Errors were evident in letters on climate

first_imgVictor Robert’s April 2 letter, where he points out a math error of Rodger Anderson in calculating the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, contains two errors: 1) The eight billion tons that humans add to the atmosphere are tons of carbon, not carbon dioxide, as stated in the letter. Secondly, Victor also makes a math error that many atmospheric science graduate students also make when dealing with concentrations of trace gases in air. The two parts per million (ppm) per year increase represents two ppm in the number of molecules, not mass, of the atmosphere. CO2 [carbon dioxide] is 1.52 times heavier than air, which is a mixture of mostly lighter O2 [oxygen] and N2 [nitrogen]. The observed two ppm increase in CO2 corresponds to a carbon mass of 4.3 billion metric tons, which is about half the mass of carbon emitted by fossil fuels.  Since the dawn of the industrial era, the oceans and the biosphere have been absorbing about half the CO2 added by burning fossil fuels each year.I think Mr. Anderson’s initial misstated calculations had to do with natural CO2 emissions from biosphere respiration. In the Northern Hemisphere, during winter (the eight-month period from September to the following May), CO2 levels rise by about nine ppm, as all life exhales CO2 and photosynthesis is minimized due to low sunlight and cold. During late spring-summer, CO2 levels fall by about seven ppm, when photosynthesis is more prevalent than respiration. Both of these increases and decreases are considerably larger than the two ppm increase from fossil fuels. It’s estimated that global respiration averaged over all seasons is probably greater than 150 billion metric tons carbon per year, which is about a factor of 15-20 times greater than fossil fuel emissions.Chris WalcekAlbanyThe writer is a research scientist, Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at University at Albany.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFeds: Albany man sentenced for role in romance scam Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinionlast_img

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