A new paper confirms climate change and global warming is controlled by plant life, which in turn is controlled by high and rising CO2.
The paper shows that plant transpiration, loss of water during its breathing/gas exchange, is responsible for 80%-90% of atmospheric water vapour. That’s five to ten times the water vapour produced by mere evaporation. The authors Jasechko et al hail from the University of New Mexico, a hot dryland where plant evapo-transpiration is key to survival. The paper is in the Journal Nature.
Plant transpiration contributions of water vapour to the air are the most important factor by far in global warming. This shouldn’t be surprise to we of the human earthling variety but of course it dose seem to put us once again in a diminutive context. It ought to not come as a surprise after all we aren’t big players in the global energy game.
Our human power hogging consumes energy at a rate of about 15 terrawatts per year, a mere 0.016% of the 89 Petawatts of solar power absorbed by oceans and lands. Looking at plant transpiration as the power driven process that it is, it consumes 5.6%, not the tiny 0.016%, of the global solar power flux. Keep these numbers in context by knowing that the sun delivers about 70 watts per square meter to this blue planets surface every day.
So thanks to the reported numbers in this new paper of Jasechko and colleagues we’ve been able to make some refinements to a global warming model we have been developing to put up as an ecologists model to challenge the queens of physics and their models. The ecology model neatly explains what the physicists cannot, most certainly will not. The fact is life on this planet, and plant life at that, makes this planet the kind of place it ought to be. And our role in mucking it up is in fact all about anthropogenic CO2, but not at all about the pure physics of CO2, rather about its biological and ecological role.
One facet of our model is that it can be computed with a pencil and paper no massive mainframe “big iron” super computer power needed (sorry Wally et al). The model shows that as high and rising anthropogenic CO2 goes into the living ecosystem, that is this planets life cycle, it’s first and most powerful characteristic is that of driving the most important process on this planet, photosynthesis. A little more CO2 a little more plant growth that’s been seen over and over and indeed is the case we see on land, alas not at sea but that’s a sister story…
The most potent effect our CO2 is having is in providing a lower power cost of access to CO2 that plants require to grow. Plants remember from above use a lot of power transpiring. Plants everywhere are transpiring less because high and rising CO2 in the air allows them to transpire less to obtain the CO2 they need from the new super abundance of CO2 we have provided to them. For dryland plant ecosytems this means more plant biomass, but for maxed out forest ecosystems this means simply more efficient use of CO2 and less transpiration.
Thanks to our new friends Jasechko et al we now see that this lowered plant transpiration means lowered amounts of water vapour being pumped into the atmosphere. By rule of thumb water vapour in the air is responsible for capturing about 50% of the heat that goes to form global warming. Think of it as the thick global waming duvet, and in context think of CO2 as the thin global warming blanket at the foot of the bed. Sorry physicists we ecologists like to talk in a human story telling vernacular and mostly we keep the tawdry math out of sight beneath the sheets.
The Jasechko paper works nicely with another paper “Contributions of Stratospheric Water Vapor to Decadal Changes in the Rate of Global Warming” by Solomon et al
ABSTRACT – Stratospheric water vapor concentrations decreased by about 10% after the year 2000. Here we show that this acted to slow the rate of increase in global surface temperature over 2000–2009 by about 25% compared to that which would have occurred due only to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. More limited data suggest that stratospheric water vapor probably increased between 1980 and 2000, which would have enhanced the decadal rate of surface warming during the 1990s by about 30% as compared to estimates neglecting this change. These findings show that stratospheric water vapor is an important driver of decadal global surface climate change. Read it here….
If you are a reader of all things climate change and global warming you have certainly read of late of the mystery of the “slow down in global warming” in spite of rising CO2. While the climate physicists wring their hands and look on with furrowed brows the anti climate change denialists have sprung to action with a thousand internet trolls. Ah ha the denialists say, see we told you the climate change models and modellers are as flawed and thus incompetent as we have always said. We surely have high and rising CO2 and now we have a slow down in the global warming…
The furrowed brow crowd says almost nothing save the same old same old, “the models will catch up, they just don’t have quite this fine of time resolution, over longer time averages the global warming will once again become apparent, just give it (and them) a few more years.”
Both are wrong!
YES high and rising CO2 causes more global warming but NO recent slowing and leveling of “global warming” is NOT proof that there is NO problem with anthropogenic CO2.
What is TRUE is that high and rising CO2 is super potent in its ecological role with plant biology.
1. Extra CO2 is growing more plant life but at much lower and on balance net negative cost in transpiration water vapour than decades ago.
2. That increasing terrestrial plant life is releasing just the right amount of less water vapour to account for the slow down of global warming effect now being observed.
3. There only needs to be tiny transpiration effect as the multiplier for the potency of water vapour as a green house gas is large.
So does this mean that Mother Nature has everything under control and we can turn the air conditioners back on super cool, buy the mid-life crisis muscle car for dad, and the combat 4X4 for the soccer mom?
NO! NO! NO!
There are far worse things that CO2 driven plant transpiration is doing to planetary plant life…. read the rest of this blog… start here…
There is hope.