Science, Surfing, Stratification, Overturning, and Timing

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach


When I was a kid, swimming in the ocean was a rarity. We kids spent summers with my Dad, and once, maybe twice over the summer we’d go to Stinson Beach. I loved the waves, cold as it was. We bodysurfed them over and over, emerging at the end of the afternoon blue with cold. And when my grandmother and my Aunt and my cousins moved to Santa Cruz when I was about ten, we visited them a couple times and went bodysurfing.

When I really started learning about the ocean, though, was the six months that my friend David and I spent in 1970 living on Makena Beach in Maui. Back then, there were maybe thirty people or so in semi-permanent residence on the beach. I have no idea where the owners were. People had “sugar shacks” made out of every conceivable material. David and I took the roof of an old car we’d found. We built up some metre (yard) tall rock walls and put the car roof on it … instant house, good for six months.

I had brought fins and mask and snorkel, and I had little money for food. So I spent hours and hours in the ocean, finding and eating opihi (illegal now, I understand), and trying to talk a fish into joining me for dinner. Plus, of course, bodysurfing whenever the swell came from the south. Way too poor to have a board, I would just play for hours in the waves, letting them toss me around, learning their ways, understanding their ebb and thrust. I spent hundreds of hours in and under the tropical ocean during this time.

surfing pipeline

The Pipeline on a small day … SOURCE

The next year I moved to Honolulu, and a friend showed me how to ride a board. I got adequate, not good, but I surfed Pipeline on small days and sat on the beach and watched the good guys on big days. Great fun. Plus I continued my snorkel explorations of the reefs and waters around the island. We’d put on mask, snorkel, and fins, and jump off of sheer cliffs into the ocean … swim around, check out the underwater world. Then get out by timing the wave on a vertical wall. On that kind of vertical wall, the sea doesn’t really break. Instead, it kind of heaves up and down, often a long ways. We’d ride the wave up to the top, then grab on to the ledges and cracks like a limpet, and then work our way back up to the top. Sometimes a bigger wave would pick us off the wall on the way up, but we’d just ride it down and back up again and grab on once more and keep climbing …

A decade later, around 1984 I did a lot of scuba diving in the harbors and on the outer reefs in Fiji, without benefit of a scuba license as you might expect … don’t try this at home, kids. I was already totally at ease in the wild ocean, and I’d already worked for hours and hours underwater as a gold miner. Fiji was my introduction to night diving as well, a whole different world from the ocean during the day.

During that time in Fiji, I made my first money underwater since I’d dived for gold. A man needed a diver to check his anchor chain, to make sure that another boat hadn’t laid their anchor right over the top. I said I’d swim the anchor for seventy-five dollars … I’d been down there. It was in Suva Harbour, but the visibility wasn’t bad. I figured I’d just swim carefully above the bottom over the chain, not stirring up the mud, and watch for cross chains. I asked how much chain he had out. He said about a hundred feet (30m), maybe a bit more. Easy seventy-five dollars, I figured … you’d think I would have been smarter by the age of thirty-seven about the lure of easy money, but noooo …

So I put on my gear, strapped on a tank, and went in the water. The visibility was indeed good. I followed the anchor chain down from the boat as it out curved through mid-water out towards the anchor.

I followed it down to the bottom. But instead of seeing a chain laying on the bottom as it was in my imagination … the chain hit the bottom and disappeared completely in the mud. There was absolutely no sign of it on the surface of the mud, it had sunk and been completely hidden by the currents. I couldn’t see the chain, or any possible cross chains. The surface of the mud was flat.

Well, at that point I had a choice. I could go back up topside and admit failure. Or I could go forwards and check the triple-damned chain as I had signed on to do … gingerly, I stuck my hands into the mud. Immediately a cloud of muddy water formed around me. I started forwards, hand over hand along the chain, feeling carefully along the links to make sure there was no chain going across them. I found that if I moved steadily and slowly I could stay with my face in clear water … although I didn’t like seeing jets of water coming up out of the mud as unknown creatures pulled themselves below the surface as I approached. For much of the time, the chain was about elbow deep in the thin mud, although at times it was deeper. At one point it was almost a full arms length below the surface. I kept moving, refusing to think about what creatures were living under the mud.

