EES 3310/5310

Perturbing the Carbon Cycle

Class #12 (Mon., Feb 14)

PDF version


If you have a laptop or tablet that you can bring to class and connect to the internet, I recommend you do so today so you can work along with me in using the GEOCARB model.


Required Reading (everyone):

  • Understanding the Forecast, Ch. 10.

Reading Notes:

Some key points to be sure you understand:

  • How is the steady-state concentration of methane in the atmosphere related to the rate of methane emissions?
  • What are the largest natural and anthropogenic sources of methane? How does anthropogenic methane emission compare to natural emission?
  • What are the dominant anthropogenic sources of CO2 emissions?
  • What do we know about the land as a sink for carbon?
  • What is CO2 fertilization and how might it affect the role of the land as a carbon sink? What are the potential benefits to plants of higher CO2 concentrations and what constraints are there on the extent to which these benefits might be realized in practice?
  • Understand the ocean carbon sink. Where, specifically, does the ocean work effectively to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and how might this sink be affected by rising CO2 levels?
  • What is ocean ventilation? Why is it important and how fast does it work?
  • What is the thermocline and why is it important to the ocean carbon sink?
  • Why would increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere make the oceans become more acidic? How confident can we be of predictions about ocean acidification?
  • What is buffering and how would it affect ocean acidification?
  • What is the biological pump in the oceans? Are there things people might do to speed up the biological pump
  • In the big picture, consider how these pieces fit together: how might rising temperatures and increasing drought around the world (two things scientists are very confident will happen as a result of rising greenhouse gas concentrations) affect the various carbon sources and sinks? How might ocean acidification affect the biological pump?