Uncovered: CO2 In Modern Ice Reaches 900 – 70,000 ppm – Wildly Incompatible With Atmospheric Levels

It’s considered canonical that global-scale atmospheric levels of CO2 from thousands of years ago can be precisely discerned just by examining air bubbles in ancient snow and ice from Antarctica. But an examination of the CO2 levels in modern snow and ice shows there are gigantic discrepancies between the measurements of CO2 in ice versus the atmosphere.

We know from 20th century observations that the snow that falls on the surface of polar climates can, within decades, be entombed far below the surface as compact glacial ice. For example, a plane that landed on the surface snow of the Greenland ice sheet in 1942 was recovered with more than 100 meters of ice accumulation piled atop it (AVweb, 2018).

Image Source: AVweb, 2018

Since 1973, Barrow, Alaska has been one of the few sites on Earth where global atmospheric CO2 has been systematically monitored. In the last 50 years, CO2 has risen from about 325 ppm to today’s 415 ppm.

But the CO2 measurements in the Barrow snow (16 meters above the surface) show CO2 ranges from 800 to 2100 ppm (Coyne and Kelley, 1974) at this site. The CO2 levels in Barrow snow can even fluctuate by as much as 900 ppm in a span of 2 hours. Neither one of these conditions are compatible with what happens with atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Image Source: Coyne and Kelley, 1974

Atmospheric CH4 (methane) concentrations are said to average 1.8 ppm today, more than double (0.7 ppm) what they were in the last century. In the High Arctic, however, CH4 levels reach 600 ppm and CO2 can be as high as 3,800 ppm in the surface snow, fluctuating by 100s of ppm within distances of centimeters (Pirk et al., 2016).

Image Source: Pirk et al., 2016

Seasonal snowpack exposed to meadow soil has CO2 concentrations fluctuating between 8,400 and 10,000 ppm from one year to the next in Colorado (Liptzin et al., 2009). CO2 ranges from 600 to 1,800 ppm in Wyoming, changing by 200 ppm at the same location within a matter of days (Massman and Frank, 2006).

Image Source: Liptzin et al., 2009

Image Source: Massman and Frank, 2006

At varied depths, Greenland ice has CO2 ranging from 357 to 641 at 20 meters and 243 to 436 ppm at 70 meters (Schwander et al., 1993).

Image Source: Schwander et al., 1993

In other Greenland ice samples, differences in melt layer contributions allows CO2 to fluctuate between 300 and 684 ppm within a 0.39 m ice core, with the mean concentration 660 ppm (Stauffer et al., 1985).

Image Source: Stauffer et al., 1985

CO2 in glacier ice from Norway has concentrations “three times those of air in the upper ice” (~850 to 1,100 ppm), with variations dependent on the sample locations (Coachman et al., 1958).

Image Source: Coachman et al., 1958

The “bubbles in Greenland icebergs” has CO2 readings of 1,500 to 2,100 ppm at some of the 25 assessed locations, then dipping to below 300 ppm at other sites (Scholander et al., 1961).

Image Source: Scholander et al., 1961

Glaciers in the Alps have atmospherically identical gas concentrations for N2, O2, and Ar (78%, 21%, and 09%, respectively), but the CO2 levels in alpine glacier ice is “approximately 50 times as great as in air” (Weiss et al., 1972). In fact, the CO2 concentrations ranged up to 18,200 and 70,100 ppm in some samples.

Image Source: Weiss et al., 1972

Antarctica is said to be the source of the most reliable and accurate ice core evidence for paleo CO2 measurements. And while the N2, O2, and Ar gas percentages are atmospherically consistent, the CO2 concentrations range from 840 to 2,900 ppm in modern Antarctic glaciers and icebergs (Matsuo and Miyake, 1966).

Worse, scientists report “the CO2 content in Greenland glacier ice is significantly higher (from 1.0 to 16.3%) than in Antarctic ice.” To clarify, that’s 10,000 to 163,000 ppm for CO2 measurements from Greenland ice.

