New Paper Finds Oceans Are Source Of “Natural Variability”, Drive “Temperature Extreme Indices”

A new paper published in the Journal of Weather and Climate Extremes by Dittus et al confirms what many skeptics has strongly suspected all along: There’s no trend in precipitation extremes and there isn’t much predictability either.

Hat-tip: Reader Mary Brown.


What follows is the paper’s abstract:

The oceans are a well-known source of natural variability in the climate system, although their ability to account for inter-annual variations of temperature and precipitation extremes over land remains unclear. In this study, the role of sea-surface temperature (SST)-forcing is investigated for variability and trends in a range of commonly used temperature and precipitation extreme indices over the period 1959 to 2013. Using atmospheric simulations forced by observed SST and sea-ice concentrations (SIC) from three models participating in the Climate of the Twentieth Century Plus (C20C+) Project, results show that oceanic boundary conditions drive a substantial fraction of inter-annual variability in global average temperature extreme indices, as well as, to a lower extent, for precipitation extremes. The observed trends in temperature extremes are generally well captured by the SST-forced simulations although some regional features such as the lack of warming in daytime warm temperature extremes over South America are not reproduced in the model simulations. Furthermore, the models simulate too strong increases in warm day frequency compared to observations over North America. For extreme precipitation trends, the accuracy of the simulated trend pattern is regionally variable, and a thorough assessment is difficult due to the lack of locally significant trends in the observations. This study shows that prescribing SST and SIC holds potential predictability for extremes in some (mainly tropical) regions at the inter-annual time-scale.”

14 responses to “New Paper Finds Oceans Are Source Of “Natural Variability”, Drive “Temperature Extreme Indices””

  1. rah

    Now who would have thought that the surface temperature of water which covers almost 79% of the earths surface area and has over 4x the heat capacity of our air would have an overwhelming influence of our weather and climate? Certainly not the IPCC or any other idiot that believes that CO2 is “the control knob”.

    1. Yonason

      It gets even better…

      Since water is about 770 times as dense as air, after crunching the numbers one finds that volume for volume water can store over 3000 times as much heat as air.

      1. Rah

        Yep accounts for about 98 percent of the heat capacity.

  2. RickWill

    The oceans have a TREMENDOUS damping on weather extremes. From the tropics to the poles, the ocean surface varies from 30C to -2C. Below 1000m they vary less than 3 degrees K over the entire planet.

    Without the oceans the temperature of the Earth’s surface would have similar range as the moon; 100K to 400K or change of 300 degrees K. By contrast, earth’s land surface temperature ranges from -50C to 50C or a range of 100 degrees K. So oceans dampen the temperature range on the surface to 1/3rd of what it would be without oceans. On the ocean surface the range is only 1/30th of the moon. In the deep ocean the temperature varies only 1/100th of what it would be if there were no deep oceans.

    The tiny variation in temperature at any location across the surface of the globe simply demonstrates how well the oceans distribute heat and maintain temperature. It is not surprising that variation in currents caused by the variation in heat input/output, mainly across latitudes, causes minor changes in surface temperature from one year to the next or even decades given the scale of the oceans and speed of circulations; the ocean heat engine has three cylinders named Indian, Atlantic and Pacific and a crank shaft named Southern; collecting heat, loosing heat and distributing heat.

    1. Rah

      But the majority of the heat is “collected” in the tropics and the majority that is released to space goes out from the poles.

    2. SebastianH

      Without the oceans the temperature of the Earth’s surface would have similar range as the moon;

      Nope, the Moon mainly has this range because it rotates very slowly. The night side can completely cool off while the day side heats up to the maximum possible temperature.

      But the majority of the heat is “collected” in the tropics and the majority that is released to space goes out from the poles.

      Nope, take a look at any map of outgoing longwave radiation.

  3. sasquatch

    Not that it is news to anybody, everyone knows what water does for everything alive.

    Water has a high latent heat capacity, once heated, it can remain hot and not have too much loss of heat with time. The sun will warm the ocean waters day after day, over time, there will be retained heat, the loss will be less than the gain, you will have steady temps around the globe. Too much loss of heat and all will freeze over darn near everywhere, the world will go all Antarctica on us.

    Water is the mother’s milk for everything alive, no water and life will be not so hot.

    Turn water into steam, build a steam engine, set up the trucks to form the wheel assembly and away you go with your railroad locomotive that can easily reach 100 mph, build thousands of miles of track, you’re they’re much sooner. Water does it once again.

    Water turned to steam at a power plant fueled by coal will get you plenty of electricity, don’t need a steam locomotive, just some electromotive force that can do the job even better.

    Float a boat on water and it will sail from here to there and back.

    The “Arctic” sailed to Baffin Island in the summer of 1922.

    Good filming of the expedition that set out to see what they could see.

    They skirted the pack ice which was at about 75 degrees North latitude, just a guess. The “Arctic” did get stuck in the ice when they ventured too far into ice.

    Lots of icebergs along the way as they sailed further north. Plenty of ice in the waters around Baffin Island at the time. The expedition arrived at Baffin Island in early August.

    It is only eighteen minutes in length and is worth watching.

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  5. Petit_Barde

    As far as I know, water does even more than that :

    Water vapor, as an active gas in the infrared spectrum, is the main contributor (with CO2) to the radiated heat into space from the atmosphere (165W/m² according to Kiehl & Trenberth 1997 or NASA 2009 Earth’s energy budget).

    On the other hand, water vapor (and CO2) absorbs 26W/m² from the upward infrared radiative flux emitted by the Earth’s surface. This may warm somewhat the atmosphere by thermalization, but it is way less than the 165W/m² heat water vapor (and CO2) radiates into space.

    Convection contributes to this radiative cooling process :
    – in the lower troposphere, thermalization of some of the upward infrared radiative flux by water vapor and CO2 may somewhat contribute to the upward convection,
    – conversely, in the upper troposphere (and beyond), radiatively cooled air contracts (mean molecules’ kinetic energy = 3/2 k T) and becomes more dense than it should be to be in equilibrium with respect to the air density lapse rate. This contributes to the downward convection of radiatively cooled air and hence, to the low troposphere net radiative cooling.

    Since water vapor (and CO2) concentrations increase when temperatures increase, this radiative cooling process is increased/decreased when temperatures raise/decrease, and thus acts as a negative feedback with respect to temperatures changes.

    In fact, we live in a gigantic open air conditioner. Blaming active gases in the infrared spectrum for some warming is like reproaching the pump or the compressor of the air conditioner for warming somewhat. Yes, the motor of the compressor generates some heat, but try cutting it off !

    1. tom0mason


      So what heat flux level does this planet’s atmosphere normally sit at according to Kiehl & Trenberth 1997?
      Does it truly show our atmosphere having any heat?
      Or does it just show solar, biologic, ocean, and all that stupid ‘back radiation’?

      1. Petit_Barde

        tom0mason :

        Kiehl & Trenberth 1997 shows two radiative fluxes between the surface and the atmosphere :
        – one upward radiative flux emitted by the Earth’s surface (390W/m²). 40W/m² of this flux are directly emitted into space (atmospheric window),
        – one downward radiative flux emitted by the atmosphere (324W/m²).

        Those two radiative flux have been measured decades ago and each measurement if consistent (within 2% error) with that (see for example Kondratyev 1969 – p.747 – After London – 1957, A study of atmospheric heat balance).
        Those measurements are also consistent with measurements from NASA 2009 Earth’s energy budget (CERES data).

        BUT : Radiative heat transfer theory tells us that those two radiative fluxes do not correspond to radiative heat transfer :
        – only the net radiative flux between the atmosphere and the surface CAN be interpreted as a heat transfer. This heat transfer is upward and its mean value is 350 – 324 W/m² = 26W/m² (in fact, part of this NET balance flux is thermalized, transformed in kinetic energy (and then, temperature increase), part is re-emitted upward).

        Thermodynamics tells us that a cooler body (the atmosphere) can’t by itself warm (I.e. transfer heat towards) a warmer body (the surface). This confirms that the back-radiation from the atmosphere can’t by itself warm the already warmer surface.

        Thus, the only effect that this net flux can have on the Earth’s surface is, by thermalization (and then, atmosphere temperatures increase) to slow down the Earth’s surface cooling : it can’t by itself warm the surface.

        But for this surface’s cooling slow down to take place, the net effect of the “greenhouse” gases must be to warm the atmosphere. So the big question is :
        – what is the global effect of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere ?

        As I said, thus far we have only seen half of the radiative story :
        – indeed, from the upper troposphere and beyond, measurements show that the atmosphere loses 165W/m² into space and this can only be done by the usual suspects (“greenhouse gases, which are, by definition, the only active gases in the observed upward infrared spectrum).

        The takeaways :
        – The net radiative heat balance of “greenhouse” gases as a component of the atmosphere has a net cooling effect by allowing the atmosphere to lose 165-26 = 139W/m².
        – (Upward and downward) convection is a complementary process which contributes to this net cooling effect.
        – the back-radiation of the atmosphere IS NOT a heat transfer and thus does not warm the surface.
        – The only effect “greenhouse” gases could have is to slow down the surface cooling (and a daylight, this insulation effect could induce some surface warming), but for that, they would have to have a net warming effect on the atmosphere, which is not the case.

        Another way to see the all thing :
        – the infrared absorption / emission ability of the so called “greenhouse” gases contributes to cool the atmosphere (and then, the surface), even if in the process, they absorb (and thermalize) some of the upward infrared flux emitted by the surface. 165-26/165 = 84% efficiency : not bad !

  6. Phil Salmon

    “New study finds that oceans are a source of natural climate variability…”

    That astounding finding (Nobel prize anyone?) must be up there with

    “New study finds that the sun is a source of heat”.

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