Arrhenius did very little research in the fields of climatology and geophysics, and considered any work in these fields a hobby. His basic approach was to apply knowledge of basic scientific principles to make sense of existing observations, while hypothesizing a theory on the cause of the Ice Age. Later on, his geophysical work would serve as a catalyst for the work of others.
In 1895, Arrhenius presented a paper to the Stockholm Physical Society titled, On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground. This article described an energy budget model that considered the radiative effects of carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) and water vapor on the surface temperature of the Earth, and variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. In order to proceed with his experiments, Arrhenius relied heavily on the experiments and observations of other scientists, including Josef Stefan, Arvid Gustaf Högbom, Samuel Langley, Leon Teisserenc de Bort, Knut Angstrom, Alexander Buchan, Luigi De Marchi, Joseph Fourier, C.S.M. Pouillet, and John Tyndall.
Arrhenius argued that variations in trace constituentsnamely
carbon dioxideof the atmosphere could greatly influence the heat
budget of the Earth. Using the best data available to him (and making
many assumptions and estimates that were necessary), he performed a
series of calculations on the temperature effects of increasing and
decreasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. His
calculations showed that the temperature of the Arctic regions would
rise about 8 degrees or 9 degrees Celsius, if the carbonic acid
increased 2.5 to 3 times its present value. In order to get the
temperature of the ice age between the 40th and 50th parallels, the
carbonic acid in the air should sink to 0.62 to 0.55 of present value
(lowering the temperature 4 degrees to 5 degrees Celsius).
|As Arrhenius predicted, both carbon dioxide levels and temperatures increased from 19001999. However, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased much more quickly than he expected, but the Earth hasn't warmed as much as he thought it would. (Graphs by Robert Simmon, based on data from NOAA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies)