Advertisement

Climatic Change

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 145–181 | Cite as

The effects of carbon cycle model error in calculating future atmospheric carbon dioxide levels

  • J. A. Laurmann
  • J. R. Spreiter
Article

Abstract

Empirical investigations have indicated that projections of future atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of a quality quite adequate for practical questions regarding the environmental threat of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions and its relationship to energy use policy could be made with the simple assumption that a constant fraction of these emissions would be retained by the atmosphere. By analysis of the structural behavior of equations describing the transfer of carbon and carbon dioxide between their several reservoirs we have been able to demonstrate that this characteristic can be explained to result from approximately linear behavior and exponentially growing carbon dioxide release rates, combined with fitting of carbon cycle model parameters to the last twenty years of observed atmospheric carbon dioxide growth.

These conclusions are independent of the details of carbon cycle model structure for projections up to 100 years into the future as long as the growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide release rates is sufficiently high, of the order of 1.5% per annum or more, as referenced to p re-industrial (steady state) conditions. At low rates of growth, when the longer response times of the carbon cycling system become important, for most energy use projections the resultant CO2 induced climate changes are small and the uncertainties in predicted atmospheric carbon dioxide level are thus not important. A possible exception to this condition occurs for scenarios of future fossil fuel use rates designed to avoid atmospheric CO2 levels exceeding a chosen threshold. In this instance details of carbon cycle model structure could significantly affect conclusions that might be drawn concerning future energy use policies; however, it is possible that such a result stems from inappropriate specification of a criterion for an environmental threat, rather than from inherent inadequacy of current carbon cycle models.

Recent carbon cycle model developments postulate transfer processes of carbon into the deep ocean, large carbon storage reservoir at rates much higher than in the models we have analysed. If the existence of such mechanisms is confirmed, and they are found to be sufficiently rapid and large, some of our conclusions regarding the use of the constant fractional retention assumption may have to be modified.

