NASA has a new satellite called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) that is measuring CO2 levels in the atmosphere from space and the first results are in for October 1 to November 11 2014.
NASA: Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from Oct. 1 through Nov. 11, as recorded by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. Carbon dioxide concentrations are highest above northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil. Preliminary analysis of the African data shows the high levels there are largely driven by the burning of savannas and forests. Elevated carbon dioxide can also be seen above industrialized Northern Hemisphere regions in China, Europe and North America.
Roger reported on OCO2 on December 21st last year in Blowout week 51. John Reid at Blackjay provided further coverage. John was amused by “above northern Australia”, seemingly NASA’s new name for Indonesia. The post contains several very large graphics and may take a while to load. Click on graphics to get a large image that will open in a separate browser window.
NASA has also developed a super computer model of how CO2 is produced and dispersed in the atmosphere that I will turn to shortly. The upper panel above is the first data from OCO-2 and the lower is a snap shot from the computer model the different colour coding makes it incredibly difficult to compare the two. I have added some annotation to the OCO-2 image. The most important point is to realise that globally averaged CO2 in October 2014 should be about 396 ppmv that is represented by yellow on this map (marked with an arrow on the colour coded scale). Orange and red are areas with CO2 above average and are presumably sources. Green and blue are below average and are presumably sinks in October. A feature that catches my eye is a band of red and orange running around the Earth between the Equator and Tropic of Capricorn with bands of blue either side. But it is far too early to draw any firm conclusions from this initial data!
The model has some things in common with the real data. Both pick out the Amazon Basin and southern Africa as CO2 hot spots. The commentary that goes with the model argues this is due to burning grass and forest. White and violet colours in the model also pick out the tropical rain forests of Indonesia as a hot spot. And both model and OCO-2 data pick out China as a hot spot. Given that other heavily industrialised areas are not hot spots it would be premature to jump to the conclusion this is down to Chinese fossil fuel emissions.
But there the similarities end. The model suggests hot spots associated with the industrialised areas of N America, Europe, Russia and India that are pretty well absent in the real data. Undeterred by what the real data actually shows NASA prefer to see what they want to see:
Elevated carbon dioxide can also be seen above industrialized Northern Hemisphere regions in China, Europe and North America.
I cannot see any sign of elevated CO2 over Europe that is either neutral or a net sink. This is not surprising since human emissions are tiny in relation to the annual natural fluxes of CO2. It would be very surprising if these could be seen from space at all.
The graphic above shows the natural annual fluxes of CO2 between oceans and biosphere, both driven by photosynthesis, relative to annual emissions. It will be surprising if OCO-2 is able to detect the tiny anthropogenic signal against the large natural background flux. The first OCO-2 results in fact tie in very well with these known large natural fluxes showing hot spots in the tropical rain forests and savannahs of S America, southern Africa, and Indonesia during October that is the southern hemisphere Spring. The Southern Ocean and the tropical oceans of the N hemisphere appear to be the main sinks. Rational scientists would conclude that the bulk of the variance seen in this initial OCO-2 data is down to known natural fluxes that NASA barely mentions in their commentary.
NASA recognise there are differences between the observations and the model but chose instead to question the veracity of the data. All this sounds too familiar. NASA have satellites measuring clouds, temperature, sea ice and now CO2. This vast amount of data all points to a single conclusion that the climate science community will have to choke on one of these days. I will make that the subject of a separate post.
The early OCO-2 data hint at some potential surprises to come. “The agreement between OCO-2 and models based on existing carbon dioxide data is remarkably good, but there are some interesting differences,” said Christopher O’Dell, an assistant professor at CSU and member of OCO-2’s science team. “Some of the differences may be due to systematic errors in our measurements, and we are currently in the process of nailing these down. But some of the differences are likely due to gaps in our current knowledge of carbon sources in certain regions — gaps that OCO-2 will help fill in.”
And so to the super computer model. It’s well worth watching and listening to the commentary by Bill Putman from NASA Goddard. Amongst other things Putman says:
In the northern hemisphere we see the highest concentrations are focussed around the biggest emissions sources over N America, Europe and Asia.
Putman has already forgotten that this is a model and repeatedly refers to the simulation as data. It is quite clear from his commentary that the model is deemed to show human emissions in the northern hemisphere even although these are so small they should be swamped by the natural flux. And he also says:
Plants remove CO2 in the northern hemisphere
But then forgets to say that in the autumn and winter they return most of that CO2 to the atmosphere.
Below there are screen captures from the model for the first day of each month. This is to ease an appraisal of NASA’s view of the carbon cycle. Care is required in the interpretation since two separate colour codes are used – one for CO and one for CO2 – and the CO2 scale is complex going through blue, yellow, red, purple, white and pink. The bright white and pink colours are the highest concentrations. The picture is made more complex by the fact that global CO2 changes throughout the year as shown below.
I will let these images speak for themselves for the time being and will return to this topic when more OCO-2 results are released – I can hardly wait! A few of the key observations:
- Virtually all of the elevated CO2 levels (sources) are modelled in the northern hemisphere.
- With virtually no rise in CO2 in the southern hemisphere, the NASA model appears to not include mixing across the equator.
- The Southern Ocean is modelled as the main sink even although it is known that the terrestrial biosphere is likely to be the main sink.
NASA also has a satellite that measures troposphere temperature from Space that does not provide the results they want and so they simply ignore them true to the spirit of climate “science”. Let us hope they do not brush the results from OCO-2 under the carpet as well.