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Discussion > Feedbacks and Forcings

BBD: "No, that's not what the Trenberth, Willis, Pielke Snr conversation says *at all*. There is disagreement over the exact amount of increase in OHC over ~50 years."

I suggest you read it again, you've obviously scanned the exchange what they're discussing is the "missing" heat, while OHC is going up as Peilke says:

"However, from 2005 onwards, as you confirm today in your e-mails, the upper ocean is well sampled since then and there is relatively little accumulation of heat over this time period deeper in the ocean."

Dr. Trenberth: "Josh

It is simply that there are many OHC estimates and although they all seem to have a slow down in warming in recent years they are all different. Indeed not accounting for a global warming signal in the analysis is a general flaw (assuming stationarity) and how one interpolates in space and time. Regardless of the details of vs et al. they do show a signal from below 700 m, right?"

Dr. Willis: "Finally, I do not think that any of the techniques used by various groups should be supressing the global warming signal in the data over the period from 2005 to the present. As I mentioned above, the Argo data coverage during this period is such that any reasonable interpolation technique should do. Capturing the trend over 50 years, however, is another story."

Which part of the agreement in slowdown in OHC between arch-warmist Trenberth and his colleagues are you failing to understand?

The expected heat isn't there, but I bet you know that. So Trenberth is arguing that:

1. The data is wrong;
2. The techniques for measuring are wrong;
3. It is hiding in the deep ocean and it dodged the Argo network on its way down there.

You put up a graph showing OHC increase and making out it was somehow ominous when the real story is that the accumulated heat in the oceans is a couple of percent of what it should be, and you know it, at least you should know it, unless your parrotting the responses to FAQs on a certain website.

The earth has warmed, the OHC has failed to warm at the rate expected, Trenberth is telling us this is "intelligent" heat that can dodge our best efforts at finding it, Occam is telling us it probably left the earth's atmosphere and is no longer the system and BBD is trying to pretend that the OHC has gone up enough to prove AGW. Of the three I call it as: (1) A man on the edge of his sanity as his beliefs are confounded by the facts, who famously said that because the observations didn't match his models the data were wrong; (2) a logical explanation and (3) misinformation.

btw India was well on it's way to Eurasia at the start of the Eocene, which begs the question why the movmement of India hadn't released the CO2 millions of years previously?

Ho hum.

Aug 8, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Marion
See my reply to RKS above at 9.58
I recognise the type because I dealt with a group of them for the best part of two decades. Rational argument (even irrational argument which a couple of us tried on them once or twice to see what happened!) has no effect. As I re-discovered the other day when reading one of the tributes to Gore Vidal, a one-liner of his sums it up perfectly.
To amend it slightly, it is not enough for the enviro-fanatic to be right; you have to be wrong. To the extent where we had one couple who actively opposed every local proposal for community improvement even to the extent of opposing the reinstatement of something they had loudly opposed the removal of a few years previously!
I have long had my suspicions about CO2, mainly in the early days because I couldn't understand how something that was a known benefit to virtually every living thing on the planet at 300 ppm could become the greatest threat to mankind at 400 ppm.
As far as I am concerned the discovery that CO2 lagged warming combined with frantic efforts to keep the myth going by claiming that the opposite was true as well with still 15 years later no empirical evidence being either provided or, as far as I can tell, even being looked for AND the increase in the amount of recent research which actually points the other way AND the overall attitude of the climate change enthusiasts towards anyone who casts even a smidgin of doubt on their beliefs all lead me to believe I'm being conned. For purposes not totally unknown!
I'm sure you've read the 'Madrid 95' thread and links — which are hard going but worth it.

Aug 8, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

geronimo

You are still misrepresenting the debate over OHC.

You said:

There is clearly no consensus among the consensusists that the OHC has risen

Which is misleading, so I corrected you:

No, that's not what the Trenberth, Willis, Pielke Snr conversation says *at all*. There is disagreement over the exact amount of increase in OHC over ~50 years.

Now you are being tricksy:

Which part of the agreement in slowdown in OHC between arch-warmist Trenberth and his colleagues are you failing to understand?

But all you have done is reinforce the main point: OHC has been rising for *decades*. The rather trivial argument here is about a slowing of the rate of increase since 2005. You might want to consider the effect of negative aerosol forcing here.

On your final point:

btw India was well on it's way to Eurasia at the start of the Eocene, which begs the question why the movmement of India hadn't released the CO2 millions of years previously?

Go and *look* at the Zachos curve. You will see ~10Ma of warming from the late Paleocene to the peak Eocene hothouse at ~50Ma. You have now demonstrated in several ways, that you are out of your depth on this topic, which is fine - I'm happy to explain. What irritates me is the evident intellectual laziness (you haven't read HS12, looked properly at the Zachos curve, or tried to understand the context of the tectonic forcing) coupled with this endless, reflexive denial.

Take a hint: do some reading. I didn't find all this stuff out sitting on my backside tapping out smart-arsed comments on blogs. Nor did I get *any* of it from SkS. That said, SkS is useful and informative: I commend it to you as a resource.

Aug 8, 2012 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

geronimo
The Zachos Curve and Skeptical Science are obviously this week's special offer. Science of Doom appears to be out of favour. (So 2011, don't you know!)
Don't worry if you are out of your depth; you're in good company!
Have you seen Hansen's latest desperate effort to frighten us all to death

Aug 8, 2012 at 8:04 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike

Although nothing I link to makes the least difference, I wouldn't want you to get bored. Hence the weekly specials. I still fail to see where the SkS jibe engages with reality though. A certain amount of bluffing has indeed been exposed during this conversation, but it wasn't me doing it :-)

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"A certain amount of bluffing has indeed been exposed during this conversation, but it wasn't me doing it :-)"

"If he was made of chocolate he'd eat himself." anon but you said it BBD.

Here we have a person who came on this site and represented him/herself as a sceptic. Then, after months of acting this role, pulled off his mask and declared he'd been converted by the evidence. Not only that, his reading is so widespread that he can quote chapter and verse a denunciation of any point put by us deniers, using papers by third rate academics, to reinforce his points.

I'm not sure what BBD sees his role his here, but I for one am glad to have him here. He serves two useful purposes, it stops us being an echo chamber, and for sure we need that, and he brings John Cook to many of us who find that particular site too rabid to stomach. I'm not sure why he denies that, I've followed many of the links provided and find SS at the end of them, nothing to be ashamed of, it's difficult to keep up with the scientific literature, and if you need to cherry pick your sources it's reasonable to rely on others to do it for you.

Peilke, Trenberth and Willis were discussing the missing heat. It's missing you see and Trenberth is worried because he wants AGW to be catastrophic. Our resident misinformer had told us that OHC was rising, so it should the world has been warming for 200 years, but the heat that it should have retained isn't there, that was the discussion, Willis was saying they'd got the right data and methods and Trenberth was saying none of the studies was reliable, hence BBD's wasn't reliable. We're not playing poker, although I know enough about that game to not to bluff, we're discussing the words of an exchange, in private, between three climate scientists who are trying to understand why the OHC hasn't risen in line with expectations. Meanwhile BBD tells us that OHC is rising and that proves AGW.

Having told us that the movement of India toward Eurasia was the cause of CO2 being released from the oceans and not explained why it hadn't happened during the millions of years that movement had been taking place before the beginning of the Eocene. Bluffing? Someone is, and you may be right, but I'm only asking questions.

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Here we have a person who came on this site and represented him/herself as a sceptic. Then, after months of acting this role, pulled off his mask and declared he'd been converted by the evidence. Not only that, his reading is so widespread that he can quote chapter and verse a denunciation of any point put by us deniers, using papers by third rate academics, to reinforce his points.

Translation:

Short version: sour grapes.

