Barents Icicles 2017

A chart of Barents Ice Cycles looks a lot like the icicles above, except upside down since Barents Sea is usually all water by September. Notice the black lines in the graph below hitting bottom near zero.

Note also the anomalies in red are flat until 1998, then decline to 2007 and then flat again.

Why Barents Sea Ice Matters


Barents Sea is located at the gateway between the Arctic and North Atlantic. Previous posts (here and here) have discussed research suggesting that changes in Barents Sea Ice may signal changes in Arctic Sea Ice a few years later. As well, the studies point to changes in heat transport from the North Atlantic driving the Barents Sea Ice, along with changes in salinity of the upper layer. And, as suggested by Zakharov (here), there are associated changes in atmospheric circulations, such as the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation).

Here we look at MASIE over the last decade and other datasets over longer terms in search for such patterns.

Observed Barents Sea Ice

Below is a more detailed look at 2017 compared with recent years.


This graph shows over the last 11 years, on average Barents sea ice starts declining beginning with April and melts out almost completely in September before recovering.  Some years, like 2014, the decline started much later and stopped with 100k km2 of ice persisting, resulting in the highest annual extent in the last decade.   Last year, 2016, was the opposite anomaly with much less ice than average all year.  2007 had the least Arctic ice overall in the last decade and was close to average in Barents during the summer months.

Note how exceptional is 2017 Barents ice extent.  It began extremely low in January and grew sharply to reach average by February, then dipped in March before rising strongly again in April.  It remains to be seen how much ice will grow, how late and how much will melt this year.

North Atlantic Meteorology in 2017

From AER comes more evidence of cooling in the North Atlantic and favorable conditions for ice formation there.

Dr. Judah Cohen provides his latest Arctic Oscillation and Polar Vortex Analysis and Forecast
on April 21, 2017.

  • Currently pressure/geopotential height anomalies are mostly positive on the North Pacific side of the Arctic but mostly negative across the North Atlantic side of the Arctic with mostly negative pressure/geopotential height anomalies across the mid-latitude ocean basins. This is resulting in a negative Arctic Oscillation (AO) but a positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).
  • Despite the positive NAO, temperatures are below normal across western Eurasia including much of Europe as a strong block/high pressure has developed in the eastern North Atlantic with a cold, northerly flow downstream of the block across Europe.
  • The blocking high in the eastern North Atlantic is predicted to drift northward contributing to a negative bias to the AO and eventually the NAO over the next two weeks. Therefore, the pattern of cool temperatures across western Eurasia including Europe looks to continue into the foreseeable future.


Background on Barents from the Previous Post

Annual average BSIE (Barents Sea Ice Extent) is 315k km2, varying between 250k and 400k over the last ten years. The volatility is impressive, considering the daily Maximums and Minimums in the record. Average Max is 781k, ranging from 608k to 936k. Max occurs on day 77 (average) with a range from day 36 to 103. Average Min is 11k on day 244, ranging from 0k to 77k, and from days 210 to 278.

In fact, over this decade, there are not many average years. Five times BSIE melted to zero, two were about average, and 3 years much higher: 2006-7 were 2 and 3 times average, and 2014 was 7 times higher at 77k.

As for Maxes, only 1 year matched the 781k average. Four low years peaked at about 740k (2006,07,08 and 14), and the lowest year at 608k (2012). The four higher years start with the highest one, 936k in 2010, and include 2011, 13, and 15.

Comparing Barents Ice and NAO
Barents Masierev

This graph confirms that Barents winter extents (JFMA) correlate strongly (0.73) with annual Barents extents. And there is a slightly less strong inverse correlation with NAO index (-0.64). That means winter NAO in its negative phase is associated with larger ice extents, and vice-versa.

Comparing Barents Ice and Arctic Annual

Barents and Arctic

Arctic Annual extents correlate with Barents Annuals at a moderately strong 0.46, but have only weaker associations with winter NAO or Barents winter averages. It appears that 2012 and 2015 interrupted a pattern of slowly rising extents.

NAO and Arctic Ice Longer Term

Fortunately there are sources providing an history of Arctic ice longer term and overlapping with the satellite era. For example:

Observed sea ice extent in the Russian Arctic, 1933–2006 Andrew R. Mahoney et al (2008)

Russian Arctic Sea Ice to 2006

Mahoney et al say this about Arctic Ice oscillations:

We can therefore broadly divide the ice chart record into three periods. Period A, extending from the beginning of the record until the mid-1950s, was a period of declining summer sea ice extent over the whole Russian Arctic, though not consistently in every individual sea. . . Period B extended from the mid-1950s to the mid- 1980s and was a period of generally increasing or stable summer sea ice extent. For the Russian Arctic as a whole, this constituted a partial recovery of the sea ice lost during period A, though this is not the case in all seas. . . Period C began in the mid-1980s and continued to the end of the record (2006). It is characterized by a decrease in total and MY sea ice extent in all seas and seasons.

Comparing Arctic Ice with winter NAO index

The standardized seasonal mean NAO index during cold season (blue line) is constructed by averaging the monthly NAO index for January, February and March for each year. The black line denotes the standardized five-year running mean of the index. Both curves are standardized using 1950-2000 base period statistics.

The graph shows roughly a 60 year cycle, with a negative phase 1950-1980 and positive 1980 to 2010. As described above, Arctic ice extent grew up to 1979, the year satellite ice sensing started, and declined until 2007. The surprising NAO uptick recently coincides with the anomalous 2012 and 2015 meltings.

As of January 2016 NAO went negative for the first time in months.  There appears to be some technical difficulties with more recent readings.


If the Barents ice cycle repeats itself over the next decades, we should expect Arctic ice extents to grow as part of a natural oscillation. The NAO atmospheric circulation pattern is part of an ocean-ice-atmosphere system which is driven primarily by winter changes in the North Atlantic upper water layer.

Self-Oscillating Sea Ice System

Self-Oscillating Sea Ice System  See here.


Mann-made Global Cooling

The usual suspects are sounding alarms about the ocean “conveyor belt” AMOC slowing down, and predicting that global warming will result in global cooling.

The Ocean’s Conveyor Belt Is Slowing Down: What You Need to Know About AMOC, Greenland and ‘Unprecedented’ Sea Level Rise

Using data gathered from ice cores, tree rings and coral samples, the research team (led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany) posits that weakness in the AMOC after 1975 “is an unprecedented event in the past millennium.”

Planet Expert Michael Mann co-authored the study and told ClimateCentral that a “full-on collapse” of the AMOC could be possible in the coming decades.

The exact consequences will be difficult to predict, but it will definitely have an impact on marine life, which benefits from the nutrients the AMOC delivers up from the ocean depths. “The most productive region, in terms of availability of nutrients, is the high latitudes of the North Atlantic,” said Mann. “If we lose that, that’s a fundamental threat to our ability to continue to fish.”

