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back to article Ocean currents emerge as climate change hot-spots

A global study that assesses the temperature change in ocean currents has made two findings – one surprising, the other less so. The unsurprising outcome is that as the Earth’s temperature rises, so does the temps in a collection of major ocean currents; the surprise is that those currents are warming faster than the globe as a …

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FAIL

Get your act together Reg..

"The unsurprising outcome is that as the Earth’s temperature rises ...,"

Except the other global warming story on here today points out that there is no warming.

Which is it then? Ya can't have it both ways.

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Anonymous Coward

You need to brush up on your reading comprehension skills. The previous story was about a decision regarding an FOIA request.

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@amanfromearth

There is global climate change. Some bits are getting warmer, some are getting cooler. The average is going up.

This only applies if you

a) Know about climatology or believe those who do

b) Are not Funded by oil companies and/or some other very dubious organisations

c) Are not some idiot who does not give a toss for the future and the people who will be living there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: spanners

a) Argument from authority

b) Conspiracy theory

c) Ad hominem

You've convinced me.

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Now repeat after me:

There is no global warming, the Apollo 11 moon landings were fake, Elvis is still alive, and everything else generally is a conspiracy of pinko jewish bankers.

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Anonymous Coward

reductio ad ridiculum

Appeal to ridicule is a logical fallacy which presents the opponent's argument in a way that appears ridiculous, often to the extent of creating a straw man of the actual argument, rather than addressing the argument itself.

wiki

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Mushroom

re: ductio ad ridiculum...

... is what the so-called "sceptics" (well let's just call them deniers shall we) achieve by pulling out ever more improbable arguments to make their case, now long past the point where serious scientists are willing to waste their time to rip such idiotic theories to shreds.

No wiki required to cook up the above definition.

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Anonymous Coward

Ahem...

The other story he mentions is not about FOIA:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/30/wsj_global_warming_letter/

Apology accepted in advance...

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Flame

w/ref to "C"

What we're potentially seeing is the planet engaging mechanisms to get rid of us. There is potentially an incoming perfect storm of more extreme global temperature ranges (hotter at the equator, colder at the poles) leading to an increased area of the planet becoming uninhabitable. At the same time we've burnt most of the fossil fuels so there are fewer energy resources to use making the uninhabitable places habitable with heating / cooling technologies. In the meantime, we all blithely rut away, which means that apparently the global population has doubled since I was born.

We're doomed Captain, doomed. And that's one of the reasons why I have no children.

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@Spanners

Well mate, I'm not putting forward any view on GW. Only pointing out that there are two contradicting stories in the Reg.

So wind yer neck in..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The Flying Dutchman

So you move from reductio ad ridiculum to argumentum ad hominem.

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Anonymous Coward

a. experts in climatology having to argue with fuckwits who know dick about science and argue the weather. Yeah... climatologists do have some authority in the matter. While individuals may lie, the science doesn't. I'd suggest that your anti-warming stance is no different than that of the creationist crowd. It's not a matter of whether global warming exists, it's a matter of rate and the strength of the effects.

b. maybe, but when most public (and degreed in the actual field) anti-climatologists have more journal articles for the oil industry, it seems a bit odd.

c. who cares if it's ad hominem. These people more than likely won't be around to deal with the consequences. Hopefully, their children and grand-children won't either. It's a selfish notion to disregard the species for instant gratifcation and lack of self control. Have our species become such pussies, that we can't put some effort into changing the situation?

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@Spanners

Goody - category C gives me a get-out clause, marvellous.

The world is warming up - whether this is an entirely natural process, partly or entirely anthropogenic, is up for debate however... but life will go on, granted perhaps not human life, until the sun goes pop. The planet has been much, much warmer in the past than it is today and global warming will probably be beneficial to at least some species.

I've yet to hear a compelling argument as to why I should care one way or the other though *shrugs* (yeah, I'm one of those idiots, sorry).

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AC 30/01/2012 20:45

a) Authority - you man someone who knows what they are talking about?

b) Conspiracy - Follow the money. Find a report that seeks to "disprove" climate change and see who paid for it.

c) Ad hominem - anyone who has actually read and understood the matter but chooses to ignore it. They are denying it for their own reasons. Either they believe what the corporations and right wing lobbyists tell them or they deserve my scorn. Nothing personal.

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Happy

Fairy Nuff

I was just thinking that they can and do report on many contradicting things here. Then my irritation against the people who pretend that Climate Change is not happening (a terminological inexactitude) took control.

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I always find it funny that people who believe in climate change chose to refer to sceptics in derogatory manners while not actually attempting to counter their views.