Long version: here's someone who bothered to check the facts and read some of the primary literature instead of restricting himself to the largely unpublished and unpublishable nonsense bandied about by 'sceptics'. Here's someone who, though initially sceptical, subsequently realised that they had been *fooled* by the misrepresentations of 'sceptics', which are egregious and omnipresent. For example, referring to one of the world's pre-eminent climate scientists as a 'third-rate academic'. Or misrepresenting my dawning realisation that there was no scientific case for 'scepticism' whatsoever as a calculated act of deception.

Bluffing? Someone is, and you may be right, but I'm only asking questions.

And ignoring the answers. Not to mention insinuating that I am either ignorant or mistaken or both when it is painfully apparent that the information deficit lies with you.

As I said earlier, read. But first, clear all the rubbish out of your head. Otherwise even reading cannot help.

Aug 10, 2012 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"And ignoring the answers."

Didn't you use that before with rhoda when she was running rings round you? I'm flattered because I'm not in her league. Let's get this straight again:

India was well on it's way to Eurasia long before the beginning of the Eocene, so why didn't the CO2 you're obsessed with occur before the end of the PETM and the beginning of the Eocene.

There is an increase in OHC, but nowhere near what it should be so the heat is going somewhere: Trenberth says it's hiding in the deep ocean, that the data is wrong, that the methods of handling the data are wrong. More level heads say it's not there it's gone out of the system.

I call it this way, you pretended to be a sceptic and then pretended to recant because you'd read the literature. So, I'm wrong, or right. Either way that's the way you've behaved, nobody who started out sceptical would present their case with the open contempt you do for sceptics. Ignorant I may be, but arrogant I hope I'm not.

Aug 10, 2012 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

geronimo

"And ignoring the answers."

India was well on it's way to Eurasia long before the beginning of the Eocene, so why didn't the CO2 you're obsessed with occur before the end of the PETM and the beginning of the Eocene.

See:

Aug 8, 2012 at 7:11 PM:

Go and *look* at the Zachos curve. You will see ~10Ma of warming from the late Paleocene to the peak Eocene hothouse at ~50Ma.

Here's a pretty picture to jog the memory. What would be even better is if you re-read the response at Aug 4, 2012 at 11:47 PM, which you will find near the bottom of page 4 of this thread.

There is an increase in OHC, but nowhere near what it should be so the heat is going somewhere: Trenberth says it's hiding in the deep ocean, that the data is wrong, that the methods of handling the data are wrong. More level heads say it's not there it's gone out of the system.

The increase in OHC is broadly visible, despite proper scientific debate about the ~50yr trend. That the rate of increase since 2005 has slowed is not in doubt. The causes are the subject of real scientific debate: is heat mixing down into the deep ocean (below 2000m) faster than expected and how would we know for sure with the very sparse measurements available? Is negative sulphate aerosol forcing higher than expected? Are these both factors in what we are seeing?

Etc.

And I never pretended to be a sceptic. I was and remain one.

Aug 11, 2012 at 12:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

And I never pretended to be a sceptic. I was and remain one.

Aug 11, 2012 at 12:35 AM | BBD>>>>>>

That must be the most schizoid comment I've ever read on this blog.

Aug 11, 2012 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

BBD was, and remains, a sceptic.

HAHAHA!!

The guy who doesn't know basic statistics, but copy-pastes graphs and paragraphs remains a sceptic.

Aug 11, 2012 at 6:59 PM | Registered Commentershub

Come on guys, why wouldn't BBD be a sceptic? I think the problem is that “sceptic” has become a pejorative to describe people – like me and you – who have doubts about one or more of the arguments in support of AGW theory.

Aug 11, 2012 at 7:50 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Thank you Philip for clarifying that. I thought I'd get some stick for daring to self-identify as a sceptic in the normally accepted sense.

Aug 11, 2012 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

It might be illuminating to find out exactly what BBD is sceptical of - because it's not AGW (which is of course the subject of all his posts)

Aug 12, 2012 at 6:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

Based on my conservations with BBD on this blog, here are some things I think he is sceptical about.

