What is the fate of CO2 produced by fossil fuel combustion?

Students consider why the observed atmospheric CO2 increase rate is only ~60% of the CO2 loading rate due to fossil fuel combustion. They develop a box-model to simulate the atmospheric CO2 increase during the industrial era and compare it to the historic observations of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The model is then used to forecast future concentrations of atmospheric CO2 during the next century.

Go To:

Paul Quay
University of Washington. This activity is hosted by the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College

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Teaching Tips

The reference is no longer available at the URL given in the resource. It can be found by a search on the Physics Today website or at this URL: http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/related_files/jls0202.pdf

Discussion of carbon isotopes and how we know, by comparing carbon isotope ratios, that recent increases in CO2 in the atmosphere is from the burning of fossil fuels: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/how-do-we-know-tha...