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Global warming hiatus explained and it's not good news

Posted on 9 April 2015 by Guest Author

You may have heard that global warming has 'paused' but it's only one part of a bigger picture and the search for understanding has equipped climate scientists with better tools than ever.

"It is frustrating," says climate scientist Michael Mann from his office at Penn State University in the United States.

"There certainly has not been a hiatus in global warming — global warming hasn't stopped, even though you still hear those contrarian talking points," he says.

Professor Mann, the director of the university's Earth System Science Centre, is famous for his 'hockey stick' graph that reconstructed 1,000 years of global temperatures showing a dramatic spike towards the end of the 20th century.

The 'pause', also known as the 'slow down' or the 'hiatus', refers to the average rate of warming across the whole planet's surface in the last 15 years or so. The latest major report (pdf) from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the rate of warming between 1998 and 2012 had been about 0.05°C per decade.

This rate, the report said, was "smaller than the rate calculated since 1951" which was 0.12°C per decade.

"The occurrence of the hiatus in global mean surface temperature trend during the past 15 years raises the two related questions of what has caused it and whether climate models are able to reproduce it," the report said (pdf).

This was proof enough for some commentators that computer models of the climate were wrong and that the risks of global warming may have been overblown.

Businessman and former ABC chairman Maurice Newman, the Prime Minister's top business advisor, has written that "temperatures have gone nowhere for 18 years".

Dr Scott Power, senior principal research scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology, was an author of the IPCC report.

"If you look at just these 15-year periods of globally averaged surface air temperature, then they fluctuate quite a bit," he says.

"We expect these fluctuations. What we know is happening is that the planet is warming in response to human increase in greenhouse gases very largely but there are fluctuations because of natural processes."

Power said that 1998, the start of the 'pause', was a particularly hot year due to the natural El Niño climate pattern that has a warming influence on worldwide temperatures.

Power said that if you choose a 15-year period starting in 1996 instead of 1998 then the rate of warming almost triples to 0.14°C per decade.

"Globally average surface temperature is just one measure of changes in the Earth's climate system," he says.

During the 15-year 'hiatus' period, studies of other aspects of the climate system have continued to show warming as expected.

The world's oceans have continued to gain heat, a recent study has found. And, in late March, a study in the prestigious journalScience found Antarctica's ice sheets were melting at an accelerating rate.

Many scientists have pointed to the recent extended periods of ocean cycles that are in phases that tend to have a cooling effect on temperatures at the surface of the planet.

The sun has also been in a state of unusually low activity, which can also have a cooling influence.

Volcanic eruptions generally cool the planet's surface. A study in the journal Nature Geoscience found that some climate models did not properly account for the higher levels of volcanic activity in the early 20th century. This meant that some models had overestimated the amount of atmospheric warming during the so-called slow-down.

Two studies led by scientists at the University of New South Wales found an increase in the strength of trade winds around the equator in the Pacific Ocean had pushed warmer surface waters deeper, having an overall cooling effect on global surface temperatures.

Dr Shayne McGregor, of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre and an author of both the studies, said: "We have a certain amount of energy coming in at the top of the atmosphere and a certain amount of energy going out. With global warming we are changing that balance so the system is retaining heat.

"About 97 per cent of all the heat capacity of the Earth is in the ocean — that's where all the energy gets stored."

He said the increase in the trade winds was temporary. When they returned to normal, the rise in global temperatures would "come back faster".

A separate study by Dr Power found computer models were not simulating the changes in trade winds.

Professor Mann is a co-author of research published in February in Science that also found a role for the oceans in temporarily slowing the rate of global warming.

He said: "Our research reinforces work that tied the slow-down in surface warming — what I call the faux pause because it's not a real pause — with increased heat burial below the surface of the tropical Pacific Ocean.

"The problem is that it's temporary. We will fairly soon see the climate warm even faster than the models predicted."

An analysis by US government scientists published in Nature Climate Change suggested if temporary natural fluctuations were ignored then world was probably now warming at a rate of about 0.2°C per decade — higher than the IPCC's longer-term average. By 2020 this rate was expected to rise to 0.25°C per decade.

One group of scientists working at Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science wrote last year that the term 'pause' was "ill-chosen and even misleading" in the context of climate change.

In the journal Nature Climate Change, the scientists showed during the 'hiatus' there had been an increase in the number of extreme hot days being experienced around the world.

"This is particularly relevant for climate change impacts, as changes in the warmest temperature extremes over land are of the most relevance to human health, agriculture, ecosystems and infrastructure," they wrote.

Click here to read the rest from Graham Readfearn at ABC Environment

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 54:

  1. The "Hiatus" will end in a hockey stick - just an el Nino or two is going to do that given we've already hit record temperatures in ENSO neutral conditions.

    Going up and not coming down - in a world where not-warming means up and down in equal measure - is exactly what warming looks like. Actually, going up and not coming down is a sign of strong warming and the science rejector's minimum warming to count as warming - temperatures going up and going up more - would be extremely strong warming.

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  2. When heat is "buried" in the ocean, from an atmospheric POV it is sent into the future — I assume that the buried blob of hot water mixes over the years and becomes a much larger blob of less-frigid deep water.  Do we have any sort of a wild guess as to how far into the future that will be?  How long before that less-cold blob recirculates back to the top as a less-chilling upwelling, and where?

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  3.  I don't think the question can be answered as it seems to assume that heat belongs in the atmosphere.

     I do like the question however as it reminds us that there is no such thing as a bad question..., unless I suppose it were non-sensical but that would have to be proved by the person answering it. This is teaching: alright!!

     What is a 'blob'?  A system description no doubt...  how would one measure this system and what sort of measurements would one take of it if they could?

     Oh how consensus orientated science is..!

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  4. The question makes pretty good sense to me— it's really about the exchange of heat between oceans and atmosphere; since that's a slow process, with shifts in trend depending on how much deep water reaches the surface, how much heat it absorbs there and when/whether it returns to the depths, how much that accumulated heat reduces later cooling effects when (now warmer) deep water returns to the surface, etc.  In the short run this is about currents and oscillations: in a fictional world where the oceans overturn in a rapid, steady way with high transfer rates between atmosphere and rising cold water they could delay surface warming for a long while.  In the real world, equilibrium is a long way away and the temporal pattern of surface warming will vary with shifts in ocean heat uptake— careful observations can clarify what's happening, and modelling and retrospective considerations can help us to anticipate possible future variations in the underlying process of warming driven by the net energy imbalance...

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  5. "This pause is projected to end in the near future as temperatures resume their upward climb."

    This comment is the final sentence from from the editorial summary to the Steinman, Mann & Miller 2015 paper in Science. However, it conflicts somewhat with Mann's quote at from the conclusions of the paper:

    "Given the pattern of past historical variation, this trend will likely reverse with internal variability, instead adding to anthropogenic warming in the coming decades."

    Which is it: "the near future" or "coming decades"? The answer to that question, which has serious ramifications for global warming policy change, depends on whether you believe the PDO/AMO operate in 60 to 70 cycles or not. If you do, then the answer is likely "coming decades" before the repression of the anthropogenic signal by the NMO is relieved.

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  6. “Volcanic eruptions generally cool the planet's surface.”

    True only for terrestrial volcanic activity. There is up to 9x more undersea activity, warming the ocean directly and has no cooling ash; it has never been included in climate or weather models. If included, it would seem to be the solution to a number of problems. After all, if one omits a significant parameter, one will experience problems in matching data to theory.

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  7. The statement "...increase in the strength of trade the Pacific Ocean had pushed warmer surface waters deeper, having an overall cooling effect on global surface temperatures" in posting, which is the phrasing that I see universally, is incorrect as I understand it. Not quite the converse, but it's tangential. The actual reason is that cooler, deeper water is brought to the surface by the trade winds, not that warm water is being pushed into the western Pacific Ocean. Cooler Pacific Ocean surface water (except that western portion) lowers GMST by two means (1) reducing the average temperature proportional to its surface area (2) reducing the heat quantity that it would otherwise have transferred elsewhere, thus reducing surface/air temperature elsewhere also. I understand that you'all and scientists know that the two events are inextricably linked in Pacific Ocean but it's still illogical to make the leap and directly attribute partial suppression of the GMST anomaly to heat being pushed into ocean. I think it invites disbelief. Again, it's cold water rising, not warm water being pushed below the surface, that reduces GMST anomaly, thus stop saying that GMST did not rise much because heat got pushed into oceans instead.

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    Moderator Response:

    [Rob P] - It's a bit of both. This can be seen in the change between El Nino and La Nina years. Note the storage of ocean heat below the surface in La Nina years (2007-2008 & 2010-2011), and the corresponding change in global surface temperature (black line). Image from Roemmich & Gilson (2011).

  8. Peter Carson @6, if it were true that the effects of under sea volcanism "has never been included in climate or weather models", then logically you could not know that their inclusion "would seem to be the solution to a number of problems".  In fact, you are only guessing, and probably guessing on poor information, that that is the case.

    What is known about under sea volcanoes is that nearly all of them are found along mid-ocean ridges where eruptions are small scale and more or less continuous.  They are, therefore, unlikely to have changed their effect (whatever it is) over the last century or two.


    We also know that even over those ridges, the warming effect is less than (typically much less than) the TOA energy imbalance so that changes in that warming effect are likely to be very small relative to that imbalance.  We also know that the water column makes an excellent insulator so that any such changes will have minimal impact on surface temperatures.

    Finally, it is in fact not true that sub-ocean geothermal heat has never been included in GCMs.  In fact such studies have shown that inclusion of sub-ocean geothermal energy increases the motion of abyssal currents, thereby better modelling the distrubution of C14 in the oceans.  It is, however, not the only candidate in that role.  Nor, I suspect, is the distribution of C14 in the ocean the type of "problem" (I suspect) you had in mind.  