Want a good example of an idiot? Try some one who is happy to watch millions of people live and die right now in poverty and squallor because the already developed west refuses to allow them to develop using the same industrial technologies they them selves used because they believe by doing so they MAY prevent something that MAY happen in the future.

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Stop

amanfromearth asked a perfectly reasonable question (which still hasn't been addressed in any sensible level of detail) and as was swiftly set upon by a pack of wild dogs.

It is this kind of argument that makes me not want to take my climate change medicine and instead ask awkward questions. Lots of very awkward questions.

Some people seem to think it's correct to distort and exaggerate in order to close the door on the argument because they believe they're right. This is very dangerous. It is important for science that there is an open and mature discussion about these very important issues.

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Anonymous Coward

> a. experts in climatology having to argue with fuckwits who know dick about science and argue the weather.

Climatology covers a whole range of disciplines and many of those whom you would consider an expert are, in fact, trained in completely different disciplines. The arguments, about what is/will happen climatically, are occurring within the science itself. If you believe otherwise then you are swallowing the propaganda produced by a few climate scientists and many self interest groups. The science is not settled and never will be, you only have to look at the results of OPERA experiments at CERN to realise that (I recently attended a talk by Dario Autiero and the neutrino experiment was just the headline grabber, they are discovering many other things that is resulting in a change in their understanding).

> b. maybe, but when most public (and degreed in the actual field) anti-climatologists have more journal articles for the oil industry, it seems a bit odd.

Name them. I'll start you of with a few climate scientists who have been/are funded by "Big Oil". Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Tim Osborne, Mike Hulme, ...

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Big Brother

'Bye Richard!

Carefull Richard, this article, written with the assumption of global warming, just about goes against The Register's editorial position. That was previously pushed hard by Andrew, and now we see Lewis jumping on it.

It would be a shame to see this being your last El Reg article - your articles are some of the most technically detailed and well researched on El Reg, and I for one would miss them.

In this particular article it is a bit disappointing to see the paper's authors concluding that the effect they see is anthropomorphic just because of its overall pattern - there could easily be other causes. Still, it is a worrying indication, as is the side note of observed southward species migration in Australia.

(Here in the supposedly frigid north, we actually did have a week of cold weather, but now we are back to 6-7 degrees above normal, making nearly 3 months of that this winter.)

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Happy

@Chris Gray 1

One of the things I love about The Register is that she does not impose a "party line" upon her writers. There are those among us who have taken the time to review the literature - some of us have even taken part in Climate Change studies in one fashion or another - and arrive at different conclusions from those which are more traditionally represented here.

I am glad Richard is covering the science beat; as a reader I’ve found his recent articles fantastic. He takes science and makes it accessible to those who don’t make perusing the literature one of their hobbies. As a writer, I am proud that I have the opportunity to write for an organisation that does indeed allow articles to be posted from multiple viewpoints.

Regarding the paper in question, I took a boo; and I think your discomfort regarding “determined the cause was antropogenic due to the overall pattern" would be alleviated if you read the original document. They do into a reasonable amount of detail on how they arrived at that conclusion, and there are plenty of references. I have some nigglies about the paper, but no reason to believe it shouldn’t have entered the literature; it is good science.

That said, there does need to be follow-up research. IT was a good preliminary bit of science, but there are requirements for both further observational data (which would require deploying new buoys) as well as another round of more fine-grained statistical analyses. (Specifically, I’d like to see this fitted into the NASA and NOAA models for reconstruction not only of extant datasets but also historical datasets in 10 year increments from as far back as we have any form of observational data.)

This study, covered here is a related bit of the literature worth perusing. Specifically, the buoys they used to determine deep ocean heat retention are pretty much awesome (Incidentally, this study actually provides for the “missing heat" went that was discussed in the “cliamtegate" emails, and so very frequently taken out of context by deniers and used as “proof" by folks like Watts.)

Apart from the good science done in that study on its own, the technology employed is pretty much exactly what the scientists of the paper discussed in Richard’s article require for their proposed long-term monitoring grid for western currents.

Of additional interest to me is the CO2 content of the ocean. We have recently determined that ocean acidification has progressed far beyond the bounds of natural variability. Is there enough of a composition change in the water to affect oceanic thermal capacity? (Does it buffer/amplify radiative absorption-drive change?)

The new generation of ultra-depth buoys should help us answer a lot of these issues, while significantly lowering the statistical uncertainty in the various extant oceanic and atmospheric models.

Anywh;, back to the “frozen" north for me! And by “frozen" I of course mean “it rained again last night and thus my commute to Timmies will involve skates". Not looking forward to manhandling half a dozen double doubles (seriously, who pollutes their coffee like that) and my single black across the dog park. But what can ya do, eh? At least I don’t need a toque; bunny hug should do me fine.

