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Author Topic: Has the Global Warming Argument damaged scientific credibility?  (Read 8318 times)

Offline SimpleEngineer

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Okay here is a question that has weighed on my mind, ever since i broke up with a girlfriend a long time ago as I (an avid Global Warming detractor), made a statement that environmental sciences were ruining the world for everyone.. (yes I was young ;) )

I remain a global warming detractor, I sit in a heady glow of "Told you so", knowing that I questioned the validity of the 'peer reviewed' modelling systems.. However many outside of the scientific community and engineering world seem to now dismiss much of what science is discovering and the value of the work we are all doing to improve how humans impact the world.

I cannot refute however Man Made Climate Change.. I have ALWAYS said we cannot keep using the environment as a dumping ground for waste products such as heat, chemicals, spoil etc. The unerring belief that the environment is too big for any impact to be realised is what we suffer with, and a constant issue for my own belief..

Yes if i look at 1 system the heat discharge into the environment is negligible.. but soon that 1 system becomes thousands.. millions and maybe billions.. at what point do the number of systems pumping heat into the atmosphere actually have an impact?

I digress..

Now the Global warming campaign (much like the millenium bug campaign) was completely and utterly called out by the release of their conspiracy to cover up the inconsistencies that threatened their much publicised theories.. and the impact they have had (for good or for bad) Has this changed the way people see scientists or the findings that are published?


 

Offline CliffordK

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I think this has been discussed before, but "Science" is part of just about everything around us.  There would be great consistency of the agreement among scientists about many things such as what Penicillin is, or that radio waves can be used to transmit the human voice over long distances.

"Global Warming" or "Climate Change" is is a volatile subject, and not representative of science in as a whole.

Unfortunately for climate scientists, there has been essentially no additional warming for the last 15 years. 

There also has not been any global cooling which in itself may be a problem considering that there apparently was significant warming during previous decades.

The public perception is mixed, a lot driven by individuals not knowing what they can do to change the world, and not being able to discern a half to one degree average temperature change.

What is clear that we are releasing gigatons of carbon dioxide into the air every year, and at least half of it is staying in the atmosphere, and may be in the atmosphere for a very long time.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Fortunately there is very little science in climate "science", so the world continues to enjoy the benefits we toilers at the bench and observers of nature bring to it.

Anthropogenic global warming is widely recognised as the third world religion, with more believers and less evidence than Buddhism. Unfortunately like its big brothers Christianity and Islam, politicians use it to justify decisions that would otherwise rank somewhere between stupid and evil, and a lot of crooks make money out of it.   

The fundamental flaw in the AGW argument is threefold. First, there is no meaningful definition of "mean global temperature", the very parameter that believers try to predict. Second, there are no useful measurements of anything that might be related to it before 1970, and even recent data is subject to "corrections". Third, the only reliable historical proxy, ice core data, clearly shows that carbon dioxide concentration lags behind atmospheric temperature so cannot be the causative factor.   

No amount of modelling or consensus can override the truth.   
« Last Edit: 03/10/2013 22:13:21 by alancalverd »
 

Offline Mazurka

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The biggest difficulty in the anthropogenic climate change debate is that the subject is simply too big.  The systems involved are simply to complex.  An individual can become quite expert in any particular aspect of the debate, but no individual is clever enough to understand every aspect of the debate and synthesize an “answer” let alone one in “plain english”.  This has lead to science by consensus, which can be critisized

Furthermore, the questions that anthropogenic climate change leads to are not ones of science, they are political.  “Science” does not say we must act to try to reduce global warming, science is (at least according to the OED) is “The state or fact of knowing; knowledge or cognizance of something specified or implied “  This is,  knowing that if temperatures rise by x then the sea will expand by y resulting in sea levels rising by z is science.  Deciding what to do if sea levels rise by z and flood large areas of land and render them useless for agriculture is not science but politics.

The problems are compounded by the communication of the science.  Most peoples understanding of the “science” comes from the mass media i.e. is filtered (to a greater part) by journalists and commentators with a weak scientific background, looking for a headline.  When the headline is attacked as being untrue by self appointed skeptics, it cast the “science” and not the reporting in a bad light. 

