Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

18 March 2009

Rising Oceans Due to Rising CO2

The usual viewpoint is that any observed rise in the ocean level is due to a combination of water expansion as the temperature increases and a usually smaller component due to some melting of polar ice caps and glaciers. Back on 28 March 2008 in a note called "Ocean Cooling with Expansion", I discussed the fact that the Argo buoy system had found the ocean temperature to be near constant, but perhaps dropping very slightly, over a four year period and yet sea level had risen by 0.5 inch. This was a mystery.

In the last paragraph of that note, I wondered how much of that rise might be due to an increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which has been rising steadily for the last 150 years. Some of this rise was because as the oceans warm, as they generally have following the end of the Little Ice Age, dissolved CO2 in the oceans is released. This will cause some contraction of the ocean and a fall in level, which is counteracted by any melting of polar ice and glaciers due to the same general warming occurring since the end of the Little Ice Age. But with no general warming of the oceans over the four year period, the main reason for the ongoing rise in CO2 in the atmosphere was presumably man burning fossil and organic fuels. So, with the ocean not warming and increased CO2 in the atmosphere, the oceans ought to absorb more CO2 and expand because of the absorption of the CO2. But how large an effect might this be, I wondered?

Well, Tom V. Segalstad at has done an interesting kitchen experiment. He put enough Ca(OH)2 in water to make the pH=8, which is the pH of the oceans. He then put a glass over a candle floating on the water and as the flame burned the water level remained constant. This shows that the burning process using oxygen from the air inside the glass and over the water and candle, was not producing a low pressure volume or vacuum and sucking more water in under the glass rim at the bottom of the container holding the water. Then, after the candle burned out because it had used the limited supply of oxygen in the air and had given off CO2 in the combustion process, the water level began to rise and rise dramatically. The CO2 was reacting with the Ca++ ions to form CaCO3 and the water expanded as the calcium carbonate content went up. In the real oceans, there are also many Na+ and K+ ions in addition to Ca++ ions, which form NaHCO3 and KHCO3 bicarbonates. So, it is very reasonable that the oceans expand also as the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere goes up with the removal of the CO2 to form bicarbonates and carbonates in the oceans. This process should be rather rapid, making the assertion by the IPCC that CO2 added to the atmosphere by man lasts 50 to 200 years look absurd, according to Tom Segalstad. It seems reasonable to me that he is right.

There are quite a few interesting things on Tom Segalstad's website. He has an information page with all sorts of key facts I have been looking for on such things as the thermal energy in the atmosphere compared to that in the oceans. As I was sure was the case, the ocean thermal energy is huge compared to the puny energy of the atmosphere, being about 2000 times larger. He also notes that the latent heat of melting of all of the ice on earth is an energy about 10 times greater than all of the energy in the earth's entire atmosphere. This ice mass is a huge buffer against warming.

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