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Spinning more bad news to pretend it answers skeptics. When 400 “equals” zero

Believers really do have trouble with numbers. Today 400 is apparently a lot like zero.

Since when was 400 years a gap that anyone called “close”? Especially when we are talking about a molecular effect that works in microseconds (or hey, even less).

Newspapers today are full of the spin that an Antarctic survey by Pedro et al, that found CO2 only lagged temperature by a mere tiny 400 years ‘… “addressed the argument of “climate sceptics” that CO2 increases did not lead to temperature rises because the temperature rise must come first.’ [The Australian]. Didn’t the editor notice that a lag of 400 years is still a lag? Did the journalist (Rosanne Hunt) not realize that even if the lag was measured in hours it still means temperature drives carbon dioxide, and not the other way around? This is nonsense on stilts. The Australian only published 6 lines, and one of them is barking.

The “lag” might be small on this scale, but it’s long compared to a taxpayers lifespan. Graph from the Australian Antarctic Division


The Australian Government (Antarctic Division) says it “closes the gap” and “Their findings suggest that feedbacks in the climate system – in which warming is linked to natural carbon dioxide increase, driving further warming – may operate faster than previously thought.”

But wait, if we only have to wait 400 years for this feedback to kick in, it won’t be disastrous in 2020, it will be 2345 before it starts (that’s the post WWII coal fired boom in emissions, plus 400). I just can’t see the electorate getting too worked up about it.

The gap was estimated to be 800 years previously.

Synchronous? Since when was 4 centuries “near-synchronous”?

Watch the language – they are so sloppy with it.

“The ice cores reveal a near-synchronous temperature and carbon dioxide increase. If there was a lag at all then it was likely no more than 400 years,” says Joel Pedro from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, in Hobart, who led the study.

[Aust Govt Antarctic Division site]

For alarmists, numbers are not important, it’s all in the “words”. Eric Steig can’t emphasize how important this is.

Eric Steig, an American ice core expert based at the University of Washington who examined Pedro’s PhD thesis, said almost all previous work had provided uncertainties on the time lag between temperature and carbon dioxide in the order of many hundreds to even thousands of years. “I cannot emphasize enough how important this result is,” he said. “The authors collapse these values to something so short that it has major implications for our understanding of the carbon cycle and climate change.”

But wait a minute, which climate scientists thought it was “important” ten years ago when researchers realized that temperatures definitively rose first? Where were the headlines between 1999 – 2003 as paper after paper repeatedly showed that there was no chance CO2 rose before temperature. Until then climate scientists had been happy to let journalists assume that CO2 rises led temperature rises, and that this was important evidence for the theory of man-made climate disaster. (And even after the lag was well known among scientists, how many alarmist scientists protested when Al Gore implied it was still “evidence” in his 2005 movie? Would that be “none”? All we know for sure about CO2 feedbacks in ice cores is that climate scientists are not concerned about accurate reporting.)

Quite likely the positive feedback from temperature-driven-rises-in-CO2 could have some effect, but I’ve discussed before that no one can calculate or find it in the ice cores. Whatever effect there is, is so small, it is beyond statistical interpretation, and no one has published a paper calculating climate sensitivity with ice core data since the better resolution came out in the late 1990’s.

Yet the lack of any evidence for causal link doesn’t stop Pedro from claiming one:

“Just as the steady increase in CO2 helped to melt the ice caps and warm the earth out of the ice age, the rapid increase now in CO2 is also driving up temperatures, only at a much faster rate,” he said.

“What we’re doing now is over a hundred times faster.”

The rise in temperatures in the ice cores after CO2 starts to rise shows no measurable acceleration. The rise in CO2 in the last hundred years has ended up being higher than CO2 levels recorded in 800,000 years of ice cores, but temperatures have risen at the same rates they rose at in the 1870’s. There is nothing unprecedented about the current warming. Indeed ice cores tell us that Antarctica was warmer 130,000 years ago than it is today, but the higher CO2 levels didn’t stop those high temperatures from falling by 8 degrees while CO2 stayed constantly “higher” for 15,000 years.

There is nothing in the ice cores that supports the catastrophic hypothesis, and this new study doesn’t change anything but a few details.


The older Vostok Ice Core data shows temperatures were warmer 130,000 years ago, that CO2 could stay “high” and yet temperatures could fall 8 degrees.


When it comes to actual speculation about what this study might mean, it boils down to thoughts about turnover and ocean circulation around Antarctica:

Sune Olander Rasmussen…explains that one of the theories is that when Antarctica warms up, there will be stronger winds over the Southern Ocean and the winds pump more water up from the deep bottom layers in the ocean where there is a high content of CO2 from all of the small organisms that die and fall down to the sea floor and rot. When strong winds blow over the Southern Ocean, the ocean circulation brings more of the CO2-rich bottom water up to the surface and a portion of this CO2 is released into the atmosphere. This process links temperature and CO2 together and the new results suggest that the linking is closer and happens faster than previously believed.





Caillon, N., Severinghaus, J.P., Jouzel, J., Barnola, J.-M., Kang, J. and Lipenkov, V.Y.  2003.  Timing of atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic temperature changes across Termination III.  Science 299: 1728-1731. [Discussion, CO2science]

Fischer, H., Wahlen, M., Smith, J., Mastroianni, D. and Deck B.  1999.  Ice core records of atmospheric CO2 around the last three glacial terminations.  Science 283: 1712-1714. [Discussion, CO2science]

Monnin, E., Indermühle, A., Dällenbach, A., Flückiger, J, Stauffer, B., Stocker, T.F., Raynaud, D. and Barnola, J.-M.  2001.  Atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the last glacial termination.  Science 291: 112-114. [Discussion, CO2science]

Mudelsee, M.  2001.  The phase relations among atmospheric CO2 content, temperature and global ice volume over the past 420 ka.  Quaternary Science Reviews 20: 583-589.

Pedro, J.B., Rasmussen, S.O.,  van Ommen T.D. (2012) Tightened constraints on the time-lag between Antarctic temperature and CO2 during the last deglaciation. Climate of the Past, 2012; 8 (4): 1213 DOI: 10.5194/cp-8-1213-2012. [Climate of the Past journal paper PDF]

Petit, J.R., Jouzel, J., Raynaud, D., Barkov, N.I., Barnola, J.-M., Basile, I., Bender, M., Chappellaz, J., Davis, M., Delaygue, G., Delmotte, M., Kotlyakov, V.M., Legrand, M., Lipenkov, V.Y., Lorius, C., Pepin, L., Ritz, C., Saltzman, E., and Stievenard, M.  1999.  Climate and atmospheric  history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica.  Nature 399: 429-436. [Discussion, CO2science]

H/t to Todd H and Matt Thompson!

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