This was very recently highlighted by the false balance presented by the BBC in relation to the recent IPCC report.  (google BBC false balance climate change) This incident has been compared to inviting a practitioner of homeopathy to debate brain science with a prominent neurosurgeon.   It is interesting on many forums and discussion about climate science that most arguments end up as Ad hominem attacks against the credibility of the participants rather than the science itself – this comes back to my initial point that the system is too complicated to really understand.

All that said, the majority of scientists – although by no means all – working in the field of climate science kind of agree  - leading to the unequivocal conclusions in the recent IPCC report - that anthropogenic climate change is real.  I would not presume to disagree with this, however it does lead to the question “What do we do about it?”

This is a political question.  As there is considerable disagreement as to the impacts of anthropogenic climate change and the timescales over which it is going to happen this is where debate gets really bad.  Some people consider a rise in temperature will be a good thing – longer growing season, lower winter mortality (in Europe).  Others consider that we can do little to stop it, so we should not bother, or that we should attempt some form of “geoengineering” to counteract its effects.  (Personally I would argue against such an approach as it will almost inevitably have unforeseen consequences).  Do people in the privileged, resource hungry  “west” have a right to tell less developed countries what they can and cannot do?   

So in answer to the question – it is impossible to tell whether the “global warming argument” has damaged scientific credibility as what is “scientific credibility” in the first place?  – no one seems to have disputed that CERN found the Higgs, most people seem to be happy with improvements in medical science/ latest drugs etc…  What it is possible to conclude that the “global warming argument” is so poorly understood by the general public (and I would say by people on both sides of the argument) that vested interests – by which I mean us westerners with a resource hungry lifestyle as well as big business – can believe what they like and it is broadly impossible to gainsay
 

Offline alancalverd

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the majority of scientists – although by no means all – working in the field of climate science kind of agree  - leading to the unequivocal conclusions in the recent IPCC report

Science is about facts, not consensus. The overwhelming consensus was in favour of a geocentric universe, a flat earth,  four elements, indivisible atoms, phlogiston, aether, and the impossibility of manned flight (let alone lunar exploration). As for "what can be done about it?" the consensus in 1955 was that the UK would need "about five computers" to solve all the government's problems.   

Credible science will eventually kill AGW, not the other way around. 

A few months ago a Canadian group announced the growth of some plants that had been buried under a glacier for 500 years. The scientifically interesting point is not that the glacier is now retreating, but that it was a lot warmer 500 years ago (i.e. well within recorded history) when the CO2 level was presumably a lot less, in order for the plants to be there at all. That's science.
 

Offline Mazurka

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Notwithstanding what I have just said, there are a couple of points to make about this post.
Fortunately there is very little science in climate "science", so the world continues to enjoy the benefits we toilers at the bench and observers of nature bring to it.
really?  As “an observer of nature” would you deny the observations of (for example) the UK Phenology Network ?

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Anthropogenic global warming is widely recognised as the third world religion, with more believers and less evidence than Buddhism. Unfortunately like its big brothers Christianity and Islam, politicians use it to justify decisions that would otherwise rank somewhere between stupid and evil, and a lot of crooks make money out of it. 
Widely recognised?  Really – this is rhetoric - although I would be interested in any evidence you wished to put forward to support it.

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The fundamental flaw in the AGW argument is threefold. First, there is no meaningful definition of "mean global temperature", the very parameter that believers try to predict. Second, there are no useful measurements of anything that might be related to it before 1970, and even recent data is subject to "corrections". Third, the only reliable historical proxy, ice core data, clearly shows that carbon dioxide concentration lags behind atmospheric temperature so cannot be the causative factor.   

No amount of modelling or consensus can override the truth.   
1) yes, there is no “definition” of global average temperature – this leads back to the point in my first post that no one can know everything – to assimilate and normalise all of the possible data to allow a statistical analysis is way beyond “undergrad” level statistics – so a climate scientist needs understand the possible flaws in the statistics and the statistician needs to understand the possible flaws in the climate science…  However, there are some widely used proxies to use (with caution) as a shorthand.
2) Cobblers – there are plenty of long standing temperature time series that are well understood which can be used, although these are not global, merely indicative
3) Cobblers – there are a number of well established proxies  -oxygen isotope analysis of foraminifera, bristlecone pines etc. that when used carefully (by someone understanding their weaknesses) can be useful in widening our understanding of climatic systems.  Otherwise you are making an argument against the principle of uniformitarianism which underlies much of earth sciences.  Furthermore, the ice core data shows on one occasion – the Paleocene– Eocence thermal maximum CO2 levels leading temperature.  Whislt there is still plenty of geoscience to be done around the PETM, it seems likely that the wholesale release of methane clathrates lead to a global warming event.  This is more analogous to the anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases we are witnessing than the Milankovitch lead pattern of iceages observed in icecores
 

Offline Mazurka

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the majority of scientists – although by no means all – working in the field of climate science kind of agree  - leading to the unequivocal conclusions in the recent IPCC report

Science is about facts, not consensus. The overwhelming consensus was in favour of a geocentric universe, a flat earth,  four elements, indivisible atoms, phlogiston, aether, and the impossibility of manned flight (let alone lunar exploration). As for "what can be done about it?" the consensus in 1955 was that the UK would need "about five computers" to solve all the government's problems.   

Credible science will eventually kill AGW, not the other way around. 

A few months ago a Canadian group announced the growth of some plants that had been buried under a glacier for 500 years. The scientifically interesting point is not that the glacier is now retreating, but that it was a lot warmer 500 years ago (i.e. well within recorded history) when the CO2 level was presumably a lot less, in order for the plants to be there at all. That's science.
I do not disagree that consensus is not science in a traditional sense, but given the complexity of our understanding, science in that sense is a holy grail like goal.  For example is the development of new pharmaceuticals a one man "bench lead" exercise or an iterative work of many "scientists"?

"Traditional" science has also been proven wrong on a number of occasions - as an aposite example - reconstruction of fossil skeletons have on more than one occasion be shown to be incorrect, but science picked itself up and changed its view of that particualr creature...

 
 

Offline alancalverd

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Development of any product usually requires serial and collaborative effort, but that is not the same as consensus. If a thousand people collaborated to produce a pharmaceutical that killed patients on its first clinical trial, the "consensus" would be invalidated by observation. Think Thalidomide.

The consensus was that airline passengers would not like circular portholes, so the Comet had square windows and several crashed due to hull fatigue at the corners. Pressurised aircraft now have rounded window corners.   

The absurd consensus that "global temperatures are at an alltime high and the cause is anthropogenic CO2" is invalidated by the discovery of 500-year old bryophytes under a retreating glacier and both historic and current observation of the phase lag between temperature and CO2 concentration.

I don't see any role for tradition in science. Observation is all that matters. We may make incorrect guesses, but they are corrected (as in the case of the iguanadon's thumb) by observation, not consensus.


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there are plenty of long standing temperature time series that are well understood which can be used, although these are not global, merely indicative

There are almost no credible records of mid-ocean temperature. The seas cover 75% of the planet. There is no temperature data for the northern icecap or anywhere in Antarctica before 1912. There was no international agreement on the precise measurement of temperature before 1900. Practically all the "good" data comes from grass airfields, with very little before 1930 and a decreasing amount since 1955. The only data that has sufficient precision to be useful at the level of accuracy required to detect a change in mean global surface temperature comes from satellite mapping (and even this has been recalibrated a few times) and cannot be traced back beyond about 1970. Anything else is guesswork.   
« Last Edit: 04/10/2013 16:49:38 by alancalverd »
 

Offline cheryl j

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There was something on the news the other day and recall the statement that even though there was evidence for global warming, temperatures had not risen as much as expected.

It made me wonder if there could be a tipping point. Or if there is any process involved with global warming that compensates or acts like a buffer, so to speak, minimizing temperature change but only to a point and then might abruptly fail?
 

Offline CliffordK

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even though there was evidence for global warming, temperatures had not risen as much as expected.

It made me wonder if there could be a tipping point. Or if there is any process involved with global warming that compensates or acts like a buffer, so to speak, minimizing temperature change but only to a point and then might abruptly fail?

There has been little or no "warming" for the last 10 to 15 years.  Perhaps it is part of a natural downward trend of the temperatures as part of a 30 or 60 year cycle.  However, if the temperatures don't actually drop, but rather stay steady, then the next upswing may be significant.  Temperatures may in fact rise in a stepwise fashion.

As far as buffers, undoubtedly there are some.  One proposed buffer is water and clouds which may increase with increased temperatures.  While clouds can keep in nighttime heat, they can also reflect a lot of daytime sunlight.

Evaporation also acts as a sort of elevator, with energy being absorbed at sea level, and then released at cloud level as the water droplets condense, thus releasing the the heat above the majority of the carbon dioxide (see Latent Heat Flux).

I don't know about a tipping point.  Most estimates indicate that we are still significantly cooler than the Eocene Thermal Maximum.  The ocean continues to absorb half the CO2 that we release every year, and would likely absorb more over time if the production of CO2 was reduced.

I'm not sure that adding CO2 to the atmosphere could actually change the ocean's equilibrium to cause the ocean to release additional CO2 as some fear.  However, there are likely some methane deposits at risk, both in permafrost, as well as methyl hydrates in shallow arctic waters that may be more susceptible to temperature fluctuations than the deeper deposits.  And, this methane could compound the problems.
 

Offline evan_au

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[Is there] any process involved with global warming that compensates or acts like a buffer?
We are living on the somewhat poorly named planet "Earth". The ocean covers about 70% of the surface, and it absorbs:
  • A significant fraction of the CO2. In the process, it becomes more acidic, potentially damaging the shells of some ocean creatures.
  • A significant fraction of the temperature rise, potentially causing bleaching of corals. In the process, the ocean expands, causing an overall gradual rise in sea levels. This will exacerbate the effect of king tides and ocean surges due to tornadoes, potentially causing an increase in flooding. 
So the buffers are present, and quite effective, but even small changes in the buffers cause side-effects over a period of a century.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Perhaps it is part of a natural downward trend of the temperatures as part of a 30 or 60 year cycle.  However, if the temperatures don't actually drop, but rather stay steady, then the next upswing may be significant.  Temperatures may in fact rise in a stepwise fashion.

Spoken like a true climatologist!

My mentor in the civil service read one of my advisory papers early in my career and said "sprinkle a few "normally"s over it - don't commit yourself until you have a solid case of evidence."
« Last Edit: 06/10/2013 19:53:44 by alancalverd »
 

Offline CliffordK

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I certainly don't have all the data to know the answers, and while meteorology is becoming a mature science, climate science is best described as still in its infancy, especially with respect to long term predictions.

There are a lot of variables that we may not fully understand for at least another century such as truly understanding the long term variability of the sun.

There are several graphs such as this one on the web.


Original Source
Obviously the data 100+ years old is of marginal quality, but it is the best that we have.

It seems reasonable to interpret that we are about halfway through the current downturn in temperatures (in which there has not been a significant drop in temperatures). 

Earlier IPCC projections seemed to be based on the yellow line, whereas the true trend is likely closer to the red line, but following a long term wave form as in the green line.

The question then is if the yellow line is unacceptable, what about the red line with about half the slope?
« Last Edit: 06/10/2013 22:05:19 by CliffordK »
 

Offline peppercorn

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I wonder if the topic title is being looked at the wrong way round...

Climate science is clearly a relatively young science, but for an area of science that sets out to model such complex systems I'd argue it is doing remarkably well.
Since this topic is about damage to the perception of science (can I assume as perceived by the public and not by other scientists), this isn't really a discussion that belongs in environmental science but rather a general discussion point.

So, turning the question around, should we wonder if climate science is just the latest of many areas of scientific enquiry through its history that have fallen foul of general public mistrust or misconception of science and the scientific method?
 

Offline alancalverd

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Meteorology and even climatology are perfectly respectable sciences.

Massaging (or simply ignoring) data to support a politically convenient but clearly absurd hypothesis is not science.

Telling lies, and pretending to have reliable data that supports your political ideology, is beneath contempt (unless you are a politician, in which case it is a way of life).

The extent to which politics has infected science can be seen on the front cover of the June 2013 issue of Physics Bulletin (Institute of Physics) which trumpets a headline about carbon dioxide and climate change, over an illustration of nonlinear molecules that might be water but certainly aren't CO2. Why does this matter? Because there is vastly  more H2O in the atmosphere, it is a nonlinear molecule, and it is almost entirely responsible for the thermal properties of air and the surface of the planet. There are even approved A level textbooks that repeat the lie. 

