This Week In The Global Climate Scene

A whole sack full of news on climate this week. Yesterday, I enjoyed an excellent talk delivered by Joaquim Goes from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. He provided rather convincing data that the Arabian Sea is undergoing an oceanographic shift. Eurasian warming is triggering a decline in snow across the Himalayan-Tibetan plateau region. This in turn results in atypically strong southwest monsoon (SWM) winds and enhanced wind-driven upwelling off the coasts of Somalia, Oman, and Yemen. The effect is a drastically increased phytoplankton bloom in the western and central regions of the Arabian Sea. However, the decline in snowfall in winter is preventing mixing of nutrient rich deep water during the winter which is leading to declining phytoplankton concentrations in the eastern Arabian Sea. Overall, this has lead to in increases in the size and frequency of anoxic regions that caused massive fish die offs, a regime shift in the plankton, and potentially other unforeseen consequences.

Contrast this to this headline “Scientists doubt link for global warming, big hurricanes” based on a new paper by Vecchi and Sodden published today in Nature.

The response of tropical cyclone activity to global warming is widely debated. It is often assumed that warmer sea surface temperatures provide a more favourable environment for the development and intensification of tropical cyclones, but cyclone genesis and intensity are also affected by the vertical thermodynamic properties of the atmosphere. Here we use climate models and observational reconstructions to explore the relationship between changes in sea surface temperature and tropical cyclone ‘potential intensity’–a measure that provides an upper bound on cyclone intensity and can also reflect the likelihood of cyclone development. We find that changes in local sea surface temperature are inadequate for characterizing even the sign of changes in potential intensity, but that long-term changes in potential intensity are closely related to the regional structure of warming; regions that warm more than the tropical average are characterized by increased potential intensity, and vice versa. We use this relationship to reconstruct changes in potential intensity over the twentieth century from observational reconstructions of sea surface temperature. We find that, even though tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently at a historical high, Atlantic potential intensity probably peaked in the 1930s and 1950s, and recent values are near the historical average. Our results indicate that–per unit local sea surface temperature change–the response of tropical cyclone activity to natural climate variations, which tend to involve localized changes in sea surface temperature, may be larger than the response to the more uniform patterns of greenhouse-gas-induced warming.

In a nutshell, their results suggest that sea surface temperature in the local area is not a major driving factor in the intensity of hurricanes in the Atlantic. In response to the paper

Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT, for instance, found the combined power of Atlantic hurricanes has more than doubled since 1970…Emanuel said Vecchi and Soden’s findings might be valid over a short-term period, but his studies show a clear “upward trend” in hurricane intensity. “I don’t really agree with their conclusions,” Emanuel said…Kyle Swanson, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee…conducted a similar study, focusing on the Pacific Ocean, and found that hurricanes in that basin likely will increase in intensity by 5 percent to 10 percent in the future. “In the Atlantic, it doesn’t appear intensity is going to go up,” he said. “It might fluctuate, but there doesn’t appear to be a climate change trend.”

Luckily, there is the Antihurricane Technology Fund that is now spreading the word to native English speakers with the help of online language translation.

Anti-hurricane Technology Fund – Actively, straight muffle hurricane, rise him straight in roads, find his depression, utilize his strength straight against him, let he destroys alone. Finally, we have know how for anti-hurricane technology, you have know how to support it, together we will succeed.

Jozef Solc, founder

It appears that the plan is to utilize a giant rotating contraption that mists the area with water much like your yard sprinkler. I don’t understand much after that except something about 30 nuclear power plants.

And speaking of nuclear power plants.

Those who protested them in the past are now in their favor. To be green, conservation green not glow-in-the-dark green, is to be nuclear.

Blame James Lovelock who started the trend…caused consternation when he offered his own back yard in Cornwall to store nuclear waste. Making headlines here are two greens who have gone nuclear. One is Dr Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace who campaigned against nuclear power for over 15 years. He has had second thoughts and now works to promote it, arguing like Lovelock, that it is our only hope to satisfy ever-rising energy demands while also fighting climate change. Supporting this argument is Gwyneth Cravens a writer and former anti-nuke campaigner. Her book, Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy tells the nuclear story in a way that the ham-fisted nuclear industry has failed to do. I admire her courage to change her mind.

But the Canadian Free Press is reporting the rather sensationalized headline “Climate warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence” based on this paper. The abstract

We examine tropospheric temperature trends of 67 runs from 22 Climate of the 20th Century model simulations and try to reconcile them with the best available updated observations (in the tropics during the satellite era). Model results and observed temperature trends are in disagreement in most of the tropical troposphere, being separated by more than twice the uncertainty of the model mean. In layers near 5 km, the modelled trend is 100 to 300% higher than observed, and, above 8 km, modelled and observed trends have opposite signs. These conclusions contrast strongly with those of recent publications based on essentially the same data.

Interesting the authors of the paper note in the introduction

Santer et al. (2005) recently investigated the altitude dependence of temperature trends during the satellite era,emphasizing the tropical zone, where the characteristics are well-suited for model evaluation. They compared available observations with 19 of the models and suggest that any disparity between models and observations is due to residual errors in the observational datasets

The strongest quote is from the paper’s conclusion

We have tested the proposition that greenhouse model simulations and trend observations can be reconciled. Our conclusion is that the present evidence, with the application of a robust statistical test, supports rejection of this proposition.

A lot to ponder right before the holidays and it will be interesting to see what the scientific response to the above studies is.

Dr. M (1759 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.