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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Study shows ARGO ocean robots uncertainty was up to 100 times larger than advertised

The oceans contain 90% of the heat energy on the surface of the Earth, which makes it “kinda important”. There are claims that the missing heat went into ocean temperatures, which are allegedly warming by five thousandths of a  degree per  year (which is still a lot less than the models predicted). The ARGO array of 3,000 ocean buoys deployed from mid-2003 is a vast improvement on the occasional sampling from ships that preceded it, but each single thermometer measures a vast 200,000 cubic kilometers of ocean.

The original Argo Science Report had an expected temperature sensor uncertainty of 0.005C. But it’s just not possible to measure the ocean temperature that accurately. Each thermometer may be accurate in a laboratory to 0.005C, but thermal noise in the ocean is an impossible beast. The four-kilometer-deep swirling mass of eddies varies from 0C – 30C. It is not a well mixed swimming pool at one temperature, being measured 3,000 times simultaneously — the statistics are entirely dissimilar.

I went looking for papers on error estimates and found Hadfield 2007.

The Hadfield study compared the new ARGO robotic buoys to other ways of measuring ocean temperatures in a slice across the North Atlantic. [...]

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 [...]

How to unscientifically hype insignificant noise in ocean “warming”

Time to panic:

Peter Hannam says: “The world’s oceans are heating at the rate of two trillion 100-watt light bulbs burning continuously…”

Maybe not?

 Jo says: “… that’s two trillion light bulbs, plus or minus 200 trillion…”

Conclusion: Random noise is coming to get you.

Scientists used to care about measurement error. Not so much any more. The ARGO buoys are marvelous high-tech robots, but each thermometer measures 200,000 cubic kilometers of ocean.  The thermometer in a buoy is accurate in a laboratory to 0.005C, but can they really detect global oceanic changes of five thousands of a degree?

Oh yessity say the scientists, because there are 3,000 thermometers. But, no no no thinks Jo. If they were all measuring the same swimming pool, having a lot of them would reduce the error, but each thermometer is measuring a different piece of ocean full of thermal noise. Some will argue that the the exact absolute temperature is not what matters, it’s the changing trend we need to measure. But these thermometers are not staying in one place measuring one tiny slice of the ocean, they roam randomly through water that varies [...]

The mystery of cooling deep ocean, volcanoes, and missing heat

That deep heat almost seems to coincide with Atlantic and Southern Ocean volcanoes?

All roads lead to the ocean. This time, though, we’re talking about the mysterious deep abyss, below 2,000m and even below 3,600m. Wunsch et al, claim the data shows the deep ocean cooled by one hundredth of a degree in the last 19 years. But they admit that really… this could just be noise. (Well, shock me.) But they have some new and glorious heat maps, and I use those to do some wild speculation about volcanoes.

When all is said and done, there are three inescapable oceanic truths:

Around 90% of all the energy in the Earth’s climate system is in the oceans. Thou shalt not create nor destroy energy. If there was an energy imbalance running day after day, gazillions of Joules of energy must be somewhere. They cannot “pause”, take holidays, nor appear in future without being present in the now.

Despite the 95% certainty among 97% of certified “climate scientists”, no one can find that energy. Thus the social-science-fact meets the physical-science-fact. Which “fact” should we spend billions on? The stone-age approach is to go with the “doctors” not the data, and [...]

Are dead fish worth more than live person? Could be… Let’s ban fishing too.

Did you know you can change the weather by not eating deep sea fish? Me neither. But apparently fish and other marine life in the high seas contain $148 billion dollars worth of carbon dioxide. (The carbon price used, which includes mitigation costs, is apparently almost $100/tonne — a tad higher than the current EU carbon price of 5 Euro. The “price” was derived from a US govt agency, wouldn’t you know, not the free market.)

The high seas catch is worth a mere $16 billion and is only 1% of all fish caught. But it follows that either hungry people will have to pay a bit more for their fish, or fishermen will switch to take more fish from the low seas. Either that, or hungry people can just eat more rice, right? And it’s not like anyone cares about the protein content of poor people’s diets is it? (Look who made a hyperbolic fuss about a potential 5% reduction in the mineral content of rice by 2050.)

Lets think for a minute about how anyone would make a global oceanic ban work?  Since people only catch deep sea fish for fun, I suppose we  just ask them to [...]

Mass carbon emissions, yet Australian sea levels rise at similar speed as 1920 – 1950

Australia is one of the most stable land masses on the planet, and has more gauges than anywhere else in the southern hemisphere, so it’s very useful for sea-level measurements. It also had a couple of rare continuous long records “… the two longest sea-level records in the southern hemisphere, Sydney Fort Denison from 1886 and Fremantle from 1897″ .

