Duh! Oceans Drive Climate (Not CO2), Says New Nature Study

More evidence of the obvious now revealed in a recent Nature article from research conducted by the IFM GEOMAR and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Believe it or not, they are slowly finding out that the oceans play a role in climate.

Once again climate scientists, who often claim the science is settled, are running into “surprises” and finding out that there is so much they don’t know. Here’s the press release from the IFM GEOMAR (emphasis added):

Oceanographers from Kiel document the effect of equatorial deep currents on West African rainfall

May 18, 2011/Kiel. Our climate is affected by the ocean in many ways.
The most prominent example is the El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific, a well-documented interannual climate signal. Oceanographers from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel (IFM-GEOMAR) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, USA) have recently documented the effect of deep equatorial currents in the Atlantic on rainfall and climate over West Africa.

Precipitation associated with the West African Monsoon is of major significance to agriculture, water resources and health concerns in one of the more densely populated regions in Africa. The timing and amount of rainfall each year in the countries along the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea are determined in part by the sea surface temperature of the tropical Atlantic. The details of this interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere are not fully understood at this time. Previously it was thought that effects from the Pacific and North Atlantic were the main source for climate fluctuations in the equatorial Atlantic. Oceanographers from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel (IFM-GEOMAR), in collaboration with their colleagues from the USA, were now able to demonstrate the existence of regular interannual temperature fluctuations which have an effect on the rainfall of the region but cannot be traced back to the previously known sources.  Even more astonishing for the scientists is the fact that all measurements indicate that these fluctuations are caused by deep currents of the equatorial Atlantic itself. “To date, when trying to explain tropical climate variations, we have always looked upwards, specifically to the atmosphere. Our new data, for the first time, direct our attention towards the depths of the ocean, thereby opening new perspectives for our scientific approach,” explained Dr Peter Brandt, professor at IFM-GEOMAR.

In a large-scale, international research programme, the Tropical Atlantic Climate Experiment (TACE), experts have attempted for years to track the causes, effects and potential periodicities of climate fluctuations in the tropical Atlantic. The German contribution to this programme also includes deep-sea moorings along the equator. These moorings consist of several km of mooring wire held upright in the water column by flotation and buoys. Instruments are mounted along the wire to continuously record current speed and direction, salinity and temperature, thereby allowing the observation of long-term changes of parameters in the deep ocean. Furthermore, the scientists obtain current data from freely drifting deep-sea buoys, so-called Argo floats, and also information on the sea surface itself and the atmosphere from various satellite-based sensors. “The time series obtained over the past ten to twenty years have revealed previously unknown fluctuations of currents and temperatures at the surface of the tropical Atlantic which have a regular cycle of 54 months, or 4 ½ years,” explained Peter Brandt. The scientists were able to document similar fluctuations of the “Deep Jets”, deep currents down to 3000 m with speeds of 10-20 cm/sec. They flow along the equator, crossing the entire Atlantic, with flow reversals every few hundred meters. “These jets are generated in the deep ocean, and their energy apparently propagates upwards through the water column. Once near the surface, this energy affects currents and temperatures,” stated Dr Brandt.

On the other hand, sea surface temperatures are among the deciding factors for rainfall fluctuations over West Africa. “How large the effect of these deep jets is, and how they are generated is still somewhat of a mystery,” said Dr Brandt, “we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”


We keep hearing that CO2 is the main climate driver, yet so much research has come out showing that it’s the sun and oceans.

19 responses to “Duh! Oceans Drive Climate (Not CO2), Says New Nature Study”

  1. DirkH

    “”Our new data, for the first time, direct our attention towards the depths of the ocean, thereby opening new perspectives for our scientific approach,” explained Dr Peter Brandt, professor at IFM-GEOMAR.”

    What a genius. Chalk one up for the institutionalized government scientists. Maybe a student of him has illegaly read WUWT during the past 2 years and had the idea that one of the commenters over there might be right?


    1. Bruce of Newcastle

      You have it! I learned this principle from Dilbert. If you want to change the mind of a supervisor you have to get them to come up with the idea. So, Professor A is for the climate consensus, but you think otherwise. But you know Professor A would like another paper in his CV. So picking a time when he’s going to be very busy you go to him with a draft of your paper and say “something you said 6 months ago made me think of this, so I’ve included your name as lead author”. Professor A likes this, can’t remember what he said 6 months ago and now has the choice of not publishing a paper (which would help in next grant application) or going with the flow.

      I have used this principle for 20 years in my field, believe me it works.

      1. DirkH

        I know. Have used this at work as well.

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  3. ArndB

    “Dr Brandt: On the other hand, sea surface temperatures are among the deciding factors for rainfall fluctuations over West Africa.”
    And what is the deciding factor for rainfall in Europe. The dear Dr. Brandt, and his colleagues, presumably will need another 100 years to understand that the ocean drive the weather. As I expressed twenty years ago:“Climate is the continuation of the ocean by other means” Letter to the Editor, NATURE 1992, “Climate Change”, Vol. 360, p. 292; http://www.whatisclimate.com/1992-nature.html
    Pierre, your interest in the issue is highly appreciated, wishing a fine weekend, Arnd

  4. ArndB

    RE# Pierre Gosselin: “…..it’s the sun and oceans.” (last sentence of the posting)

    That is certainly correct, but I object. IMO it is the OCEAN what matters, with a reference to a posting by Dr. Roy Spencer, at WUWT (20/May), which I will briefly address in the next Comment.

    Here is my opinion on the difference between: sun and oceans:
    Without the sun the system would not work at all. With the sun the earth has weather and climate, the moon has nothing comparable at all. The point is that any variation of the sun will find its reflection in the temperature data series, which is due to the heat storage and release of the ocean and seas. They have an average temperature of mere 4°C, and are driven by hundreds of physical parameters, particularly heat, salinity, and density. In principle the ocean body is very stable, but minimal changes in the surface layer, changes inevitable the weather and climate.
    What is difficult for me to understand that such things a “Svensmark’s cosmic ray theory” is widely lauded. It seems that Svenmark does not even considers that the world is covered with oceans, at least he ignores them. Even more surprising that the eminent Dr. Roy Spencer is now embracing the thesis of the “cosmic ray effect on cloud cover”, as an decisive climatic factor (details next posting), but says little about the factor ocean.

    1. ArndB

      AT WUWT is the following text:
      “Indirect Solar Forcing of Climate by Galactic Cosmic Rays” (Posted on May 20, 2011 by Anthony Watts ) (link: below)

      Dr. Roy Spencer, PhD says (excerpts):
      “___While I have been skeptical of Svensmark’s cosmic ray theory up until now, it looks like the evidence is becoming too strong for me to ignore.
      __the sun has a much larger potential role (and therefore humans a smaller role) in climate change than what the “scientific consensus” states.
      __How do various forcings affect the radiative energy budget of the Earth? The results, I must admit, are enough for me to now place at least one foot solidly in the cosmic ray theory camp.
      __One obvious question this begs is whether the lack of recent warming, since about 2004 for the 0-700 meter layer of the ocean, is due to the cosmic ray effect on cloud cover cancelling out the warming from increasing carbon dioxide.”

      IMO he ignores, like Svensmark, the overriding impact of the ocean, and when he says:
      “Of course, other natural cycles could be in play (my favorite is the Pacific Decadal oscillation),….”, it is not clear whether the matter is correctly addressed. There is no ‘natural cycle’, but if there is something then it is an ‘oceanic cycle’, and anyhow the PDO is an issue (based on data) of the Pacific Ocean.

  5. Edward

    Many, many moons ago [more than I care to remember], my Geography master [a very astute and well read man] told his class; the Sun’s interaction with the oceans, oceanic currents and prevailing winds – Coriolis force – are the chief drivers of climate.
    He also mentioned Milankovitch cycles and Solar winds and adiabatic lapse rates, the ITCZ/Hadley cells and some other stuff……………but that’s another story.

    So, now we can say; “no s**t sherlock!” to IMF GEOMAR and Woods hole inst’.

  6. Stephen Wilde
  7. John Marshall

    Considering that water’s heat capacity is 1000 times that of air, it is surprising that this has taken so long to sink in to some. It shows in some large way the politicization of science when a trace gas is blamed for something it is not guilty of.

  8. Alan

    But let us not dismiss atmospheric events affecting the sun/ocean interaction as discovered over the Indian Ocean.

    The evidence demonstrating a dimming event, not warming, capable of affecting global hydrology came from INDOEX; a very comprehensive field study conducted in equatorial Indian Ocean during 1999.

    Briefly, the 250 scientists of INDOEX discovered a massive atmospheric cloud of mostly man-made pollution from fossil burning, covering an area the size of USA, was reducing the sun’s ability to create evaporation.

    Subsequent monitoring by Prof. V. Ramanathan of USC, determined this cloud remains stationary for 3 to 4 months yearly due to an inversion.

    Those supporting the global warming case have long argued these clouds of pollution have aided in arresting temperature increases. INDOEX distinguishes the effect over water is different.

    Why have climate scientists pushing the CO2 warming barrow failed to acknowledge such a momentous climatic happening?

    Perhaps because an identified physical cause totally destroys the greenhouse gas hypothesis.

  9. Joseph A Olson, PE

    Solar and galactic particle bombardment controls the Earth’s non-constant fission decay rate. This Geothermal flux variation then controls the climate. First detailed in “Motive Force for all Climate Change” posted at ClimateRealists.com. This fission process also produces the ‘elemental’ feed stock for petroleum as detailed in “Fossil Fuel is Nuclear Waste”. That article is posted at http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/28111.

    The Earth disguises it’s energy release as detailed in http://FauxScienceSlayer.com/pdf/Earth's_Missing_Geothermal_Flux.pdf
    There are few mysteries for those who bother to examine the obvious.

  10. Again…it’s the Oceans | pindanpost

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  11. Kent Clizbe

    Be careful here.

    The anti-human, anti-capitalism crowd might latch onto this as their next anti-progress mantra.

    “Water causes climate change!”

    It’s easy to imagine the next anti-progress, anti-human rallying cry: “Climate change pollutant identified! Humans are responsible for polluting the environment with more than 14 billion liters every single day!
    We must stop this insanity!
    Greens United Against Yellow (GUAY).”

    “We must all reduce our output of this insidious climate change pollutant–beginning today.”

    “Go Green! Save Gaia! Stop the Urine flow! Hold your water for Mother Earth!”


    Green Science Notes:
    Average human put out around 2 liters of urine (water) each day.
    There are around 7 billion people on Earth.
    14 billion liters of the horrible, nasty, climate change agent, H20, each and every day.

    1. DirkH

      They can’t do that; they would find no followers as it’s one step too ridiculous. With CO2 they can do it; even most of the university educated people don’t know the concentration of CO2 and usually overestimate it wildly.

      The scare has to be sufficiently abstract (CO2, Ozone, SO2, radioactivity, DDT) to work.

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