Hurricanes and nor’easters like the recent Winter Storm Juno that brought Snowmageddon to the East Coast could also become more common, he warned.

“If you shut down this mode of ocean circulation, you’re denying the climate system one of its modes of heat transport,” said Mann. “if you deny it one mode of transport, it’s often the case that you will see other modes of transport increase.”

The published paper is Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation by Stefan Rahmstorf, Jason E. Box, Georg Feulner, Michael E. Mann, Alexander Robinson, Scott Rutherford & Erik J. Schaffernicht 23 March 2015 (Three of the first four names are the most outspoken climatists of our time.)  The Abstract is not as alarming as Mann’s interview.

Possible changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) provide a key source of uncertainty regarding future climate change. Maps of temperature trends over the twentieth century show a conspicuous region of cooling in the northern Atlantic. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that this cooling may be due to a reduction in the AMOC over the twentieth century and particularly after 1970. Since 1990 the AMOC seems to have partly recovered. This time evolution is consistently suggested by an AMOC index based on sea surface temperatures, by the hemispheric temperature difference, by coral-based proxies and by oceanic measurements. We discuss a possible contribution of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the slowdown. Using a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the AMOC index suggests that the AMOC weakness after 1975 is an unprecedented event in the past millennium (p > 0.99). Further melting of Greenland in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the AMOC. (wiggle words in bold)

Recent Observations of AMOC Trends

Activists pushing global warming/climate change are trying to get ahead of the likely coming cooling phase following the recent warming phase of the natural climate cycle. The kernal of truth in their hand waving resides in the initial report from the RAPID project.

The RAPID moorings being deployed. Credit: National Oceanography Centre

The RAPID project report is Observed decline of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation 2004–2012 by D. A. Smeed, G. D. McCarthy et al.

10-year time series of the strength of AMOC, measured as water transported in Sverdrups (millions of cubic metres of water per second). Graph shows 10-day average measurements (grey line) and 180-day average (red line). Source: Srokosz & Bryden ( 2015)

“We have shown that there was a slowdown in the AMOC transport between 2004 and 2012 amounting to an average of −0.54 Sv yr−1 (95 % c.i. −0.08 to −0.99 Sv yr−1) at 26◦ N, and that this was primarily due to a strengthening of the southward flow in the upper 1100 m and a reduction of the southward transport of NADW below 3000 m. This trend is an order of magnitude larger than that predicted by climate models associated with global climate change scenarios, suggesting that this decrease represents decadal variability in the AMOC system rather than a response to climate change. (lower North Atlantic deep water (LNADW) upper (UNADW) . . .our observations show no significant change in the Gulf Stream transport over the 2004–2012 period when the AMOC is decreasing.”

AMOC Observations in Historical Context

Oceanographers are not alarmed, unlike activists Ramsdorf, Mann and Box.  For example these recent papers: Recent slowing of Atlantic overturning circulation as a recovery from earlier strengthening by Laura C. Jackson, K. Andrew Peterson, Chris D. Roberts & Richard A. Wood 23 May 2016.   Abstract:

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has weakened substantially over the past decade. Some weakening may already have occurred over the past century, and global climate models project further weakening in response to anthropogenic climate change. Such a weakening could have significant impacts on the surface climate.

However, ocean model simulations based on historical conditions have often found an increase in overturning up to the mid-1990s, followed by a decrease. It is therefore not clear whether the observed weakening over the past decade is part of decadal variability or a persistent weakening. Here we examine a state-of-the-art global-ocean reanalysis product, GloSea5, which covers the years 1989 to 2015 and closely matches observations of the AMOC at 26.5° N, capturing the interannual variability and decadal trend with unprecedented accuracy.

The reanalysis data place the ten years of observations—April 2004 to February 2014—into a longer-term context and suggest that the observed decrease in the overturning circulation is consistent with a recovery following a previous increase. We find that density anomalies that propagate southwards from the Labrador Sea are the most likely cause of these variations. We conclude that decadal variability probably played a key role in the decline of the AMOC observed over the past decade. (my bolds)

And this paper: A reversal of climatic trends in the North Atlantic since 2005
by Jon Robson, Pablo Ortega & Rowan Sutton 06 June 2016. Abstract:

In the mid-1990s the North Atlantic subpolar gyre warmed rapidly, which had important climate impacts such as increased hurricane numbers and changes to rainfall over Africa, Europe and North America. Evidence suggests that the warming was largely due to a strengthening of the ocean circulation, particularly the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Since the mid-1990s direct and indirect measurements have suggested a decline in the strength of the ocean circulation, which is expected to lead to a reduction in northward heat transport.

Here we show that since 2005 a large volume of the upper North Atlantic Ocean has cooled significantly by approximately 0.45 °C or 1.5 × 1022 J, reversing the previous warming trend. By analysing observations and a state-of-the-art climate model, we show that this cooling is consistent with a reduction in the strength of the ocean circulation and heat transport, linked to record low densities in the deep Labrador Sea. The low density in the deep Labrador Sea is primarily due to deep ocean warming since 1995, but a long-term freshening also played a role. The observed upper ocean cooling since 2005 is not consistent with the hypothesis that anthropogenic aerosols directly drive Atlantic temperatures.


Once again climatists exaggerate and ignore ocean oscillations in favor of their CO2 hysteria.  In the details of the AMOC report are observations that the heat transports slowed in part, increased in another part, and the warm gulf stream flow remained the same.

The AMO index supports this latter point, showing the continuing pulses of warm Atlantic water into the Arctic.

The next phase of the AMO will be cooler than the present, and will not be caused by human activity.

Background on AMOC is at Climate Pacemaker: The AMOC

Ocean Physics in a Cup of Coffee


The Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012 from satellite.

 Recently I posted Ocean Climate Ripples summarizing an article by Dr. Arnd Bernaerts on how humans impact upon the oceans and thereby the climate. His references to activities in the North and Baltic Seas included this comment:

It works like a spoon stirring hot coffee, attracting cold air from Siberia. In this respect they serve as confined research regions, like a unique field laboratory experiment.

This post presents an article by John S. Wettlaufer who sees not only the oceans but cosmic patterns in coffee cup vorticies. His essay is The universe in a cup of coffee.  (Bolded text is my emphasis.)

John Wettlaufer is the A. M. Bateman Professor of Geophysics, Physics, and Applied Mathematics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

As people throughout the world awake, millions of them every minute perform the apparently banal act of pouring cold milk into hot coffee or tea. Those too groggy to reach for a spoon might notice upwelling billows of milk separated by small, sinking, linear dark features such as shown in panel a of the figure. The phenomenon is such a common part of our lives that even scientists—trained to be observant—may overlook its importance and generality. The pattern bears resemblance to satellite images of ocean color, and the physics behind it is responsible for the granulated structure of the Sun and other cosmic objects less amenable to scrutiny.

(a) Everyone knows that if you wait for a while coffee will get cold. The primary agent doing the cooling is evaporatively driven convection. Pour cold milk into hot coffee and wait. The cold milk mixes very little as it sinks to the bottom of the cup, but eventually cold plumes created by evaporation at the surface sink down and displace the milk. In time, a pattern forms of upwelling (lighter) and downwelling (darker) fluid.

Archimedes pondered the powerful agent of motion known as buoyancy more than two millennia ago. Children do, too, when they imagine the origins of cloud animals on a summer’s day. The scientific study of thermal and compositional buoyancy originated in 1798 with a report by Count Rumford intended to disabuse believers of the caloric theory. Nowadays, buoyancy is at the heart of some of the most challenging problems in nonlinear physics—problems that are increasingly compelling. Answers to fundamental questions being investigated today will have implications for understanding Earth’s heat budget, the transport of atmospheric and oceanographic energy, and, as a corollary, the climate and fate of stars and the origins of planets. Few avenues of study combine such basic challenges with such a broad swath of implications. Nonetheless, the richness of fluid flow is rarely found in undergraduate physics courses. 

Wake up and smell the physics

The modern theory of hydrodynamic stability arose from experiments by Henri Bénard, who heated, from below, a thin horizontal layer of spermaceti, a viscous, fluid wax. For small vertical temperature gradients, Bénard observed nothing remarkable; the fluid conducted heat up through its surface but exhibited no wholesale motion as it did so. However, when the gradient reached a critical value, a hexagonal pattern abruptly appeared as organized convective motions emerged from what had been an homogenous fluid. The threshold temperature gradient was described by Lord Rayleigh as reflecting the balance between thermal buoyancy and viscous stresses, embodied in a dimensionless parameter now called the Rayleigh number. 

When the momentary thermal buoyancy of a blob of fluid—provided by the hot lower boundary—overcomes the viscous stresses of the surrounding fluid, wholesale organized motion ensues. The strikingly structured fluid, with its up-and-down flow assuming specific geometries, is an iconic manifestation of how a dissipative system can demonstrate symmetry breaking (the up-and-down flow distinguishes horizontal positions even though the lower boundary is at a uniform temperature), self-organization, and beauty. (See the article by Leo Kadanoff in PHYSICS TODAY, August 2001, page 34.)

Astrophysicists and geophysicists can hardly make traction on many of the problems they face unless they come to grips with convection—and their quests are substantially complicated by their systems’ rotations. Despite the 1835 publication of Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis’s Mémoire sur les équations du mouvement relatif des systèmes de corps (On the Equations of Relative Motion of a System of Bodies), debate on the underlying mechanism behind the deflection of the Foucault pendulum raged in the 1905 volume of Annalen der Physik, the same volume in which Albert Einstein introduced the world to special relativity. Maybe the lack of comprehension is not so surprising: Undergraduates still more easily grasp Einstein’s theory than the Coriolis effect, which is essential for understanding why, viewed from above, atmospheric circulation around a low pressure system over a US city is counterclockwise but circulation over an Australian city is clockwise. 

Practitioners of rotating-fluid mechanics generally credit mathematical physicist Vagn Walfrid Ekman for putting things in the modern framework, in another key paper from 1905. Several years earlier, during his famous Fram expedition, explorer Fridtjof Nansen had observed that ice floes moved to the right of the wind that imparted momentum to them. Nansen then suggested to Ekman that he investigate the matter theoretically. That the deflection was due to the ocean’s rotating with Earth was obvious, but Ekman described the corrections that must be implemented in a noninertial reference frame. Since so much in the extraterrestrial realm is spinning, scientists taken by cosmological objects eventually embraced Ekman’s formulation and sought evidence for large-scale vortex structures in the accretion disks around stars. Vortices don’t require convection and when convection is part of a vortex-producing system, additional and unexpected patterns ensue. 

Cream, sugar, and spinning

The Arctic Ocean freezes, cooling and driving salt into the surface layers. Earth’s inner core solidifies, leaving a buoyant, iron-depleted metal. Rapidly rising air from heated land surfaces creates thunderstorms. Planetary accretion disks receive radiation from their central stars. In all these systems, rotation has a hand in the fate of rising or sinking fluid. What about your steaming cup of coffee: What happens when you spin that?

(b) Several views of a volume of water 11.4 cm deep with a cross section of 22.9 × 22.9 cm. Panel b shows the liquid about 7.5 minutes after the fluid is set in motion at a few tenths of a radian per second. The principal image indicates particle density (light is denser) at a depth of 0.6 cm below the surface. The inset is a thermal image of the surface

Place the cup in the center of a spinning record player— some readers may even remember listening to music on one of those. The friction from the wall of the cup transmits stresses into the fluid interior. If the coffee is maintained at a fixed temperature for about a minute, every parcel of fluid will move at the same angular velocity; the coffee is said to be spun up.

On the time scales of contemporary atmospheric and oceanographic phenomena, Earth’s rotation is indeed a constant, whereas the time variation of the rotation could be important for phenomena in planetary interiors, the evolution of an accretion disk, or tidal perturbations of a distant moon. Thus convective vortices are contemplated relative to a rotating background flow. Perturbations in the rotation rate revive the role of boundary friction and substantially influence the interior circulation. Moreover, evaporation and freezing represent additional perturbations, which alter how the fluid behaves as stresses attempt to enforce uniform rotation. Returning to the coffee mug as laboratory, the model system shown in panel b of the figure reveals how the added complexity of rotation momentarily organizes the pattern seen in panel a into concentric rings of cold and warm fluid.

(c) Panel c shows the breakup of the rings, 11 minutes after the initiation of rotation, due to a shearing instability.

Fundamental competitions play out when you rotate your evaporating coffee. As we have seen, evaporative cooling drives narrow regions of downward convection; significant viscous and Coriolis effects balance each other in those downwelling regions. Rotation then dramatically organizes the sinking cold sheets and rising warm billows into concentric rings that first form at the center of the cup. By about 7.5 minutes after rotation has been initiated, the rings shown in panel b have grown to cover most of the horizontal plane. Their uniform azimuthal motion exists for about 3.5 minutes, at which time so-called Kelvin–Helmholtz billows associated with the shearing between the rings appear at their boundaries, grow, and roll up into vortices; see panel c. Three minutes later, as shown in panel d, those vortices lose their azimuthal symmetry and assemble into a regular vortex grid whose centers contain sinking fluid.

(d) As panel d shows, at 14 minutes the breakup leads to a grid of vortices. (Adapted from J.-Q. Zhong, M. D. Patterson, J. S. Wettlaufer, Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 044504, 2010.)

Panel d shows one type of coherent structure that forms in rotating fluids and other mathematically analogous systems if the persistence time of the structure—vortices here— is much longer than the rotational period. Other well-known examples are Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which is an enduring feature of the chaotic Jovian atmosphere, and the meandering jet streams on Earth.

Moreover, persistent vortices in superconductors and superfluids organize themselves. Indeed, it appears that vortices in superconductors are as mobile as their counterparts in inviscid fluids. And although scientists have long studied rotating convective superfluids, the classical systems considered in this Quick Study suggest that we may yet find surprising analogies in superconductors. Will we one day see superconducting jet streams?

If you are reading this article with a cup of coffee, put it down and take a closer look at what is going on in your cup.


Wettlaufer has been an advocate for getting the physics right in climate models.  His analogy of a cuppa coffee is actually a demonstration of mesoscale fluid and rotational dynamics and perturbations that still defy human attempts to simulate climate operations.


Ocean Surface Temps–How Low Will They Go?


Ocean temperature measurements come from a global array of 3,500 Argo floats and other ocean sensors. Credits: Argo Program, Germany/Ifremer

We have seen lots of claims about the temperature records for 2016 and 2015 proving dangerous man made warming.  At least one senator stated that in a confirmation hearing.  Now that HadSST3 data is complete through February 2017, let’s see how obvious is the ocean’s governing of global average temperatures.

The best context for understanding these last two years comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature the last two years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.

The chart below shows the last two years of SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3, along with the first two months of 2017.

Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 are first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in February 2016, and steadily declining back to its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added two bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year. Also, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.

Finally, the oceans are starting 2017 only slightly lower than a year ago, but this year with much cooler Tropics.  Notice that both the Tropics and also the Northern Hemisphere continue to cool.  The Global average warmed slightly, pulled upward by the Southern Hemisphere which reaches its summer peak at this time.

March may repeat 2016 when NH bottomed and SH peaked, or maybe both will rise or both will drop.  In the latter case, perhaps we will see the long-awaited La Nina.

H/T to Global Warming Policy Forum for adding this informative graphic:

Much ado has been made of this warming, including claims of human causation, despite the obvious oceanic origin. However, it is unreasonable to claim CO2 functions as a global warming agent, yet the two hemispheres respond so differently.  Moreover, CO2 warming theory expects greater warming in the higher latitudes, while this event was driven by heating in the Tropics, contradicting alarmist warming theory.

Solar energy accumulates massively in the ocean and is variably released during circulation events.


Honey, I Shrunk the Arctic Ice! Not.

Image is from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, a 1989 American science fiction family film produced by Walt Disney Pictures.

The notion that man-made global warming causes Arctic ice to melt took a major hit with a recent publication.  The article is Influence of high-latitude atmospheric circulation changes on summertime Arctic sea ice by Qinghua Ding, Axel Schweiger, Michelle L’Heureux, David S. Battisti, Stephen Po-Chedley, Nathaniel C. Johnson, Eduardo Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, Kirstin Harnos, Qin Zhang, Ryan Eastman & Eric J. Steig.  (Warning: Reliability of published papers diminishes as numbers of co-authors increases.)

The paper was published online by Nature Climate Change on 13 March 2017. It is behind a paywall, but the reactions to it are revealing.  The abstract says:

The Arctic has seen rapid sea-ice decline in the past three decades, whilst warming at about twice the global average rate. Yet the relationship between Arctic warming and sea-ice loss is not well understood. Here, we present evidence that trends in summertime atmospheric circulation may have contributed as much as 60% to the September sea-ice extent decline since 1979. A tendency towards a stronger anticyclonic circulation over Greenland and the Arctic Ocean with a barotropic structure in the troposphere increased the downwelling longwave radiation above the ice by warming and moistening the lower troposphere. Model experiments, with reanalysis data constraining atmospheric circulation, replicate the observed thermodynamic response and indicate that the near-surface changes are dominated by circulation changes rather than feedbacks from the changing sea-ice cover. Internal variability dominates the Arctic summer circulation trend and may be responsible for about 30–50% of the overall decline in September sea ice since 1979. (my bolds)

Announcements of the finding were welcomed by skeptics and lukewarmists as an indication that climatologists were taking off their CO2 blinders and at last admitting to natural forces internal to the climate system.  Some responses were:

Arctic Ice Loss Driven by Natural Swings

Arctic ice loss driven by natural swings, not just mankind

Study in journal Nature: HALF of Arctic ice loss driven by natural swings — not ‘global warming’

Arctic Ice Alarmists are finding themselves skating on thin ice, as evidenced by their articles attempting to control the damage.  Some of these titles are:

We Deserve Half the Blame for Declining Arctic Sea Ice (Discover)

Humans to blame for bulk of Arctic sea ice loss: study (

Human activity is driving retreat of Arctic sea ice (from the misnamed Skeptical Science blog)

Why Alarmists are Twisting in the Wind

The full paper is behind a paywall, but we have description of the method and content by the lead author in an article at Popular Science Up to half of the Arctic’s melt might be totally natural–But climate change is still responsible for the rest.  He begins with his profession of faith:

“Anthropogenic forcing is still dominant — it’s still the key player,” said first author Qinghua Ding, a climate scientist at the University of California Santa Barbara. . .”But we found that natural variability has helped to accelerate this melting, especially over the past 20 years.”  A colleague adds:  “The results of Ding et al. do not call into question whether human-induced warming has led to Arctic sea-ice decline – a wide range of evidence shows that it has”.

This is the shibboleth demanded from any and all scientists who do not wish to be called “deniers” and cast into the outer darkness.

Note: A shibboleth is an old belief or saying that is repetitively cited but untrue.  This meaning evolved from its earlier significance as a word or custom whose variations in pronunciation or style are used to distinguish members of ingroups from those of outgroups, with an implicit value judgment based on familiarity with the shibboleth.(Wikipedia)

“The tribe has spoken.  Time for you to go!”

What Ding et al. Studied

Ding goes on to describe the nature of their analysis. (From Popular Science)

“There is a mismatch between the model’s output and the observation,” said lead author Qinghua Ding, a professor in the Geography Department at the University of California Santa Barbara. “Observation shows very fast, very abrupt sea ice melting, whereas the climate model cannot capture the fast melting.”

To understand why, Ding and his team focused on the connection between September sea-ice extent (or how much of the Arctic sea had at least 15 percent sea ice) and the preceding summer’s (June-August) atmospheric circulation. Ding knew from earlier work that tropical circulation can affect seasonal variability of sea ice in the Arctic.

“In the model we turned off all CO2 forcing,” said Ding, or all climate changes that were “forced” by the addition of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. “And we still got some sea ice melting, that was very similar to the observation.”

“If the circulation changes are caused by anthropogenic greenhouse warming (or other human or natural external forcings such as ozone depletion, aerosol emissions, or solar activity) this pattern of atmospheric change should emerge as a clear signature when averaging together many climate model simulations of this period,” Neil Swart, a Research Scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada who wasn’t involved in the new study, wrote in an accompanying article.

But when Ding averaged the climate models together, the air circulation changes cancelled each other out—like a balanced equation. They only data that remained in the models was responding to external forcings, like greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, Ding found that between 30-50 percent of the arctic melting is due to these unforced, or non-climate change caused variations—and that with this factored in, the climate models were generally accurate. The increased rapidity of Arctic melting was due to natural variations outside of the scope of the climate change models.

What Can Be Learned from Ding et al.

First note that they are climate modelers studying the behavior of models when parameters are manipulated.  It is encouraging that they notice the incompleteness of their models leads to discrepancies from reality.  This is a step in the right direction.

Second, note that the CO2 forcing is actually their term for all external forcings, including solar, aerosols etc.  They seem to be blind to oceanic multi-decadal and multi-centennial oscillations.  They make a leap of faith when they attribute every factor outside of atmospheric circulation to CO2.

Others more comprehensive in their research have concluded that fluctuations in the ocean water structure drive both ice extent changes and atmospheric circulations. See Arctic Sea Ice: Self-Oscillating System featuring the work of V. F. Zakharov and others at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St. Petersburg.


Some climate modelers are undermining core beliefs even while using a flawed methodology based on studying models rather than nature itself. Alarmists are forced into scrambling to continue blaming humans for declining Arctic Sea Ice. When the effects of oceanic circulations are added to atmospheric effects, there is little influence left for CO2.

Spinning the papers to keep the narrative alive.


The abstract mentions downwelling longwave radiation, a theoretical effect that in practice is overwhelmed by massive heat transfers upward into space.

In the Arctic (and also at the South Pole), the air is in direct contact with an infinite heat sink: outer space. The tropopause (where radiative loss upward is optimized) is only 7 km above the surface at the poles in winter, compared to 20 km at the equator. There is no door to open or close; the air is constantly convecting any and all energy away from the surface for radiation into space.

Instead of an open door, Arctic ice melts when the sun climbs over the horizon. Both the water and air are warmed, and the ice cover retreats until sundown in Autumn.

Most people fail to appreciate the huge heat losses at the Arctic pole. Mark Brandon has an excellent post on this at his wonderful blog, Mallemaroking.

By his calculations the sensible heat loss in Arctic winter ranges 200-400 Wm2.

The annual cycle of sensible heat flux from the ocean to the atmosphere for 4 different wind speeds

As the diagram clearly shows, except for a short time in high summer, the energy flow is from the water heating the air.

“Then the heat loss over the 2×109 m2 of open water in that image is a massive 600 GW – yes that is Giga Watts – 600 x 10^9 Watts.

If you want to be really inappropriate then in 2 hours, that part of the ocean lost more energy than it takes to run the London Underground for one year.

Remember that is just one component and not the full heat budget – which is partially why it is inappropriate. For the full budget we have to include latent heat flux, long wave radiation, short wave radiation, energy changes through state changes when ice grows and decays, and so on. Also large heat fluxes lead to rapid sea ice growth which then insulates the ocean from further heat loss.”





Ocean Oxygen Misdirection

The climate scare machine is promoting again the fear of suffocating oceans. For example, an article this week by Chris Mooney in Washington Post, It’s Official, the Oceans are Losing Oxygen.

A large research synthesis, published in one of the world’s most influential scientific journals, has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world — a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues.

The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko and two colleagues from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found a decline of more than 2 percent in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010.

Climate change models predict the oceans will lose oxygen because of several factors. Most obvious is simply that warmer water holds less dissolved gases, including oxygen. “It’s the same reason we keep our sparkling drinks pretty cold,” Schmidtko said.

But another factor is the growing stratification of ocean waters. Oxygen enters the ocean at its surface, from the atmosphere and from the photosynthetic activity of marine microorganisms. But as that upper layer warms up, the oxygen-rich waters are less likely to mix down into cooler layers of the ocean because the warm waters are less dense and do not sink as readily.

And of course, other journalists pile on with ever more catchy headlines.

The World’s Oceans Are Losing Oxygen Due to Climate Change

How Climate Change Is Suffocating The Oceans

Overview of Oceanic Oxygen

Once again climate alarmists/activists have seized upon an actual environmental issue, but misdirect the public toward their CO2 obsession, and away from practical efforts to address a real concern. Some excerpts from scientific studies serve to put things in perspective.

How the Ocean Breathes

Variability in oxygen and nutrients in South Pacific Antarctic Intermediate Water by J. L. Russell and A. G. Dickson

The Southern Ocean acts as the lungs of the ocean; drawing in oxygen and exchanging carbon dioxide. A quantitative understanding of the processes regulating the ventilation of the Southern Ocean today is vital to assessments of the geochemical significance of potential circulation reorganizations in the Southern Hemisphere, both during glacial-interglacial transitions and into the future.

Traditionally, the change in the concentration of oxygen along an isopycnal due to remineralization of organic material, known as the apparent oxygen utilization (AOU), has been used by physical oceanographers as a proxy for the time elapsed since the water mass was last exposed to the atmosphere. The concept of AOU requires that newly subducted water be saturated with respect to oxygen and is calculated from the difference between the measured oxygen concentration and the saturated concentration at the sample temperature.

This study has shown that the ratio of oxygen to nutrients can vary with time. Since Antarctic Intermediate Water provides a necessary component to the Pacific equatorial biological regime, this relatively high-nutrient, high-oxygen input to the Equatorial Undercurrent in the Western Pacific plays an important role in driving high rates of primary productivity on the equator, while limiting the extent of denitrifying bacteria in the eastern portion of the basin. 

Uncertain Measures of O2 Variability and Linkage to Climate Change

A conceptual model for the temporal spectrum of oceanic oxygen variability by Taka Ito and Curtis Deutsch

Changes in dissolved O2 observed across the world oceans in recent decades have been interpreted as a response of marine biogeochemistry to climate change. Little is known however about the spectrum of oceanic O2 variability. Using an idealized model, we illustrate how fluctuations in ocean circulation and biological respiration lead to low-frequency variability of thermocline oxygen.

Because the ventilation of the thermocline naturally integrates the effects of anomalous respiration and advection over decadal timescales, shortlived O2 perturbations are strongly damped, producing a red spectrum, even in a randomly varying oceanic environment. This background red spectrum of O2 suggests a new interpretation of the ubiquitous strength of decadal oxygen variability and provides a null hypothesis for the detection of climate change influence on oceanic oxygen. We find a statistically significant spectral peak at a 15–20 year timescale in the subpolar North Pacific, but the mechanisms connecting to climate variability remain uncertain.

The spectral power of oxygen variability increases from inter-annual to decadal frequencies, which can be explained using a simple conceptual model of an ocean thermocline exposed to random climate fluctuations. The theory predicts that the bias toward low-frequency variability is expected to level off as the forcing timescales become comparable to that of ocean ventilation. On time scales exceeding that of thermocline renewal, O2 variance may actually decrease due to the coupling between physical O2 supply and biological respiration [Deutsch et al., 2006], since the latter is typically limited by the physical nutrient supply.

Climate Model Projections are Confounded by Natural Variability

Natural variability and anthropogenic trends in oceanic oxygen in a coupled carbon cycle–climate model ensemble by T. L. Frolicher et al.

Internal and externally forced variability in oceanic oxygen (O2) are investigated on different spatiotemporal scales using a six-member ensemble from the National Center for Atmospheric Research CSM1.4-carbon coupled climate model. The oceanic O2 inventory is projected to decrease significantly in global warming simulations of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The anthropogenically forced O2 decrease is partly compensated by volcanic eruptions, which cause considerable interannual to decadal variability. Volcanic perturbations in oceanic oxygen concentrations gradually penetrate the ocean’s top 500 m and persist for several years. While well identified on global scales, the detection and attribution of local O2 changes to volcanic forcing is difficult because of unforced variability.

Internal climate modes can substantially contribute to surface and subsurface O2 variability. Variability in the North Atlantic and North Pacific are associated with changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation indexes. Simulated decadal variability compares well with observed O2 changes in the North Atlantic, suggesting that the model captures key mechanisms of late 20th century O2 variability, but the model appears to underestimate variability in the North Pacific.

Our results suggest that large interannual to decadal variations and limited data availability make the detection of human-induced O2 changes currently challenging.

The concentration of dissolved oxygen in the thermocline and the deep ocean is a particularly sensitive indicator of change in ocean transport and biology [Joos et al., 2003]. Less than a percent of the combined atmosphere and ocean O2 inventory is found in the ocean. The O2 concentration in the ocean interior reflects the balance between O2 supply from the surface through physical transport and O2 consumption by respiration of organic material.

Our modeling study suggests that over recent decades internal natural variability tends to mask simulated century-scale trends in dissolved oxygen from anthropogenic forcing in the North Atlantic and Pacific. Observed changes in oxygen are similar or even smaller in magnitude than the spread of the ensemble simulation. The observed decreasing trend in dissolved oxygen in the Indian Ocean thermocline and the boundary region between the subtropical and subpolar gyres in the North Pacific has reversed in recent years [McDonagh et al., 2005; Mecking et al., 2008], implicitly supporting this conclusion.

The presence of large-scale propagating O2 anomalies, linked with major climate modes, complicates the detection of long-term trends in oceanic O2 associated with anthropogenic climate change. In particular, we find a statistically significant link between O2 and the dominant climate modes (NAO and PDO) in the North Atlantic and North Pacific surface and subsurface waters, which are causing more than 50% of the total internal variability of O2 in these regions.

To date, the ability to detect and interpret observed changes is still limited by lack of data. Additional biogeo-chemical data from time series and profiling floats, such as the Argo array ( are needed to improve the detection of ocean oxygen and carbon system changes and our understanding of climate change.

The Real Issue is Ocean Dead Zones, Both Natural and Man-made

Since 1994, he and the World Resources Institute (report here) in Washington,D.C., have identified and mapped 479 dead zones around the world. That’s more than nine times as many as scientists knew about 50 years ago.

What triggers the loss of oxygen in ocean water is the explosive growth of sea life fueled by the release of too many nutrients. As they grow, these crowds can simply use up too much of the available oxygen.

Many nutrients entering the water — such as nitrogen and phosphorus — come from meeting the daily needs of some seven billion people around the world, Diaz says. Crop fertilizers, manure, sewage and exhaust spewed by cars and power plants all end up in waterways that flow into the ocean. Each can contribute to the creation of dead zones.

Ordinarily, when bacteria steal oxygen from one patch of water, more will arrive as waves and ocean currents bring new water in. Waves also can grab oxygen from the atmosphere.

Dead zones develop when this ocean mixing stops.

Rivers running into the sea dump freshwater into the salty ocean. The sun heats up the freshwater on the sea surface. This water is lighter than cold saltier water, so it floats atop it. When there are not enough storms (including hurricanes) and strong ocean currents to churn the water, the cold water can get trapped below the fresh water for long periods.

Dead zones are seasonal events. They typically last for weeks or months. Then they’ll disappear as the weather changes and ocean mixing resumes.

Solutions are Available and do not Involve CO2 Emissions

Helping dead zones recover

The Black Sea is bordered by Europe and Asia. Dead zones used to develop here that covered an area as large as Switzerland. Fertilizers running off of vast agricultural fields and animal feedlots in the former Soviet Union were a primary cause. Then, in 1989, parts of the Soviet Union began revolting. Two years later, this massive nation broke apart into 15 separate countries.

The political instability hurt farm activity. In short order, use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers by area farmers declined. Almost at once, the size of the Black Sea’s dead zone shrunk dramatically. Now if a dead zone forms there it’s small, Rabalais says. Some years there is none.

Chesapeake Bay, the United State’s largest estuary, has its own dead zone. And the area affected has expanded over the past 50 years due to pollution. But since the 1980s, farmers, landowners and government agencies have worked to reduce the nutrients flowing into the bay.

Farmers now plant cover crops, such as oats or barley, that use up fertilizer that once washed away into rivers. Growers have also established land buffers to absorb nutrient runoff and to keep animal waste out of streams. People have even started to use laundry detergents made without phosphorus.

In 2011, scientists reported that these efforts had achieved some success in shrinking the size of the bay’s late-summer dead zones.

The World Resources Institute lists 55 dead zones as improving. “The bottom line is if we take a look at what is causing a dead zone and fix it, then the dead zone goes away,” says Diaz. “It’s not something that has to be permanent.”


Alarmists/activists are again confusing the public with their simplistic solution for a complex situation. And actual remedies are available, just not the agenda preferred by climatists.

Waste Management Saves the Ocean


Ocean Climate Ripples

Dr. Arnd Bernaerts is again active with edifying articles on how humans impact upon the oceans and thereby the climate. His recent post is Global Cooling 1940 – 1975 explained for climate change experts

I and others first approach Dr. Bernaerts’ theory relating naval warfare to climate change with a properly skeptical observation. The ocean is so vast, covering 71% of our planet’s surface and up to 11,000 meters deep, with such a storage of solar energy that it counteracts all forcings including human ones.

As an oceanographer, Bernaerts is well aware of that generalization, having named his website Oceans Govern Climate. But his understanding is much more particular and more clear to me in these recent presentations. His information is encyclopedic and his grasp of the details can be intimidating, but I think I get his main point.

When there is intense naval warfare concentrated in a small, shallow basin like the North Sea, the disturbance of the water structure and circulation is profound. The atmosphere responds, resulting in significant regional climate effects. Nearby basins and continents are impacted and eventually it ripples out across the globe.

The North Atlantic example is explained by Bernaerts Cooling of North Sea – 1939 (2_16) Some excerpts below.

Follow the Water

Water, among all solids and liquids, has the highest heat capacity except for liquid ammonia. If water within a water body remained stationary and did not move (which is what it does abundantly and often forcefully for a number of reasons), the uppermost water surface layer would, to a very high percentage, almost stop the transfer of any heat from a water body to the atmosphere.

However, temperature and salt are the biggest internal dynamic factors and they make the water move permanently. How much the ocean can transfer heat to the surface depends on how warm the surface water is relative to atmospheric air. Of no lesser importance is the question, as to how quickly and by what quantities cooled-down surface water is replaced by warmer water from sub-surface level. Wind, cyclones and hurricanes are atmospheric factors that quickly expose new water masses at the sea surface. Another ‘effective’ way to replace surface water is to stir the water body itself. Naval activities are doing just this.

War in the North Sea

Since the day the Second World War had started naval activities moved and turned the water in the North Sea at surface and lower levels at 5, 10, 20 or 30 metres or deeper on a scale that was possibly dozens of times higher than any comparable other external activity over a similar time period before. Presumably only World War One could be named in comparison.

The combatants arrived on the scene when the volume of heat from the sun had reached its annual peak. Impacts on temperatures and icing are listed in the last section: ‘Events’ (see below). The following circumstantial evidences help conclude with a high degree of certainty that the North Sea contributed to the arctic war winter of1939/40.

Climate Change in Response

On the basis of sea surface temperature record at Helgoland Station and subsequent air temperature, developments provide strong indication that the evaporation rate was high. This is confirmed by the following impacts observed:

More wind: As the rate of evaporation over the North Sea has not been measured and recorded, it seems there is little chance to prove that more vapour moved upwards during autumn 1939 than usual. It can be proved that the direction of the inflow of wind had changed from the usually most prevailing SW winds, to winds from the N to E, predominantly from the East. At Kew Observatory (London) general wind direction recorded was north-easterly only three times during 155 winter years; i.e. in 1814, 1841 and 1940[6]. This continental wind could have significantly contributed to the following phenomena of 1939: ‘The Western Front rain’.

More rain: One of the most immediate indicators of evaporation is the excessive rain in an area stretching from Southern England to Saxony, Silesia and Switzerland. Southern Baltic Sea together with Poland and Northern Germany were clearly separated from the generally wet weather conditions only three to four hundred kilometres further south. A demonstration of the dominant weather situation occurred in late October, when a rain section (supplied from Libya) south of the line Middle Germany, Hungary and Romania was completely separated from the rain section at Hamburg – Southern Baltic[7].

More cooling: Further, cooling observed from December 1939 onward can be linked to war activities in two ways. The most immediate effect, as has been explained (above), is the direct result from any excessive evaporation process. The second (at least for the establishment of global conditions in the first war winter) is the deprivation of the Northern atmosphere of its usual amount of water masses, circulating the globe as humidity.

Rippling Effects in Northern Europe and Beyond

Next to the Atlantic Gulf Current, the North Sea (Baltic Sea is discussed in the next chapter) plays a key role in determining the winter weather conditions in Northern Europe. The reason is simple. As long as these seas are warm, they help sustain the supremacy of maritime weather conditions. If their heat capacity turns negative, their feature turns ‘continental’, giving high air pressure bodies an easy opportunity to reign, i.e. to come with cold and dry air. Once that happens, access of warm Atlantic air is severely hampered or even prevented from moving eastwards freely.

The less moist air is circulating the globe south of the Arctic, the more easily cold polar air can travel south. A good piece of evidence is the record lack of rain in the USA from October – December 1939 followed by a colder than average January 1940, a long period of low water temperatures in the North Sea from October-March (see above) and the ‘sudden’ fall of air temperatures to record low in Northern Europe.

The graph above suggests that naval warfare is linked to rapid cooling. The climate system responds with negative feed backs to restore equilibrium. Following WWI, limited to the North Atlantic, the system overshot and the momentum continued upward into the 1930s. Following WWII, with both Pacific and Atlantic theaters, the climate feed backs show several peaks trying to offset the cooling, but the downward trend persisted until about 1975.


The Oceans Govern Climate. Man influences the ocean governor by means of an expanding fleet of motorized propeller-driven ships. Naval warfare in the two World Wars provide the most dramatic examples of the climate effects.

Neither I nor Dr. Bernaerts claim that shipping and naval activity are the only factors driving climate fluctuations. But it is disturbing that so much attention and money is spent on a bit player CO2, when a much more plausible human influence on climate is ignored and not investigated.

AMO: Atlantic Climate Pulse

I was inspired by David Dilley’s weather forecasting based upon Atlantic water pulsing into the Arctic Ocean (see post: Global Weather Oscillations). So I went looking for that signal in the AMO dataset, our best long-term measure of sea surface temperature variations in the North Atlantic.


For this purpose, I downloaded the AMO Index from Kaplan SST v.2, the unaltered and untrended dataset. By definition, the data are monthly average SSTs interpolated to a 5×5 grid over the North Atlantic basically 0 to 70N.

For an overview the graph below presents a comparison between Annual, March and September averages from 1856 to 2016 inclusive.


We see about 4°C difference between the cold month of March, and warm September. The overall trend is slightly positive at 0.27°C per century, about 10% higher in September and 10% lower in March. It is also clear that monthly patterns resemble closely the annual pattern, so it is reasonable to look more closely into Annual variability.

The details of the Annual fluctuations in AMO reveal the pulse pattern suggested by Dilley.


We note firstly the classic pattern of temperature cycles seen in all datasets featuring quality-controlled unadjusted data. The low in 1913, high in 1944, low in 1975, and high in 1998. Also evident are the matching El Nino years 1998, 2009 and 2016, indicating that what happens in the Pacific does not stay in the Pacific.

Most interesting are the periodic peaking of AMO in the 8 to 10 year time frame. The arrows indicate the peaks, which as Dilley describes produce a greater influx of warm Atlantic water under the Arctic ice. And as we know from historical records and naval ice charts, Arctic ice extents were indeed low in the 1930s, high in the 1970s, low in the 1990s and on a plateau presently.


