Mauno Loa is a volcano, so what?

Anthony Watts, (in a comment to a post where I remarked that Watts implies that the CO2 measurements made at Mauno Loa might not be reliable), said:

If you can point me to a source that demonstrates clearly that no Co2 outgassing from the Mauna Loa volcano reaches the instrumentation, I’ll gladly revise my post.

Well, there is no such source, because of course the CO2 reaches the instrumentation when the wind is coming from a particular direction. However, scientists are of course aware of that, and take that into account. There is even an FAQ at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography:

Isn’t the Mauna Loa record influenced by CO2 emitted by the volcano?

If one looks at the minute-by-minute data from Mauna Loa, one finds rare occasions when the CO2 is elevated from emissions from fumaroles upwind on the mountain. The fumaroles are emitting constantly, so the timing of the events depends on wind direction and not changes in volcanic activity. These events impact only a tiny faction of the data and are easily distinguished from rest of the record. The reported version of the Mauna Loa record has been “filtered” to remove these events, as well as other certain other local effects, as described in the early publications (see Keeling 1960 Tellus paper).

Keeling himself writes (1960):

At Mauno Loa Observatory, Hawaii, a less prominent variability has been found in approximately half of the records. This is attributed to release of carbon dioxide by nearby volcanic vents; combustion on the island associated with agricultural, industrial and domestic activities; and lower concentration of carbon dioxide transported to the station by upslope winds. The values reported here are averages of downslope winds or strong lateral winds when the concentration remained nearly constant for several hours or more.

In that paper Keeling also shows CO2 measurements from other locations, all in good agreements, and points to problems these measurements have, and how he accounted for them.

Global CO2 data are available here.



Filed under global warming, science

6 responses to “Mauno Loa is a volcano, so what?

  1. Pingback: Watt’s wrong « Fermi Paradox

  2. J

    The Mauna Loa record is nice, because it’s the longest … but there are of course more recent CO2 measurements available from other places that are isolated but not on the side of volcanoes.

    Ideally, someone like Mr Watts would take a moment to check whether those other stations show similar trends to the Mauna Loa record, before posting these kinds of snide remarks on his website. Had he done so, he surely would have seen that, in fact, the CO2 increase seen at ML matches quite closely the trend seen elsewhere.

    I no longer bother reading Watts’s blog … but some months ago I tried to give him some friendly advice in comments. At the time, several of his commenters were darkly suggesting that the close correlation between the surface (GISS/HADCRU) and satellite (RSS/UAH) temperature trends was due to some mysterious “adjustment” of the satellite trends to match the surface … in other words, his commenters claimed, the satellite temperature record was “contaminated” by the surface stations data.

    When Watts posts crackpot ideas himself, or lets others post them unchallenged in comments, it reduces the credibility of his blog. This “volcanic CO2” canard is a perfect example.

    Seriously, how long can it be before Watts (or his commenters) begin posting about EG Beck’s (crackpot) analysis of pre-1960 CO2 data?

  3. Seriously, how long can it be before Watts (or his commenters) begin posting about EG Beck’s (crackpot) analysis of pre-1960 CO2 data?

    Well, he did already.

    It’s almost too much crackpottery even for Watts, though. He writes that he is “on the fence with it”.

  4. J

    That’s Watts’s M.O., frankly. He posts all kinds of nonsense, with the disclaimer that he’s not necessarily actually “endorsing” it. It’s a cheap way of absolving himself of any responsibility for his actions, while still getting all his silly denialist claims out there.

    Still, I’m surprised to see him citing EG Beck. Watts must have sunk even lower than I had expected.

    To me, Beck’s chemical CO2 crap is the ultimate test: if an honest person looks into it, they can’t help but run away screaming. If Watts actually promoted Beck’s work, even with the standard disclaimer (“I’m on the fence…”), that pretty much confirms that Watts is hopeless.

  5. Leon

    Something has been bothering me about the Mauno Loa CO2 records, particularly as it is the only one I see quoted as to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. If, as I read, Charles Keeling stated that CO2 mixed evenly in the atmosphere, then why did he not avoid measuring CO2 from the volcanoes erupting on the Island of Hawaii? Of course the European Space administration seems to dispute this notion of even mixing of CO2 for, according to an article in ScienceDaily in about 2002 (?) they requested Japan and NASA to include equipment in, what is now known as the “A train” which were launched recently, to check on how does CO2 flux its way across continents and most importantly up into the atmosphere. So far I have not seen any statements released as to how much CO2 the “A train” has discovered.

    Now, the next question then is if he placed his instruments high above the ground level CO2 readings, is this not an admission that CO2 is heavier than air. Therefore how could he know that his instruments were reading CO2 from a power station, or any other industrial undertaking when the nearest would be on the west coast of the United States, 1300 nautical miles away? Does not the Hawaiian Islands generate its electricity from hydro sources?

    In my research I have been trying to find out whether anyone has actually measured CO2 from any smoke stack. It has been firmly established that nearly all the smoke we see rising out of a chimney is water vapour, often coloured by carbon. CO2 and other pollutants are invisible. So one would think that someone would really try to find the answer to this question before Governments begin to tax us. Of the reports I can find, there is the CSIRO fume tests of the Port Pirie chimney in South Australia, the Kwinana, (Western Australia) Industrial site that had a coal fired power station, an aluminum smelting works and an oil refinery. No where in these reports was CO2 mentioned, although the reports stated that SO2 was detected and that they had equipment capable of measuring CO2. Incidentally there was no mention of methane that one would expect coming from the oil refinery, in fact no particulates whatsoever. Also the fume at Kwinan showed that it rose no more than 400 metres above ground and fell to earth 6 kilometres down wind, so I fail to see how the pollution from this site could reach Hawaii.

    The next one I found was a smoke stack at a power station in New Mexico which stated that before filters were installed the chimney was exuding SO2 – CO2 was not mentioned!

    Then there was the pollution investigation in Mexico City where they expected to find CH4, but lo! this turned out to be pollution from burning garbage and again CO2 was not mentioned.

    Well then I turned to the pollution monitoring stations and find that although NOAA state they have 60 pollution monitoring stations, plus others I can find, apart from Mauno Loa, no published data as to what they have recorded. So I turned to the Pollution monitoring station at Cape Grim in Tasmania, jointly operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, both recognized as notorious AGW supporters. Well on their web site I can find out about the weather, wave heights and other meteorological information, but nothing about the pollution they are supposed to be measuring. However, in ScienceDaily there was an article in 2001 from the director of the SCIRO that they were measuring reduced levels of methane! In 2007 a further article stated that Methane levels had increased. It may be purely coincidental that half way across Bass straight to the North East of Cape Grim are the Bass Straight Oil and Gas fields where LMG is being exported to Asia, with, coincidentally recent increased exports to China!

  6. It is useful to try everything in practice anyway and I like that here it’s always possible to find something new. 🙂