CO2 Changing 14,000 Times Faster than Normal

By October 9, 2010 February 20th, 2013 CO2

This article in the journal Nature Geoscience looked at CO2 changes from the last 610,000 years as told in the bubbles of trapped air in Antarctic ice cores. It is a well known part of climate science that states that CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere differ based on the climate.  CO2 levels are lower on a cooler planet and higher on a warmer planet. 

CO2 levels tend to slightly follow temperature in a feedback reaction, that is, a little warming, say from an increase in energy from the sun due to changes in Earth’s rotation around the sun, causes an increase in CO2 levels. More CO2 makes it warmer, which causes an even greater increase in CO2, etc.

This study, led by Dr. Richard Zeebe at the University of Hawaii,  found that over hundreds of thousands of years the equilibrium between carbon dioxide input and removal by natural sequestration was never more than one to two percent out of balance, showing that, over time, the earth balances it own chemistry. The difference in ancient carbon dioxide concentrations between the depths of the ice age and the warmth of the interglacial periods, was about 22 parts per million (ppm). This oscillation, this swing between the two extremes happened about every 100,000 years.

But in the last 200 years, we have changed the CO2 concentration on this planet by 100 ppm.  In just these last 200 years, we have burned a fair amount of all of the fossil carbon stored as oil, gas and coal, for the last 350 million years.

Professor Zeebe says "Before anthropogenic emissions were added to the equation, the system was nicely balanced … But this has changed. The average man-made increase in atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel burning and deforestation over the past 200 years is about 14,000 times faster than the long-term average change over the past 610,000 years."

Press Release University of Hawaii:

Zeebe, Richard E., and Ken Caldeira. Close mass balance of long-term carbon fluxes from ice-core CO2 and ocean chemistry records. Nature Geoscience, Advance Online Publication, April 27, 2008.

October 6, 2010  Phenomanl  Ice Videos – NASAs Global Ice Viewer  From the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland tohte Wilkins Ice Sheet in Antarctica. these videos and still photo comparisons show climate hcange iun action.