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  9. @Peter Carson:

    3,000,000,000 m**3 / year total annual volcanic lava flow (
    from an estimated "more than a million submarine (underwater) volcanoes"
    "The lava is basalt. Hawaiian basalts contain about 50% silica, 10% each of iron, magnesium, calcium, about 15% aluminum" from some place I've forgotten.
    1000 Kelvin lava temperature drop

    annual lava volume density annual lava mass thermal capacity annual heating
    m**3 kg/m**3 kg J/kg.K Zettajoules
    50% Silica 1,500,000,000 2,648 3,972,000,000,000 710 0.00282
    15% Al 450,000,000 2,700 1,215,000,000,000 910 0.00111
    10% Ca 300,000,000 1,550 465,000,000,000 630 0.00029
    10% Fe 300,000,000 7,874 2,362,200,000,000 450 0.00106
    10% Mg 300,000,000 1,740 522,000,000,000 1050 0.00055
    5% traces 150,000,000 3,302 495,360,000,000 750 0.00037
    100% Total 0.00583

    I compute that a total of ~0.00583 Zettajoules / year heat is added into the deep oceans at the sea bed by the annual 3 cubic kilometers of volcanic lava flow at an assumed average temperature of 1,000 degrees.
    Current analysis is that 13.7 Zettajoules / year heat is added into the oceans from the surface down by the residual radiative imbalance
    Thus, surface-down heat added = 2,350 times as much as volcano heat.

    Also, just to hammer on the utter silliness of this "volcano heat" nonsense, note that the estimate of all geothermal heat is 0.085 w/m**2 (though not known very precisely) which is 1.37 Zettajoules / year. Thus, regular dull geothermal heat seeping up through the land surface and the sea bed is 1.37 / 0.00583 = 235 times as much as volcano heat. I expect that modellers would include this minor but not trivial heat, perhaps somebody else would confirm. The "volcano heat" nonsense is, quite frankly, extremely ignorant and it is beyond lazy not to at least attempt a 1st-order perhaps flawed approximation of the reference quantity for discussion as I have done. It is sadly indicative of a certain group of people that they vastly prefer anecdote and hyperbole to some attempt at analysis.

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    Moderator Response:

    [Rob P] See also this SkS rebuttal by Andy Skuce - Heat from the Earth’s interior does not control climate.

  10. I forgot to format my spreadsheet for posting, especially column headings but really what does it matter when responding to such thoughtless empty anecdote as that at #6.

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  11. grindupBaker & Tom Curtis. [BTW Basalt lava is typically 1400K to 1600K, rather more than your 1000K or even C.]

    I’m well aware of the diagrams of global heat presented. However, they show only the estimated average heat released during quiescence, ie no eruptions when most heat is released. The diagram severely underestimates volcanic heat released.

    Yes, I’ve done some calculations, some shown on my site

    You will also see what causes the larger cyclones, etc.

    [El Nino, for example, by itself releases 10 to 20 of lava near the Eats pacific Rise, let alone that released elsewhere. This is yet to be shown there.]

    Try working it out yourself, then give a calm response.

    Hint: rate of divergence x height x length of all divergent plates. Convergent plates give an extra ¼. That’s a lot more than the estimate of 3 to which you are referring.

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  12. Oh man, popcorn time.

    I love it when someone decides they've figured it all out but no one will publish them because gatekeepers, so they come to Sks (kudos, Peter, brave of you) and proceed to explain what those silly climate scientists missed. To actual climate scientists.

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  13. Peter Carson @11:

    1) The map I showed includes heat loss from young sub-ocean crust and sub-ocean hotspots, and ergo includes heat loss from the associated volcanism.

    2) grindupBaker's calculation included 1000 K for temperature loss, not for the the initial temperature.  Given that the abysal temperature is around 280 K, that means he was assuming magma temperatures 1280 K, so that adjusting for your increased temperature estimates makes little difference to the result.  On the upper bound, it only increases the value by 25%, and 125% of effectively zilch is still effectively zilch.

    3)  Of more concern is that he included only lava volume, not total magma volume which is about 10 times greater (see link below, or the page he linked to).  Adjusting for that brings the estimate up to 0.07 zettajoules (for your upper bound temperature).  That compares to the 1.14 zettajoules per annum for young ocean crust (from the first link).  Ergo even if direct volcanism were not included in that estimate, it would only increase the heat flow estimates in mid ocean ridges by 6%.  Well within error and ergo inconsequential.

    4)  More troubling, El Nino is not a volcanic event of any description, and ergo cannot have an associated lava flow.  It certainly cannot have an associated lava flow equal to approximately half of the global magma deposition (subarial and subocean).  Further, unlike your made up figure, actually observed figures for volcanic extrusion in the Galapagos rise put it at around 0.002–0.13 km^3 per annum.   As with your false, and unjustified claim about what has or has not been included in GCMs, your made up claims continue to embarass you (or would if you had any shame).

    5)  I went to your poorly organized site, and was unable to find any links to relevant calculations.  I did, however, find that you claim that changes in CO2 level can have not effect on the global heat budget because "CO2 is saturated".  In terms of scientific knowledge and reasoning, that would put you below average at an anual meeting of the flat earth society.  Therefore I see no point in extending this conversation.

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    Moderator Response:

    [TD] Peter Carson, see the SkS post "Is the CO2 Effect Saturated?"  After you read the Basic tabbed pane, read the Intermediate and then the Advanced tabbed panes.

  14. "[El Nino, for example, by itself releases 10 to 20 of lava near the Eats pacific Rise, let alone that released elsewhere. This is yet to be shown there.]"

    Can we have a cite for evidence of this please. Especially change in volcanic output between el nino and la nina?

    Also, Ocean heat content has increased by 3E23J since 1970. Entirely consistant with CO2 increase. Most of this heat accumulation in top 700m with gradual warming in top 2000m, nothing much happening in depth (where you claim the heat is coming from). Furthermore the spatial distribution of this heat accummulation is in no way correlated volcanic ridges. Heat transfer between ocean and atmosphere is also entirely consistant with El nino warming. 

