that they are actively creating is poised to wreck their comfortable niche in the universe. Whether or not they can be alerted to the problem in time to avert disaster is a question. Is anyone out their fluent in FoFu?

  10. #10 CFT
    June 7, 2017

    @Rick Whitten,
    Et tu Brute. If you want to bandy sanctimonious group think habits about, the tendency of ‘watermelons’ to parade their climatic delusions of consensus never ceases to amaze me either. A watermelon is green on the outside, but mostly red (du jour Marxist/collectivist/socialist) on the inside. This reflects the frequent observation that there is a largely political agenda inside the green movement (the co-founder of greenpeace even says so) which promotes any idea as long as it can be utilized for the purposes of furthering centralized political and financial control over other people.
    .
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/02/05/in-their-own-words-climate-alarmists-debunk-their-science/2/#41cc12db45c4
    .
    How water (in various forms) cools and heats the earth is incredibly complex, and NO, climate models do not accurately represent all these interrelations very well. Ethan would well know this if he did his homework. The albedo of cloud cover alone is not even fully understood, clouds reflect solar energy, but they also insulate, and then the factors of day and night (climate models don’t usually don’t account for this) and latitude come into play (many models treat the earth as a uniform flat surface in relation to a static sun).
    .
    There is no GCM in existence which has been able to take all these complex exchanges of energy into account, largely due to the fact that not all of these energy exchanges and their interrelations (which water acts as the primary conveyor) are understood well enough to make predictions accurately over more than a short period (hours), much less over extended periods (years, decades).
    .
    The good news is, a growing number of people are catching on to the deception, and many scientists are now coming forward even in places like Germany to expose the farce the fake consensus promoted by anthropogenic ‘climate change’ advocates.
    .
    http://notrickszone.com/2017/05/29/80-graphs-from-58-new-2017-papers-invalidate-claims-of-unprecedented-global-scale-modern-warming/#sthash.ktF0tSb7.msTbJxjT.dpbs

  11. #11 Rick Whitten
    Iowa
    June 7, 2017

    CFT: The movement of water around the planet is largely responsible for the thing we call weather. And yes, it is complex and chaotic. One piece of evidence for warming is more water in the atmosphere. That was predicted, observed, and confirmed.

    And, no, my political agenda isn’t the issue. It’s science. I advocate fee and rebate, leaving market forces to choose winning technologies, with minimal centralized control. I also realized we will absolutely need nuclear energy.

  12. #12 SteveP
    Bunker C
    June 7, 2017

    Dear CFT… Your writing is the textual equivalent of sputtered spittle! Jeez. YOU writing about group think habits is hilarious, though, since you are citing multiple ideological group think sources for your arguments. Just in case you haven’t noticed, this article was about the ratio of human to volcano carbon dioxide emissions. Do you dispute the scientific fact that volcanoes currently only emit a fraction of the amount that humans do with their fossil fuel combustion? If so, I suggest that you are in the wrong blog and no amount of spittle on your part is going to cause any of us to accept your flat Earth beliefs. Sorry. But have a nice day.

  13. #13 Denier
    United States
    June 7, 2017

    @SteveP wrote:

    The tendency of simians to band together in tribes, teams, and clans with common misperceptions is a fascinating part of the human experience.

    I’ve been very interested in that aspect of Moral Psychology lately. In particular I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Jonathan Haidt. It is fascinating and increasingly pervasive in society. The most glaring example lately was the kids at Evergreen State College believing they were battling White Supremacists.

    There is something in the human animal that seeks out purpose and the mental construction of the thing to be battled veers into delusion. That is to say there is an imperviousness to counter evidence. It doesn’t matter if it is kids fighting imaginary white supremacists, feminists fighting imaginary patriarchy, or climate alarmists versus climate skeptics.

    As much as scientists like to think themselves above it, they aren’t. At least not completely. For me personally I just hope that people continue to be allowed to speak. The trend lately of using force of numbers, threats, or outright violence to prevent the voicing of ideas that challenge their mental strawman is worrisome.

  14. #14 eric
    June 7, 2017

    CFT:

    I’m responding to what Ethan said on THIS blog site, not on Forbes.

    So, not quite as bad as MM commenting on a mere title, but not bothering to read the entire article either. Quelle surprise.

  15. #15 CFT
    June 7, 2017

    @Rick Whitten,
    Water largely determines the weather…and climate as well in conjunction with the sun.