I am intrigued but do not yet subscribe to the Lunarsolar explanation for these pulses, but the AMO index does provide impressive indication of the North Atlantic role as a climate pacemaker. Oceans make up 71% of the planet surface, so SSTs directly drive global mean temperatures (GMT). But beyond the math, Atlantic pulses set up oscillations in the Arctic that impact the world.

In the background is a large scale actor, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) which is the Atlantic part of the global “conveyor belt” moving warm water from the equatorial oceans to the poles and back again.  For more on this deep circulation pattern see Climate Pacemaker: The AMOC

Oceans Make 2015 & 2016 Climate


Ocean temperature measurements come from a global array of 3,500 Argo floats and other ocean sensors. Credits: Argo Program, Germany/Ifremer

We are seeing lots of claims about the temperature records for 2016 and 2015 proving dangerous man made warming.  At least one senator stated that in a confirmation hearing.  Now that HadSST3 data is complete for last year, let’s see how obvious is the ocean’s governing of global average temperatures.

The best context for understanding these two years comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature these years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.

The chart below shows the last two years of SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3.


Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 are first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in January 2016, and steadily declining back to its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added two bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year. Also, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.

Finally, the oceans are entering 2017 at the same temperature level as 2015, only now with downward momentum.

Much ado will be made of this warming, including claims of human causation, despite the obvious oceanic origin. However, it is unreasonable to claim CO2 functions as a global warming agent, yet the two hemispheres respond so differently.  Moreover, CO2 warming theory expects greater warming in the higher latitudes, while this event was driven by heating in the Tropics, contradicting alarmist warming theory.

Solar energy accumulates massively in the ocean and is variably released during circulation events.


The Ocean Climate Spin Zone


This image shows the five major ocean gyres. It shows that gyres rotate in a clockwise direction in the Northern hemisphere and a counter-clockwise direction in the Southern hemisphere. The black square shows the approximate location of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the red circle shows the position of the Beaufort gyre in the Arctic Ocean.

Professional hydrologist Rob Ellison has for years been thinking and writing to connect the dots between the sun, ocean and climate. Recently he wrote this post at his excellent blog Terra et Aqua, An Earnest Discovery of Climate Causality (link in red)

Below I provide some excerpts from his discussion about an ocean mechanism which would be much better understood, were it not for the CO2 obsession sucking up most of the research funding.


It is hypothesized that upwelling in the Pacific Ocean is modulated by solar activity over periods of decades to millennia – with profound impacts on communities and ecosystems globally. The great resonant systems of the Pacific respond at variable periods – the tempo increased last century for instance – of La Niña and El Niño alternation. . .The mechanism proposed is a spinning up of the Pacific gyres as a result of colder and denser polar air. Low solar activity spins up the gyres producing more frequent La Niña (more equatorial upwelling) – and vice versa.

Pacific Oscillations Global Impact

The Pacific has a globally influential role in climate variability at scales of months to millennia. The variability in atmospheric temperature, rainfall and biology has its origin in the volume of cold water rising off California and in the equatorial Pacific. It is an ever changing anomaly.

The principle of atmospheric heating and cooling by ENSO is very simple. Cold, nutrient rich currents cascade through the deep oceans over a millennia or more. These turbulent currents don’t generally emerge through a sun warmed surface layer. By far the most significant deep ocean upwelling is in the eastern and central Pacific. Cold water in contact with the atmosphere absorbs heat and warms as the atmosphere cools. At times there is less upwelling and warm water spreads eastward across the Pacific – warming the atmosphere. It is simple enough to see in temperature data.

I have a preference for near global coverage and depth integrated satellite temperature records – it doesn’t miss energy in latent heat at the surface for one thing. 21st century instrumentation is much to be preferred going forward. Over the past century the 20 to 30 year influence of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) anomaly can be seen in the surface records. Warming to the mid 1940’s, cooling to 1976, warming to 1998 and little change since. The PDO and ENSO are, moreover, in lockstep. A cooler PDO anomaly and more frequent and intense La Niña – and vice versa.

Pacific Gyres Spinning Up Climate Change

The atmospheric/ocean system of triggers and feedbacks varies – usually abruptly with triggers. The trigger for more upwelling I can only imagine is the great ocean gyres. Ocean gyres spin up on the surface through winds and planetary rotation. Pressure systems shift polar winds and storms into lower latitudes. High polar atmospheric pressures spin up the gyres pushing cold polar water into the Californian and Peruvian currents. Roiling cold water upwelling sets up wind and current feedback across the Pacific.

More polar cold water at the surface facilitates upwelling in critical regions.  Trade winds spin up as a feedback and piles warm water against Australia and Indonesia.  Sometimes the winds falter and warm water flows back eastward suppressing cold upwelling.  The whole is a complex and dynamic system triggered by changes in atmospheric pressure zones in the north and south Pacific.  Great movements of atmospheric mass driven by a marginal change in solar activity.  A large reaction from a small jolt as expected with technically chaotic systems.

Tessa Vance and colleagues from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC found a proxy of eastern Pacific upwelling in an ice core at the Law Dome Antarctica.  A higher salt content – from polar westerlies – is a proxy for solar activity.  But also results in changes in the great Pacific gyres and the intensity of upwelling.   More upwelling brings rain and cyclones to Indonesia and northern and eastern Australia, drought in the United States of and South America, cooler global temperatures and biological abundance.   Less in El Niña conditions and we – in Australia – get drought.   The absolute volume of rainfall is roughly constant but where it falls on the planet changes.

The record captures in high resolution the 20 to 30 year Pacific beat, the change in the ENSO tempo last century and has at least a resemblance to the solar signal over a 1000 years.  But even with a millennial high El Niño anomaly last century – conditions have been far more extreme at other times in the past 12,000 years.


Will there be more La Niña over the next centuries? Can we expect more El Niño in a thousand years?  Might we see great herds return to the Sahel?  The future remains unpredictable.   Still – a return to the mean scenario does suggest better odds on a cooler sun and a little more upwelling in the Pacific Ocean – a cooling influence on the atmosphere and the inevitable regional variabilities in rainfall.

Oceans Make Climate is a major theme at this blog, since I fortunately made the acquaintance of Dr. Arnd Bernaerts.  Rob Ellison adds another important dimension with his consideration of the gyres.


Recently I noticed how sea surface temperatures drove the 2015-2016 global warming, as shown in the HadSST3 record:

Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 are first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in January 2016, and steadily declining back to its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added two bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year. Finally, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.

Much ado will be made of this warming, including claims of human causation, despite the obvious oceanic origin. Further, it is curious that CO2 functions as a warming agent so unevenly around the world, and that the Tropics drove this event, contradicting CO2 warming theory.

Anatomy of the Hottest Years Ever