Suddenly, right in front of my face mask, one of the creatures I’d been fearing popped up out of the mud right in front of my face mask … the most perfect little sea horse, hanging in front of me and giving me the old fish eye. I put on the brakes, and we stared at each other until the cloud of mud caught up and swirled around me and he disappeared and I started moving forwards again … a hundred feet is a long, long way to be hand over handing along a chain with your arms moving constantly through mud deeper than your elbows. After what seemed like about eleven hours of creepy mud-whacking but wasn’t more than an hour, I can’t tell you how happy I was to finally come upon the anchor. I checked the anchor itself, job’s not over until it’s done, and went up to give him a clean bill of health and collect my well-earned $75. He winched in his anchor with no problems at all … I greatly enjoy making money underwater, but I could have passed on that one.

Then a few years later, the gorgeous ex-fiancee and I spent six years in the Solomons, where we both got our scuba licenses. The diving there is outrageous, I spent hours under the ocean both during the day and at night. Wreck diving, shallow and deep diving, amazing stuff.

We moved from there to Fiji, where for a couple of years Ellie and I and our two-year old daughter owned and lived on a houseboat in the Tradewinds Bay part of the Suva Harbour (British and therefore Fijian spelling.) We continued boating and diving.

A decade later I returned to Fiji. In addition to diving there as before, this time a friend introduced me to the modern bodyboard. They are both more fun and much easier to use than a stand-up board. And the beauty part is that if you never have to stand up on your board … you’ll never fall off your board. So I became totally immersed in bodyboarding the various breaks of the south coast of Viti Levu, where I was living, as well as lots of time surfing Frigates Passage, which is about seventeen miles (27km) out in the ocean on the fringing reef around Beqa Island.

Most recently, in the late 2000’s I spent another two years in the Solomons, where I was occasionally one of the dive team that attached the hoses to the fuel ships when the came into harbor, and I supervised their further dive training. I also continued with my sport diving and boating, and (at the age of 62) I got my Openwater II and my Rescue Diver’s certificates.

I bring this up to establish my credentials regarding how I know what’s going on in and under the tropical ocean. As usual, I have no credentials at all. I’ve never taken a single class in oceanography or marine biology, none of that.

However, as a result of thousands and thousands of hours spent boating and surfing and diving in the tropics, I am intimately acquainted with the upper 30 metres (100′) or so of the tropical ocean, from on top of it and from underneath the surface. And this practical knowledge has been aided and abetted by my endless curiosity and my reading about the ocean. So based on that, let me describe for you what happens to the tropical ocean during the day, and the totally different situation that obtains during the night.


On a calm sunny day, in the morning a layer of heated water typically forms at the surface which is fairly thin. Sometimes if it’s really calm and with little waves or current, the layer can be so thin that, as I paddle my bodyboard across the surface, I can feel each hand dipping through a thermocline (the thermal interface between two water bodies containing warmer and cooler water) into colder water below. More commonly, in the presence of say 10-15 knots of trade winds (5-7 m/sec), this warm layer is maybe 1 – 3 m (yards) deep, again with a distinct thermocline, and colder water underneath.

The main characteristic of the daytime is the stratification of the ocean into a stable, non-circulating state. The top layer is the warmest. Because the warmest water at the surface is lighter than the cooler water below, the layer tends to persist. And the same is true for each layer beneath it. During the day, the ocean is stably ordered by temperature, warmest at the top, coolest at the bottom.

This situation builds up during the day, and by then end of the day, the ocean is normally totally stratified by temperature.


During the night, however, something unexpected happens. At some point, an efficient emergent circulation pattern is established, which rapidly brings deeper water to the surface to radiate and cool. Here’s how that circulation pattern unfolds.

Most nights, at some time after dark, the daytime thermal stratification is upset. Without the sun, a cooler layer forms at the surface. This is the surface water which has been cooled by a combination of radiation and evaporation, so it is both colder and saltier than the water below.

Because this cooler, saltier layer is denser than the warmer water below, the night-time ocean is thermally unstable. At first, water just sinks randomly as it cools. Soon, however, we see the unexpected emergent phenomenon—a type of Rayleigh-Bénard circulation is rapidly (over the course of an hour) established.

rayleigh-benard circulationFigure 1. Rayleigh-Bénard circulation.

This circulation features distinct vertical columns of descending water at various points in the ocean, separated by areas of slowly rising water. At the surface, the cool surface water runs horizontally to the nearest column of descending water, and then drops until it reaches the corresponding density.

This thermally driven vertical mixing constantly brings the warmest water to the surface, where it can radiate and evaporate the most efficiently. As the night goes on and more and more heat is lost to evaporation and radiation, this thermal circulation extends deeper and deeper into the ocean.

This lovely nocturnal mixing machine generally leaves the tropical ocean, by the dawn, without much vertical temperature change below the surface, and generally without any perceptible shallow thermocline such as develops during the day.

How do I know about this curious circulation? Well, by diving in it and snorkeling in it. I’ve read about it since, but that’s where I first noticed it. These areas of cold descending water are quite evident if you go diving at night in the tropics. They are at their strongest two or three metres below the surface on a calm night. When you swim through them, the colder, denser, rapidly descending water is perceptible immediately. They are much smaller than the surrounding area that they drain, and since what goes up must come down in equal amounts, the vertical current is quite evident.

There’s another curiosity to this circulation, an important one. The descending circulation extends deeper into the ocean than just the layer of equal temperature. You’d think that the cooler water would only extend as deep as the corresponding temperature layer, but this is not the case for a couple of reasons. First, simple mechanics. The descending column of water has inertia, so it tends to persist deeper than you’d expect from simple equality of temperatures.

The more important reason the mixing goes deeper than the level where the temperatures equalize is that the surface water is dense for two reasons—decreased temperature, and increased salinity. So it is denser than underlying water of an equal temperature.

As a result, the circulation is constantly stirring up waters that are colder than the cooled surface water. And this ever-deepening circulation is one thing that allows for the rapid nocturnal heat loss. The surface water brings colder water to the surface, which cools further and when it sinks, brings colder water yet to the surface. This overshoot is critical, because otherwise the surface wouldn’t continue to be fed with the deeper and deeper water.

In understanding this system, it is helpful to remember that, by and large, whatever energy is added to the ocean during the day is lost during the night … if not, the sucker would be boiling by now. We think of the ocean heating up a lot in the day, that’s easy to understand, we can see the sun, we can feel the warm surface layer that builds up during the day.

We forget that the ocean has to and does cool about the same amount each and every night, through thermally driven mixing which supports increased evaporation and radiation. The way that it does this is by efficiently bringing the warmest water to the surface to cool and radiate and evaporate. And the way that it regulates how much it cools is through the timing of the onset of the overturning.


In natural control systems containing emergent phenomena such as thunderstorms and the Rayleigh-Bénard nocturnal oceanic overturning, often the control is not imposed via the amplitude of the counteracting phenomena.

Instead, it is imposed by way of the timing of the onset and ending of the phenomena.

Let me take the onset of cumulus clouds as an example. These form as the day warms. It takes about an hour or less to go from no cumulus clouds at all to a fully formed cumulus regime. After that, coverage doesn’t change a whole lot.

So how much sun the earth gets doesn’t depend on the amount of the cumulus cover. That doesn’t change much. It depends on what time the cumulus form.

And in a beautiful regulatory manner, the warmer the morning is, the sooner the cumulus form, cutting down the heating. And on cooler mornings, the cumulus form later, allowing in more energy. This warms the earth when it is cool, and it cools the earth when it is warm … a lovely piece of engineering.

The same thing is true about the emergence of the night-time Rayleigh-Bénard circulation in the ocean. If it kicks in right after dark, the ocean loses a lot of energy. On the other hand, if it doesn’t emerge until 2 AM, there’s much less energy lost.

Now, consider the effect of the water temperature on the timing of the start of the nocturnal overturning.

