Study of hemispheric CO2 timing suggests that annual increases may be coming from a global or equatorial source


A succinct writeup of an odd observation; that northern and southern hemisphere CO2 concentrations are remaining very close as they grow.

As most human-originated CO2 release occurs in the northern hemisphere, and as CO2 has previously been observed to take upwards of a half a year to propagate between hemispheres, the implication is that the atmospheric increases are global (or perhaps equatorial) and therefore not, primarily, human-originated.

N.B. human-originated != human-caused. The oceans are our largest carbon sink and may tend to release CO2 as temperatures rise; this tells us nothing of the underlying cause. It is, nonetheless, a fascinating data point.

The source of the data about how long CO2 takes to propagate is also fascinating. Apparently 1950s/60s nuclear tests provided an observable carbon-14 variation which could be measured and its propagation time calculated. I’m reminded of the stunning data about the impact of air traffic on planetary albedo and daily temperature variations that was provided by the shutdown of aviation in the USA on September 11-13, 2001. Finding good in the bad.


4 Responses to “Study of hemispheric CO2 timing suggests that annual increases may be coming from a global or equatorial source”

  1. Ed Davies Says:

    I have to say I didn’t really follow the text quoted and suspect access to a decent library to read the whole of the original paper would be required to form a reasonable opinion. The comments on the Watts Up blog seemed to be so ignorant as to be positively harmful to understanding. Nevertheless, just looking at the CO₂ figures for the South Pole and Mauna Loa from:

    seems to me to show that, on average, the South Pole concentration lags about 1.3 years behind Mauna Loa which seems to make sense.

    • Roland Turner Says:

      This has been lurking in my approval queue for four months, sorry about that!

      Thanks for the link; at some point I’ll compare the data. Debunking extraordinary claims is at least as worthwhile as finding supporting evidence for them.

  2. Ed Davies Says:

    Hi Roland, thanks for approving it in the end. These denier claims are often worth a look just to sharpen one’s own understanding of climate science, as I say in this post:,7384.30.html#subject_76953

    I asked on RealClimate about the paper you referenced but was pretty disappointed by their response:

    Perhaps I should have been a lot more specific in what I was asking. I think it’s actually pretty well understood where the CO₂ is coming from and can understand why RealClimate were so quick to dismiss the matter but still it would be interesting to know more about CO₂’s migration between the two hemispheres.

  3. Roland Turner Says:

    Ad-hominem responses do little to further anyone’s understanding. Most sad.

    Thanks again for the links, my understanding will no doubt be sharpened after several hours of additional reading.

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