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Pacific waters as an excuse for the warming hiatus

Most of the mainstream media offered us a bizarre "story" in the recent two or three days. The absence of global warming in recent years – well, it's really 17 years now – has been "explained" by the Pacific waters. Problem solved, the belief in the global warming ideology may continue unchallenged, we're de facto told.



PDO: warm and cool phase

The claims are based on the paper by Kosaka and Xie in Nature,

Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling,
which is bad enough but I will mostly focus on the journalists' added spin which is even worse. The Guardian's Fiona Harvey will be used as my sample but the comments below are applicable almost universally.




The first paragraph says that it's the Pacific Ocean that "slowed" the global warming and the second paragraph tells us why this research is supposed to be important:
Their work is a big step forward in helping to solve the greatest puzzle of current climate change research – why global average surface temperatures, while still on an upward trend, have risen more slowly in the past 10 to fifteen years than previously.
I had to laugh. The most important insight of the "modern" climate science research is that the world is warming and the greatest puzzle is why it's not true according to observations. Incidentally, it is not true that one may still find a "warming trend" in the last 10-15 years. One only finds noise and in various subintervals, the cooling and warming trends are about equally represented, as shown many times on this blog and elsewhere.

If you expect that half a degree or a degree Celsius of warming per decade is now inevitable, e.g. because you were brainwashed by the AGW charlatans or because your brain has been damaged in a similar sad accident, then the absence of the warming may look like a "great puzzle". But what about the approach not to be brainwashed by unscientific superstitions? Isn't it a bit more rational approach? In that case, there's no puzzle. The temperatures are doing what they have always been doing: fluctuate by one or two tenths of a degree each decade in pretty random directions; after all, we know it from the historical data from decades when the man-made CO2 concentration was vastly lower than today that the temperatures were doing nothing less than that. CO2 may add a contribution but it's just small enough so that the CO2-induced change remains more or less negligible relatively to the natural variability for 20 years if not much longer than that.

Isn't it a more convincing explanation than the program to identify a huge puzzle and then to "solve" it by naming a culprit?




But I had to laugh throughout Harvey's article, it's just so utterly stupid and irrational. You would say that some analysis of the role of the Pacific Ocean will be presented as the research of a factor that influences the climate as a whole. Instead, we're repeatedly told that what the paper studies is the ocean's influence on the pause in global warming. This completely silly formulation – sometimes with the word "hiatus" replacing "pause" – is repeated many times in the article. It's a classic example of a tail wagging the dog. Climatology – and this paper – studies or should study the climate (which is pretty much equally likely to change in both directions, as empirically shown all the time), not "global warming" or even "hiatuses in this non-existent global warming". But a lie repeated 100 times becomes the truth according to the key beliefs of Fiona Harvey.

However, what I found most comical is the suggestion – permeating Harvey's text and pretty much all similar articles – that the "bad guy" has been found so everything is fine now. It's the evil Pacific Ocean. I can't believe my eyes because a reader must have IQ below 70 to buy this cheap trick. Is it likely that such humans or, more generally, primates have learned to read the Guardian? It is sort of hard to believe.

In reality, these AGW scammers have claimed that the global mean temperature is
  1. important,
  2. predictable.
It's neither important nor predictable but they have simply made a prediction 20 years ago (and similarly in more recent years) and the prediction has totally failed. The warming in the 20 years wasn't 0.6 °C as predicted but pretty much zero. The error is 100 percent. It is a complete failure. The theory claiming that the global mean temperature is predictable in the 20-year horizon that makes these particular predictions must be thrown to the trash bin immediately if you're doing science. If those who have made the predictions haven't contributed anything substantially better, they must be thrown to the trash bin, too. If they don't fit the trash bin, they must be at least humanely shot into their skulls. It's that simple. It's called science, stupid.

Instead, we're sold stories about the Pacific Ocean as a "justification" of the failure. It's no justification. If you totally screw your understanding of the Pacific Ocean, it pretty much means that you screwed your understanding of the climate on most of the globe. The Pacific Ocean covers one third of the Earth's ocean. In fact, this largest ocean's area exceeds the area of all lands on Earth. It's in no way negligible.

So even if you just consider the Pacific Ocean's contribution to the global average of the temperatures, it is a huge contribution that can't be overlooked. The Pacific Ocean was this large and this important even 20 years ago – even millions of years ago. It is no "news" that the Pacific Ocean was important. The global mean temperatures were always meant to include the contribution of the Pacific temperatures with the appropriate weights. It was the global mean temperature that did include the Pacific contribution that the global warming ideology advocates claimed to predict. They just failed. One may try to isolate which parts of the Earth had larger errors than others but it's mostly silly because every sensible person agrees that regional temperature trends can't be predicted for 20 years in advance with currently available tools. That's why you can't really say that "just the Pacific" predictions failed. Moreover, the predictions of every region are based on the same ideas so if one region empirically shows you that you misunderstand how it works, you probably misunderstand how every region works.

Now, despite the huge size, the actual temperature of the Pacific Ocean temperature isn't that important for almost any humans. But almost every elementary school alumnus knew about this fact 20 years ago, too. Nevertheless, the Pacific temperatures have been included in the "important" quantity called the global warming temperature – mainly because the contemporary climatologists are obliged to be obsessed with the greenhouse effect that operates more or less equally on every square mile of the globe. The obsessive focus on the (for the actual climate change not too important) global mean temperature that uniformly depends on each square mile of the globe has always been a key meme of the global warming ideology. You can't just throw it away and claim that nothing about the ideology has to be changed. If you change this thing, you are really proving that it has been rubbish from the beginning.

One may always cherry-pick 1/3 or even 2/3 of the globe where the disagreement with the models is smaller than it is in the rest. But if you claim that a quantity is the most important and you completely fail in predicting it, you have just failed. In scientific disciplines that may be counted as hard science and that have corresponding standards, a hypothesis is really eliminated once any clear disagreement of its predictions with the reality is found. One wrong prediction is enough to falsify an idea. If you want to be satisfied with the agreement between the rough observations of 1/2 of the numbers (that you may cherry-pick a posteriori) and your predictions, then any hypothesis will end up as "viable".

Moreover, the Pacific Ocean influences the globe by more than just this large area that "directly" influences the global temperature averages. The Pacific Ocean is the cradle of the El Niño/La Niña ENSO oscillations which have been known for quite some time to be the dominant contribution to the interannual temperature variability. If the global mean temperature changes significantly from one year to the next, chances are very high that it has something to do with the El Niños or La Niñas.

The Pacific Ocean is important at the decadal scale, too. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation describes one of the most important regional degrees of freedom – if not the most important one (AMO is a possible competitor) – that changes at the timescale comparable to tens of years. In fact, both El Niños and PDOs are mentioned by many of the articles. But they're not able or willing to deduce the most obvious consequence of all these insights, and it is the following:
The more you use natural variations such as El Niño, PDO etc. to explain what's actually going on and what's being observed, the more important the natural drivers become, the more irrelevant the CO2 gets, the more the skeptics who claim that the climate change is mostly natural are shown to be right (many skeptics have talked about the important influence of the ocean cycles and patterns for many decades and most skeptics today are well aware about the tight PDO-global-temperature correlation in the last 100 years), and the more discredited the AGW doctrine becomes along with its defenders.
Is that really so difficult for Fiona Harvey to understand this trivial point? Do we have to read all the garbage about CO2 that manifestly has nothing to do with any of the important observations or insights and not even with these not-so-important observations of the recent events in the Pacific Ocean?

Even average U.S. and EU politicians are beginning to understand what the hiatus means (why not journalists in the Guardian?) and they want a credible explanation in the IPCC AR5 summary that will be out in one month from now.

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snail feedback (12) :


reader Giovanelo said...

When it warms - it's global warming, when it cools - it's La Nina messing with global warming. :)


reader aaron said...

Most greenhouse warming goes into giant heat-sink. Therefore, fear global warming.


reader lucretius said...

So the new Party Line is: we are still doomed unless our brilliant "climate scientists" forgot something really minor, like the Pacific. But at least we no longer have a "planetary emergency": http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/08/28/global-warming-is-no-longer-a-planetary-emergency/


reader Gordon said...

Hmm, I don't know what's wrong with me, but I find myself agreeing with your positions on most things these days :)


reader Seth said...

Lumo, Ethan Siegel did a three part series last week
on why global warming is happening and why humans are undoubtedly to blame. Can you read it and provide criticism in a new post. Why is someone who understands the rigor of physics and 5 sigma discoveries so bedeviled by the religion of global warming?


reader Wayne Robinson said...

Global warming isn't just the lower atmosphere. It includes the oceans, the cryosphere and the land surface. Concentrating on just the atmosphere and ignoring the other parts is just silly. The 1997 El Niño dumped heat from the Pacific into the atmosphere causing a warm year, and the 2012 La Niña took it back, causing a cool year. And the Arctic ice continues to thaw.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Wayne, you're trying to spin all things so that they seem to imply (to you) the exact opposite than what they actually do imply.

The fact that El Ninos and many other natural factors affect climate and are dominant is obviously the position of *skeptics* so you can't pretend that it's something that supports the "global warming" orthodoxy. The diversity of the factors is evidence against this orthodoxy.

Moreover, it's just not true that one El Nino and one La Nina would be enough to neutralize the predicted temperature increase from the "global warming" trend.

There have been 5 El Nino (including one large one) and 6 La Nina episodes since 1997

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

so the ENSO oscillations are pretty much balanced especially in recent years when they more or less alternated. Even if La Nina began to dominate for an extended period of time and there would be cooling observed at the same moment, you couldn't use La Ninas as an excuse. The possibility that the frequency of El Nino episodes (La Nina episodes) increases and contributes to global warming (cooling) is indeed one of the numerous natural factors that probably affects the climate at the decadal and perhaps centennial scale, too.

Finally, your suggestion that the "ocean took the heat" is also demagogy at least at two levels. First, it was the global mean temperature that was claimed to be predicted - not some corrected one that adds a multiple of the heat stored in the ocean. The prediction just failed.

Second of all, there has been no increase in the ocean heat, anyway, so even if you changed the rules of the game during the game, it would still not help your pseudoscientific ideology.

"Arctic continues to thaw" is a deeply misleading statement because whether the ice grows or shrinks depends on the exact interval chosen and the method of averaging. Moreover, even if the graph since the late 1970s seems to have a downward trend seen in the noise, it clearly doesn't imply that the trend will continue in the following years.

The Arctic ice was predicted in 2007 to disappear by 2013. It clearly won't happen this year

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/08/18/sea-ice-news-volume-4-number-4-the-maslowski-countdown-to-an-ice-free-arctic-begins/

as the Arctic is much closer to the levels 20 years ago than to zero.

http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/two-decades-of-unprecedented-global-warming-has-left-arctic-ice-almost-the-same-as-it-was-20-years-ago/


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Seth, sometimes it seems that everything they do and know is just a way to mask things they really *care* about, like the left-wing orthodoxies.


Part 1 - just a sequence of pictures of planets. There are surely energy budgets at various points.


Part 2 - solar radiation and absorption and emission etc. matter, along with spectra etc. On Earth, the greenhouse effect matters - but only water vapor is qualitatively relevant and adds about 30 degrees C. On Venus, the concentration of greenhouse gases is vastly higher - CO2 is 100 thousand times more concentrated than here - so there's a very large effect there, around 300 deg Celsius, but this measurable effect is absent on all other planets. The Earth is a marginal case - 30 deg C is a lot but it's not a game-changed. Again, it's caused by the dominant gas, water vapor, whose concentration is quickly adjusting to the external conditions by natural factors and men can do nothing about it. This Part 2 is an example of demagogy that wants the readers to believe that the Earth has similar counting as Venus. It surely doesn't. The Earth is in between Venus where CO2 matters and other planets where it's completely negligible - at the level of "completely undetectable" via the temperature effects - but the dominant gas here by which we resemble "Venus lite" isn't CO2 but H2O.


Part 3 - things are chaotic, I agree about all kinds of physics here like the spectra, CO2 concentration graphs, and so on and so on. But the first graph of "heat content" is just bullshit - it pretends to be directly measured but it is actually mostly calculated from the same models that are known to predict incorrectly many other things, so it's pretty clear that this triple graph is completely wrong, too. There exists no empirical indication of such a uniform linear trend in any combination of temperature proxies we observe - one that would "safely go up" every 5 years as the picture indicates.


reader Seth said...

Lumo, thanks much! My analysis corresponds to yours. His physics is fine mostly, but then he jumps to conclusions as so many others do based on *caring* about the Earth. Well, so do I. By Ethan's method, we could have had consensus that the Higgs boson existed decades ago courtesy of fabricated data, etc. Very much appreciate you taking the time to read his piece and provide feedback.


reader A guy said...

Lubos,

Every single one of your arguments is addressed on this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Global_warming (see the FAQ section) along with references for further information.

For instance, your argument about water vapor doesn't negative CO2-induced warming, in fact it strengthens it. Water vapor tracks temperature changes, causing a positive feedback loop, amplifying global warming. You even say it yourself: "[H2O] whose concentration is quickly adjusting to the external conditions by natural factors"


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear guy, you may "address" my arguments but they're still true and important. Incidentally, the funny page you linked to is a copy of John Cook's Skeptical Science. One could also say that every statement over there is "addressed" here:

http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/03/john-cook-skeptical-science.html?m=1

In particular, you pretend that when H2O water vapor level in the atmosphere adjusts, it's not interesting or relevant.



Well, it's probably not interesting for communist demagogues like you who are only looking for things that look man-made because they can be abused to damage the capitalist economies by a dirty propaganda.

But science doesn't take this "goal" into account. In reality, the water vapor level is much more important than CO2 even though it adjusts. The fact that it adjusts doesn't mean that it's constant. The humidity level and the number and magnitude of clouds are changing and even these small changes have at least the same influence on the climate as the CO2. So it's just one of the natural factors each of which competes with or beats CO2 - and be sure that there are many such natural factors. That's why it's completely ludicrous to "focus" on CO2.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Seth, well, the laymen didn't know but most particle physics experts have surely been in consensus that the Higgs boson existed for quite some time - perhaps from the 1960s and quite certainly from the 1970s.


A not so subtle difference between the Higgs boson and a dangerous global warming is that the former exists and the arguments why it had to exist were solid while the latter doesn't exist and the arguments that it should are politicized pseudoscience.