When the water is warmer than usual, the top layer will cool faster than usual—radiation, evaporation, and sensible heat loss all go up as some power of water temperature in kelvins. This combined with warmer water below the surface will speed the onset of overturning, making it occur sooner after dark.

Cooler than average water, on the other hand, will lose heat more slowly. This combined with cooler water below the surface will delay the onset of nocturnal overturning.

This means that overall the warmer water loses heat more efficiently, and cooler water loses heat less efficiently. And this, of course, acts in a thermostatic manner. It tends to reduce deviations in temperature by speeding the cooling when the ocean is warm, and slowing the cooling when it is cooler..

My points here are simple.

1. The emergent phenomena that control the temperature do so by regulating the timing of the emergence of the phenomena, not just by regulating the strength of the phenomena.

2. This kind of control, as far as I know, is not even hinted at in the climate models.

3. In part, this is because the phenomena are way below grid scale.

4. The emergence of Rayleigh-Bénard overturning in the ocean is merely one of the many interlocking homeostatic phenomena that rule the climate. These include cumulus, thunderstorms, El Nino alterations, dust devils, cyclones, and as this post demonstrates, ocean overturning. These all work together to keep the planet from ever getting too hot, or too cold.

5. Please note one final, critical point. None of the emergent mechanisms have emergence times that are ruled by CO2. Instead, the emergence times are temperature based, and work to cool overly warm temperatures and to warm overly cool temperatures. As such, they are not  affected by a change in CO2.

Best regards,



I don’t think Willis will mind if I put up my favorite related song. It’s my favorite because it has a cool upbeat tempo that paints a picture in your mind, plus being instrumental I never had to worry about figuring out the lyrics with challenges presented by my lifetime hearing loss. – Anthony

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March 10, 2013 8:38 am

A very nice description of negative feed backs. Thanks for the post.

Steve in SC
March 10, 2013 8:50 am

You have a similar phenomenon on fresh water impoundments. It seems to occur twice a year once in the spring and once in the fall. It does seem to affect fishing. I became aware of it when I was into tournament bass fishing. (long since abandoned)
I did like the pipeline song. I share your hearing loss Anthony, but mine was due to the proximity to jet engines and gunfire.
Good post Willis.

March 10, 2013 9:03 am

Great Chantays video — fancy moves and they didn’t even have to plug in their guitars. 🙂

March 10, 2013 9:04 am

But….wait…the models don’t show that….and….but you’re not a scientist, why should we believe you?….your just a “surfer”……you don’t have any climatological background….why do you DENIERS continue to argue this stuff…the science is SETTLED…there IS global warm…oh, wait, climate change, and it is all man’s fault….Al Gore didn’t say anything about this….wow just look at the carbon footprint YOU have flying all over the planet like that on fossil fuel burning jets….
Did I cover them all?
Great post, too bad it won’t change anyone’s mind. They are immune to logic.

March 10, 2013 9:27 am

“I have no credentials at all.” — but loads of credibility. Credentials too often just certify dogma instead of best current knowledge.

March 10, 2013 9:30 am

Great post, very engaging and chock full of science goodies.

March 10, 2013 9:50 am

Willis: what a gift. Not only do we get another taste of your picaresque personal history –I can practically feel the surf and the surge of which you write so well– but we get some impeccable science, expressed –as it should be– intuitively. The exponential negative feedback effects of heating causing convective cooling; the greater the heating, the faster and greater the cooling; this is how the world does work, and all the equations are just housekeeping. Thanks.