1/ That the greenhouse effect is incorrect.
2/ That wind turbines will provide the UK's energy needs.
3/ That internal variability explains all of the observed variations in temperature.

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:08 AM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Based on my conservations with BBD on this blog, here are some things I think he is sceptical about.

1/ That the greenhouse effect is incorrect.
2/ That wind turbines will provide the UK's energy needs.
3/ That internal variability explains all of the observed variations in temperature.

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:08 AM | Philip Richens>>>>

Your observations suggest BBD is PRO AGW, not sceptical of it, as is what is understood by the (non pejorative) term 'sceptic' when applied to the global warming debate.

He praises the outpourings of his hero Hansen - the arch priest of AGW.

He finds whatever statistics he can to argue with those here who argue against AGW (ie who take a sceptical stance).

And what exactly do you mean by "internal variability"?

Let's wait for BBD to give us his own definition of 'sceptic' regarding the discussions he has with us about AGW.

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

One of the things I find unfortunate about "sceptic" or "warmist" is that they both represent an off-the-shelf point of view, complete with built-in science and politics. In reality, there are numerous distinct issues involved. I suggested the above points because I'm also sceptical about all of them, and yet I don't normally agree with BBD's overall perspective. I'm certainly doubtful about many of James Hansen's conclusions.

As for "internal variability", you could try scientists like Roy Spencer or Demetris Koutsoyiannis. You might also take a look at my earlier comment on this thread @ Aug 4, 2012 at 10:57 AM - yet another area where I found some agreement with BBD!

I’m sure you’re right though to think that BBD will shortly return to give us his own definitive view.

Aug 12, 2012 at 9:08 AM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Surely BBD is entitled just as anyone to be/become a sceptic. Only, in his view of scepticism of the 'normally accepted sense', there is no room for scepticism about climate claims. There is an interesting definition of what it means to be a sceptic in climate circles. Apparently, it refers to an individual who comes to the table with little to no ideas or preconceived notions of his/her own, and confronted by the supposed mountains of 'evidence', becomes convinced or is open to be convinced about the consensus climate view. You can read about the definition at skepticalscience or other venues.

There are lots of sceptics in the normally accepted sense in the US and UK. Almost none of them entertain any doubts or questions about anthropogenic global warming. Why would that be?

Surprise of surprises, the above definition of a sceptic is very close to what the activists on the consensus see an ideal target for their proselytism. This peculiar idea about what scepticism is, and what it ought to be, is what makes warmies loathe to the idea of admitting that climate sceptics could actually be sceptics, in their view.

How convinced you are about evidence, very broadly speaking, has little to do directly with scepticism. Scepticism concerns the very evaluation of nature, strength, and classification and hierarchy of such evidence. Being a sceptic is to hold a certain worldview, where, among other things, one is able to withhold making final judgement even when confronted by 'evidence'. Warmies are not sceptics because they fail on both counts: all evidence is first-class. There are no soft claims and hard claims, there are no soft signs and hard signs. Nothing suggests, nothing is supportive, nothing is 'consistent, but not conclusive'.

The second property concerns the collapsibility of hierarchy in evidence: for instance, BBD relies on Hansen's claims about the Cenozoic to show that CO2 is a dominant driver of climate change. Hansen's position on this can be summarized by this passage (text stripped of refs etc, to make readable):

Continent locations affect Earth's energy balance, as ocean and continent albedos differ.
However, most continents were near their present latitudes by the early Cenozoic. Cloud and atmosphere shielding limit the effect of surface albedo change, so this surface climate forcing did not exceed about 1 W/m2

In contrast, atmospheric CO2 during the Cenozoic changed from about 1000 ppm in the early Cenozoic to as small as 170 ppm during recent ice ages. The resulting climate forcing, which can be computed accurately for this CO2 range ... exceeds 10 W/m2. CO2 was clearly the dominant climate forcing in the Cenozoic.

