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Discussion > Sense and Sensitivity

Mr Clarke: the “acidification” of the oceans is a contentious issue. We may acknowledge that recordings of temperatures of the atmosphere has been sparse and of variable quality, but the recording of oceanic readings has been even more so, particularly with regard to its “average” pH (I put the term in quotation marks, as declaring an average for something as vast as we are talking about from such little data is another contentious issue). What we are expected to be getting alarmed about is a reduction of pH that is swamped by the daily fluctuations that can occur: “The average pH has fallen from 8.2 to 8.1! Panic!” In some areas, the daily fluctuation may regularly fall to 7.1, but no catastrophe occurs, so why the panic? Oh, I see – it is something to stir the masses into a panic about, and to throw money at to solve. Riiight.

All of the increase is manmade.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So far, you have provided none. Oh – and it is up to you to provide the evidence to back the claim, not me to provide evidence to counter it.
The surface is about 1C warmer than it was in 1900.
Precisely – which is no more than the average rise per century that has been observed in palaeological evidence. However, you and others are trying to up the ante by claiming the observed rate of rise over a couple of decades should be extrapolated to what it will do over a century. Sorry, no dice – proxy records can give us no finer detail than per century, thus we have to use observed rise over that time, too. You cannot compare the apples of a few decades to the oranges of a century – this was done with the falling temperatures in the 1970s, with the oncoming ice age scare, and look where we are now, 40 years later. Where will we be in 40 years? Who know? It could be a bit warmer, it could be a bit cooler. Seeing what is happening with the principle driver of our climate, I would moot that it WILL be cooler – something that may well be evident within the next few years.

As for your link – Svensmark’s graphs show that there is an even tighter correlation with cosmic rays, and has been so for some 200 million years, but even he is not claiming that it is necessarily a cause, never mind the cause.

Mar 13, 2017 at 12:27 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

You do seem to forget that the first published picture of the OCO2 satellite showed the area over the tropical rain-forests of South America, Africa and Indonesia, as well as tropical oceans, to be CO2-rich, when compared with more industrialised areas. This was “explained” as being the result of seasonal burning – if that is the case, then we should ensure these subsistence farmers get industrialised as soon as possible, to save the world!

Mar 13, 2017 at 12:34 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Phil Clarke, so which bit of the Climate Science that you rely on is wrong? No explanation of the Cause of the Pause, MWP, LIA?

Nothing is happening to match your assumptions. Why should Climate Science assume we should believe it or fund it?

Mar 13, 2017 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So far, you have provided none.

Bousquet et al. (2000), Regional changes of CO2 fluxes over land and oceans since 1980, Science, Vol 290, 1342-1346.
Ciais et al. (1995), A Large Northern Hemisphere Terrestrial CO2 Sink Indicated by the 13C/12C Ratio of atmospheric CO2, Science, Vol 269, pp. 1098-1102.
Keeling, Piper and Heimann (1996), Global and hemispheric CO2 sinks deduced from changes in atmospheric O2concentration, Nature, Vol 381, 218-221.
McNeil et al. (2003), Anthropogenic CO2 uptake by the ocean based on the global chlorofluorocarbon data set, Science, Vol 299, 235-239.
Takahashi et al. (2002), Global sea-air CO2 flux based on climatological surface ocean pCO2, and seasonal biological and temperature effects, Deep Sea Research, Vol 49, 1601-1622.

And the IPCC did a nice summary in AR3, available here:

Mar 13, 2017 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

The average pH has fallen from 8.2 to 8.1! Panic

You are aware that the pH scale is logarithmic?

Mar 13, 2017 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

And the IPCC did a nice summary in AR3, available here:

Mar 13, 2017 at 1:53 PM | Phil Clarke

The IPCC has been debunked loads of times, and may be about to suffer a lack of financial confidence. As the IPCC has not been proved right about anything worth worrying about, isn't it about time for the World to "move on"?

Mar 13, 2017 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Bousquet et al. (2000), Regional changes of CO2 fluxes over land and oceans since 1980, Science, Vol 290, 1342-1346 begins:

"We have applied an inverse model to 20 years of atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements to infer yearly changes in the regional carbon balance of oceans and continents.” [My bolding]
And you see this as evidence?

