Compo and Sardeshmukh: Oceans a main driver of climate variability – it’s the heat AND the humidity.

Illustration only: not part of the paper

This paper has been out for a few days, and several people have alerted me to it. This new paper by Compo,G.P., and P.D. Sardeshmukh, 2008: Oceanic influences on recent continental warming. in the journal Climate Dynamics, is now in press. See the PDF here

This paper makes some significant claims regarding what is driving the observed climate changes. The emphasis is on the ocean as the main driving component, and the authors recognize that “a combination of natural and anthropogenic influences” may be at work. While they point to the oceans as a significant driver, they don’t offer much to explain what is driving the oceanic change.

Even so, this is a significant work, and I urge my visitors to read it, because it shows that GHG forcing is not the only occupant of the drivers seat. It also clearly illustrates the need to examine such cyclic ocean influences as the PDO and AMO more closely, and to consider them in projections of temperature.


“Evidence is presented that the recent worldwide land warming has occurred largely in response to a worldwide warming of the oceans rather than as a direct response to increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) over land. Atmospheric model simulations of the last half-century with prescribed observed ocean temperature changes, but without prescribed GHG changes, account for most of the land warming. The oceanic influence has occurred through hydrodynamic-radiative teleconnections, primarily by moistening and warming the air over land and increasing the downward longwave radiation at the surface. The oceans may themselves have warmed from a combination of natural and anthropogenic influences.”


“In summary, our results emphasize the significant role of remote oceanic influences, rather than the direct local effect of anthropogenic radiative forcings, in the recent continental warming. They suggest that the recent oceanic warming has caused the continents to warm through a different set of mechanisms than usually identified with the global impacts of SST changes. It has increased the humidity of the atmosphere, altered the atmospheric vertical motion and associated cloud fields, and perturbed the longwave and shortwave radiative fluxes at the continental surface. While continuous global measurements of most of these changes are not available through the 1961-2006 period, some humidity observations are available and do show upward trends over the continents. These include near-surface observations (Dai 2006) as well as satellite radiance measurements sensitive to upper tropospheric moisture (Soden et al. 2005).”

Although not a focus of this study, the degree to which the oceans themselves have recently warmed due to increased GHG, other anthropogenic, natural solar and volcanic forcings, or internal multi-decadal climate variations is a matter of active investigation (Stott et al. 2006; Knutson et al. 2006; Pierce et al. 2006). Reliable assessments of these contributing factors depend critically on reliable estimations of natural climate variability, either from the observational record or from coupled climate model simulations without anthropogenic forcings. Several recent studies suggest that the observed SST variability may be misrepresented in the coupled models used in preparing the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, with substantial errors on interannual and decadal scales (e.g., Shukla et al. 2006, DelSole, 2006; Newman 2007; Newman et al. 2008). There is a hint of an underestimation of simulated decadal SST variability even in the published IPCC Report (Hegerl et al. 2007, FAQ9.2 Figure 1). Given these and other misrepresentations of natural oceanic variability on decadal scales (e.g., Zhang and McPhaden 2006), a role for natural causes of at least some of the recent oceanic warming should not be ruled out.

Regardless of whether or not the rapid recent oceanic warming has occurred largely from anthropogenic or natural influences, our study highlights its importance in accounting for the recent observed continental warming. Perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn from our analysis is that the recent acceleration of global warming may not be occurring in quite the manner one might have imagined. The indirect and substantial role of the oceans in causing the recent continental warming emphasizes the need to generate reliable projections of ocean temperature changes over the next century, in order to generate more reliable projections of not just the global mean temperature and precipitation changes (Barsugli et al. 2006), but also regional climate changes.”

Roger Pielke writes in his blog:

This is a major scientific conclusion, and the authors should be recognized for this achievement. If these results are robust, it further documents that a regional perspective of climate variabilty and change must be adopted, rather than a focus on a global average surface temperature change, as emphasized in the 2007 IPCC WG1 report.  This work also provides support for the perspective on climate sensitivity that Roy Spencer has reported on in his powerpoint presentation last week (see).


81 thoughts on “Compo and Sardeshmukh: Oceans a main driver of climate variability – it’s the heat AND the humidity.

  1. I begin to wonder how many legs AGW has to stand on. It seems that they keep being knocked from under the hypothesis.

    Bill Derryberry

  2. There was a significant El Nino event in 1878. Despite the “global warming” of the past 150 years, temperatures in 1878 were actually higher than the measurements of today. In just 14 months, there was a temperature swing of more than 1.0C globally.

    The El Nino of 1998 caused an increase in global temperature of 0.75C (in less than one year). The La Nina of 2007 dropped temperatures by roughly the same 0.75C.

    I don’t see how this variability can be so easily discounted by the warmers. I don’t see how this variability can be explained by GHGs.

  3. Bill in Vigo
    I listened to the senate hearings chaired by Barbara Boxer, facts are ignored and it is already decided. There is much work to be done if science and reality are to prevail.