Hansen presumably chose the Cenozoic because the continental configuration was almost the same as it is today. The climate system's sensitivity to CO2 that is demonstrable by Hansen's temperature graph, however, applies only to the time length chosen. Yes, CO2 is plausibly a driver of climate change. But also yes, this appears to apply for the long timescales chosen, i.e., tens of millions of years. The 10 W/m2 is a figure that represents a cumulative effect - a number that is meaningless at timescales of human comprehensibility - which is what the climate debate is centred around.

But what is offered by warmies is: CO2 is the dominant driver, because Hansen said so in his paper. The claim is shorn of caveats, its context and its applicability. Which is exactly why the Hansen guy writes these 'papers' in the first place. This is exactly how BBD used the Hansen paper in our earlier discussion. Where did his scepticism go?

We see the same thing in public health claims: in sequence, salt, cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose, sucrose and fructose have all been blamed as the single, dominant driver of ill-health determining overall well-being of entire societies and generations. Yes, there is truth in all these single substances being harmful, but, it is absolutely not true that any of these single molecules are 'dominant drivers.' Such framing is symptomatic of activism and untrustworthiness coming from a researcher, and there are many, many researchers working in the science of these substances who are so far off into the deep end of their own literature and worldview that they turn evangelists.

Hansen is an evangelist who turns to his literature to promote his political aims. The deception is double. It is easy to fall prey to evangelists.

Aug 12, 2012 at 2:39 PM | Registered Commentershub

shub

Again and again we return to your misconceptions. Forcing change does not require millions of years to have climatologically significant effects. Otherwise, how do we explain known climate behaviour such as the MWP and the LIA, or the abrupt cooling after major volcanic eruptions? Your position derives from unphysical nonsense:

Yes, CO2 is plausibly a driver of climate change. But also yes, this appears to apply for the long timescales chosen, i.e., tens of millions of years. The 10 W/m2 is a figure that represents a cumulative effect - a number that is meaningless at timescales of human comprehensibility - which is what the climate debate is centred around.

But what is offered by warmies is: CO2 is the dominant driver, because Hansen said so in his paper. The claim is shorn of caveats, its context and its applicability.

Scepticism requires diligent weighing of the evidence. Not wholesale rejection of the majority of evidence because it fails to confirm a deeply held bias. That is why I'm a sceptic and you are not. Your entire comment above eloquently confirms this.

Aug 12, 2012 at 6:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Philip Richens

I've been assuming that you are the same person with whom I've enjoyed long exchanges in comments here in the past, when you signed simply as 'Philip'. Is this right, or am I confusing you with someone else?

I ask because if you are that same Philip, then you know that my objection to the 'internalists' such as Spencer and Koutsoyiannis is twofold.

First, I don't believe in perpetual motion machines, but this is effectively what they propose for the climate system. Conservation of energy is ignored. If random variability causes warming (say by altering global cloud cover for a year) then OLR *increases* and the climate system soon cools down again. The tendency is towards inertia unless the change in forcing is sustained.

Second, neither has come close to demonstrating that their ideas have any real substance. I particularly recall Koutsoyiannis' abrupt disappearance from comments here when I asked him to account for the role of RF by GHGs in his views on climate variability, including glacial terminations.

Aug 12, 2012 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD,

Yes I am the same person you spoke to before, my apologies for the confusion. I'd earlier explained my background and interest to Richard and Paul, and when Paul later on started suggesting it was better to give full names, I found I agreed with him and so did.

>>> First, I don't believe in perpetual motion machines, but this is effectively what they propose for the climate system. Conservation of energy is ignored...

No, you are quite wrong about this -- their proposals do not violate conservation of energy. I explained why to some extent in an earlier comment on this thread (Aug 4, 2012 at 10:57 AM). As I mentioned there, random walks arise in the simplest energy balance models, which plainly do satisfy conservation of energy. To make your argument against random walks stick, you need to somehow demonstrate that similar mechanisms can not also apply to longer term effects, involving albedo and deep ocean. To make the argument about conservation of energy convincing, you would need to provide a strong case that small persistent changes in albedo cannot and do not happen.

