Climate Controlling Ocean Thermostat Discovered

The influence of the Sun on Earth’s climate over time scales of centuries and millennia is all but ignored by current climate change dogma, with many climate scientists dismissing solar variation as too feeble to have much of an impact. Though it was recently discovered that variation at ultraviolet wavelengths is considerably greater than at lower frequencies, the change in total solar irradiance over recent 11-year sunspot cycles amounts to <0.1%. New research on longer time scales finds the change in total irradiance sufficient to affect the dynamics of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Detailed model studies of the Little Ice Age (~1400 to 1850 AD) conclude that the Sun controls an “ocean dynamical thermostat” that affects climate variability over large regions of the globe. It was also found that fully coupled general circulation models (GCMs), the kind used by the IPCC to make predictions of future global warming, lack a robust thermostat response. This means that the sensitivity of the climate system to solar forcing is underestimated by current GCMs—the climate models are proven wrong again.

A report in the December 3, 2010, issue of Science has reinforced what many scientists have suspected all along: variation in the Sun's output causes significant change in Earth's climate. Writing in “Dynamical Response of the Tropical Pacific Ocean to Solar Forcing During the Early Holocene,” Thomas M. Marchitto, Raimund Muscheler, Joseph D. Ortiz, Jose D. Carriquiry and Alexander van Geen present a high-resolution magnesium/calcium proxy record of Holocene sea surface temperature (SST) from off the west coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico. Their work is in agreement with the theoretical “ocean dynamical thermostat” response of ENSO to radiative forcing. Here is their description of the work:

The influence of solar variability on Earth’s climate over centennial to millennial time scales is the subject of considerable debate. The change in total solar irradiance over recent 11-year sunspot cycles amounts to <0.1%, but greater changes at ultraviolet wavelengths may have substantial impacts on stratospheric ozone concentrations, thereby altering both stratospheric and tropospheric circulation patterns. Estimates of the secular increase in total irradiance since the late 17th century Maunder sunspot minimum range from ~0.05 to 0.5%. Values in the middle of this range are sufficient to force the intermediate-complexity Zebiak-Cane model of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) dynamics into a more El Niño–like state during the Little Ice Age (A.D. ~1400 to 1850), a response dubbed the “ocean dynamical thermostat” because negative (or positive) radiative forcing results in dynamical ocean warming (or cooling, respectively) of the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP). This model prediction is supported by paleoclimatic proxy reconstructions over the past millennium. In contrast, fully coupled general circulation models (GCMs) lack a robust thermostat response because of an opposing tendency for the atmospheric circulation itself to strengthen under reduced radiative forcing.

A number of things stand out here. First, irradiance changes that have been dismissed by some in the CO2 fan club were shown to be sufficient to drive changes in the ENSO. Much like the atmospheric solar heat amplifier found previously, seemingly minor changes in solar output can cause big changes here on Earth. Because the Pacific region is so large, any thing that affects the ENSO also affects climate world wide.

Second, the response is the reverse of what you might think. An increase in total irradiance causes the waters of the eastern tropical Pacific to cool. Conversely, a reduction in solar output causes the circulation patterns to change in such a way that the sea surface temperatures (SST) rise. This is an example of negative feedback, where the response to a signal is in opposition to the expected change engendered by that signal. Negative feedback loops have been compared to thermostatically controlled temperature in a house.

When the internal temperature of the house drops drops below the temperature at which the thermostat is set, the thermostat turns on the furnace. As the temperature within the house rises, the thermostat again senses this change and turns off the furnace when the internal temperature reaches the pre-set point. There are many such control loops found in nature—the regulation of body temperature for example. Here the result is to maintain stability to the planet's temperature in the face of variation in solar forcing, hence the designation “ocean dynamic thermostat.”

Naturally, temperature and solar radiation history is based on proxy data, primarily from sediment cores. Specifically, Marchittoet al. measured the SST proxy Mg/Ca in the planktonic foraminifer Globigerina bulloides. In addition to G bulloides, data from other planktonic organisms, representing other locations, were included and are shown in the figure below.


SST reconstructions based on Mg/Ca in surface-dwelling planktonic foraminifera.

Note that the temperature reconstructions contain signals from other forcings besides the Sun. The data had to be corrected to compensate for orbital-scale changes—variation in irradiance patterns caused by Earth's shifting orbital parameters. To estimate the level of solar activity, the researchers used the cosmogenic nuclide proxies 14C and 10Be, isotopes formed by cosmic ray collisions with atoms in the atmosphere.

“An active Sun generates a higher total irradiance and a stronger interplanetary magnetic field that helps to shield Earth from the galactic cosmic rays that produce 14C and 10Be in the atmosphere,” state the authors, though they note that significant uncertainties in such estimations exist: “atmospheric levels of 14C may be affected by changes in Earth’s carbon cycle, 10Be fluxes from ice sheets may be influenced by local climate, and the production rates of both nuclides are modulated by long-term variations in Earth’s magnetic field.”

Why does all this matter? La Niña has historically been associated with stronger summer monsoons over Asia, as both are linked to strong easterlies over the tropical Pacific. Solar forcing of La Niña and persistent, decadal-scale droughts over the southwestern United States indicates a connection between solar-activity maxima and dry conditions. “Taken together with our SST record, these observations are consistent with solar-induced dynamical cooling of the ETP and provide predictions for millennial-scale fluctuations in the hydrologic balance over the western United States during the early Holocene,” the authors state.


The three phases of the ENSO.

But it is not just Asia and North America that are affected by the ENSO. Keep in mind that the Pacific Ocean covers a major portion of the globe. The massive amounts of moisture being pumped into the atmosphere in the tropical Pacific are a major part of world climate. Changes in the ENSO can influence temperatures and precipitation worldwide. In atmospheric science speak the ENSO and climate oscillation around the the world are teleconnected.

Teleconnection in atmospheric science refers to climate anomalies being related to each other at large distances, typically thousands of kilometers. Identifying teleconnections is fundamental in understanding climate variability, otherwise climate oscillations can seem random and unpredictable. Marchitto et al. claim that solar variation is directly linked to teleconnections among regions of the Pacific. The correlation between irradiance and climate change is shown in the figure below.


Teleconnected climatic and solar proxy records spanning the early Holocene.

The third and final point is that the paper's authors specifically comment on the inability of current GCM computer models to capture this climatic response. The upshot is that the response of Earth's climate system to changes in solar radiation has been under estimated. Here is how the author's concluded the paper:

GCMs fail to reproduce the La Niña–like nature of the MWP because the ocean thermostat mechanism is either absent or dampened by atmospheric effects in such models. If our observations are supported by future SST reconstructions from the equatorial Pacific, then it is possible that the sensitivity of the climate system to solar forcing is underestimated by current GCMs. The nature of the climate response appears to be one of shifting atmosphere-ocean circulation patterns, with the tendency for global radiative surface warming being countered by the ocean dynamical thermostat.

This new work indicates that even small variations in the Sun's output can have significant affect here on Earth. This is unsurprising, since the energy that drives Earth's climate comes from the Sun. Monsoon floods and decades long droughts are both part of the natural variation driven by our neighborhood star, but every climate fluctuation that causes human discomfort is blamed on anthropogenic global warming. Floods in Pakistan, blizzards in Paris and New York, typhoons in the Philippines are all blamed on human CO2 emissions. What utter rubbish—it's the Sun, you bloody fools!

Scientists are constantly making new discoveries, uncovering new evidence that reveals complexities in the climate system that were not even suspected a few years ago. Yet the cheering section for predicted global warming disaster continue to insist that the consensus view (ie. their view) of climate science is correct. This is yet another example of how incomplete climate science is and how inaccurate the computer climate models used by the IPCC and other climate change catastrophists are. In the face of new revelations, the old CO2-centric view of climate change is laughable and computer model predictions based on that view absurd.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Ocean Level Negative Temperture Effect

I keep reading that one of the consequences of "Global Warming" is an increased ocean level. Wouldn't the increased ocean level have a negative temperature coefficient effect on global warming? Here is my logic. Feel free to let me know why the following is not the case.

