A case in point: The Keeling Curve

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The time series of atmospheric CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa, Hawaii,  started by Dave Keeling in 1958.

History of the Mauna Loa Time Series

Begun by Keeling as part of IGY in 1958 with support from the Weather Bureau

Seasonal cycle emerged in first year, confirmed by second years data

Weather Bureau funding was cut in 1963, as long term rise in CO2 was just emerging.

NSF funding was secured till 1973, when concerns arose that it was too “routine”

Constant battle for funding with NSF through the 70’s

NSF would not support “routine monitoring”

NOAA and DOE provide 80% of NSF funding in 1979 if he agreed not to apply again. (Or “calibrated reviewers” would be found if he were unwise enough to re-apply)

•DOE funding promised for 2 years (1982) but Reagan DOE shake-up disturbed this arrangement.

•NSF again for 1983 (new program manager but still no “routine monitoring”)

•NOAA trying to take over Mauna Loa record but methods did not agree.

•NOAA and DOE for 1984

1985 – DOE/Oak Ridge but the proposal had to promise “two discoveries per year”

DOE funding cut after two years, but restored by Admiral Watkins.  Continued to 1994.  NOAA since then.

DOE decided that “Research on the global carbon cycle will be redirected towards focused efforts related to terrestrial carbon processes”  Fortunately, Keeling was able to argue for such relevance.

Why continue with the struggle?
"Data gathered became more and more fascinating as the records lengthened.  They did not appear to be subject to the law of diminishing returns."  ---D. Keeling




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Last updated June 6, 2008
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