A descent into the maelstrom – ‘black hole’ whirlpools seen for the first time in the South Atlantic

More settled science: these whirlpools transport vast amount of water and heat vertically in the ocean, somewhat like hurricanes do for the atmosphere. It is fun to imagine “Trenberth’s missing heat” being sucked down one of these.

ocean_eddies_640

(Note: image is not part of the original story, but related) This visualization of ocean surface currents between June, 2005 and December, 2007 is based on an integration of satellite data with a numerical model. Eddies and narrow currents transport heat and carbon in the oceans. The Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean project provides ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used here. These visualizations are used to measure the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle and monitor heat, water, and chemical exchanges within and between different components of the Earth system. Image: NASA/GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio/Greg Shirah/Horace Mitchell/GSFC

Via Yahoo News:

Satellites have shown two mysterious ‘black hole’ whirlpools in the South Atlantic ocean – ultra powerful “vortexes” which suck water down into the depths.

Two of the black holes – or “maelstroms” – have been sighted in three months by physicists from Zurich and Miami who have written a new paper using satellite altimetry to look for and identify these oceanic vortices. They write in their paper:

The South Atlantic ocean region in question is bounded by longitudes [14W, 9E] and latitudes [39S, 21S]. Using satellite altimetry data, we seek coherent Lagrangian vortices (black-hole eddies, for short) over  a 90-day time period, ranging from 24 November 2006 to 22 February 2007.

The powerful vortices of current have been described as ‘maelstroms’ and are ‘mathematical analogues’ for black holes – which is to say they do exactly the same with water that black holes do with light. The discovery could give new insights into how oceanic currents transport debris and may even have implications for climate change studies.

whirpool_panel1

Top panel: Evolution of black-hole eddies (extracted from 3 months of data) in the South Atlantic over a period of 225 days. The eddies move from east to northwest (form right to left). Bottom panel: Material evolution of a nonlinear SSH eddy over the same 225 days.

The maelstroms are detected by their rotating edges, which the scientists found were reliable indicators of the vortex within, based on pioneering research carried out by Stephen Hawking on black holes:

‘Intuitively, one expects that any…vortex in the fluid must contain such a singularity in its interior, just as all black holes are expected to contain Penrose-Hawking singularities. This expectation turns out to be correct’.

The singularities, as they have been termed, last for months at a time, moving across the ocean without interference from other currents. Thus they can transport water of different temperatures and salinity to other areas of the ocean, potentially influencing the regional climate.

Haller and Beron-Vera found that the vortices transported water in a north-western direction 30% faster than had previously been reckoned – at a rate equating to 1.3 million cubic meters of water per second.

In addition, the maelstroms were found to occur four times deeper in the ocean than previously estimated; the study found examples as deep as 2000 meters below the surface.

###

Here is the draft paper, final publication in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics.

Coherent Lagrangian vortices: The black holes of turbulence

G. Hallery and F. J. Beron-Vera (Received 13 May 2013; revised 18 July 2013; accepted 23 July 2013.)

We introduce a simple variational principle for coherent material vortices in two-dimensional turbulence. Vortex boundaries are sought as closed stationary curves of the averaged Lagrangian strain. Solutions to this problem turn out to be mathematically equivalent to photon spheres around black holes in cosmology. The uidic photon spheres satisfy explicit di erential equations whose outermost limit cycles are optimal Lagrangian vortex boundaries. As an application, we uncover super-coherent material eddies in the SouthAtlantic, which yield speci c Lagrangian transport estimates for Agulhas rings.

http://arxiv.org/pdf/1308.2352.pdf

In this NASA visualization video (not part of the paper, but related) one can see quasi-permanent eddies throughout the south Atlantic.

Data sources: sea surface height from NASA’s Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1, and Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 satellite altimeters; gravity from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment mission; surface wind stress from NASA’s QuikScat mission; sea surface temperature from the NASA/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS; sea ice concentration and velocity from passive microwave radiometers; temperature and salinity profiles from shipborne casts, moorings and the international Argo ocean observation system.

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150 Responses to A descent into the maelstrom – ‘black hole’ whirlpools seen for the first time in the South Atlantic

  1. Gunga Din says:

    The discovery could give new insights into how oceanic currents transport debris and may even have implications for climate change studies.

    ====================================================================
    So we know how they got their funding.
    Next will be how to explain these are man-made and haven’t been there for millennium.

  2. David says:

    A transport system for heat and trapped heat are two different things. There is no trapped heat measured to account for the massive difference between the GCMs and the climate record.

  3. george e. smith says:

    Well so now we know the secret of the Bermuda Triangle.

  4. ferd berple says:

    Who’d have thunk. My bathtub is a black hole generator. And my sink. And even the toilet.

  5. Ric Werme says:

    http://www.sott.net/article/265248-Ultra-powerful-black-hole-whirlpools-seen-for-the-first-time-in-the-South-Atlantic has a very nice photo of a whirlpool in their version of this story. Only problem is that I think it’s way too small to be one of this whirlpools.

    REPLY: I saw that image, but could not use it due to it being copyrighted by “Rex Features”. Just as well, you are correct that it is too small. – Anthony

  6. Gunga Din says:

    Hey! dbstealey! They found where the plug was pulled!

  7. “Haller and Beron-Vera found that the vortices transported water in a north-western direction 30% faster than had previously been reckoned – at a rate equating to 1.3 million cubic meters of water per second.”

    Yet another example of how little we know (or knew) and of the significance of forces that are operable in nature. Yet some people are still convinced that by driving our SUV’s we’re overwhelming the system and singlehandedly deciding the future trajectory of climate.

  8. Gene Selkov says:

    Do they really need to use some idiot’s blabber about “singularities” as a prop for a report on an *observation*? Do observations need any props?

  9. Kevin Lohse says:

    “…..which is to say they do exactly the same with water that black holes do with light.” Is this post-modern science in action or an unfortunately misleading publicity exercise?

  10. JM VanWinkle says:

    Wouldn’t this make ocean temperature measurement difficult, assuming of course that the whirlpools are significant? It is a good thing the science is settled (no sarcasm intended).

  11. Mike Tremblay says:

    Great insights – Who would have thought that the oceans follow the rules of fluid dynamics.

  12. Gunga Din says:

    Often the first time Man observes something we forget that that doesn’t mean it is the first time it has happened. Some act like it. Learning something new about the oceans is a good thing. The subtle implication that it is a new door that the missing heat may have gone through is not a good thing.

  13. Luther Wu says:

    Ric Werme says:
    September 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    http://www.sott.net/article/265248-Ultra-powerful-black-hole-whirlpools-seen-for-the-first-time-in-the-South-Atlantic
    ____________________________
    From your link:
    “The whirpools – never witnessed before – would suck down ships, debris and even living creatures, moving 1.3 million cubic metres of water per second. ”

    If they’ve never been witnessed before, then how did Edgar Allen Poe write about them? He either heard about the existence of the maelstroms from someone, or made the whole thing up.

  14. Gene Selkov says:

    Ric and Anthony: when you say, “too small”, where do you imagine the boundary? For example, what is the extent of the whirlpool in your bathroom?

    REPLY: based on water characteristics in the photo, this whirlpool looks to be on a scale of feet (my SWAG is a few tens of feet, maybe 10-30) due to the slope of the interior vortex. Water is heavy, bigger whirlpools such as mentioned in the paper would have less steep funnel slopes. This one in the SOTT.net article might be a photo of the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, see http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2404815 – Anthony

  15. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    You know, it gets to a point where one just gets sick of studies that, sooner or later, insert a remark about that study’s importance in “understanding climate change”. This one is typical. One just can’t have an interesting discovery without it being related to ‘climate change’. “Climate CHANGE” is, by its very name, a ‘change’, which, in and of itself, is nothing, because it CHANGES. Yet it gets bandied around as a noun, or ‘thing’, that is a ’cause’, or something requiring ‘understanding’. Well, before Trenberth slimes this as his missing heat mechanism (I say ‘slimes’, not meaning that he’ll insult this study, but that he’ll glom onto it as his own vindication), climate ‘change’ is an EFFECT, not a cause. So once people figure that out maybe their focus can go elsewhere, and some pure science without an implied (or explicit in this case) agenda can actually take place.

  16. vukcevic says:

    As posted on another thread
    Heat absorbed by the world oceans is moved around by the major currents, most notably by the Gulf Stream and its extension in the North Atlantic, Kuroshio-Oyashio currents system in the North Pacific and yhe equatorial currents in the Central Pacific.
    In order to influence global climate these major currents (assuming relatively steady solar input) heat transport (current’s velocity, volume or both) has to change.
    One could speculate about causes of such changes, either of the global or local proportions.
    It is somewhat odd to think that a local cause is the primary factor, but from data I have looked at, that appear to be the case as listed here:
    AMO – Far North Atlantic Tectonics
    PDO – Kamchatka – Aleutian Archipelago Tectonics
    ENSO (SOI) – Central Pacific Tectonics
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/TDs.htm

  17. dp says:

    I’m going to wait for the US Navy or any nation’s navy, or any commercial shipping company to verify their ships have been spun anywhere by this phenomenon or stunning data from ARGO buoys that shows an unmistakable pattern of ship-sucking power marauding across the Atlantic.

    My skepticism is against the notion that something that was previously unknown but with a paucity of information is deemed capable of sucking ships to Davy Jone’s locker BUT HASN’T! It’s not like there’s any shortage of these things if the article is to be believed, and stuff to suck in is everywhere, so where are the bodies?

  18. Ric Werme says:

    Luther Wu says:
    September 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    > If they’ve never been witnessed before, then how did Edgar Allen Poe write about them?

    One thing I came across while hunting down that photo (I had seen it a few days before) was a claim that Poe et al had exaggerated real whirlpools into their fiction.

    See http://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/02/science/deadly-maelstrom-s-secrets-unveiled.html

  19. Ric Werme says:

    dp says:
    September 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    I’m going to wait for the US Navy or any nation’s navy, or any commercial shipping company to verify their ships have been spun anywhere by this phenomenon or stunning data from ARGO buoys that shows an unmistakable pattern of ship-sucking power marauding across the Atlantic.

    The eddies are very big, here are some on the Gulf Stream.

    http://tornado.sfsu.edu/geosciences/classes/m407_707/Monteverdi/labs/Lab3_Oceanographers/Lab_3_Oceanography_Key.html

  20. The ones in the S Atlantic are 100km to 300km across, so I doubt anyone on a ship, except perhaps the navigator would notice entering one.

  21. The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:

    I’m no astrophysicist but it is nothing like a Black Hole! A Black Hole has a gravity field so intense that light cannot escape – it’s not that it sucks light in (as such) as far as I understand it. A photon is a massless particle. It’s path can be bent by gravity, but as far as I am aware it won’t be ‘sucked in’. Would any physicist on here care to chime in?

  22. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Does this account say how they measured or detected these things down to 2000m below sea surface? I did not know that we had instruments capable of doing that.

  23. M Courtney says:

    How many of these things are there?
    Because if they are common then ocean acidification from absorption of CO2 is going ot be very hard to detect.
    They would confound that problem entirely, if they are common.

  24. Jon says:

    “Ric Werme says”
    Your video looks like Saltstraumen in Nothern Norway?

  25. tobias says:

    @rRick Werne (11.16pm Sept 5:, Greta video thanks but I guess that is why they built the bridge??.
    @Ferd Perple, My bath tub does not but it does have a Gulf Stream. (Well ok when I open the hot tap LOL),
    At JM van Winkle , but is the science NOT settled ?? dang I won’t be able to sleep tonight. I thought in a week or two at this big meeting it is all done and over with!

  26. Larry Ledwick (hotrod) says:

    I’m going to wait for the US Navy or any nation’s navy, or any commercial shipping company to verify their ships have been spun anywhere by this phenomenon or stunning data from ARGO buoys that shows an unmistakable pattern of ship-sucking power marauding across the Atlantic.

    Well about 200 ships sink every year (4/week) and about 24 of them (2/month) are over 100 ft long. A percentage of those ships are lost without a trace and presumed lost to bad weather.

    It was only recently that marine engineers started to take rogue waves seriously after getting video documentation of waves striking ships and oil platforms, which finally resulted in satellite documentation that rogue waves are far more common that previously believed.

    There is no good reason to suspect that like rogue waves these have been there all along and have been discounted as drunken sailor stories rather than fact.

    Rogue waves are another example of a natural phenomen that the “models” said were impossible or extremely rare only to find that once you know what to look for they can be seen almost every day someplace on the oceans, and marine engineering models for maximum wave height are grossly off the mark when it comes to these extreme waves.

  27. SandyInLimousin says:

    Does know if an argo buoy has gone “down” one of these?

    Corryvreckan is another fairly famous maelstrom

  28. kuhnkat says:

    Outside of the fact that Black Holes are a perversion of mathematics,

    “The powerful vortices of current have been described as ‘maelstroms’ and are ‘mathematical analogues’ for black holes – which is to say they do exactly the same with water that black holes do with light. ”

    Light does NOT come back out of a mythical black hole but water certainly does survive the descent in a maelstrom and comes out later.

    These maelstrom are so new this gentleman was blogging about the legal implications for cruise ship passengers back in May!!

    http://blog.lipcon.com/2013/05/what-is-a-maelstrom-and-how-can-it-affect-your-cruise-vacation.html

    Here is a NYT article from 1997

    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/02/science/deadly-maelstrom-s-secrets-unveiled.html

    etc etc

  29. vukcevic says:

    Oceans floor profile was formed by the tectonic plates movements over millions of years. The mid Atlantic ridge imprint of the ocean floor speeding is clearly visible in the Earth’s crus magnetic field. Similarity of the Gulf Stream surface flow and the Atlantic ocean’s floor magnetic profile patterns is clearly visible
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/GMF-GS.htm
    Tectonics is a continuous and relentless process, it is happening now as it was millions of years ago and it will in Mega years to come. From our geological epoch time point it may appear to be of no immediate consequence, but the available data evidence points to the contrary.

  30. Man Bearpig says:

    What happens when the moon passes over these ?

  31. StephenP says:

    Some years ago there was a TV programme about vortices which started at the Corryvreckan Whirlpool and investigated it in a lot of detail, even thowing a dummy into it on the end of a long line to see the effect. It took out about a half mile of line in short order.
    At the end of the programme they showed some new, then, satellite photos which showed that vortices were a world-wide phenomenon, which no-one had got round to observing or studying in ant depth.
    (Incidently, anyone who fishes a dry fly for trout finds out about vortices very quickly, otherwise they catch few trout. Often you see a mini whirlpool remain static for some second or minutes, and then it suddenly spins off across the river current and settles elsewhere.)

  32. [snip - way waaaaaayyyyy of topic - mod]

  33. mogamboguru says:

    Reminds me of the big “Red Eye”-storm on Saturn…

  34. Ian W says:

    According to etymology the term ‘Maelstrom’ is from the Dutch – grinding stream – and was used by Mercator and other map makers in the 1500’s. So yes – satellite imagery has been used to show that Mercator was right.

  35. Perry says:

    Luther Wu says:
    September 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    The original Maelstrom (described by Poe and others) is the Moskstraumen, a powerful tidal current in the Lofoten Islands off the Norwegian coast.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maelstrom

  36. John Trigge says:

    Would anyone dare to claim that they can model this phenomenon with any accuracy in their GCMs? ‘Settled science’ is bovine excrement.

  37. peter says:

    I am way out of my depth (sorry) but read everything i can on this site. Dumb question but would not moving all this water to depths of up to 2000 feet use up vast amounts of energy and what are the implications, if any?

  38. sophocles says:

    i’m sorta glad i’m not an ocean bottom dweller with all those aquatic
    ‘tornadoes’ going overhead … could be a dizzy experience..

  39. Otter says:

    I have NO doubt whatsoever, that they will leap upon this as the heat-transfer mechanism for the deep oceans……

  40. Greg says:

    “In addition, the maelstroms were found to occur four times deeper in the ocean than previously estimated; the study found examples as deep as 2000 meters below the surface.”

    Inaccurate reporting by Yahoo ( who would rely on something called ‘Yahoo” to get science right?) . This is an apparently measured result that was cited from an earlier paper by someone else.

  41. Greg says:

    peter says:

    I am way out of my depth (sorry) but read everything i can on this site. Dumb question but would not moving all this water to depths of up to 2000 feet use up vast amounts of energy and what are the implications, if any?

    ===

    The paper makes no mention of vertical transport of water. In fact the definition of these zones as being “coherent” means that volumes of water to not get deformed and stretched. This is precisely what happens near a vortex which is sucking material down.

    Though they do talk of “singularities” this seems to be rather loose parlance since this would be an infinitely deep whole of infinitesimal width. While Hawkins may want to suggest that happens in black holes it certainly does not happen on Earth.

    There’s some very sloppy language in this paper despite it’s fancy maths, including referring to 2D patterns on water as “photon spheres” !

    Since “black holes” always makes exciting pop science journalism, it seems this is designed to get their paper talked about. I really dislike this sort of sloppy sensational language in something that is supposed to be a serious scientific paper.

    Also beware of language like “depths of up to 2000 feet “, of-up-to’s don’t tell us anything useful, more sensationalism (which came from another paper about another ocean).

  42. Greg says:

    PS the fact that they don’t mention vertical transportation suggests it is insignificant in these structures, otherwise it would have as important to report on as the horizontal transportation. As I noted above the usual imagery of a maelstrom would be a vortex characterised by incoherent patterns which is what they explicitly deselect.

  43. Julian in Wales says:

    Well it does give the warmists a (barely believable) explanation (face saver) for how 17 years worth of heat disappeared from the atmosphere and reached the deep oceans – but since the water heats up down there so slowly it gives us an another reason to point out there is no problem: The temperature rise (as measured/claimed by the warmists) in the deep oceans only rises by a few hundredths of a degree over decades – it is hardly likely that this trapped heat will cause major changes or extreme weather (even when it reaches the surface).

    I agree this has nothing to do with science, but the news editors and politicians never have been much interested in the science. This global warming story is becoming boring, even for them, and they need a way of disengaging so that they can move on to a new more creditable alarmist agenda. Any guesses what they will choose to latch on to?

  44. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    A source of maelstroms, or just underwater heating and potentially global warming?

    The Solar System’s second-largest volcano found hiding on Earth
    Massive Tamu Massif as big as the British Isles
    By Rik Myslewski, 5th September 2013

    Earth’s largest volcano – and possibly the second largest volcano in the Solar System – has been discovered hiding deep beneath the waves about 1,000 miles east of Japan.

    How large is “largest”? According to a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the “immense shield volcano” spans about 120,000 square miles, making it equal in size to the British Isles – which, for you stateside readers who may be unfamiliar with that geographical designation, encompasses both Great Britain and Ireland.