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IT Angle

what, straight reporting on climate change in The Reg?

I was also surprised to see an article simply reporting a new item of climate science, without the denialist spin that Lewis Page and Andrew Orlowski usually give this subject.

Lewis might know a bunch about defence, and Orlowski about IT, but they don't seem to be especially well informed as to climate change. Actually, I don't really understand why an IT-oriented publication needs to follow that subject -- or defence, or space probes, or whatever -- but if it chooses to do so, it might behove the writers to get some sort of a passing familiarity with the its basics, just to retain credibility. A good to start might be "The Rough Guide to Climate Change", 3rd edition, by Robert Henson, which I recommend to anyone who's interested in learning about the subject.

It's getting to the point where denying the fact of anthropogenic climate change is about as informed as denying evolution, though that doesn't stop plenty of people doing one or the both.

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FAIL

Science denial has costs

Even if you somehow ignore the issue of ocean acidification, elevated CO2 levelshave a strongly negative effect on fish. With obvious repercussions to the economy, food chain, etc.

But let's get more direct. That is a sample change that is hard to wrap your brain around. The problems related to climate change and CO2 build-up are seemingly insurmountable, and in order to realise how it will affect humans you have to follow a long chain of consequences. Science denialism has real world, direct costs.

In the cast of HIV denialism, it has a tangible, real world cost in human lives.

Denying Evolution just leads to ignorance, but it’s hard to see that having a real world impact other than perpetuating ignorance. Denying climate change and CO2 build-up impacts future generations. But HIV denialism (amongst many, many other forms of science denialism) has real world effects right here, today that harm real people.

Don’t get me started on the “vaccines cause autism” folks…

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Anonymous Coward

All true, but science alarmism has it's costs too.

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Anonymous Coward

Fish, again

Brilliant. The planet is overpopulated and we have already depleted many oceans already. There are strict quotas regulating fisheries in many places, and in others the population are said to resort to piracy because the fish is already gone (Somalia doncha know).

And now someone is worried what little fish remains might get confused due to the increasing CO2 concentration in the water? (seemingly set to double overnight) So we are supposed to halt all CO2 emissions and that will somehow save the fish from being caught by the fishing boats...?

Can we please focus on the real issues?

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"Our data isn't of any higher quality...

...than the stuff IPCC's been using that everyone has been beating on lately, and unless you're affiliated with an institution you'll have to pay twenty bucks out of pocket in order to evaluate for yourself what we've done to the data before drawing the conclusions in our abstract, which is as close as you'll get to seeing what we actually have to say and what kind of support we can muster for our position."

Trust the brahmins, in other words. Gotcha.

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Pint

Based on your comments re: "everyone's been beating on" the IPCC numbers, etc, it sounds like you might be one of those folks who believes in climategate, "that the science isn't good" and the whole rigamarole of the manufactured controversy.

Consider reading this. It is a good report on a recent completely independent study (funded by the oilcos, no less!) that utterly failed to find an issue with the current state of climate science.

The whole “the numbers are bunk, there really is a controversy!” thing has actually been debunked. By the very scientists that were paid to shore up the idea that there is a controversy. Some days, science actually works.

Hurrah for scientific ethics!

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@Trevor_Pott

"Consider reading this"... actually, what the study confirmed is the temperature reconstructions. I.e., that there have been warming during the 20th century and that its progress and magnitude was correctly estimated. However, there have been very little controversy about this. The issues that most skeptics (or denialists, or whatever you want to call them) raise are more about

1) Is the climate change mostly anthropogenic, or are there some natural effects at play that we cannot affect?

2) Will it continue at the current rate or slow down (or speed up, although that is more of a favourite for the other side of the discussion)?

3) Assuming it continues, how will it affect us? And what are the most politically and economically effective ways to deal with the changes or prevent them?

Given the complexity of the systems in play, I have trouble believing that we have a complete and definitive answer to either of these questions.

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@rakdver

1) Climate change isn't about "mostly" anthropogenic or not. It's more complex than that. The Earth's biosphere has a certain capacity. If we weren't burning fossil fuels at all, it would actually be capable of absorbing quite a bit of CO2 above the "normal background" amount. This would give a non-human-populated Earth the ability to deal with all sorts of natural variation with relative ease.

Instead, we have been burning fossil fuels. This means that we have been pumping a lot of extra CO2 into the system; more than the biosphere can adequately process. The acidification of the oceans is really all the proof anyone should need of that fact. The biosphere simply cannot process the CO2 that is being pumped out; the result is the slow carbonation of the oceans.

What % of the CO2 being released into the atmosphere is “natural" and what % is caused by us is a moralistic sleight of hand. We have a really good handle on how much CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere. And it is a lot. Even if the natural CO2 emissions were enough to overload the biosphere (they aren’t,) we would still have to look at it from the standpoint of adding the sum totality of mankind’s emissions overtop of that.