A new paper by White et al, concludes that Australian sea level rises are similar to global measurements (so not a bad proxy for the world), and that during times when CO2 levels were much lower — like before World War II, sea levels were rising at the same speed (or possibly faster) than they are today.

A generalized additive model of Australia’s two longest records (Fremantle and Sydney) reveals the presence of both linear and non-linear long-term sea-level trends, with both records showing larger rates of rise between 1920 and 1950, relatively stable mean sea levels between 1960 and 1990 and an increased rate of rise from the early 1990s.

Does a “larger rate of rise” mean larger than today, or larger than average — I think, given the error margins, that we could only be sure it [...]

Global Wind excuse — monkey-modeling shows global warming theory is Still Not Wrong.

The backdown continues. Faced with the ongoing failure of their models, the search rolls on for any factor that helps “explain” why the official climate scientists are still right even though they got it so wrong.  The new England et al paper endorses skeptics in so many ways.

The world might warm by only 2.1 degrees this century, not 4c. (Skeptics were right — the models exaggerate). There has been and is a pause in warming which the 95%-certain-models didn’t predict. (The science wasn’t settled.) What the trade-winds giveth, they can also taketh away. If they “cause cooling” after 2000, then they probably “caused warming” before that. How much less important is CO2? Ultimately, newer models are less wrong if they include changes in wind speed, but they don’t know what drives the wind. It’s curve fitting with one more variable.

As usual, the models still can’t predict the climate, but they can be adjusted post hoc with new factors to trim their overestimates back to within the errors bars of some observations.

As I said nearly 2 years ago, Matthew England owes Nick Minchin an apology:

Nick Minchin: ” there is a major problem with the warmist argument [...]

IPCC in denial. “Just-so” excuses use ocean heat to hide their failure.

In answer to the excuse du jour: “The Ocean ate my Global Warming”.

Now that the plateau in air temperatures has lasted for 15 years, everyone, even IPCC lead authors, can see the “90% certain” models were 98% wrong. So the IPCC now claims the heat went into the deep abyss, which they didn’t predict, can’t measure accurately, and, even by the best estimates we have, has not been anywhere near large enough to explain the missing energy.

They predicted the surface air temperature would increase, but it didn’t. (The 1990 IPCC predictions about temperatures were so wrong the trends have come in below their lowest possible estimate.) They predicted the oceans would warm more than twice as much as they actually have (as best as we can tell). They did not predict the air temperature would level out for 15 years, and the oceans would suddenly start producing “natural cooling”.

The oceans are a bit of a mystery black box

There are 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of ocean out there — it’s so big it hid a 650 km volcano until two weeks ago. Only two people have been to the bottom ever (correction, three men), and they [...]

Ocean temperatures – Is that warming statistically significant?

The oceans as measured by ARGO are warming, but that warming is not only far less than the models predicted, it is far less even than the instrument error.

The background of a crucial point

Everyone agrees: 90% of the energy in the Earth’s climate system is stored in the oceans. Rocks and sand don’t transmit the heat down, except at incredibly slow rates. The wil-o’-the-wisp-atmosphere hardly holds any energy. But water covers 70% of the surface, to an average depth of 3,700m, and it can store septillions of joules.

Climate models say the Earth’s energy balance is out of whack, and therefore 90% of the extra energy trapped by increasing greenhouse gases is stored in the ocean.  The oceans are warming (probably), but the extra energy found in the top 700m of the world’s oceans is not enough. The modelers argued the heat was hidden below, that from 700m-2,000m. Skeptics argue the missing energy was flung out to space. This is the big enchilada, and as far as measuring oceans goes, everything changed in 2003 when we finally got the ARGO system, and that’s why it’s worth a closer look now.

David points [...]

Ocean plankton suck up twice the carbon we thought they did

Hyperia | Credit Wikimedia

Despite the fuss about CO2 emissions, on a global scale no one is quite sure where a lot of it ends up. Those mystery “sinks” draw in a large proportion of CO2. Here’s a big sink that just got twice as big.

Science Daily  Mar. 17, 2013 — Models of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans need to be revised, according to new work by UC Irvine and other scientists published online Sunday in Nature Geoscience. Trillions of plankton near the surface of warm waters are far more carbon-rich than has long been thought, they found. Global marine temperature fluctuations could mean that tiny Prochlorococcus and other microbes digest double the carbon previously calculated.

The trouble started when someone made an assumption.