    And how deep is “deep”? Nature World News reports that the gargantuan mound’s summit – its summit, mind you – lies 6,500 feet below the surface, and parts of its base lie as deep as four miles down.

    Paging Bob Tisdale, Master of the Sea Temperature Charts: Is this close enough to the Pacific Warm Pool to have some correlation with ENSO and other things?

    Although you did mention how, regionally speaking, it’s “East Pacific Versus The Rest Of The World”, that region which is about 33% of the global ocean surface area hasn’t warmed for 31+ years and ignores ENSO events, while everywhere else has “global warming” that’s aligned with ENSO. Could this uber-volcano be having a stabilizing effect? Is there any correlation, positive or negative?

  45. Another Gareth says:

    What the paper seems to be describing is a coherent lump of water that doesn’t mix with the surrounding waters (analogous to Jupiter’s Red Spot as they suggest at the end) rather than what I imagined they were on about – a funnel moving surface water to deeper regions.

  46. johnmarshall says:

    These have been known for years and caused by ocean currents passing through quieter water. They were known as eddy currents now they are maelstroms. (Itself an alarmist term).They have helped form the ocean gyres, larger eddy currents that are positioned semi-permanently and collect all the crap thrown overboard from ships. The Southern Pacific Gyre is said to contain several million tonnes of non-degradable plastics. Take your rubbish home with you.
    Eddy currents are a friction condition whilst black holes are a gravity condition. No comparison to my mind.

  47. Brian H says:

    The analogy with black holes is very poor and inappropriate. What happens to the water is not “exactly the same … as black holes do with light.” It is not trapped forever, compressed into a singularity; it is (putatively) moved around to other areas. Big deal; tell us something new. Water moves.

  48. RobL says:

    It takes a huge amount of power to pump 27°C surface water down 1000m, about the same as pumping that same water up 4m in height. Or speeding that same water up to 20mph. This is most definitely not happening.

    There is no mechanism that allows for warm water to sink in the oceans. Only water at around 4°C or colder water with higher salinity can sink into the deep ocean. Aside from that you get some heat transport in top 1-200 hundred meters from wave action (storms, or their absence can have massive effect on moving heat down) and very small amount from conductivity, and a really small amount from fish swimming up and down.

  49. Now we know the real cause of the Bermuda Triangle.

  50. Chad Jessup says:

    The whirlpools demonstrate what in hydraulics is called laminar flow and turbulent flow where the once smooth flowing (laminar) water encounters a restriction resulting in an increase in velocity which causes areas of turbulent flow.

    People are getting carried away with criticizing the analogy. An analogy is just — an analogy. It doesn’t prove anything, as it is just utilized for comprehension purposes.

    This study needs to provide evidence that waters of a higher temperature are transported to greater depths by the processes cited.

  51. Neil says:

    There is something very ‘wrong’ about this article methinks. The ‘news’ report over sensationalises a rather fact deficient idea, the paper cited, as little as I’ve read, is highly technical language, and the ocean studies would have surely produced some real data and science and pics or videos by 2013? I’m not suggesting a type of ocean whirlypool doesn’t exist, but come on, to grab attention by talking about black holes, hawking, etc –
    It is not April 1st, but something seems amiss here that disinclines me to explore further. Life is too short …

  52. Gary Pearse says:

    Ric Werme says:
    September 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    “…nice photo of a whirlpool in their version of this story. Only problem is that I think it’s way too small to be one of this whirlpools.”

    I’ve seen these in Jarvis Inlet (a fjord), British Colulmbia when the tide is going out or in. They are scary and can be swinging a large log around. I’ve steered around them in a fast inboard boat. If you hit the edges of one you get a good (temporary) pull off course. They were referred to locally as ‘skookumchuck’ meaning strong waters (also used for rapids etc.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skookumchuck

    I find it hard to believe that sailors weren’t already aware of these. Modern science is a jealous, sneaky potage. In the Svensmark GCR thread of the other day, my comment around #100+ was the first to mention the Wilson Cloud Chamber whilch demonstrated GCR paths as streaks of clouds in the chamber in 1912. Perhaps, Svensmark did reference Wilson, I didn’t check.

    Here is Charles T.R. Wilson’s Nobel Lecture. This guy had done Svensmarks experiments and much more, beautifully, starting in 1895. This is a must read for anyone interested in the beauty of the scientific method (and the beauty of apparati).

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1927/wilson-lecture.pdf

  53. Doug Huffman says:

    Please be careful of dismissing the explanatory value of cosmological black-holes for not understanding their hypothetical transport mechanisms. Some advocates of new-physics cosmology fret about entropy transport just as we fret about heat transport. Read Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics is also broadly concerned with the role of controversy and the value of diverse approaches in the ethics and process of science (not to give any credence to unfalsifiable warmism).

  54. J.H. says:

    Black holes in the ocean…. What rubbish.

  55. Doug Huffman says:

    Huge logs floating in the Kings River, in Kings Canyon NP, collect in eddies. As a youth I would ride the logs around and around, having to be attentive only at the cusp of another circuit or transport into the white water.

  56. Neil says:

    I seem to remember Svensmark mentioned in one of his vid/documentaries that he was inspired by the memory of experiments with cloud chambers when a youth (don’t they all show sporadic GCR as well as radiation when you bring a source close, as part of the demonstration/experiment?)

  57. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    *sigh*

    My previous post has been “awaiting moderation” for over two hours, originally submitted at 2:31AM site time.

    I like the current moderation policy, having most comments slide right through is an improvement.

    But when comments that will eventually be approved get hung up for a technical reason, and the moderation staff isn’t checking the “moderation” bucket for hours on end, despite my not being much of a complainer, sometimes I really loath the implementing of the current moderation policy.

    *groan*

  58. son of mulder says:

    So what is new here that wasn’t covered in my undergrduate course on fluid mechanics 40 years ago? The analogy with black holes is a bit dodgy. I can see how the plug hole type vortex has similarities because the plug hole is a water sink that enables energy to be put into the system from gravitational potential energy as water flows into the plug hole and a black hole has a gravitational sink for matter/light that falls into it. But a vortex without such a sink is clearly different although derived from the same fluid mechanical equations.

    But without a sink the water simply rotates and water heat won’t be transported downwards.

  59. philjourdan says:

    While the tops of them seem to be well documented, I have not really read much on the rest of these maelstroms. I guess they are not permanent enough to get some equipment down to study them. But they are fascinating!

  60. Greg says:

    Rush – The Fountain of Lamneth – circa 1975 – The maelstrom is near is one of my favourite all time lyric lines.

    Sea spray blurs my vision
    Waves roll by so fast
    Save my ship of freedom
    I’m lashed helpless to the mast

    Remembering when first I held
    The wheel in my own hands
    I took the helm so eagerly
    And sailed for distant lands

    But now the sea’s too heavy
    And I just, I just don’t understand
    Why must my crew desert me?
    When I need, I need a guiding hand

    Call out for direction and there’s no one there to steer
    Shout out for salvation but there’s no one there to hear
    Cry out supplication for the maelstrom is near
    Scream out desperation but no one cares to hear

  61. Ian W says:

    johnmarshall says:
    September 6, 2013 at 3:12 am

    …..
    Eddy currents are a friction condition whilst black holes are a gravity condition……


    So as a ‘friction condition’ they are really Rossby waves in a closed loop ?

  62. Paul Mackey says:

    Many people have said for a long time that there is no such thing a gravity, and this seems to prove the point that in fact the Earth sicks

  63. Paul Mackey says:

    ….Earth sucks.

  64. RC Saumarez says:

    1 cubic Kilometer every 12 minutes does not seem to be a very large flux.

  65. ferd berple says:

    The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:
    September 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm
    I’m no astrophysicist but it is nothing like a Black Hole!
    ====================
    darn. here I was hoping to harness the vortex in my bathtub to build a time machine. I already done the calculations. the vortex time machine should be able to transport me a full hour into the future in only 3.6×10^12 nanoseconds.

  66. Alan D McIntire says:

    ” The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:
    September 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I’m no astrophysicist but it is nothing like a Black Hole! A Black Hole has a gravity field so intense that light cannot escape – it’s not that it sucks light in (as such) as far as I understand it. A photon is a massless particle. It’s path can be bent by gravity, but as far as I am aware it won’t be ‘sucked in’. Would any physicist on here care to chime in?”

    Light CAN be sucked in. As you said, nothing can escape from a black hole, not even light. I suppose the same as happens in a black hole will happen with these vortices. The “missing heat” will dissapear forever, never again to be detected.

  67. bruce ryan says:

    the historical basis for black holes can be found on ancient maps depicting whirlpools and other monsters of the sea just beyond the horizon. Same science really that we use today in some fields.
    Then why limit it to science, its used in politics and beliefs too.

  68. Joe says:

    All those rubbishing this paper on the basis that “if they were there we would have seen them” might try to remember just how BIG the world’s oceans are.

    Even if the “eye” of a vortex like this was a mile across, the chance of a ship just happening to spot it would be slim. Consider how difficult search and rescue operations are! Granted, they’re generally looking for something much smaller than this but they usually have at least an approximate location to start, often have beacons to guide them, and (perhaps most importantly) they’re actively looking for what they’re looking for. I doubt (though stand to be corrected) that many officers on watch on oil tankers are constantly scanning the seas looking for giant whirlpools!

    There have been plenty of sailors tales of this sort of thing, which are generally dismissed as exaggeration. besides, those that have got close enough to confirm with measurements etc could well be amongst the many ships that never made it back to port to tell the story.

  69. phlogiston says:

    This is depressingly predictable “dial-a-result” by the team, probably ordered by Trenberth. It has all the ingredients needed to account for the missing heat especially the 2000m magic number. Its utter rubbish but who cares?

  70. Ric Werme says:

    Jon says:
    September 6, 2013 at 12:12 am

    “Ric Werme says”
    > Your video looks like Saltstraumen in Northern Norway?

    Could be, I posted it around 2 AM. I was trying to get the one that inspired Poe and could well have missed.

    The Wikipedia Maelstrom page (see link above) has a description of several of the most famous, but not much in terms of scary pictures.

  71. Theo Goodwin says:

    Julian in Wales says:
    September 6, 2013 at 2:29 am

    I see that these ocean phenomena remind some people of Trenberth’s “missing heat.” Trenberth’s account requires that there are some “mechanisms” of ocean mixing that transport heat from upper levels to the depths of 2000 feet or more. Why is that? There is no plausible story that gets one from a 1C increase in surface heat over a century to increased heat in the deep oceans. Like these maelstroms, Trenberth’s “mechanisms” are properties of the ocean and have been there always. This fact causes a huge problem for radiation-only theorists.

    If there are “mechanisms” in the ocean that transport heat to the deep oceans and those “mechanisms” are not explained by radiation theory then they must be explored through empirical investigation of the oceans. If Trenberth is correct and heat is transferred to the deep oceans, then another question for empirical exploration is how long the heat stays there. Can it stay there one year or hundreds of years. As long as the answer is not zero periods of time, radiation-only theory has been violated.

    If the oceans can sequester heat that was produced by radiation from the sun or back-radiation from GHGs then it can reduce the amount of heat in the atmosphere. Yet this reduction is not explained by radiation theory but by a separate sub-theory about the oceans. Finally, we have an arena of empirical investigation that is separate from radiation theory that can serve as a real world bound on climate models. In layman’s terms, Trenberth’s position that the heat is hiding in the deep oceans makes him a revolutionary among mainstream climate scientists.

  72. Gunga Din says:

    The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:
    September 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I’m no astrophysicist but it is nothing like a Black Hole!

    ========================================================================
    But does make for a good headline. Remember Al Gore’s Ozone “Hole”? There never was hole just a thinning of the ozone layer.

  73. Tony says:

    What a bunch of crap they aren’t black holes and not new eddies have been around and understood for quite some time. The Navy has a regular update of fronts and eddies. Eddies are made by fronts. A front meanders and turns back on itself and a piece breaks off and wanders off on it own. It picks up the spin from the front it broke off from. Cold Eddies sink Warm eddies rise. They both eventually peter out. Nothing new here. Just more Junk Science and just WOW!

  74. Maybe I’m simple, but, why is find huge eddies news? Would it not be expected that eddies would occur on basin scales as currents move on basin scales? As mentioned in a previous comment, we see eddies in our bath tubs, in our swimming pools, in the rivers, bays, and everywhere there is a bathymetric feature that slows water on one side of a current. Why are these guys surprised to find huge eddies on a huge scale? I would have been astonished if the paper said the eddies were proven NOT to exist. I’m not astonished to hear that the have found what should be fully expected.

  75. Ric Werme says:

    Brian H says:
    September 6, 2013 at 3:15 am

    The analogy with black holes is very poor and inappropriate. What happens to the water is not “exactly the same … as black holes do with light.” It is not trapped forever, compressed into a singularity; it is (putatively) moved around to other areas. Big deal; tell us something new. Water moves.

    There was no claim that everything related to these eddies is analogous to blackholes. The abstract is a bit of a black hole to me – I’m not getting much understanding from:

    The uidic photon spheres satisfy explicit differential equations whose outermost limit cycles are optimal Lagrangian vortex boundaries.

    The MIT Tech Review article is written for a less skilled-in-the-art audience and offers:

    The vortices that can form in turbulent water are a familiar sight. Edgar Allan Poe described just such a whirlpool in his short story “A Descent into a Maelstrom” which he published in 1841:

    “The edge of the whirl was represented by a broad belt of gleaming spray; but no particle of this slipped into the mouth of the terrific funnel… “

    In this passage, Poe describes one of the crucial feature of these rotating bodies of fluid: that they can be thought of as coherent islands in an incoherent flow. As such, they are essentially independent of their environment, surrounded by a seemingly impenetrable boundary and with little, if any, of the fluid inside them leaking out.

    If you’re thinking that this description has a passing resemblance to a black hole, you’d be right. Haller and Beron-Vera put this similarity on a formal footing by describing the behaviour of vortices in turbulent fluids using the same mathematics that describe black holes.

    In this picture, Poe’s “broad belt of gleaming spray” is exactly analogous to a photon sphere around a black hole. This is a surface of light which encircles a black hole without entering it.

    This part describes the event horizon and suggests that there is a ring that outside water and objects can escape, but inside cannot.

    The article continues with talk about a singularity, but I assume that’s better described mathematically and not severely squished matter.

    I find it interesting that some of the math for such disparate phenomenon applies to both, but you’re welcome to be unimpressed.

  76. Gail Combs says:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says: @ September 6, 2013 at 4:40 am

    ….My previous post has been “awaiting moderation” for over two hours…
    ….sometimes I really loath the implementing of the current moderation policy.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    The two hours is not the problem for me. It is the fact the comment then gets stuck into the middle of the comment section so no one currently reading the comments ever sees it. With comments often running into the hundreds, I doubt there are many people who read through all the comments more than once.

  77. Brendan says:

    Wow. A deeply dishonest paper. The comparison to black holes is completely inappropriate and incoherent. The physics of vorticity does not imply vortexes, although it can (here’s a real paper that describes this effect http://www2.imperial.ac.uk/ssherw/spectralhp/papers/CMBBE-DoShFrPe-02.pdf). They begin their effort by describing two-dimensional vortical flow. Don’t be fooled by the equations. Nowhere do they discuss sinks. They imply it, by bringing in the black hole analogy, but even that is to help describe the boundary of the vortex. Its superfluous, since the physics of this flow is defined by a closed loop. The only reason to bring in the black hole is to imply “sinks”.

    I’m guessing that non of the authors are fluid dynamicists…

    Here’s class notes from MIT’s open classroom, specifically having to do with ocean and atmospheric dynamics. Figures are dead for some reason, but the math as described is basically the same as this useless screed.

    http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/earth-atmospheric-and-planetary-sciences/12-800-fluid-dynamics-of-the-atmosphere-and-ocean-fall-2004/lecture-notes/12800Lecture11.pdf

  78. Brendan says:

    The rest of the class expands upon the above. Its a much better presentation of the issues, and expands to real applications. If you were drawing an analogy, there are much better ones – unless you are trying to imply something…

  79. Pamela Gray says:

    Nothing new under the Sun. The gulf stream demonstrates these all the time along the edges of the current. Warm and less warm water is not well mixed on the oceans’ surface. Which is why we get pools of warm water, that stay together as pools, transported to other locations both at and a bit below the water’s surface.

    Which leads me to another pondering of mine which I will post under one of the ENSO threads.

  80. Bill Illis says:

    There are hundreds of these eddies around the world’s oceans at any one time.

    Whenever two oppositely flowing surface currents are riding up next to each other, the eddies will naturally develop over time and may last for weeks or months. They can also migrate through the ocean going up to maybe 1,000 kms before they dampen out. And the ocean is full of small oppositely flowing currents in many regions.

    The now discontinued US navy model NLOM shows this clearly. One can zoom in to specific regions to see the eddies more clearly. Global, then the Agulhas, then the ENSO regions.

    http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/global_nlom32/navo/WHOSP1_nlomw12930doper.gif

    http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/global_nlom32/navo/AGUSP1_nlomw12930doper.gif

    http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/global_nlom32/navo/EQSP1_nlomw12930doper.gif

  81. Ric Werme says:

    Gail Combs says:
    September 6, 2013 at 6:50 am

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says: @ September 6, 2013 at 4:40 am

    ….My previous post has been “awaiting moderation” for over two hours…
    ….sometimes I really loath the implementing of the current moderation policy.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    The two hours is not the problem for me. It is the fact the comment then gets stuck into the middle of the comment section so no one currently reading the comments ever sees it. With comments often running into the hundreds, I doubt there are many people who read through all the comments more than once.

    Perversely, readers who don’t have time or inclination to keep up with a thread are more likely to see those delayed comments. Oh well, there are plenty of comments I miss while scanning through the cornucopia.

  82. Caleb says:

    I think it is stretching things a bit, (in the noble cause of sensationalism and selling news,) to show an illustration of a small whirlpool, and to imply it has some connection to oceanic features many kilometers across.

    However I do feel the ocean has as much going on, at as many levels, as the atmosphere, though of course the atmosphere is less dense and things can happen more quickly. The ocean likely could be mapped at various levels, and demonstrate different features, just as we map the upper atmosphere at various levels, producing 200 mb maps and 500 mb maps and 800 mb maps. The ocean is liable to show us all sorts of features that effect other features at other levels, just as the atmosphere’s jet-stream effects how storms move and develop down below on the surface.

    Don’t forget we knew next to nothing about the jet stream as recently as World War Two. Our knowledge of the atmosphere has grown by leaps and bounds. Our knowledge of the ocean is slower to grow, because it is more difficult to explore down than to explore up, because we can’t breathe water and the pressure can squish us, not all that far down.

    People need to be a lot more humble, when talking about what we “know” about the sea. I constantly am getting a slap-down from reality, because I think I know things, and then discover Mother-Nature doesn’t like a know-it-all.

    For example, I figured the Transpolar Drift was a pretty steady current across the Pole, but while watching the North Pole Camera the past few days the wind stopped. Briefly what was moving the ice was not wind, but the current below. And what did I see? The Transpolar Drift was going the wrong way. Oh well….back to the drawing board.

    http://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-arctic-sea-ice-minimum-a-september-surprise/

  83. Apropos black holes, according to Hawking “If information were lost in black holes, we wouldn’t be able to predict the future, because a black hole could emit any collection of particles. It could emit a working television set, or a leather bound volume of the complete works of Shakespeare…” [Or (shudder) Elvis Presley impersonators!]

    See: http://www.hawking.org.uk/into-a-black-hole.html

    Presumably these ocean vortices have a similar property; they emit Trenberth impersonators and malfunctioning AOGCMs.

  84. tadchem says:

    Vortices possess angular momentum, a quantity more strictly preserved in physics than mass or energy. Whirlpools are the complement to upwellings. In both cases, the vertical motion of the water is driven by gravity using Archimedes’ Principle: the lower density fluid tends to rise, and the higher density fluid tends to fall. Since both salinity and temperature can affect the bulk density of sea water, careful in situ measurements of both must be made both inside and outside the vortices to determine the mix of factors contributing to the density variations.
    In any case, the vertical motion combines with the angular motion to reduce the gradients of both temperature and salinity. This will prevent/limit/destroy local stratification.

  85. In agreement with Levin Lohse, kuhnkat, Brian H
    The powerful vortices of current have been described as ‘maelstroms’ and are ‘mathematical analogues’ for black holes – which is to say they do exactly the same with water that black holes do with light.

    Who wrote that nonsense? Chris Hall of Yahoo News.
    Seems he is in London as a (no-nothing) Freelance Journalist.
    http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/chris-hall/10/b93/3a3

    Yahoo ought to issue a “We are sorry. It wont happen again” retraction.

    As for the main paper:
    We introduce a simple variational principle for coherent material vortices in “two-dimensional turbulence.”
    “Well, THERE’s your Problem!”
    We do not live in FLATLAND. Turbulence is phenomena in 3 spatial dimensions and one of time.

  86. Max™ says:

    Outside of the fact that Black Holes are a perversion of mathematics ~kuhnkat

    See those globs of light moving around?

    Notice the way one of them is heading towards the bottom and suddenly whips around for no apparent reason?

    That is a star, making a star follow a trajectory like that requires an object that masses millions of times as much as the sun does.

    Now, you can’t see an object there, we don’t see it in any wavelengths we can examine it with, so what is your explanation for the star moving like that?

    Black holes are a mathematical result which we deeply hoped was an error, one that we’ve tried to eliminate for literally decades now, and which persist despite the efforts of the greatest scientific minds over the last century… so no, it isn’t a perversion of mathematics.

    The metaphor used is valid as well because there is an event horizon beyond which anything carried into a vortex will not be able to escape.

    More interestingly, there is a phenomenon which resembles Hawking radiation, whereby whirlpools can transmit sound waves outwards despite the object causing the sound falling inwards, and mathematically it turns out you can use much the same sort of rules to describe it!

  87. Jeff Alberts says:

    mogamboguru says:
    September 6, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Reminds me of the big “Red Eye”-storm on Saturn…

    Jupiter…

  88. G. Karst says:

    Well, I have been wondering as to what happened, to all those singularities, escaping from the LHC chambers. How much time have we left. /sarc GK

  89. DGP says:

    As a former submariner, I can confidently say that knowledge of these has been around for decades. The only difference is that they weren’t given sensationalized names. We just called them cold core eddies or warm core eddies. Driving through these “black-holes” were non-events. You adjusted ballast and moved on.

  90. Mickey Reno says:

    Typical of “climate science communicators,” this article deceptively conflates different things, and either is unable (ie. too stupid) or unwilling (ie. too dishonest) to distinguish causes from effects. It talks about one thing (large ocean eddies), and then uses a deceptive photo of something completely different (a small tidal whirlpool) to compare ocean eddies to the vortex at the center of a black hole’s accretion disc. This silly beyond belief. The accretion disc and its central vortex are effects of a black hole. Ocean eddies are caused by the current flows themselves, encountering friction with other ocean currents, or water or land features. Large ocean eddies may spin, but they don’t look like tidal whirlpools.

  91. OssQss says:

    Hummmm, this is from observations 7 years ago……..

    I wonder where the deep water brine currents were at that time from Antarctic ice formation. It would also be interesting to understand how the massive phytoplankton blooms that typically take place off of that coastline may have played a role. Just trying to think beyond the normal natural understood parameters.

  92. Gunga Din says:

    Gail Combs says:
    September 6, 2013 at 6:50 am

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says: @ September 6, 2013 at 4:40 am

    ….My previous post has been “awaiting moderation” for over two hours…
    ….sometimes I really loath the implementing of the current moderation policy.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    The two hours is not the problem for me. It is the fact the comment then gets stuck into the middle of the comment section so no one currently reading the comments ever sees it. With comments often running into the hundreds, I doubt there are many people who read through all the comments more than once.

    ========================================================================
    IF WordPress has an easy way to do it, perhaps the Mods could put the comment in the time slot when it entered moderation and a shortcut (a link) to it at the time it left moderation?

  93. Gunga Din says:

    (messed up my blockquote)

  94. Doug Huffman says:

    RC Saumarez says: September 6, 2013 at 5:38 am “1 cubic Kilometer every 12 minutes does not seem to be a very large flux.” Coincidentally it is 10^12 Kg each 12 minutes.

  95. Fred says:

    a story about ‘black hole’ whirlpools?

    Thought it would be about Hansen’s abilities, Mann’s integrity or the IPCC’s honesty.

  96. Ted Clayton says:

    Certainly, there is a broad pattern of strong hints & pointers, that pre-modern sailors etc often understood the sources & dynamics of various ocean current-effects, etc, a lot better than we are inclined to credit them, today. Back-when, and even waaay back.

    The northeastern Atlantic currents, at large scales, were well-known in Antiquity, and the effects that arose when & after the moving ocean encountered obstacles (islands large & small, and coastlines), were well-appreciated – and exploited. Small-scale effects were of course more immediately evident.

    The first people to cross the Atlantic, promptly figured out to sail north along the then “inconvenient” continent, on a “conveyor-belt” that would be totally obvious to a dunce landlubber sitting on a log, then ride it on east & back home.

    … And do you think for a second that these “Karman vortex streets” peeling off the northern Gulf Stream were not noticed right away? And a priority made & technique developed, to avoid the damn things, and stay in the good current?

    Sailors of old understood both surface-gyres, and up-welling/down-welling gyres.

    Subtle differences of temperature create more-noticeable environmental side-effects which even casual amateur recreational modern fishermen will notice. There are clear fluctuations of temperatures within supposed homogenous waters, across small & large scales of area & time. Anybody who has spent time on the saltchuck knows this. Thermometers not required.

    I am on the Pacific Northwest coast, and even as totally rank modern-economy people, we can tell – ‘directly’, and ‘sensibly’ – that an ocean current ‘blows ashore’ on us, and splits after hitting the shore, with water flow north along the coast, to our northern side, and south along our southern reaches. After their big tidal wave sent massive debris to our shores, it’s now a hot media-topic …. but we’ve been collecting Japanese stuff on the beaches, for generations …. centuries, and millenia.

    People in our area will know to get ready for tuna in the Pacific Northwest, ahead of any official, formal or scientific clues. We say that the warm current that brings tuna, is “pulled” in … and there are precursors of the ‘pull-setup’ that are noticeable before data on the current-shift becomes available.

    It’s often amusingly fatuous, and sometime weirdly disturbing, to see forms of understanding & knowledge that have existed among our cultural predecessors across large spans of time, suddenly trotted out as supposed “discoveries” made by the cultural glamor-pusses of today.

  97. Here is footage of a Charybdis of my acquaintance. Whirlpools on this river in BC are known to swallow boats with insufficient power to get out of their grasp:

  98. Paul767 says:

    This article is Rraaaaaacist! The authors shouldn’t be talking about Black Women this way!

    http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?id=7475737

  99. Ted Clayton says:

    Mickey Reno @ September 6, 2013 at 7:56 am , rightly complains:

    “[This article] talks about one thing (large ocean eddies), and then uses a deceptive photo of something completely different (a small tidal whirlpool) to compare ocean eddies to the vortex at the center of a black hole’s accretion disc.”

    The images used for this post, although “pretty”, are a come-down on the value of an otherwise decent effort to address an interesting topic.

    Even though Anthony Watts has toned down the image-excesses of bygone days, on WUWT, the site still displays a pronounced case of “picture-itus”. I come to WUWT with images turned off in my browser, even though the sheer loading-problem is now abated, precisely due to the problem of nonsensical and ‘fluff’ imagery, so well illustrated in this post.

    If we have decided that we “must” have images to illustrate our articles (and yes, I do understand this imperative), then at least park the piece or delay publication, until nominally-contributory imagery is in hand. What we see here today, with off-topic, misleading, confusing and even deceptive pictures, is outright “foolish”.

  100. @The Pompous Git at 7:29 am +2. LOL
    @Gene Selkov at 10:48 pm +1
    @dp at 11:16pm +1 (ARGO)
    @DGP at 7:53am +1 (old news, adjust ballast)
    @David at 10:29pm +1
    A transport system for heat and trapped heat are two different things.

    Yes indeed, David. This might be a transport mechanism for the vertical movement of water (and it’s heat content). But we have yet to any appreciable temperature change of the ocean with one temperature study.

    Here is a chart of Ocean Heat content from 1955 to 2012,
    http://i41.tinypic.com/2rrwj5u.jpg Y axis (left) in Joules and Y axis right in deg C. Measured range is 120 ZetaJoules and 0.05 deg C based upon 0-2000m water column). Three series: 0-100m, 100-700m, 700-2000m.
    The image is from Willis Eschenbach, May 10, 2012 where I overlaid the temp scale and the ocean temperature measurement program phases. The warming recorded on the chart is largely the product of attempting the merge of 5 hopelessly under-sampled measurement programs with 3 phases of under-sampled ARGO over too short a history.

    The “slight of hand” that the AGW community has recently resorted to explain the Pause is that the oceans are storing the heat. First, they neglect to mention how the ocean is sucking down heat in the past decade while failing to do so in the 1980-1998 time frame.

    Second, if the heat is being stored in the oceans, if it stores 270 ZetaJoules to raise the temperature by 0.1 deg C, that heat cannot come back out until the atmosphere becomes colder than the water. If there is a “black hole” involved with the ocean, it is the ocean’s capacity to transfer heat from warm air to cold depths and not give it back until the next ice age cometh.

    Third, even if these whirlpools are an expressway to transport heat into the deep ocean, there is no free lunch. These whirlpools greatly increase the spatial complexity of the temperature profile of the oceans, thus increasing our uncertainty in the averaged temperature of the oceans. We covered this in Decimals Of Precision….(WUWT Jan 26, 2012) and a great observation by George E. Smith (1/27/2012 8:16 pm)

    So before you can even begin to do your statistication on the observations, you have to have VALID data, as determined by the Nyquist theorem. You have to take samples that are spaced no further apart than half the wavelength of the highest frequency component in the “signal”.

    So, if these mega whirlpools are powerful enough to move the needle on heat transport, they are very much under-sampled spatially on a Nyquist basis. Our uncertainty of the ocean temperature and anomalies must increase.

    Furthermore, the flight paths of the Argo floats (Rasey 1/3/12 1:21 pm) might be drawn into these warmer ‘black holes’ and thus experiencing a false warming by biased sampling. Once an ARGO get’s into these ‘black hole’ whirlpools, experiencing warmer surface water descending into the depths, it will have a tendency to be trapped. So are we seeing a UHI-type of measurement bias in ARGO data?

    Bringing ARGO into the equation begs the question: “Do we see these hypothetical whirlpools in the ARGO float flight paths?” If not, since they report only once every 10 days, are we under sampling in time a well as space so we are missing important phenomena?

  101. gymnosperm says:

    Let us not forget Charybdis.

    The “missing heat” might be the energy required to drive these vortices if we are to believe they transport vast amounts of warm surface water down 2000m against the thermal gradient.

    Did I read that all the speculation about the quantities of water involved was inferred from the diameter and speed of the eddy?

  102. Addendum to: 9:15am:
    Here is a chart of [Change in] Ocean Heat content from 1955 to 2012 http://i41.tinypic.com/2rrwj5u.jpg ……
    A description of the History of the Ocean Measurement Programs annotated on the chart is found here: “Reactions to the Pause….” at 7/24/2013 1:47 pm

  103. Gunga Din says:

    This has probably been mentioned already but if they claim this as the mechanism that that explains how “the missing heat” went to the deep ocean then they would have to explain what happened to all the heat that must have been sucked down in the millenniums before Man noticed them.

  104. rabbit says:

    Organized (that is, low entropy) systems are generally better than disorganized ones at maximizing gradient degradation, living organisms being a prime example. This is another.

    In fact, one can suppose that this is why organized systems come about – to serve the second law of thermodynamics.

  105. @DGP at 7:53 am

    We just called them cold core eddies or warm core eddies.

    I can understand warm core eddies.
    Cold core eddies are a surprise. Perchance are they found under the ice caps in descending over-saline water as the ocean surface freezes?

    Why and How eddies form: (Science Corner at geol.sc.edu) They also get spun off the great currents. Animation included.

  106. Theo Goodwin says:

    Stephen Rasey says:
    September 6, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Excellent post. Very informative. Will mainstream climate science undertake real world investigation of such a “transport mechanism?” No. They would have to get up from the supercomputer.

  107. Tony says:

    Stephen Rasey says:
    I can understand warm core eddies.
    Cold core eddies are a surprise. Perchance are they found under the ice caps in descending over-saline water as the ocean surface freezes?

    No the deep arctic is mostly isothermal. There is a depending on the time of year more saline near the surface as the Ice forms or less saline right under the ice as it melts. I am also a former submarine Sonar tech, Cold eddies come from cold currents warm eddies from warm currents. The Gulf stream is warm so you would find warm eddies in the Atlantic coming from the Gulf stream. They rise to the surface and spread out. Cold Eddies come from a cold current like off the Us coast as cold water comes down from the Arctic so you would see Cold Eddies in the Pacific. They sink cold water is more dense and sinks. Both can last for long periods and the Navy has tracked these at least sense the 80’s maybe longer. They publish a freddies report weekly and it is broadcoast to the entire fleet. This is done because of the SVP sound velocity profile. As the speed of sound is variable and affects how Submarines in particular operate with regards to being able to track or be tracked via passive sonar.That is why the Navy cares and tracks it

  108. Gail Combs says:

    Caleb says: @ September 6, 2013 at 7:29 am

    ….. I constantly am getting a slap-down from reality, because I think I know things, and then discover Mother-Nature doesn’t like a know-it-all……
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Now there is a quote well worth repeating.

  109. george e. smith says:

    Exam instructions:- Read EVERYTHING before doing ANYTHING.

    “””””…..Lawrence Todd says:

    September 6, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Now we know the real cause of the Bermuda Triangle……”””””

    “””””…..george e. smith says:

    September 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Well so now we know the secret of the Bermuda Triangle……”””””

    Now do only question #1

  110. DesertYote says:

    Max™ says:
    September 6, 2013 at 7:38 am
    ####

    Oh thank you! I was getting very frustrated at reading all of the comments written by people who do not even know what a singularity is, let alone the math behind the description of the type of singularity we call a black holes, nor how the math used to describe one phenomena often describes another because the abstract to the very same thing. Come on folks, math is an abstraction.

  111. Greg Goodman says:

    KDK says:
    ” the British Isles – which, for you stateside readers who may be unfamiliar with that geographical designation, encompasses both Great Britain and Ireland.”

    Well before you “continental” readers start lecturing our states-side readers some of you should read up a little on your geopolitical boundaries.

    Ireland is most decidedly NOT one of the “British Isles”.

  112. jorgekafkazar says:

    gymnosperm says: “Let us not forget Charybdis.”

    Nor Scylla, both of them found in antiquity near the Strait of Messina. They had a reputation for swallowing entire Greek boats, perhaps 75′ long. Impossible, obviously.

    [But imagine, if you will, a maelstrom with a large volcanic vent directly beneath it, opening wider and wider as the low density (bubble-filled) water fills the vortex and accelerates it. Imagine sailing into this without warning, suddenly losing buoyancy, caught and spun in the whirlpool, unable to get out, spinning deeper and deeper, choked by sulfurous CO2 vapors rising from the sea, apparently doomed. But no; that could never happen.]

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/abandoned-200711.html

  113. Steve R says:

    ‘Intuitively, one expects that any…vortex in the fluid must contain such a singularity in its interior, just as all black holes are expected to contain Penrose-Hawking singularities. This expectation turns out to be correct’.

    Willis should have a blast with this

  114. Gail Combs says:

    Mickey Reno @ September 6, 2013 at 7:56 am , rightly complains:

    “[This article] talks about one thing (large ocean eddies), and then uses a deceptive photo of something completely different (a small tidal whirlpool) to compare ocean eddies to the vortex at the center of a black hole’s accretion disc.”
    …….
    Ted Clayton says: @ September 6, 2013 at 9:07 am
    The images used for this post, although “pretty”, are a come-down on the value of an otherwise decent effort to address an interesting topic.

    Even though Anthony Watts has toned down the image-excesses of bygone days, on WUWT, the site still displays a pronounced case of “picture-itus”…..
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    What???
    If you do not like illustrations then don’t look at them. Photos, illustrations and graphs are an important part of imparting information.

    Marketing tells you that you have seven seconds to grab attention and nothing grabs attention like photos of cute kids and fluffy animals. Why in heck do you warmists are using Poley Bears as a ‘Mascot’.

  115. Anthony Watts says:

    REPLY to Mickey Reno and Ted Clayton

    Note that I didn’t use the whirlpool photo in the sott.net or Yahoo article, please don’t try to make it sound like I did. I had issues with scale of the photo as well as the copyright (see comments upthread). I can see why they used it though, the satellite imagery in the paper made the whirlpools look like dots. They were fishing for something dramatic looking.

    As for Ted Clayton’s concerns about “picture-itus”, note that I spent over 20 years in television, and pictures are what it is all about for me. Like with TV, if you don’t like the pictures, you can always change the channel.

    So many of the climate blogs that are dying slow deaths don’t make the extra effort to illustrate their blog posts, and I believe that extra effort is part of what makes WUWT successful and helps to educate the readers. My stats speak for that effort:

    I could be dull and plodding like some of them, but I choose to illustrate when I can. I spent over an hour finding suitable illustrations and the paper itself, since the original news article was so poorly done.

  116. Greg Goodman said @ September 6, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Well before you “continental” readers start lecturing our states-side readers some of you should read up a little on your geopolitical boundaries.

    Ireland is most decidedly NOT one of the “British Isles”.

    I beg to differ.

    The British Isles is a geographically [sic] term which includes two large islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and 5,000 small islands…

    The island called Ireland contains Éire (The Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland. Ireland is not synonymous with Éire in English though it is in Irish.

    http://projectbritain.com/britain/britishisles.htm

  117. Anthony Watts said @ September 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    So many of the climate blogs that are dying slow deaths don’t make the extra effort to illustrate their blog posts, and I believe that extra effort is part of what makes WUWT successful.

    Perhaps it’s a case that when you don’t have abundant funding, you have no choice other than to make an effort. And if you have abundant funding, why bother making an effort?

    Anthony, you do an excellent job and I particularly enjoyed your recent interview with Topher Field.

  118. Gail Combs says:

    jorgekafkazar says: @ September 6, 2013 at 11:22 am

    You forgot to add : http://www.earthzine.org/2011/04/12/geological-hazards-and-monitoring-at-the-azores-portugal/

  119. Gail Combs says:

    Anthoy says: “….I could be dull and plodding like some of them, but I choose to illustrate when I can. I spent over an hour finding suitable illustrations and the paper itself, since the original news article was so poorly done”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    And I for one very much appreciate your efforts.

  120. Gunga Din says:

    Gail Combs says:
    September 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Anthony says: “….I could be dull and plodding like some of them, but I choose to illustrate when I can. I spent over an hour finding suitable illustrations and the paper itself, since the original news article was so poorly done”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    And I for one very much appreciate your efforts.

    ===========================================================================
    And I for another.
    (I think if all the “anothers” chimed in we’d break the record for comments.)

  121. Matthew R Marler says:

    Personally I think this is exciting. But from start to finish it is a paper about modeling, including the apparent empirical “discovery” of actual such vortices in the S. Atlantic. Those of you who think that models never reveal anything about anything might find the paper to be fictional or problematical. If these systems are large enough and numerous enough they could transport a lot of Trenberth’s “missing heat” from upper to lower oceanic levels, just like the rescuers of the consensus theory have hypothesized.

    Boy, and talk about apples and oranges! Vortices in the ocean water and gravitational singularities are at least as different as apples and oranges. About all these entities have in common are some mathematical artifices.

    To those who criticized Anthony’s choice of illustrations: the illustrations are relevant and adequately labeled.

  122. Matthew R Marler says:

    I have not read very far but the following is intriguing (the account they cite is Poe):
    This literary account depicts a belt-like vortex boundary that keeps particles from enter-
    ing its interior (Figure 1). Altogether, Poe’s view on vortices is Lagrangian, and resonates
    with our intuition for black holes in cosmology.

    As we show below, this view turns out to have some merit. When appropriately mod-
    eled, Poe’s coherent belt becomes mathematically equivalent to a photon sphere, i.e.,
    a surface on which light encircles a black hole without entering it. This analogy yields
    computational advantages, which we exploit in locating material eddy boundaries in
    the South Atlantic Ocean. Using satellite altimetry-based velocities from this region, we
    uncover super-coherent Lagrangian vortices, and derive estimates for coherent material
    transport induced by the Agulhas leakage.

    I was piqued by the phrase “our intuition for black holes in cosmology”: I can hardly imagine what it is like to have intuition about black holes in cosmology.

  123. Matthew R Marler says:

    oops. I ought to have “previewed”.

  124. Matthew R Marler said @ September 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I was piqued by the phrase “our intuition for black holes in cosmology”: I can hardly imagine what it is like to have intuition about black holes in cosmology.

    If we take conjecture to be synonymous with intuition then:

    The no-hair theorem postulates that all black hole solutions of the Einstein-Maxwell equations of gravitation and electromagnetism in general relativity can be completely characterized by only three externally observable classical parameters: mass, electric charge, and angular momentum.[1] All other information (for which “hair” is a metaphor) about the matter which formed a black hole or is falling into it, “disappears” behind the black-hole event horizon and is therefore permanently inaccessible to external observers. Physicist John Archibald Wheeler expressed this idea with the phrase “black holes have no hair”[1] which was the origin of the name.[2]

    There is still no rigorous mathematical proof of the no-hair theorem, and mathematicians refer to it as the no-hair conjecture. Even in the case of gravity alone (i.e. zero electric fields), the conjecture has been only partially resolved by results of Hawking, Carter and Robinson, under the additional hypothesis of non-degenerate event horizons and technical, restrictive and difficult to justify assumption of real analyticity of the space-time.

    So, there you have it; intuitions about hairy black holes and smooth black holes :-)

  125. MattS says:

    Anthony,

    In a reply to another commenter you said:

    “based on water characteristics in the photo, this whirlpool looks to be on a scale of feet (my SWAG is a few tens of feet, maybe 10-30) due to the slope of the interior vortex. Water is heavy, bigger whirlpools such as mentioned in the paper would have less steep funnel slopes.”

    Wouldn’t the slope depend on rotational velocity as well as the diameter?

    REPLY: yes, but the larger ones in this study have a lower rotational velocity than smaller ones like in the photo – Anthony

  126. ATheoK says:

    Satellite couple with models… Models, the new four letter word in science; when observations do not fit the theory, use models and pretend the output is better than observations.
     
    Gulf stream eddies, giant rotating vortexes are well known and studied. Which is probably why the South Atlantic vortexes are emphasized.
     
    The Gulf Stream vortexes are formed by the movement of the gulf stream current and are either eddies of current, or eddies of the boundary layers between the current and the ocean water it is passing through.
     
    What makes these eddies so well studied is that satellite imagery is sold to subscribers, fishing fleet, charter boat captains, and even wealthier anglers. These anglers from commercial to individuals use the eddy movement with temperature charts to fish specific areas greatly improving their fishing success. Temperature thermoclines of these eddies are also well studied since a fish species temperature preference is a key driver of success.
     
    An eddy may form a whirlpool, but it does not transport surface water down in depth nor does it transport colder water to the surface. If warm eddies spin through cold water then the eddy cools off at all depths. If a cold water eddy spins through warmer water then the eddy warms up.
     
    Like all mechanically caused eddies, as they spin they lose force and eventually cease organized rotation.
     
    Now combine satellite imagery with someone’s notion of what whirlpools do and voila! Whatever they plan to voila’ out of this bizarre notion.
     
    There is one very large rotational structure in the Atlantic that is very long lived; the “Northern Atlantic Subtropical Gyre”. I don’t believe that one spins heat down deep either.

  127. Steve Bensen says:

    Back holes trap light and compress everything. No matter or light may escape. So in our oceans there are ‘black holes’ that eat water and compress it and never let it escape?

    This is the dumbest thing I have heard yet from the chicken little camp.

  128. Auto says:

    Larry Ledwick (hotrod) says:
    September 6, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Hotrod – you’re right.

    I was on a ESV in the North Sea, 1984, when we rode a wave that was a conjunction of three storm waves coming together.
    All the peaks lined up; so did the troughs.
    Our bridge was about 75 feet [23 metres] out of the water, and we slipped down into the forgoing trough and hit a greenie [a seriously b i g wave, landlubbers], which broke across the bridge. Damage to the underbelly – set up by half a metre or so [18"-ish] in places, despite being 40 feet – say 12 metres – above the water.

    Our ship could ride the ‘Hundred Year wave’.
    Fine.
    But that 100 year wave may be 30 metres/100 feet high, and it would be a mile between crests.
    We hit a very short sharp sea, with three wave trains coming together for a mile or two.
    A couple of bruises, but no serious injuries, as I recall.

    Our company naval architects flew out on the first helicopter after the winds eased.
    ‘What have you done to our ship? It can ride the ‘Hundred Year wave’?!’
    We explained about wave-trains – three closely following storms – and, after a couple of hours from – I think – 8 Master Mariners, they said they ‘got it’.

    I’ve never been frightened by weather at sea: there is much more extreme weather [and seas and swells] out there than I have experienced.
    Yes, I’ve moved three-quarters of a mile in four hours – at half-ahead – in the English Channel, in a ‘Violent Storm’ – Beaufort force eleven.
    And those 1200 metres were, effectively, sideways, in a 20,000 ton ship.
    I’ve dodged a typhoon off Japan, too.
    And the sea is certainly capable of making serious damage to any ship afloat – in the wrong place, and perhaps handled less than optimally.

    Enjoy your week-end.

    Auto

  129. anengineer says:

    Based on what writers like Poe and Verne produced and what we know now, I suspect most of their research was from talking to sailors in pubs who knew they had a sucker on the hook.

  130. Mooloo says:

    Well it does give the warmists a (barely believable) explanation (face saver) for how 17 years worth of heat disappeared from the atmosphere and reached the deep oceans

    No. These eddies are permanent features. They say nothing at all about climate change.

    For them to be used to help Trenberth’s assertion that the heat is being hidden in the depths, it would require that the eddies are a new phenomenon.

    They were operating during the last period of rapid warming. Why weren’t they hiding the heat then?

  131. MattS says:

    anengineer,

    Poe and Verne were fiction writers. I suspect that theyh were far more interested in the most extreme of the sailors tails than the reality.

  132. Somewhat OT, I just returned from voting in the Australian federal election. The Senate ticket had 54 candidates to vote for! What a slog filling that in! Happily, there were two climate sceptics standing and they received my first and second preferences.

  133. @Auto 3:10 pm.

    Thanks for the story. It reminded me of a story I heard from Dr. Maurice Major, geophysics professor, Colorado School of Mines. He was recounting the story of an Alaskan Fisherman who survived earthquake generated the megatsunami of Lituya Bay, July 10, 1958.

    Alaskan commercial fisherman Howard Uhlrich was asked by investigators, “There is evidence on the shoreline that the wave was over 1000 feet tall. What did you see?”
    He replied, “1000 feet? #&%^!! It was half way to the Moon!”
    >His radio distress call: “Mayday, Mayday – Edrie in Lituya Bay – all hell broke loose – I think we’ve had it – goodby!”

  134. DirkH says:

    “The powerful vortices of current have been described as ‘maelstroms’ and are ‘mathematical analogues’ for black holes”

    The press release writer is an idiot and should be made to wait a table.

  135. OMG I should have written a paper! Sailors have known about hot and cold eddies for a very long time. Seriously contact any weather router. Any sensible navigator uses them when crossing the Gulf stream. They are every where! Sailors use them in the Southern Ocean. CHeck out the Vende Globe race. Satellites pick eddies up and most reasonable depth sounders have thermometers. We pay attention to temperature changes because going through a bad eddie is agony. The boat is moving, working hard but gains very little over the ground..Being stuck in an eddie is a miserable experience..Moving out of an eddie can take place in as little as a couple hundred feet.and mean a completely different sea condition and 180 degree change in current direction..It is possible to see the difference in sea state from the deck of a boat..Becasue of height of eye this change in sea state is over less than a couple of miles. The larger waves are visible on the horizon. Eddie edges also tend to trap Sargasso weed, Current velocities in the eddies can be 4.5 knots!

    If you can see them on the satellites, sense them with ship board instruments or the seat of your pants it is appropriate and good seamanship to make use of them.

    http://planetsave.com/2012/07/07/phytoplankton-blooms-in-north-atlantic-caused-by-eddies-not-sunlight/

  136. Pedantic old Fart says:

    Are we to understand (by analogy) that once water enters one of these vortices it can NEVER escape but must move inexorably towards the singularity? Seems implausable? A poor analogy made for the sensationalist advantage? No? Oh well, here go the oceans. Kiss goodbye to the rising sea levels for ever! Scream with rage Dr. Hansen!

  137. Mickey Reno says:

    Anthony, for the record, I never thought the tidal whirlpool photo was your editorial contribution, nor do I have a problem with your editorial choices in photos. I think you do an outstanding job, as do your contributors and moderators. I even enjoy the articles by those who have unconventional hypotheses.

    I was irritated by Ted’s use of my comment as a springboard to make his silly attack on you, and had written a comment explaining that he had missed my point. But I decided not to post that comment, because it was mostly a spleen vent, that helped no one.

  138. Fabi says:

    ‘Black hole sun, won’t you come…’

  139. Mike Wryley says:

    Everyone knows that it isn’t the warmer (and less dense a.k.a. Lighter) water that sucks those missing ships into whirlpools, it is of course the giant squid. It turns out the the giant squid is also responsible for the missing heat because every time they come up from the depths to look for another ship to add to their collection, their bodies warm up in the shallow, climate changed surface layers, and when they descend back to the near frozen depths of the ocean, the heat is released. Those familiar with this process call it the Calimari Effect.

  140. DirkH said @ September 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    The press release writer is an idiot and should be made to wait a table.

    These many long years ago, I had a business selling my artwork and when we had a particularly good week, I would take the staff out to dinner on Friday evening at my friend Vince Vecchione’s Romana Restaurant. One particular waiter amused us greatly by continually messing up what we ordered. One night, in exasperation, Jimmy Fox asked him: “You wouldn’t be a uni student by any chance, would ya?” A grin spread across the waiter’s face and he said: “Why, how did you ever guess?” He appeared to be genuinely flattered!

  141. ghl says:

    Hi Pompous.
    I hate to say this but:
    According to A. Bolt the Climate Sceptics Party send their first preferences to Labor. I can’t verify this from their web site. You may have just voted Labor. Commiserations.

  142. ghl said @ September 6, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    Hi Pompous.
    I hate to say this but:
    According to A. Bolt the Climate Sceptics Party send their first preferences to Labor. I can’t verify this from their web site. You may have just voted Labor. Commiserations.

    But my heart was in the right place ;-) Listen ghl, a vote for Labor is a vote for Tweedle Dumb and a vote for Liberal is a vote for Tweedle Dumber. Both parties are welfare statists.

  143. Don K says:

    I read it. I can’t say that I understand it very well. Three reasons I think:
    1. The material is very difficult.
    2. I’m not all that smart.
    3. It’s possibly not all that clearly written.
    What I came away with is that there are known to be eddies in marine water flows — closed circulations that can hang together for a long time and can travel. What these folks have done — I think — is proposed a mathematical model that describes how the water in these eddies flows without simply mixing into surrounding areas. Note, that’s describe, not necessarily explain.
    Points — which are surely incomplete and likely somewhat wrong.
    1. This is not a discovery of a new, previously unknown phenomena — it’s a proposal of math to describe a known phenomenon should anyone feel a need to do so.
    2. It’s not particularly about whirlpools. All whirlpools are eddies. Not all eddies are whirlpools. It uses (fictional and actual) whirlpools as an illustration of boundary effects, but the actual eddies spinning off from the Aguhlas Current discussed later are not whirlpools.
    3. It’s not about black holes except in that it suggests that the same math used to describe behavior of photons at the black hole event boundary can be used to describe eddy boundaries.(?)
    4. It’s not about vertical mixing within eddies. The first sentence of the paper is We introduce a simple variational principle for coherent material vortices in two-dimensio-
    nal turbulence.
    I suppose vertical eddies might/do exist, but I think they probably had their hands full for now with horizontal eddies.

  144. Theodore says:

    Gene Selkov says: “Do they really need to use some idiot’s blabber about “singularities” as a prop for a report on an *observation*? Do observations need any props?”

    Yes because the observations conflict with the models. Therefore they have to come up with some blabber to catch the attention of the climate scientists before they reflexively argue that the observations can’t be correct because they conflict with their hypothesis.

  145. Bill H says:

    I wonder…

    Fluid dynamics where a restriction is creates these vorticies. A restriction can be the passing of two different flows or one flow near a restricting passage under water such as ridges and mountains.

    Changing deep water flows would result in the creation of these due to proximity of restrictions. Are our deep water returns becoming greater is size and strength? Another example of our planet cooling.?? Food for thought.

  146. Max™ says:

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/gr-qc/9712016.pdf

    This is a short and only mildly difficult discussion of the relationships between acoustic and relativistic Lorentzian geometries.

    Nevertheless, the acoustic Lorentz geometries
    are sufficiently general so as to contain ergospheres, trapped
    regions, apparent horizons, event horizons (absolute horizons),
    and the full panoply of technical machinery for the kinematic
    aspects of black hole physics [10]. Black holes are defined
    as regions from which phonons (which are represented
    by null geodesics of the acoustic metric) cannot escape
    — because the fluid is flowing inward at greater than the
    local speed of sound. At the (future) event horizon the
    normal component of the fluid velocity is inward point-
    ing and equals the local speed of sound,
    v⊥=c. The notion of “surface gravity” can be defined as
    for general relativistic black holes; and for stationary flows
    measures the extent to which the natural time parameter
    defined by the timelike Killing vector fails to be an affine
    parameter for those null geodesics that just skim the
    event horizon.

    http://www.ictp.it/about-ictp/media-centre/news/news-archive/2012/7/gravity_workshop.aspx

    That is about a workshop where Unruh presented, and this is a bit of his explanation:

    “What I found in 1981 was that, if you look at sound waves in a flowing fluid, you can make them look just like flowing fields on a background spacetime,” said Unruh. “The velocity of the flowing fluid creates the metric, and by appropriately choosing it you can make it look exactly like a black hole. So the mathematical equations for sound waves are exactly the same as the equations for these fields travelling on the black hole metrics.”

    The analogies don’t work perfectly. Unruh was quick to point out that the rules are not exactly the same in both models, but enough about the two systems are similar that insights are possible. One realm in which the analogy works is Stephen Hawking’s well-known work on black hole radiation and evaporation.

    “Step by step, you can get exactly the same kind of arguments Hawking used,” said Unruh. “As a result, if you have a place where the velocity of fluid goes faster than the velocity of sound, that’s a horizon because the sound can’t climb out of that region.”

    You can be forgiven for not knowing who Unruh is, as he isn’t quite as well known as Hawking, but suffice to say he is “kind of a big deal” in the field of black hole kinematics, and his work directly ties into the metaphor used in the story above.

  147. Brian H says:

    Stephen Rasey says:
    September 6, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Excellent summary. Except for one ‘slight’ error. It’s ‘sleight of hand’. YCLIU. ;)

  148. Myrrh says:

    What I don’t understand, perhaps the many here who appear conversant with such things can enlighten me, is why when they discuss black holes and say that nothing escapes once inside the event horizon, which is at some point surrounding the black hole, yet they also show two streams of energy exiting. The explanation that these streams of energy from its poles are from the heating up of the matter falling into the the black hole before the event horizon, but that does not seem credible as the matter and energy around the black hole being sucked in is not any different to it, xray and uv.. Is the “event horizon” just an idea which has taken hold because all kinds of fun stuff can be fantasised from it or is it established as a physical reality? – I really can’t tell from the bright eyed pontificating about it.

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