March 10, 2013 10:35 am

Meanwhile….thousands of miles of undersea vents pump high temperature, high pressure elemental gases into 150 PA and 4C waters and these gases are either liquified or trapped in water crystal lattice, like Methane Clathrate. The elemental gases include CO2, SOx, NOx and the CH4 mentioned. Proof of the maximum saturation at all levels of the ocean is the limited rotation speed of robotic propellers. Fast moving props ‘cavitate’ these entrained gases causing bubble tracts. These bubble tracts are disrupting for camera work, deadly for deep submarines. The gas-to-liquid phase change absorbs some of the geothermal energy, disguising the total output. As the saturated gas waters rise they reach lower pressure, higher temperature waters, where these entrained gases are outgased. What confuses this thermal exchange is the open-refrigerant condition, as these gases ‘cool’ the immediate outgas water layer, then carry this ‘heat’ higher in the water column. Maximum saturation of this range of gases eventually reach the surface and boil-off, along with surface water evaporation. The oceans are the greatest producer of atmosphereic CO2, and because of this maximum saturation, are only rarely capable of absorbing CO2 from the air.
For more on the vast network of under sea discharges read Timothy Casey’s “Volcanic CO2” at his site. For more on elemental gas production and the hidden ocean energy transfer system read “Earth’s Missing Goethermal Flux”. For those who have never witnessed a thermocline it is most amazing condition. The boundary layer is often so distinct that a diver can place just one finger in a pool with a horizontal layer separating 5F stratas. Homeostatic is the most under recognized condition of this self buffering planet.

March 10, 2013 10:41 am

Terrific post about stratification layers in bodies of water!
Regarding lakes; as mentioned there is a major bottom to surface turnover in the fall and depending on the lake, spring. Remember cold water sinks throughout the cold season so only unusual conditions support a spring turnover (Cold water, say from melting snow flowing over warmer lake water). Large lakes and seas stratify so that there are several thermoclines, not just one. Willis covers this above where he describes the overturning of the upper stratifications.

“Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
When I was a kid, swimming in the ocean was a rarity. We kids spent summers with my Dad, and once, maybe twice over the summer we’d go to Stinson Beach. I loved the waves, cold as it was. We bodysurfed them over and over, emerging at the end of the afternoon blue with cold. And when my grandmother and my Aunt and my cousins moved to Santa Cruz when I was about ten, we visited them a couple times and went bodysurfing…”

Sort of the same here in that I couldn’t afford a board; nor did I have the time away from drudgery (work at low pay) to learn surfing properly anyway.
I got pretty dang good at bodysurfing on the New Jersey coast. One weekend during an offshore storm I and my buddies were surfing waves with some curl (nothing like those serious waves). I had a couple with a good part of my body sticking out of the wave like a really dismal board. Then I tried riding a curl all the way in; did too. The wave slapped me down hard on dry sand when it collapsed. I lost most of my chest hair, (think bear rug with a patch ripped out); and had my largest abrasion ever. Like the idiot I was I dried off to stop the blood weeping and then I’d like to claim it was peer pressure, but no, I went back into the surf on my own. I didn’t go back into the water that weekend.

March 10, 2013 12:27 pm

FauxScienceSlayer says:
March 10, 2013 at 10:35 am
The oceans are the greatest producer of atmosphereic CO2, and because of this maximum saturation, are only rarely capable of absorbing CO2 from the air. (…..)
FSS–This is truely the first I have heard of this. Can you verify? (I actually hope you can, as most published “science” indicates the oceans are becoming more acidic due to increased atmostpheric CO2.)

March 10, 2013 1:05 pm

“The descending column of water has inertia, so it tends to persist deeper than you’d expect from simple equality of temperatures.”
Momentum, technically.

March 10, 2013 1:10 pm

geran says: “Can you verify? (I actually hope you can, as most published “science” indicates the oceans are becoming more acidic due to increased atmostpheric CO2.)”
The ocean is not acidic; it’s alkaline. It is becoming slightly less alkaline from adsorbed CO2, but is in no danger of becoming “acidic.”

March 10, 2013 1:33 pm

jorgekafkazar says:
March 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm
(…..) The ocean is not acidic; it’s alkaline. It is becoming slightly less alkaline from adsorbed CO2, but is in no danger of becoming “acidic.”
Don’t you just love it–It is becoming less alkaline, but is in no danger of becoming “acidic”?
BTW, Willis, I forgot to mention—another great post, but where are the photos of bikini-clad beach girls???

