The Ocean Bomb

From Common Dreams February 10, 2014:

There Is No Warming "Pause," says Study: The Planet Is Burning Up

Though surface temperature increases have slowed in recent years, global warming is accelerating rapidly as the oceans heat up

– Jon Queally, staff writer

What climate change denialists gain by ignoring the complexities of climate science, not to mention, the climate system is most impossible thing to calculate. A recent apparent pause in surface temperature rises can be accounted for by deep-sea warming assisted by unusually high trade winds in the Pacific Ocean. (Photo: Getty Images)Global warming has not "paused." Climate change has not hit a "speed bump." The planet’s temperature is not remaining steady and it certainly isn’t cooling. Earth, especially its ocean, are heating up… and rapidly.

Those are the findings and the consensus of the global scientific community. And a new study shows that the detectable slowdown of global surface temperature increases over the last fifteen years—a trend that climate change denialists have seized on to foment doubt among the general public—is, in fact, the result of a terrifying phenomenon in which the planet’s deep oceans are increasingly absorbing the world’s excess carbon, offering a false sense of temperature stability when the reality is very much the opposite.

The new study, conducted by U.S. and Australian scientists and presented in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that unusually powerful trade winds in the Pacific Ocean have contributed to pushing the warmer ocean waters to greater depths, creating an illusion of a warming plateau on the surface.

As the Guardian reports:

The findings should provide fresh certainty about the reasons behind the warming hiatus, which has been claimed by critics of mainstream climate science as evidence that the models are flawed and predictions of rising temperatures have been exaggerated.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) addressed the warming pause issue in its 2013 climate report, pointing out that the Earth is going through a solar minimum and that more than 90% of the world’s extra heat is being soaked up by the oceans, rather than lingering on the surface.

According to the study, acceleration of Pacific trade winds has been twice as strong in the past 20 years compared with the prior 80 years and suggests the surface warming "hiatus" could "persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue." However, warn the scientists, when the winds return to their long-term average speeds, rapid surface temperature warming will resume and the consequences could be dire.

"Sooner or later the impact of greenhouse gases will overwhelm the effect," said Matthew England, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and head researcher on the project. "And if the winds relax, the heat will come out quickly. As we go through the 21st century, we are less and less likely to have a cooler decade. Greenhouse gases will certainly win out in the end."

Putting the idea of the "speed bump" or "pause" in perspective, climate expert Dana Nuccitelli explains how it has acted as a vague and helpful "myth" to those with a vested interest in not addressing the perils of climate change. He writes:

Many popular climate myths share the trait of vagueness. For example, consider the argument that climate has changed naturally in the past. Well of course it has, but what does that tell us? It’s akin to telling a fire investigator that fires have always happened naturally in the past. That would doubtless earn you a puzzled look from the investigator. Is the implication that because they have occurred naturally in the past, humans can’t cause fires or climate change?

The same problem applies to the ‘pause’ (or ‘hiatus’ or better yet, ‘speed bump‘) assertion. It’s true that the warming of average global surface temperatures has slowed over the past 15 years, but what does that mean? One key piece of information that’s usually omitted when discussing this subject is that the overall warming of the entire climate system has continued rapidly over the past 15 years, even faster than the 15 years before that.

Energy accumulation in within distinct components of Earth’s climate system from 1971–2010.  From the 2013 IPCC report.

The speed bump only applies to surface temperatures, which only represent about 2 percent of the overall warming of the global climate. Can you make out the tiny purple segment at the bottom of the above figure? That’s the only part of the climate for which the warming has ‘paused’. As the IPCC figure indicates, over 90 percent of global warming goes into heating the oceans, and it continues at a rapid pace, equivalent to 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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10 Responses

  1. I wish you would go back on facebook and share your blogs..I sure enjoy them

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    • I think you can subscribe or follow the blog itself. It will notify you via email when I post something new. Should be a button somewhere.

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  2. I do that Ric and I am glad you write them…but you have so much to share..of course, so few give a damn

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    • You’re welcome to link to my blog posts on your FB page, if you like.

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  3. new book out “Sixth Great Extinction.” author refers to us as the “most invasive species ever.” We’re destroying everything. Well, old grump, come out to Oregon and enjoy the tidal waves with us? 😀

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    • You have no idea how tempted I am at times to just chuck all this, buy an RV and head out that way.

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  4. An enquiring mind might ask some questions after reading this article;

    What’s a solar minimum and how long do they last?

    If we are only just entering one, what was the effect on temperature during the preceding period?

    When the author talks about “vested interests” with opposing views, what is his definition? Would a climate scientist 100% funded by research grants fall into this category, for example?

    What measuring facilities are in place to prove/disprove the “ocean heat sink” hypothesis? What period of data is available currently?

    What is a the track record of predictions vs. actuals for the climate models to date?

    If not particularly accurate, what changes have been made to ensure the likely accuracy of statements such as “And if the winds relax, the heat will come out quickly”?

    We were supposed to have been ice free at the pole last year according to the predictions of Al Gore. In fact, he was 25% correct; there was less ice in the north but more ice in the south.

    On verra.

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    • Hi TNA. The only thing to say to you Aussies who don’t think it’s real is ‘Burn, baby, burn!’

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    • I’m sure that someday you’ll develop the balls or ovaries to go to actual climate blogs run by climatologists and present your views to them. I’m sure they’ll appreciate your superior understanding of the subject. They can also answer your questions. Of course the fact that you refuse to have anything to do with real science, preferring your conspiracy theories or whatever the fuck it is that passes for thinking in your warped mind, suggests that you’re frankly weak on the whole matter and prefer not to test yourself against experts. Whatever. You’d rather come to my blog and pass yourself off as… what? A superior being?

      Don’t care. You’ll always be a supercilious, superficial little puke in my book. Tiresome, boring, narrow, closed. Well-spoken, of course, but stunningly stupid.

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  5. Hi Ric.

    Reference to bush fires?

    Interesting fact you may not be aware of; there are more trees (read; “fuel”) in Australia now than when the First Fleet sailed into Botany Bay.

    The incumbents used to burn the place regularly and accurately to corral wildlife into killing zones. Very clever practice it was too.

    There are two excellent “compare and contrast” images available via Google of Mt Eccles (one from the 1860s the other from the present day) illustrating this.

    The Europeans have let the place go to seed comparitively, with the consequence that bush fires spread faster and with less control.

    Also, most bush fires are started by idiotic arsonists.

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