Image Source: Matsuo and Miyake, 1966

Another assessment comparing gas concentrations in Antarctic versus Greenland ice also unearthed massive discrepancies. Again, while N2, O2, and Ar percentages were atmospherically identical in both Greenland and Antarctic ice, CO2 was substantially different, with “the Camp Century value (0.35 percent) [3,500 ppm] being greater than that of the station Byrd (0.13 percent)” [1,300 ppm] (Demas, 1977).

Thousands of years old (Holocene) ice cores had CO2 values rising to levels of 5,500, 5,900, 6,700 ppm, and 7,400 ppm at Camp Century (Greenland).

Image Source: Delmas, 1977

All these wildly disparate CO2 readings from modern and ancient ice at locations throughout the globe beg this question:

If the modern concentrations of CO2 measured in ice do not even remotely resemble the atmospheric concentrations of CO2, why is it assumed that thousands of years old ice accurately represents thousands of years old atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

11 responses to “Uncovered: CO2 In Modern Ice Reaches 900 – 70,000 ppm – Wildly Incompatible With Atmospheric Levels”

  1. Petit_Barde

    Great post !

    To add some more fuss on this CO2 mess 🙂 :

    The CO2 data fiddling with the aim to connect CO2 to climate began with Callendar in the late 30s (see below).

    Extract from Ernst-Georg Beck’s paper “180 Years of Atmospheric Co2 Gas Analysis by Chemical Methods” :

    “More than 90,000 accurate chemical analyses of CO2 in air since 1812 are summarised. The historic chemical data reveal that changes in CO2 track changes in temperature, and therefore climate in contrast to the simple, monotonically increasing CO2 trend depicted in the post-1990 literature on climate-change. Since 1812, the CO2 concentration in northern hemispheric air has fluctuated exhibiting three high level maxima around 1825, 1857 and 1942 the latter showing more than 400 ppm.

    Between 1857 and 1958, the Pettenkofer process was the standard analytical method for determining atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and usually achieved an accuracy better than 3%. These determinations were made by several scientists of Nobel Prize level distinction. Following Callendar (1938), modern climatologists have generally ignored the historic determinations of CO2, despite the techniques being standard text book procedures in several different disciplines. Chemical methods were discredited as unreliable choosing only few which fit the assumption of a climate CO2 connection.”


    1. Richard Greene


      (1) The Pettenkofer method is capable of making accurate CO2 measurements.

      (2) The next step is to measure CO2 repeatedly in an appropriate location that should represent a global average, over many decades.

      (3) Step (2) was not done, therefore the measurements are not useful for defining the global average CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

      For over two decades, I have had questions about the accuracy of using air bubbles in ice cores for estimating CO2 concentrations prior to 1958.

      We are repeatedly told the pre-industrial climate was somehow ‘perfect’ and any change since then is a climate emergency.

      Pre-industrial used to have an definition, such as “1750”, although it seems to have lost that definition.

      Assuming 1750, how do we even know the climate in 1750 ?

      There were a few weather stations in England, and then there are Antarctica ice cores.

      That led me to three questions”
      (1) Why was the 1750 climate ‘ideal’?
      (2) Are ice cores good enough to define 1750 “climate”, and
      (3) Many people living in 1750 thought their climate was too cold, so why do we ignore their anecdotes ?

      I’ve not been able to answer those three questions since 1997. In fact, I know even less now — “pre-industrial” is no longer called “1750”, and I don’t know a specific pre-industrial date to analyze.

      Modern climate science is mainly junk science, IMHO.

  2. William Astley

    The evidence is that the ice core CO2 analysis is not reliable and/or it has been adjusted to agree with either confirmation bias or to support the CAGW agenda.

    For example, the Antarctic/Greenland ice sheet CO2 proxy data does not agree with CO2 proxy data determined from analyzing plant leaf fossils to determine CO2 levels based on the number of stomata on the plant leaves.

    The stomata data shows that the atmospheric CO2 has increased and decreased in the last 2000 years correlating with temperature changes.