Keywords

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Environmental Threat Longe Response Time Anthropogenic Carbon Induce Climate Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bacastow, R. and Keeling, C. D.: 1973, ‘Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Radiocarbon in the Natural Carbon Cycle: II. Changes from A.D. 1700 to 2070 as Deduced from a Geochemical Model’, in G. W. Woodwell and E. V. Pecant (eds.),Carbonaria the Biosphere, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Report CONF-720510.Google Scholar
  2. Bacastow, R. and Keeling, C. D.: 1977, ‘Models to Predict Future Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations’, in W. P. Elliot and L. Machta (eds.),Workshop on the Global Effects of Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuels, U.S. Department of Energy Report CONF-770385.Google Scholar
  3. Baes, C. F. Jr.: 1981, ‘The Response of the Oceans to Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’, Institute for Energy Analysis Research Memorandum ORAU/IEA-81-6(M). Oak Ridge, Tennessee.Google Scholar
  4. Björkström, A.: 1979, ‘A Model of CO2 Interaction Between Atmosphere, Oceans and Land Biota’, in B. Bolin, E. T. Degens, S. Kempe, and F. Ketner (eds.),The Global Carbon Cycle, John Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Bolin, B., Degens, E. T., Duvigneaud, P., and Kempe, S.: 1979, ‘The Global Biogeochemical Cycle’, inThe Global Carbon Cycle, John Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Broecker, W. S., Takahashi, T., Simpson, H. J., and Peng, T. H.: 1979, ‘Fate of Fossil Fuel Carbon Dioxide and the Global Carbon Budget’,Science 206, 409–418.Google Scholar
  7. Broecker, W. S., Peng, T. H., and Engh, R.: 1980, ‘Modeling the Carbon System’, inProceedings of the Carbon Dioxide and Climate Workshop Research Program Conference, U.S. Department of Energy Report CONF-8004110, UC-11, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  8. Chamberlin, J. W., Foley, H. F., MacDonald, G. J., and Rudeiman, M.: 1982, ‘Climatic Effects of Minor Atmospheric Constituents’, Draft report on the summer 1981 JASON study.Google Scholar
  9. Council on Environmental Quality: 1981,Global Energy Futures and the Carbon Dioxide Problem, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  10. Flohn, H.: 1980, ‘Possible Climatic Consequences of a Man-Made Global Warming’, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, report RR-80-30. Laxenburg, Austria.Google Scholar
  11. Hampicke, U: 1980, ‘The Role of the Biosphere’, in W. Bach, J. Pankrath, and J. Williams (eds.),Energy/Climate Interactions, D. Reidel Publ. Co., Dordrecht, Holland.Google Scholar
  12. Hoffert, M. I., Callegari, A. J., and Hseih, C. T.: 1981, ‘A Box-Diffusion Model with Upwelling Polar Bottom Water Formation and a Marine Biosphere’, in B. Bolin (ed.),Carbon Cycle Modeling, SCOPE report No. 16. John Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  13. Keeling, C. D.: 1973, ‘The Carbon Dioxide Cycle’, in S. I. Rasool (ed.),Chemistry of the Lower Atmosphere, Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Keeling, C. D,: 1980, ‘The Suess Effect:13Carbon -14Carbon Interrelations’,Environment International 2, 229–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Keeling, C. D. and Bacastow, R. B.: 1977, ‘Impact of Industrial Gases on Climate’, inEnergy and Climate, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  16. Keeling, C. D., Bacastow, R. B., and Tans, P. P.: 1981, ‘Predicted Shifts in the 13C/14C Ratio of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’, Preprint.Google Scholar
  17. Killough, G. G. and Emanuel, W. R.: 1981, ‘A Comparison of Several Models of Carbon Turnover in the Ocean with Respect to their Distribution of Transit Time and Ages and Responses to Atmospheric CO2 and14C’,Tellus 33, 274–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kohlmaier, G. H., Fischback, U., Kratz, U., Siré, E. O., Hirschberger, J., and Schunk, W.: 1979, ‘Modeling Man's Impact on the Subsystem Atmosphere-Biosphere of the Global Carbon Cycle’, in W. Bach, J. Pankrath, and W. W. Kellogg (eds.),Man's Impact on Climate, Elsevier, New York.Google Scholar
  19. Laurmann, J. A.: 1978, ‘Fossil Fuel Utilization Policy Assessment and CO2 Induced Climate Change’, in J. Williams (ed.),Carbon Dioxide, Climate and Society, Pergamon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  20. Laurmann, J. A.: 1979, ‘Market Penetration Characteristics for Energy Production and Atmospheric CO2 Growth’,Science 205, 896–898.Google Scholar
  21. Laurmann, J. A.: 1980, ‘Climate Change from Fossil Fuel Generated CO2 and Energy Use Policy’,Environment International 2, 461–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Loucks, O. L.: 1980, ‘Recent Results from Studies of Carbon Cycling’, inProceedings of the Carbon Dioxide and Climate Workshop Research Program Conference, U.S. Department of Energy Report CONF-8004110, UC-11. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  23. Lovins, A. B.: 1980, ‘Economically Efficient Energy Futures’, in W. Bach, J. Pankrath, and J. Williams (eds.),Energy I Climate Interactions, D. Reidel Publ. Co., Dordrecht, Holland.Google Scholar
  24. Lovins, A. B., Lovins, H., Krause, F., and Bach, W.: 1982,Least-Cost Energy, Brick House Publishing, Andover, Mass.Google Scholar
  25. Machta, L. and Telegadas, K.: 1974, ‘Inadvertant Large Scale Weather Modification’, in W. N. Hess (ed.),The Changing Global Environment, John Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Michael, P., Hoffert, M., and Tobias, M.: 1981, ‘Transient Climate Response to Changing Carbon Dioxide Concentration’,Climatic Change 3, 137–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. National Academy of Sciences: 1979, ‘Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment’, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  28. Niehaus, F.: 1979, ‘Carbon Dioxide as a Constraint for Global Energy Scenarios’, in W. Bach, J. Pankrath, and W. Kellogg (eds.),Man's Impact on Climate, Elsevier, New York.Google Scholar
  29. Oeschger, U., Siegenthaler, U., Schotterer, U., and Gugelmann, A.: 1975, ‘A Box Diffusion Model to Study the Carbon Dioxide Exchange in Nature’,Tellus 27, 168–192.Google Scholar
  30. Oeschger, H., Siegenthaler, U., Schotterer, U., Gugelmann, A., and Heinmann, U.: 1980, ‘The Carbon Dioxide Cycle and its Perturbation by Man’, in W. Bach, J. Pankrath, and J. Williams (eds.),Energy/ Climate Interactions, D. Reidel Publ. Co., Dordrecht, Holland.Google Scholar
  31. Olsen, J. S., Pfuderer, H. A., and Chan, Y. H.: 1978, ‘Changes in the Global Carbon Cycle and the Biosphere’, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Report, ORNL/EIS - 109.Google Scholar
  32. Perry, A. M., Fulkerson, W., Araj, K. J., Rose, D. J., Miller, M. M., and Rotty, R. M.: 1981, ‘Energy Supply and Demand mplications of CO2’. to appear inEnergy.Google Scholar
  33. Revelle, R. and Munk, W.: 1977, ‘Carbon Dioxide Cycle and the Biosphere’, inEnergy and Climate, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  34. Rotty, R. M.: 1976, ‘Global Carbon Dioxide Production from Fossil Fuels and Cement A.D. 1950 – A.D. 2000’, Institute for Energy Analysis Memorandum (M)-76-4. Oak Ridge, Te.Google Scholar
  35. Rotty, R.M. and Marland, G.: 1980, ‘Constraints on Fossil Fuel Use’, in W. Bach, J. Pankrath and J. Williams (eds.),Interactions of Energy and Climate, D. Reidel Publ. Co., Dordrecht, Holland.Google Scholar
  36. Science: 1980, ‘Carbon Budget not so out of Whack’,Science 208, 1358.Google Scholar
  37. Siegenthaler, U. and Oeschger, H.: 1978, ‘Predicting Future Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels’,Science 199, 388–395.Google Scholar
  38. Seiler, W. and Crutzen, P. J.: 1980, ‘Estimates of Gross and Net Fluxes of Carbon Between the Biosphere and the Atmosphere from Biomass Burning’,Climatic Change 2, 207–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Siré, E. O., Kohlmaier, G. H., Kratz, G., Fischbach, U., and Bröhl, H.: 1981, ‘Comparative Dynamics of Atmosphere-Ocean-Models within the Description of the Perturbed Global Carbon Cycle’,Z. Naturforsch. 36a, 233–250.Google Scholar
  40. Smith, S. V.: 1981, ‘Marine Macrophytes as a Global Carbon Sink’,Science 211, 838–840.Google Scholar
  41. Stuiver, M.: 1978, ‘Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Reservoir Changes’,Science 199, 253–258.Google Scholar
  42. Viecelli, J. A., Ellsaesser, H. W., and Burt, J. E.: 1981, ‘A Carbon Cycle Model with Latitude Dependence’,Climatic Change 3, 281–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Woodwell, G. M., Whittaker, R. H., Reiners, W. A., Likens, G. E., Delwiche, C. C. and Botkin, D. B.: 1978, ‘The Biota and the World Carbon Budget’,Science 199, 141.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Co. 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Laurmann
    • 1
  • J. R. Spreiter
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Applied MechanicsStanford UniversityCAU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations