PDO, ENSO and sea level rise

by Judith Curry

Three new papers to discuss on the topic of natural internal variability and sea level rise.

Contribution of the pacific decadal oscillation to global mean sea level trends

 B.D. Hamlington, R.R. Leben, M.W. Strassburg, R.S. Nerem, K.-Y. Kim

 Understanding and explaining the trend in GMSL has important implications for future projections of sea level rise. While measurements from satellite altimetry have provided accurate estimates of GMSL, the modern altimetry record has only now reached twenty years in length, making it difficult to assess the contribution of decadal to multi-decadal climate signals to the global trend. Here, we use a sea level reconstruction to study the twenty-year trends in sea level since 1950. In particular, we show that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) contributes significantly to the twenty-year trends in GMSL. We estimate the PDO contribution to the GMSL trend over the past twenty years to be approximately 0.49 ± 0.25 mm/year, and find that removing the PDO contribution reduces the acceleration in GMSL estimated over the past sixty years.

[link] to abstract.

Uncertainty in future regional sea level rise due to internal climate variability

Aixue Hu and Clara Deser

Sea level rise (SLR) is an inescapable consequence of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, with potentially harmful effects on human populations in coastal and island regions. Observational evidence indicates that global sea level has risen in the 20th century, and climate models project an acceleration of this trend in the coming decades. Here we analyze rates of future SLR on regional scales in a 40-member ensemble of climate change projections with the Community Climate System Model Version 3. This unique ensemble allows us to assess uncertainty in the magnitude of 21st century SLR due to internal climate variability alone. We find that simulated regional SLR at mid-century can vary by a factor of 2 depending on location, with the North Atlantic and Pacific showing the greatest range. This uncertainty in regional SLR results primarily from internal variations in the wind-driven and buoyancy-driven ocean circulations.

Citation:  Hu, A. and C. Deser, 2013: Uncertainty in future regional sea level rise due to internal climate variability. Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 2768-2772, , doi:10.1002/grl.50531.  [link] to complete paper

Australia’s unique influence on global sea level in 2010–2011

John T. Fasullo, Carmen Boening, Felix W. Landerer, R. Steven Nerem

 In 2011, a significant drop in global sea level occurred that was unprecedented in the altimeter era and concurrent with an exceptionally strong La Niña. This analysis examines multiple data sets in exploring the physical basis for the drop’s exceptional intensity and persistence. Australia’s hydrologic surface mass anomaly is shown to have been a dominant contributor to the 2011 global total, and associated precipitation anomalies were among the highest on record. The persistence of Australia’s mass anomaly is attributed to the continent’s unique surface hydrology, which includes expansive arheic and endorheic basins that impede runoff to ocean. Based on Australia’s key role, attribution of sea level variability is addressed. The modulating influences of the Indian Ocean Dipole and Southern Annular Mode on La Niña teleconnections are found to be key drivers of anomalous precipitation in the continent’s interior and the associated surface mass and sea level responses.

Citation: Fasullo, J.T., C. Boening, Landerer, F. W., Nerem, R. S., (2013). Australia’s unique influence on global sea level in 2010–2011. Geo. Res. Lett., DOI: 10.1002/grl.50834. 

Fasullo’s paper has received substantial media attention, see especially the interview with Fasullo in EENews.

JC comments

For context, I provide excerpts from the ‘leaked’ final draft IPCC AR5 Summary for Policy Makers:

Global mean sea level has risen by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m over the period 1901−2010 estimated from a linear  trend , based on tide gauge records and additionally on satellite data since 1993. Based on proxy and instrumental data, it is virtually certain that the rate of global mean sea level rise has  accelerated during the last two centuries. The current centennial rate of global mean sea level rise is  unusually high in the context of centennial-scale variations over the last two millennia (medium confidence).

It is very likely that the mean rate of global averaged sea level rise was 1.7 [1.5 to 1.9] mm yr–1 between 1901 and 2010 and 3.2 [2.8 to 3.6] mm yr–1 between 1993 and 2010. Tide-gauge and satellite altimeter data are consistent regarding the higher rate of the latter period. It is likely that similarly high rates 3 occurred between 1920 and 1950.

Using the IPCC’s numbers, the acceleration of sea-level rise that is being attributed to AGW is 3.2-1.7 = 1.5 mm/yr,  with an inferred range for the amplification of 0.9 to 2.1 mm/yr.

The significance of the Hamblingdon et al. paper is that the attribution of 0.49 mm/yr to the PDO accounts for about 25-50% of the sea level rise amplification.

Fasullo comments on the 2011 drop of 7 mm, which is not included in the period considered by th AR5.  Regarding sea level subsequent to 2011, Fasullo is quoted in EENews:   In the last two years, he added, researchers have noticed a sharper-than-normal increase in sea-level rise, from the 3 mm yearly to 10 mm. “It’s never gone up that quickly in our observed record,” he said.

The significance of the Fasullo et al. paper is that there is high-amplitude interannual variability in sea level rise, particularly since 2010 that is not adequately understood.  I spotted this also on the Wikipedia page re the 1998 El Nino:  The strong 1997–1998 El Niño caused regional and global sea-level variations, including a temporary global increase of perhaps 20 mm.

Our confidence in all of this rests on our confidence in the satellite derived estimates of global mean sea level.

So what does the future hold?  In the near term, with the cool phase of the PDO, we would expect more La Nina’s (sea level drop) and fewer El Nino’s.

318 responses to “PDO, ENSO and sea level rise

  1. Oceans of knowledge
    Strain at the choking models.
    Tisdale leveller.

  2. I wouldn’t call it “a leg kicked out”. AGW is certainly real, the only question is: What’s the impact on the global climate.

    I think we are to find out soon though, as our planet seems headed for a natural downturn in temperature. The sun is getting weaker, while the ocean oscillations seem to revert. 10-20 years from now, we’ll have a much clearer picture.

    So for the time being, papers like this one take the wind out of the sails of the alarmists, which hopefully leads to more honest debates within the scientific community and especially when communicating them to the public.

    • David Springer

      AGW narrative Tom. There’s a lot more to the story than warming. May I refer to you “An Inconvenient Truth” perhaps to catch you up on the storyline?

    • Yes, Tom, “Narrative.” Which is to say, the tale currently being told. In this case, an increasingly tall tale.

    • Tom, “I think we are to find out soon though, as our planet seems headed for a natural downturn in temperature. The sun is getting weaker, while the ocean oscillations seem to revert. 10-20 years from now, we’ll have a much clearer picture.”

      And we are paying attention to the current cadre of head scratchers for what reason? There was a saying that when your doorman gives you stock advice, get out of the market. Well, when the flaws in science are so obvious that the doorman gives you scientific advice….

    • AGW is not ‘certainly real’, but I agree with the rest.

    • Tom you can still be a skeptic and believe AGW is real. The question is where on the continuum of the proportionality between natural variability and AGW does one fall. Hypothetically you could believe AGW accounted for just 1% of the warming for the last part of the 20th century, while 99% of the warming was from natural variability and you would still be a skeptic. Of course then with that belief you have to start recalculating how many thousands of years before we are faced with CAGW.

    • Tom said

      “I think we are to find out soon though, as our planet seems headed for a natural downturn in temperature. The sun is getting weaker, while the ocean oscillations seem to revert. “

      I enjoy occasionally listening to some of the rightwing nutjobs on natonal radio. This morning Quinn discussed natural resources and global warming. He had on as a guest the author of a book on “The Bet” between Simon and Erhlich

      Quinn tried to bait the author into agreeing that oil is continually being generated in the mantle via abiotic processes. He claimed that Russian scientists have shown that oil is not a fossil fuel and is essentially an infinite natural resource created via natural gas and pressure. The author said he had never heard of that, which was a polite way of suggesting that Quinn was a nut.

      Afterwards, Quinn said that we had to drill, mine, and frack now more than ever just so we can add more CO2 to the atmosphere to prevent the dangerous global cooling that is now at our doorstep.

      Between the commenters on this site and the talk-wing media, It’s like a comical cavalcade. Always good for some chuckles.

    • With a mission statement like this what do you expect the IPCC to do?


      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of human induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for mitigation and adaptation.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Tom(@thomin) : AGW is certainly real,

      I think the only parts of the complex theory called AGW that are “certainly real” are the absorption/emission spectra of the greenhouse gases. Calculations of the effects are based on the hypothetical (“mystical”?) concept of “equilibrium”, and how the changes in greenhouse gases affect the actual energy transport in the climate system are mostly unknown. A good (not to say unassailable and widely credited) case has been made that the increase in atmospheric CO2 has resulted from the increase in temperature. And so on. The theory of AGW is full of holes.

    • Why not AGC? Man does make what seem to be large changes to land and atmosphere and so is potentially capable of affecting the temperature of the planet and other things like air and water quality. We are still learning to what extent.

  3. Hamish McDougal

    You obviously haven’t done your due diligence. The whole paper (with caveats) is available at Judith’s URL. Says a lot for the quality of your comments (& your “research”).

    • link please

    • The whole paper (with caveats) is available at Judith’s URL.

      This is great news Hamish. We will all have to thank her for providing a link to the full paper, which would otherwise cost $35 from Wiley.

      I suppose that is the least she could do for those who do not have academic or corporate access. The last thing you want to see is someone just posting an abstract without any accompanying context. That would just add to the FUD, right?

    • pokerguy | September 13, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Love it when Webster takes another spanking.. Funny though, and entirely typical of his alarmist brethren, that he’s immune to shame.

      pokerguy is one of those guys that knows all about scientific research and scientific publishing, seeing as he is a heavily cited scientific researcher.

      I suppose I could use up some of the royalty check money that I get from the Wiley publishing empire and feed $35 back to them, but I won’t because I have other ways to read the paper.

      • You know what Web, on second thought I think I piled on unfairly in this case. However, your continued appeal to your own authority is tiresome, and transparently elitist.

        Like many others around here with non-technical backgrounds, I’m confident I have the tools to make informed judgments as to the general state of climate science…what’s known and what isn’t known. I’m also entirely confident I have as good… or better… intellectual tools to make informed judgments concerning any proposed mitigations. Knowledge Web, despite your self-serving illusions to the contrary, does not equate to wisdom…or even intelligence in any broad sense. If there’s one thing you demonstrate over and over again around here, it’s precisely that.

      • The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse

        Like many others around here with non-technical backgrounds, I’m confident I have the tools to make informed judgments as to the general state of climate science…what’s known and what isn’t known. I’m also entirely confident I have as good… or better… intellectual tools to make informed judgments concerning any proposed mitigations. Knowledge Web, despite your self-serving illusions to the contrary, does not equate to wisdom…

        Neither does confidence.

        Dunning-Kruger, anyone?

      • This troll is a cunning drogeur.

  4. Hamish McDougal

    Judith supplies. I shall not clutter (as does Webby)

    • The clutter comes from petty squabbles and sniping. Providing information so that we can all learn a little bit more is in contrast extremely helpful.

      So I’ll try again, link please.

  5. Can someone explain how shifting the distribution of heat energy within the ocean can cause an overall expansion of the ocean, without an increase in total heat energy within the ocean?

    • That is a very good comment by Chris G. The PDO is thought to be a redistribution of heat energy within the oceans, due to changes in circulation.

      Contrast that to the sea-level change due to increase in total heat energy. The thermosteric rise is directly related to the specific heat and thermal coefficient of expansion of salt water integrated through the depth as the temperature changes.

      The ocean absorbs heat per area according to its heat capacity
      \Delta E = C_p \cdot \Delta T \cdot {Depth}

      The linear coefficient of thermal expansion is assumed constant over a temperature range. Multiplying this over a depth:
      \Delta Z = \epsilon \cdot \Delta T \cdot Depth

      But now we can substitute the total energy gained from the first equation:
      \Delta Z = \epsilon \frac{\Delta E}{C_p}

      Assume that the linear coefficient of thermal expansion of sea water is 0.000207 per °C, and specific heat capacity is 4,000,000 J/m^3/°C.

      If an excess forcing of 0.6 W/m^2 occurs over one year (see the OHC model), then the increase in the level of the ocean is

      0.000207 * 0.6*(365*24*60*60) / 4,000,000 = 0.98 mm

      This is called the thermosteric or steric sea-level rise, and it is just one component of the sea-level rise over time (the others have to do with melting ice).

      So the question is where and how the PDO is gaining the thermal energy necessary to raise the average sea-level.

      That is the question that Chris G is asking.

      • \Delta Z = \epsilon \frac{\Delta E}{C_p}


        \Delta Z = \epsilon \frac{\Delta E}{C_p}

      • A major problem is that the coefficient of thermal expansion is far from constant but varies from approximately zero (and negative if salinity is low) to around 0.0003 1/C. Thus redistribution of warming has a major effect on the thermosteric sea level rise.

        Thermal expansion is strongest at highest temperatures and at extreme depths and almost absent near freezing point at depths less than 2 km.

      • That would tend to argue that if the ‘missing heat’ is is at lower depth, we’d be seeing more thermal expansion.

      • The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse

        None of this matters.

        According to Nils Alex-Morner thermosteric expansion cannot affect land-dwelling creatures…

        A fact often ignored is that as the water depth becomes shallower towards a coast, there is less and less water to expand. At the shore, the effect is zero.


        See? It’s from the SPPI and it has a forward by Monckton – so it must be true.

        So – All that expanded water will just pile up over the deepest parts of the ocean. There will be a huge aquatic mountain over the Mariana Trench. We will be able to go waterskiiing downhill. We will be able to generate hydroelectric power without needing to build dams. Think of the economic benefits!

      • Second-order correction terms Pekka.

        Salinity doesn’t change that much, so that is second order.

        The increasing pressure with depth is compensated by a reduction in temperature, so they will act to roughly cancel and this will also be a second order correction to the thermal coefficient of expansion in sea-water.

        Let us take a couple of cases
        257 is the coefficient at the surface at 20C (warm surface)
        246 is the coefficient at 8,000 meters at 5C (deep cold)

        Granted, there are nonlinearities in the dependence but as far as understanding what is happening, I stand by my derivation and hope that it helps others. Someone else can do the exact calculation based on the tables for thermal coefficient as a function of temperature and pressure and come up with a more accurate estimate.

      • Think of the economic benefits!

        Yet more evidence of how the alarmists ignore all the benefits of climate change. Which, of course, isn’t happening.

        Those alarmists are going to cause the world economy to collapse. There’s no doubt about it!!!!

      • Rev, People like Nils Alex-Morner are kooks, plain and simple.

      • Web-
        I didnt know your high powered scientific training was in psychiatry. Thrill me with your acumen and falsify his hypothesis. Using real science. Or is your six-shooter loaded with blanks, Jingles.?

      • WHT,

        You picked two values among those that I listed as being on the high end of the variability, how about those that are not?

        Cooling upper layers of the Pacific in the warm parts and warming upper layers by the same amount of heat in cooler areas lowers the sea level. PDO is clearly related to that kind of changes. Dismissing that effect as insignificant requires much better arguments than you presented.

        Temperatures between 2 C and 10C are typical for most of the water at depths between 500m and 2000m, and also for less than 500m at high and mid latitudes. Thus we have high rate of expansion in deepest ocean and at uppermost tropical surface, but typically less than half of that rate elsewhere.

        Comparing to your value 0.000207 the actual value varies from 90% less to 60% more in saline ocean water, hardly a minor effect.

      • WHT,

        You may refer to the following points,

        – Moving water around at constant depth does not change the total volume,
        – Mixing water masses at constant depth changes the volume only true non-linearity in the dependence of coefficient of expansion on temperature.
        – A combination of downwelling and upwelling changes the volume only to the extent the coefficient of expansion differs in the corresponding regions.

        Based on these observations the effect might be called a second order effect, but the non-linearity in the dependence on temperature and the influence of depth on the temperature dependence of expansion are strong enough to make significant effect possible.

        How large the effects really are requires comprehensive calculations based on extensive empirical data on the temperature changes in all parts of oceans. The existing data may be too incomplete, ARGO should help given enough time to collect data. Some more data might be needed also on deeper ocean than ARGO covers.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        You then need to loo at cloud radiative forcing in the north-east Pacific.


      • Pekka said:

        “Comparing to your value 0.000207 the actual value varies from 90% less to 60% more in saline ocean water, hardly a minor effect.”

        OK, then do the calculation where the effect is 16X instead of my approximation (which I called out as an assumption) where the thermal coefficient of expansion is considered constant.

        I said the effect was about 1 mm/year change for an excess thermal forcing of 0.6 W/m^2. Tell me how much this will change because of the varying thermal coefficient of expansion of sea water. Will it be 1.1 mm/year? 0.9 mm/year? Maybe

        But only 0.1 mm/year?

        Thermal expansion is strongest at highest temperatures and at extreme depths and almost absent near freezing point at depths less than 2 km.

        The former is much of the ocean, which works as an approximation. Like I implied, the derivation I gave will work over the long term, as in decades and decades of a warming forcing function that gets sunk by the large thermal capacity of the ocean.

        I would stand by my derivation and actually teach that in a physics or earth sciences class, showing the usefulness of first-order approximations to get an intuition of the scale of an effect.

      • stevefitzpatrick

        The thermal expansion is already calculated for the 0-2000 meter ARGO data: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/sl_therm_2000m.png
        It is about 0.7 mm per year. The corresponding rate of heat accumulation (globally averaged) is about 0.52 watt/M^2 over the last 10 years. Reaching 1 mm per year thermal expansion would require somewhere near (0.3/0.7) * 0.52 = 0.22 watt per square meter (globally averaged) additional heat accumulation below 2000 meters. Over just the ocean area, that is equal to about 0.32 watt per square meter accumulation below 2000 meters. I think there is only very limited data available below 2000, but what I have seen (IIRC) indicates about 20% to 30% of that a. So I suspect 1 mm per year thermal expansion may be a little high.

      • That’s funny, I can draw a line with my eye through that graph that shows a 25mm rise over the last 25 years, which is about 1mm/year.

      • It is my understanding that the PDO is an index, not an observation per se. http://stateoftheocean.osmc.noaa.gov/atm/pdo.php

        I found the following to be thorough, particularly in its relationship to the trade winds and distribution of warm and cold water. Bob also has some informative animations.

        Tisdale, Bob. “Everything You Every Wanted to Know About El Niño and La Niña….” Scientific. Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations, September 3, 2012. http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/everything-you-every-wanted-to-know-about-el-nino-and-la-nina-2/

        Wikipedia contributors. “Pacific Decadal Oscillation.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, September 11, 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pacific_decadal_oscillation&oldid=572434828

        Take note that the fish knew about it before we did.

    • So, how much of the 20-year variability, and the longer term trend, does the paper account for by showing changes in salinity, temperature, and depth?

      Or, does it only show that there is some correlation between PDO and short term sea level changes?

      • Chris,
        Actually, I think they missed a step. They should have done the correlation between ENSO and sea-level changes before that tried to tackle PDO.

        From what I understand ENSO is a heuristic for explaining year-to-year changes in temperature while PDO is a heuristic for explaining decaded-decade changes in temperature.

        Which means that PDO+ENSO is really just noise that exists over different scales and should be analyzed in that context.

        What am I missing?

    • Chief Hydrologist

      ‘…can cause an overall expansion of the ocean, without an increase in total heat energy within the ocean?’

      It don’t.

  6. Eyeballs are notoriously inaccurate, but I’m not seeing a lot of correlation between PDO index, and sea level rise.


    It looks like we are once again into the realm of wishful thinking where a cycle explains an trend.

    • The whole idea of the paper is that direct observations do not provide for a reasonable accurate time series of the Global Mean Sea Level because of large spatial variability in the trends. The detailed satellite data is used to find out principal components of the variability. Combining the principal components with earlier tide gauge measurements, it’s possible to reconstruct a time series for the period 1950-2010. This time series shows very strong correlation with PDO.

      It turns out the first principal component calculated from 20 year averages is almost pure PDO. This is not particularly surprising taking into account the fact that the first principal components picks always the strongest systematic variability around the linear trend.

      Looking at the paper, the results appear convincing. According to the results there is a significant rising trend in GMSL, but the trend has accelerated only little over the last few decades (by 0.02 ± 0.0121
      mm/year^2 rather than some earlier estimate of 0.08).

      • Dont tell FOMD

      • I can pick out a principal component in the sea level data as well. It is really not that hard, and I don’t even have to apply PCA:

        In the figure below, the upper left inset is a FFT of the detrended sea-level rise data shown in the lower right inset. A clear two month cycle shows up in the FFT and by eyeballing any yearly interval. After performing a simple 2 month notch filter on the data and adding back in the trend, the red curve shows significant noise reduction.

        This oscillation is possibly identified as a meridional current fluctuation of 2 months located in the Pacific described by this Woods Hole investigation: “Air-Sea Interaction in the Eastern Tropical Pacific ITCZ/Cold Tongue Complex” page. It also is described by a member of the same team in this PhD thesis :

        “The period of the oscillations can be seen to be about two months from October 1997 to June 1998, and the oscillations rapidly intensify during the first few months of 1998. The amplitude of the oscillations approximately doubles between December 1997 and February 1998, and it doubles again between February and April 1998. At its peak strength in April 1998, the signal is associated with nearly a 7 cm peak-to-peak change in the thickness of the upper 110 m of the water column. ”
        J. Farrar, “Air-sea interaction at contrasting sites in the Eastern Tropical Pacific : mesoscale variability and atmospheric convection at 10°N,” PhD Thesis, MIT, Woods Hole, 2007.

        One can see the peaks in late 1997 and early 1998 from the figure above, enlarged and highlighted below


        The main point is that these fluctuations are oscillatory and don’t contribute to a persistent rise in the sea-level. Like tides, this phenomena is more similar to the sloshing of water in a bucket. (This particular two month cycle is not a tide as lunar tides such as neap and spring tides have monthly or biweekly periods). This leads to an inability to accurately compensate rises and decreases in different geographic locations of the ocean. But if one can filter out the oscillation, this issue is resolved and the secular trend is revealed.

        Pekka said:

        “It turns out the first principal component calculated from 20 year averages is almost pure PDO. “

        How long does the data set have to be to distinguish between a secular/monotonic trend versus a long-time-period oscillation?
        This is a long-standing problem, and one that deniers are constantly blundering over. This WUWT post is really bad:

      • WHT,

        In this case anything constant over 50 years is secular trend, while oscillatory behavior of period of about 25 years is variability.

        I don’t take this paper so much as contributing to the discussion on the nature of sea level rise than as a paper that tells, how variability that correlates with PDO affects determination of more persistent changes.

        The paper seems to tell that observation of acceleration of the rate if rise of GMSL have seen mainly influence of PDO variability.

        While I wrote that the paper appears convincing, I consider this result provisional and in need of further scrutiny and reanalysis by other specialists of the field. That’s a reservation that I have with every new significant result.

