New York Times: “We have lucked out in recent years when it comes to global warming.”

Posted: June 11, 2013 by tallbloke in Analysis, climate, Uncertainty

The Grey Lady sings. 

from-1997.5

What to make of a Warming Plateau

By 

The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace. As unlikely as this may sound, we have lucked out in recent years when it comes to global warming.

The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists. True, the basic theory that predicts a warming of the planet in response to human emissions does not suggest that warming should be smooth and continuous. To the contrary, in a climate system still dominated by natural variability, there is every reason to think the warming will proceed in fits and starts.

But given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on. They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean.

We certainly cannot conclude, as some people want to, that carbon dioxide is not actually a greenhouse gas. More than a century of research thoroughly disproves that claim.

In fact, scientists can calculate how much extra heat should be accumulating from the human-caused increases in greenhouse gases, and the energies involved are staggering. By a conservative estimate, current concentrations are trapping an extra amount of energy equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima bombs exploding across the face of the earth every day.

So the real question is where all that heat is going? if not to warm the surface. And a prime suspect is the deep ocean. Our measurements there are not good enough to confirm it absolutely, but a growing body of research suggests this may be an important part of the answer.

Exactly why the ocean would have started to draw down extra heat in recent years is a mystery, and one we badly need to understand. But the main ideas have to do with possible shifts in winds and currents that are causing surface heat to be pulled down faster than before.

Read the rest of the ad-hoc theorising here

Comments
  1. nzrobin says:

    ‘Lucked out’ indeed. Surely we have been lucky to avoid the unequivocal disaster that was once upon a time most assuredly imminent. ‘Lucked out’! What a stupid thing to say. Don’t they know about the water vapour feedback fiddle factors in their models, and Forest Mimms IPCC review comments about water vapour trends?

  2. mitigatedsceptic says:

    Meanwhile as the wise ones suck their thumbs, the ignorant have to pay up – for expensive renewables and for vast funds for ‘research’. We have been suckered!
    Again, like CO2, the warming is assumed and the explanation sought. Science back to front again!

  3. Ken Hall says:

    sarc/ We all know that heat falls and cold rises! /sarc. Doh!

    “current concentrations are trapping an extra amount of energy equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima bombs exploding across the face of the earth every day.”

    I would really like to see the “science” behind that claim. I am guessing that someone has missed out a decimal point somewhere.

  4. oldbrew says:

    ‘We certainly cannot conclude, as some people want to, that carbon dioxide is not actually a greenhouse gas. More than a century of research thoroughly disproves that claim.’

    But the same century of research has no explanation for current global climate trends, so what’s it worth?

  5. tallbloke says:

    Ken: The theory is up the spout. The 400,000 Hiroshima’s show just how far out it is, and also how puny man’s impact on the climate is compared to natural variation. The theoretical forcing of co2 (enhanced by increased water vapour) is predicated on the idea that the Earth’s myriad interlocking systems won’t compensate for changes in atmospheric optical depth. This is a helluva assumption when you consider the who shebang is driven by solar energy which passes through the gaseous medium to the surface.

  6. tckev says:

    The evidence that CO2 follows global temperature rise, and not vice versa, seems to have passed them by.

  7. thefordprefect says:

    mitigatedsceptic says: June 11, 2013 at 8:58 am
    Meanwhile as the wise ones suck their thumbs, the ignorant have to pay up – for expensive renewables and for vast funds for ‘research’. We have been suckered!
    ————-
    This seems very relevant to your comment (ht to uknowispeaksense)

    From a FaceBook page called the Global Ecologist.
    “If any scientist had a coherent and sensible scientific revelation that we needn’t be worried about fossil-fuel greenhouse-gas emissions causing a dangerous global warming problem, that scientist would write what would very quickly become the most celebrated research paper ever published. The publication would be in one of the world’s most prestigious science journals, and that journal would be proud to have the honor and privilege. Literally hundreds of other scientists would quickly validate the research, and the author of the paper would become the most famously celebrated scientist in history.

    Every last one of us — scientist or layperson, conservative or liberal, religious or not — shares the same confirmation bias: we would strongly prefer that the problem of global warming were not real and not serious. Those of us who do understand the science would be the first in line to shake the hero’s hand and thank them for delivering the best news civilization has ever gotten.

    But that’s not reality. We are experiencing, all at once, not just global warming but the entire suite of climate change phenomena that go along with it. Unprecedented droughts. Unprecedented heatwaves. Unprecedented storms. Unprecedented floods. Unprecedented precipitation events. Such a high ratio of new record high temperatures to new record low temperatures that it would be statistically impossible without a definite global warming trend (and that ratio is growing). Earth’s perennial ice is melting — including the entire north polar ice cap.

    Who predicted 25 years ago that these things were going to happen?

    These phenomena were, in fact, predicted by the very same scientists who say that carbon emissions from burning enormous amounts of fossil fuels are building up in Earth’s atmosphere and causing global warming — as originally predicted in 1896.”

  8. mitigatedsceptic says:

    Notice the implication of “lull”. The presumption is that warming will continue whatever! I suppose that “lull” will be used even if we suffer another little ice age. And we shall continue to prepare for heat.

    All this expensive and dangerous decarbonisation is wasted if carbon concentrations are the effect, not the cause, of warming.

    But will anyone listen?

  9. catweazle666 says:

    an extra amount of energy equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima bombs exploding across the face of the earth every day.