I think that many "climatologists" are not to aware of the geography and geology of the earth and have omitted it from their models. On a straight walled vessel, if you add more water the level increases proportionally to the amount added. But, the ocean is not in a straight walled vessel! Look at the elevation rings on a geological map. They rapidly rise and then round off close to most land masses and almost flatten out (greatly simplified - but close). As the ocean level increases it will start spreading out on the beaches and eventually adding water to the ocean side wet-lands, lowlands and other nearby areas of near sea-level elevation. The relatively dry swampland/wetland will now be wetter and contain more water. This will warm up quicker and evaporate quicker adding to the moisture content of the atmosphere. To get an idea of this affect, set out a five gallon bucket of water on a hot blacktop drive and see how long it takes to evaporate. Now, pour five gallons of water on the same hot blacktop and see how fast it evaporates. Do the same, on a cold (near freezing if you want) day. The water evaporates in a short period of time, even when it is cold outside.

Using Google Earth or other satellite mapping system, look at the vast amount of the earth at very low elevations alongside all of the rivers. As the (if the) oceans rise very much, these too would be filled with water, and like Australia today, many areas will become water soaked and start adding to the atmospheric humidity.

At some point this added humidity will cause a great enough increase in cloud level to reverse or at least stop the increase in temperature.

Cloud feedback

Those who study climate are well aware of the impact of Earth's geography on climate. Mountain ranges affect winds and precipitation, while ocean currents are the main distribution mechanism for heat. The onset of global cooling that started at the end of the Eocene and the eventual Pleistocene Ice Age were most likely caused by the northward motion of South America, which opened the path for the Antarctic circumpolar circulation and, with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, altered the global thermohaline circulation. Of course, such changes take place on geological time scales, not human ones.

There are a number of reasons to suspect that our planet's climate is fairly stable in the face of minor perturbations (like CO2 emissions). Cloud cover most likely does participate in this regulation, though precisely how is unknown. The paper that is the basis for the article above presented something new and unexpected—that conditions in the Pacific acted to counter variation in solar radiation. There was also a recent paper in Science that some claim dismisses the effects of clouds on decadal oscillation and also claimed that the climate models had the cloud effects right. I think that the jury is still out on that one and I really doubt that the models have it correct (it has been almost universally acknowledged that climate models don't do clouds or aerosols correctly). See “A Determination of the Cloud Feedback from Climate Variations over the Past Decade ” by A. E. Dessler and the Science news article “El Niño Lends More Confidence to Strong Global Warming.”

There is also some indication that, as the planet warms, tropical convection patterns may change, which would also affect cloud formation. In a letter to Nature Geoscience, “Climate science: Raised bar for rain,” Adam Sobel writes that “analysis of sea surface temperatures and rainfall over the past decades suggests amplified warming in the upper atmosphere, consistent with theory and models.” In short, global warming should warm the troposphere making the formation of convection cells more difficult. This, in turn, would affect cloud patterns. This result is explained in greater detail in “Changes in the sea surface temperature threshold for tropical convection,” by Johnson and Xie.

Sea-level rise will lead to increased coastal flooding, submergence and erosion, loss of wetlands and salinization of river deltas and coastal aquifers. How those changes fit in and interact with changing precipitation patterns and cloud formation is anyone's guess at this time. Most expect a warmer Earth to be wetter Earth (see “The Case For Doing Nothing About Global Warming”). Whether there is a negative feedback from cloud formation has yet to be established, however. We will just have to wait and see. Historically, persistent changes in climate have been driven by external forcings and geological changes.

Solar feedback

As outlined above, the researchers claim they have a mechanism that links such small changes in insolation to ENSO variation in a negative feedback loop. Others claim that the effect of solar variability is greater on the upper parts of the atmosphere and is positive (see “Atmospheric Solar Heat Amplifier Discovered”). This matter is far from resolved but that's what science is all about, finding explanations for how nature works.

Meilleurs voeux pour l'année

Meilleurs voeux pour l'année nouvelle Mr.Hoffman,ainsi qu'à vos proches.
Je vais continuer mes efforts pour faire connaître votre site du côté francophone,site que j'apprécie par sa justesse de ton et son pragmatisme.
Merci encore pour vos articles, et bonne année

Jo Vdh

Merci beaucoup

Thank you very much for the kind words and for telling your friends about our site. Bonne année à vous aussi.

Ocean Thermostat

Ah Men!

Dennis Nikols, P. Geol.