A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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New Paper finds ocean circulation drives the climate on the surface

During the last ice age (and others before it)  temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere would abruptly swing up and down by a hefty 3 – 6°C  every 1,500 years or so. A new study using isotopes on the sea floor rather provocatively suggests that the Atlantic ocean circulation was to blame. Apparently it slowed almost to halt, and before the surface water cooled. It seems that when the Atlantic currents slow too far they stop bringing warmer water north from the equator and Southern Hemisphere, and thus the north ices over.  During these super-cold periods the ice sheets spread down and cover much of North America, (and real estate in Australia costs a motza). Massive icebergs break off and drift, but apparently things took a lot longer to get cold in the Southern Hemisphere, and the north and south possibly got a bit out of whack cooling and warming in opposite phases. The researcher used the word “bipolar”.

The $64 trillion dollar question is if ocean currents cause climate change, what causes the ocean currents? The researchers don’t know. (Seems kind of important). Things stabilized out in the last 10,000 warm years. It looks like the wild swings don’t occur [...]

Cooling in the North Atlantic

Something is going on in the North Atlantic.

Paul Homewood notes the region is cooling rapidly and it is not just surface cooling, it applies to the 700m depth that Argo buoys measure. Graphs thanks to Ole Humlum.

To give it some perspective that cooling is back to temperatures of about 20 years ago (see below). This is localized, not global, but still interesting (rather especially to our European friends).

This is the area mentioned in a recent study on solar winds which found faster solar winds correlate with a cooler north Atlantic.

A year ago a different paper predicted colder times were coming to the North Atlantic due to natural cycles.

The man-made aerosols prediction that bit the dust…

A paper by Robsom et al in the last couple of weeks said that the cooling trend was clear, started in 2005 and really shouldn’t have happened if man-made aerosols were controlling the North Atlantic.

 ”Here we show that since 2005 a large volume of the upper North Atlantic nOcean has cooled significantly by approximately 0.45 C.”

“The observed upper ocean cooling since 2005 is not consistent with the hypothesis that anthropogenic aerosols directly [...]

North Atlantic cooling means climate change of a different kind coming?

Is this the way the backdown plays out? The endless warming becomes cooling, and man-made change becomes natural cycles one paper at a time? The press releases still talk of “change”! No mention that natural cycles could have been the cause of past warming, and that skeptics have been saying this for years.

Figure 3 | Sea-level circulation index, the NAO and the AMO on multidecadaltimescales. Shown are the accumulated sea-level index (blue), which isrepresentative of subpolar heat content evolution, the accumulated NAO (red,dashed) and the AMO (black). The heat content proxy and the accumulatedNAO have been normalized. All timeseries have been 7-year low-pass filtered.The accumulated sea-level index and accumulated NAO have been detrended.

This Nature paper will be tricky to feed into the “Panic Now!” scenario. It’s still climate change, but it’s a half a degree of cooling that might be headed your way if you live around the northern Atlantic.

UPDATE: A quick summary of the paper. McCarthy et al created a circulation index (blue line, fig 3) which appears to lead the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, black line) by two years. The sea level index is generated by comparing sea levels north and south of [...]

The SOI still rules

Who would have thought that if you knew the air pressure in Darwin and Tahiti in June, you could figure out that the start of 2011 might be a Stalingrad Winter up North and a cooler wetter summer down south (Not that people in Sydney feel all that cool right now). But the air pressure ratios are reported as the SOI (Southern Oscillation Index) and it’s the handiest thing if you like predicting global temperatures 7 months ahead. Look at that correlation.

Since June last year Bryan Leyland has been using the simple connection described by Carter, De Freitas, and  McLean in 2009 to predict up and coming temperatures.

So far, for what it’s worth, he’s right on track.

Such is the power of the stored pool of cold that is the bottom three-quarters of the Pacific Ocean. And when you look at how vast the Southern Pacific ocean is, is it any wonder it has such an influence? All that heat capacity…