Again; it’s not that easy. You see, as I said earlier, the biosphere can actually handle more CO2 than is “normally" pumped out by things like volcanoes. That means there is actually capacity within the system to deal with some human input. Unfortunately, that capacity has quite simply been exceeded.

“How much is natural" is a cute way of trying to make the whole thing into a moral issue. “Well, if the earth puts out CO2 on its own, then it’s okay for us to do so," etc. It is sidestepping the issue of “no matter who is responsible, we are demonstrably beyond the carrying capacity of the biosphere."

2) Natural CO2 emissions are variable. Human CO2 emissions only ever go up. (Which IMHO is blame that can be laid at the feet of the anti-nuke NIMBYs, but that’s an entirely other discussion.) So some years the CO2 emissions will be down, some years they will be up. But overall they are on a notable and dramatic upwards trend. (With no notable long term aggregate increase in natural CO2 emissions.)

3) “How will this affect us" is indeed the question. It is where – IMHO – we need to be focusing our research, politics and priorities. The big one that hurts us isn’t going to be “the climate is warmer." Ocean acidification will be a massive global economic boo-boo way before we start to notice rainfall shifts or flooding of low-lying areas. (Florida, etc.)

Long term; population centers that can’t tolerate a few meters rise in ocean level will have to be abandoned. We will have to learn to manage stronger storms, and find ways of managing water resources on continent-wide scales. (Rainfall pattern alterations will be a real pain in the latter half of this century.)

Politically, we’ll start to run into peak oil issues long before we notice the climate change, but the end result is the same; we need to wean ourselves off of Oil. There are good reasons that have nothing at all to do with climate change alarmism.

1) Energy independence

2) We need those hydrocarbons for things like plastics

3) Oil production is unable to meet extant energy needs, let alone our projected demands

4) Increased cost of oil extraction makes it economically non-viable for extant energy use cases.

Long story short: we need nukes. Lots of them. It’s the only technology we have that can even begin to address our energy demands. (Hydro is a close second.) Natural gas will be a nice alternative to coal for the next 20 years or so, but that is on its last legs as well. (Cost of extraction beyond the 20 year timeframe is looking distinctly prohibitive to burn it as electricity.)

The windmill fantasy needs to die. Dead a thousand deaths. Photovoltaic should not be far behind. The science isn’t there to show that these are viable solutions without massive changes in our lifestyle. Anyone who honestly believes that western civilisation is going to stagnate its energy demands and/or that the developing world is going to somehow not grow to demand to use as much energy as we do is flat out nuts.

Discussions regarding mitigation of climate change issues must occur within a framework of realistic expectation. We must accept that we are not going to change our ways overnight, nor are we going to save the world by recycling our milk jugs. (Household waste is less than 3% of total waste in the US!) We have to be looking at how to meet extant and growing energy demands in a way that doesn’t strain the biosphere further, and we have to start developing technologies as well as economic and political strategies to begin to reduce our CO2 footprint below the limit where the biosphere can cope.

Only then can we being the long road towards allowing the planet to adjust to “the new normal."

Science doesn’t say change is bad. Science says too much change, too quickly causes problems. The people in our way are on both sides of the political fence. Those on the right denying that climate change even exists, and those on the left preventing us from instituting the only technologies we have that allow us to cope with it.

Depressing, the whole topic.

In any case, we don't need a "complete and definitive" understanding of all the systems in play in order to know what's up. Instead, we work to shrink the error bars more and more; and we have been for some time. Unfortunately, the error bars have been steadily reduced such that all of the various possible outcomes lie between "not good" and "stupidly not good" with the peak of the bell curve sitting just the other side of "it costs us less to act now than it does to just let it happen."

There’s too much politics and belief on all sides of this fight, and not enough listening to the actual science.

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Anthropogenic Global Warmism

Good grief. CO2 my arse Potty, poor old CO2 strawman - favourite eeeeeevil greenhouse gas of the dead-head meedja... You also trot out all the old, tired exhalings - peak oil (yawn yawn) and a few reeking ad-hominems to 'back up' your spurious assumptions.

Consider these two short words - Water vapour. Here are another choice few - All the climate models are broken.

You're a horrible alarmist - clearly bretheren of the rent-seeking pseudo-boffs who are making it all up to feed the grant-paying monster, feather their nests and ensure jobs. That is it. Full-stop.

Bell curve? Bell end more like.

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@BLAM!

The cognitive dissonance in calling my posts ad homenim with a comment such as you just posted is...impressive.

As for being an alarmist, I have no idea what you are talking about. I was talking about science. I've no idea where you get "alarmism" from. But hey, go have a beer and chill out, dude…

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FAIL

Water vapour as a Greenhouse gas

"Consider these two short words - Water vapour"

Consider this one word - Rain.

Idiot. The atmosphere is saturated with water vapour. You can only raise the level by raising the temperature.

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@BLAM!

"Consider these two short words - Water vapour. Here are another choice few - All the climate models are broken."

That is a very confident assertion. You must be a world expert on climate models! And yet the first sentence in the quote demonstrates that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

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@BLAM!

I'm generally lumped in with the "skeptics" camp, but this is missing the point...

The problem I have isn't the science, which exists and can be verified / falsified as necessary. The problem is the presentation of the science in the media, and the attempts to convince us that the worst-case scenarios are the only scenarios ever likely to happen, regardless of the topic. EVERYTHING is going to kill us! We're apparently in the worst recession EVAR! Muslims are going to wipe us all out! North Korea is going to wipe us all out! And so on and, tiresomely, on. Naturally, there's no shortage of snake-oil salesmen abusing the science to claim that their magic bullet will somehow save us all.

The signal:noise ratio is shocking. There is, quite literally, nowhere for an interested, lay population to inform itself impartially of the facts, in a relatively unbiased way.

Unlike most of the mainstream media, The Register isn’t interested in peddling just one or the other side of a story. They have a "Harry Hill" editorial policy: “Who’s right? There's only one way to find out: FIGHT!”

I'm not interested in being a skeptic for the sake of being skeptical. I'm skeptical because I’m a layperson in this particular field: I don’t have the time to trawl through the science journals and read up on the current state of the art myself. I’m reliant on other people—i.e. the media—to report back on it all for me. That’s what they’re for!

Richard's article points at new information added to the pool of Climate science, which is a good thing. The leap from "the oceans are doing X, therefore it's mankind's fault" did jar with me, but it's clearer when you read the original document that there is some actual science linking these two assertions. A hyperlink directly to the relevant text—or just a pop-up "Here's Why" boxout—would have been better than the "As if by magic..." impression the article gives at present. But it’s still good.

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BLAM - the noise your brain makes when it tries to think

Look, I'm actually a skeptic of AGW. But apart from that, I pretty much agree with Trevor Potts' whole post! You go "yawn yawn peak oil" but unless you think that oil is magically replaced by gnomes, how can you not believe that there will be a peak in oil production? Or maybe it's just that you are yawning because you don't think running out of oil will matter. In which case, I wonder half of our technology runs on. More gnomes, perhaps?

You don't have to swallow the entire AGW hypothesis (it will be a theory when they figure out how to test it properly) to realize that our dependence on oil is a very bad thing. And add to the previous arguments the fact that we keep bombing people for it too and proping up regimes like the Saudis. We need nuclear power. Lots of it. Right now. It's possibly the best thing we could realistically do to improve our country and our world right now.

You're an idiot.

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warming?

Here in Arkansas it's 69F today (Jan 30th)... at least 20 degrees warmer than normal... been like this all month. Winter was cancelled for us this year. We don't get snow every year but it usually gets cold enough to kill the mosquito population. We've only hit freezing 7 times this year (all winter) and we hit a record high temp last summer of 118F (I might add it was 89% humidity that day). When I was a kid here we had snow every year, without fail, until I was in my teens. I don't know about tidal currents and jet streams; but here, at least, global warming is already happening. Can anyone in other parts of the world comment if you're seeing this drastic of a change in the last year or so? I imagine the Southern Hemisphere is feeling it worst since they are closer to the Sun during summertime (at least it's wintertime when we're orbitally closer to the sun in the States).

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bep

Down south

Well, it's purely anecdotal, of course, but where I regularly snorkel I'm starting to see brightly-coloured tropical type fish that I never used to see, and the water sure does seem a bit warmer.

On a more sobering note, anyone who goes diving on coral reefs must have noticed the extent of bleaching and the absence of fish except in areas where they feed the fish and maintiain 'coral gardens'. Combined with the pillaging of the southern oceans that is on-going it makes for a sobering outlook.

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PT

Out West

Where I live in Nevada, up until about ten years ago we used to get rainstorms that flooded the streets and floated cars away. Lately we haven't had anywhere near so much rain, and in one two-year period I think we only had 1/10 inch. The past couple of years have been wetter, with about our average 4 inches. Temperature-wise, the winters seem milder with only a few days of frost this winter, but they're variable anyway. Ten years ago the fountains froze in Las Vegas and people made snowmen on the Strip. The summers are always hot, but lately I haven't seen the highs I used to, like in 2003 when the thermometer on my back porch reached 124 degrees F.

