What shall we do with Wally Broecker’s wild beast now that we have caught it by the tail?

Wally did an admirable job over 20 years ago now.  But Wally has gone to the dark side more recently – bemoaning the failure of democracy and lauding China.  At least he was still forecasting economic growth – I think the phrase was we couldn’t avoid it.  Buck up Wally – any liberal, democratic capitalist will tell you that growth is most efficient and sustainable in stable, classic liberal, civil democracies with capitalist markets.

It is ironic then that the tracks of the climate beast he named global warming all those years ago – that impose significant constraints on anthropogenic warming in the 20th century – can be seen so readily in the surface temperature record.  Try it – there are four regimes shifts – around 1912, the mid 1940’s, the late 1970’s, and 1998/2001.  Warming, cooling, warming and at least not warming much.  Now you’re an environmental – if not climate – scientist.  I am inspired – btw – to continue to labor the beast metaphor – at least I have not capitalised it – by no less than Science O’ Doom himself.

The phrase was science poetry.  I was looking for a scattergram of calculated and observed OLR in an old post.  Acceptably close.  There has always been a science that is poetic at an erudite core.   Very recent thinking on science it that it should be rich and fruitful – or perhaps more a forensic investigation than a poem?  So I will continue to wax on and wax off – much as climate itself does.  We can sample the two regimes we know most about – mid 20th century cooling and late century warming – and may or may not attribute the difference to greenhouse gases in the period that they started to grow strongly.  Because it “evens out”.  It’s about 0.4 degrees Kelvin – and relatively insignificant in the scheme of things – IMO, LMFAO.


Climate data show the chaotic heart of the beast pounding through woodland and savannah.  It moves with immense power and speed across landscapes and oceans.  It shifts suddenly and fiercely. We ain’t seen fierce in the 20th century – we ain’t nothin’ yet.   But what shall we do now with this wild and angry beast?  There are approaches mooted – including shibboleths of neo-green-leftists – which are not worth worrying about.  But there are a plurality of solutions to other problems each with intrinsic mitigation or sequestration potential.  I can point to a couple of dozen off the top of the heads of Nobel laureate economists.  I like to see it as part of a global mission to secure prosperous communities in vibrant and resilient landscapes this century.


“The top-of-atmosphere (TOA) Earth radiation budget (ERB) is determined from the difference between how much energy is absorbed and emitted by the planet. Climate forcing results in an imbalance in the TOA radiation budget that has direct implications for global climate, but the large natural variability in the Earth’s radiation budget due to fluctuations in atmospheric and ocean dynamics complicates this picture.”https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10712-012-9175-1

Fluctuations in ocean and atmospheric circulation happen on many scales – and include 20-30 year regimes in global surface temperature trends – and in sea surface temps in the eastern Pacific. The associated energy changes at TOA are associated with water vapour due to changing atmospheric temps and cloud changes anti-correlated with SST in the tropical and sub-tropical Pacific.


Cloud changes dominate energy dynamics – prominently in the shortwave band. But as I said above – you can’t get any idea of what is happening without data on radiant flux at TOA. Reliable and long term data preferably. Data inconvenient for the cause is systematically denied – either cause is much of a muchness in my view.

The 20 to 30 year regimes are chaotic shifts of quasi standing waves in the spatio/temporal chaos of the climate system. They may change a little or a lot with greenhouse gases giving form to Wally’s wild beast.

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Anticipating the whims of the Dragon Kings

“Major changes in northeast Pacific marine ecosystems have been correlated with phase changes in the PDO; warm eras have seen enhanced coastal ocean biological productivity in Alaska and inhibited productivity off the west coast of the contiguous United States, while cold PDO eras have seen the opposite north-south pattern of marine ecosystem productivity.”http://research.jisao.washington.edu/pdo/

I had to check a claim made in the video – but they are right. There are different biological markers in Alaska and the US west coast. The difference is the relative change in cold, nutrient rich deep ocean upwelling. In the cool phase there is a vast blue “V” swathe across the Pacific.



Coupled winds and current push surface water west to pile up against Australia and Indonesia in a vast pool of potential and thermal energy. When conditions are ripe – and in the flick of a Madden Julian Oscillation – the energy surges back east to crash against the eastern Pacific margin. Although the flows are vastly more complex than I make out – the vast area of warmer surface water warms the atmosphere. Ocean heat dissipates north and south at it hits the coastline. In the evolution of ENSO – the energy once stored in the western Pacific has dissipated and the next phase is inevitably recharge – in La Nina – of energy in the Pacific warm pool.

The cool phase starts with upwelling which starts with flows in the Peruvian and Californian Currents spinning up with the Pacific gyres. Cooler higher latitude water is pushed toward the equator diluting residual warm surfaces. Turbulent deep ocean flows surface and set up wind and current responses that again extend the cold tongue and piles warm surface water up against Australia and Indonesia. The vast area of cool surface absorbs heat from the atmosphere. The ocean warms and the atmosphere cools. There are as well cloud effects.


More cloud with the cooler ocean – and vice versa. In temperature/cloud coupling -clouds are lower and denser in cooler temps. There are large satellite observed changes in the energy dynamic of the planet from changing patterns in ocean and atmospheric flows – and the aperiodic changes in the Pacific are a big part of it. But more than that – all of the global flows are coupled in Earth’s spatio/temporal chaotic flow field. It is has implications for how and why aperiodic regimes form. The idea seems like random words to many – but is a relatively precise description of a reality you can actually see in near real time – given the wonders of modern technology and big data. Here I have the Earth Null School site showing total precipitable water in the atmosphere. It is an interesting field to view because it shows where the heat is in both oceans and atmosphere and where the atmospheric moisture is.

