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CO2 Obsession Takes Over NASA(‘s Press Releases)

With the most classical of globalwarmist sleight-of-hand, a Nov 6 press release by NASA titled “A Tale of Planetary Woe” surreptitiously changed the focus of MAVEN, a whole new mission to Mars scheduled to reach the planet in 2014.

Look at the following words:

Why did Mars dry up and freeze over? […] One way or another, scientists believe, Mars must have lost its most precious asset: its thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide. CO2 in Mars’s atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, just as it is in our own atmosphere. A thick blanket of CO2 and other greenhouse gases would have provided the warmer temperatures and greater atmospheric pressure required to keep liquid water from freezing solid or boiling away.

My first reaction was a “Wow!” followed by “Finally a CO2 mission by NASA!” (yes, the greenhouse effect has so far been singularly of absolute disinterest for planetary scientists, for some reason).

Alas, the feeling didn’t survive a quick investigation about MAVEN…

For example, from the MAVEN Fact Sheet, “Science Objectives”:

Determine the role that loss of volatiles from the Mars atmosphere ot space has played through time, allowing us to understand the histories of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability

No mention of CO2 or of blankets. And no mention of them in the MAVEN mission page either:

Mars once had a denser atmosphere that supported the presence of liquid water on the surface. As part of a dramatic climate change, most of the Martian atmosphere was lost. MAVEN will make definitive scientific measurements of present-day atmospheric loss that will offer clues about the planet’s history.

The Principal Investigator for MAVEN is renowned Mars expert Dr Bruce M Jakosky of the University of Colorado (can be seen in a video at this page). I haven’t been able to find anything abour Dr Jakosky showing any specific interest in an ancient thick atmosphere of carbon dioxidewith or without greenhouse warming characteristics.

Given also the amount of time needed to put together a space mission, and the various review stages any proposal has to go through, we can safely consider any newly-found CO2 focus for MAVEN as an artifact introduced by whomever decided the gist of the Nov 6 NASA press release.

And luckily so: there is very little we know about the Martian atmosphere, hence any undue assumption such as obsessing with CO2 as a greenhouse gas would risk making us miss out important observations.

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  1. Paul Middents
    2009/11/14 at 07:04

    I have read the originals about MAVEN. What I said concerning your understanding of volatiles was not a “hint”.

    A principle reason for studying planetary science has always been to better understand the earth.

    Your climate blog is political, not scientific.

    I tired to read the “omnologus manifesto” and you seem to think that knowing a little about a lot qualifies you to opine on most anything.

    Your blog is a waste of my time.

    Bye.

    • 2009/11/14 at 07:11

      nobody’s forced you to read or write anything here, you know 😎

  2. Paul Middents
    2009/11/14 at 06:05

    The spin is in your own head!

    Anyone who knows anything about planetary atmospheres knows that Mars has always had a predominantly CO2 atmosphere. Thick once perhaps and now very thin. That NASA chooses to explicitly talk about it now is hardly remarkable.

    MAVEN is and always has been a CO2 (among other things) fact finding mission. Why isn’t this obvious? What political or scientific significance does anything you have written about this have?

    If you don’t know what a volatile is why should anyone take you seriously on anything involving planetary science?

    • 2009/11/14 at 06:44

      Your hint about me not knowing the meaning of “volatiles” is too ridiculous too comment. What is obvious is that you have not bothered read the originals about MAVEN. Among all the things MAVEN is officially meant to do, there is no mention of CO2 in particular. None at all. This is the fact. There is mention of lots of “obvious” stuff, but not a pip about CO2.

      Clearly, the scientists behind MAVEN are interested in all sorts of volatiles, including CO2 but without giving it any pre-eminence of sorts.

      The press release, on the other hand, is almost exclusively about CO2. IMNSHO, that is because mentioning CO2 and greenhouse gases makes it easier for a press release to get into the news in 2009, rather than the scientifically correct but mediatically too generic term of “volatiles”. And so…CO2 obsession has officially taken over NASA’s press office.

      If Armstrong and Aldrin were flying tomorrow, we would be hearing about the importance of exploring the Moon to understand the history of climatic change on Earth. And the main reason of the Viking mission, as everybody from now will surely have to keep in mind, was to investigate the Martian atmosphere in order to elucidate the role of CO2 as a greenhouse gas. And so on and so forth.

  3. Paul Middents
    2009/11/14 at 04:33

    If the Martian atmosphere was mostly CO2 to start with, then figuring out where its gone has to involve finding where the CO2 has gone. That should be obvious to the most casual observer. That NASA should explicitly say this does not strike me as unusual or untoward.

    Unless of course you dispute that a primitive Martian atmosphere was mostly CO2. If it wasn’t, what was it?

    • 2009/11/14 at 05:48

      Cheese! It was made of evaporated cheese!

      Seriously, Paul, for the third time: the scientists have been putting together for years a mission to study the history of the atmosphere of Mars. Mentions of CO2 in particular: zero. But now the press release talks of CO2 in dramatic tones, as if MAVEN were a CO2-fact-finding mission.

      If you can’t see the “spin”, I don’t think I will be able to explain it to you.

  4. Paul Middents
    2009/11/13 at 21:55

    From Wiki:

    “Volatiles, a group of compounds with low boiling points that are associated with a planet’s or moon’s crust and/or atmosphere”

    I believe the term “volatiles” when used in reference to an atomosphere includes CO@.

    Paul

  5. Paul Middents
    2009/11/13 at 21:17

    A very quick Google Scholar search yielded the following::

    “The total loss from solar-wind-induced sputtering and photochemical escape, therefore, does not seem able to explain the loss of a putative thick, early atmosphere without requiring formation of extensive surface carbonate deposits or other nonatmospheric reservoirs for CO2.”

    from an abstract from a 1994 article by Jakowsky.

    That Mars once might have had a thick, primarily CO2, atmosphere is not controversial. The process by which Mars lost this atmosphere is of significant interest.

    I’m afraid I don’t quite get the point of your post.

    Paul Middents

    • 2009/11/13 at 23:42

      It is one thing to look for clues on where the “dense atmosphere” has gone to (and that’s what the MAVEN researchers are going to do). It is another to assume it’s all been CO2 getting lost somewhere (and that’s what appears in the press release). The contrast between the published mission goals and the spin of “A Tale of Planetary Woes” could not have been clearer.

  6. douglas harris
    2009/11/10 at 19:35

    From
    http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet,

    the pressure of co2 at the surface of Mars is 15 times the co2 pressure on Earth. In fact Mars has about 30 times more atmospheric co2 than Earth. Yet, the greenhouse effect is essentially ZERO = (avg surface temp) – (black body temp).

    Absolute pressure is needed for greenhouse effect. If one added, say, Argon to the Mars atmosphere, the greenhouse effect increases.

    Some alarmists may say: Not fair! Mars is further away than Earth and look at Venus!
    The greenhouse effect (due to co2) of Venus is 505.3K = (737-231.7)K, with a surface pressure of 92 atm. As a very crude measure of greenhouse as a pressure effect, I look at
    (greenhouse effect)/(atmospheric effect): Venus (co2) = 5.5K/atm, Earth (h20) = 33K/atm;
    Uranus (ch4) = 17K/atm. By this crude measure, co2 is the weakest of greenhouse gas between co2, h2o and ch4. And Uranus is much further away from the Sun than Mars.

    For Jupiter (ch4) and Saturn (ch4), (greenhouse effect)/(atmospheric effect) is around 53K/atm; they may be outliers since many astronomers believe that gas is still being compressed due to gravity after billions of years.

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