For tens of millions of years, Earth's oceans have maintained a relatively stable acidity level. It's within this steady environment that the rich and varied web of life in today's seas has arisen and flourished. But research shows that this ancient balance is being undone by a recent and rapid drop in surface pH that could have devastating global consequences.
Riiiiight. We are comparing apples with oranges again: for a start, how on Earth do they know that what is happening now has not happened over the past “tens of millions of years”? There are many locations where there have been regular observations made; at these sites, the pH has been observed to vary greatly, most often with tides, but also with night and day. As we are talking about some 1.3 BILLION cubic kilometres of ocean, with just a few thousand observation sites – and most of those have been installed within the last 50 years – then to talk as if this is comprehensive observation is only to fool yourself.

Mar 13, 2017 at 2:56 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

And fooling yourself may well be what you are doing, Mr Clarke: McNeil et al. (2003), Anthropogenic CO2 uptake by the ocean based on the global chlorofluorocarbon data set, Science, Vol 299, 235-239 (my bolding):

We estimated the oceanic inventory of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) from 1980 to 1999 using a technique based on the global chlorofluorocarbon data set. Our analysis suggests that the ocean stored 14.8 petagrams of anthropogenic carbon from mid-1980 to mid-1989 and 17.9 petagrams of carbon from mid-1990 to mid-1999, indicating an oceanwide net uptake of 1.6 and 2.0 +/- 0.4 petagrams of carbon per year, respectively. Our results provide an upper limit on the solubility-driven anthropogenic CO2 flux into the ocean, and they suggest that most ocean general circulation models are overestimating oceanic anthropogenic CO2 uptake over the past two decades.
You do seem to have overlooked that last phrase: “… and they suggest that most ocean general circulation models are overestimating oceanic anthropogenic CO2 uptake over the past two decades.

Takahashi et al. (2002) (again, my bolding):

Based on about 940,000 measurements of surface-water pCO2 obtained since the International Geophysical Year of 1956–59, the climatological, monthly distribution of pCO2 in the global surface waters representing mean non-El Niño conditions has been obtained with a spatial resolution of 4° x 5° for a reference year 1995. The monthly and annual net sea–air CO2 flux has been computed using the NCEP/NCAR 41-year mean monthly wind speeds. An annual net uptake flux of CO2 by the global oceans has been estimated to be 2.2 (+22% or -19%)Pg C yr -1 using the (wind speed)2 dependence of the CO2 gas transfer velocity of Wanninkhof (J. Geophys. Res. 97 (1992) 7373). The errors associated with the wind-speed variation have been estimated using one standard deviation (about ±2ms-1) from the mean monthly wind speed observed over each 4° x 5° pixel area of the global oceans. The new global uptake flux obtained with the Wanninkhof (wind speed)2 dependence is compared with those obtained previously using a smaller number of measurements, about 250,000 and 550,000, respectively, and are found to be consistent within ±0.2 Pg C yr-1. This estimate for the global ocean uptake flux is consistent with the values of 2.0±0.6Pg C yr-1 estimated on the basis of the observed changes in the atmospheric CO2 and oxygen concentrations during the 1990s (Nature 381 (1996) 218; Science 287 (2000) 2467). However, if the (wind speed)3 dependence of Wanninkhof and McGillis (Res. Lett. 26 (1999) 1889) is used instead, the annual ocean uptake as well as the sensitivity to wind-speed variability is increased by about 70%. A zone between 40° and 60° latitudes in both the northern and southern hemispheres is found to be a major sink for atmospheric CO2. In these areas, poleward-flowing warm waters meet and mix with the cold subpolar waters rich in nutrients. The pCO2 in the surface water is decreased by the cooling effect on warm waters and by the biological drawdown of pCO2 in subpolar waters. High wind speeds over these low pCO2 waters increase the CO2 uptake rate by the ocean waters.
You do seem to be confusing work in progress with definitive conclusions.

Mar 13, 2017 at 3:26 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

EM Did you read my 10.07pm?

Yes I did, and I said yesterday that I understood there were negative feedbacks such as clouds, lapse rate and the Stefan - Boltzmann effect, but without a clear mathematical model it's difficult to understand Clearly there must be a, or probably many, mathematical models in use by the climate scientists else they'd not be able to come up with the figure 3 +/- 1.5C, although that appears to have come out of what was effectively a rolling of the dice in scientific terms when Jule Charney came up with it.