I play on the Earth Null School site for hours – it is fascinating what you can see in near real time in a super-computer visualization.  From the stratosphere to the oceans. What this view is showing is cooler, drier air pushing up from Antarctica – and down from the Arctic – deep into the Australian continent. I have been feeling this for months on the Tropic of Capricorn – cooler temps with subtle changes in winds and dramatic biological responses. Not quite the biggest Trichodesmium bloom I can remember but up there. We are entering drought territory with risks of summer fires in store.  Remnants of the 2014-16 El Niño ocean heat and atmospheric moisture are still spilling over into hurricane allay in the south-west Atlantic.

tcp 13-11-1`7


Winds and great ocean gyres spin up in negative phases of the polar annual modes. This graphic shows the familiar blocking pattern in the Northern Hemisphere where the troughs are cold and stormy air pushing into lower latitudes.

As gryes spin up and dilute the thermocline with cooler water – more turbulent deep ocean flow push to the surface. This sets up wind and current responses – in a resonant ocean – that influence global temps, hydrology and biology.ocean gyre


Both ENSO and the PDO have 20 to 30 years regimes. Moreover the cool PDO is associated with more frequent and intense La Niña – and a warm phase with frequent El Niño. The puzzle of a shared 20 to 30 year pulse in both hemispheres is traced mechanistically back to changing polar surface pressure fields – influencing storm tracks in high latitudes. At the same time – research is showing a solar UV/ozone chemistry influence in modulating atmospheric flows and polar pressure fields.

There is a recent study that wonders at the potential for the ~22 year Hale cycle of solar magnetic reversal to be the trigger for the 20 to 30 year regimes. As I did some months ago now. It supplies a plausible mechanistic link for solar variability amplification in the terrestrial system. With intriguing possibilities for the evolution of climate.


There are opinions that the Pacific state has shifted over the past few years to a warmer phase again. I am intrigued. The washy washy neutral looking regime we have seen since the last shift at the turn on the century has been punctuated by long and intense surface warmth following relatively intense cooling. My bet is that the transition is happening now and that this a dragon-king.

“We emphasize the importance of understanding dragon-kings as being often associated with a neighborhood of what can be called equivalently a phase transition, a bifurcation, a catastrophe (in the sense of Rene Thom), or a tipping point. The presence of a phase transition is crucial to learn how to diagnose in advance the symptoms associated with a coming dragon-king.”   https://arxiv.org/abs/0907.4290

Dragon Kings live in coral castles guarded by crab generals and shrimp soldiers. They bring us flood and drought at their whim. A solar connection suggests the potential for a shift to a yet cooler state in the Pacific on a centennial scale.

Salt content in a Law Dome, Antarctica, ice core has implications for coupling modes globally and northeast Australian rainfall especially.  More salt is La Niña as wind and currents spin up gyres and upwellinmg …

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Thoughts on “U.S. GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PROGRAM CLIMATE SCIENCE SPECIAL REPORT (CSSR) ” – “simple rules underlying climate’s complexity.”

There is a bit of madness going on at Judith Curry’s Climate Etc. blogspot.  The arguments are being bandied about again – at a high intensity. Curry called for ‘denizen’ involvement in critiquing the draft US National Climate Assessment.   At Climate Etc.  – it is all daft theories about it not being greenhouse gases, radiation or water vapor – and endless quibbling from both sides of the blogosphere climate trenches about the talking points – Arctic ice, seal level rise, surface temperature trends, the LIA and MWP – in the very latest reconstruction.  Judith keeps an eclectic ‘eSalon’.  Well it is greenhouse gases. radiation and water vapor – but climate science is about far more than this.  Ultimately there is not enough evidence to resolve the important question – what will happen in future? Alternatively – there are theories of turbulent flows that provide a theoretical context for climate’s complexities  – from which simple rules may be derived.  To state the obvious – the planet is a globally coupled, nonlinear fluid flow problem.  Models try to emulate it.

It you hit a climate data series with a Fourier analysis hammer you will get sine waves. If data such as long term Nile River flows are analysed from a Hurst perspective there is a different result – one resembling step functions.  There is a very new paper – by  John Abbott  and Jennifer Marohasy –  that I like a lot for the new method of 20th century surface temperature attribution – mostly natural.  But thinking of climate as cyclic is far too limiting.

“Examination of many of these proxy temperature records shows they typically consist of complex oscillations or cycles about a mean value, with the amplitude and structure of the temperature signal depending on the geographical location considered. In the pre-industrial era, these oscillations represent the compound effect of natural phenomena both internal (e.g. North Atlantic Oscillation, El Nino Southern Oscillation) and external (e.g. solar, volcanic activity).”  (Abbott and Marohasy 2017)

The US ‘special report’ focuses on climate science talking points – surface temperature (instruments at 2m from the ground and ocean surface temperature), hydrology, climate sensitivity, sea level rise, acidification, etc.  These are points that are endlessly discussed – but are ultimately indeterminate given the limitations of data and models.   Both sides on these points – moreover – lack a theoretical context that places transient phenomenon in the context of globally coupled fluid flows in the spatio/temporal chaotic Earth system.

“The story of British hydrologist and civil servant H.E. Hurst who earned the nickname “Abu Nil”, Father of the Nile, for his 62 year career of measuring and studying the river is now fairly well known. Pondering an 847 year record of Nile overflow data, Hurst noticed that the series was persistent in the sense that heavy flood years tended to be followed by heavier than average flood years while below average flood years were typically followed by light flood years. Working from an ancient formula on optimal dam design he devised the equation: log(R/S) = K*log(N/2) where R is the range of the time series, S is the standard deviation of year-to-year flood measurements and N is the number of years in the series.”  Revelutions webspot

Mandelbrot rediscovered and popularized Hurst’s work in the 1960’s – and renamed K to H. Persistence is a period of flows that hover about a mean with a specific variance – and then the system shifts to another flow regime with a different mean and variance.

Persistence can be easily seen in modern data on the globally coupled ENSO quasi standing wave in Earth’s spatio/temporal chaotic system. There is a sharp delineation between a La Nina (blue) dominated regime and an El Nino (red) dominated regime in 1976/77. The Pacific Ocean shifted again to a somewhat cooler state after 1998.