    Salby and others have shown that the recent rise in atmospheric does not correlate with anthropogenic CO2 emissions. As Salby, noted in his lecture, that result/conclusion is physically possible, if there is a large accounted for source low of C13 CO2, that is constantly being pushed into the biosphere. This accounted for source of C02 has/would require that there is a large unaccounted for sink of CO2 which is the sequestration of organic material in the deep ocean.

    CAGW/AGW assumed that the only new source of CO2/water into the biosphere is from volcanic eruptions. This is the recycled theory of water and CO2 which is directly connected to the so-called late veneer theory.

    There are multiple observations/analysis results, that support the assertion that there is a large unaccounted-for source of primordial low C13 content, CH4 that is constantly being pushed into the biosphere. This source of CH4 is the source of the water on the surface of the planet and the source that enables plants to constantly remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester carbon and to make up the water that is lost to mantle when the ocean plates are pushed into the mantle and the water that is constantly being stripped from the earth’s atmosphere by the solar wind.

    The Leaf CO2 proxy data analysis shows that atmospheric CO2, has in recent past (last 2000 years), physically increased and decreased correlating, with short term temperature changes.

    “At this point one should note that the ocean is composed of more than its 75 m thick top layer and its deep, and that it indeed contains organics.

    The residence time of suspended POC (particular organic carbon; carbon pool of about 1000 giga-tonnes; some 130% of the atmospheric carbon pool) in the deep sea is only 5-10 years.

    This alone would consume all possible man-made CO2 from the total fossil fuel reservoir (some 7200 giga-tonnes) if burned during the next 300 years, because this covers 6 to 15 turnovers of the upper-ocean pool of POC, based on radiocarbon (carbon-14) studies (Toggweiler, 1990; Druffel & Williams, 1990; see also Jaworowski et al., 1992 a).”


    The finding that the atomic bomb C14 was sequestered in the deep ocean is a paradigm change that disproves the CO2 recycling theory and disproves CAGW/AGW. If humans did not cause the recent rise in atmospheric CO2, then the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 could not have caused the warming.


    ‘Bomb Carbon’ from Cold War Nuclear Tests Found in the Ocean’s Deepest Trenches

    Bottom feeders
    Organic matter in the amphipods’ guts held carbon-14, but the carbon-14 levels in the amphipods’ bodies were much higher. Over time, a diet rich in carbon-14 likely flooded the amphipods’ tissues with bomb carbon, the scientists concluded.

    Ocean circulation alone would take centuries to carry bomb carbon to the deep sea. But thanks to the ocean food chain, bomb carbon arrived at the seafloor far sooner than expected, lead study author Ning Wang, a geochemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, said in a statement.

    1. Richard Greene

      William Astley
      Analysis of your comment:
      Does not support CO2 is the devil in the sky narrative
      Must be censored.

      But seriously now. I read at least 10 climate science and energy articles a day and their comments, 364 days a year. This was an exceptionally good article and your comment was exceptional too — one of the best I’ve read this year — and I think you deserve positive feedback.

  3. pochas94

    So CO2 analysis of ice cores is meaningless if CO2 is being emitted under the ice. Just stating the obvious.

  4. John F Hultquist

    Did I miss an explanation?

  5. Dave

    You guys must be psychic. I was just thinking about this two days ago…wondering if an ice core in a sub zero climate conditions could reasonably compare to Mauna Loa measures. You have exceeded my expectations. Thank you.

  6. Géd

    The plane was NOT recovered with more than 100 meters of ice accumulation piled atop it.

    The explanation is included in the article whose link you give (AVweb, 2018) : “the aircraft were abandoned and gradually sank into the ice.”

    1. Frank Lasee

      There have been other planes recovered from Greenland ice from WW2.

  7. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #454 – Watts Up With That?

    […] Uncovered: CO2 In Modern Ice Reaches 900 – 70,000 ppm – Wildly Incompatible With Atmosph… […]

  8. Ulric Lyons

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