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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #2, 2020

Posted on 15 January 2020 by Doug Bostrom

Conflation and how to fix it

VIa AMS,  Raul Lejano looks at what in a layperson's thinking would be called conflation— confusion and blending of entirely different topics— when people think about climate change. Ideology and the Narrative of Skepticism  (open access) starts with some arguably frightening false connections between the science and policy outcomes of climate change with other drivers of social anxiety among people who reject what we know about climate change. Lejano moves on to identify some possible ways forward. Among those: "Climate skeptics need to be listened to, taken seriously, and respected. Finding a way to respect people expressing racial and other brands of bigotry (as identified in the paper) as a justification for ignoring facts is a bit of a large ask. Leaving that aside, Lejano's work seems to confirm general findings of much other work, and his conclusions about improving the flow and efficacy of climate communications are thought-provoking. Many buttons need to be pushed in many minds if we're to rise to this occasion. 

Bulging ocean warmth

A distinguished group of authors led by Ljing Cheng bring us very sobering news, in Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019. Open access. This graph neatly captures the overall picture:

 Ocean heat content Cheng et al 2019


61 Articles

Physical science of global warming 

Eurasian cooling linked with Arctic warming: Insights from PV dynamics

Role of local atmospheric forcing and land-atmosphere interaction in recent land surface warming in the middle latitude over East Asia (open access)

A Nonmodal Instability Perspective of the Declining Northern Midlatitude Synoptic Variability in Boreal Summer

Roles of sea ice–surface wind feedback in maintaining the glacial Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and climate (open access)

Observations & observational methods of global warming & effects

Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019 (open access)

Global warming accelerates uptake of atmospheric mercury in regions experiencing glacier retreat (open access)

On the imbalance and response time of glaciers in the European Alps

Sentinel?1 detects firn aquifers in the Greenland Ice Sheet

POLSTRACC: Airborne Experiment for Studying the Polar Stratosphere in a Changing Climate with the High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft (HALO) (open access)

Arctic Lower-Tropospheric Warm and Cold Extremes: Horizontal and Vertical Transport, Diabatic Processes, and Linkage to Synoptic Circulation Features

Analysis of 24 years of mesopause region OH rotational temperature observations at Davis, Antarctica – Part 1: Long-term trends (open access)

Lessons from a high CO2 world: an ocean view from ~ 3 million years ago (open access)

Modeling & simulation of global warming & global warming effects

Strong remote control of future equatorial warming by off-equatorial forcing

Intermodel uncertainty in the projection of the Anomalous Western North Pacific Anticyclone associated with El Niño under global warming

Response of extreme rainfall for landfalling tropical cyclones undergoing extratropical transition to projected climate change: Hurricane Irene (2011) (open access)

Changes in extreme climate events in China under 1.5°C?4°C global warming targets: projections using an ensemble of regional climate model simulations

CMIP5 models predict rapid and deep soil warming over the 21st century

Decadal attribution of historic temperature and ocean heat content change to anthropogenic emissions

Dynamically Downscaled Climate Change Projections for the South Asian Monsoon: Mean and Extreme Precipitation Changes and Physics Parameterization Impacts

Global and Regional Projected Changes in 100-yr Subdaily, Daily, and Multiday Precipitation Extremes Estimated from Three Large Ensembles of Climate Simulations (open access)

Possible biases in scaling-based estimates of mountain-glacier contribution to the sea level (open access)

Drought Risk Assessment for Future Climate Projections in the Nakdong River Basin, Korea

Climate model advancement

The Role of Zonally Averaged Climate Change in Contributing to Intermodel Spread in CMIP5 Predicted Local Precipitation Changes

On the Superposition of Mean Advective and Eddy-Induced Transports in Global Ocean Heat and Salt Budgets (open access)

How Are Emergent Constraints Quantifying Uncertainty and What Do They Leave Behind? (open access)

LongRunMIP: Motivation and Design for a Large Collection of Millennial-Length AOGCM Simulations (open access)

The sub-adiabatic model as a concept for evaluating the representation and radiative effects of low-level clouds in a high-resolution atmospheric model (open access)

A Causal Flow Approach for the evaluation of Global Climate Models

Biology & global warming

Spatial synchrony in the response of a long range migratory species (Salmo salar) to climate change in the North Atlantic Ocean

Light and warming drive forest understorey community development in different environments

Species interactions and climate change: How the disruption of species co?occurrence will impact on an avian forest guild

Climate change undermines the global functioning of marine food webs

Return of the moth: rethinking the effect of climate on insect outbreaks (open access)

The effect of climate change on the resilience of ecosystems with adaptive spatial pattern formation

GHG sources & sinks, flux

Emissions in the stream: estimating the greenhouse gas impacts of an oil and gas boom (open access)

Forest management in southern China generates short term extensive carbon sequestration (open access)

The impact of improved satellite retrievals on estimates of biospheric carbon balance (open access)

Lagged effects dominate the inter-annual variability of the 2010–2015 tropical carbon balance (open access)

Changes in soil greenhouse gas fluxes by land use change from primary forest

Sensitivity of mangrove soil organic matter decay to warming and sea level change

Impacts of land management practices on blue carbon stocks and greenhouse gas fluxes in coastal ecosystems—A meta?analysis

A substantial role of soil erosion in the land carbon sink and its future changes

The Net Landscape Carbon Balance – Integrating terrestrial and aquatic carbon fluxes in a managed boreal forest landscape in Sweden

Soil carbon loss with warming: New evidence from carbon?degrading enzymes

Climate change communications & cognition

Ideology and the Narrative of Climate Skepticism (open access)

Understanding and countering the motivated roots of climate change denial

Humans dealing with our global warming

The Blue Fix: What's driving blue growth?

Climate change adaptation costs in developing countries: insights from existing estimates (open access)

Advancing the understanding of adaptive capacity of social?ecological systems to absorb climate extremes (open access)

Impacts of 1.5 and 2.0°C global warming on rice production across China

Heat shocks increasingly impede grain filling but have little effect on grain setting across the Australian wheatbelt

The overlooked spatial dimension of climate?smart agriculture


A Global Drought and Flood Catalogue from 1950 to 2016 (open access)

Importance of orography for Greenland cloud and melt response to atmospheric blocking

Improved GNSS-R bi-static altimetry and independent DEMs of Greenland and Antarctica from TechDemoSat-1 (open access)

Causes and consequences of eastern Australia’s 2019?20 season of mega?fires

Legally obtaining copies of "paywalled" articles

We know it's frustrating that many articles we cite here are not free to read. Here's an excellent collection of tips and techniques for obtaining articles, legally. 


Please let us know if you're aware of an article you think may be of interest for Skeptical Science research news, or if we've missed something that may be important. Send your input to Skeptical Science via our contact form.

A list of journals we cover may be found here. We welcome pointers to omissions, new journals etc. 

The previous edition of Skeptical Science New Research may be found here. 


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Comments 1 to 10:

  1. In a CNN article the lead author said the ocean temperature (I am not quite sure what this means) was 0.075 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average in 2019.

    That does not look like very a serious problem to me. What am I missing?

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  2. Seqenenre, it sounds like a small number but message and effects are notable.

    As expressed elsewhere, the energy required to raise the temperature of such a large mass at this rate is "equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night." Warming the entire ocean at this rate is a fairly shocking confirmation of the effects of increases in what some dismiss as "only a trace gas." 225 zetajoules is a very large amount of energy. 

    What looks like a small absolute change in the temperature of the upper ocean results in profound changes in moisture in the atmosphere and hence what we can expect in behavior of rainfall, convective storms, etc.

    Thermosteric sea level rise is about 0.7m per degree centigrade warming of the ocean. With an accelerating rate of ocean warming, seemingly small increases in temperature will stack up to become a significant problem. 


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  3. Seqenenre :-  As Doug says, the amount of extra heat energy involved is enormous in total.   As well as producing a sea level rise (with its own major effects on coastal humanity) you find the heat energy "sloshing about" in uneven distributions.   Heat coming to the surface to produce El Nino surges of global air temperature.   Heat driving the "fewer but stronger storms/ hurricanes".   Heat undercutting & melting the Antarctic ice, and increasingly melting the arctic sea-ice.   Heat leading to increased flooding & droughts & heat waves.

    The surface air temperature (that we live in) is a sort of "tail of the dog"  ~ the oceanic dog moves itself slightly . . . and the tail moves a lot.

    Even within the ocean, you see important fluctuations as the overall water temperature rises.   Vast areas of coral can bleach and die, as shallower water experiences "watery heat waves".   Tropical / warm-water fish must move to cooler habitats, further away from the equator.   The effects on marine life are much larger than you would intuitively expect.

    "Tiny" changes can sometimes have large effects.  We are used to the large swings of temperature with the seasons: typical winter/summer change might be 20 degreesC or more . . . yet (counter-intuitively) a sustained gain of 1 or 2 degrees can build up to a colossal effect on the whole planet.   We must look at "small numbers" with a scientific eye, rather than with our usual "everyday eye".

    I am always amused by science-deniers such as Lord Monckton ~ how, one day they can be arguing that 0.04% of the atmosphere (as CO2) is such a tiny amount ("and which has only increased by one part in ten thousand, in the past 100 years") and is so tiny as to be entirely unimportant in this world . . . and the next day they argue the 0.04% is so very important because "it sustains all life on earth".