  4. I have a problem with using SURFACE temperatures as the surface temperature does not reflect the heat content of the water beyond the surface. The surface temperature is often more of an indication of wind speed blowing across the surface than heat content of the ocean.

    In other words, say I have 80 degree water at 40 foot depth in two different locations. One location has no wind blowing across the surface and the other location has a 15mph trade wind. The surface temperatures are going to be quite different even though the water column has the same heat content.

  5. In other words, take tropical storms, for example. Sea surface temperatures are required to be a certain temperature ( think it is 86F but don’t hold me to that) to cause formation of a storm but the intensification potential relies on the heat content at depth. It’s called the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential. And is measured in kJ/cm**2

    If the warm water does not extend much below the surface, the wind from the storm itself will cool the surface water to the point to limit intensification. In order to keep the storm building, the surface must stay warm as the wind speeds increase and that requires a lot of heat content below the surface.

    Surface temperatures do not equate to heat content.

  6. I guess I would have to say, that if Roger Pielke said, “that this is a Major Scientific Conclusion”, that it has been reviewed and approved by at least one “Significant Peer”.

  7. In other, other words … surface temperature maps do not correlate to heat content of the water. They correlate more to wind patterns.

  8. “…the observed SST variability may be misrepresented in the coupled models used in preparing the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report…”

    “Given these and other misrepresentations of natural oceanic variability on decadal scales…”

    Hansen should be notified of this misrepresentation, clearly “high crimes against humanity”, to use his words.

  9. AGW has hardly anything left other than: “the world will come to an end EVENTUALLY”. But considering its media and political power, does that mean that much?

  10. “Ok, stupid question here. How can I tell if this paper has been peer reviewed and approved?”

    It was published in a peer reviewed journal: Climate Dynamics.

  11. “It was published in a peer reviewed journal: Climate Dynamics.”

    Ok, is there any way to determine who the reviewing peers were? That matters in many cases.

    REPLY: Reviewers are usually not disclosed to the public or to the authors. – Anthony

  12. Clever guy, using observed sst’s then taking out GHGs and aerosols. That was a fantastic move. Now they have evidence that the aerosols were just a crock to prevent the GHG’s from creating a runaway greenhouse effect in the models (even though they have observations that the aerosols were local and the global dimming idea was garbage in the first place). Now we’re getting somewhere… anyone wanna make any wagers about how much of the warming is GHG and how much is natural? I want .006deg. C per decade for anthropogenic warming in the past 150 years.

  13. Hah! all of you sun-worshipers!

    We, the sea witches, rule!

    Yeah, yeah, you can have yer dang major minimums, but thats just aberration. Mere aberration.

    WE rule the multidecadal cycles, and don’t you forget it!

    (Har-har. Arrrr. Shiver me timbers. Avast, ye hearties. And other comments. I shall now sing a sea shanty.)

    Ok, stupid question here. How can I tell if this paper has been peer reviewed and approved?

    Well, it bein’ Cap’n Silverpate ‘n’ First Mate Blacktooth, Bos’n Pegleg, and the rest of the Fo’c’s’tle gang. Arrrr.

  14. This illustrates to perfection a point I’ve made here before. The whole of our climate system is far more complex than seems to be considered in the models as presently constructed {for all the use they have as predictive tools}.

    I don’t doubt that an AGW proponent would want to jump on this to say that CO2 also causes oceans to warm, leading to greater land surface warming; however, these bodies warm in a different fashion than the atmosphere. And even if CO2 was to warm the atmosphere, the warmer atmosphere would not have much of an impact on the ocean’s heat content {I’m thinking here of the article on the hot water bottle effect by Stephen Wilde over on CO2 Skeptic}. So, if the oceans are warmer, and CO2 can’t be the driver here, why are the oceans warmer? :8)

    Also, as Anthony notes above, any attempt to understand the climate must include the effects of such cyclic phenomena as the PDO and AMO. And for this, much more work is needed; it’s only been a dozen years since the PDO was clearly identified and its cyclic nature roughly mapped out. How can climate work succeed if the effects of the oceans are not understood. Even more is the necessity to come to terms with an understanding as to why the oceans experience these warm and cool phases and, most importantly, what triggers the changes. Without such an understanding of the oceans’ effects as well as coming to grips with the complexities of cloud formation and their effects, climate projections are little more than a computerized version of temple priests divining the future through their study of animal entrails.

  15. We knowed it was them thar hydrodynamic-radiative teleconnections, primar’ly by moistenin’ and warmin’ th’ air over land and increasin’ the downward longwave radiation at th’ surface, we did. ‘Swat we allus said.

  16. The point is that the oceans have been cooling (both sst’s and upper ocean heat content) since 2003. THAT IS NOT AN EXPECTED RESULT OF THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT!!!

  17. Evan Jones:

    That is funny and all, but are you drunk, or is AGW hysteria finally gotten into your head?…..or both? ;-)

  18. Damn, basic geology. Who would of thought the oceans mattered?

    The oceans are not only our salt sink, trash sink, sediment sink, among others, it is also our heat and carbon sink.

    And a huge sink it is. 71%? of our planet’s surface. To realize that the oceans play a role in the earth’s climate is rudimentary.

    Isn’t it?

  19. Mass of Atmosphere-5.1480×10^18 kilograms

    Mass of Ocean-1.4×10^21 kilograms

    (5.148×10^18)/(1.4 × 10^21)=0.003677143 or .37%

    ’nuff said.

    (I’m actually surprised it’s that close.)

  20. It seems a pity that they didn’t make the cut to two data sets around 1976 when the PDO change occurred. I recollect reading that after this “Great Pacific Climate Shift”, the upwelling of the Peruvian Current reduced by around 25%, equivalent to 12 Sverdrups, a huge change in upwelled cold water. While we don’t understand the origins for such changes, they undoubtedly reverberate through the oceanic cycles, perhaps sustaining a PDO direction.

  21. In the last 30 or so years, the oceans have been warming down to deep seas, parallel to the warming of the atmosphere. The extra energy stored in the oceans is roughly a factor of 10 more than the extra energy stored in the atmosphere. Thus, iti is not a big surprise to me that the authors conclude the oceans drive the climate changes.
    Assume for the moment, the anthropogenic greenhouse gases are causing the extra ocean warming, by blocking the infrared radiation of the surface. Penetration depth of infrared radiation in water is of order 1 Millimeter. How can you warm the oceans down to 1000s of meters with such a coupling? It is much simpler to warm the oceans with sunlight (penetration depth of order 100 Meter). Basically, these are Stevensons arguments against Levittus.
    The Compo et al paper is another mosaic stone for the validity of a solar activity model of climate change.

  22. We shouldn’t ignore global dimming or albedo changes. The following workshop is of great interest in this regard:

    This paper is also extremely informative
    Enric Pallé & Pilar Montañes-Rodriguez: Modern Observations of the Earth’s albedo

    The first slide in Mike Lockwood’s presentation is also interesting
    Mike Lockwood & Jaemin Lee: Proposed Space-Based Earthshine Observations

  23. jeez

    And CO2 is what percentage of the atmosphere?


    We have to do this calculation because we want to know the comparative sizes of the masses of possible greenhouse gases.

    All the water in the ocean is a possible greenhouse gas, right?

    And all the CO2 dissolved in the ocean is a possible greenhouse gas.

    Basically, what is the ratio between the CO2 in all the liquids of earth, both atmospheric and oceanic?

    According to this article to ocean contains 50 times as much CO2 as the atmosphere. After saying that, the authors claim the atmospheric increase in CO2 has changed the surface alkalinity by 30%.

    My basic chemistry is telling me that can’t be true. Total alkalinity would be dictated by molar concentration of CO2 in solution, which in turn, is a function of the entire mass of the oceanic solution.

    In any event, the recent satellite surveys of total life activity indicates living creatures and plants are responding well to recent trends by increasing the total mass of living matter by 6% over the last five years.

    So, increased CO2, which we know is a fertilizer for land plants is perhaps also a fertilizer for plant life in the seas?

    If true, don’t we all have the duty to increase CO2 in both the oceans and atmosphere to encourage life?

    Also, I seem to recall from my elementary school years that the Gulf stream is responsible for keeping Europe warm? I also recall a paper demonstrating the jet streams passing overhead here in North America contribute to the warmth of Europe by picking up heat from a warmer North Atlantic during the cold winter months, and carrying it into the landmass of Europe.

    This paper then, should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with elementary school science teachings, at least those made available to me in Denver during the late 50s and early 60s.

    Ben Franklin made his mark as a scientist with his studies of the Gulf Stream. English navigators refused to credit his work as he was a mere colonist. American navigators accepted his conclusions. The result? British ships took more time to cross the Atlantic on average than American ships. They refused to move a little to the south and fought a current all the way across.

    Perhaps there will be a similar resistance to this paper by many? Perhaps political activists will push on with their plans to tax carbon, even though it has nothing to do with global warming? Are we doomed to see a parallel between British navigators and modern day activists, with the attendant economic consequences?

    One more question: what causes the oceans to warm and cool in these huge multi-year cycles? We might say the sun, but it is also following its own cycles. At best mankind has been watching temperatures, salinity, velocities and so forth for only a couple of centuries.

    Wouldn’t modesty be an appropriate mood at this time for mankind?

  24. Let’s see,
    McKitrick’s paper finds that up to 50% of the warming is due to UHI.
    This paper finds that up to 70% of the warming is due to PDO.
    Even Leif admits that up to 30% of the warming is due to TSI increases (without going into whether cosmic ray affects are real).

    So up to 150% of the recent warming has been accounted for by factors other than CO2.

  25. If you look at ocean temperature and the heat content, isn’t this what ARGO system robots are supposed to measure — Temperature at depth? Didn’t some of the first conclusion show that the oceans contain about 80-90% of the Earth’s heat?

    If people think the atmosphere is heating the planet, they should try boiling water with a hair dryer.

    What we know, you could write a book. What we don’t know, would fill a library.

  26. Mark,

    “Ok, stupid question here. How can I tell if this paper has been peer reviewed and approved?”

    Approved? Papers need to be approved now? I certainly hope not.

  27. Let me see if I have this right:

    – The sun was running at a grand maximum from the 1950’s until the mid- to late-1980’s. The oceans warmed in that period and with them, air temperatures. Most of the projected “dangerous” global warming would be in the seas, 80% – 90% worth.

    – The 1998 el Nino disgorged huge amounts of accumulated heat. Since then the oceans cooled slightly and air temperatures plateaued.

    – Now we’re seeing a marked cooling. Keenlyside (don’t get complacent), Trenberth (missing OHC), et. al. are going back to the AGW drawing board.

    – We’re possibly in the onset of a broad period of a 30-year negative PDO and perhaps AMO, NAO, etc., might *ABSORB* extra heat from the air, but with the dimming sun, less so.

    – Ice-free Arctic waters would (IIRC) release more heat from emissivity than they would absorb from solar radiation.

    So doesn’t this point to the seas as large, dynamic heat-exchange systems that are dominant in climate dynamics?

    – The sun’s functionally dimming enough for at least another -0.2 to offset, and with cosmic rays effects, possibly up to a total of -0.8 degrC offset.

    Wouldn’t that mean the sun & the seas are dominant in climate dynamics?

    – The air has dried in the middle & upper troposphere, not the lower as predicted by the GW models. Antarctica is drier than had been predicted, so is far less prone to warming than thought.

    So that leaves us with two problems:

    – Greenland’s rate of melt. If CO2 isn’t doing it and won’t make it much worse in the future, then the obvious first order remediation then is to scrub soot & ozone from human emissions which combined in the springtime Arctic cause the largest warming anomalies in the ice & in the air.

    – Aerosol dimming (a low level of scientific understanding).

  28. Is it possible that the sun influences ocean temperature?

    The Sun’s Great Conveyor Belt has slowed to a record-low crawl, according to research by NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. “It’s off the bottom of the charts,” he says. “This has important repercussions for future solar activity.”

    “Normally, the conveyor belt moves about 1 meter per second—walking pace,” says Hathaway. “That’s how it has been since the late 19th century.” In recent years, however, the belt has decelerated to 0.75 m/s in the north and 0.35 m/s in the south. “We’ve never seen speeds so low.”

  29. Tarpon’s comment takes the prize today – I love it!

    “If people think the atmosphere is heating the planet, they should try boiling water with a hair dryer.”

    Kinda does put things in perspective, now, doesn’t it?

  30. It’s worth noting that oscillators respond to fixed forcings differently than periodic forcings. The responses for periodic forcings can be much, much larger than for fixed.

    At first glance, PDO and ENSO could show a response to rising levels of CO2, but no response at all to a fixed elevated level. They can, however, resonate to the beat of solar variation.

  31. …and then, there’s this article in The Australian…

    “No smoking hot spot” by Dr David Evans (consultant to the Australian Greenhouse Office from 1999 to 2005),25197,24036736-7583,00.html

    His first of four points appears to dovetail with today’s post:

    “1. The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it.

    Each possible cause of global warming has a different pattern of where in the planet the warming occurs first and the most. The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. We have been measuring the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes: weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. They show no hot spot. Whatsoever.

  32. I believe many posters here thus far are taking this study out of context.

    This research is a very good example of how good science is performed. Please note that there is a very specific assumption which forms the basis of this analysis: the oceans have warmed. Go a step further, and notice that, at a more fundamental level, the cause of the warming of the oceans is not part of the analysis. It’s taken to be true, as it forms a necessary requirement for their hydrodynamic-radiative teleconnections (read: feedbacks).

    Essentially, what the researchers are saying here is that when the oceans warm, the air becomes more humid. Naturally occurring circulations in the atmosphere then distribute this moister air in such a way that some regions receive it, some don’t. The shift for some areas to see more humid air more often results in a warming in those areas, due to the greenhouse effect (with water vapor as the primary GHG).

    Notice that this is, more or less, an identical mechanism as proposed in a CO2 driven global warming theory. The difference here is the mechanism by which the air becomes more humid – although that difference isn’t really significant, and more importantly, it’s not mutually exclusive. This is what happens when good science is done – alternative theories which are robust enough to describe identical phenomena compete until one of them is proven to be insufficient, or both of them are merged together to create a unified theory.

    The last paragraph of the author’s conclusion (not Pielke’s commentary) says it all: Regardless of whether or not the rapid recent oceanic warming has occurred largely from anthropogenic or natural influences… A poster or two here has suggested that the oceans haven’t been warming; if this is your position, then it is logically inconsistent to claim that this paper is the death knell to AGW, because by your own assumptions the premises on which this paper is based is fundamentally flawed and the result must be rejected.

    Furthermore, the authors definitively state that global warming is occurring: the recent acceleration of global warming may not be occurring in quite the manner one might have imagined. The authors are not rejecting AGW but offering another mechanism by which it acts on the global climate (specifically, through regional perturbation). The middle paragraph of their conclusion is not a rebuttal on inaccurate temperature records, but rather an announcement of uncertainty – they cite recent research into oceanic temperature patterns as continuing field of research. Note that their conclusion based on this continuing research is not to throw everything related to AGW out the window, but rather to emphasize that natural variability in ocean temperature should not be discarded – they make no quantification of the magnitude of its influence.

    A final point, all good conclusions cite future areas of research. This paper cites a specific one: more work must be done into ocean heat mechanisms. Why? So that they can generate better models. I’m sorry, but the irony kills me; to make a hasty generalization, I’ve notice that many posters here distrust models, yet this paper is really nothing more than a clarification of another field of model research which is just beginning! As a matter of fact, the abstract alludes to the fact that models were used as the primary line of evidence in this research: Atmospheric model simulations of the last half-century with prescribed observed ocean temperature changes, but without prescribed GHG changes, account for most of the land warming. It is logically inconsistent to claim that the models are intrinsically flawed and claim that this research supports that conclusion, because this research is based on those same models.

    In summary, I look very forward to sitting down with this paper tonight; it sounds like a great read! However, we mustn’t jump to conclusions; in no way does this paper refute AGW. It is merely a proposal of an alternative mechanism through which the climate can warm, and specifically includes AGW as the root cause of that mechanism.

  33. From my reading of it, the key claim is this:

    “Overall, the results suggest that the dominant mechanism for the land warming in these simulations is enhanced downwelling longwave radiation. This enhancement is associated with increases of both upper tropospheric humidity and temperature over land, which themselves can occur in these simulations only through oceanic forcing, by experimental design.”

    These are modeling results. How well do they measure up to observations? I can attest, from my own number crunching, that most warming is occurring in the NH over land. So this could be a plausible explanation.

    But I’m curious about the modeled increase in upper tropospheric humidity. Isn’t that contradicted by observations?


    previously discussed on WUWT here:

    Note: I ran my plot limited to 30N-60N since this would be where most of the land warming is taking place. Anthony’s plot was global.

    Before Anthony called attention to this, I was using the NOAA site to track precipital water vapor in the tropics, since this should be steadily rising under my understanding of the AGW hypothesis. And it isn’t:

    So I’m wondering if we don’t have yet another model run which isn’t doing a very good job of replicating actual climate observations. Or am I missing something (always possible!)?

  34. Tarpon’s comment takes the prize today – I love it!

    “If people think the atmosphere is heating the planet, they should try boiling water with a hair dryer.”

    Kinda does put things in perspective, now, doesn’t it?

    And for a more accurate experiment, try using that hairdryer on an olympic-sized swimming pool…

  35. And CO2 is what percentage of the atmosphere?

    Proportion: 385 ppmv. Amount: 760 BMTC.


  36. To realize that the oceans play a role in the earth’s climate is rudimentary.

    Isn’t it?

    Arrr . . .

  37. PArtick Henry,

    “The Sun’s Great Conveyor Belt has slowed to a record-low crawl, according to research by NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. “It’s off the bottom of the charts,” he says. “This has important repercussions for future solar activity.””

    I’m sure we’ll see a headline soon, to wit, “Sun’s Conveyor Belt slows to unprecedented levels, increasing CO2 levels on earth blamed, poor and minorities to be most affected.”

  38. counters,

    “the recent acceleration of global warming may not be occurring in quite the manner one might have imagined. ”

    Are you not assuming that when the researchers refer to ‘global warming’ they mean AGW? I don’t agree with this assessment as they appear to be meticulous in differentiating between statements of general ‘global warming’ and AGW by placing the qualifier ‘anthropogenic’ when referencing human caused warming. They did not do so here so I would assume they intended this as a reference to warming without ascribing causation.

  39. counters:

    //However, we mustn’t jump to conclusions; in no way does this paper refute AGW. It is merely a proposal of an alternative mechanism through which the climate can warm, and specifically includes AGW as the root cause of that mechanism.//

    Agreed, but it would seem to at least add another bit of evidence to refute that “the science is settled.”

  40. Counters,

    You make some very cogent arguments and unlike many of the comments here, you do not make inferences beyond the scope of the paper.

    To me it looks like the gist of this paper is that:

    Oceans are warming (by both GHG’s and natural variability) >> warming increases water vapor over oceans >> water vapor gets transported over land >> water vapor acts as a GHG and warms land surface.

    Isn’t this just a complementary process model for what we already know? This does not preclude processes that involve terrestrial warming via GHG’s and terrestrially originated water vapor. And in no way is a refutation of the current models or basic conclusions of AGW theory.

    This looks like a paper that will help us refine our understanding of the climate system, but it will not overturn the current paradigm.

  41. MarkW, it’s worse than that.

    The non-tree-ring reconstructions of the period 1800-1900 indicate a warming trend. (Coming out of the Little Ice Age, one of the crucial bits eliminated by the Hockey Stick.)

    The exact scale of that pre-industrial rise isn’t clear. But there are no declines published reports. The highest I’ve seen is 2.0 C/c. So if you split the range, you’re at 1.0 C/c from truly climactic phenomena.

    Another 50%. (Or so.)

  42. “anyone wanna make any wagers about how much of the warming is GHG and how much is natural?”

    I’ll say .3-.4F over the last 150 years, with the rest being natural variation.

  43. Leon Brozyna (23:08:35) wrote

    “why are the oceans warmer?”

    Because they are covered by less low level strato-cumulus cloud. It’s warmer because it’s sunnier. (1)

    Palle/’s work is worth looking for on the web (that’s an acute e, BTW); the changes in the earth’s albedo are astonishing, dwarfing minor contributions like CO2.

    Why is there less low level cloud? I’m glad you asked that. We spill enough oil on the ocean every two weeks to cover it completely. Waves break less, This suppresses the production of condensation nuclei and reduces cloud cover(2). The water is smoothed. Smoothed water absorbs more radiation and emits less, so it warms(3).

    Surfactant does the same thing: you can see wide patches of smoothed water when you fly over the sea and look up-sun.

    Rave, froth, cod population crash on the Grand Banks, widening blue deserts, CO2 isotope signal, all explained, all on my site….

    1,2,3 research continues, ie this is my guess.

  44. Would someone clarify an apparent contradiction between this paper and others I’ve seen lately? The present article in its conclusion section discusses increased humidity of the atmosphere, and goes on to state that humidity observations include near-surface as well as upper tropospheric moisture. But NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory results, as discussed in “The Saturated Greenhouse Effect” by Ken Gregory, show that specific humidity, not relative humidity, has been decreasing each decade since the 1940’s, at all pressures from 700mb to 300mb. This decrease has been related to Lindzen’s infrared iris effect and is touted as a reason for the lack of tropospheric positive feedback the alarmists expected to see in their modeling. Has Compo et al got it wrong, or is there some difference?

  45. Loved the article, hated the typos and grammar errors (the teacher in me). What I read into the paper is an attempt to discuss global warming without alienating the media driven “consensus”. I wholly understand an attempt to write a paper that proposes a different mechanism for an observed event without looking like an enemy of the opposite camp. One must approach these things delicately lest one steps on toes and cuts ones funding out. And that statement comes from experience about how research proposals pass on to the “grant this one” stage. It is a back scratching endeavor that puts Senate and House of Representatives legislative compromises into the kindergarten class.

  46. Evan,
    You’re awfully turbo-charged today.
    What on earth has put you in this wonderful mood?
    It aint even Friday yet!

  47. My mistake, I should have said that specific humidity was decreasing at 400-300mb, not 700-300mb. But my question remains the same. Have the modelers just got a difference of opinion on this “hot spot” issue around 300mb?

  48. Speaking of the sun,

    Landscheidt in his famous “New Little Ice Age Instead of Global Warming?” paper, correlated temperature with the aa geomagnetic index, with a 4 to 8 year lag. (The oceans may have played a role in the lag.) He smoothed the aa index, unlike this graph:

    The two year average index for 2006 and 2007 is the calmest since just before weak solar cycles 14 and 15, the first cycles of the 20th century. He predicted a solar minimum around 2030. If I remember the timing, he wrote his paper before the 2003 geomagnetic spike, but with the recent calm years his smoothed curve should not have risen to its prior peak of 1990. He noted the 1990 peak, and with the lag, predicted this decade’s cooler temperatures.

    I wonder if the slow conveyor belt and these last two calm geomagnetic years are related?

  49. Thanks stream. To those who asked specific questions; I need to read the paper in its entirety before I try to answer them, so please give me a bit to track down a copy of the Journal.

    It’s so much easier when I’m up at school and can just pull them from the EAS department library :)

  50. Leon Brozyna:

    “I don’t doubt that an AGW proponent would want to jump on this to say that CO2 also causes oceans to warm”

    I also have a big problem with this one.
    The atmosphere can only warm the sea (or land, for that matter) if it’s warmer than the sea (unless someone’s repealed the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) and, because of the huge difference in thermal capacity, it will take a long time.
    If the atmosphere is warmer than the sea then it must have gotten that way by some other means than the greenhouse effect. The sea can also only warm the atmosphere by any means (conduction or radiation) if it’s warmer than the atmosphere and, also because of the thermal capacity, will continue to warm the atmosphere for a long time.
    So, except for coastal areas where air blowing off the land is warmer than the sea, the only real (external) mechanism for warming the oceans is the direct action of sunlight.
    Of course you may say that even if the air doesn’t warm the sea, a warmer atmosphere will mean less heat loss, but, because of thermal capacity again, this is insignificant.

    If this isn’t so then can someone please explain why

  51. Ron McCarley (11:31:38) :

    Are we asking the same question? It looks to me like humidity, whether relative or specific, have been declining. But this paper reports the results of simulation in which it is supposedly rising. Isn’t the model giving results inconsistent with reality?


  52. Hmm… Boil water with a hair dryer… Technically, you can, just not all at once. You ‘boil’ the surface and eventually the water evaporates out.

    As to AGW, etc. AGW doesn’t warm oceans much, if at all. As posted prior, sunlight would be the primary driver for deep ocean temp. If the surface heats up due to IR, it will just evaporate and pull a bunch of heat from the surrounding molecules. That gives us clouds eventually (negative feedback to the ocean heating up).

    But, if the air is warmer due to ‘stuff’, then more water vapor is required to form clouds. So… higher air temps due to ‘stuff’ can be in part responsible for increased water temps over time. At times, the system goes unstable and we get a big El Nino/La Nina. During the El Nino, was there a marked increase in cloud cover? During La Nina? Is the cause of La Nina an upwelling of cold water, or a lack of heating water in the past that is now being circulated back to the surface? Interesting problem…

  53. Counters,

    The difference between this model experiment and others is that the authors used observed sea surface temperaure. Other models just plugged the physics and let it run.
    The next thing they did was to eliminate anthropogenic GHG’s, aerosols and solar forcing. Sceptics have long said that incorrect aerosol calculations were necessary in the models to prevent a runaway greenhouse effect in the models.
    You might also notice the models that were used in this experiment were the most prominent in the world.

  54. To Basil @ 12:08:34

    Yes, I think we are asking the same question. While this paper seems to indicate some willingness to consider aspects that we skeptics have been arguing about, it still seems to cling to the alarmist, water vapor, positive feedback loop caused by CO2, at least to me. I guess good things come slowly. I’m no expert on modeling, but I just wonder if these modeling results might be more pronounced if the water vapor deficiency that we’ve been seeing at 30K feet, and with the lack of cirrus clouds a la Lindzen, were plugged in. I’m real new at the GW game and still learning, but this seems to me to be a significant flaw in this paper. I do love the way, though, that this paper and the IPCC-related group in W. Europe (10 yr. Delay in AGW) are noticing something being wrong with their theory. My apologies on the reference I gave. It wasn’t the one I was thinking of when I wrote the first paper so quick. The paper I quoted was primarily about relative humidity, although it did also discuss the decline in specific humidity around 30,000 ft. and slightly below that.

  55. All I can find are copies of the author’s submitted article. I cannot locate the published journal article from Climate Dynamics. I would appreciate a fuller reference including volume and page numbers, or DOI.

    Meanwhile, it is interesting that modelling with observed ocean temperatures and assumed physics appears to give somewhat different outcomes than scenario-based modelling with assumed physics.

  56. Speaking of CO2, does anyone know whats the first six months CO2 level from Mauna Lau look like?

    (I’ve looked around for a direct link but haven’t found one)

    I remember eading somewhere that early this year the rate of increase had slowed markedly. I’m just wondering if this trend had continued.

    Reply: Click here ~charles the moderator

  57. I generally do not read papers about what models say, despite counters’ articulate defence above.

    Anyway the obvious flaw in this paper is the ‘assumption’ that increased humidity over land results from increased SSTs despite a lack of clear evidence that SSTs have in fact increased.

    There is an altogether simpler explanation for increased humidity over land – irrigation over 600,000,000 acres.

  58. It’s quite a reach to say the oceans are a main driver of climate change, when clearly it would be what causes the oceans to warm or cool to begin with that would be in the climate drivers’ seat, with the oceans simply acting as a major part of the all-important brakes in the climate system, along with GHG’s. They appear to be applying those brakes now, but someone is letting up on the gas as well.

  59. Pingback: Top Posts «

  60. Kevin B: In addition to the link jeez provided, I would also refer you to the stupendous CO2 site linked by W F Lenihan @10:40:24 above. Great charts! Even the full moon influences natural CO2 emissions. And CO2 was higher than today in the 1800’s. Very interesting site and new to me. Thanks for posting.

    Next, concerning a possible deep ocean heat source, this article mentions the recent and unexpected discovery of hundreds of thousands of new undersea volcanoes. We don’t know enough about this heat/CO2 source to even begin to model it, much less come up with empirical measurements.


    “This looks like a paper that will help us refine our understanding of the climate system, but it will not overturn the current paradigm.”

    What ‘paradigm’ is that? I hope you’re not referring to the AGW/climate catastrophe hypothesis as the current paradigm. The ‘current paradigm’ is natural climate variability. The relatively new AGW/runaway global warming hypothesis has been put forth, but as you can see throughout these threads, it has been falsified in numerous ways. It would not supersede natural climate variability as the ‘current paradigm’ unless it had withstood falsification. Please correct me if I didn’t understand what you were referring to when you said ‘current paradigm.’ If I misunderstood, I apologize.

    Julian Flood:

    “We spill enough oil on the ocean every two weeks to cover it completely.”

    I would be interested in a citation. Are you referring to covering the oceans with a one molecule thick layer of oil, or some similar miniscule amount? If so, I have two questions:

    1. Is that tiny thickness enough to create the calm swathes of ocean you mentioned, and as you stated, to cause waves to break with less force?

    2. Since human caused oil spills are now even more infrequent than in past decades, are you taking into account natural oil seepage, which occurs constantly, and greatly exceeds anything humans do?

    Finally, Evan, International Talk Like A Pirate Day isn’t until Sept. 19th. Are you practicing up?

    Over and out.

  61. leebert:

    Greenland has stopped its net melting.


    the oceans are cooling.

    Someone didn’t pay the heating bill obviously. Sorry, no AGW disaster until the bills get paid.

  62. How much would the temperature of an olympic swimming pool increase if you pointed a hairdryer at at for 100 years?

  63. “How much would the temperature of an olympic swimming pool increase if you pointed a hairdryer at at for 100 years?”

    Would it increase at all? The entire surface area would be losing the heat as fast as the tiny concentrated point from the hairdryer could heat it.

  64. Julian Flood — “We spill enough oil on the ocean every two weeks to cover it completely.”

    Smokey — “I would be interested in a citation.”


    As would I. This sounds like one of those “we lose 32 species every week” claims that is merely a WAG. Since he said “we” it wouldn’t appear as if he’s claiming natural seepage.

  65. Smokey,

    I’m going to side with streamtracker (note the “r”) on associating “paradigm” with the AGW hypothesis (presuming that he was also). If there was ever an apt application of the Kuhnian concept of “normal science” and a “reigning paradigm” it is AGW. Just look at the flap that took place with the APS recently. Most “scientific societies” have issued statements supporting the AGW hypothesis. I have recently read numerous papers on “natural climate variability” (since I’m researching the issue myself) and these days any paper that alleges natural climate variability is likely to have a qualifier along the lines of “but this doesn’t disprove AGW,” or “but this is merely masking AGW.”

    Now, you might ask when did the revolution — from “natural climate variability” to “AGW” take place? It was gradual. And I suspect it was originally benign, in the sense that proponents had no idea that it would become the storm of contention it is today. The early proponents probably just looked at it as a way to make their research “relevant to public policy.” Nobody does science for its own sake any more. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you don’t get grant money to doing science for its own sake. You have to justify the research you are doing somehow. How are you going to justify research in natural climate variability? Actually, I can think of a few ways. But somewhere, some time ago, somebody opened the flood gates for grant money on the impact of rising CO2, and here we are today with AGW as a dominant paradigm of normal science for climate studies.

    I have on my desk — because of the research into natural climate variability I’m doing — a book, well a compendium of studies published by the Natural Research Council, entitled Natural Climate Variability on Decade-to-Century Time Scales published in 1995. In it is an interesting paper by Keeling and Worf entitle “Decadal Oscillations in Global Temperature and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.” The final words of the article? “Financial support came from the National Science Foundation via Grant …. and from the U.S. Department of Energy via Grant ….”

    To do science these days, you have to sell it. And for a long time, selling it as investigating AGW has paid off, making it a paradigm of normal science in climate studies.


  66. “Overall, the results suggest that the dominant mechanism for the land warming in these simulations is enhanced downwelling longwave radiation. ”

    Mindless nonsense. Back-radiation warming cannot occur. The emissivities of the surface are 1000 times greater than those of the GHGs.

    The atmosphere warms the surface by conduction. The heat capacity of the atmosphere is 1/2000th that of the oceans.

  67. counters:

    Generally I agree with your synopsis of the paper. I’m agnostic on the possible influence of GHG on ocean heat content, there’s science to support conduction of heat from warmer air into the seas. The gotcha is this:

    TSI & total solar phenomenological influence (that’d be TSI + cosmic rays) seem to coincide strongly with total global warming, with avg TSI levels decreasing circa 1992 – date. Since latent heating is characteristic of the oceanic “heat bucket” the post-1998 situation has seen a temperature plateau consistent with both the gradual reduction in solar effects and the massive heat release from the ’98 el Nino.

    Research shows the recorded TSI levels of the 1950’s – 1980’s was markedly higher than previous imputed TSI, suggesting that a great deal of the ocean & air heating was from the unusually active sun. Lief Svalgaard however thinks that historical TSI proxies are underestimating TSI prior to the 1950’s, and if we are to recalibrate them then the sun might be exculpated from most of the extra warming of last 50 years. Svalgaard is cautious however, and in light of the recent temperature plateau (sea & air), I’d lean toward the former analysis, implicating the sun in at least 30 percent of the warming until 1998, if not 50.

    If sea temperatures were going consistently up while air temperatures were plateaued, then I’d be quite ready to implicate GHGs with the seas sponging up heat conducted from the air, esp. in light of a still-dimming sun. But instead we see neither accelerated warming of either the air or seas with the sun still dimming.

    Intuitively this leaves me with a quandary (as I shift my spot along the fence…): Which force is most dominant?

  68. Basil, Thank you for a well considered response. But the assumption that the ‘current paradigm’ is AGW is based on false information, namely, that the majority of earth scientists and meteorologists by and large agree with it, isn’t true.

    The public certainly seems to agree with AGW. Advertising works. If you contend that the current paradigm is AGW in the public’s mind, I would agree. But that’s not what I was referring to, and I don’t think steamtracker was either.

    The current paradigm – among scientists – is a healthy and overwhelming skepticism of the AGW conjecture: click

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