Now Eli, in his time, has been quite hard on the late Ernst Beck, but he is here to praise (time will tell) some of his work. In the course of trying and failing to understand the global changes of CO2, Beck was quite impressed by some of the worst scientific work ever done, and unimpressed by some of the best, but in the course put together a bibliography of just about every published measurement back to the year dot, and some before.
Georg Hoffmann pointed out that
In a wonderful example of how blunders can become features, Eli was wandering through the AGU hall of 10,000 posters when he came across "CO2 Megaparis: An intensive study of CO2 emissions from Paris megacity (in collaboration with the EU project MEGAPOLI)," given by Irene Xueref-Remy reprising their EGU presentation earlier in the year. The group has been measuring mixing ratios all around the city and surroundings for a while
Secondly, nearly all early sampling facilities were tested in continental environments often under the sporadic influence of heavily polluted air masses (such as Paris, Parc Montsouris, Copenhagen, Dieppe etc.). How large is the influence of such “CO2 pollution”? A quick tour through my car-traffic-saturated home town, Paris, can give us a good first impression:
- Jardin Luxembourg (major but still tiny green spot in the center of Paris) 425ppm
- Place de la Bastille: 430ppm
- Place de l’Etoile (the crazy huge roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe): 508ppm
- And the winner was Place de la Nation: 542ppm (ie 160ppm over background!).
All these measurements by David Widory and Marc Javoy (reference below) were snapshot measurements, but they show how CO2 concentrations can vary strongly due to nearby fossil fuel combustion. Even in apparently “natural” environments there are many technical pitfalls to avoid. Strong CO2 fluxes due to the breathing (i.e. photosynthesis and respiration) of the biosphere are producing large diurnal cycles. A sampling site too close to the surface or shielded by a surrounding forest can easily bias the CO2 signal by several dozens of ppm.
Nowadays, CO2 emissions from Ile-de-France are known only through inventories, but no independant verification has been provided. Furthermore, the role and variability of the different emission types need to be better assessed. We present here the project CO2-MEGAPARIS funded by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche, that aims to verify inventories from Ile-de-France through the use of powerful modeling and observational tools, at an hourly scale and a spatial resolution up to 2.5 x 2.5 km2.In discussing the poster with Dr Xueref-Remy, Eli mentioned that there were some seriously old measurements, which were probably reasonable, but of course determined by the local situation. Did she know about them. . . well no, never heard of the things, so the bunny forwarded the appropriate links with appropriate warnings.
Which, just shows that amateurs have their uses
Uncle Eli has always admired astronomy, botany, and zoology as sciences with important amateur participation. By nurturing the large community of those interested in the science these fields have built important support groups, and amateurs have made important contributions. Many amateurs become obsessed with relatively narrow and previously trodden areas. Within those areas their knowledge often exceeds that of professionals. To Eli the most important thing is that people get to experience the joy of science.but even they have their unexpected pluses.
What amateurs lack as a group is perspective, an understanding of how everything fits together and a sense of proportion. Graduate training is designed to pass lore from advisers to students. You learn much about things that didn't work and therefore were never published . . In short the kind of local knowledge that allows one to cut through the published literature thicket.
But this lack makes amateurs prone to get caught in the traps that entangled the professionals' grandfathers, and it can be difficult to disabuse them of their discoveries. Especially problematical are those who want science to validate preconceived political notions, and those willing to believe they are Einstein and the professionals are fools. Put these two types together and you get a witches brew of ignorance and attitude.
Unfortunately climate science is as sugar to flies for those types.