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  15. Lets run some numbers shall we. Specific heat of basalt is 0.84J/gK. Assume is deposited very thinly and so can cool from 2800C to 10C in decades. To get a change of 3E30 in OHC from this basaltic lava cooling we need 3E30*2790/0.84 g of lava. With a basalt density of 3.0, that would translate into an increased volcanic outflow of about 3E11 cubic kilometers of basalt, or around 8E9 cubic kilometers per year, 8E8 Mt pinatuba per year. I think we would have noticed.

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  16. scaddenp @15, I do not understand why you are using 3 x 10^30 Joules as your target, given that it is 10 million times the heat increase in the ocean since 1970.

    Anyway, in trying to check your numbers I came across a worked example by Ass Prof Leslie Sonder at Dartmouth College.  This area falls close enough to her area of specialization that I suspect she has made no blunders in the basic calculation, but am quite happy for others to point out blunders so that we can correct the example.

    In any event, she calculates that 2 x 10^13 Kg per annum of new crust is formed by mid-oceanic ridges.  That represents 6.67 x 10^9 cubic meters, or 6.67 cubic kilometers, or 22.23% of estimated global magmatic deposition.

    She also calculates an energy release of 4 x 10^19 Joules per annum, or less than 0.008% of the average annual energy accumulation in the ocean since 1970.

    Several things should be noted about this.  First, the magma deposition as new crust of a given year does not all occur at the center of the mid-ocean ridge.  Rather, extrusion form pillow basalts at the surface (0.5 km thick according to wikipedia), which because they cooled in water, cool rapidly.  Below that, however, are sheeted dike complexes (1.5 km thick) which cool beneath the layer of pillowed basalt, and hence slowly.  Beneath that again are Gabbro and layered ultramafic rocks (5 km thick) which, because of its depth below the sea floor, cools very slowly.  The process of formation appears like this:



    Because the vast majority of the solidified magma is not at the surface, it cools slowly releasing its heat gradually over time.  This does not mean less heat is released in any given year, because heat is still be ing released from previous years.  It does mean the heat is not all released at the center of the mid-ocean ridge by volcanism.  The vast majority of it is released later by diffusion through the sea floor.  Hence the wide bands of increased geothermal heat surrounding each mid-ocean ridge.  

    It also means that the majority of the rock does not cool to abyssal water temperatures.  Indeed, the rock immediately above the mantle is near the melting point of the rock, with temperatures declining approximately linearly as it approaches the ocean floor.  In other words, Sonder's estimate is likely an over estimate.  Put another way, 0.008% of recent annual OHC increase is an upper limit of the heat released by cooling magmas at the mid-oceanic ridges.  Further, the process of that release ensures that it is near constant over time so that it cannot be a significant contributor to any change in OHC.

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  17. 3 x 1030 joules?????

    As scaddenp refers to 3x1023 J in comment #14, then 3x1030 J in #15, I think we can safely assume there has been a typo.

    Unless, of course, there was a sudden increase in OHC of 2.9999997x1030 joules in the space of approximately 22 minutes. (In which case, I think we would have noticed.)

    Glad to see I'm not the only one that does typos.


    cheers  bill f     ;-)

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  18. Argh! Dont attempt this stuff when you are in massive hurry and barely awake. I had 30E22 in head from look at OHC graph and transcribed it to exponent too. However, I didnt make typo entering into calculator and 3E11 is still the cubic kilometers. As Tom said, this has to be very thin to transfer that much energy to ocean. The main point stands: it is totally unrealistic to blame undersea volcanoes for GW.

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  19. scaddenp @18:

    "Argh! Dont attempt this stuff when you are in massive hurry and barely awake."

    I know the feeling, and good advise ;)

    Running through the calculation, and using your figures we have:

    3 x 10^23 Joules / 0.84 Jouls/Kelvin.gramme = 3.57 x 10^23 Kelvin.grammes

    3.57 x 10^23 Kelvin.grammes/ 2790 Kelvin = 1.28 x 10^20 grammes

    1.28 x 10^20 grammes / 3 grammes/cm^3 = 4.267 x 10^19 cm^3

    4.267 x 10^19 cm^3 /10^15 cm^3/km^3 = 4,267 km^3 of basalt cooled from "melting point" to 10 C to generate the release the amount of energy accumulated in the ocean.  That in turn works out at approx 97 km^3 per annum.  That compares to the 30 km/annum estimated deposited magma globally.

    You will notice the major difference between my and your working is that I divide by temperature rather than multiply, the division being necessary to get the correct units.

    As an estimate, the 3800 K magma temperature is absurdly high relative to recognized values (which are closer to 1300 K from wikipedia, National Geographic, and a couple of scientific articles I read).  However, you did not include the heat of fusion, nor the difference in heat capacity between magma and basalt.

    Using the values from the worked example @16, we would need an additional flow of 50,025 km^3 of magma at the ocean floor (ie, not mere crust formation) to account for the increase in OHC since 1970.  Even that, however, would not account for the problem of thermal insulation of the ocean depths, nor why the thermal gradient cools with depth rather than warms with depth as would be required if the major source of surface ocean heat was from the ocean floor.

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  20. Tom, I have just got to stop doing this when I get out of bed! You are correct of course.

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  21. "About 97 per cent of all the heat capacity of the Earth is in the ocean — that's where all the energy gets stored."

    Is that accurate? Should a qualifier accompany that 97%? For instance, is the denominator the earth's heat capacity within, say, 10km of the surface?

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  22. scaddenp@14, Tom@16,19

    Your discussion belongs to Underwater volcanoes are warming the oceans. I went there to check what SkS has to say about your last sentences (thermal insulation of the ocean depths and thermal gradient of ocean warming vs. volanic/geotermal heat) & sadly, I found this very would be useful article is empty! What happened to it?

    If it's lost it should be brought back. Some mod could check it...

    Otherwise it should be filled in with the results of your discussion, together with the references Tom had provided. That article is important to debunk the claims like that by Peter Carson. Anyone wants to do that?

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] That's a topic article stub, earmarked for a future piece.

  23. amhartley - I dont immediately find McGregor's source but I think you can guess it's context. You are usually interested in heat capacity in terms storage of added energy. Add energy to earth (eg increased solar output or additional GW), then the heat capacity of earth is going store energy, slowing the temperature rise. Warming from solar doesnt penetrate far into land  - a few meters (ask horizontal ground source heat pump installers). Sea is different with deeper penetration but more importantly convection carries heat deeper and heat capacity is huge. Atmospheric storage is pretty minimal.

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  24. @22 chriskoz. Looks like you’re on your own. Try answering yourself.

    @ several: El Nino IS volcanic. Very quickly (but there is much more supporting data)

    TheCallaoPainter. Fishing boats in the area during EN get “painted”. This is diagnostic for hydrogen sulphide, which “colour” the heavy-metal based paints.

    @18 Tom Curtis. “..nor why the thermal gradient cools with depth rather than warms with depth as would be required if the major source of surface ocean heat was from the ocean floor.”

    Could it be that warmer water rises?

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  25. Warm water doesn't rise: cold water sinks!

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  26. Peter, if you want propose a theory, then you have ensure it is compatiable with all known observation data not just grabbing bits that suit you. El Nino is not volcanic, pure and simple. There is a massive literature with data on its actual causes. The H2S that is painting fish boats is from the biological source - the huge die-off that goes with the warmer temperatures. You can look this up for goodness sake. H2S from organic die-off has different isotopic signature from volcanic source H2S and there arent undersea volcanoes where H2S is bubbles are observed.

    As for warmer water rising- are you aware of the ARGO network? Why is this then not observed? And  why the massive discrepency between heat emitted from volcanoes and actual heat content? How do you account for the actual spatial distribution of OHC?

    The extra heating from CO2 is actually observed. It is the correct magnitude to explain OHC and many many other things.

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  27. @25 bozzza

    The difference being .....?

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  28. @26 scanddenp.

    As I sa

    El Nino is definitely volcanic.


    1. The sudden mass deaths of fish in the area at that time. Whatever is happening is caused locally.

    The current EN theory says this is due to (maximum ca 5C) warmer water flowing into area from the west – then why there isn’t a trail of dead fish!? The EN area is usually cooler due to the Humboldt Current from Antarctica; it’s a stretch to say that temporary extra warmth would kill them.

    There’s something in the water.

    2. Seabirds are also killed. The warmer ocean obviously won’t adversely affect them, and with an abundance of fish waiting to be eaten, starvation won’t do it either.

    There’s something in the water.

    3. TheCallaoPainter. Fishing boats in the area during EN get “painted”. This is diagnostic for hydrogen sulphide, which “colour” the heavy-metal based paints.

    The “something in the water” is therefore hydrogen sulphide (similar toxicity and action to cyanide). This can only occur, in this area remote from human influence, from undersea volcanic activity. Additionally, if one calculates how much sulphide is required to kill oceangoing fish, and assuming it constitutes ca 0.2% of lava mass, one gets about 10 to 20 cu. km (VEI of 6) in agreement with that calculated from the rate of divergence – as I suggested you do previously.

    4. El Nino just happens to occur over perhaps the most volcanically active area on Earth.

    El Nino is no orphan, tho’, and similar processes MUST occur at all divergent (particularly) boundaries. As I pointed out in my site’s “Cyclone Pam”, major cyclones initiate on tectonic boundaries. The divergent tectonic boundaries give a physical explanation to the various “Dipoles” which people have invented, that otherwise have none - other than statistical association.

    [Yes, I know it’s not written very prettily, but I wanted it to get it out there while it’s fresh in people’s minds. I’ll clean it up…… eventually.]

    id, I gave one example.

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  29. Peter Carson @ 27, if you don't want to accept the truth then what are you doing on a science forum?

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  30. @29. bozzza

    Why don't you just admit there is no difference?

    (Wasn't it Einstein who said all things are relative?)

    Oh! And I am a scientist. What are you doing here?

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  31. Please don't tell us you're a scientist!

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  32. Your definition of "definitely" is wishful thinking. Firstly you would need to show H2S of volcanic origin. In fact, their biological origin is well studied as is effect of El nino. (eg see here but numerous other literature. Also this). The die-off isnt temperature per se but hypoxia and nutrient loss. There isnt a trail of death because warmer waters are already relatively barren compared to the nutrient-rich humbolt currrent - and yes, it hits the food chain all the way up to humans.