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Obviously the data 100+ years old is of marginal quality, but it is the best that we have.

"Marginal quality"?? It is utterly meaningless! What on earth does the blue line represent? Not global mean temperature, because no such data exists before 1970. It's a fabrication synthesised from a ragbag of places where people happened to be at the time (there being no reliable automatic weather stations before 1950) so virtually devoid of information from the southern hemisphere, the arctic or antarctic, or most of the Pacific ocean. Which leaves western Europe and the densely inhabited bits of the USA. Remember that accurate air temperature measurement is only of interest to aviators, so any measurements with a claimed systematic error of less than 1 degree probably came from airfields. The graph, with an apparent finesse of 0.01 degree, is a chart of the growth of aviation, nothing more.   
« Last Edit: 07/10/2013 00:54:24 by alancalverd »
 

Offline SimpleEngineer

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I wonder if the topic title is being looked at the wrong way round...

Climate science is clearly a relatively young science, but for an area of science that sets out to model such complex systems I'd argue it is doing remarkably well.
Since this topic is about damage to the perception of science (can I assume as perceived by the public and not by other scientists), this isn't really a discussion that belongs in environmental science but rather a general discussion point.

So, turning the question around, should we wonder if climate science is just the latest of many areas of scientific enquiry through its history that have fallen foul of general public mistrust or misconception of science and the scientific method?


I dont know if it is clear that, the researchers that were at the forefront of climate science, the creators of the hockey stick graph, the heralds of the new religion (as has been described), fabricated, ignored incovenient results, bullied, character assassinated and quite simply lied within their results and publications..

I personally dont care if they had the right or wrong conclusions.. but the fact that they lied and had such a big impact on our lives, for me, damages the credibility of every science publication.. due to the fact that ANYONE could lie.. a lie by consensus is still a lie.

Experimental Physicists could be lieing to us all about the fixed speed of light.. because they ignore readings or calculations that may prove otherwise... if they all support a consensus and concertly bully others with evidence to prove otherwise..

Science by consensus, by peer review, by publication..  has been irrevocably damaged.

Climatology became Scientology.

 
 

Offline alancalverd

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There have always been liars, fakers and charlatans. Part of the object of peer review is to detect and interdict them, but some have gone on to extraordinary fame, fortune and disruption. Lysenko is the prime example, probably responsible for the starvation of millions.

Many others have simply fallen into a lazy, convenient money pit. If you aren't good enough to work for an oil company or an airline, why not accept a government grant to sit in a university, massage some data, and justify the airline passenger tax being the same regardless of distance?

I think there's plenty of evidence that the speed of light is adequately constant, and you can measure it yourself. What nobody can do is tell you what the surface temperature of the Pacific was 100 years ago.  But apparently you can build a career on a guess, as long as it's pretty similar to everyone else's and fits in with government policy. 
 

Offline David Cooper

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What do satellites tell us about the amount of heat coming to the Earth from the sun and the amount of heat radiating back off the Earth? I haven't heard anything recent about this, but a decade ago they were telling us that the sun wasn't cooling and that less heat was coming off the Earth, meaning that the Earth was retaining more of the warmth that was hitting it. I'd like to know if that's still the situation now or if clouds are reflecting more heat back - the answer should be available somewhere in satellite data. The recent stall in warming has been attributed to more heat going into the oceans, and that may well be the case - we've been concentrating on measuring the atmosphere and the temperatures of the sea at the surface while ignoring the deep.

The north pole wanders in a 26,000 year circle. Changes in its position could make a difference to the standard weather patterns that become established for a time and then change to a new pattern, so finding plants under the ice at one location could be local and accounted for by changes in weather patterns. (500 years represents 2% of movement round that 26,000 year circle, and that's far from insignificant.) We are now moving towards an ice-free Arctic Ocean. Was the Arctic Ocean ice-free at the time when those plants were growing at that one location?

My main worry at the moment is actually the CO2 acidifying the sea, because it may lead to a significant/substantial collapse in the food chain there. There's a piece of information I heard about a component of plankton which has a shell vulnerable to acidification and which a lot of life in the sea depends upon, but I forget the details - I'll have to chase up the source (Doctor Karl of Radio 5), but I can't guarantee a response as it'll depend on him replying to a tweet.
 

Offline Pmb

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Quote from: SimpleEngineer
Has this changed the way people see scientists or the findings that are published?
Depends on which people you ask. Scientists? No. Conspiracy theorists etc.? No. They already think that way.

Part of science consists of making errors and correcting them when proven wrong. That's part of science. Not something that destroys science if its revealed.
 

Offline peppercorn

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This topic is drifting off along the tired old path of the 'deniers' trotting out decade old claims about IPCC 'lies' (as in setting out to intentional mislead) and this forum (along with every science/tech/politics/etc web forum ever formed) has hoisted this pedantic old battle dozens of times before.

A far more interesting conversation to have is about the scientist seen as 'playing God' or otherwise being seen as 'arrogant antagonist'.  Distrust of science is of course nothing new (oft quoted Mary Shelley) and clearly the race to nuclear arms has been another milestone in the narrative, but when politics (or corporations) come to bare on science it is even more difficult to keep the water unmuddied.

Ultimately, damage to scientific credibility practically never happens in a vacuum - which is perhaps the best argument for peer-review there is!
 

Offline David Cooper

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Doctor Karl replied and sent this link (Sea butterflies show signs of acidification):-

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/12/11/3650065.htm
 

Offline alancalverd

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The recent stall in warming has been attributed to more heat going into the oceans, and that may well be the case

I think the suggestion that the laws of physics have suddenly changed, which is what this statement amounts to, is either a profound insight that most of us have missed, or an indication of arrogance and ignorance coming to the  defence of a dead dogma. 
 

Offline peppercorn

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I think the suggestion that the laws of physics have suddenly changed

Nothing here suggests the laws of physics have 'suddenly changed'.  However, the thermodynamic pressures on different elements within the climate system may well have shifted; tipping points occur in all manner of ways within (mathematically) chaotic systems.
 

Offline David Cooper

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The recent stall in warming has been attributed to more heat going into the oceans, and that may well be the case

I think the suggestion that the laws of physics have suddenly changed, which is what this statement amounts to, is either a profound insight that most of us have missed, or an indication of arrogance and ignorance coming to the  defence of a dead dogma. 

How much of the extra heat that the Earth's holding onto is going into the sea then? 0%? It's nearer to 95%:-

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/10/08/3864474.htm?WT.mc_id=science_twitterfeed_drkarl&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DrKarlOnAbcScience+%28Dr+Karl%2C+on+ABC+Science%29

The recent slowing in atmospheric warming has happened at a time when there have been an increased number of La Niña events in which cold ocean currents reach the surface which don't normally do so - when that happens there is a greater opportunity for heat transfer to the ocean from the air, so that's a mechanism which works within the bounds of science by which more heat than normal can be put into the sea. No voodoo there. Don't know about arrogance or ignorance though, but maybe someone impartial could weigh it up for both of us and see who comes out ahead.
 

Offline CliffordK

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The recent slowing in atmospheric warming has happened at a time when there have been an increased number of La Niña events in which cold ocean currents reach the surface which don't normally do so
I think that is reaching a bit.

Looking at the El Niño/La Niña graphs for the last few years,

There were several strong El Niño events during the 80's and 90's when the temperatures were rapidly increasing.  Since 2000, it has indeed trended a bit more towards ENSO neutral sea surface temperatures, but that seems to contrast more with the heavily positive period earlier.  And, several of the years in the last decade have been weakly ENSO positive.

The ARGO project has been measuring deep ocean temperatures around the globe since about year 2000, so unfortunately it doesn't have a lot of history.  Some of the short term trends that have been posted haven't shown significant deep ocean temperature rises in the last decade or so.  Hopefully some longer term, more neutral analysis of trends are available.

Another measurement of sea temperatures is the sea surface height, which is largely based on thermal expansion.  Most graphs seem to indicate a similar rate of rise in sea levels before 2000 and after 2000.

http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
http://www.aviso.oceanobs.com/en/news/ocean-indicators/mean-sea-level/
http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_hist_last_15.html

This would indicate generally a constant rate of increase in ocean temperatures, which is continuing.


 

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