>>> Second, neither has come close to demonstrating that their ideas have any real substance....

I think their papers and informal writings provide considerable evidence, even if they cannot prove it. What kind of evidence would it take to convince you that their arguments are at least plausible? Regarding Koutsoyiannis' abrupt disappearance, I can't say I blame him at all. If I recall correctly, you were very rude to him (which is something you always chide others about when they give Richard or other IPCC scientists a hard time!).

BTW:

Are you happy with the list of items I suggested @ 8:08 AM?

I can imagine that many of the other doubters at this blog would also agree with these items. I certainly do, although possibly Shub and RKS don’t.

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:44 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Philip

No need to apologise; there was no real confusion but perhaps a little uncertainty ;-)

As I mentioned there, random walks arise in the simplest energy balance models, which plainly do satisfy conservation of energy. To make your argument against random walks stick, you need to somehow demonstrate that similar mechanisms can not also apply to longer term effects, involving albedo and deep ocean. To make the argument about conservation of energy convincing, you would need to provide a strong case that small persistent changes in albedo cannot and do not happen.

I was under the impression that random walks in simple EBMs were short-lived and net to zero over time, but perhaps I am mistaken?

The argument that random walks can't create long term trends is based on three things:

1/ Conservation of energy is dominant on longer time-scales because the climate system tends towards equilibrium unless under sustained forcing because of increased OLR

2/ Persistent changes in albedo require an energetic explanation precluded by (1) - unless the forcing is sustained

3/ The global ocean is warming, not cooling, as one would expect if there was a net energy transfer from an oceanic reservoir to the atmosphere, with concomitant increase in OLR and so radiation to space (1)

The final point is, as ever, what happens to the increased RF from CO2? This is especially relevant to (1) and (3) when considering best evidence for AGW. We can argue whether climate is self-propelling against all evidence to the contrary, but what about the elephant?

If I recall correctly, you were very rude to him (which is something you always chide others about when they give Richard or other IPCC scientists a hard time!).

I was scrupulously polite to him when he joined the thread. And never mind the difference in perspective on aspects of his publishing history. He and I both know that there is an elephant, which is perhaps why he left when I asked about it.

Are you happy with the list of items I suggested @ 8:08 AM?

[Things that BBD is sceptical about:]

1/ That the greenhouse effect is incorrect.
2/ That wind turbines will provide the UK's energy needs.
3/ That internal variability explains all of the observed variations in temperature.

To be clear about (1), I understand you to mean that I am sceptical that the greenhouse effect is incorrectly described by climate science.

In that case, then yes, I'm happy :-)

Aug 12, 2012 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Badly worded above, sorry. This is better, but still not ideal:

1/ Conservation of energy is dominant over longer time-scales because warming increases OLR and the climate system cools unless under sustained forcing

2/ Persistent changes in albedo require an energetic explanation precluded by (1) unless the forcing is sustained

3/ The global ocean is warming, not cooling. Conservation of energy requires the ocean to cool if there is a net energy transfer from it to the atmosphere (1)

Aug 12, 2012 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"Forcing change does not require millions of years to have climatologically significant effects. "

You haven't understood what I am trying to say. So don't respond.You misrepresent what I said and waste everyone's time, including yours and mine.

The whole structure of Hansen's claims - read his concluding paragraphs - are built on playing with words and people's sense of time. Cast a critical eye. Hansen's not going to bite you.

Koutsoyiannis handed your ass to you before walking away. It was one of the funniest moments, this side of BH.

Aug 13, 2012 at 1:47 AM | Registered Commentershub

I was under the impression that random walks in simple EBMs were short-lived and net to zero over time, but perhaps I am mistaken?

No, you are quite correct. My point is that random walks (or at least things that look like random walks!) do very readily show up in this situation, so it may not be so surprising to see them arise elsewhere. The simple EBM pattern is also seen in short-term observations. Looking at reconstructions, a similar pattern is seen over very long time-scales. In this case, the average scaling exponent is somewhat less than 2, but the variability still averages to zero over long enough times. I think it is important to note that this long-term averaging behaviour means that averages over shorter time scales (100, 1000, 10000 years) are unlikely to be constant.

1/ Conservation of energy is dominant over longer time-scales because warming increases OLR and the climate system cools unless under sustained forcing

2/ Persistent changes in albedo require an energetic explanation precluded by (1) unless the forcing is sustained

I hope you won't mind if I write down some very simple word equations about this, so that there is hopefully less room for misunderstanding.

"incoming energy flow" = "outgoing energy flow"

This expresses the conservation of energy, yes? (I agree that I should also add a term for stored energy, but this doesn’t change the basic argument I am making). It is worth keeping in mind that both sides of the equation are large positive numbers. Another way of thinking about this point, is that tremendous energies are constantly flowing into and out of the system, so that the equilibrium is not static like a ball in a cup.

"incoming energy flow" = "coalbedo" x "solar constant"

"outgoing energy flow" = "SB constant" x "emissivity" x "surface temperature"^4

If for any reason, "incoming energy flow" does not equal "outgoing energy flow", then as you so rightly say, the "surface temperature" will change in order to reduce the imbalance.

A change in "coalbedo" changes "incoming energy flow", and this results in a change in equilibrium temperature. If the change in "coalbedo" persists, then the average temperature remains at its new level. There is no need to pump any energy into the system in order to maintain the new state. It is the equilibrium temperature itself that has changed, and it has changed precisely so as to maintain "incoming energy flow" = "outgoing energy flow".

There seems to me to be an idea around that an unchanging equilibrium exists, which I think is mistaken. The idea can be seen emerging when the SB equation is linearized, because this often starts by expressing the surface temperature in terms of an average value and an anomaly.

T = T0 + ΔT

This seems to smuggle in unnoticed right at the start, the idea of a constant equilibrium surface temperature. Expressed this way, it seems obvious that because the system acts to restore the anomaly to zero, that T0 always remains at the same value. But the linearization works just the same if T0 is taken to be (say) 2 degrees smaller. Done this way, the initial anomaly would be +2 and it no longer seems quite so intuitive that T0 always and for ever takes the same value.

Having said all this, it may still be that there is a very good theoretical argument for saying that the average value for albedo (averaged over say 10-20 years) is always 0.3 (or whatever it is). But if so, I haven't seen it yet!

3/ The global ocean is warming, not cooling. Conservation of energy requires the ocean to cool if there is a net energy transfer from it to the atmosphere

I expect this is true (that the global ocean is warming), although inconsistencies in the data sets have been noted by some researchers. But also available are observations (also ambiguous) showing changes over the past few decades in cloud cover, albedo and surface sunlight.

Whatever is happening today, I think it is certain that the ocean will act to redistribute energy over long time scales, simply because of its ability to absorb such large amounts of the stuff. It is also certain that persistent changes in albedo (if they occur!) must modulate the amount of energy absorbed at the surface. My point is that either or both of these effects can provide a possible explanation for the long term variability in the atmospheric temperature. An explanation for this variability is indeed needed, because according to recent reconstructions the known forcings cannot do the job by themselves (they have the wrong scaling behaviour).

The final point is, as ever, what happens to the increased RF from CO2? This is especially relevant to (1) and (3) when considering best evidence for AGW. We can argue whether climate is self-propelling against all evidence to the contrary, but what about the elephant?

As you know, the argument starts by positing a low sensitivity, which means a smaller change in emissivity and hence a smaller increase in temperature to maintain the flow of outgoing energy. When the reply comes that a low sensitivity is incompatible with millennial variability, the argument would continue as above i.e. by discussing the mechanisms for variability.

Aug 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens