Flatulence may not be as big a CC factor as we have thought

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Good news.

“So rather than adding even more thermal energy to the atmosphere, as previously thought, methane’s solar absorption sets off a cascade of events that reduces its overall warming effect by about 30 percent…”


While we’re onto good news, not many people are aware that coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef hit an all-time high since record keeping began back in the '80s.

“In 2022, the BR continues to recover, registering the highest levels of coral cover yet recorded in the Northern and Central regions over the past 36 years of monitoring. While recovery continued on many Southern GB reefs, regional coral cover declined slightly due to ongoing outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish in the Swain reefs.”



That’s good only in the sense that methane isn’t quite as bad as was previously thought. It’s still a very potent greenhouse gas. Instead of being 28 times worse than carbon dioxide, it’s “only” about 19 times as bad.

This finding doesn’t really change the need to reduce methane emissions.



Also good news in the sense that if methane were 30% more effective that would be bad news.

Other good news:

Phytoplankton need light and nutrients to grow. The microscopic algae rarely find both at the same time in sufficient quantities in the ocean…A new study led by the Helmholtz Center Hereon now says: Phytoplankton can migrate back and forth between deeper layers and the water surface. If this were confirmed, it would have enormous consequences for the calculations of the natural carbon pump and thus for current calculations of the carbon budget.

Seas and the ocean are one of our largest carbon sinks. Every year, they absorb about 30% of the CO2 produced by humans and thereby remove it from the atmosphere…“Previous models treat phytoplankton as passive particles, while a lot of evidence suggests that it actively migrates to take up carbon in upper layers via photosynthesis and to store nutrients in lower layers,” says Kai Wirtz…

According to the calculations of the team of authors…by 2100 about 40 gigatons more CO2 per year would be absorbed than current climate models predict. This corresponds to sixty times the carbon emissions of Germany and thus roughly 10% of our carbon budget. That would significantly adjust the world’s climate account upward.



This is good news for the food chain – marine microalgae are the base of the largest food web on Earth including krill, fish, penguins, and whales – as well as pulling CO2 from the atmosphere and producing oxygen…

Prof. Mock said: "For algae to produce food and to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, they need sunlight. The dilemma, though, is that the cellular machinery for using sunlight requires a lot of iron. However, 35% of the surface of the ocean does not have enough iron to support the growth of algae…

The research team discovered that algae have found a way to cope with nutrient starvation, by evolving an additional cellular machinery that allows them to use sunlight for growth without the need for iron.



Good news for me.

Bad news for Ms. Wolf.



It is good news only if kept under control. High algal blooms are often known as “red tides”. These harmful algal blooms release toxins that kill sea life. Satellite studies show a significant increase in the frequency of algal blooms in the 21st century likely due in large part to global warming. This is biological evidence that sea surface temperatures have risen significantly enough to impact living organisms over the past few decades.

We documented the relationship between the bloom trends and ocean circulation, and identified the stimulatory effects of recent increases in sea surface temperature. Coastal phytoplankton blooms expand and intensify in the 21st century | Nature

If warming increases the frequency and extent of algal blooms and harmful algal blooms occur when there is too much growth, what do you suppose the impact of continued warming will likely be?

Algal blooms also contribute to “dead zones.”



Since the adaptation discovered was useful in low nutrient conditions it doesn’t seem likely to be significant when it comes to algae blooms which are caused by excess nutrients.


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It seems likely to me that the adaptation will lower the amount of nutrients required to support a harmful algal bloom.

Only if those algae are iron-limited. The researchers did not mention your concern. They did mention the Southern Ocean:
“The team’s work is particularly relevant for the Southern Ocean, which is both the largest iron-limited aquatic ecosystem and among the most productive, supporting the largest populations of algae consumers.”


Correct me if I am wrong but my understanding is that the adaptation means that algae can grow independent of iron. As temperatures increase and iron becomes depleted in the oceans as modeled, there will be a strong selection for this adaptation. It will spread to other algal populations.

This means that algae populations that used to be constrained by the lack of iron will not be. This increases the potential of red tides in unpredictable ways.

Ecosystems are complex. When they get pushed out of balanced there are a lot of consequences, most of which are unanticipated.

You are right.

Probably not for this particular adaptation. The researchers also tested temperature dependence in this polar species and found none.


Not sure the relevance of that info. Phytoplankton levels have been declining in the Southern Sea for the last 30 years. This has been attributed to a decline in iron and indicates that the adaptation you describe is not present in most of the population. The decline in iron correlates with climate related stuff like lowering PH levels, rising water temps, and warmer summers that could alter ocean mixing, etc. If global warming is causing a decline in ocean iron, then this should be strong selection pressure favoring phytoplankton that can grow without iron.

This adaptation should then spread in the global phytoplankton population as climate warming continues. What you end up with is a phytoplankton population that is no longer limited by iron. IMO there are a lot of potential consequences to that including an increase in red tides.

Ryan-Keogh et al . present a 25-year-long record of irradiance-normalized nonphotochemical quenching by Southern Ocean phytoplankton, which they used to infer iron stress. They found that iron stress increased between 1996 and 2021, and that net primary production decreased as a result. These results are evidence of important ongoing changes to the Southern Ocean carbon cycle that have implications for climate change.