[Coral-List] Fossil Reefs and Sea Level Rise

Lee Kump lkump at psu.edu
Mon May 11 13:56:00 EDT 2009

Dear Gene,

Let me address the issues you raise and try to explain why they pose no
problem for our understanding of the current and future climate and
its relationship to atmospheric CO2:

1) One shouldn't confuse the atmospheric CO2 level, or even the pH of
the ocean, with its saturation state with respect to calcium carbonate.
As your friend Bob Garrels showed so convincingly decades ago, the
saturation state of the oceans as a whole is controlled by the input of
bicarbonate by rivers and the output of CaCO3. No matter what the
CO2 content of the atmosphere, eventually the riverine input will  
the alkalinity necessary to saturate the surface ocean allowing for
CaCO3 deposition. It does take time (many millennia) for the rivers
to accomplish this task after a rapid CO2 addition to the atmosphere,
which is why fossil fuel burning is causing a decrease in calcium  
saturation state. However, the high CO2 content of the Cretaceous  
for millions of years, plenty of time for the rivers to maintain  
saturation states.

2) The Milankovitch cycles and the predisposition for glacial cycles  
today in the current interglacial, and will tend to drive the system  
glaciation again, but the onset may be delayed by the vestiges of the
anthropogenic carbon dioxide injection.

3) The fluctuations of CO2 during the Pleistocene are internal  
of carbon between ocean, atmosphere, and biota driven by feedback  
negative and positive. In feedback loops, cause becomes effect and  
vice versa:
it becomes meaningless to look for leads and lags. In contrast,  
volcanoes and
coal-fired power plants pump CO2 into the system from external  
sources, so they
drive the system to new states (and initiate the same feedbacks,  
which is why,
for example, the atmospheric CO2 rise hasn't been faster than it has  

4) Your scaling arguments are meaningless: try the same argument with
H2S to deny its toxicity! The main gases of the atmosphere are  
climatically inert; it's only the minor components, the greenhouse  
that matter, and they can do quite a bit at the ppm level (33 degrees  
of warming
from what Earth would be like without them!).

5) It is precisely the physics of the greenhouse effect, which you  
accept, that demonstrate
convincingly that 380 ppm CO2, and the 100 ppm rise since  
preindustrial times, that
CAN make the difference that the climate models demonstrate. Of  
course, CO2 is not
the whole story, as the IPCC reports have so nicely shown: climate  
models only get
the climate history of the last 100 years right when they include  
both the natural (solar,
volcanic eruptions) and anthropogenic (aerosols and greenhouse gases)  



On May 11, 2009, at 9:56 AM, Eugene Shinn wrote:

> Thanks James and Paul, I am often reminded that the lesson of history
> appears to be, "we seldom learn from history." Geology is simply
> history written in the rocks, and the best part is its unbiased. I
> will admit ,however, that the geologists who read the rocks may not
> be unbiased. During the Cretaceous (age of the dinosaurs for non
> geologists) our planet grew the most extensive reefs that ever
> existed. CO2 was around 3,000 ppm (its around 380 ppm now). How could
> that happen? Will history not repeat itself as it did many times
> during the Pleistocene? (That's the ice ages for non geologists). We
> don' really know why ice repeatedly melted and froze and sea level
> yo-yoed up and down during the Pleistocene. For all practical
> purposes we are still in the Ice Ages.  For that reason it seems
> logical to expect history to repeat itself again and again. Why
> shouldn't it? I wish I knew the answers. Ice core records also
> indicate that during the ice ages temperature went up and Co2 rise
> followed. That's the opposite of what we all read in the press. I
> don't understand why temperature rise preceded CO2 rise but as you
> know each summer when sea water temperature rises CO2 also rises.
> That's the little annual spikes on the Keeling curve we all know so
> well. We notice those spikes because of the way the curve is
> presented. If it were drawn to scale we would not see them. Ever try
> to draw the Keeling curve to scale? I.e., put one million on the Y
> axis and years on the X axis and 380 pm is almost impossible to see.
> You can also try it as percentage of atmospheric gasses. Same result!
>      Paul says multiple lines of evidence show Co2 is causing warming.
> As near as I can tell it is only the linear numeric computer models
> that predict warming. The physics of CO2 being a greenhouse gas I do
> not argue..  It's just that there is so little of it. Note that
> temperature has been relatively flat since the world wide El Nino of
> 1998 and it has been falling during the past two years. Remember Yogi
> Bera, "Prediction is really difficult, especially if it is about the
> future." I'm still waiting for sunspot cycle 24 to start. Who could
> have predicted its late arrival? The last time the sunspots did not
> show up was during the Little Ice Age,  a  little more than a century
> ago. Gene
> -- 
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------  
> -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> Marine Science Center (room 204)
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------
> -----------------------------------
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Lee R. Kump
Dept. of Geosciences
Penn State
535 Deike Bldg.
University Park, PA 16802 USA

lkump at psu.edu
+1 814 863-1274
+1 814 863-7823 fax

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