the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion


Posted by Jeff Id on September 27, 2010

More rare than the alignment of four planets or a politician actually reducing government, it appears that Phil Jones and Anthony Watts have accidentally agreed with each other – at least a little bit.  By email, Anthony called my attention to a post he particularly liked by Juraj Vanovcan.  It’s well written and explains a point which seems rather obvious, the surface temperature of the ocean drives air temperature, not the other way around.  The total energy content of the ocean is about 1000 times greater than the atmosphere.  What’s not often understood by some is that the bulk of the ocean is very cold (3C ish) and only the surface is warm.  Flip the surface in exchange for cold deep water and you get at least a temporary but severe ice age.

Windows to the Universe original image

This link has an excellent layman’s description of the ocean temperatures.

Now today’s standard climate model theory expresses that aerosols (soot) suppressed past temperatures and in the 60’s and 70’s aerosol regulations cleaned the air enough to allow the full scale of global warming to begin to be realized.  Below is a global temperature curve by Zeke.

New GHCN global land temp dataset.

Even though CO2 output and accumulation was rising for the whole time period encompassed by this graph, the temperature only rose sharply since about 1970 .  The pros have often lectured us skeptical laypeople that aerosols are the only explanation.  Many have replied that the oceans drive temperatures because the ocean heat content is simply too great an influence and ocean temperature shifts are dominated by natural cycles.  I’ve never taken a position either way, but the aerosol explanation for the slowly rising and occasionally dropping temperatures up to 1970 never made much physical sense to me, simply because of the sudden stop in the trend followed by a strong rise.  However, many climate scientists have claimed it is impossible to explain these features in the temperature curves with natural variation and without aerosols.  IMO it is more likely due to ocean surface temperature changes than aerosols but is unproven.  I state this only on the basis of the magnitude of the energy involved.

Well today I ran across the first paper published by Dave Thompson and coauthored by Phil Jones since Dr. Jones (and others) were caught with their hands in the climategate cookie jar.   As a side note, it’s amazing that so many ‘reporters’ seem to lose their discriminatory capacity when it comes to flaws in the global warming consensus.  Every news article I ran across on the subject mentions that Phil was cleared of wrongdoing.  Anyway, I guess that’s why people read blogs instead of getting news from papers.

Andy Revkin has slightly less political approach – this time.  His article is worth reading because he solicited quite a bit of back and forth commentary from the climate community which was very interesting,  Apparently the paper highlights a four year anomaly variation between the NH an SH which can only be explained by salinity induced ocean currents which was not predicted by the models.  It also seems to explain the 1960-1980 cooling trend.

If someone could send me a full copy by email, it would be appreciated.  Link to the abstract is here.

In the climatologist replies at Dot Earth, several express concern over the ‘skeptics’ interpretation of this paper.  I’ve read only the abstract and the news articles, but this is a tiny bit more evidence that sophisticated computer models can be tweaked to match observations to a basic level and still be wrong.  We already know they overestimate the post 1970 trends by 2 to 4 times by MMH10, now it appears that the post 1980 trend may have been significantly increased by salinity induced reductions of the pre-1980 sea surface temperatures.  If we smooth the temperature curves by removing this particular ocean influence, you would get a more gradual exponential style rise to the temperatures measured today.  It leaves me to ask – doesn’t that mean that from the 30 year trend,  atmospheric temperature sensitivity to CO2 and aerosol forcing, has been overestimated even more?

From WUWT which copied this graph from physics world. Note the 1970 differential.

14 Responses to “Really?”

  1. Anthony Watts said

    Thanks Jeff.

    Your point about overturning of deep water and an ice-age is well taken. The downside of the SST maps we use and that get plastered all of the media is that they give only a “skin deep” impression of ocean heat content.

    It sure would be nice to have near real time access to ARGO data.