    I don’t debate there has been some warming. Historically and geologically, It always warms between ice ages, until, guess?? The next ice age. Do you honestly think the earth has some kind of comfortable average temperature it is ‘supposed’ to remain constant at? If it has one, there is no geological record of it. The climate is always on the move in wave like cycles, and as long as there is a planet, it will continue to do so, with or without your consent. The predictions of ‘global warming’ have actually not been as predicted, as you would know if you studied it. They keep looking for the ‘missing heat’ hiding in the depths of the oceans, and they aren’t finding it.
    The question really isn’t ‘is it changing?’, it’s by ‘how much and by what MEASURABLE causes due to humans that can be differentiated from the background noise of natural processes?’. Those questions have not been well answered, and CO2 demonizing isn’t helping anything but political agendas. Again, please look at the radiative gas forcing properties of CO2, they aren’t linear.
    .
    @SteveP,
    Sputtering spittle??!!? In typed text? Interesting obsession with bodily fluids you have there. Maybe you should take your medication and calm down. We disagree, so what? I’ve made it quite clear I’m not in your lemming tribe, I’m not paying your union dues, and I’m not on your mailing list. Get used to that and quit acting like I care. In the big bad world, there are people ( a lot of them highly educated, and some of them even smarter than you ) who are going to disagree with you and your imaginary cult of ‘consensus’.
    .
    Ethan is not a volcanologist or a geologist (sadly, it shows). Where on earth do you think most of the damn volcanos actually are anyway? Lovely pictures of volcanos on land in his pictures. Too bad he didn’t include where over seventy percent of them are located. Oooops. Under the oceans. So much for your vast scientific ‘fact’. Your lack of scientific perspective or curiosity is actually quite breathtaking.
    By far most of the CO2 vented through the planets crust by the planet’s core are not in the form of ‘active volcanos’ anyways. Oh damn. Well, anyhow, for your reading pleasure to consider (if you wish to leave your tiny sandbox of consensus omniscience) :
    .
    http://www.livescience.com/40451-volcanic-co2-levels-are-staggering.html
    .

  16. #16 Rick Whitten
    Iowa
    June 7, 2017

    CFT: The volcanic link puts the output from volcanoes at 600 million tons. Humans emit 45 Billion tons a year, of which 20 billion tons remains in the atmosphere.
    We are currently at the top of a 100,000 year glacial cycle. The last few cycles have had peak CO2 levels of 280 – 300 ppm (per Vostok cores and benthic foramaniferas). We are at 405 ppm now. The rise time for interglacials is quite rapid — on the order of 2,000 to 3,000 years. The warming we are seeing now is happening in a century or less. During normal cycles, no individual organism ever experiences climate change in a life span. There is normally time to adapt.

    What is happening now will be too quick for even humans to adapt. The consequences will be disruption of food supplies, refugees, civil unrest, and war. This disruption of food production may coincide with human population reaching earth’s carrying capacity mid century. A population overshoot means that we rape the environment further to feed everyone, reducing carrying capacity. The result could be as great of a billion person gap between the number that can be sustained and the number living. But no matter. Wars will bring those numbers to balance. Your grandchildren’s world.

  17. #17 CFT
    June 7, 2017

    @Rick Whitten,
    You need to read more closely, just a few years ago the estimate was around 100 million tons. Each time they improve their measurements a serious uptick in estimate carbon dioxide occurs, and of those measurements, they are also not including most of the worlds underwater volcanos and gas vents. Like the article says, most of the estimates are from outright eruptions that make the evening news, not the invisible gas seeping up from below continously when the cameras go home.
    .
    Within the interglacials are periods of change as well. You could look up MWP (medieval warm period) and LIA (little ice age) which were rather sudden geologically speaking. Both of these periods were long before human carbon dioxide production was significant by todays standards, and illustrate how much we still don’t understand about natural climate variation. Many theories have been proposed for both these relatively brief interglacial hiccups, but nothing definitive. One proposed theory of glaciation cycles is solar activity, and if it is that, we have some actual worrying to do. If you think global warming is an actual threat, you are going to really hate global cooling.
    .
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/06/06/solar-update-june-2017-the-sun-is-slumping-and-headed-even-lower/
    .
    As to your malthusian trap arguments, I’m not buying, sorry, not today. To consider why the idea isn’t a good one, you can always go to the source of your idea, the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus and his writings in 1798, and see if you find your arguments the same as his, and wonder why he was so wrong in his predictions. On the other hand, If you want to come out and directly tell people you want to institute massive income redistribution and global population control (check with the Chinese first on how effective that is), maybe you should lead with that, your true intent, rather than dancing in a circle around it instead it, and using the climate change boogey man to scare people into a herd like compliance. I have NO respect for anyone who uses science as a subversive fear mongering tool to manipulate people out of their own right to choose.
    .
    If you really wish to get mad about over population problems, don’t look at the United States as the problem or the solution either, we are definitely not the ones overpopulating, our mistake is in allowing continuous mass migration which only exacerbates cultural frictions, urban crowding, poverty, educational and income inequality in this country, which is something the political left always likes to complain about. It’s almost surreal, like hearing someone bitching about how their feet are wet while they drill more holes in the bottom of the boat they are sitting in. If you really don’t like overpopulation, crime, poverty, and income disparity, then quit importing it.
    .
    You can’t expertly micro manage humanity. It isn’t and never will be perfectible. I’m ok with that.
    Human warfare is largely the study of mass migrations gone wrong and the eventual ensuing chaos. Then again, if you truly wish human numbers to decline, warfare has always proven horribly effective, followed by famine, plague, and pestilence. Nature rarely gives you a friendly multiple choice set of painless alternatives, it’s just not the way it works. If you think you can actually micromanage the entire world’s conflicts, you haven’t been paying attention to the international news for the last few decades, and must be horribly surprised on a daily basis.
    .
    The next thing you could do besides complaining is actually do something like moving to China or India, Africa, etc., and become a naturalized citizen and work from within those respective societies to tell them how they need change their culture and stop making so many babies, instead of talking down to them from your lofty foreign perspective. I’m sure that will go over well…good luck with that.

  18. #18 Rick Whitten
    Iowa
    June 8, 2017

    CFT: Yes, I understood that the article said that volcanoes emit more than previously estimated. But the difference between humans and volcanoes is still two orders of magnitude. And the base argument with regards to volcanoes is that since we don’t know everything, then we don’t know anything. Nonsense.
    LIA was related to stratospheric volcanoes, not sun activity. MWP seems to have been a local event. Land use can drastically affect local climate. The Midwestern US had outrageously hot temperatures in 1936 due to land use. In Des Moines, Iowa, 12 days in July still have record highs set in 1936. Worldwide, it was slightly below normal.
    Population stabilizes with development. Development requires energy. The US has a stable population, in part, because we had access to plentiful oil and coal. The situation is likely to become that burning oil and coal disrupts development more than it produces development.

  19. #19 Denier
    June 8, 2017

    @anneb wrote:

    started by us committing C02 to the atmosphere at a rate much higher than the natural (vulcanic) rate. In contrast with water, these gasses are not at natural equilibrium with their liquid phase and cannot be removed.

    Wait…what?!? Umm, you may want to Google “photosynthesis” and pay particularly close attention to where land based plants get the carbon to facilitate that process. Just sayin’.

  20. #20 Sinisa Lazarek
    June 8, 2017

    actually, IIRC algae are by far the biggest “scrubbers” of CO2. But as ocean temperatures rise, this will be impeded.

  21. #21 Denier
    United States
    June 8, 2017

    @Sinisa Lazarek

    True but I went with land based plants specifically because of their direct connection to the atmosphere. I could have ventured into the ocean being a carbon sink, photosynthetic algae, or even the weathering of many types of stone. Anneb’s comment was laugh out loud funny on many levels. I just chose the straight line for the sake of brevity.

  22. #22 Denier
    June 8, 2017

    @Rick Whitten wrote:

    What is happening now will be too quick for even humans to adapt. The consequences will be disruption of food supplies, refugees, civil unrest, and war. This disruption of food production may coincide with human population reaching earth’s carrying capacity mid century. A population overshoot means that we rape the environment further to feed everyone, reducing carrying capacity. The result could be as great of a billion person gap between the number that can be sustained and the number living. But no matter. Wars will bring those numbers to balance. Your grandchildren’s world.

    HAHAHA!! You seriously made me spit coffee on my screen. Are you serious about this stuff or are you trying to sell supplements, gold, and non-GMO food stores? You are 100% backwards from reality. Human, plants, animals, and the biosphere in general do better the warmer it gets. We have history on all time scales and satellite data since the 70’s it clearly display that.

    I personally find it quite interesting that although you quibble with the causes of the LIA and extent of MWP, you haven’t shown any sources showing the LIA was awesome for everyone and the MWP was hell on Earth. If you’ve got such historical information showing cold is good and warm is bad then by all means let’s hear it.

  23. #23 Ragtag Media
    United States
    June 10, 2017

    @ Denier wrote:
    “I’ve been very interested in that aspect of Moral Psychology lately. In particular I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Jonathan Haidt.”

    Denier, Thank You for pointing me towards back towards Haidt.
    I heard him on a Dennis Prager interview years ago over his book the “The Righteous Mind” and found him interesting but I have had no need for his books as I already began formulating my own thesis surmised like him. However upon further review he does give a more universal simplified way of explanation that may allow me to interact with others on a more conventional societal norm level.

    Denier, you are one of the most clear, level headed comment posters on this blog and I really appreciate your input. You are able to see and comprehend multiple sides of human societal emotion issue and articulate clearly a respectful and comprehensible viewpoint that make even a Vulkan do a double take.. 🙂
    Thanks

  24. #24 Edgar Carpenter
    United States
    June 22, 2017

    @CFT @Denier I’m amazed that people who have lived through the changes in climate during the last 40 years can still say that nothing is happening, the changes are just part of a natural cycle, move along.

    Yes, we can only see local weather, not explicit climate changes. But the local weather has been changing quickly everywhere! Seasons are shifting their boundaries, plants are behaving in totally new ways as they are thrown off by the changes in weather, and the world is changing around us in unseen ways due to climate change, too.

    And it’s happening everywhere. It’s not just normal local variation. And it’s happening quickly.

    You guys must be either extremely obtuse, or agoraphobic.

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