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AGU: Geophysical Research Letters



  • carbon cycle
  • CO2 emissions
  • climate change

Index Terms

  • Oceanography: Biological and Chemical: Biogeochemical cycles, processes, and modeling
  • Biogeosciences: Carbon cycling
  • Global Change: Atmosphere


Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?

Wolfgang Knorr

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Several recent studies have highlighted the possibility that the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems have started loosing part of their ability to sequester a large proportion of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This is an important claim, because so far only about 40% of those emissions have stayed in the atmosphere, which has prevented additional climate change. This study re-examines the available atmospheric CO2 and emissions data including their uncertainties. It is shown that with those uncertainties, the trend in the airborne fraction since 1850 has been 0.7 ± 1.4% per decade, i.e. close to and not significantly different from zero. The analysis further shows that the statistical model of a constant airborne fraction agrees best with the available data if emissions from land use change are scaled down to 82% or less of their original estimates. Despite the predictions of coupled climate-carbon cycle models, no trend in the airborne fraction can be found.

Received 18 August 2009; accepted 23 September 2009; published 7 November 2009.

Citation: Knorr, W. (2009), Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L21710, doi:10.1029/2009GL040613.

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