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  4. A study using Zetajoules always make my critical mind goes wild, alarms going on.

    99.8% of the globe does not know what is a zetajoules and cannot convert it to a more common metric, the Celsius.

    Doing the maths i saw that the ''shocking'' study (from some headlines i saw on MSM) is actually a 0.1 C of increase in the last 60 years. Ok? but it becomes wilder still. The margin of error is 0.003%. I mean come on! Do you really takes us all for retards?

    With 4000 buoys from Argo you can't pretend having such a low margin of error. It is a deceptive affirmation, as every buoy needs to mesure the temperature of the sea the size of Portugal AND 2 KMs deep. 

    Does anyone here believe a reading in Lisbon actually gives the temperatures of Porto, Faro or Lagos? It is ridiculous and does not help the narrative at all. 


    I'm 100% for waking up people but the data and affirmation needs to be strong and realistic. In the end, anyone with some understanding of margin of error can understand the results of the ''study'' IS within the margin of error and what does this say? Nothing here move along...

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  5. @doug_bostrom

    Anyone using figures like hiroshima bombs and microwaves gibberish is simply trying to confuse the mind of his readers. We have real figures in zetajoules, celsius or farenheit if you are americans. Theses figures everyone understand them and are easily convert to one another.

    Everything goes down the drain when you realise the assumption about the margin of error the scientists affirmed they achieve. Its pure madness if you understand statistics requirements.

    Finally 225 zetajoules is nothing on a 60 years period. The earth receive more than 6K zetajoules a year meaning with some simple maths : 6K (round up) x 60 = 360 000. Now do a % its 1/1600 of what the earth received in 60 years. 

    I'm supposed to worry about that? There is many many ways to explain this and remember it is within the margin of error. 

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  6. Mathieu, I know you're not calling folks like Gregory Johnson (who runs the American portion of Argo— look him up in Google Scholar, read and understand his papers) liars, so the only remaining plausible (and still charitable) conclusion is that you're suffering from a universal affliction called the Dunning-Kruger effect. That's not a unique and awful reflection on you— it's a fallibility we all share, more or less. Check it out— seconds away on Google.  

    As to error and confidence interval in the paper's conclusions, now that you've asserted your superior expertise do see Figure 2. It's an open access paper. There's no reason to guess. 

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  7. "225 zetajoules is nothing on a 60 years period. The earth receive more than 6K zetajoules a year"

    And the central heating system in my house liberates far more energy in a year than does the grease fire on the stove I've just noticed. So I don't need to worry about the grease fire. Let it burn. It's such a relatively small amount of energy, right? :-)

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  8. ''Seqenenre at 1. Thank you for pointing out that the ocean temperature has only increased by 0.075 degrees Celcius over the 1981-2010 average. An increase of 0.075 over 25 years is quite small. It will take 25/0.075=333 years for the oceans to heat up by one degree. Hence w may depend on the oceans to cool us down over the next three centuries and we need not worry about rising sea levels, 0.7 meters over the next three centuries.

    Either that or the value of 0.075 degrees in the CNN article is a mistake.
    Is there anybody out there who can translated 225 zetajoules into degrees Celcius, so we can clear up this issue?''

    This was posted at 00.57 AM on 18 January, 2020. Since then it has been deleted. Does Skeptical Science use censors? If so, who are they, and where does one apply to find out the reason for deleting the original post?

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  9. GwsB, The increase in ocean temperature of 0.075 degrees Celcius over the 1981-2010 average might be for the oceans as a whole including the deep oceans.  The nasa giss graph of ocean temperatures below is for the surface 100 metres or so (I think)  and it looks like about 0.5 degrees c for the same period.

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  10. nigelj, your answer was very helpful. 4600 joule heats one liter of water by one degree C. Hence 228 zetajoule heats the ocean with a volume of 1.35 zetaliter by 228/1.35/4600=0.04 degrees Celcius. Add 10% for the deep ocean (below 2000 meter), see p 139 in the Cheng et al (2020) paper, to obtain an average increase in the temperature of 0.044 degrees Celcius for the whole ocean. The CNN estimate of 0.075 degrees grossly over estimates of the effect of climate change.

    Perhaps you can help me with another issue.

    shows the spectrum of the outgoing radiation on May 5, 1970 over the Sahara. The absorption due to CO2 is clearly documented. A more recent spectrum, say from 2019, might show in how far the situation has deteriorated over the last fifty years, and help convince skeptics that there is no saturation. Where can one obtain a plot with more recent data?

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