Friday, December 5, 2014

More "the seas got hotter because they got hotter" from Bob Tisdale at WUWT

Sou | 10:57 PM Go to the first of 4 comments. Add a comment

Greenhouse effect denier, Perennially Puzzled Bob Tisdale, has written another article claiming that the seas got hotter because they got hotter (archived here). He's tried this non-argument before and didn't get hammered for it - except for here:)  Here's an image of some of the seas that got hotter this year, courtesy NOAA:

Unusually warm temperatures dominate three areas of the North Pacific: the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska and an area off Southern California. The darker the red, the further above average the sea surface temperature. NOAA researchers are tracking the temperatures and their implications for marine life. Source: NOAA

There's not a lot you can say about a long and tedious Tisdale article that explains that the sea surface got hotter because the sea surface got hotter. That is, the sea surface in the North Pacific got hotter - plus the sea surface over the equatorial Pacific got hotter. We already know that warming in both areas took place. In any case, it's not just the Pacific that's anomalously warm. Here is a snapshot of sea surface temperature anomalies for October, from the UK Met Office Hadley Centre.

Source: UK Met Office Hadley Centre

So, for something different let's take this paragraph from today's WUWT article and break it down. Bob wrote:
If the manmade greenhouse gas-forced climate models used by the IPCC cannot explain the 24-year absence of warming of the surface in the North Pacific, it can’t be claimed that the weather-related warming there in 2013 and 2014 were caused by manmade greenhouse gases. That little bit of common sense eludes alarmists.

What about the women?

Start with his "manmade greenhouse gas-forced climate models". (Nah, don't mind the sub-heading. We won't bother with his "manmade" minus a hyphen in which he exonerates half the world's population of emitting greenhouse gases.) What about the implication that if the greenhouse gases came from a source other than humans there'd be a different result? Well, no. The source of the additional greenhouse gases is largely irrelevant. If there is greenhouse gas forcing it will have the same impact no matter what the source of the gas. If the greenhouse gas that's doing the forcing is CO2, then it will have a longer lasting impact.

What else is missing from those few words? For one thing, climate models include forcings other than greenhouse gases, such as solar radiation, volcanic emissions, aerosols, changes in vegetation, albedo changes and other forcings.

About climate models

What about the climate models themselves? Well, they are not too bad. In fact they are quite brilliant. Way better than they were some decades back. There is a lot more that can be learnt from climate models these days. They are not just used to make surface temperature projections. All this progress is thanks to human ingenuity, improved knowledge of the earth system, and supercomputers. You can read about climate models and why they are useful in the article by Scott. K Johnston at Ars Technica.

A red rag for the WUWT bulls - the IPCC

Next consider Bob's "IPCC". He probably just put that in for the IPCC-bashing deniers at WUWT. So that those readers who couldn't think of anything else to write could rant and rave about the IPCC and how it is going to take over the world and lock everyone up (or whatever is the paranoid conspiracy theory of the day).

The IPCC is a small organisation that coordinates work of thousands of scientists around the world. This work is to analyse and write reports on current knowledge about climate science, and the associated impacts, vulnerabilities, mitigation and adaptation strategies. In regard to climate models, there are teams of scientists in various parts of the world that have developed models of climate. Those models have varying degrees of complexity, depending on what they are used for. The ones used to make projections of future climate as reported by the IPCC are very complex. They aren't perfect models of the earth system. You'd need an earth-sized model for that, which had all the things that earth has on it. Not practical. However they are very useful and highly skilful in some areas.

Bob wrote that "the IPCC cannot explain the 24 year absence of warming of the surface in the North Pacific". Yet the surface as a whole has warmed, and quite a bit, since 1990. So why does Bob expect the IPCC to "explain" the fact that the North Pacific hasn't warmed particularly until a year or so back?

When all you have is an SST...

Thing is, Bob sees all climate through his lens of sea surface temperatures. He doesn't know anything else. Not that he knows much about that topic either. He taught himself how to download data from KNMI Climate Explorer and that's all he's been doing for several years. He likes to present himself as some sort of "expert". He's not. AFAIK he has no scientific qualifications. He rejects all the science that doesn't fit his world view, like the greenhouse effect. He reads little to nothing from scientific papers - or at least he rarely quotes them.

Not once in his article did Bob mention the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) or the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). This is quite a big omission, given that the PDO has been in a cool phase since the late 1990s.  The PDO index has been positive since January this year. If that is marking a phase shift (which won't be known for a while yet), then it would mean the cool phase was quite short.

Unusual warming of the North Pacific

Here is an excerpt from an article on the NOAA website from September this year:
Not since records began has the region of the North Pacific Ocean been so warm for so long. The warm expanse has been characterized by sea surface temperatures as much as three degrees C (about 5.4 degrees F) higher than average, lasting for months, and appears on large- scale temperature maps as a red-orange mass of warm water many hundreds of miles across. Nick Bond of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington earlier this summer nicknamed it "the blob."
Indeed, there are three warm zones, said Nate Mantua, leader of the landscape ecology team at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center: The big blob dominating the Gulf of Alaska, a more recent expanse of exceptionally warm water in the Bering Sea and one that emerged off Southern California earlier this year. One exception to the warmth is a narrow strip of cold water along the Pacific Northwest Coast fed by upwelling from the deep ocean.
The situation does not match recognized patterns in ocean conditions such as El Niño Southern Oscillation or Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which are known to affect marine food webs. "It's a strange and mixed bag out there," Mantua said.
One possibility is that the PDO, a long-lived El Niño-like pattern, is shifting from an extended cold period dating to the late 1990s to a warm phase, said Toby Garfield, director of the Environmental Research Division at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Mantua said the PDO may have tipped into a warm state as early as January of this year.
But both scientists noted that the observed warm temperatures are higher and cover more of the northern Pacific than the PDO typically affects. For all but the Gulf of Alaska, the warm waters appear to lie in a relatively shallow layer near the surface. The cold near-shore conditions in the Pacific Northwest also don't match the typical PDO pattern.

Bob Tisdale's strawman

Getting back to the quote from Bob, he then goes on to write: " it can’t be claimed that the weather-related warming there in 2013 and 2014 were caused by manmade greenhouse gases. " That's what is known as a strawman argument. Bob doesn't say who claimed that or whether anyone claimed that. He doesn't put up a paper suggesting that the warming in the North Pacific last year and this year was caused by greenhouse warming. Bob is just building a straw man so that he can then dispute unnamed "warmists" and say they are wrong in what they didn't claim.

Thing is that it is very difficult (though not impossible anymore) to investigate one event and work out to what extent it's been caused or influenced by greenhouse forcing. It's not so difficult to show that the oceans as a whole are now as warm or warmer than they've been in a very long time and that the current warming is a result of greenhouse forcing. However when it comes to short term changes in currents or surface temperature or salinity or pressure in one particular part of the world's oceans, then there are all sorts of things that can bring about changes, including atmospheric effects.

It's warmer because it got warmer, which caused it to get warmer...

Bob goes on a bit and says that the warming of the oceans was largely due to surface warming in both the tropical Pacific and the extra-tropical North Pacific. That's fine. What Bob refuses to acknowledge is that annual, multi-year, decadal and multi-decadal changes in sea surface temperature, from internal variability like ENSO events and shifts in the PDO, are happening against a background of long term global warming. It's this long term global warming that is being forced primarily by the increase in CO2.

Bob ends up writing:
If there was any doubt, the ENSO-related warming of the tropical Pacific in 2014 did contribute to the record high global sea surface temperatures, but without the exceptional weather-related warming of the extratropical North Pacific (Figure 12), 2014 would not have been a record warm sea surface year globally (Figure 7).  

Well, yes. A warmer ocean caused the oceans to get warmer. But what caused the warmer oceans? Bob doesn't say. Nor does what he wrote include acknowledgement of the long term rise in sea surface temperature, land surface temperature, melting ice, rising heat content of the oceans, rising sea levels and all the other effects of global warming. Why would a mild non-ENSO event cause a record high temperature? It wouldn't. Why would a spot of hot water in the North Pacific cause record hot sea surface temperatures globally? It wouldn't. Not unless the world as a whole was heating up. Which it is. Being caused by the ongoing accumulation of greenhouse gases.

Here is a chart I did a little while ago showing global sea surface temperature anomaly from HadSST, including the 2014 average to October.

Data source: Met Office Hadley Centre

That long term rise isn't just caused by a "near but not quite" El Niño or a spot of hot water in the North Pacific. Bob's a duffer. A denialist duffer who likes drawing pictures of sea surface temperature, but who doesn't take any time out to learn about climate. It's probably against his religion or something.

A little bit of common sense eludes who exactly? 

What was it that Bob wrote when he built his strawman? Something about common sense eluding "alarmists"? Seems to me that Bob's very long article about how ocean warming caused ocean warming shows that there is much that eludes Bob Tisdale, and deniers like him.

From the WUWT comments

There are only four comments so far and the article's been up for quite a while now. I guess most WUWT readers are still fast asleep. Or if they weren't before they started reading Bob's tedious article, they are now :)

I wonder if Bob will answer Paul Homewood's question by saying "because the sea got hotter"?
December 5, 2014 at 2:39 am
Sorry if I’ve missed it Bob, but why has the North Pacific warmed so much?


  1. Must be said - Bob simply doesn't understand the law of energy conservation. Period.

    Bob is funny, he'll slice and dice to find the one area that doesn't map to the global trend to say, 'see, GHGs can't explain this.' It's a global effect Bob - have you seen the Arctic the past 30 years? I can pick one area, too, although I can pick more areas than you because the global trend is positive.

    And here's the other funny part - he now accepts "record high global SST" and that 2014 is a "record." Interesting, so does Watts believe that land surface temperatures have "paused" or that the increase is due to urban heat islands? I can't keep track of the contradicting denialist claims.

  2. Joe said: "Bob is funny, he'll slice and dice to find the one area that doesn't map to the global trend to say, 'see, GHGs can't explain this.'"

    That's a common denier trick across all of science denial. Creationists use it all the time when talking about "missing links". When science finds one, creationists point out there are now two "missing links". Real palaeontologists don't talk about missing links but about common ancestors. Just like real climatologists don't worry about the temperature in one horse towns but across the globe, as you say.

  3. Is the first paragraph of your quote from the NOAA article supposed to have the two "The next link/button ..." sentences? It doesn't make sense (yes, I know I can follow the link to the article, I'm just being picky).

    Don't publish this unless you want to - I won't complain.

    1. Thanks MWS. Weird, eh? I did delete one of them after I pasted the excerpt, I missed those two.


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