March 10, 2013 1:45 pm

In 1967 I took my PADI licence in Cape Town. One of the final qualifying dives was at night, through some dense kelp beds. It’s amazing what your imagination can come up with when you are sliding through very touchy-feely seaweed. We had to swim on a given compass course to a rocky outcrop we’d all been to before. Damned difficult to find in the dark until you realise that the sea is telling you where the rock is. Just read the waves and the surges. Easy, when you know how but not easy to learn.
Once at the outcrop we all surfaced and, after much mutually supportive banter about the trip back, we asked the instructor why this part of the course was necessary. He said that the Great White sharks which were prevalent in the area wouldn’t follow a diver into the kelp beds. That’s why we had to learn to navigate them.
The trip back was even more of an imaginary nightmare than the trip out.
I felt the cool down-currents Willis has spoken of, didn’t give them much thought when every movement in the water was, in my mind, the result of the tail-sweep of the biggest Great White EVAH!

Dodgy Geezer
March 10, 2013 1:52 pm

I reckon the Shadows were doing that synchronized stepping better back in the late 1950s – and they had better tunes too 🙂 Here they are on a beach…

Mike Ballantine
March 10, 2013 2:40 pm

Willis, your “credentials” supersede any university degree. Almost all of the facts that they teach were gathered by divers with boots on the ground or flippers in the sea. 🙂
Thanks for passing on your first hand knowledge. As any true scientist or engineer knows, a single reproducible fact trumps any theory or model.

Doug Proctor
March 10, 2013 2:51 pm

Willis – your comments on timing lead me back to thoughts on models of energy balance of the Earth that don’t take into account the timing of things. The Earth gets 22 W/m2 more around 4 January than it does at around 4 July, due to the 3% orbital eccentricity (6.8% more at perihelion than at aphelion). During the perihelion this extra energy is coming in over the southern hemisphere, but the hemispheric differences are opposite this, with the Northern Hemisphere being a couple of degrees warmer over the year than the Southern. The first conclusion one might get is that the Earth has an incredible energy-transfer system going on that is not apparent when you use annualized numbers. The second is that changes in cloud cover count a lot in where they occur and when they occur, as 2% increases in cloud cover in the Southern Hemisphere during September to June have more impact on lower elevation Earth than they do for similar changes during June to September in the Northern Hemisphere.
The location and timing of TSI and cloud cover, i.e albedo, looks to me to be very important. Regional changes with their timing, count.
Back in the 1870s, the explorer Palliser said that the western provinces, and presumably North Dakota and Montana, were unliveable and could not be farmed. He was discussing the dryness and the heat. Fifteen years later, the area was opened up as a bread basket. During the 1930s, my relatives in southern Saskatchewan had 7 years in a row without a commercial crop. The skys were consistently blue and cloudless. Now they are not. Each of these points means that a large area was signficantly different in albedo and SI; rolled into a planetary average, they may not mean much, but locally they do. Similarly, the last couple of years of continental US and its heat are locally significant, but are they planetarily so? I don’t think so.
Cloud changes during the night, cloud changes during the day, cloud changes during the Arctic winter or summer – quite different effects. Planetary averages miss the timing and ascribe any local effect to the annualized difference. Hardly.
We seem to see large regional changes with global warming rather than planetary. It is in the mathematical averaging that we see something, but we know that a large change in the Arctic and zero change elsewhere – even with cooling elsewhere, will give planetary averages a boost, when what is really happening is one region is warming. And we haven’t considered the timing.
The planet Earth is a huge energy transfer engine. I wonder if planetary averaging, though mathematically correct, is obscuring regional and temporal variations. Showing us a planet warming, when it is fact just Hanover each Tuesday at 2 pm (exaggeration here).

March 10, 2013 3:17 pm

Ocean pH varies from 7.8 to 8.4 world wide due to temperature, dissolved chemicals, rainfall and runoffs dilution. The ocean basin is lined with Calcium Carbonate rocks and reefs that keep the oceans within these alkaline range limits. If the oceans were not continually (but not at a constant rate) aerated by the vast rift line system, then there would be rapid stagnation. View video of these rifts and ‘black smokers’ and ask yourself….where do the bubbles go ? ? ? Some of these gases are liquified, others absorbed, but the expected increasing sized bubble tracks disappear within a few feet. As scuba divers know, there is one atmosphere pressure increase every 33 ft of depth. Released at 33 ft a one cubic foot bubble swells to two cubic feet, at 66 ft it swells to three cubic ft, etc. Released under 150 atmospheres there should be huge swells over these deep rift lines. Instead this wide range of gases is held at maximum saturation until released by warmth, reduced pressure or mechanical cavitation. Human CO2 releases are powerless in this vast, largely homeostatic, system.

Philip Bradley
March 10, 2013 3:40 pm

It’s funny how this blog and others similar, bring to mind things you experienced many years earlier and simply taken for granted at the time. I’ve stood in tropical water up to my neck. In the early morning, the water feels a uniform temperature, but by mid-afternoon, my chest felt noticeably warm, while my feet were decidedly cool. It was clear that the sun put a lot of heat into the top meter of ocean, but until I read the above, it never occurred to me to ask how the top layer of the ocean went from thermally stratified to a uniform temperature temperature overnight.
I spent time in Fiji, 35 years ago and did a lot of snorkeling. Lovely place in those days.

March 10, 2013 4:20 pm

Yeah but this ones about a wave so it sits better so it suits the job better 🙂

March 10, 2013 4:22 pm

Please Moderators add this link to prevous post
[Done. -w.]

March 10, 2013 4:41 pm

So, let me see….
Faux is this your answer?
(Oh, I haven’t forgetten you Ms. Jorge. Sorry dear, it’s “put up or shut up”: day.)

March 10, 2013 4:47 pm

The same thing happens at Lake Mead. I think the Soloman Islands would be more fun but Mead is a day drive from LA where the Solomans require passing back to an earlier time frame. Actually that sounds pretty good. I also used to live on opihi as a kid in Hawaii but as Frank Delima suggests:

And if that isn’t good enough:
Mahalo nui for the memories.

March 10, 2013 4:53 pm

The classic Rayleigh-Benard convection cells form a hexagonal pattern with the downwelling fluid at the cell edges and the upwelling at the center. It’s probably difficult to map out when you’re diving, but did you notice any cell structure like that?

March 10, 2013 5:03 pm

You may want to look up the definition of inertia.

March 10, 2013 5:04 pm

Fascinating. So what happens when the day night cycle is more like 6 months (as it is in the arctic) rather than 24 hours? I’m thinking that a layer of ice is relatively transparent to outgoing long wave radiation.

March 10, 2013 5:17 pm

Great post, Willis, and thanks for the clip, Anthony. Those guys really could play – although not in the clip 🙂 – and their sound was very influential on bands in other music genres for decades afterwards.
A member of my family does long distance ocean swimming (we think she is crazy, in a good way) as well as a lot of diving. Like you, she has no formal qualifications but boy, does she know a lot about waves and currents and the effect of wind and a bunch of other things that you need to know to survive out there. When I sit on a cliff and look at the sea, I see a pretty picture. She sees that too, but it’s as though her snapshot is also a movie – she can tell me a hundred things about what is happening out there just by looking at it.
Re the day/night temperature thing – Wllis, if you get time, could you elaborate a bit about how that works outside the tropics? I’m thinking about places in temperate zones where there are big shifts in the length of days and nights over the year. Also, how does that interact with seasonal currents? In Australia we get a prevailing warm current up the coast which starts in early summer and finishes in late autumn (fall) – i.e. not quite in synch with changes in air temperature or the length of the days. Thanks. Off to get out some of my old surfing music!

March 10, 2013 5:30 pm

It is my understanding that there is 50 times as much CO2 in the ocean as there is in the entire earth atmosphere. Even if half of the atmospheric amount suddenly moved into the ocean, this would only increase the oceans content by 1%. How can people believe that the oceans are turning into acid?

March 10, 2013 5:45 pm

Willis: Regarding the “Ocean Heat Content”, which is FLAT for the Argo Buoys for the time they’ve been out. Don’t they cover just Sea Level to -3000 Feet ? As such, what are the “ocean heat content” measurements based on? A consistent temp below -3000 FT, or some pre-measured temp profile which does not change? Or very sparse measurements?
And that (bogus, I believe) 1955 to 2000 graph that keeps showing up. Based on VERY SPARSE measurements by the Navy? Inconsistent, meaning less?
Last is to ask, how do your “turn over” observations fit in? AND would they HOMOGENIZE the heat content (over all?)
I KNOW I’m asking a lot of questions here. I don’t have time to follow up on them myself right now.
I think, however, you can see WHY I’m asking them, and in general…the OCEAN is the biggest “heat sink capacitor function” in the whole system, and AS YOU HAVE NOTED (and/or others), probably (aside from Thunderstorms, Hat Tip Willis), the second biggest feedback mechanism out there.