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No snow in Scandinavia

It finally arrived, late and puny. Talk is, the North will become a temperate rain forest. Sounds cool, until you realize that these humane societies will be faced with hordes of boat people and other immigrants fleeing the unbearable heat, drought, and disease in the rest of Europe, from Italy and Spain, France and Germany, Poland and the Ukraine. People take this possible future seriously.

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Note to All

Climate <> weather

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IT Angle

Hmmmm...

Perhaps the neutrinos are mutating!

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Boffin

Clearly the world's oceans are responsible for global warming... I suggest we simply drain them and the problem will go away.

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@Ned Ludd

"Clearly the world's oceans are responsible for global warming... I suggest we simply drain them and the problem will go away."

Ah. A high tech Luddite.

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Alert

Agulhas, it's Agulhas!

Spelling nazi rant over.

However; should it not be the other way round, namely that as the sea is getting warmer, the global temperature rises?

That would make sense to me; having a rise in global temperature cause a three-fold rise in sea-temperature does not.

Or am I missing something?

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Yes, and no.

The global temperature goes up because the Earth is (on average) unable to radiate as much heat as it is receiving. The end result is warmer oceans, warmer landmass and warmer atmosphere. Oceans have typically been a great “sink” for excess heat, helping to smooth out natural variation in solar energy output and localised atmospheric issues preventing radiative emission. (The deep oceans can absorb quite a bit of heat and so forth.)

We have exceeded the buffer space and now excess atmospheric heat is unable to be transferred to the oceans quickly enough. By consequence, landmass doesn’t get to cool by convection quite so much and must rely more on radiative emissions. That’s a problem, as we keep pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere which reflect more of the radiation right back down than we would ideally like.

Overall, the temperature goes up. But it is really quite complicated. Many factors combine, and thus it is fair to say “oceanic temperature is rising due to global warming” rather than “global warming is driver by oceanic temperature change.” “Global warming” is used as a catch-all term to describe an entire series of issues, whereas oceanic temperature rise is only one aspect. (Thus couldn’t be reasonably said to be “responsible” for global warming.)

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Thanks, Trevor, but your answer does not answer my question.

I am aware of the fact that the oceans act as a heat sink and that it smooths out variations, et cetera.

My problem is that an increase in atmospheric temperature cannot cause an increase in temperature in currents that is three times larger (than the atmospheric change).

As you said: "We have exceeded the buffer space and now excess atmospheric heat is unable to be transferred to the oceans quickly enough". In other words, the ocean cannot absorb any more heat, causing the atmosphere to heat up. That refutes the findings as stated in the article, namely that "...the surprise is that those currents are warming faster than the globe as a whole".

Other aspects that goes begging are firstly, what has happened to the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) aka the Ocean Conveyer Belt system over the same period and secondly, is there any tie-in with the El Niño/La Nina cycle?

Here lies the rub: the system is so complex and has such a vast number of components (some which have probably not been discovered yet) that I think it is still rather presumptuous of anyone to make sweeping statements regarding the whole system based on observations in one particular area.

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@Kobus Botes

My problem is that an increase in atmospheric temperature cannot cause an increase in temperature in currents that is three times larger (than the atmospheric change).

No, but it doesn't have to. The atmospheric temperature change isn't the only thing driving the oceans to warm. They absorb solar radiation a heck of a lot more than the atmosphere does! That's why they will warm more than the atmosphere. Also consider that greenhouse gases prevent the oceans from radiating the heat away, as they the reflect (some of) that radiation right back down at the oceans.

In other words, the ocean cannot absorb any more heat, causing the atmosphere to heat up. That refutes the findings as stated in the article, namely that "...the surprise is that those currents are warming faster than the globe as a whole".

That’s part of it, yes. But there are also local variations. Why are these currents warmer than the models project? Why are other areas warming more slowly? What local effects play a role here? (Deepwater mixing – or lack thereof – is probably a big contributor.) Please do remember that the whole earth doesn’t warm evenly. There will be local variations; sometimes these variations will even be quite dramatic!

Other aspects that goes begging are firstly, what has happened to the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) aka the Ocean Conveyer Belt system over the same period

It still exists, (and is indeed a major consideration in the paper!) but how much heat can be mixed at depth is something we are still in the process of studying. It turns out that the deep ocean can absorb more than we at first suspected, but the exact circumstances under which this can occur (and what the thermal transfer maximum is) are still active areas of research.

and secondly, is there any tie-in with the El Niño/La Nina cycle?

If you read the paper, the authors account for this in their research, and the variations observed appear to be independent of this cycle.

Here lies the rub: the system is so complex and has such a vast number of components (some which have probably not been discovered yet) that I think it is still rather presumptuous of anyone to make sweeping statements regarding the whole system based on observations in one particular area.