      • If your are looking at the principal component over only 20 year periods, you are, in effect, ignoring the trend over longer periods.

        This sounds like another paper on, “We detrended the data, and then we accounted for the variability with something that has nothing to do with the global warming warming trend.”

        How do you get from near 0 mm/year over the last several thousand years, to some positive mm/year in recent decades without some acceleration?

      • If your are looking at the principal component over only 20 year periods, you are, in effect, ignoring the trend over longer periods.

        Principal components are determined from data that’s detrended in some way. In this case the authors remove the 60 year average trend of 1.54 mm/year before the rest of the analysis. It’s, of course, understood that this trend has to be put back when the final results for GMSL are presented.

        The purpose of the principal component analysis is to find out, how representative the locations of tide gauges are and how the values from these tide gauges should be weighted to get the best estimate for GMSL over the full period. The approach appears reasonable. The paper reports also on tests that they have made to estimate the uncertainty that results from this method. Again, they appear reasonable. The authors do, however, note that there are some potential sources of error, whose strength they cannot estimate from the data, but their judgment is:

        Quantifying this error, particularly how it would contribute to twenty-year trends and accelerations, is a challenge and will not be dealt with explicitly here. It should be noted, however, that without a complete treatment of the errors in the reconstructed dataset, the included error estimates might be underestimated or even overestimated to some degree. A discussion of errors in sea level reconstructions can be found in (Church et al., 2004; Hamlington et al., 2011b; 2012) but the randomization tests described here should provide adequate error estimates for the statistics provided in this paper.

        I expect that other specialists will dig deeper in these issues. I can only say that I cannot see any obvious fault in their approach or conclusions. An additional point is that much of the methodology has been published before and has thus been subjected to scrutiny by others.

      • Steve Fitzpatrick

        Thanks for those explanations. I have only one doubt: My understanding is that satellite based SL measurements are calibrated against multiple tide gauges. If that is true, I am not sure how the paper improves on historical “direct observations” (tide gauges) using satellite data, since the accuracy of the satellite data depends on the accuracy of tide gauge data. What am I missing?

      • Steve,

        I think that one way of describing what’s done in the paper is to say that the only role of the satellite data is to determine the weights that tide gauges have in the calculation of GMSL over the whole period. The assumption is that the spatial profiles of the variability components are stable over the whole 60 year period.

        Is that influenced by the calibration issue is not clear, but my immediate reaction is that it should not be. To get a more definitive answer the details of both the calibration and their analysis should be studied.

        The possibility of this kind of problem is the reason for my generic statement about the importance of further scrutiny by other specialists.

      • Pekka or SteveF,

        I would not expect a priori correlations of PDO influence on surface temperature and sea level rise, since the globally averaged thermosteric sea level rise contains an integration of a variable coefficient of thermal expansion. I would think that they could be correlated, uncorrelated or even anticorrelated depending on the distribution of deep ocean heat content vs. the surface. I did not read the paper yet, but I guess the time frames are different (PDO influence on GMST negative over the past decade, but positive for SLR).

      • billc – this brings up a question I’ve thought about for a while. Are the various decadal sea surface patterns due to short term absorption/release of heat or do the longer, in time and space, patterns influence the shorter ones?

    • That wiki link doesn’t work: ‘From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      Jump to: navigation, search No file by this name exists. File usage’
      I’d like to see it can you repost it?
      Oh never mind is this it:

  7. Ah yezzz but… what about the spreading, spiraling Ocean Heat Dome emanating from China that is shifting eastward and scorching all as it expands over the Earth?

  8. In physics It’s called the Theory of Relativity even though it is considered “settled science”. I suggest we update our terminology and refer to the “Theory of AGW” or is Einstein a dim bulb compared to today’s giants of climate science?

  9. I pushed the publication button my mistake. Full post on this coming in a few hours. I have two additional papers to bring into the discussion. Stay tuned.

  10. Steve Fitzpatrick

    Interesting paper. Earlier work by Church & White (2008?) showed long-term variation in the rate of sea level rise over much of the 20th century, but they later updated their methods and most of that long term variation went away. Maybe the earlier C&W methods were better? In any case, a cyclical variation in ocean heat content, and consequent variation in sea level, makes sense considering that long term variation in the global temperature time series is pretty clear.

    • It crossed my mind that that maybe the earlier versions were better as well. I plotted trends for HadCRUT4 and Jevrejeva 2006. Both global temperatures and sea levels seemed to have ~70yr cycles. Interestingly sea levels trends seemed to lag temperatures by about 20 years.


      Perhaps this can be explained by convective inertia. That is, due to inertia, convection will accelerate. This could push the phase out past 1/4 cycle and still preserve a forced amplitude. It might also help explain the multidecadal cycles as equilibrium overshooting could naturally arise from a trend in external forcing.

  11. It really is quite interesting how some “skeptics” write long descriptions of the “systemic” bias (without providing any actual data as would be required of skeptics if not “skeptic”) in climate change research and also:

    (1) argue that the prevalence of perspective in published articles in climate science is much more diverse than claimed by “realists.”

    (2) continuously point to published climate change research that, they argue, supports their positions as “skeptics.”

    “Skepticism” = having your cake and eating it too.

    Selective reasoning is selective.

    • Hey joshie, you could save yourself considerable time by just copy/pasting this comment into every thread. The only thing missing that you usually include in your bullcrap troll ranting is a slam at Judith.

    • So remind me again, which ones are the good guys? Skeptics or “skeptics”?

  12. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    BREAKING NEWS  The skeptics speak!

    Sea level may drop in 2010
    Posted on January 17, 2011 by Anthony Watts

    Based on the most current data it appears that 2010 is going to show the largest drop in global sea level ever recorded in the modern era.

    Since many followers of global warming believe that the rate of sea level rise is increasing, a significant drop in the global sea level highlights serious flaws in the IPCC projections.

    The oceans are truly the best indicator of climate.

    You are correct Anthony Watts!

    The “best available climate-change science” asserts that global warming is a reality for precisely so long as the Earth’s radiative energy imbalance is sustained such that the seas rise relentlessly.

    That is an entirely reasonable consensus, eh Climate Etc readers?

    The rest is largely quibbling-and-denial, ain’t it?

    Or at best, mediocre cycle-chasing science, that does not materially alter our scientific appreciation of the longer-term consequences of climate-change?

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • Awesome. Renowned climatologist/physicist/statistician and all-around super genius, FOMD, weighs-in on major peer-reviewed paper.


    • Fan

      A pretty silly comment on your part. What was the point of your comment? Was it that people frequently mistake short term trends for long term changes?
      Yes, there was a significant drop in sea level in 2010/2011. No it was not the start of a long term trend. It did however provide evidence to be skeptical of those who had made claims that sea level would definitely increase in the rate of rise in the very near future.
      The long term trend is still for about 1 foot of sea level rise in 100 years. There is no reliable evidence to support a claim that anyone knows if/when or by how much the rate of sea level rise will change.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Rob Starkey asks “What was the point of your comment?”

      Ask Sherlock Holmes, not Wiley Coyote!

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  13. Very Interesting!

    What with that bastion of Watermelonism, the BBC ( http://tinyurl.com/q387kvp ) suggesting that we have 25 years of cooling to come to add to the 11 and a half years we’ve had since 2002 ( http://tinyurl.com/k29l9ha ) and the increasing frequency of papers challenging the ‘consensus’ view of warming and politicians in Australia (actually) and the UK (talking about) repealing Climate Alarmist legislation ( http://tinyurl.com/qg7xd6k )…

    Is Joshua actually going to have to get his ass off the fence and tell us what he thinks is going to happen to the climate in the next decade?

    • Is Joshua actually going to have to get his ass off the fence and tell us what he thinks is going to happen to the climate in the next decade?

      From what I can tell, Mojib (if my name weren’t Mojib Latif it would be global warming) Latif has the most credible approach that I’ve seen with respect to estimating trends on a decadal scale.

      Read he says about what is most likely in the next decade and you’ll see that I’m not on the fence, but I am firmly on the side of the fence that says making “predictions” on a decadal scale is basically meaningless.

      I’d go further to say that those who spend time bickering about decadal scale predictions are, or the most part, “skeptics” – no matter from which side of the climate wars they offer their predictions.

      • BTW – thanks for not assuming that you know, (and know with great confidence), what my opinions are. Such an attitude sets you apart from your “skeptical” Climate Etc. brethren.

      • Josh, “From what I can tell, Mojib (if my name weren’t Mojib Latif it would be global warming) Latif has the most credible approach that I’ve seen with respect to estimating trends on a decadal scale”

        Prof. Mojib Latif in 2000
        “There aren’t going to be winters with strong frosts and lots of snow at our latitudes anymore, like 20 years ago.”

        ‘Winter mit starkem Frost und viel Schnee wie noch vor 20 Jahren wird es in unseren Breiten nicht mehr geben.”

        Prof. Mojib Latif in 2013
        “there won’t be any more cold winters in [Germany in] 2050 or 2100, if the mean temperatures are several degrees higher.”

        “Es wird 2050 oder 2100 in der Tat keine kalten Winter mehr geben, falls die mittleren Temperaturen dann um mehrere Grad höher liegen sollten”


        Mojib Latif’s approach is to kick his prediction into the long grass.

  14. Joshua –

    Please do us and yourself a favor. Try to write, say, 10 posts without using one or more of the following:

    “Selective reasoning is selective”
    “Sale ol same ol”
    “Mommy, they did it fiiirst”
    “Binary thinking”

    • Tom C –

      Sorry if you don’t like it, but sometimes lessons need to be repeated before they’re learned.

      If you need to hear those lessons 10,000 times before you can incorporate them into your reasoning, then I’m only doing my part to help you reach that point. I consider it my duty and I’m humbled by knowing that I’m contributing to the cause.

      By my calculations, I’ve now brought you from repetition 1 to repetition 5,023. That means good news – you’re more than halfway home*

      *That is, unless it turns out that you need more than 10,000, of course.


      Anyway, as always, thanks for reading. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

      • Which lessons have you learned here via repetition?
        Interesting that you see yourself as the teacher, never the student.

      • Which lessons have you learned here via repetition?

        Just to name one, Chief’s repeated posts have taught me an enormous amount about fallacious reasoning. More than I would have ever through possible.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Although I remember when you said to stick to science and leave the politics to you. It’s clear that I can teach you nothing about trivial and specious reasoning. In that – you’re a legend in your own lunchtime. And really – no matter what the topic – it is the same trivial and specious reasoning ever time. Amazing.

      • That’s it? Student must apply himself!

      • Joshua –

        Your tendency to jump straight to these clichéd one-liners is annoying and ineffectual. Some choices really are either/or, and simply saying “binary thinking” is not an argument to the contrary. You need to move some atoms in your brain and explain why the topic at hand is not an either/or. Similarly, as someone already pointed out, “Mommy…” does pre-suppose that the first party actually did “it”, whatever that is. The “Mommy…” claim can be looked at as simply a rhetorical way to point out the hypocrisy of the first party.

        Anyway, it’s a bad intellectual habit.

    • Josh,

      You do not need to project your slow learning ability onto others. Most if us understood your point(s) the first time around.

  15. The post is now up. With 52 comments already, makes me wonder why I bother doing anything beyond just posting a link :)

    • The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse

      Hell, Judith – You probably don’t even need to bother with a link.

      Just re-start the comment cache every once in a while.
      The denizens will do the rest.

    • Steve Fitzpatrick

      Well, I’m glad you put up information on the other two papers. :-)

      But I do like to read your take on papers, which is usually insightful.

      • Steve, I agree that our hostess’s comments are often the best part of any thread. I think it is of interest that CE got some 52 comments in a few hours, and Climate Dialogue’s latest effort got 54 comments in about 2 months.

    • Dr. Curry, have any similar studies been done wrt the AMO?

    • It is also refreshing to see a MORNING link (and fortunately on my day off).

      That way we don’t get as much of the Aussie influx of krank theorizing and contrarianism.

      But rest assured, they will make an appearance in a few hours.

    • It would be funny to do a couple posts with 3 or less words

      Post 1: “Models show…”
      Post 2: ” Judith Curry said”

      I suspect folks like Joshua and Wagathon would dominate since they never talk about the science.

      And of course kim and willard could dance.

      And springer would show up to yell semper fi

      and FOMD would point to Hansen and some horrible kentucky poet.

      and in the end it would all relate to climategate.

      • I have wondered what Joshua is trying to achieve. His annoying psychobabble is only exceeded by the flirtatious Florentine Fruitcake (aka FOMD). Webby shows promise, but he’ll have to take his head out of his own as_.

      • I have wondered what Joshua is trying to achieve.

        I’m paid by “the team” (quite handsomely, I might add) to distract “skeptics” from their immensely important and damaging work in the “skept-o-sphere.”

        Every time I elicit a response as you just made, if you listen closely enough, you can hear “Kaching!”

        PG and tim are good for a nice steak dinner about once a week. Your contributions are starting to add up also. And don’t think I’m not grateful.

      • Hey,

        I don’t talk about the science (much).

        But then, I am not likely to dominate a conversation here.

      • Joshua, “PG and tim are good for a nice steak dinner about once a week.”
        Make sure you buy methane credits for that poor steer. I took you for a tofu and chardonnay guy.

      • Josh,

        If someone is paying you to provide “clever” replies to me, you are stealing their money. I highly doubt I carry any weight as an influential commented.

        (Did you notice the ” ” marks? Learned that one from you. No slow learner here.)

      • Bob,

        Watch it with the tofu cracks. My wife is Korean and I happen to know just how good tofu can be.

        Sort of with you on the Chard part (unless you are talking white Burgundy), except that when it comes to wine, to each their own.

        White Zin might be the exception to that.

      • I a red guy, exclusively. I’m with tim on the tofu – lived in Korea for a year and agree with his comment about what Koreans can do with tofu – although I personally like the “stinky tofu” I had when living in Taiwan the best.

        No reason why you can’t have a good steak with some tofu on the side. Once again, Bob, with the binary thinking, eh?

      • Mosher said: “in the end it would all relate to climategate”

        I heard that the 3rd batch of e-mails (to be released soon) showed the bad guys conspiring to set up the Trayvon Martin episode as well as the use of nerve gas in Syria. :)

      • Chief Hydrologist

        I suspect it’s a soy industry conspiracy to hide the truth.


      • Josh,

        We could be brothers. Considering we argue all the time among ourselves and in truth our opinions are not that widely separated, it is less strange than one might think.

        Side story. When my father in law found out I ate liver, tripe and pork intestine, he was all excited about taking me to a restaurant near the Suwon market. My wife told me her family was impressed with how I ate.

        Her girl friends all told her she was married to a “handsome man”. (I chalk it up to small sample size. Except for the large cities, I was usually the only non Asian person in site. That was kinda cool as well.). Any wonder I can’t wait to get back?

        So back to the brother part. The wine and tofu comment has restored credibility.

      • stevefitzpatrick


      • Models show… taking hot showers, taking advantage of abundant and nutritious food, toilet paper and modern sewage, living in comfortable homes and being employed will destroy the Earth if Western schoolteachers cannot deliver us from evil Americanism.

      • All dressed up, no place to go.

    • I used to read only the blog and not the comments (for several years actually). So there’s that :-)

  16. So what happens to global mean sea level when, in 30 years or so, the PDO has been in the opposite phase of what it has been in for the last 20 years? Hamlington et al write in their paper, “The PDO causes acceleration and deceleration in GMSL on decadal timescales….”

    • It will make as little difference as before the effect was noted. And now, ta ta, the insignificant difference can be predicted. Who could ask for anything more?

    • Since they think it has been a positive contributor over the last 20 years ,you can assume they think it will become a negative contributor.

    • stevefitzpatrick

      Actually, the PDO index only recently shifted into negative territory (look at the 10-year centered moving average line in this graphic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PDO.svg) so the index had been mainly positive from ~1975 to ~2005. It doesn’t seem surprising that the PDO would influence the rate of ocean heat uptake and sea level rise, because it appears also to have some influence surface temperatures. If history is any guide, the PDO is quite persistent, so it seems likely that a mostly negative PDO will continue for some time, perhaps 20 – 25 years. If the paper is correct, then during that time the rate of sea level rise will be somewhat lower than it would otherwise have been. When the PDO returns to mostly positive territory, that will likely increase the rate of rise, of course.

      The more interesting conclusion in the paper is that the underlying rate of acceleration of sea level rise over the past few decades is significantly lower than had been previously estimated. Which seems to me analogous to a faster rate of surface temperature increase between ~1975 and ~2002, followed by little/no surface warming since then. The paper helps us understand sources of internal variability, so that the underlying secular trend in sea level becomes clearer, and projections of future rise more reliable, just as a better estimate of the the underlying secular trend in surface temperatures helps to more accurately project future temperatures.

    • We will all be dead from global warming, so why worry.

  17. I live here too . . .

    Mann oh Mann, what is the IPCC to do?

    They are experts at Hiding the Decline. Now they have to learn how to Hide the Increase.

  18. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Judith Curry opines “The significance of the Fasullo et al. paper is that there is high-amplitude interannual variability in sea level rise”

    Judith Curry, do not overlook the significance of the climate-change dog in the night“!

    Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

    Sherlock Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

    Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

    Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

    The curious climate-change incident is that nowhere in the modern sea-level record is there a five-year (or longer) period of sea-level decline.

    The Climate-Change “Dog in the Night” Mystery  Why have decadal reversals of sea-level rise not been observed?

    Can any theory of climate-change explain this remarkable “dog in the night”?

    Other than James Hansen’s 1981 theory, that is?

    The celebrated 1981 article that accurately predicted the subsequent observations of “shifting of climatic zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet, a worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.”

    Gosh, now we’ve seen all of these things, haven’t we?

    Perhaps James “Sherlock” Hansen has already explained the climate-change “dog in the night” … that no-one else has explained?

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • +(-1)^0.5

    • Matthew R Marler

      A fan of *MORE* discourse: The celebrated 1981 article that accurately predicted the subsequent observations of “shifting of climatic zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet, a worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.”

      Was the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage supposed to be permanent or episodic?

      Most of what Hansen et al forecast in that 1982 paper has not in fact happened: for example, there has been no creation of large permanent drought zones in the US: instead we have experience a slight increase in overall rainfall but the usual meandering of dry regions from place to place and time to time..

    • “Why have decadal reversals of sea-level rise not been observed?”

      They have. For example, from Japan:

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Localized cherry-picking and quibbling are the desperate strategems of willful ignorance, eh DB?

        Climate Etc needs someone like Pekka (or Judith herself!) to tackle the key scientific question head-on:

        The Climate-Change “Dog in the Night” Mystery  Why have decadal reversals of [global] sea-level rise not been observed?

        Why do *you* think, DB?

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    • FOMBS – Here is a little tome for you and your buddy Hansen. Follow these practices and you will find peace.


    • ” Why have decadal reversals of sea-level rise not been observed?”

      Last year Chambers et al. looked at tidal gauge records and found evidence of a significant 60-year cycle in every ocean basin. The latest minimum of the cycle was between 1980 and 1990. The authors conclude that “one should be cautious about computations of acceleration in sea level records unless they are longer than two cycles of the oscillation or at least account for the possibility of a 60-year oscillation in their model. This especially applies to interpretation of acceleration in GMSL using only the 20-year record of from satellite altimetry”

      Is there a 60-Year Oscillation in Global Mean Sea Level?

  19. I don’t see how the ocean cycles can be net zero temperature-wise. That can only happen if 1) they absorb exactly the same amount of heat they release or 2) a trivial variation of 1, they neither absorb or release heat.

    I don’t see how either 1 or 2 can be true. So, ocean cycles, it would seem to me, have to exhibit a net increase or decrease in heat. We know heat escapes at the poles and is absorbed mainly at the equator. So those cancel exactly? It seems unlikely.

    • stevefitzpatrick

      If they are not net zero over long periods, then ocean temperatures would wander off in a random-walk trend without any upper or lower limit. There for sure is a combination of influences acting on different time scales; while all influences must be ‘causal’ (physical laws always apply), not knowing all the causal influences accurately means that the ones we are pretty sure about (adding heat causes the ocean to expand) become difficult to quantify due to “noise” from those causal influences we do not yet understand. The beauty of a paper like this is that it identifies and quantifies a previously unknown causal influence (PDO), and so makes the sea level data less noisy and more understandable.

      • c. dallas – damped or not, I think it likely they are continually forced and that (or those) forcings could be modulated by, say, clouds, for one possibility.

      • jim2, “c. dallas – damped or not, I think it likely they are continually forced and that (or those) forcings could be modulated by, say, clouds, for one possibility.”

        Whether clouds are forcing or a feedback (dampening) is hard to say until you really understand the whole sequence. The LIA was likely negatively forced by volcanic aerosols and solar. Removing the negative forcing just allows the system to return to whatever was the previous “normal” state. Since the LIA was long enough to drawn down ocean heat capacity, recharging at about 1C per 300 years isn’t really a forcing but a feedback depending on your point of view.

        That doesn’t change the definition of the oscillations though.

      • A feedback can be dampening or amplifying, or neutral in the trivial case.

    • they’re not net zero, it’s just a paradigm.

      • Well, if the net heating from decadal cycles isn’t zero, the warming can’t be due only to CO2, which is the desired outcome.

      • exactly. Global temperature variability can be completely natural, or better not caused by humans..

      • The “oscillations” are defined as net zero so they are just references. What causes the “oscillations” are changes in the rate of heat flow from one point to another. Since they are not likely to be undamped, the “oscillations” should reduce in amplitude and/or frequency as the imbalance that causes them decreases and vice versa. So you have indications of change in energy, the “oscillation” as ocean basins try to find a new “equilibrium” with possibly a number of causes and feedbacks plus enough inertia to cause over shots of mean.

        If PDO and SL are linked, then sea level is a good indication of a longer term secular trend like SteveF said. If PDO and the Pacific warm pools are related, then Oppo’s IPWP should indicate a roughly 300 year long secular trend with rough 120 year overshoots decaying in amplitude and period as the ocean approach a new “equilibrium”.


      • “Well, if the net heating from decadal cycles isn’t zero, the warming can’t be due only to CO2, which is the desired outcome.”

        Not so. What if the net heating from decadal cycles is negative? then it cannot explain any of the warming, it implies the warming from CO2 is even greater.

      • I think you have a point, lolwot, unless the extra heating was from fewer clouds and the ocean buried the “extra” sunlight heating.

  20. Absent the gravitas of the scientific method AGW theory will always be hebetudinous sophistry.

  21. “……it is virtually certain that the rate of global mean sea level rise has accelerated during the last two centuries”. IPCC Is “virtually certain” similar to being virtually pregnant?

    • ” . . . the last two centuries . . . ” includes a significant period of time that pre-dates addition of CO2 by human activities. Why did they do that?

      Plus, the next sentence begins with, ” The current centennial rate . . . “

  22. Matthew R Marler

    The persistence of Australia’s mass anomaly is attributed to the continent’s unique surface hydrology, which includes expansive arheic and endorheic basins that impede runoff to ocean.

    Everything that happens does its “happening” in particular regions and times, but our knowledge is usually about statistical summaries over large regions and times, such as the Global Mean Temperature and the Global Mean Sea Level Rise and the Global Ocean Heat Content. I expect to see many more studies of the effects of small regions and episodes on these large scale statistical aggregates, and I expect that these many studies will produce changes in the general circulation models and understanding of climate generally. Australia is not the only region with a “unique” surface hydrology: every region is unique.

  23. Matthew R Marler

    Are there links to the full papers? I followed links to two abstracts and to the personal web page of Dr Deser.

  24. ABC is a pretty safe bet, after all. ABN (anything but natural) is silly.

  25. Scafetta 2013:
    “(…) It is suggested the acceleration is a natural variation due to the recovery from the little ice age as part of a quasi millennial cycle which may continue until the mid C21st. In conclusion the study suggests that sea level rise during the C21st will be around 277 mm (…)
    Multi-scale dynamical analysis (MSDA) of sea level records versus PDO, AMO, and NAO indexes
    (…) the infuence of a large quasi 60-70 year natural oscillation is clearly demonstrated in these records (…)
    At the secular time scales tide gauge records present relatively small (positive or negative) accelerations, as found in other studies (…). On the contrary, from the decadal to the secular scales (up to 110-year intervals) the tide gauge accelerations oscillate significantly from positive to negative values mostly following the PDO, AMO and NAO oscillations”

  26. When we are looking at the sea level rise, we are looking at a third order effect in the sense that

    1) The first order effect is the rise in CO2 concentration. That results directly from emission caused by humans. For this the first derivative is determined by the amount of emissions.

    2) The increase in CO2 concentration starts gradually lead to an increase in temperature. That’s a second order effect as it’s not caused directly by the emissions but by the increase in concentration. Here the second derivative is caused by the emissions.

    3) Sea level rise is driven by the warming. Thus it’s a third degree effect where the third derivative comes from emissions.

    From this follows that the an acceleration is expected for the sea level rise, but with a long delay. Therefore it’s to be expected that natural variability (if it’s not very weak) plays an important role for decades.

    Many of the problems are related to false expectations. From the likely changes in the temperature (the second order effect) we cannot expect yet large changes in the the third order effects like sea level and extreme weather events. The absence of such large effects does by no means indicate that the climate change will not in future cause larger third order effects as the third order does not refer to the significance of the ultimate effects, it refers to the delay in their growth.

    The uncertainties in the second order effect (changes in the temperature), and in the way it leads to the higher order effects mean that observing unambiguously the effects of warming takes time, but it means also that any action to mitigate takes also time to become effective. Decisions must be made under all this uncertainty. Many recent claims that concern third order effects are not well justified, and that will often become clear somewhat later. Emphasizing such claims leads to loss of trust in scientists who present them. Therefore only claims that have proper support from objective analysis should be presented. My impression that this rule has sometimes been violated when various issues related to oceans are discussed.

    • Or, we could be looking at a first order effect called “cloud modulation.”

    • Since CO2 concentration increase is pretty darn near linear, the second derivative would be the slope of the line, which is constant. So you are saying as CO2 increases, the heating occurs at a constant rate. I’m thinking the alarmists believe the heating is proportional to the log of CO2 concentration instead. I’m not sure what the heck you mean here.

      • Jim2,

        I didn’t refer to linear relationships, only to the order of the influence. Change in concentration and change in the logarithm of the concentration are approximately linearly related for small changes. Even the rise up to the present 400 ppm has been small enough to change the coefficient down by about 30%, not more.

        There are other more important effect that affect the coefficients, but I didn’t go so far in the quantitative considerations. That’s not essential for what I tried to say.

      • OK, “primary,” “secondary,” and “tertiary” might have made more sense here.

    • Steve Fitzpatrick

      Sure, temperature rise and sea level rise have to be delayed (a lot!) from GHG emissions. What is puzzling is that so many claims of future trends (especially surface warming rates and sea level rise), seem to have been made based on short term trends. For example, when temperatures were rising rapidly between the 1980’s and early 2000’s, about the only thing we heard from climate science was that the rapid warming would for certain not only continue, but accelerate. Of course, reality and projections of rapid warming have diverged, and it is becoming clear that the rapid surface temperature increase between ~1975 and ~2002 was partly due to internal variability, just as the LACK of surface warming since ~2002 is almost certainly due to internal variability.

      I can understand how many people could easily be misled by the earlier warming rate, and so conclude GCM projections of very high sensitivity to GHG forcing were correct. What I can’t understand is the apparent resistance to accept that the recent lack of warming is clear evidence the GCM’s overstate sensitivity to forcing.

      The recent lack of warming, multiple recent empirical estimates of lower climate sensitivity, and recent papers on sources of internal variability (like the one we are discussing on sea level), makes it ever more likely the GCM projections of climate sensitivity are much too high. If I were a modeler, I would be looking for a good explanation for why my model was wrong, not looking for reasons why clearly divergent data doesn’t imply it is wrong. You say “Emphasizing such claims leads to loss of trust in scientists who present them”, and I agree with that, but even more damaging is an apparent unwillingness to accept contrary evidence. If the “consensus view” of climate science continues to be high sensitivity to GHG forcing, even in the face of mounting evidence that it is in fact much lower, then I am reasonably sure the field will lose public credibility and become gradually less important. A scientist who is mistaken is perfectly OK, but a scientist who refuses to correct that mistake, when the data clearly show he (or she) is wrong, is not OK.

      • “Of course, reality and projections of rapid warming have diverged, and it is becoming clear that the rapid surface temperature increase between ~1975 and ~2002 was partly due to internal variability, just as the LACK of surface warming since ~2002 is almost certainly due to internal variability.”

        And yet the data shows little change in trend at all. We are almost bang on where we’d expect to be with a continuation of the 1979-2002 trend (and this is even when you have cherrypicked 2002)

      • Around year 2000 the most recent history had shown a rapid temperature rise. That part of it was in hindsight probably due to natural variability could not be known by then, but if asked scientists should have told that it’s possible. On the other hand it was possible that the rise had been still faster without natural variability. Therefore best estimates of warming rate from instrumental data supported a rather high value of climate sensitivity. In particular the upper limit of estimates based on that data was very high.

        Additional data obtained since have moved the best estimate down and lowered the upper limit even more. The lower limit may well have stayed essentially unchanged as the temperatures have not turned to a decline as they did after the peak of 1940. The lower limit might be even a little higher, I don’t know which is the case for that.

        All this is normal. With additional data the best estimate changes and the range of likely values gets narrower.

        Being too eager to take advantage of observations that suit the message that someone is willing to present has a high likelihood of leading to a loss of trust. If the variability had been emphasized more, explaining the hiatus in temperature would now be much easier.

      • stevefitzpatrick

        Look at the residuals between the linear trend and the data… not close to normally distributed. Then look at this: http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1975/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1975/to:1997/trend/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1998/to:2014/trend See the difference?

        But I think you miss my point. The earlier warming was faster because of internal variability, and now it is slower because of internal variability. Seeing the underlying secular trend clearly requires that you look at enough data to cover at least a full cycle (or pseudo-cycle) of the most important causes for internal variability. If the PDO has a significant influence on the rate of warming, then separating the underlying secular trend from that influence would seem to require a lot more data than 1979 to present… say another 20 years or so. What is that underlying trend? Hard to say with confidence, but probably somewhere near 0.11C per decade, not 0.25C per decade like the GCM ensemble mean.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Pekka Pirilä posits “An acceleration is expected for the sea level rise, but with a long delay.”

      Pekka Pirilä’s plausible postulate produces a positive answer to the question asked:

      The Climate-Change “Dog in the Night” Mystery  Why have decadal reversals of [global] sea-level rise not been observed?

      Pekka Pirilä’s plausible postulate  The long delay-time associated to the thermal inertia of the ocean, in combination with Earth’s persistent CO2-driven radiative energy imbalance, comprises a low-pass filter — acting upon both spatical and temportal frequencies — that substantially reduces PDO/ENSO dynamics, thereby resolving plainly the warming effects predicted by Hansen in 1981.

      Thank you, Pekka Pirilä!

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  27. R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

    It seems most intersting to me that underlying much discussion of “natural internal variability” (i.e. PDO) and sea level rise, there seems to be some underlying assumption by some people that the character of internal variability is not influenced by anthropogenic forcing– that is, would the PDO be behaving the same if CO2 and methane and N2O were at preindustrial levels? The answer to this question seems absolutely key to the sensitivity issue as well.

    There are in fact quite plausible scenarios and teleconnections to suggest that a case can be made whereby anthropogenic forcing does influence natural variability. One in particular that ties together many large-scale events is the effect of increasing CO2 forcing on vertical winds in the tropical troposphere and the intensification Brewer Dobson Circulation. This was predicted by the models and has no been observed through data. One of the effects of this change in the BDC is to reduce the intensity of the QBO, which of course has implications for the ENSO cycle and potentially the PDO. It also has implications for N. Hemisphere SSW events. The point is, we no longer have a planet with natural variability that can be cleanly separated out from anthropogenic forcing, and so, just like attribution of extreme weather events, there’s a rather messy mixture of natural and anthropogenic causation.

    • anthro ‘forcing’ is losing its power, at the max concentration too.

      • R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

        That doesn’t make any sort of sense Edim. Much like rust, greenhouse gases never sleep. It would nice if the 7+ billion humans could have zero impact on the climate and other life sustaining sytems of the planet, but that is pretty wishful thinking.

      • you can’t make it up as you go, it’s not about 7 billions, but agw, caused mostly by aco2.

      • A monomaniacal focus on humanity’s contribution to atmospheric CO2 has been Western academics’ Pyrrhic victory over reason.

      • R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

        Edim said:

        “it’s not about 7 billions…”

        Oh, it very much is about that. It took fossil fuel use to grow the population to this level.

      • You should be thankful for the blessing, RG; where would we be without fossil fuels?

      • Edim is one of those contrarian ABCD-types.

        He claims that not only is CO2 not a GHG but it actually acts as a coolant. Like the stuff that you put in the radiator of your car.

        Edim also claims that increases in CO2 comes about from heating of the ocean.

        So, according to Edim, not only does CO2 cool but something is warming the ocean so that more CO2 will outgas so that it can cool some more.

        These ABCD contrarians get themselves all twisted up in knots.

      • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

        kim | September 13, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
        You should be thankful for the blessing, RG; where would we be withoutfossil fuels?
        Many of us would not exist. The rapid growth in human population is a direct result of the use of fossil fuels.

    • “no longer have a planet with natural variability that can be cleanly separated out from anthropogenic forcing”

      When was it that we had a planet with natural variability that can be cleanly separated out from anthropogenic forcing?

      I get the feeling some of us aren’t in Kansas anymore.


      • The first Neanderthal was said to have said it first just after a lightning strike & forest fire… Bar be queue, yum.

      • Tom,



      • R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

        “When was it that we had a planet with natural variability that can be cleanly separated out from anthropogenic forcing?”
        As your mind is most likely made up that the “Anthropocene” couldn’t possibly exist, or certainly that humans couldn’t be affecting the otherwise “natural” variability of the climate, answering this question is a waste of time. We know, for example, that even in the 19th century, human activity affected the rate of glacier melt in the Alps, and certainly that melt affected the microclimate of the region. Going back further, there is strong evidence that land use for agriculture was affecting microclimates many centuries ago. So you could say that, at least on some smaller scales, humans have been affecting natural variability for many centuries. On the larger planetary scale, and on a very broad level, the rapid growth in GH gases in the mid-20th century was probably a time when larger natural cycles began to be affected in measureable way. My example of the alterations that GH gases seem to be making to the BDC, QBO, and possibly therefore ENSO, the PDO, and SSW events is a prefect example, and these effects go back several decades. This makes it very hard to separate the human fingerprint from was might formerly have been purely “natural” variability.

      • “We know, for example, that even in the 19th century, human activity affected the rate of glacier melt in the Alps”

        R. Gates, we are supposedly discussing science. You are going to have to do better than just bare-bottomed assertion.


      • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

        Sorry Andrew, I assumed you were well read and up to date on the most research:


      • Thanks R.Gates. I followed your link and found this:


        “We observe that industrial black carbon in snow began to increase markedly in the mid-19th century and show with simulations that the associated increases in absorbed sunlight by black carbon in snow and snowmelt were of sufficient magnitude to cause this scale of glacier retreat.”

        First off, “We” couldn’t have “observed” anything in the mid-19th century, because time machines haven’t been produced yet.

        Second, “we show with simulations”. This is fraught with glaringly obvious issues, one being that simulations are by nature, incomplete representations.

        So your original “We know” should actually be “We speculate”.


      • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

        B. Andrew said:

        “First off, “We” couldn’t have “observed” anything in the mid-19th century, because time machines haven’t been produced yet.”

        Your point is valid, but only trivially so. To a very high degree of reliability and certainty, we know exactly what years certain layers of snow were deposited in the Alps. Thus, while of course it is trivially true that we can’t go back in time, we can observe the data in the ice and with a high degree of certainty, know what was happening back then in terms of what was deposited in the ice.

      • “we know exactly what years certain layers of snow were deposited in the Alps”

        R. Gates, you keep sliding back into assertion.


    • stevefitzpatrick

      ” The point is, we no longer have a planet with natural variability that can be cleanly separated out from anthropogenic forcing, and so, just like attribution of extreme weather events, there’s a rather messy mixture of natural and anthropogenic causation.”

      Sure. But I have no clue what you are trying to say. That Hamlington et al is wrong?

      • R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

        You can estimate the effect of the PDO or other ocean cycles on tropospheric temperature trends for attribution, but unless you know how anthropogenic forcing might be affecting these natural cycles, you are only making a very rough guess that x percentage is “natural” and x percentage is “anthropogenic”. This is exactly the same issue with extreme weather events. The human fingerprint, aka “Anthropocene” is now so intertwined with so much of the formerly “natural” variablility that trying to separate the two is messy, if not impossible, especially beginning just after the mid-20th century when GH gases really started to skyrocket.

      • R. Gates puts a finger on the conundrum.

      • stevefitzpatrick

        R. Gates,
        Actually, there was considerable net GHG forcing over the pre-industrial period by the early 1950’s, ~0.9 watt/M^2 (compared to ~3 watts/M^2 today), and that forcing had grown much more slowly than the recent rate, allowing a more time to approach equilibrium, so it is reasonable to expect some warming to have taken take place by the early 1950’s… and indeed there was: http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut4gl/to:1955 albeit with considerable natural variability superimposed. The variability seems little changed for the whole of the record. http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut4gl/to:1955/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1955 Please explain why and how intertwining of man-made warming and natural variation has changed natural variability, because I have seen nothing to suggest that is the case.

      • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

        “Please explain why and how intertwining of man-made warming and natural variation has changed natural variability, because I have seen nothing to suggest that is the case.”

        Have you studied much of the research being done related to the changes being seen in the Brewer-Dobson circulation? This important troposphere-stratosphere, equator to pole circulatation has been observed being strengthening over the past several decades. This was a key dynamic predicted by climate models as GH gases increase. Why it is important that with the BDC strengthening id that this actually slows down the average wind speed in the QBO, which then can affect ENSO behavior (the quintessential example natural variability). There are other important effects of an enhanced BDC related to ozone and sudden stratospheric warming events in the NH, but this connection to the QBO and ENSO gives a good illustration.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘Climate simulations are now performed with chemistry-climate models that encompass the troposphere and stratosphere since it has been recognized that the stratosphere plays a role in surface climate variability. The Brewer-Dobson circulation is a fundamental aspect of the stratosphere and yet it cannot be measured directly. How, then, can we best evaluate how well this new generation of climate models perform in simulating variability of the Brewer-Dobson circulation?’


        Watch the presentation. Models shows changes – but they are all very different. Observations are far from conclusive on anything.

        Natural climate variation has extremes that are not seen in the instrumental record let alone with satellites. We are obviously still within the limits of natural variability. Has some minor change in warmth – it self mostly natural – changed this? Gatesy’s nonsensical speculation far outside of the realm of the provable is typical but far from scientific.

      • stevefitzpatrick

        R. Gates,
        So you are suggesting that recent divergence between model projections of warming and actual temperatures is because the models are right? Or because the models are wrong about some things and right about others? Or that the same things which cause warming also cause substitution of man-made variability for natural variability…. but they look the same, so we can’t tell for sure what is causing the variability? Your seem to be struggling to come up with something that preserves high climate sensitivity, and I’m not sure why. Lower climate sensitivity is good news for humanity, not bad.

        Vague comments about teleconections of the BDC to sudden stratospheric warming events in the Arctic winter are mildly interesting, but do not really explain the observed divergence between model projected surface warming and reality. Occam’s razor is often a suitable tool in cases like this.

        Maybe 10 more years of very slow warming will convince you. But if you aren’t sufficiently skeptical, maybe not.

      • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist


        Certainly bits and pieces of various models are correct. No model has everything right, and they all are incomplete in that new dynamics are being added constantly as they are discovered and quantified.

        I don’t like to speak of future hypotheticals as it is such a waste of time given there is so much current data to sift through and understand. The current tropospheric “pause” in sensible heat has given a huge opportunity to learn and refine the models- especially in regard to dynamics and variations in ocean to atmosphere energy exchange. However, when I hear some rather nonsensical statements that it “proves AGW is not happening” or even that it shows sensitivity is lower, it makes me quite skeptical of the motivations or depth of understanding of those individuals. Global tropospheric sensible heat, while the traditional measurement of of climate sensitivity to rising GH gases, may not be the best measurement, though I am hardly the first to point this out. Changes to the oceans, cryosphere, latent heat in the atmosphere, and even the larger higher latitude temperature changes and biosphere changes might be at least equally important.

        Anthropogenic climate change is first and foremost about energy, and nothing that I have seen from a system energy perspective would seem to indicate that the planet is any less sensitive to the anthropogenic alterations being made to GH gas concentrations.

      • stevefitzpatrick

        R. Gates,
        So, even if there is substantial and continuing divergence between model projections of surface warming (or if you prefer, sensible heat), and even if the models continue to overstated heat accumulation in the oceans (relative to measurements), you continue to believe, in spite of those facts, that there is NO evidence the Earth is less sensitive to GHG forcing? Wow. I must conclude that there is no amount of contrary data which would change your beliefs, which makes it clear that technical exchanges with you are pointless, in the same way that exchanges with AFOMD are pointless: you are both only interested in the politics, not in actual progress toward better understanding.

        It might be better for you to go with just “R. Gates”, unless you are trying for humor with “the Skeptical Warmist” part. A deus.

    • Mr Mosher,
      Does this mean (for instance) that a lot or all of the IPCC would be official US government data? Not that it matters to me or is any big deal I’m just wondering? Does it mean that policy makers would consider it as authority? I guess I’m asking what is the significance of this?
      Links followed:
      M-13-13 — Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
      b. Use data standards
      Consistent with existing policies relating to Federal agencies’ use of standards 20 for information as it is collected or created, agencies must use standards in order to promote data interoperability and openness.
      20: See OMB Circular A-119, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars_a119, and OMB Memorandum M-12-08, Principles for Federal Engagement in Standards Activities to Address National Priorities (Jan 27, 2012), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/memoranda/2012/m-12-08.pdfLeft arrow with hook
      6. What Is The Policy For Federal Use Of Standards?
      All federal agencies must use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards in their procurement and regulatory activities, except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical. In these circumstances, your agency must submit a report describing the reason(s) for its use of government-unique standards in lieu of voluntary consensus standards to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). a. When must my agency use voluntary consensus standards?
      Your agency must use voluntary consensus standards, both domestic and international, in its regulatory and procurement activities in lieu of government-unique standards, unless use of such standards would be inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical. In all cases, your agency has the discretion to decline to use existing voluntary consensus standards if your agency determines that such standards are inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical.
      (1) “Use” means incorporation of a standard in whole, in part, or by reference for procurement purposes, and the inclusion of a standard in whole, in part, or by reference in regulation(s).
      (2) “Impractical” includes circumstances in which such use would fail to serve the agency’s program needs; would be infeasible; would be inadequate, ineffectual, inefficient, or inconsistent with agency mission; or would impose more burdens, or would be less useful, than the use of another standard.
      7. What Is The Policy For Federal Participation In Voluntary Consensus Standards Bodies?
      Agencies must consult with voluntary consensus standards bodies, both domestic and international, and must participate with such bodies in the development of voluntary consensus standards when consultation and participation is in the public interest and is compatible with their missions, authorities, priorities, and budget resources.

      • The IPCC is in a legal no mans land, or at least that is the argument.

        The question is when a government employee creates a work product for the IPCC can they violate open data requirements.

      • Oh, I guess I was thinking backwards, thanks

      • “The question is when a government employee creates a work product for the IPCC can they violate open data requirements”

        I know the answer to that one, NO.

  28. A newly published paper by Nicola Scafetta of Duke University takes a look at sea level rise, particularly acceleration and deceleration in relation to ocean cycles: Multi-scale dynamical analysis (MSDA) of sea level records versus PDO, AMO, and NAO indexes. – See more at: http://notrickszone.com/2013/04/23/duke-scientist-on-sea-level-rise-patterns-in-tide-gauge-records-mostly-driven-by-natural-oscillations/#sthash.sJlsGhpF.dpuf

    The 60-year cycle recorded in solar activity and Earth’s rotation must also have affected the oceanic circulation, judging from its recording in the marine environments [71,93,94] and in sea level changes.This implies that the Gulf Stream system must exhibit beating cycle of 60 years, just as the LOD cycle and solar activity cycle, in full agreement with the proposal of Mörner. http://www.taccire.suanet.ac.tz/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/151/solar%20wind.pdf?sequence=1

    ….the climate models predict the recent flat to cooling trend only as a rare stochastic event. The linear warming trend in these models that is obtained by subtracting the 60-70 yr cycle, while unexplained at present, is clearly inconsistent with climate model predictions
    because it begins too soon (before greenhouse gases were elevated) and does not accelerate as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate. This model and the empirical evidence for recent cooling thus provide a challenge to climate model accuracy.” http://icecap.us/images/uploads/05-loehleNEW.pdf

    Gary Sharp of the Salinas, CA ‘Center for Climate/Ocean Resources Study’ has been associated with VNIROV scientist Leonid Klyashtorin in Moscow for years.They met on their common interest of climate regime issues, fishery ecosystem and fisheries consequences. Both scientists are strong proponents of the 60-70 year climate cycles. Klyashtorin’s forecasts are Right On Track: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/59135553/Lyubushin-Klyashtorin-Global_dT_60years%20cycle-E&E.pdf

    Drinkwater: “Fish species, including spawning sites for some species, move northward during warm periods and retreat during cold periods”:

  29. Pierre-Normand

    Judith Curry said: “So what does the future hold? In the near term, with the cool phase of the PDO, we would expect more La Nina’s (sea level drop) and fewer El Nino’s.”
    I don’t understand this at all. La Nina events have two opposite effects on sea level. Through temporary increasing the precipitation rate, they dump water over land and cause sea levels to drop. The water mostly runs off back into the sea within two years, as we saw after the strong 2011 La Nina. However, the cooling of the ocean surface associated with the PDO cool phase or La Nina events increases the radiation imbalance of the Earth and causes the oceans to retain more energy from the Sun. This effect, unlike the effect from increased precipitation rates, is sustained as long as the radiation balance isn’t restored. Should we not expect from a sustained cool phase of the PDO to see a temporary increase in the rate of sea level rise?

    • “Should we not expect from a sustained cool phase of the PDO to see a temporary increase in the rate of sea level rise?”

      The ABCDers want to say the positive PDO contributed to faster sea level rise. Therefore they will not take to your suggestion.

    • Or… there could be, chaos:

      “This oceanographic satellite shows a much larger than normal persistent Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Cooler PDO phases usually last 21 to 25 years, so we should be quite chilly as a planet until at least 2030, maybe longer. Remember, I have another cycle of intense global warming, as I mentioned at our March 2, 2007 climate seminar at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, due by 2031 to 2038, when all of my major cycles ‘collide in chaos,’” ~Cliff Harris

      • @Pierre-Normand | September 13, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
        Here the unstated assumption is that the cool phase is the same length and time and magnitude of temperature as the warm phase, for only then will the net effect be zero. Is that what you believe to be the case?

      • That should have been “length IN time” not “length AND time.”

      • Pierre-Normand

        No, I don’t make this assumption. Judith Curry doesn’t make any assumption either about the length of the ongoing PDO cool phase. She speaks of the “near term” effects of the cold phase of the PDO and forthcoming La Nina events. I just don’t see how temporary dumps of precipitations on land will have any lasting effect that might *override* the positive effect of the cool phase of the PDO on ocean heat content increase. While the 2011 La Nina caused a sudden drop in sea levels below the tend line, the levels immediately shot back above it over the next year (and currently seem to have fallen back on the trend line).

    • stevefitzpatrick

      “However, the cooling of the ocean surface associated with the PDO cool phase or La Nina events increases the radiation imbalance of the Earth and causes the oceans to retain more energy from the Sun.”

      Except what really matters is the total heat in the oceans, not just the surface temperature. There is a clear correlation between ENSO and variation around the longer term trend (http://sealevel.colorado.edu/files/2013_rel6/sl_mei.png) due to changes in rainfall over land, but I don’t see any strong correlation between changes in 0-700 meter heat content and ENSO over the ARGO era (since 2003).

      • Pierre-Normand

        I agree that there must be a merely short term correlation caused by precipitation rates. I also understand that there shouldn’t be much of a long term correlation with the surface temperature trend (though, if there were one, it should be a small anti-correllation) or the ocean heat content trend. That’s because the switch of the PDO phase ought only to have an effect similar to a temporary step change in external forcing. (That’s the effect from the surface temperature change — temporarily modulating the Plank response from the external forcing) And the small step change reverts back when the PDO switches again. So, it contributes nothing to the long term trend.

      • Stee Fitzpatrick

        Most of the influence of ENSO on ocean surface temperature is in the tropics. It is true that a lower surface temperature should reduce loss of heat to space from the tropical ocean somewhat, but there are other potentially important processes to consider, like changes in cloud cover, rainfall, and atmospheric moisture content which could have comparable (or larger) influence on heat loss to space. I think the apparent lack of correlation of 0-700 meter OHC with ENSO indicates little net change in overall heat balance.

      • Pierre-Normand

        I agree, Stee. I said that I expect the Planck response to offset the precipitation rate effect, and you say that the precipitation rate effect (together with other things) must compensate for the Plank response and account for the observed lack of correlation. So, we’re basically saying the same thing.

    • The Earth may experience an extended period of global cooling — and, perhaps another ice age (Earth has been locked in ice age conditions for more than 80% of the time over the last one million years) — in which event the sea level likely will be much lower. Does that sound like something humanity should look forward to with warm anticipation?

  30. This discussion on sea level rise misses the elephant in the room, which is that sea level is rising!

    Sea level continues rising = the earth has not stopped warming as Anything But Carbon Dioxide (ABCD) climate skeptics claim.

    Sea level rise is up

    Ocean heat content, up

    Greenland and Antarctica continue melting (with acceleration?)

    Yet the ABCD crowd keep spouting “cooling sun” and “negative PDO” and through those “theories” pretending the world is cooling. Despite all the above observations showing the Earth is still warming, those are ignored.

    At some point the dissonance has to stop. A quieting sun and cool PDO have utterly failed to cool the planet. So either you believe a quiet Sun and neg PDO have no cooling effect, or you have to start wondering how rational ABCD is.

    You know, you’ve ruled out the Sun and the PDO so what do you have left to explain the warming? It’s going to be a travesty for ABCDers if they cannot explain the warming.

  31. Jeffrey P. Schaffer says, environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club create imaginary crises. Having been on the board of one organization and observing others, I can vouch for this. A perceived crisis really boosts your membership!” Schaffer provides an example of the AGW agenda with a quote by Stephen Schneider about global warming fearmongering, as follows: “‘We need to get some broad-based support to capture the public’s imagination. That of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have,'” ~Jeffrey P. Schaffer

  32. Chief Hydrologist

    Ocean heat is rising in ARGO along with steric sea level increase.


    The rate of steric sea level rise is 0.69mm/yr. The ocean was losing mass over the period.

    There is something fundamentally wrong somewhere. It is probably the altimetry.

    The warming – btw – was from changes in cloud cover.



  33. To forget about the bickering for a minute, it’s just a great idea that nature could dump so much rain on Australia that we can measure it in a drop of sea-level over the global oceans.

    How much effort and money would it take for humans to move that much water?

  34. sea-level rises because of sediments get washed from land into the sea by floods and wind as dust storms; and is less water on the land

    Aral sea is getting empty, lake Chad empty, more deserts – simple arithmetic less water on the land = more water into the sea

  35. IIRC, Dr. Curry said that the DWLR from CO2 could heat the below-10 um surface of the ocean via wind/turbulence. But I don’t remember if that idea came from models, observations, or some synthesis of the two.

    Dr. Curry?

  36. @Uncertainty in future regional sea level rise due to internal climate variability
    Not a cloud in the sky in that model.

  37. Schrodinger's Cat

    Pekka Pirilä
    I agree with you except that you approach the subject as a convinced warmist and I as a convinced sceptic.

    You may not wish to play this game but how would you explain, say, ten to fifteen years of slight cooling, starting now?

    • R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

      Slight cooling of what? And assuming you are speaking of tropospheric temperatures, then what of the measurements of other forms of energy in the atmosphere, especially latent heat? What about other forms of energy in the full Earth system?

      Since recent studies, as discussed here on Climate Etc., have indicated that tropospheric temperatures have been inpacted by a reduction in flow of energy from ocean to atmosphere, while at the same time, ocean heat content has been increasing, then what weight (and with what justification) do we place on ocean heat content versus the far less robust and lower thermal inertia sensible heat of the troposphere?

    • The climate is the continuation of the oceans by other means.

      H/t Arndt de B.

    • I try to clarify my position.

      The basic mechanisms that lead to warming are well understood. I don’t see credible potential for error on that level.

      All quantitative measures of climate change are rather badly known. IPCC AR4 WG1 report acknowledges that, and I consider it, in general, well balanced. Some issues are not described very well, but digging deeper to the text and published addenda results in fairly good balance even on these points. I hope that AR5 will provide some further improvement, but IPCC may have outlived it’s usefulness at least without major modifications in it’s approach.

      I’m less happy with WG2 and WG3.

      Looking at individual papers on climate science, I’m not always happy on the way they present their conclusions, and all too often add statements not directly supported by the new results.

      The uncertainties remain large. That’s unfortunate from the point of view of decision making. I accept the Precautionary Principle as fundamentally justified, but see it as very problematic in practice. It’s very difficult to make wise policy decisions and other related decisions without more accurate and reliable knowledge on the climate change, it’s consequences, and perhaps most importantly on the actual effectiveness of proposed policies and other measures.

      For many years to the future there may be more to gain through better understanding of wise decision making under the kind of uncertainties we have here than through research that reduces the uncertainties, because progress in the latter seems to be so slow.

  38. Chief Hydrologist

    ‘Since 2002 August, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission has produced time variable estimates of the Earth’s gravity field, which can be used to study changes in ocean mass. Recent studies have used the GRACE data, along with estimates of steric variations from in situ temperature and salinity data, to attempt to explain the mean sea level estimates from satellite altimetry (Lombard et al. 2007; Willis et al. 2008; Cazenave et al. 2009; Leuliette & Miller 2009). Table 1 summarizes their findings and relevant data processing details. Lombard et al. (2007) show a large disagreement between the steric mean sea level trend calculated directly from a combination of Argo and XBT data and indirectly as the altimetry mean sea level minus the GRACE mass. It has since been shown, however, that biases in the XBT data from 2003 onwards (Willis et al. 2007) resulted in spurious downward trends in steric sea level. The three other studies (Willis et al. 2008; Cazenave et al. 2009; Jeuliette & Miller 2009) used only Argo data to estimate steric mean sea level. Willis et al. (2008) conclude that the budget between the three observing systems can’t be closed and that there must be systematic errors in one or more of the estimated components. Leuliette & Miller (2009) compare their steric estimate to that of Willis et al. (2008) and see significant differences prior to 2005, which they speculate are due to poor sampling in the earlier Argo data and the different climatologies used to estimate the anomalies. Cazenave et al. (2009) estimate a significantly higher GRACE mass rate than Willis et al. (2008) or Leuliette & Miller (2009) based on a postglacial rebound (PGR) adjustment of 2 mmyr−1, which is twice the value used in the other two studies.’

  39. Can someone go through my math?

    The worlds oceans deposit between 15 to 30 billion tons of sediment into the oceans every years, call it 23 billion tons.
    (The amount depends on land use, precipitation and who guess).

    If we assume that the sediment has a density of 2.3, it has a volume equal to 10 billion tons of water.
    10 billion tons of water is 10^13 liters.
    Now the surface area of the oceans is 3.61*10^14 m2.

    The height of displacement, hence sea rise, is 1/36= 0.0277 +/- 0.0092 mm/year.

    Is that right or have I muffed a decimal place?

    • Pierre-Normand

      The math seems correct. You may want to use 2.9 as the density figure, since this is the density of the ocean crust, and older sediments pack up to this density as new sediments pile up. (I also guess crustal rebound from land erosion might quite closely compensate this water displacement, and tectonic activity must drive any long term effect.)

      • Got an estimate for the amount of sand blown from the worlds deserts that end up in the oceans?

      • Pierre-Normand

        “Global annual dust emissions are estimated to range from 1 000 to 3 000 million tonnes per year (IPCC 2001), less than 10 per cent of which is likely to result from human activities in the drylands (Tegen and others 2004).”

      • The aquafiers are getting low in certain places as well.

      • Ragnaar’s rule of pothole lakes (Found on the prairie.) All pothole lakes eventually turn into marshes. Highlands turn into less highlands.

      • What with all them shiftin’ sands, won’t be long,
        in geological terms, fer the land ter be below
        sea level and the sea level ter be above land level.
        A serf.

      • O Mary called the cattle home,
        Mariah blew Bodele around.
        The wayward wind and the restless sand,
        There is a tide, it doth surround.

      • Meh, ‘restless dust’.

    • DocMartyn, “The worlds oceans deposit between 15 to 30 billion tons of sediment into the oceans every years”

      How do the oceans deposit into the oceans?

  40. stevefitzpatrick

    The numbers look right. But I rather expect that isostatic rebound from weight loss of eroding continents, and isostatic depression of ocean floors due to the weight of sediments would compensate for most all of this influence (with a few thousand years of lag, of course).

  41. I did get around to reading the entire paper by Hamlington et al

    “In the top panel of Fig.3, the resulting twenty-year trends from the PDO index are compared to the first mode from the EOF decomposition. The negative of the PDO trends are shown, since the pattern of mode 1 in the north Pacific corresponds to the negative PDO phase in the PDO index.”

    Very weak tea.

    Empirically decomposing the signal into orthogonal functions gives them an out for increasing the degrees of freedom in the analysis space. And increasing the degrees of freedom make it harder to conclusively show anything.

    If they can’t create a description of what’s happening in tangible terms, the results have to be treated with a grain of salt.

    For example, what does it physically mean that “pattern of mode 1 in the north Pacific corresponds to the negative PDO phase in the PDO index”?

    • Not being a SA here, but it may mean you have to read a bunch of previous papers to understand all the special ways existing conceptual nomenclature are re-packaged for climate science.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ARGO – 0.69mm/yr

        Everyone get’s a seasonal effect from NH/SH asymmetry.

        What’s left over could be utter BS.

    • Steve Fitzpatrick

      I’ve heard of ‘taken with a grain of salt’, but ‘treated with a grain of salt’ a new one for me.
      One of the authors of the paper had an earlier paper (R. S. Nerem) had a paper in GRL “Is there a 60-year oscillation in global mean sea level?” (2012). The abstract reads:

      “We examine long tide gauge records in every ocean basin to examine whether a quasi 60-year oscillation observed in global mean sea level (GMSL) reconstructions reflects a true global oscillation, or an artifact associated with a small number of gauges. We find that there is a significant oscillation with a period around 60-years in the majority of the tide gauges examined during the 20th Century, and that it appears in every ocean basin. Averaging of tide gauges over regions shows that the phase and amplitude of the fluctuations are similar in the North Atlantic, western North Pacific, and Indian Oceans, while the signal is shifted by 10 years in the western South Pacific. The only sampled region with no apparent 60-year fluctuation is the Central/Eastern North Pacific. The phase of the 60-year oscillation found in the tide gauge records is such that sea level in the North Atlantic, western North Pacific, Indian Ocean, and western South Pacific has been increasing since 1985-1990. Although the tide gauge data are still too limited, both in time and space, to determine conclusively that there is a 60-year oscillation in GMSL, the possibility should be considered when attempting to interpret the acceleration in the rate of global and regional mean sea level rise. ”

      So the same pattern is present in the data even without the decomposition into orthogonal functions, though they could not ‘conclusively’ determine there is 60-year oscillation. The new paper seems to build on the earlier observation of an apparent cycle.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        The PDO is a pattern of sst in the north Pacific. The principal components analysis is the index.

      • Oh yes, I saw that paper. The usual suspects here were crowing about the data from C.U. so I did my own analysis here:
        It was very easy to detect a 2-month oscillation in the data.

        Overall, this is what different groups see in the GMSL rates

        CU: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr
        AVISO: 3.2 ± 0.6 mm/yr
        CSIRO: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr
        NOAA: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr (w/ GIA)

        Consider also that there is a difference between a rate and an acceleration.

        Hamlington et al detrend the GMSL data at a rate of 1.54 mm/year, then are left with what’s left. What’s left over could still have an acceleration term because that would have a parabolic shape. So what do they find but the profile in Figure 3, bottom pane

        Does that not look like a rising rate, indicating an acceleration?

      • Webster, “Does that not look like a rising rate, indicating an acceleration?”
        If you limit your knowledge to just that period of time. If you extend GMSL further back you get an indication that there may be more that PDO, like AMO.


        There is a correlation between northern Pacific SST change and sea level. WOW! There would be a correlation between northern Atlantic SST and sea level, double WOW! Imagine that warmer water from the equator transferred to the northern Pacific impacts sea level and climate. Whodda thunk it?

  42. First I have to straighten you guys out about the frequency of El Ninos and La Ninas. They occur in pairs, never separately. There is no way to get more La Ninas than El Ninos at any time because ENSO is an harmonic oscillation of ocean water from side to side in the equatorial Pacific. Its turnaround points are the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool and South America at the equator. The entire global temperature curve is a concatenation of El Nino peaks with La Nina valleys separating them. ENSO has existed as long as the present configuration of equatorial currents has existed, which is to say since the Isthmus of Panama rose from the sea. If you blow across the end of a glass tube you get the resonant tone of the tube, determined by its dimensions. Trade winds are the equivalent of blowing across a tube and the ocean answers with its own resonant tone – about one cycle every five years or so. It takes the form of an El Nino wave that carries the warm water of the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool across the ocean via the equatorial counter-current. It runs ashore in South America at the equator, spreads out in both directions along the coast and warms the air above it. Warm air rises, interferes with trade winds, mixes with the westerlies, and we notice the arrival of a warm El Nino. But any wave that runs ashore must also retreat. As the El Nino wave retreats sea level behind it drops by half a meter, cold water from below fills the vacuum, and a La Nina has started. As much as the El Nino just warmed the air, the La Nina that follows will cool it. When compared to the Indian Ocean Dipole, ENSO is much stronger and leaves its mark on the global temperature curve which shows no trace of IOD influence. They are also out of phase because of the shorter distance that the IOD has to cover. But ENSO is not the only thing in the Pacific Ocean. There are various other things like cyclones that can influence the time between successive El Nino waves or even stop it in its tracks while crossing the ocean. When this happens its warm water will spread out in the middle of the ocean and create an El Nino on the spot. This is called El Nino Modoki or CP (Central Pacific) El Nino. This may possibly change the relative strengths of the El Nino and La Nina phases of ENSO but there is no information about it because none of the hundreds of millions spent on climate research has been applied to such basic problems of science. But once we understand the oscillatory nature of ENSO it becomes clear that it is not capable of causing any permanent changes, either in global temperature or sea level changes that are observed. If it is shown to have caused lowering of sea level it is highly likely that the level will be restored as Fasullo et al. have already noticed. Any long-term changes in sea level are highly likely to be caused by the continuing world-wide melting of glaciers. Chow, Yu & Li (Science, April 2008) have shown that if allowance is made for water held in storage sea level curve becomes linear for the last 80 years and has a slope of 2.46 millimeters per year. Something that has been linear that long is not likely to change anytime soon. Hence, I suggest discarding all the various short-term data sets and staying with Chow, Yu & Li for centennial predictions. This means 24.6 centimeters per century, not some fantastic 20 feet for which Al Gore got a Nobel prize.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Utter nonsense in the first line. Why go further?


      • Chief Hydrologist | September 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm | says:
        “Utter nonsense in the first line. Why go further?…”

        You are a pretty arrogant guy. Why do you think you know so much that you are entitled to reject science you know nothing about? It is that combination of arrogance and ignorance that turns the warmist climate science into a pseudoscience. Look at them wriggle to explain away the existence of the pause. There has not been any warming for 15 years but leaked AR5 CMIP5 still projects warming ahead, based on a completely wrong extrapolation from the nineties. Fact is, there is more carbon dioxide in the air than anytime in recorded history but it is simply unable to cause the alleged greenhouse warming required to support your anthropogenic global warming fantasy. Has it occurred to you or your buddies that OLR passes right through this CO2 without being absorbed as your pseudoscience tells you? It goes straight into outer space, not into the ocean bottom as some learned articles in Nature suggest. Miskolczi theory explains why this is happening but I doubt that you can comprehend a forty page highly mathematical scientific treatise. You can learn the basics, however, if you carefully read my comments. And here is an important fact to keep in mind: there is no greenhouse warming now and any past warming attributed to the greenhouse effect is natural warming, misidentified by warmist scientists searching for evidence of global warming.

    • What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

  43. “Any long-term changes in sea level are highly likely to be caused by the continuing world-wide melting of glaciers.”
    So, you are suggesting that rates of ice-sheet melting are impervious to surface temperature change and sea levels are unaffected by increasing oceans heat content?

    • Pierre-Normand | September 13, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
      Sea level rise is influenced by increasing ocean heat content that has been stable over years. And ice-sheet melting is not impervious to surface temperature change but I don’t see any surface temperature change in the foreseeable future. We are now in a pause because the greenhouse theory of global warming has been proved false and other natural causes of warming are absent. In case you are wondering, this pause is not the first one nor is it the longest one on record. The previous one lasted 18 years, from 1979 to the first part of 1997, and was terminated by the arrival of the super El Nino of 1998. You don’t know about it because unfortunately all global temperature curves showed the eighties and nineties as a warming period, dubbed the “late twentieth century warming.” Satellites do not show this warming. I decided that it had to be faked and said so in my book “What Warming?” in 2010. It took two years but last fall GISTEMP, HadCRUT, and NCDC, all in unison, decided to stop showing it. This was done secretly and no explanation was offered. Hansen’s talk to the Senate, may I remind you, was in 1988, right smack in the middle of this fake warming period. I checked it out and found that he was claiming that the peak of 1988 El Nino constituted global warming. For your information, the 1988 El Nino is one of five in the period of the eighties and nineties.

  44. Webhubbletelescope says derisively:

    “Edim also claims that increases in CO2 comes about from heating of the ocean.”

    Carl Wunsch confirms this is true, Web.

  45. New paleo record for past PDO fluctuation. http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/early/2013/09/06/G34718.1.abstract $$ How does this factor onto the argument for current magnitudes of internal variability?

    • It seems to be a local rainfall study, rather than a global temperature study, so it may be hard to make a connection.

  46. “How does this factor onto the argument for current magnitudes of internal variability?”

    Why don’t you post the PDF so people can read the research article, instead of playing a game of 20 questions?

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  48. Appeals to “science” and “scientists” can be sorted into “trustworthy” and “tirade” bins by applying the following:

    Curry, Judith A.. “Questions on Research Integrity and Scientific Responsibility.” Scientific. Climate Etc., January 18, 2012. http://judithcurry.com/2012/01/18/questions-on-research-integrity-and-scientific-responsibility/

    ———. “Questions on Research Integrity and Scientific Responsibility: Part II.” Scientific. Climate Etc., January 26, 2012. http://judithcurry.com/2012/01/26/questions-on-research-integrity-and-scientific-responsibility-part-ii/

    ———. “A Standard for Policy-relevant Science.” Scientific. Climate Etc., September 12, 2013. http://judithcurry.com/2013/09/12/a-standard-for-policy-relevant-science/
    including the reference to “Principles”, http://www.tome22.info/Top/Principles.html#id1-2

    ———. “Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise.” Scientific. Climate Etc., September 11, 2013. http://judithcurry.com/2013/09/11/responsible-conduct-in-the-global-research-enterprise/

    InterAcademy Council, and the global network of science academies IAP. Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise: a Policy Report. Amsterdam; Trieste: IAC Secretariat; IAP Secretariat, 2012 http://www.interacademycouncil.net/File.aspx?id=28253

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