Figure 1:  Modulation of ENSO in 20 to 30 year regimes seen in the MEI of Claus Wolter

Climate changes are typically abrupt. There are external triggers at thresholds and an immense and complex response in planetary ocean and atmospheric flow fields. There is no comfort for skeptics here – shifts are unpredictable and may be extreme. The next Pacific Ocean climate shift – if it runs true to the form shown over a millennia – is due in a 2018-2028 window. Predicting this more precisely – with it’s global implications for rainfall, biology and atmosphere and ocean heat content – is impossible.  And anthropogenic greenhouse gases may in future perturb the climate system flow sufficiently to cause some or major change in the global pattern of coupled quasi standing waves.

The past few years have seen warmer sea surface temps in the eastern Pacific.  Ocean and atmosphere couplings produce cloud.  It is low and dense at cold temp – loose and fluffy at higher temps and rising to the stratosphere in immense thunderheads in high energy climates.  Height and density of cloud modulates it’s radiative properties.  Cloud net radiant flux changes with cloud cover.  Clouds reduce losses from upward heat flux and reflects more sunlight back into space – with SW reflection losses the more significant.   So less, higher level cloud in a warmer planet and more warming from more solar insolation offset by higher LW emissions.

Dragon-king theory suggests that outliers in data series are “dragon-kings” and “being often associated with a neighborhood of what can be called equivalently a phase transition, a bifurcation, a catastrophe (in the sense of Rene Thom), or a tipping point.   The Pacific Ocean may be primed by reduced solar activity to more eastern ocean upwelling of cold and nutrient rich water burping carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere – and what energy there was in the western Pacific has dissipated off the eastern margin.  Could there be a swing back to La Niña big enough for the variation to be big enough to be a dragon-king – and signalling the next transition of the Pacific state?   

“What defines a climate change as abrupt? Technically, an abrupt climate change occurs when the climate system is forced to cross some threshold, triggering a transition to a new state at a rate determined by the climate system itself and faster than the cause. Chaotic processes in the climate system may allow the cause of such an abrupt climate change to be undetectably small.”  NAS 2002

It seems clear to me that spatio-temporal chaos is the not so new climate paradigm.  One that provides a far more powerful theoretical context for consideration of climate processes.  This graphic in the ‘special report’ summary gives a clue to follow.

enso us winters

Figure 2: ENSO and jet stream coupling

Turbulent flows in Earth’s oceans and atmosphere are driven by  planetary spin and solar energy creating quasi standing waves everywhere.  Several are involved in the ENSO-Jet Stream coupling.  The proximate cause is the Northern Annular Mode (NAM). Higher surface pressure at the pole pushes winds and polar storms into lower latitudes. There is considerable interest in a sun and NAM (and SAM) connections via UV/ozone chemistry and modulating Earth system flows – especially equator to pole stratospheric and tropospheric pathways.

Unlike many things in climate science – spatio/temporal chaos climate science can be seen in the wild.    Within the turbulent flow of the mountain river vortices form and the location and size are relatively stable across both time and space.  Order emerging out of disorder.  The first rule of chaos theory.


Figure 3:  Turbulent flow in a mountain river

The governing regime of the river flow persists until the flow is perturbed and then shifts to another state – with different size and location of standing waves in the flow.    Persistence and shifts are seem in climate wide regimes of quasi standing waves in the Earth system.   Perturb the flow somehow and the river standing waves will shift in size and location.  At the climate scale solar, orbital and greenhouse gas changes may perturb the fluid flow through the system and the energy dynamic of the entire planet.

On the different scale of society and energy – there are obvious solutions to this and broader problems that bring short term benefits to global communities and environments.  This does entail fostering democracy and classic liberal economics.  Uncertainties in climate from many sources suggest the need to refocus on effective and pragmatic, resilience and no-regrets policy options – e.g climate pragmatism and technical innovation – rather than endlessly quibbling about climate talking points.

Science (e.g. Lal 2016) suggests that large amounts of carbon can be stored in soils and vegetation by restoring soil organics in agricultural land and environments.  The US has been a pioneer in land management since the 1930’s.  Globally – both science and governments are mobilizing to support local and regional responses in an Elinor Ostrom polycentric approach to managing global commons.

International Life Sciences Institute 4 per 1000 soils presentation

Ultimately – energy technologies must be cost competitive with best available sources.  Gas and high efficiency/low emission (HELE) coal may be that in most places in the the world.  HELE coal plants emit negligible health damaging particulates.  The low carbon alternative front runner is – at this time – small, modular, nuclear engines.  Eight of these designs have recently been costed at 40% less than large, light water reactors.

This General Atomics version has been independantly costed at 40% less.  It comes with total safety, is arms proliferation resistant, has high thermal efficiency and super fuel efficiency.  High fuel burn minimizes a low risk waste stream.

em2 reactor

Figure 4:  General Atomics’ Energy Multiplier Module

But to return to intellectually interesting questions of climate science – ENSO has fascinating dynamics that are globally coupled to rainfall regimes over many spatial and temporal scales.

Moys 2002 (2)

Figure 5: Laguna Pallcacocha ENSO proxy – greater red intensity shows higher El Niño intensity (Source: Tsonis, 2009)

Moy et al (2002) present this Holocene record of sedimentation shown above which is strongly influenced by ENSO variability.  The record has continuous high resolution coverage over 12,000 years.  It is based on the presence of greater and less red sediment in a lake core.  More sedimentation is associated with El Niño. It shows periods of high and low El Niño intensity alternating with a period of about 2,000 years.  There was a shift from La Niña dominance to El Niño dominance that was identified by Tsonis 2009 as a chaotic bifurcation – and is associated with the drying of the Sahel.  There is a period around 3,500 years ago of high El Niño intensity associated with the demise of the Minoan civilization (Tsonis et al, 2010).  For comparison – red intensity in the Minoan period was regularly over 200 –  red intensity was 99 in the 1997/98 El Niño.  The record shows ENSO variability considerably in excess of that seen in the modern period.  Great variability  over millennia casts doubt on the statistical reliability of divining rainfall changes from modern records.

Earth’s climate is a coupled, nonlinear, isolated mechanism tending to maximum entropy over a long enough period.  There are resonant frequencies, a driving force in solar energy and external beats in solar activity and orbits that modulate climate.  Climate persists in a regime for minutes, days, years, centuries – it’s like Russian dolls or fractals better yet – and then shifts state as they say.  Moreover there are broad but well studied temporal patterns.

Modern satellite instruments provide the most precise and comprehensive data ever on global atmospheric temeperature, incoming solar energy and changes in outgoing energy.  Some 3,900 Argo floats measure temperature and salinity to 2000m in the oceans.   There are a few simple terms in the 1st differential global energy storage equation.

Δ(h&w)/dt = energy in – energy out + heat of combustion + plus heat from the mantle

The change in heat and work in the system over a period is equal to the difference in the energy terms.

Now comes the fun of science as investigation in the world.  Why is it so?

The change in heat and work in the planetary system is made complicated by large changes in radiant flux at TOA due to changes in atmospheric and ocean circulation (Loeb et al 2012).  Energy in is measured as an absolute value – although the number has changed in the recent past.  Energy out is given in anomalies – it gives a sense of change in the energy budget – i.e. warming or cooling.  The planet warms if energy in is greater over a period – the energy imbalance idea.  As Earth’s energy content is mostly in the oceans – some 90% – energy imbalances are calculated from ocean heat records.

The Argo graph is a recent plot from the Argo Marine Global Atlas – warming is prominently after 2011.

lin2 Figure 6:  Unfiltered Argo data to June 2017 – source Argo Marine Global Atlas

The heat from Earth’s interior is a minor term – as is the heat of combustion – but may have implications for ideas of energy loss from the surface of the oceans, thermal inertia and thus radiant imbalances at top of atmosphere (TOA).  The oceans are heated from the bottom up at a rate far greater than the instantaneous rate of increase in greenhouse gas forcing.

Earth radiant energy budget satellite records  show warming of the ocean to 1998 over the 90’s.  ” With this final correction, the ERBS Nonscanner-observed decadal changes in tropical mean LW, SW, and net radiation between the 1980s and the 1990s now stand at -0.7, +2.1, and +1.4 W/m2, respectively.” Wong et al 2006


Figure 7:  Net radiant flux at top of atmosphere (TOA) v. ocean heat content rate of change

Wong et al used Earth Radiation Budget Experiment data and compared that to more dense XPT data compiled by Joel Norris as annual ocean heat content.  The older XPT data had 10% coverage and was averaged over 5 years.  It shows ocean warming in the shortwave – SW – (and longwave – LW – cooling) in the 1990’s and a transient peak in ocean heat content.  There were initial stumbles in all of the early satellite products – corrected as best as they could.  The newer data is much more precise and stable.

These were downloaded from a NASA site and it’s a mess.  The graphs at the  <a href=”https://ceres.larc.nasa.gov/order_data.php”&gt;CERES data product page</a> are updated to January 2017.   What’s happening with NASA?  Don’t tell me Donald Trump is shutting down this critical Earth system monitoring program – in which the US is the world’s leader?

The solar energy peak of the 11 year cycle solar was at the start of the century – we have passed the last peak and are heading for a trough in this cycle.  Solar activity varies in a tight band – incident energy at the surface is reduced by a factor of four.  The sun may influence climate – not on an incident radiation basis – but on indirect effects through stratospheric/atmospheric pathways.

CERES_EBAF-TOA_Ed2.8_anom_Incoming_Solar_Flux_March-2004toJanuary-2015 (1)

Figure 8:  CERES data product – incoming solar irradiance

Reflected SW shows some stark trends. Declining appreciably to 2003, ambling along to 2013 and declining again since.  Warming tendency then neutral and then warming again in the short but relatively precise record of anomalies.  This is mostly cloud cover variation coupled with the state of the Pacific Ocean.

CERES_EBAF-TOA_Ed4.0_anom_TOA_Shortwave_Flux-All-Sky_March-2000toJanuary-2017 (1)

Figure 9:  CERES data product – reflected SW power flux up

The LW record shows broad changes linked to cloud cover and water vapour.   Infrared (LW) emissions rose in the early part of the record (cooling in LW), dipped in the middle section and rose again more recently.


Figure 10:  CERES data product – emitted LW

This Loeb et al 2012 plot splices CERES to earlier data and highlights La Nina and El Nino years.   The problem is splicing and whether you believe graph (a) or (b)?  There was a step change in cloud around the turn of the century from satellite cloud products  – or alternatively IR out ambled along without much apparent trend change over decades.


Figure 11:  Spliced ERBE and CERES data

There is intriguing evidence from a brilliant little bit of astronomical engineering that shows a step change in cloud cover around the turn of the 21st century.   The satellite and Project Earthshine results are at least consilient.


Figure 12:    “Earthshine changes in albedo shown in blue, ISCCP-FD shown in black and CERES in red.  A climatologically significant change before CERES followed by a long period of insignificant change“.

Net radiant flux is  planetary warming upward by convention.  Net flux = -SW- LW.  So ambling along to 2008, some ENSO bumps to 2013 and a modest warming since.


Figure 13:  CERES product – net radiant flux at TOA

Little can be determined from these short term records other than that there are large natural variations doe to variability in ocean and atmospheric flows – and thus the energy budget of the planet.  It can give a fascinating insight into the mechanisms in play.  Over a longer term – evidence of Earth’s underlying dynamic comes at many scales with coupled changes to the energy budget.

“Evidence is presented supporting the hypothesis of polar synchronization, which states that during the last ice age, and likely in earlier times, millennial-scale temperature changes of the north and south Polar Regions were coupled and synchronized. The term synchronization as used here describes how two or more coupled nonlinear oscillators adjust their (initially different) natural rhythms to a common frequency and constant relative phase. In the case of the Polar Regions heat and mass transfer through the intervening ocean and atmosphere provided the coupling. As a working hypothesis, polar synchronization brings new insights into the dynamic processes that link Greenland’s Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) abrupt temperature fluctuations to Antarctic temperature variability. It is shown that, consistent with the presence of polar synchronization, the time series of the most representative abrupt climate events of the last glaciation recorded in Greenland and Antarctica can be transformed into one another by a π/2 phase shift, with Antarctica temperature variations leading Greenland’s. This, plus the fact that remarkable close simulations of the time series are obtained with a model consisting of a few nonlinear differential equations suggest the intriguing possibility that there are simple rules governing the complex behavior of global paleoclimate.”  (J. A. Rial 2012)

Shorter periods of climate regimes – and it is suggested that this is a better terminology than old fashioned cycles or oscillations – are revealed by spectral analysis.

“The driving forces of climate change were investigated and the results showed two independent degrees of freedom —a 3.36-year cycle and a 22.6-year cycle, which seem to be connected to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation cycle and the Hale sunspot cycle, respectively. Moreover, these driving forces were modulated in amplitude by signals with millennial timescales.”  (Wang et al 2017)

So we have an ENSO cycle,  a Hale solar magnetic (not sunspot) cycle and a 1000 year cycle that might be speculated to be greenhouse gases. Or perhaps volcanoes. Or something else.

But these powerful natural flow fields are bubbling along under the surface.  The 20 to 30 year Pacific regimes seem very likely to continue for a bit.  The next one is due in a 2018 to 2028 window. And the Pacific state seems modulated by something.

The proxy below shows levels of salt a Law Dome ice core. More or less salt in the ice core.  More salt is a cool Pacific state (less eastern margin upwelling) .  It shows ENSO periodicity – and an intriguing change in tempo at the turn of the 20th century – as well as the familiar 20 to 30 year patterns of rainfall.  Rain in this graph is eastern and northern Australian rainfall – but it has global implications.

Figure 14:  Millennial ENSO proxy – Vance et al 2013

The Pacific state is modulated over a millennia. The details of the ocean and atmospheric links are fascinating – it is postulated that it starts with solar uv/ozone chemistry modulating ocean and atmospheric circulation throughout the system.  The change in solar UV modulate surface pressure at the poles – changing the polar annular modes and influencing sub-polar gryes in all oceans thereby triggering triggering more or less upwelling on the eastern margin.


Figure 15:  Impact of polar wind fields on oceans gyres –  NAS workshop report 2012

The Hale beat may be a switch of sorts – signalling changes in the Pacific State at the 20 to 30 year scale. And then literally shifts again to another state and these shifts add up over time to long term climate. At all scales. The second rule of spatio/temporal chaos is that it is scale independent. Again the modulator seems quite evidently solar. High sunspot numbers equate to higher solar activity and less upwelling in the eastern Pacific. Solar activity remained high throughout the 20th century.

Figure 16:  Sunspot counts

“The sunspot cycle happens because of this pole flip — north becomes south and south becomes north—approximately every 11 years. Some 11 years later, the poles reverse again back to where they started, making the full solar cycle actually a 22-year phenomenon. The sun behaves similarly over the course of each 11-year cycle no matter which pole is on top, however, so this shorter cycle tends to receive more attention.” NASA

The Hale beat itself may be spatio/temporal chaos modulated though n-body gravity interactions in the solar system.   The interior of the sun is turbulent flow modulating the small changes in solar output.  The waxing and waning of the 11 year butterfly may set the tone of Earth climate’s resonant frequencies – with the 22 year regime seemingly having a synchronous resonance with the state of the Pacific Ocean.

Figure 17 – The solar butterfly – sourced from Wikipedia

On two hands we have butterflies – on the other we have the temperature anomalies as measured by microwave sounders at the O2 radiant frequency band.


Fugure 18:  CMIP-5 models comparison with RSS tropospheric temperature anomalies

Surface records capture perhaps 1% of the global energy content.  And there are appreciable artifacts in the record as a result of changing soil moisture and thus changing ratios of sensible and latent heat at 2m from the ground – plausibly causing an increasing land/ocean temperature divergence during periods of widespread drought. Note the lack of a 2016 record in tropospheric heat.

The yellow is the results of a CMIP-5 opportunistic ensemble.   Frankly – if you imagined that they wouldn’t diverge from reality – then you are on the wrong track entirely.  There is not even one single solution to any of the general circulation models.   Models have temporal chaos.

“Sensitive dependence and structural instability are humbling twin properties for chaotic dynamical systems, indicating limits about which kinds of questions are theoretically answerable. They echo other famous limitations on scientist’s expectations, namely the undecidability of some propositions within axiomatic mathematical systems (Gödel’s theorem) and the uncomputability of some algorithms due to excessive size of the calculation.”   (James McWiliams 2007)

Models have what is called irreducible imprecision – reducing imprecision comes at a trade off.  Reducing the grid size to reduce model uncertainty exponentially increases the computing power required due to the increasing size of the calculation.  Improving initial values takes time and data.  Each model has many divergent solutions within the limits of feasible initial values and structural instability induced by the changes in depth of model process coupling.

slingo and palmer

Figure 19:  Schematic of a perturbed physics model ensemble – Slingo and Palmer 2012

“Lorenz was able to show that even for a simple set of nonlinear equations (1.1), the evolution of the solution could be changed by minute perturbations to the initial conditions, in other words, beyond a certain forecast lead time, there is no longer a single, deterministic solution and hence all forecasts must be treated as probabilistic. The fractionally dimensioned space occupied by the trajectories of the solutions of these nonlinear equations became known as the Lorenz attractor (figure 1), which suggests that nonlinear systems, such as the atmosphere, may exhibit regime-like structures that are, although fully deterministic, subject to abrupt and seemingly random change.”  Slingo and Palmer 2011

Select one of the blue lines in the plots arbitrarily and put it into an opportunistic ensemble.  Of course it’s warm.  With the boys’ club of climate modelling – I’m surprised it’s not warmer.


Note:  I have left the notes on the graphics to give authors interpretations.  .

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Spatio/temporal chaos – “simple rules at the heart of climate’s complexity”.

Unlike many things in climate science – spatio/temporal chaos climate science can be seen in the wild.    Within the turbulent flow of the mountain river vortices form and are relatively stable both in time and space.  Oder emerging out of disorder.  The first rule of chaos theory.  The second rule is that they operate at all scales – from micro eddies in the river to ocean and continent spanning turbulent flows in oceans and atmosphere..

And from moments to eons.

“Over the past million years, glacial–interglacial cycles have had a period of about 100,000 years, similar to the 100,000-year period of change in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit. However, the change in incoming solar radiation—insolation—at this timescale is small, and therefore difficult to reconcile with the amplitude of the glacial cycles. This issue, known as the 100-kyr problem, is compounded by a lack of explanation for the transition of the length of the cycles from 41,000 to 100,000 years at the mid-Pleistocene transition 1.2 million years ago. Individual discrepancies have been explained, for example, through interactions between other orbital frequencies such as obliquity and the 413,000-year period of eccentricity but a unified explanation is lacking. Here we show that climate oscillations over the past four million years can be explained by a single mechanism: the synchronization of nonlinear internal climate oscillations and the 413,000-year eccentricity cycle.”   Synchronization_of_the_climate_system_to_eccentricity_forcing_and_the_100000-year_problem

Here they consider the 100kyr glacial problem through a synchonous chaos lens. Synchronous chaos as an idea unifies spatio/temporal chaos and temporal chaos. Spatio/temporal chaos underlies the dynamics of climate. Spatio/temporal chaos results in quasi standing waves – just like the mountain river – everywhere in the system. We give names to the most significant of them – and they have an important something called persistence – merely the tendency for data in weather and to cluster around a point and then shift.

There are important periods in quasi standing waves in the Earth system – including the 20 to 30 year scale of ENSO decadal variability and the PDO that show a modulator – in the papers terms – in a synchronized beat and dynamic climate response. Now we may call it unicorns – but I’m not convinced. I’m inclined to suspect the 22 year Hale cycle – and I have thrown it out there before – of solar magnetic reversals. This is spatio/temporal chaos at very different scales – one from orbits and one from the sun illustrating “simple rules at the heart of climate’s complexity”.

I hypothesized here “that upwelling in the Pacific Ocean is modulated by solar activity over periods of decades to millennia – with profound impacts on communities and ecosystems globally. The great resonant systems of the Pacific respond at variable periods – the tempo increased last century for instance – of La Niña and El Niño alternation. There are variations in this tempo at 20 to 30 years that – throwing this out there – suggest a trigger in the 22 year Hale solar cycle of magnetic reversals. The solar butterfly flutters and the cyclone ensues. Longer term indicators of solar activity show changes over millennia that mirror the state of upwelling in the Pacific. The mechanism proposed is a spinning up of the Pacific trade winds and surface gyres as a result of colder and denser polar air. Low solar activity spins up the great ocean gyres producing more frequent La Niña and a cooler northeastern Pacific (more upwelling) – and vice versa. With a cooling Sun – it suggests that the next Pacific climate shift – due in a 2018-2028 window – could be to yet cooler conditions in the Pacific Ocean. This has implications for global heat content, hydrology and biology.”

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Climate chaos – the once and future dragon-king

Suppose for a moment that the unthinkable happens and the planet doesn’t warm for another decade – and then cools.  The ramifications for carbon mitigation politics would seem obvious.  Of course people have been saying this for some time now – and it usually leads to the wrong conclusion.  That greenhouse gases have little influence on climate.  Some more astute voices have been speculating about this potential since the turn of the century – and suggesting that with dynamic climate shifts there are even greater risks of extreme hydrological and temperature changes.  Climate shifts happen at 20 to 30 year intervals – very much part of the internal variability of a complex and dynamic system.  Shifts can be extreme and persistent – local temperature changes of as much as 10oC in a decade – megadroughts and megafloods such as we have not seen in the 20th century.

Dragon-kings are Chinese mythological creatures – four of them in the north, south, east and west of the South China Sea – who live in coral castles guarded by crab generals and shrimp soldiers – and who inflict on us floods and droughts at their whim.  More prosaically – they are defined as extreme events at times of climate shifts.   Continue reading

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21st Century Climate Data Gives New Insight

Climate monitoring this century achieved new levels of precision – and it puts into doubt key assumptions of the theory of global warming.  Most of the discourse on global warming is about who said what about the temperature at 2 metres from the ground – the surface temperature record – and whether the planet is warming or not.  It is the wrong place to look for an answer to that question.  For a much more complete Earth energy budget – data on ocean heat, solar radiance and energy radiated at the top of the atmosphere is required.  The most precise and comprehensive Earth energy monitoring system ever assembled shows that most warming – and cooling – this century was entirely natural.

Although it is a very minor part of the global energy system – a quick aside on surface temperature is useful given the undue attention it receives.  Land temperatures are measured as sensible heat (the heat you can sense) by thermometers in a box at 2m from the ground.  Ocean temperatures are measured as sea surface temperature  – most often using floating buoys.  In explanation, most usually what we see as data is the change from conditions in a baseline period defined as the ‘climate normal’ – so-called anomalies.  Latent heat is the energy that melts ice or vaporises water.  This is a large part of the surface energy flux and it is not measured by thermometers.  As water vapour condenses higher in the atmosphere, heat is released and is measured by satellites.  The most significant problem in the surface temperature is the divergence of the land and ocean records this century.  Land is warming faster than ocean surface temperatures.  This can only happen if the land is drying out leading to more sensible and less latent heat flux at the surface.  From 1st principles – the land surface record is not a consistent or complete record of energy in the atmosphere and we must look elsewhere to draw reasonable inferences.

The Argo project has 3800 floats in the oceans that sink measuring temperature and salinity at different depths and then, at the surface again, relay data back to base via satellites.  The system is an immense improvement over haphazard methods of the past.  Cloud and Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments aboard NASA satellites measure incoming and outgoing radiant power at the top of the atmosphere.  Radiant power over time is energy – one Watt for one second is one Joule.  CERES also measures water vapour in the atmosphere, clouds and the temperature in the bottom 50 kilometres of the atmosphere.  Greenhouse gas forcing should cause air in the troposphere to warm and the stratosphere to cool.  As indeed it does – but climate is not that simple.

The global energy equation is very simple.

Δ(H&W) ≈ Ein – Eout

The change in heat energy content of the planet – and the work done in melting ice or vaporising water – is approximately equal to energy in less energy out.  There are minor contributions with heat from inside the planet and the heat of combustion of fossil fuels that make it approximate but still precise enough to use.   Energy imbalances – the difference between energy in and energy out – result in ocean warming or cooling.  The oceans are by far the greatest part of Earth’s energy storage – and Argo record gives us a real sense of whether the planet is warming or cooling – or both at different times.


Source:  Professor Ole Humlum

The solid blue line is the average temperature of the world’s oceans between the surface and 1900m depth – the dashed line is a 13-month running mean.  Cooling in the early record is not explicable in any manifestation of global warming theory.  The best that is done is to wave hands, call it natural variability and pretend it doesn’t matter.  But unless there is a better understanding of natural variation it is impossible to determine the impact of global warming.

‘Our interest is to understand – first the natural variability of climate – and then take it from there. So we were very excited when we realised a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,’ Anastasios Tsonis, Atmospheric Sciences Group, University of Wisconsin

The large annual variability is due to north-south asymmetry.  There is more ocean in the Southern Hemisphere and the oceans warm in the Austral summer.  The changes in the running mean are due to other factors. The underlying principle is that a change in energy in or energy out causes the planet to warm or cool.  When the planet warms disproportionately more energy is emitted (temperature to the 4th power) – and disproportionately less energy when there is cooling.  The planet moves towards energy equilibrium.

There was a nominal increase in greenhouse gas forcing of 0.864W/m2 since 1990 – although the real world isn’t cooperating (Keenan et al 2016).  The global warming theory is that a very, very small increase in greenhouse gas forcing – an instantaneous rate of increase of 0.00000001W/m2 (Watts per metre squared) – caused an energy imbalance of some 0.5W/m2 to accumulate at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) – more energy in than out – over time due to the thermal inertia of the planet.  If you put a candle under a pot – water in it will warm over time until the energy losses equal the energy input from the candle.  The time delay is a result of thermal inertia.  If you overheat the pot with a blowtorch – which you then take away – the pot will cool to the equilibrium temperature.   Thermal inertia is far less relevant when there are other, much larger, sources of heat than the candle.

Of course, the planet is many orders of magnitude more complex.   There are multiple sources of energy – certainly in the short term much greater than the change in greenhouse gas forcing.  Extra heat from all sources – including the interior of the planet, fossil fuel burning, nuclear fission, solar radiance, north-south asymetry and – the bid one – cloud radiative forcing – is retained in planetary systems as longwave emissions and shortwave reflectance adjusts to balance the global energy budget.  Reality contrasts starkly with the idea that the planet is slowly warmed from greenhouse gases alone.

Energy imbalances – from all causes – cannot be determined directly from satellite records.  The error bounds on absolute values are far too great.  Variations are much more precise and show changes in energy in and energy out.  This gave us clues about the underlying causes of climate change.

The Sun is the source of energy in.   It changed over the Schwabe cycle since the turn of the century.  Remembering that energy at the surface is one-quarter that at TOA – because the planet is more round than flat – the change in solar radiance has the same form as Argo warming and cooling – but cannot explain the extent of the changes.


Source: CERES Data Products

It is well established that solar UV and ozone interact at the poles – changing sea level pressures.  These changes in low solar activity push polar storms into lower latitudes and spin up ocean gyres.  In the Pacific Ocean more flow in the Peruvian and Californian currents trigger more frigid and nutrient rich upwelling in the north-eastern and central Pacific.  It causes immense variability in Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures which set up feedbacks in wind and currents.  With more upwelling’ the atmosphere cools and more warmth is retained in the global system – but there is more cloud to reflect solar shortwave.  The net effect is a cooler planet over decades to millennia.  There are as well dramatic impacts on global hydrology and biology.   Small solar changes are thereby amplified through the terrestrial climate system.


Source:  http://www.mdpi.com/2225-1154/3/4/833/htm

The schematic shows enhanced polar winds driving sub-polar winds and currents in cool climate regimes.

The 20 to 30 year regimes referred to in the Tsonis quote above are part of the system. They were discovered by hydrologists, oceanographers and biologists – nothing to do with physics at all.  They can’t be modelled.  The last Pacific climate shift happened in 1998/2001.  The next is due in a window of 1918 to 2018 – and we will have a complete record this time.  A cooling sun suggests that the next shift will be to yet cooler conditions.

I have included two versions of energy out – the raw variability and the deviation from monthly averages with a 13-month running mean.  Net power flux positive is warming by convention.  There are very large annual variations.  This is again north-south asymmetry.  The planet reflects more shortwave in the southern summer and emits more longwave in the northern summer – producing a complex pattern of net radiation.


Source: CERES Data Products

This one is the money shot – and we can actually see a 13-month running mean against a smaller variability.  The combinations of factors – ice, cloud, water vapour, atmospheric temperature – caused cooling in the first years of the century and a little warming since.  The changes are almost entirely the result of cloud cover and atmospheric temperature changes related to Pacific upwelling variation.  Earlier satellite data – Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) and the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) – were cobbled together from instruments not designed for the purpose.  They have been ‘adjusted’ as much as the surface temperature record.  They do in their final form, however, agree in showing that reduced cloud cover was the major cause of warming late last century.  There are confirming sea level observations of cloud in the Pacific.


Data Source: CERES Data Products

The are fundamental things in climate that lead to immense variability over millennia – the 20th century was relatively balmy compared to other periods in the recent past.  Short-term variability is sufficient to account for changes in ocean heat without resort to an accumulating energy imbalance from greenhouse gases.  The Pacific Ocean solar amplifier opens up the potential that most 20th century warming was natural and the prospect for that energy to be lost this century.  Pacific Ocean climate shifts mean that the next decade should be very interesting.

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The climate ‘problem’ and the solution

The problem

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement production – from 1750 to 2011 – was about 365 billion metric tonnes as carbon (GtC), with another 180 GtC from deforestation and agriculture.   Of this 545 GtC, about 240 GtC (44%) had accumulated in the atmosphere, 155 GtC (28%) had been taken up in the oceans with slight consequent acidification, and 150 GtC (28%) had accumulated in terrestrial ecosystems.  A critical metric is the losses from soils and forests.

Returning carbon to soils and ecosystems has major benefits in addition to offsetting anthropogenic emissions from fossil fuel combustion, land use conversion, soil cultivation, continuous grazing and cement manufacturing.    Restoring soil carbon stores increases agronomic productivity and enhances global food security.  Increasing the soil organic content enhances water holding capacity and creates a more drought tolerant agriculture – with less downstream flooding.  There is a critical level of soil carbon that is essential to maximising the effectiveness of water and nutrient inputs.  Global food security, especially for countries with fragile soils and harsh climate such as in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, cannot be achieved without improving soil quality through an increase in soil organic content.   Wildlife flourishes on restored grazing land helping to halt biodiversity loss.  Reversing soil carbon loss is a new green revolution where conventional agriculture is hitting a productivity barrier with exhausted soils and increasingly expensive inputs.

Increased agricultural productivity, increased downstream processing and access to markets build local economies and global wealth.  Economic growth provides resources for solving problems – conserving and restoring ecosystems, better sanitation and safer water, better health and education, updating the diesel fleet and other productive assets to emit less black carbon and reduce the health and environmental impacts, developing better and cheaper ways of producing electricity, replacing cooking with wood and dung with better ways of preparing food – thus avoiding respiratory disease and again reducing black carbon emissions.  A global program of agricultural soils restoration is the foundation for balancing the human ecology.  Many countries have committed to increasing soil carbon by 0.4% per year.  As a global objective and given the highest priority it is a solution to critical problems of biodiversity loss, development, food security and resilience to drought and flood.

The Other Science

The Pacific Decadal Variation is a system that switches from more or less cold, nutrient-rich, deep ocean upwelling every 20 to 30 years.  It includes both the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the El Niña-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).   In a cool (ocean surface) mode – La Niña activity is much more intense and frequent and vice versa.  There was a warm (ocean surface) mode in the early 20th century, cool in the middle part and warm again at the end.  This system is little understood by physicists and computer programmers – but has been known about by oceanographers and hydrologists for decades. The ocean surface warming and cooling precisely match warming and cooling in temperature records.

We have evidence on this over a 100o years.  It is all quite natural.  Indeed – as the PDO and ENSO are in lockstep – we have evidence of extremes over the Holocene – mega floods and mega drought – that put to shame those seen in the 20th century.

Yes, greenhouses gases cause warming – at a rate increase of 1E-9Watts/meter squared (W/m2).  It is an increase in greenhouse gas forcing in the late 20th century of some 0.8W/m2.  The Pacific system resulted in a cloud radiative effect of 1.8W/m2 over the tropical Pacific – based on Earth Radiation Budget Experiment data.

The short and sweet version.

A more speculative version.


The real threat of global warming

The urban doofus hipster vision involves narratives of moribund western economies governed by corrupt corporations collapsing under the weight of internal contradictions – leading to less growth, less material consumption, less CO2 emissions, less habitat destruction and a last late chance to stay within the safe limits of global ecosystems.  And this is just in the ‘scholarly’ journals.

Now I’m just a humble little sanitary engineer – but it seems it is rich economies wot saves the world.

income and lpi

They seems quite taken with using global warming to overthrow democracy and capitalism.

Dateline 3 February 2015 – The Top UN Climate Change Official is optimistic that a new international treaty will be adopted at Paris Climate Change conference at the end of the year. However, the official, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC,  warns that the fight against climate change is a process and that the necessary transformation of the world economy will not be decided at one conference or in one agreement. 

“This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history”, Ms Figueres stated at a press conference in Brussels.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution. That will not happen overnight and it will not happen at a single conference on climate change, be it COP 15, 21, 40 – you choose the number. It just does not occur like that. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation.” UNRIC

The real solution

Let’s just sock away 360 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide as 100 billion tonnes of carbon in soils and ecosystems – and say we are doing it for climate change.

A plan for a truly inspiring purpose.

Communities securing food. development and environments.

In the Dubbo context.

This is an astonishing example of trophic cascade.

And in the quite inevitable and rapid transition to 21st-century energy systems.


Modern materials science and nuclear fuel cycles brings decades old nuclear technology into the 21st century.    The new designs of high temperature, fast neutron nuclear engines are cheap, safe, reduce the volume of waste by 80%, waste cannot be used for nuclear weapons and radiation from what remains decays to background levels in 300 years.

Which future is for you? Economic collapse, civil strife, war – or resilient communities in vibrant landscapes.

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