They didn’t. The localised variance was something that existing climate models predicted would exist. This team verified the prediction made by these climate models. When they started digging deeper they begun to see how it was all connected, they found that in fact the amount of heat present was even higher than the models predicted.

Their analysis points to possible issues that the warmer water may have absorbing additional CO2 load (thus being able to mix it with the lower depths and buy us a few more years,) but more importantly the study highlighted exactly how much uncertainty existed in extant temperature records and how we should best go about addressing it.

So, that being one of the main focuses of the project, they were still able to determine that all values within the bounds of uncertainty came out to “bad.” The question is really “exactly how bad.”

For that we need more buoys.

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"My problem is that an increase in atmospheric temperature cannot cause an increase in temperature in currents that is three times larger (than the atmospheric change)."

Don't think of it as temperature, think of it as radiation. Greenhouse gases lead to absorption and re-emission of some infrared radiation that was heading spacewards. The infrared radiation that heads back down earthwards *may* be absorbed by the atmosphere - or may be absorbed by the land/water underneath.

Or to put it another way: convection, conduction, radiation. It's the 3rd of these that is the overwhelming aspect imparting addional heat energy into the oceans in this case.

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Anonymous Coward

Wow, you are a true believer, aren't you? You also missed a previous posters point about the attribution of the warming. No one is questioning that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is predominantly man-made. What serious skeptics --science is about skepticism, you know?-- question is to what extent the recent warming is anthropogenic in nature and how much is simply natural variation. The IPCC, Hansen, Mann, et. al. can only derive their ridiculous warming projection by applying completely nonsensical positive feedback loops which amplify the intrinsic warming effect of CO2 by a factor of 3 or more. Given that the Earth's average temperature hasn't varied much more than a couple of degrees C in thousands of years makes it hard for me to believe that the system is that fragile.

It's too bad that the Argo buoys have shown a general flattening of ocean heat content. That pretty much kills your supposed missing heat. Ocean acidification goes through being a red herring and out the other side --all Brits speak Pratchett, right?-- so as to be laughable. The DAILY variations of ph in tidal areas are larger than any of the claimed acidification as well as the fact that most marine organisms actually do fine in a slightly more acidic environment. In fact many of them evolved when the CO2 content in the atmosphere was many multiples of its current CO2-starved value.

Then there is the simple problem of the completely missing tropospheric heat signature. The fact is that the majority of the modeled claims have failed. Atmospheric CO2 is indeed "worse than we thought" but global temps as reported even by HadCRUT show essentially no warming over the last 12 years. Most inconvenient.

Then we have that pesky Medieval Warm Period. You know, the time when Vikings from 1000 years ago could actually grow crops in southern Greenland. The time when they could actually bury their dead below what is today permafrost. As much as Mann and his buddies at CRU want that period to go away there is ample evidence that the MWP was a global phenomenon well before any CO2 scare.

Finally, I certainly never learned about any "buffer space" in all of my thermodynamics and heat transfer classes, but I can tell you that the specific heat of water is four times greater than the atmosphere and there is far more of said water on this planet than said gas. To say that we have somehow saturated the oceans and they can no longer act as a heat sink, well, I just can't think of any polite way to disagree with it.

p.s. If the Maldives are going to drown any day now, then why are they building a dozen new airports and luxury hotels mere feet above sea level?

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Gold badge

Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTMLThere are a number of holes in your arguments - enough to keep going for days and days - but I'll pick just the one out for simplicity's sake. I don’t actually want to spend the rest of my days debating Climate Change amidst an army of commenters with strong disconfirmation bias. (A reasonable chunk can be covered here anyways.)

Finally, I certainly never learned about any "buffer space" in all of my thermodynamics and heat transfer classes, but I can tell you that the specific heat of water is four times greater than the atmosphere and there is far more of said water on this planet than said gas. To say that we have somehow saturated the oceans and they can no longer act as a heat sink, well, I just can't think of any polite way to disagree with it.

If you learned about thermodynamics and heat transfer then with any luck you have learned things about turbulence, mixing and so forth. The long and the short of this being that oceanic layers don’t quite mix as much as we would like.

So sure, there is all sorts of capacity in the deep ocean to absorb heat. Gobs and gobs and gobs of it. The problem is getting the heat to the lower layers of the ocean. The atmosphere can only conduct so much heat to the surface layers of the water at any given time, and that water then has to either radiate it away or mix with the lower layers.

The long and the short of it is that the depth of the top layer of water (and the concept of layers along with an understanding of turbulence are critical here) determines how much heat the oceans can absorb (both in terms of solar radiation and in terms of atmospheric heat.)

What’s more, the warmer it gets, the shallower the mixed layer becomes. (As it becomes warmer, the stratification of the oceans becomes more stable, mixing occurs less, etc. and yadda yadda.)

The oceans may be big and all, but unless the energy gets from the mixed layer to the lower ones, then they aren’t exactly sinking any of that heat.

A-ha, you say: but conduction would carry the heat downwards eventually! This is where El Nino/La Nina are so critical; when the barrier layer (the one between the mixed layer and the thermocline) becomes saturated with heat, the whole system goes a bit titsup and mixing with the deep ocean finally occurs.

How much of the heat mixes is really the determining factor of how much your big giant oceans can absorb. What happens when the heat buildup start affecting layer mixing…well that’s another kettle of fish.

As to the ad hom “you really are a believer," well…I think you have me mistaken for someone else. I am actually strongly sceptical about a great deal of climate change voodoo. There is some bad science going on, and a great deal of misinformed NIMBYism.

But I am convinced by evidence. And I spend a great deal of time reading it. What I am not convinced by are the various typical denier logical fallacies. (There is a heck of a difference between an actual skeptic and a denier!)

Even if we can get past the really crazy ones who honestly believe there is a conspiracy to suppress the truth, in any given drawn out argument I will run into the following in short order:

1) Argument from incredulity (mankind can’t possibly affect something so large as the Earth!)

2) Fallacy of composition (it was colder last year!),

3) False authority (7 scientists who have nothing to do with climate science signed a petition with one that did saying it’s all hokum!)

4) Cherry-picked data (the past X years shows a decline, so long as I choose the warmest year in the past while as the basis for my cherry-picked graph!)

5) Moving goalposts/impossible expectations,

6) Proving a negative (which veers into god-of-the-gaps territory; “if you can not/ do not know everything there is to know then by default climate change can’t be happening/isn’t anthropogenic/won’t cause problems/etc.")

7) Straw man (predictions in the past said we would all be underwater by now, thus the whole thing is false! Additionally: “some extremist who believes the science of global warming did this/flies in a jet/eats meat/etc. thus everyone who believes in the science of global warming are all liars/thieves/whoresons/filthy socialists out for my money/etc."

That’s just the surface stuff. The really hardcore ones get into some pretty damning cognitive dissonance. Scary stuff.

Long story short: no, I am not a “believer" in global warming. I am someone who has read the science and for the most part am convinced that it has been done properly. I understand the concept of uncertainty, and how we can “know something" while error bars still exist.

I can even be convinced otherwise. If someone wants to point me at a whole bunch of peer reviewed scientific papers that clearly demonstrate that extant climate science is wrong, (or even offer reasonable doubt!) I will gladly peruse them. The thing is; any alternative explanation for the evidence we have been collecting needs to actually explain that evidence.

If you want to convince me that extant climate science is real, the bar is well defined: peer reviewed papers that outline how extant science is wrong, with tests that can demonstrate the proposed hypothesis. If those experiments and analyses pan out, not only will I believe the science presented me, but I suspect those folks would be in for a Nobel Prize. (That would be a hell of an achievement!)

What abotu for you? What standards of evidence do you need before you will accept the science?

Ah well, off to the pub with me!

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Trollface

Some random thoughts

Good reading Trevor, keep it up!

It seems in my narrow viewpoint, that El Reg's readership has more "climate change deniers" than other forums. Could there be a reason? Perhaps the reason is that El Reg is British, and so a majority of the readers/commentators are British. The British *ISLANDS* have a climate that is moderated by all the water around them, and so wouldn't show the drastic changes that climate in the middle of North America, Asia or Australia could show.

If the world is warming up, there are lots of bad consequences: coastal areas getting flooded, effects on plants and animals that humans depend on, thus potentially leading to economic problems, health problems, etc. What's the downside to trying to fix things? (Ignore the crazy ideas that have been suggested, that could cause more harm than good.) The downside is mostly economic - it costs a *lot* of money, and the benefits are very long term. That's lost potential (the cynic in me says: fewer toys) for possibly great stuff. If nothing else it would mean that all of us would be a bit "less rich". I'm not a gambler: I'll take that over even the possibility of the huge badness that might be avoided.

Let's say we have an old farmer, who lives 30 miles from any major population center. His father bought a thermometer 50 years ago and they have been recording temperatures every day since then. I'll believe that farmer's opinion on climate change over the opinions of economists and geologists!

Why are so many people so unwilling to believe in climate change? Be honest folks - scientific stuff either way isn't the real reason. The real reason is that everyone knows that doing anything significant would cost so much money that most people's standard of living would be hit. And nobody wants that, so lots of people are fine with being "climate change deniers". Did I mention that I'm cynical?

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