    "This can only occur, in this area remote from human influence, from undersea volcanic activity" This is simply not true. See above reference but also very detailed study here. The H2S is of organic origin and associated with the changing sea conditions.

    Now obviously noticing things like El Nino and volcanically active margin coincide is the source of scientific hypothesis but if you are going to make them work then you have derive predictions from your hypothesis and test them against observation. Now your theory appears to make a number of predictions:

    1/ El Nino should be correlated with change in undersea volcanic productivity. None that I can see.

    2/ H2S should be of volcanic composition and highly correlated with sources of volcanic eruption. Nope, it's organic and away from eruptive centers.

    3/ The volcanoes need to be heating the water around them and so ARGO would show correlation between volcanoes and upwelling warm water. Nope. Actually its is worse, because the heat distribution at depth (very cold water) make no thermodynamic sense.

    4/ The OHC content should match the heat from undersea volcanoes - not by a very long shot. This is a fatal blow frankly. It's orders of magnitude out.

    You cant make an hypothesis stick if the maths doesnt work. There is no limit to the amount of nonsense hypotheses you can ignore the maths.

    Compare this with the competing model for warming (increase in GHG) with agrees very well with the observations. Likewise the standard model of el nino. ENSO is an emergent property in coupled ocean-atmosphere models. Basin size, THC configuration and wind regime would appear to be why it is in Pacific. The models also account for vertical profile observed in TOA and ARGO.

    1 0



    Pete Carson, I find your statement "I am a scientist" and your hypothesis "there is something in the water" do not quite square. Some evidence and peer-reviewed work is needed to support support such statements but you don't cite any in your comment.

    A first step would be to lok at what actual scientific work has been done on the issue. With a very brief research, I found the article linked above. It specifies that several species of guano birds have a diet constituted of as much as 80% anchovy, and the anchovy populations off Peru have decreased in some El-Nino years, although they are not as affected as other sea life. Data do not show anchovy mortality to be caused by El-Ninos in any clear relation, except for the very large 1972 event. So far the evidence indicates that the hydrogen sulfide is procuded by decomposing organisms that are starved during El-Nino events, during which the normal cold water upwelling is stifled and the enire ecosystem suffers massive losses.

    I had a hard time finding credible sources that had bothered to look at this but so far, it also appears that there is no correlation between any volcanic/seismic activity and El Nino events.

    Per what I could find, your theory does not appear credible. What is your evidence?

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Shortened link.

  34. Interesting Phillipe. Looks like hypothesis was looked at in 1980s and discarded for obvious reasons.

    Calling Rob Painting: It seems to me that ENSO only affects top 300m of water column. Is this correct?

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [Rob P] - See Roemmich and Gilson (2011) - The Global Ocean Imprint of ENSO

    Time-series of globally-averaged (60°S to 60°N) temperature anomaly from the monthly mean, versus pressure (dbar). The contour interval is 0.02°C and values are smoothed by 3-month running mean. (b) Time-series of globally-averaged SST (black, °C), T160 (blue), and the N34 regression estimate for SST (red).

  35. Thanks scanddenp, in that you do provide scientific back-up to your arguments.

    1. Calculation: Annually but using the low figure of only using East Pacific Rise and discounting the extra effect of Galapagos Ridge.

    Height (2 km) x length (say 1,000 km) x Width (0.1 m) = 0.2 cu km

    EN happens one year in five on average. This gives 1 per thousand km of Ridges in the vicinity.

    2. I don’t know of anySulphurisotope that could be used for dating or origin purposes. Please inform.

    3. Your “1/ El Nino should be correlated with change in undersea volcanic productivity. None that I can see.”

    Try Daniel A Walker (a geophysicist – I’ve spoken with him some years ago) Eos vol 76, 1995 p 33 to 36. “More evidence indicates link between El Nino and seismicity”.

    [Come in Spinner!]

    4. You seem confident in the current “theory” for EN. It should match data rather well - it’s not actually a theory but a description of events! It has no predictive capabilities whatsoever. For example, how does it explain how El Nino got its name, ie occurring near Xmas? It can’t.

    (I can! - but you’ll have to wait for me to put it onto my site.)

    What causes theWalkercirculation to weaken? Why do the tropical westward winds drop preceding an EN, especially since the west now has a build-up of warm water pushed there? That should increase these winds!

    5. ARGO is unlikely to show heating. I think the floats only take a reading every 30 mins so that they are likely to miss an actual eruption; the warm water would likely just float up past them without being recorded. They’d also have to be situated over the correct position.

    Heat from volcanic activity on the bottom will not stay there waiting for its temperature to be taken but will rise.

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  36. 1. How does cold water upwell?

    2. As for my evidence? The observations (re fish deaths etc have been reported widely. I’ve found no difficulty using Google or Encyclopaedia Britannica. (I’m old-school to still prefer paper! Anyway, I prefer to use sources that are readily available to all and which may be more accessible to the general reader such as may be on sites such as this. I’m no snob!)

    Anyway, H2S does have its distinctive odour, noticed by the fishermen before decomposition sets in. They are in the area all the time so they’d notice.

    Sea birds are dead at sea – they were active - not on the land where their nests are and where one would expect them to die if weakened by lack of food. They are poisoned at sea.