I expect the climate scientists have a handle on all this, but I'm not sure. We go to my original point of ignorance. If a rise of 1.2C will result in a further rise to 3C what will the 3C give rise to? And if it doesn't why doesn't it? Unless these questions can be answered simply it looks to me that rhoda's opinion that it's all bollards might just have a grain of truth to it.


Lord Kelvin: "If you can't explain you physics to a barmaid, it probably isn't very good physics."

Mar 13, 2017 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

rhoda's and Martin A's opinions I should have said.

Mar 13, 2017 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


I am amazed that a group of engineers have trouble with the idea that amplification damps out because some form of resistance sets in, rather than continuing to infinity. I hope Radical rodent's thermodynamics denial has not become contagious. Perhaps an example from your experience.

You have a sound amplifier, a microphone and a loud speaker. You point the microphone at the speaker and the familiar feedback howl begins. Why does the intensity of the sound not increase to infinity? Where would you get the energy? Are you familiar with the concept of gain? When the gain of the amplifier is low positive feed back does not occur because it damps out. When the gain is large enough the system runs away to its maximum output.

Thee climate system mostly acts as a low gain amplifier, with negative feedbacks damping runaway warming. On the rare occasions when it runs away, it encounters a physical limit, like an amplifier limited by its power output.

Quick back of the envelope calculation.

A 3C rise in temperature would be equivalent to a rise in energy input to the system of about 12W/m2, about 4W due directly due to the CO2 greenhouse effect and another 8W due to an increased water vapour greenhouse effect and reduced ice albedo.

For the warming, the % increase in forcing would be an increase of 12/1370*100=0.8%.

The increase in black body radiation would be( ( 270/267)^4 -1)*100=4%.

With black body radiation increasing by 4% and the global warming forcing increasing by 0.8% the system should damp out when a 12W increase in OLR balances the 12W increase in forcing.

Mar 13, 2017 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man


The possibility of a runaway has been considered and regarded as unlikely, at least for the next billion years.

Light reading

Mar 13, 2017 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Sorry, EM, but your ad homs in my direction (though does give my vanity a certain glow – because I'm worth it!) make this worthy of reply: for a start, where have I denied the laws of thermodynamics? (Outside your imagination would be preferable.) However, this IS what many alarmists seem to be promulgating: “If we don’t stop emitting, we are going to burn!”

Fortunately, most of us are a little smarter than the average alarmist, and can see that the temperature has stopped rising, even while the CO2 levels continue to increase. Sadly, most alarmists will vehemently deny such facts, and it just gets a bit comical when then insist on calling realists “deniers” but… hey.

Mar 13, 2017 at 9:28 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

EM, what you actually have is... any number of microphones, any number of speakers, any number of "triggers", where the positions of the microphones/speakers constantly changes, and they are all linked in a circuit that not only do we not understand, but the circuitry changes as the state changes.

Mar 13, 2017 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket


"If a rise of 1.2C will result in a further rise to 3C what will the 3C give rise to? And if it doesn't why doesn't it?"

For the same reason that your house does not warm to infinity when you turn up the thermostat. You get an initial increase in energy flow into the house and an increase in temperature.

You then get an increase in heat loss through walls, roof and windows. The temperature stabilises at a higher value when the extra heat input from the boiler is matched by the increased heat loss.

Why does the house not heat up indefinitely? Suppose the boiler jams on. Cold water at 10C is heated to 60C. It goes through the house and comes back at 20C. The boiler heats it to 70C. It circulates repeatedly and gains 10C each time until it is heating to 1000C and returning at 990C.

Once you understand why this does not happen you might understand why it does not happen to the climate.

A planet is no different.

Mar 13, 2017 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

If a rise of 1.2C will result in a further rise to 3C what will the 3C give rise to? And if it doesn't why doesn't it?

The reason it doesn't is because you have a big negative feedback called the Planck Response (i.e., the increase in outgoing flux as the climate warms). You can write the Planck response as

dF_Planck = eps sigma 4 T^3 dT (which comes from differentiation eps sigma T^4).

If you assume a background temperature of about 288K, an eps of about 0.6 (Greenhouse effect) and a dT of 1K, then you can show that the Planck response is about W_Planck = -3.2W/m^2/K (negative because we lose energy if dT is positive).