  2. ArndB said

    The new Thompson et al paper (Nature, Vol. 467) is needed as it puts the long missed focus on the ocean, although it was also done by N. S. Keenlyside et al (2008) “Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector“ Nature Vol.453.
    Presumably more significant is that Quirin Schiermeier announced it at Nature News as a small sensation: “Three-tenths of a degree may seem a small dip — but, for climate researchers, the discovery that a large patch of the ocean cooled by 0.3 °C within a few years around 1970 is a small sensation. “ see: Quirin Schiermeier, 22 September 2010, Nature 467, 381 (2010), „When the North Atlantic caught a chill – Surface cooling could have pushed down temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere 40 years ago.”

    Actually sciences has lost many decades of investigating what really matters in climatic research, the ocean. Many questions are still not raised, and many will not be answered for a long time as it took a bit long to reach this stage. How long will it take from now until we know if and how human activities influence the marine environment concerning climate matters. This could presumably be very quickly be answered by the role the naval wars during WWI and WWII played in the warming of the Arctic and Northern Hemisphere from 1919 to 1939 and during the initial phase of the global cooling from 1940 to the mid 1970 , which the reference paper by Juraj Vanovcan describes as “a string of cold years in early 1940s (much more pronounced in the Central/Eastern European record)” see: WUWT, 26.Sept. 2010.

  3. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Hi jeff,

    The well mixed surface layer is formed whenever there is warning from below/cooling from above. That is, it is mainly formed via thermal convection. Claims of wave/wind driven formation of the mixed layer are grossly overstated (and misleading at best). At higher latitudes the depth of the well mixed layer varies with season, becoming quite deep in the winter due to surface cooling. At high latitudes in summer, there is little or no well mixed layer, because there is not enough time for the sun to warm the water at depth to higher than the surface temperatures… to much cold carried over from the previous winter…. so no convective mixing in summer.

    In the tropics, the depth of the mixed layer is controlled mainly by the balance between absorption of solar energy from above and loss of heat due to turbulent mixing with colder water from below. As the intensity of light falls (along a roughly exponential decay curve) with depth, the solar heat being delivered at depth from absorbed sunlight declines exponentially in lockstep. So long as the heat from absorbed sunlight at any depth is greater than the heat lost to (very weak!) turbulent mixing with colder/deeper water, the excess heat can only escape from the ocean surface via convection; evaporative surface cooling allows escape of this heat to the atmosphere. When the rate of solar heat gain exactly equals the rate of heat lost to turbulent down-mixing, there is a reasonably sharp transition between the constant “mixed surface layer” temperature and the (exponentially) declining temperature profile of the thermocline.

    Note that if all solar heat were delivered only at the ocean surface (if water were nearly opaque to sunlight) there would be little or no well mixed layer in the tropics, only an exponential temperature profile from surface to depth, very much like the shape of the present thermocline below the well mixed layer. It is convection that forms the well mixed layer, not physical mixing from wind/waves.

  4. Steve Fitzpatrick said


    Hi Anthony,

    There is some real-time access:

    You can download profiles from any float anywhere on Earth. There is currently no real-time estimate of ocean heat content, but someone could develop one; all the data files are continuously available. Josh Willis at NASA JPL has said he plans to do this. I expect including reasonable quality control routines would make it a bit complicated to program. Someone who already has calculated ocean heat from ARGO data like Craig Loehle would seem to be a reasonable candidate, but he would probably need some funding.

  5. kim said

    Kevin, Josh, and Pielke Pere had a nice conversation a few months ago in which the latter two tried to convince the first that the data does not show his missing heat being transported below.

  6. BarryW said

    This has been commented on a number of times, but the drop in the 1945 time frame still has me wondering if it’s really there or just a measurement artifact. The temp data still appears to be a sinusoidal pattern with a 60 yr term overlayed with a trend, so starting from 1880 to now is measuring trough to peak.

  7. Don Keiller said

    This article is relevant and timely

    Stephen Budiansky: The Teflon Doomsayers

    Liberal Curmudgeon Blog, 26 September 2010

    In The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley offers example after spectacular example of a phenomenon that has baffled me ever since I began covering environmental issues in my first job in journalism thirty years ago: to wit, that while the entire presumable goal, purpose, and raison d’être of applied environmental science is to solve environmental problems, any environmental scientist who dares to suggest that problems are being solved is asking for trouble. As Ridley observes, we have arrived at a state where even the most wildly irrational pessimism is treated with reverence, while the most cautiously sober optimism is ridiculed.

    Some of this is human nature and was ever thus; intellectuals, as The Rational Optimistreminds us, have been decrying modernism ever since modernism began. Actually, I wouldn’t stop there: the belief in a lost golden age is as old as civilization, as is the intellectual vanity of casting oneself as the lone uncorrupted voice in the wilderness. A few thousand years before Dostoevsky, Malthus, George Orwell, and Paul Ehrlich, the Hebrew prophets were pouring out gloom and dismay with the best of them, dismissing the superficial comforts of the civilized world and its material rewards as a fool’s paradise. Pessimism is what people with deep minds and deep souls have; optimism is what idiots with vacant grins on their faces have.

    Pessimism is of course a proven fund-raising tool; “save the whales!” is always going to bring in more cash than “the whales are being saved!” But much more than that, we have today the amusingly ironic spectacle of tenured professors with salaries, health insurance, lifetime job security, and excellent retirement plans courtesy of TIAA-CREF being showered with worldly rewards (bestselling books, “genius” awards) for telling us that progress is an illusion and the end is near . . . while still preening themselves as daring outsiders courageously taking on the mighty and powerful. The fact that it takes no daring at all to adopt such an intellectual posture these days does not stop any of the practitioners of this business model from invariably announcing themselves to be the bearers of “dangerous” or “heretical” ideas and congratulating themselves for “speaking truth to power.”

    So there are understandable reasons why it pays to say that things have gone to hell and will continue to go to hell.

    What I find almost inexplicable in all of this, however, is how the scientific doomsayers get away over and over again with making predictions that are fabulously, ridiculously — and demonstrably — incorrect, without the slightest repercussions upon their credibility or careers. Predictions of impending doom are published based on absurd methodologies and threadbare evidence of a kind that in the normal course of scientific affairs would be sufficient to ruin careers ten times over, and the authors walk away from them without a scratch.

    Full essay

  8. Retired Engineer said

    An Air Force meteorologist tells me that almost all climate models assume an ocean depth of 1 meter. Which removes most of the heat content issue. And makes the models less useful, but easier to generate.

    As for thermoclines, anyone who studies the history of submarines knows that’s where you hide to keep enemy destroyers from destroying you. The depth can vary greatly from place to place. You hope it above your crush depth.

    Maximum water density occurs a tad below 4C, but in some parts of the ocean, that won’t happen at the bottom due to volcanic activity. Which should make for some interesting convection currents. And making the climate models even harder.

    So, we still don’t know what we don’t know.

  9. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    The coupled climate models (CGCM’s) include a complete (deep) ocean model. Some earlier models included only a ‘slab’ ocean of some specified thickness. How accurately these ocean circulation models mimic the behavior of the ocean is a different question.

    In the ocean, the temperature for maximum density is reduced by dissolved salt. Maximum density is 4C only for fresh water. It is -2C for sea water… that is, at the temperature where water freezes out of sea water.

  10. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Retired Engineer (Sep 27 11:02),

    Salinity alters the density/temperature curve for water. For the salinity of sea water, the maximum density is below the freezing point.

    Scroll down to get to the section on density.

  11. Jeff Id said

    A reader sent me the whole paper. I’ve partially read it and will finish later.

  12. tonyb said

    This is a worthwhile link of global av SST’s

    It could usefully be used with the individual data points that Steve referred to in #4


  13. Steve H said

    Re #1


    Isn’t this as close to real time as you probably will get?

    Although, I just checked and this is on this website:

    “Monthly updates to the Atlas have temporarily stopped as of July 2010. The Argo gridded data product is changing rapidly right now with the pressure correction being applied in many delayed mode files. When the grid reaches a stable point, the monthly updates will resume.”

  14. Brian H said

    #7, Don;
    Your link isn’t there. So I Scroogled it:

    Thx for the heads-up!

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