    3. You’ll notice I’ve referenced Walker in my reply to scanddenp, in support of seismicity. When I spoke with Walker a few years ago, he seemed rather worn down by the attacks on him. I don’t blame him! (I’ve also corresponded with him by emails.) I reached his conclusion, but using thermodynamics, in the mid 90s but also had that publication discarded.

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    Moderator Response:

    [Rob P] - the answer to No.1 is Ekman suction. The large-scale areas of upwelling are on the equator and the eastern side of the ocean basins, such as the Pacific coasts of North & South America. Surface water is displaced by the drag of the wind on the uppermost layers. Persistent winds cause seawater from the deep to be drawn up to the surface to replace the water that has been 'pushed' away.

  37. My 36  applies to       @33 PhilippeChantreau

    0 0
  38. Peter, I would then also ask you back your arguments from the peer-reviewed literature. 

    Tom has already pointed you to carefully calculated example on heat production. Note that OHC is change from baseline, so to blame global warming on volcanic activity, then you need to have an increase in heat flow through 20 century above that of heat production in previous centuries. Furthermore, conduction and convection are continuous processes - you dont get instantaneous movement of heat except from ejecta to surface and that could only account for a minisule amount of the heat produced. You are going to have to that huge volume of material necessary for the heat to be as ejecta! If you postulate underwater volcanism then you predict convective cells based ocean ridges. No such thing is observed. The TAO should also see this and it is most certainly in the right position since designed to observe El Nino.

    Sulphur isotopes cant be used for dating as far as I am aware, but for fractionation try here. Furthermore organic hydrogen would contain tritium and inorganic none.

    Current theory is not descriptive - it is present in dynamic models. However, the process is chaotic and thus not predictable in the short term. And yes, I do have confidence in physical models that reproduce the character of El nino versus a theory with no plausable physical basis.

    As to Walker, the seismic activity does not equal volcanism and in fact, the correlation is the other way round - El nino triggering faulting from plate flexure. Eg see here  or here or here.

    What is your source for cause of sea bird deaths? This reference and this suggest resource loss. For a scientific discussion, please stick to peer-reviewed sources.

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  39. Scaddenp presents numerous references that none of your arguments address Peter. I'm sorry but you're not being any more convincing by repeating the same arguments without any more backup than before.

    I'm not sure what you're trying to say about references. You claimed to be a scientist. Scientists refer to the scientific litterature. This site is about science and the whole premise to its existence is to bring up what real science says about a subject. The comment policy of the site indicates that claims should be backed up by scientific references. Peer-review is a minimum standard, there is no reson to go below that. "Sources accesssible to the general reader" can be anything and everything, that's no basis to conduct a discussion about science.

    The H2S has been shown to be of organic origin. The entire ecosystem suffers when cold water upwelling stops, and everything below the fish in the food web starts dying. The fish eventually die too but by then H2S from the other organisms that have died before is noticeable.

    No seismic activity that would be caused by increasing volcanism has been observed around the events.

    Birds that rely on anchovies for 80% of their diet are going to continue looking for anchovy at sea until they no longer can. Birds dying of exhaustion or starvation at sea is really not an unusual occurrence a all. Sea birds that are hungry do not stay on shore, they go look for food. One of Scaddenp references above mentions that bird die-offs have been observed during El-Nino events as far California, Oregon, Alaska and the Bering Sea. Large scale weather events can and do kill birds.

    At this point, there is a lot more evidence against your theory than there is in its favor.

    0 0
  40. Peter: "ARGO is unlikely to show heating. I think the floats only take a reading every 30 mins so that they are likely to miss an actual eruption; the warm water would likely just float up past them without being recorded. They’d also have to be situated over the correct position."

    This is the most ridiculous thing I've read in months.  Volcanic action that produces enough heat content to warm the El Nino 3/3.4 regions for months just magically slips by dozens of Argo floats.  This is what happens when a pet theory is forcefully driven through the actual data: Bizarro Physics.   

    0 0
  41. Peter Carson: "Oh! And I am a scientist. What are you doing here?"

    Peter, what evidence can you give us that you are a scientist, so we can judge your claim for ourselves?  Your comments here don't evince advanced scientific training, nor the inclination to approach the topic of undersea volcanic heat flux as a scientist would. 

    A person whose scientific ideas have passed peer review and been published in appropriate refereed venues can be considered a scientist.  I searched Google Scholar for publications by "Peter Carson" or "Carson, Peter", but the only hits were published in medical journals, on the topic of heart failure.  Was that you?  If not, please provide citations to your peer-reviewed scientific publications. 

    In any case, we will draw our own conclusions about whether you're a scientist or not.  BTW, have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect?

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  42. Peter Carson@30: "(Wasn't it Einstein who said all things are relative?)"

    Uh... no, I don't think he did. Do you have a reference/link?

    (Sorry, OT but couldn't resist (feel free to delete).)

    0 0
  43. Peter.

    From the first link scadenp gave you

    "To a certain degree, Eastern Boundary Current (EBC) ecosystems are similar: Cold bottom water from moderate depths, rich in nutrients, is transported to the euphotic zone by a combination of trade winds, Coriolis force and Ekman transport. The resultant high primary production fuels a rich secondary production in the upper pelagic and nearshore zones, but where O2 exchange is restricted, it creates oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) at shelf and upper slope (Humboldt and Benguela Current) or slope depths (California Current). These hypoxic zones host a specifically adapted, small macro- and meiofauna together with giant sulphur bacteria that use nitrate to oxydise H2S"

    So, "This can only occur, in this area remote from human influence, from undersea volcanic activity."