Now, consider what happens if we apply a change in forcing, dF, to the climate, assuming that it is initially in energy balance. If we do so and there is no response, then there will be a net planetary energy imbalance, dN, of

dN = dF

Now consider that there is a response, which we'll take to be dT. The net planetary energy imbalance will then be

dN = dF + W_feed dT + W_Planck dT

We worked out the Planck response above to be about -3.2W/m^2/K. The other feedbacks (which I've called W_feed) are water vapour, lapse rate, albedo, clouds and that have a positive net magnitude of around 2W/m^2/K (you can get this from Soden & Held 2006). So, the net feedback response (W_feed + W_Planck) is about - 1.2W/m^2/K (i.e., it is negative - hence no runaway).

The system will return to equilibrium when dN = 0. For that to be true, we then have

dF = (-W_Planck - W_feed) dT

If we double atmospheric CO2 then dF = 3.7W/m^2. -W_Planck - W_feed = 3.2 - 2 = 1.2W/m^2. If you solve the above equation for dT you get

dT = dF/(-W_Planck - W_feed) = 3.7/(3.2 - 2) = 3.7/1.2 = 3K.

Of course there are various uncertainties and I've only used approximate best estimates for the feedbacks, but hopefully you get the idea. It's also late, so I hope I haven't made some kind of silly mistake.

Essentially, the 3K ECS is the temperature rise that will return the system to energy balance if it is perturbed by a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from a state of initial energy balance. It doesn't runaway because the Planck response ultimately balances all the other feedbacks plus the change in forcing.

Mar 13, 2017 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

I see EM made a similar point, but somewhat more straightforwardly than I managed. In EM's analogy, the increase in energy loss through the walls, windows, etc would be equivalent to the Planck response in my comment.

Mar 13, 2017 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Radical rodent

Remember your enthusiasm for that denier who was trying to warm Venus using energy which had already been reflected as albedo.

That was thermodynamics denial.

Mar 13, 2017 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

T to the fourth? Well that's what I was trying to tell ya. There's that, and the behaviour of water vapour, and there's emergent phenomena like the tropical afternoon thunderstorms. All of these will act and interact in different ways. There's no given response to a doubling. It's an invalid concept. AND the whole thing resets, locally, every day, except no day has the same start conditions as the one before or the one after. When people come here with nowt but radiative physics and global averages and average insolation using non-applicable astronomical albedo, I suspect that they are either disingenuous or they don't appreciate the problem.

Mar 13, 2017 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda


so if the physics is so perfect, why has nothing happened that hasn't happened before?

I am not a scientist, so why should I, or anybody else, pay for so many Climate Scientists, to keep repeating the same stuff?

97% of Climate Scientists should have declared themselves redundant, having no further purpose, when they announced the science was settled. It seems Trump may wish to elaborate further, in the absence of any proof that the Science has advanced, or even accepted any mistakes or wrong assumptions.

Mar 13, 2017 at 11:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie


There are two ways to look at the climate system. Bottom up through the local behaviour of its components and top down the ought the energy budget. That is where albedo and insolation are relevant.

The top down approach has the advantage that you can see the wood, rather than having to measure every tree.

Mar 13, 2017 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Can you boil an egg at night with DW IR?

Mar 13, 2017 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Golf Charlie

"I am not a scientist, so why should I, or anybody else, pay for so many Climate Scientists, to keep repeating the same stuff?"

Why do you go to a haematologist to treat your CLL? Surely a lay person would do a better job than a doctor? After all, 97% of haematologists must be wrong.

Mar 13, 2017 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man


Of course not, you silly girl!

Lay an egg on the ground and it would receive about half a watt from DWLR. You would boil it faster by breathing on it.

Mar 13, 2017 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

EM, that might have been an interesting point, had I not already addressed it in our conversations about Venus: Harry Dale Huffman (the “denier” in question) HAD taken albedo into account, and found that its effect is minimal – indeed, there have been similar observations made on this planet, too; sadly, some time ago, my references were trashed in a computer crash, and the files I had discovered and noted on this subject are, curiously, no longer to be found on any search engine. ALL the figures are given, as well as the methodology, and HDH welcomes anyone to disprove him (though his responses to those who tried – and failed – were... well, shall we say, terse. To be honest, we understand why this might put you off). I notice that you have not addressed this side of the argument, but have merely gone for the person. Hmmm… isn’t there a term for that sort of argument?

Mar 14, 2017 at 12:45 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent