Leading IPCC Scientist Concedes Oceans Have “Profound Effect On Average Global Surface Air Temperature”

GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel has issued a press release.

In truth it says that the strong warming of 1978 to 1998 is in large part due to Pacific ocean cycles. We can now close the books on the silly CO2 science.

Here is the press release in English (my emphasis):

August 22, 2013/Kiel. Will there be rather warm or cold winters in Germany in the coming years? We may have a long way to go before reliable forecasts of this kind can be achieved. However, marine scientists, under the auspices of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, recently managed to successfully hindcast climate shifts in the Pacific. These shifts also have a profound effect on the average global surface air temperature of the Earth. The most recent shift in the 1990s is one of the reasons that the Earth’s temperature has not risen further since 1998. The study, published in the online edition of Journal of Climate, shows the potential for long-term climate predictions.

What happened in the years 1976/77 and 1998/99 in the Pacific was so unusual that scientists spoke of abrupt climate changes. They referred to a sudden warming of the tropical Pacific in the mid-1970s and rapid cooling in the late 1990s. Both events turned the world’s climate topsy-turvy and are clearly reflected in the average temperature of the Earth. Today we know that the cause is the interaction between ocean and atmosphere. Is it possible to successfully predict such climate shifts? This is the question that scientists, under the auspices of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, pursued. Using a coupled model of the ocean and the atmosphere, they were able to successfully replicate these events.

The ocean plays a crucial role in our climate system, especially when it comes to fluctuations over several years or decades,” explains Prof. Mojib Latif, co-author of the study. “The chances of correctly predicting such variations are much better than the weather for the next few weeks, because the climate is far less chaotic than the rapidly changing weather conditions,” said Latif. This is due to the slow changes in ocean currents which affect climate parameters such as air temperature and precipitation. “The fluctuations of the currents bring order to the weather chaos”.

The researchers used a climate model, a so-called coupled ocean-atmosphere model, which they forced with the observed wind data of the last decades. For the abrupt changes during the 1970s and 1990s they calculated predictions which began a few months prior to the beginning of the observed climate shifts. The average of all predictions for both abrupt changes shows good agreement with the observed climate development in the Pacific. “The winds change the ocean currents which in turn affect the climate. In our study, we were able to identify and realistically reproduce the key processes for the two abrupt climate shifts,” says Prof. Latif. “We have taken a major step forward in terms of short-term climate forecasting, especially with regard to the development of global warming. However, we are still miles away from any reliable answers to the question whether the coming winter in Germany will be rather warm or cold”. Prof. Latif cautions against too much optimism regarding short-term regional climate predictions: “Since the reliability of those predictions is still at about 50%, you might as well flip a coin”.


14 responses to “Leading IPCC Scientist Concedes Oceans Have “Profound Effect On Average Global Surface Air Temperature””

  1. DirkH

    The gazillionth successful wiggle matching by pseudoscientist Latif.
    Europe is broke and that guy gets a lavish wage for his everchanging story.

    1. Ed Caryl

      I think he finally started reading Tisdale.

  2. BobW in NC

    Pacific ocean cycles? Fine. But do the PDO and the ENSO control the whole global climate? I honestly don’t know. I’m not sure I could differentiate the effects of the two (? I’m a biologist working my way through such). Or are they the same? I do know that the La Niña and El Niño phenomena are covered by one of these.

    But—and here’s my question, what about the AO and ADO, of which Joe Bastardi speaks of so often? My fuzzy understanding is that if both are positive, then the NH tends to be warmer. If both are negative, cold will ensue.

    So, bottom line—are Pacific Ocean cycles alone responsible for major effects on the global or do the AO and ADO also play a significant role?

    And then, what about increasing/decreasing levels of sunspots?

    Love to have the answers to these questions, but I suspect that at this time, the answer probably would be consistent with, “We’re in the process of finding out.”

    1. Vangel

      It is not unlikely that solar cycles have an important impact on the PDO and AMO and as such are the primary driver of climate change. The trouble is that most of us want to oversimplify the complex system that is this planet’s climate and by doing so make grave errors and support some positions that may seem contradictory to other positions that we may also believe.

    2. Ed Caryl


  3. Manfred

    I would say Latif is the worst of the pack.

    While Schellnhuber and Rahmstorf are just reliably hyperalarmist, always over the top and out of this world, Latif uses his knowledge tactically but for exactly the same cause.

    Yes, he may concede ocean currents are the main reason for the pause in warming, but he will fail to say that they increased warming before or even, that sensitivity estimates are therefore too high.

    I think, he was also the first German scientist in a TV discussion (long ago, in the first years of n-tv), who, instead of discussing science, smeared his sceptic opponent (who I think was Singer) with the disgusting anti-science repertoire (“oil industry shill” etc…). He was just a scientist then, but that may have helped him to become director.

  4. Bernd Felsche

    The headline states “Climate predictions are possible over several years” but the sub-heading says “Marine scientists reconstruct multi-year climate fluctuations”.

    If they did the latter, then the former doesn’t follow. And indeed, scientists did the latter. As Pierre has already noted from Latif’s comments, there is no skill in predicting climate change.

    The cited AMS article has the title “Hindcast of the 1976/77 and 1998/99 climate shifts in the Pacific”. Its abstract mentions nothing about being able to predict climate fluctuations.

    In the clamour for research grants, the actual published papers are more cautious than the press releases from the institutions and researchers looking for funding. Latif would be equally well placed as a used-car salesman.

    Insolation is the driver of ocean cycles. The sun shining onto the surface of the oceans. It’s the primary source of energy in the oceans, well ahead of geothermal, except on a regional basis. The energy balance shifts circulations within the oceans, circulations which are also influenced by the the shape of the ocean floor and coastlines; neither of them being a constant over century scale; perhaps significantly different over decades.

    Being able to predict the change in ocean currents (and the resulting climate fluctuations) requires an understanding of their state as well as the energy flux into and out of the oceans on a temporal and spatial basis. Even a small change in how much, when and where energy is exchanged, produces measurable climate fluctuations. But being able to reliably predict such small changes (~1%) requires a level of deterministic precision in defining the state of the system, that is unlikely to ever be achievable. The errors in measurements and their use in models will accummulate to exceed the magnitude of the projected fluctuation.

  5. Robin Pittwood

    I recall a paper (this is one of the ones mentioned in Climategate emails) by DeFreitas and a couple of others about the effect of PDO / ENSO on global temperatures. The conclusion was along the lines that much of the observed temperature change can be attributed to the ocean cycles, not leaving much room for the effect of CO2. This was one of the papers that caused a lot of kerfuffle among the scientists of the day. Seems like DeFreitas et al might have been right all along.


  6. Stephen Richards

    What did they do. Get their calculators out and add 30yr to 1975? These people are clowns.

  7. Graeme No.3

    Hind casting is a very precise; I understand that they claim 97% accuracy.

    Unfortunately their accuracy rate on what WILL happen is much lower.

    Latif is trying to work the dodge “global warming is still happening, it’s just a temporary pause due to….”.

  8. HL Mencken

    Yes, but who (or what) controls the winds, which
    “bloweth where they listeth”?
    If you were to question Dr. Bill Gray, he might
    tell you that the deep ocean currents vary
    in strength in a multi-decadal period and thus
    affect the volume of upwelling of cold
    water, and that is what controls the PDO.

  9. Manfred

    Regressing temperatures against AMO and PDO was one of the first things I saw on sceptic web sites years ago. Much better fit than CO2.

  10. Mervyn

    Yes, oceans have a profound effect on average global surface air temperature. And when people recognise that the oceans gain their heat predominantly from the sun, not based on the mythical IPCC hypothesis that carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases, “back-radiate” (an IPCC term) infra-red energy to the oceans thereby adding heat to the oceans (contrary to the laws of thermodynamics), then people will understand the IPCC’s hypothesis is utter rubbish.

    Right now, the IPCC 4th Assessment Report (2007) (AR4) is obsolete. Everything in AR4 related to the model-based temperature scenario trends in regard to carbon dioxide emissions from different global economic scenarios.

    Well, carbon dioxide emissions have exceeded IPCC predictions. The UK Met Office Hadley Centre’s global surface temperature data, however, indicates no global warming in the last 16 years, with the Met Office confirming this flat trend will continue at least until 2017.

    This means that AR4 is about temperature scenarios not reflected by the real world observational data. AR4 does not deal with the scenario of no global warming despite a significant rise in carbon dioxide emissions.

    AR4 is therefore irrelevant to the scientific debate, and irrelevant to the policy and political debate on global warming, as hypothesised by the IPCC.

    In other words, AR4, which was once hailed as the ‘gold standard in climate science’… the settled science… is obsolete. It is not worth the paper on which it was written. The paper shredder is the only place now fit for AR4.

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