    Nope, you assumption is wrong. There is another major source, anaerobic sulphur bacteria that thrive in anoxic conditions!

    Volcanic activity isn't the only source of H2S! Simply assuming that it is is sloppy reasoning. If ou want to evaluate an idea you need to consider geological evidence, oceanographic/hydrological and fluid mechanics evidence, and biological evidence.


    And..."Could it be that warmer water rises?"

    Only if it is warmer than the water above it! If cold water is warmed but not enough to make it warmer than the water above, it doesn't rise. Example. If water at 4 Deg C is warmed to 6 deg C it can't rise if the water above it is 20 deg C.

    So how much warming?

    Peter, unquantitative arguments are worthless.

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  44. Infopath @42:

    "Everything is relative," as the pop version of Einstein's theory goes. Not so. That statement, for instance, is absolutely wrong. The scope of special relativity is rather more narrow. It concerns only very special situations, very special observers, very special questions of relativity and absoluteness."

    Einstein online

    "Albert Einstein was unhappy about the name "theory of relativity". He preferred "theory of invariance". The reason is that [one] cornerstone of his 1905 theory of relativity is that the measured velocity of light is the same (invariant) regardless of any relative motion between a laboratory and the source of light. What Einstein feared came to pass when the popular catchphrase of his theory became "everything is relative." It was snatched up by people not acquainted with the scientific context, who regarded the theory as evidence in support of their own social views."

    Arthur Miller in a letter to New Scientist

    See also here.

    I consider it irrelevant whether or not Carson is technically a scientist (ie, has a PhD in a scientific discipline and/or has published in the peer reviewed scientific literature).  His views on this topic, and on global warming in general are clearly not scientific views.  Rather, they are pseudo-science.  His dragging out that old misattribution to Einstein rather proves that point.

    0 0
  45. @ 36 @ Rob P: To summarise, does this mean EKMAN SUCTION Ekman Suction is the concept of "Flotation" in action?

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The use of "all caps" comnstitutes shouting and is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy.

  46. Tom @44,

    Thanks for expanding on that.

    "His dragging out that old misattribution to Einstein rather proves that point."

    That's what I thought too.

    Funny how Einstein would have preferred "theory of invariance" (absolute — speed of light), rather than relativity... beautiful.

    0 0
  47. @Peter Carson 

    A certain well-known, heavily-trafficked "contrarian" site had a lively discussion about 3 years ago regarding undersea volcanos and ENSO.

    The overwhelming "consensus" was that it ha zero-to-minimal impact.
    When you find yourself putting forward an idea that NEITHER side of a polarized debate finds plausible, you're either about to overturn an entire field of study or - more likely - are treading on razor-thin basalt.

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  48. I want to change the topic, back to the content of the original posting. One of the paragraphs in the original posting is:

    "Volcanic eruptions generally cool the planet's surface. A study in the journal Nature Geoscience found that some climate models did not properly account for the higher levels of volcanic activity in the early 20th century. This meant that some models had overestimated the amount of atmospheric warming during the so-called slow-down."

    A friend of mine alerted me to a contrarian web site ( where a blogger, Paul Homewood, has posted Figure 1 from the above paper in Nature Geoscience (the first author of the paper is Benjamin Santer). Homewood points out that Figure 1 appears to show that, after ENSO effects and volcanic effects have been removed from satellite data on lower tropospheric temperatures, there has been no significant change in those temperatures since 1993. Homewood concludes: "What Santer’s study shows is that there has been no underlying upward trend in global temperatures for more than 20 years."

    I'm sure that Santer's conclusion must be incorrect, even for the lower troposphere (which, as I understand it, hasn't warmed as much as surface temperatures). But I can't see what's wrong with Homewood's reasoning. Can someone help me? Thanks!

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  49. Joel, well the first thing which jumps out at me is that his starting principle is simply false;

    "After taking out the effect of ENSO and eruptions, it is apparent that temperatures have been flat since the early 1990’s; indeed they have arguably been falling since."

    Is he looking at a different graph? Because the one in the study, and copied on his page, clearly shows a rising trend from the early 90s to present;

    Figure 1 from Santer et al 2014

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Adjusted image size.

  50. Thanks very much, CBDunkerson. The graph you've posted is the one Homewood is talking about. Homewood is looking at panel c in the figure, the bottom panel, after removal of ENSO, El Chichón and Pinatubo effects. Note that Santer et al. removed those effects not only from the CMIP-5 calculations, but also from the RSS and UAH observations. After removal from the observations, the observations do, indeed, appear flat after 1993. Homewood interprets this to mean that all of the rise in RSS and UAH temperatures after 1993 (panel a) must be due to "natural variability" (ENSO and volcanoes). Santer et al. don't appear to comment on this in their paper (at least I couldn't find a comment), meaning that they're not surprised. I'm upset by it, because the denial crowd appears to be jumping on this as just another "proof" of the "hiatus". I want to be able to debunk denialist claims, and this one's (temporarily, I hope) got me stumped. Thanks for any additional help you can offer.

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