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The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind
Scientists Think They Know Why Global Warming Has Slowed

For more than a decade, global surface temperatures have defied our best climate models by refusing to rise, even as we pump out unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases. A new study has a new explanation for why our models are getting it wrong: equatorial winds. Evidently, Pacific trade winds have been blowing much harder over the past 20 years than they normally do, and as a result, surface heat is being stored in our oceans. The FT reports:

These easterly winds, which blow across the tropics, have speeded up ocean circulation at the equator, pushing heat deep down into the ocean’s depths and bringing cooler water up to the surface.

This has driven more cooling in other regions and accounts for much of the reason why global average air surface temperatures have stayed virtually steady since 2001, says the paper, published in this week’s Nature Climate Change journal.

The study’s authors were careful to note that this phenomenon was anomalous, and that this halt in global warming should restart once the strong winds abate. But they also were unable to identify why the normally cyclical winds have been so strong in recent years, or when they might be expected to return to more normal levels.

That kind of uncertainty isn’t surprising—the planet’s climate is an extraordinarily complex system of variables and feedback loops that we don’t fully understand. But our tenuous grasp of how and why our climate does what it does has profound effects on environmental policymaking. So much of what the green movement clamors for when it comes to crafting climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies is based on hard numbers—avoiding a specific amount of global temperature rise, keeping carbon emissions below a certain level, and so on. Unfortunately, much of the data can’t be trusted, given our current paucity of knowledge regarding—quite literally—the way the world works. How can politicians to craft effective green policies, which so often seem to require short-term sacrifices, when the hard data supposedly underpinning the outsized dangers of inaction is unreliable?

They can’t. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still work toward mitigating and adapting to climate change. At the most basic level, we do know that certain gases trap the sun’s heat, and that’s a problem. Given the uncertainty over the fiddly bits, we would be much better off pursuing policies that achieve both environmental and economic ends. Stop subsidizing expensive wind and solar energy, and focus more on energy efficiency measures. Abandon the quixotic fight against the Keystone XL pipeline and promote more shale gas extraction. A smart green movement would recognize that growth and sustainability are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts, and that strategies that wed the two are a lot more likely to work than unicorn hunts predicated on shaky data.

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  • bigfire

    There is no truth except Global Warming, and Al Gore is the prophet.

  • TommyTwo

    “For more than a decade, global surface temperatures have defied our best climate models by refusing to rise, even as we pump out unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases. A new study has a new explanation for why our models are getting it wrong:”

    The excess heat is being absorbed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

  • Andrew Allison

    More climate pseudo-science. First, let me once again request that TAI dispense with headlines like, “Scientists Think They Know Why Global Warming Has Slowed.” As the measured temperatures demonstrate, despite an enormous increase in atmospheric CO2, it has been stopped in its tracks and appears to be drifting downward (!
    As to the latest attempt to explain away the utter collapse of the AGW models, the mechanism by which heat is transferred from the surface to the deep ocean is well-understood: surface water is blown to a continental shelf where it is forced downward by the oncoming water. Once the surface water reaches the current air temperature, the only heat transfer which can occur it the loss due to evaporation. The oceans are in the process of adjusting to the increase in surface temperature which occurred between 1975 and 1998, but the process takes time. The hypothesis that “excess heat” generated by AGW is being being exactly balanced by an increase in Pacific wind velocity strains credulity.

    • ljgude

      I have read previously that climate scientists were claiming that the excess heat was somehow hiding in the deep oceans. So now they have a theory that the wind hid it there just enough to explain the problem with their figures. It all sounds like discussing a sighting of the Easter Bunny with a 5 year old.

      • Agim Zabeli

        I think Colonel Mustard hid it in the billiard room with a revolver. But we might want to check the library as well. Just in case.

      • Kavanna

        The “hot ocean” theory has been put to rest, a while ago. Ocean temperatures are not exceptionally warm.

        A larger fallacy here is the equation of heat with temperature and the false belief that “global warming” has to do with “trapping heat.” It doesn’t. The satanic “greenhouse” gases (even though greenhouses don’t work that way) are supposed to change how heat flows in the atmosphere, and thus the temperature distribution.

  • rheddles

    What a crock. It’s sun spots and I hope the warmers are the first to freeze.

    • Kavanna

      It’ll be like that scene in Ghostbusters when a certain character is covered in molten marshmallow 🙂

  • TheCynical1

    Maybe I came late to this insight, but at heart, the greens might be less bothered by the supposed dangers of alleged global warming (even though they always talk it up) — instead, they might be more upset by what they see as unholy human interference with the environment, well-intentioned or not, and helpful or not.

    If so, the greens’ distaste for a human role in the environment may explain why they categorically oppose other things like Keystone, fracking, GMO foods, etc., even though such views might otherwise seem unsupported, and maybe even counterproductive from an environmental perspective. In their view, it’s the Garden of Eden, or nothing.

    I had this insight when I had a conversation with a liberal green lawyer friend of mine, which went something like this:

    Me: If man-made global warming is real, what if we could mitigate it effectively and cheaply — for example, a scientist has suggested using airplanes to spread tiny dust particles in the upper atmosphere, to reflect sunlight back into space.

    Him: No. Even if that would work, humans should not be messing with Mother Nature.

    Me: Once man-made global warming is fully remedied, what if we then learn that the climate is starting to warm on its own, from natural causes, as the Earth has done in some past eras. Should we then try to find ways to combat natural global warming, to save the polar bears, stop the oceans from rising, etc.

    Him: No.

    • Agim Zabeli

      When trying to anticipate the positions of lefties (and greens are simply a variation of the class) I find it helpful to look at the Bible. This takes no special training or any particular religious belief. It just works. Whatever the Biblical view is on any subject at all, it is easy money the lefty position will be the polar (couldn’t resist) opposite.

      In this case the offending view comes early:

      “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26

      Cant’ have that, now can we?

      • Loader2000

        Agim, I’m get what you are saying. However, an appeal to the Bible (which is what you are indirectly making) is only an effective argument if you are talking to people who believe in the Bible in the first place. As a Christian, I find the Bible has the greatest appeal to the largest number of people when it is not used to make political arguments. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t form an opinion based, in part, on my religious beliefs. However, Christians need to be really careful that their efforts are not counter-productive when they use scripture to make political arguments.

        • Agim Zabeli

          I wasn’t making an appeal to scripture, though I am a Christian and Bible reading makes this lefty tendency easy to spot. I am simply suggesting scripture can be used predictively when dealing with the Left – if the Bible is for it the Left will be against it. I take the point of free_agent below about murder, but even if we didn’t count the killing for convenience of children in the womb, it could easily be interpreted as just about the only commandment left standing.

      • free_agent

        You write, “Whatever the Biblical view is on any subject at all, it is easy money
        the lefty position will be the polar (couldn’t resist) opposite.”

        That can’t be entirely true. For instance, lefties generally oppose legalizing murder, which IIRC is forbidden in one of the Commandments.

        However, you may be on to something. It would be one thing if the opinions of lefties were uncorrelated with Biblical positions, that would be more or less the observation that left politics is not Biblically based, nor based on any culture that is tightly consonant with Biblical positions. But to be entirely opposite suggests that they come from a cultural stream that has a far different base than the base of Bible-favoring factions.

        • Kavanna

          It’s much less simple than this. Leftism is a degenerate parody of Christianity, which contains the potent concept of Original Sin.

          Beliefs like environmentalism, “noble savagery,” and so on, are simply secularizations of the Original Sin concept. Human sin will lead to an apocalypse of divine punishment — sound familiar?

          • free_agent

            Hmmm, like Christianity but replacing the Commands of God with some sort of Paradisical Nature…

          • free_agent

            [A second time, so it’s a reply to the right message.]
            Hmmm, like Christianity but replacing the Commands of God with some sort of Paradisical Nature…

    • free_agent

      That idea makes the green movement much more comprehensible. Though what is seen as unnatural is rather complex: Thousands of windmills are OK, but nuclear power is not.

  • jburack

    I don’t disagree with a single thing in this article, I still find it frustrating in its tepid and tentative attitude toward this latest “science.” I am sorry, WINDS? Now, they tell us? After a dozen other absolutely sure thing factors explaining why there is no warming and nothing was really wrong with their models, this latest attempt to rescue those models is exactly that, just the latest rescue the models. It is the latest epicycle added to a disintegrating Ptolemaic-like structure that is going to unravel and should unravel soon, so as to enable the move to a cleaner, clearer kind of research into climate. The start of such a science will be announced when a factor influencing climate is considered in and of itself, without the superfluous nonsense of asserting, unproven, “that THAT’s why the inevitable rise of temperatures due to Man himself has been delayed.” No, climate scientists, Earth is not the center of the universe. And no, evil man is not himself the center of Earth’s climate systems. Get on with it, will you?

    • ljgude

      Yes, constantly adding epicycles to make a bad theory work. Plus computer models are hall of mirrors – you can unconsciously make them show what you want them to show. Stock market traders are constantly coming up with computer models that they believe will predict the market. Even in real hard science double blind studies are required to preclude unconscious bias where strong human emotions may skew results. As in medicine…or climate science.

  • bruce

    Deindustrialize and depopulate now !

  • Paul Nelson

    Hmmm …. In 2006 “climate scientists” were saying that human activity was slowing the trade winds. What’s a poor layman to believe? I thought this was all “settled science”:

  • DiogenesDespairs

    This otherwise good dissertation is like many other: It leaves unexamined the underlying assumption that human-generated carbon dioxide is the root of all alleged evil in “climate change.” Please allow me, then, to repost the following, which I do when it seems pertinent to a “climate change” discussion.

    The fact is, there has been global warming, but the contribution of human-generated carbon dioxide is necessarily so minuscule as to be nearly undetectable. Here’s why:

    Carbon dioxide, considered the main vector for human-caused global warming, is some 0.038% of the atmosphere[1]- a trace gas. Water vapor varies from 0% to 4%[2], and should easily average 1% or more[3] near the Earth’s surface, where the greenhouse effect would be most important, and is about three times more effective[4] a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So water vapor is at least 25 times more prevalent and three times more effective; that makes it at least 75 times more important to the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide[5]. The TOTAL contribution of carbon dioxide to the greenhouse effect is therefore 0.013 or less. The total human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the industrial revolution has been estimated at about 25%[6]. So humans’ carbon dioxide greenhouse effect is a quarter of 0.013, works out to about 0.00325. Warming of the Earth by the greenhouse effect is widely accepted as
    about 33 degrees Centigrade[7] or 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So the
    contribution of anthropogenic carbon dioxide is less than 0.2 degrees
    Fahrenheit, or under 0.1 degree Centigrade. Global warming over the last
    century is thought by many to be about 0.6 degrees Centigrade.

    But that’s only the beginning. We’ve had global warming for more than 10,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age[8]. Whatever caused that, it was not human activity. It was not all those power plants and factories and SUVs being operated by Stone Age cavemen while chipping arrowheads out of bits of flint. Whatever the cause was, it melted the glaciers that in North America once extended south to Long Island and parts of New York City[9]
    into virtually complete disappearance (except for a few mountain remnants).
    That’s one big greenhouse effect! If we are still having global warming – and I
    suppose we should presume we are, given a 10,000 year trend – it seems highly likely that it is still the overwhelmingly primary cause of continued warming, rather than our piddling 0.00325 contribution to the greenhouse effect.

    Yet even that trend-continuation needs to be proved. Evidence is that the Medieval Warm Period centered on the 1200s was somewhat warmer than we are now[10], and the climate was clearly colder in the Little Ice Age in the 1600s than it is now[11]. So we are within the range of normal up-and-down
    fluctuations without human greenhouse contributions that could be significant, or even measurable.

    The principal scientists arguing for human-caused global warming have been
    demonstrably disingenuous[12], and now you can see why. They have
    proved they should not be trusted.

    The idea that we should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars and
    hamstringing the economy of the entire world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is beyond ludicrous in light of the facts above; it is insane. Furthermore, it sucks attention and resources from seeking the other sources of warming and from coping with climate change and its effects in realistic ways. The true motivation underlying the global warming movement is almost certainly ideological and political in nature, and I predict that Anthropomorphic Global Warming, as currently presented, will go down as the greatest fraud of all time. It makes Ponzi and Madoff look like pikers by comparison.

    [1] Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition 
by Michael Pidwirny Concentration varies
    slightly with the growing season in the northern hemisphere.

    [2] ibid.

    [3] HALOE
    v2.0 Upper Tropospheric Water Vapor Climatology Claudette Ojo, Hampton
    University; et al..
    See p. 4.The 0 – 4% range is widely accepted among most sources. This source is
    listed for its good discussion of the phenomena determining that range. An
    examination of a globe will show that tropical oceans (near high end of range)
    are far more extensive than the sum of the earth’s arctic and antarctic regions
    and tropical-zone deserts (all near the low end). Temperate zone oceans are far
    more extensive than temperate-zone desert. This author’s guess of an average of 2% or more seems
    plausible. I have used “1% or more” in an effort to err on the side of

    [4 NIST
    Chemistry Webbook, Please
    compare the IR absorption spectra of water and carbon dioxide. ]

    [5] Three quarters of the atmosphere and
    virtually all water vapor are in the troposphere. Including all the atmosphere
    would change the ratios to about 20 times more prevalent and 60 times more
    effective. However, the greenhouse effect of high-altitude carbon dioxide on
    lower-altitude weather and the earth’s surface seems likely to be small if not

    [6] World
    Meteorological Organization

    [7] National
    Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
    The estimated 90ppm increase in carbon dioxide, 30% above the base of 280 ppm, to a recent reading of 370 ppm,
    equates to just under 25% of present concentration, the relevant factor in
    estimating present contribution to the greenhouse effect.

    [8] Oak
    Ridge National Laboratory

    [9] New
    York Nature – The nature and natural history of the New York City region.
    Betsy McCully

    [10] Global Warming: A
    Geological Perspective John P. Bluemle
    This article, published by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency,
    is drawn from a paper by the author in Environmental
    Geosciences, 1999, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 63-75. Note particularly the
    chart on p.4.

    [11] Ibid.

    Wikileaks: Climatic
    Research Unit emails, data, models, 1996-2009,_data,_models,_1996-2009.

    and, more diplomatically:
    Et al.


    What initially troubled me was the aberrant behavior of the climate research unit at East Anglia University, which has been the main data source for AGW arguments. They initially refused(!) to reveal their algorithms and data on the grounds that they were proprietary(!!). They responded to critics with ad hominem attacks and efforts to block their publication in scientific journals. Now, as I am sure you know, this is not how one does honest science, in which you PUBLISH your data and methodology and invite critical comment to ferret out error or oversights. It took the now-famous Wikileaks “Climategate” to pry loose the data and expose their machinations. Yet despite the devastating blow these revelations
    should have to their credibility, the AGW “cause” has taken on a life
    of its own.

    Fundamentally, the argument seems to rest
    on a logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc – after this, therefore because
    of this. We see a rise in temperature and a rise in (principally) carbon
    dioxide, and therefore advocates argue one must have caused the other. It
    does not necessarily follow at all. There can be other causes entirely behind
    both phenomena, and as you see above, almost certainly there are. Beyond
    that, I have encountered numerous assertions of fact that cannot add up given the physical properties of water vapor and carbon dioxide yet go unchallenged. One-sided arguments proliferate and people arguing the other side are frequently denounced as being employed by business interests rather than rebutted on the merits.

    In sum, I have not come lightly to the
    conclusion that the AGW argument as it applies to carbon dioxide is largely
    untrue and certainly does not account for more than a very small, nearly
    negligible part of the phenomena we are seeing. The implications of widespread assertions of and belief in such an untruth are staggering, and potentially enormously destructive. It is unwise indeed to let oneself be stampeded in this matter, and stampede is clearly what many have been and are trying to induce.

    I can understand politicians behaving this
    way; a carbon tax or carbon trading regime would allow enormous revenues (not to mention power) to fall into their hands. I can understand
    “Progressive” ideologues; it logically leads to enormous expansion of
    government power over industry, the economy, and the daily life of individuals, which they regard as a good thing. I understand zealous environmentalists; they want to shrink the size and impact on the environment of modern civilization.
    But responsible citizens need to put aside such considerations.

  • free_agent

    You write, “A smart green movement would recognize that growth and sustainability are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts”

    But it does seem that the emotional drivers of the green movement go well beyond the preventing of specific environmental harms. They seem to deeply involve disgust at various “unnatural” practices, mostly centered around industrialization. (Oddly, the most environmentally destructive phase of human history was the expansion of agriculture, but they don’t oppose that.) E.g., the straightforward way to reduce CO2 emission is to replace coal-fired power plants with nuclear power plants, but the green movement wouldn’t stand for that.

    • Kavanna

      Yes, the transformation of agriculture away from extensive expansion (more and more marginal acres under cultivation) toward intensive exploitation was and is a boon to the larger environment. It means needing fewer acres under cultivation. GMOs mean fewer pesticides and less water waste. And so on. If the environmentalist movement were interested in progress of this sort, we would be living in a different world.

      The reality is that the environmentalist movement is a pseudo-religion — romantic pessimistic, and reactionary in looking backward toward an imaginary “noble savage” past and viewing technological and scientific progress as a form of Original Sin. These days, they often try to hide it behind a smokescreen of scientific-sounding jargon (“sustainability,” “climate change,” “carrying capacity” and other pseudo-scientific concepts). But the basic hostility toward reason and science remains. It’s totally corrupted the politics and done serious damage to the science.

  • Valiente

    Why the deep oceans? What has actually been measured?

    Well, we don’t have a way, as yet of verifying temperature change in the deep oceans. That, I feel is the reason that the deep oceans have been picked as the secret storehouse for the heat of global warming. We can verify the planet’s surface temperatures. Thanks to ARGO, we know that the shallow part of the oceans ( approximately to1 mile in depth) are not storing the heat. What better place could the heat be than in a place that can’t be reliably checked. That certainly takes the heat off the alarmists.

    Now consider the case of chicken little. People did not believe him because they did not see any falling sky. He never thought to postulate that the sky fell over the deep oceans and sank to the bottom. Maybe we should check into this!

    • Kavanna

      Some work has been done on the deep oceans, although there aren’t many accurate measurements, at least not yet. What has been so far confirms the lack of “trapped heat” (what a ludicrous metaphor!) in the oceans seen closer to the surface.

  • Kavanna

    The commenters below have said most of what needs to be said. But I’ll say my $0.02 again.

    No one knows what “climate” really means. It’s not a scientific concept, but rather a vague hope that someone will come up with a simple, global concept to replace the messy complexity of everyday weather. Then we’re supposed to ascribe the change of this “climate” to human activity. There’s no evidence for it, in fact. The hysterics are back to where they were a generation ago, making ominous predictions about how something human-caused will happen in the near or far future. It’s not happening now, nor has it happened in the recent past. It’s back to being where it started 25 years ago, a speculative mania. The Boomer generation seems exceptionally addicted to manias, pseudo-religions, and navel-gazing theories centering on themselves and their pet preconceived ideas.

    While there’s no “climate” yet as a scientific concept, research (research that is being hindered as people are distracted by the “climate change” mania) is reaching new levels of understanding concerning two extremely important factors that strongly influence medium-term “weather” (over months to decades) — “teleconnections” between regional climate cycles (like El Nino, the largest one), and the Sun-Earth connection. This solar cycle has peaked and passed, being one of the weaker ones on record. Little doubt this is connected with the recent harsh winters:

    An example of teleconnections can be found here:

  • DiogenesDespairs

    The depressing thing about this discussion is to see how completely the climate research community has lost credibility.

    Unfortunately, they deserve it.

    In the end, the AGW crusade looks likely to discredit everything and everyone who embraces it. The good thing about that is, it will teach everyone but the willfully deceived to regard everything and everyone with healthy skepticism.

  • Pait

    Control engineers such as myself know that precise models are not necessary in order to design useful policies (we call them feedback controls). Moreover, we need to design systems whether or not the models are perfect – in fact, the worse the models, the bigger the need for feedback.

    The argument that politicians cannot do anything unless and until scientists explain everything in minute detail is wrong, and potentially disastrous. It is precisely because science cannot make exact predictions that we need to formulate robust policies to limit risks.

    • Jim__L

      So Pait, please design us a system that controls the weather. 🙂

      • Pait

        It all depends on building the appropriate actuators. We know how to build actuators that increase the average temperature of the Earth – in fact we have been doing it for a while. We don’t know how to decrease it.

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