    Yer wot??!!!

    Who do Invoice for coffee damage to my keyboard?

    And then they wonder why they are becoming have become a laughing stock!

  10. tckev says:

    I agree that sadly the assumption is for warming and that leads to expensive ‘decarbonisation’.
    I just wish that they would note the evidence from the ice core, and pay more attention to the larger timescales involved with climate variations.

  11. johanna says:

    “Lucked out”? In Americanese, that means something bad.

    What they are apparently saying is that being proved right in their predictions, even if it means destruction of the planet (according to them) is more important than “lucking in” by being proved wrong.

    Oh, and love the “Hiroshima bombs” reference. What is it with these people that they dwell lingeringly on instances of mass human death? I don’t know how many “Hiroshima bombs” worth of energy the Sun sends us every day, but am profoundly grateful for every ray of it.

    As has been discussed on WUWT, it is the scientific equivalent of popular media terms like football fields, Sydney Harbours and Rhode Islands as descriptors of the latest environmental “outrage”.

  12. michael hart says:

    Yes, I’ve been meaning to have a word with the NYT for some time. I requested that they send me no more emails, but they still keep arriving.

  13. Brian H says:

    No, johanna. It means “escaped untoward events”, or hit the jackpot. Many use it wrongly, apparently including you.

  14. suricat says:

    “So the real question is where all that heat is going? if not to warm the surface. And a prime suspect is the deep ocean. Our measurements there are not good enough to confirm it absolutely, but a growing body of research suggests this may be an important part of the answer.”

    I disagree that “a prime suspect is the deep ocean”! We don’t need “measurements there” to realise the thermal capacity of “deep ocean”. Please see the ‘properties of water / compressibility’ at wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Properties_of_water#Compressibility

    This article shows that the density of water is ‘virtually’ (“The low compressibility of water means that even in the deep oceans at 4 km depth, where pressures are 40 MPa, there is only a 1.8% decrease in volume.[30]) unaffected by the pressure exerted at ‘deep ocean’ depths.

    Although the CP is slightly increased by the increase in pressure, this is ‘offset’ by the depth increase of the ‘maximum density temperature’ of 4 centigrade. Thus, reducing the 4C ‘bulk’ and forcing a ‘mix’ between 8C > 4C and 4C < 0C over greater depth ranges.

    Salinity, or ocean current, changes may fit better, but are not directly related to temperature change, or 'storage'.

    "Exactly why the ocean would have started to draw down extra heat in recent years is a mystery, and one we badly need to understand. But the main ideas have to do with possible shifts in winds and currents that are causing surface heat to be pulled down faster than before."

    Touting for a 'grant', or what???

    Ray.

  15. oldbrew says:

    NYT article taken apart one paragraph at at time here.

    http://www.redstate.com/2013/06/10/nytimes-the-dog-ate-my-global-warming/

  16. Justin Gillis says: We certainly cannot conclude, as some people want to, that carbon dioxide is not actually a greenhouse gas. More than a century of research thoroughly disproves that claim…So the real question is where all that heat is going?

    Nope, the real question is where on earth, Justin, did you get the idea that the science is settled on whether or not CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas. There are at least two possibilities that could explain the flat-lining of the global temperature record these last 15 years.

    (i) Luke warmists believe that CO2 has very little influence on climate.

    (ii) Hardline skeptics believe that the physics proves that a cooler gas cannot warm a warmer surface.

    Either way, there are PLENTY of arguments as to why CO2 is not the culprit it is made out to be.

    Your comment is a classic example of ‘bait and switch’ – attempting to divert the reader away from an important fundamental debate on CO2’s role (if any) in the earth’s temperature record by chasing a ridiculous hare called “so where is all the heat going”?

    Shame on you.

  17. thefordprefect says, June 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm: But that’s not reality. We are experiencing, all at once, not just global warming but the entire suite of climate change phenomena that go along with it. Unprecedented droughts. Unprecedented heatwaves. Unprecedented storms. Unprecedented floods. Unprecedented precipitation events. Such a high ratio of new record high temperatures to new record low temperatures that it would be statistically impossible without a definite global warming trend (and that ratio is growing). Earth’s perennial ice is melting — including the entire north polar ice cap. Who predicted 25 years ago that these things were going to happen?

    Although that is a quote, I assume you entirely agree with it. If so you are living on a different planet from most of the rest of us.

    Droughts, heatwaves, storms, floods, precipitation, ratios of high to low temperatures, north polar ice cap melting…? I commend you to the literature from specialists in each of those areas. And a good sobering assessment of such global warming hyper-twaddle is provided here.

  18. Tenuc says:

    “By a conservative estimate, current concentrations [of CO2] are trapping an extra amount of energy equivalent to 1 Hiroshima bomb exploding across the face of the earth every 400,000 days.”

    There, Justin, corrected it for you – mystery solved… 🙂

  19. leon0112 says:

    My favorite is “a climate system dominated by natural variability”. Yes.

    Our climate system is dominated by natural variability, not man made CO2 emissions. Climate change has and will continue to be driven by natural variability.

    Existing IPCC climate models all assume climate change is driven by man made CO2 emissions. Therefore, they are incapable of forecasting long term since the climate is driven by natural variability. In other words, the models are wrong.

    Any government policy based on the incorrect models is destined to have little impact on the climate, but perhaps very large impact on the human economy.

  20. hunter says:

    Such unquestioning acceptance of the AGW premise…….