March 10, 2013 5:53 pm

“What follows is both autobiography and science, mostly science. Sometimes, it works out that way. If that bothers you, then don’t push the button that says “Continue reading →””
Massive fail Willis!
Even warmistadors share part of our collective DNA; i.e. those few, but important, strands that make us press any button that has any hint of “Don’t press this” in its caption.
For me it wouldn’t matter what you say – i’m going to “Keep Reading” -‘cos your name is at the top – but for some, a shrinking number to be fair, it’s an invitation to get annoyed-really annoyed.
For those that come here for edification and enjoyment may I suggest “Keep Reading” and for those who came here to find fault may I suggest the same unless their religion proscribes such adventures as heretical and beyond redemption!

Evan Thomas
March 10, 2013 6:33 pm

A short history of body surfing in Oz. My father and I were born in Manly, a seaside suburb of Sydney; a short walk to the famous surfing beach, and a shorter walk to a harbour beach. Swimming in daylight was illegal until c.1903 (local law) My father was a keen surfer as I became too. Around i9i9 when my father returned from WW1, Manly was visited by an Hawaiin prince who was an expert surfer and taught the locals how to body surf, includlng my father. It was a curiosity then and other surfers often stopped my father in the surf and asked how he did it. The secret is of course accurately timing and swimming onto the break of the wave. Cheers from sunny Sydney

March 10, 2013 6:58 pm

Thanks, Willis. Stratification and overturning come to life in your article.
And time shines as the greatest missing factor in the averaged, gridded and globalized climate that makes no sense.

March 10, 2013 7:51 pm

All I can add to this that 40 years ago I came to a what I thought was a “paradise” well OK compared to the EU it was and at some level still is.( I still live here it is better than most areas,).
I was introduced to fishing, hunting, skiing water sports and many other incredible outdoor journeys, (none known to the mere mortals in the EU in those days),
But one thing that I will never forget that even in said paradise the three or four communities living on the lake that formed said paradise dumped all their sewage in they what they thought was forever being flushed down river and so forever to be some else’s problem .
And before I had ever learned about “turn over”.
One spring as a friend and I were fishing in said paradise lake I caught a diaper ,nugh said.

March 10, 2013 7:53 pm

garymount says:
March 10, 2013 at 5:30 pm
It is my understanding that there is 50 times as much CO2 in the ocean as there is in the entire earth atmosphere. Even if half of the atmospheric amount suddenly moved into the ocean, this would only increase the oceans content by 1%. How can people believe that the oceans are turning into acid?

The CO2 in the atmosphere is being recreated as it is being naturally absorbed into the sea. Put half of it there instantly and there will be as much placed back into the atmosphere. You will have accomplished nothing. The rate of absorption is in balance with the rate of creation by natural processes and that will continue and the sea will continue to become less base.
On the other hand we could park a useless nuclear aircraft carrier over the Marianas trench and pump liquid CO2 to the bottom 24/7/365 where it will remain for all time but it won’t matter. The world is large and we are small. Better/faster to tax us into poverty. /snarc

March 10, 2013 7:59 pm

For Willis and Evan Thomas, from Duke’s wiki:

Between Olympic competitions, and after retiring from the Olympics, Kahanamoku traveled internationally to give swimming exhibitions. It was during this period that he popularized the sport of surfing, previously known only in Hawaii, by incorporating surfing exhibitions into these visits as well. His surfing exhibition at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach on December 23, 1914 is widely regarded as a seminal event in the development of surfing in Australia.[7] The board that Kahanamoku built from a piece of pine from a local hardware store is retained by the Freshwater Surf Club. There is a statue of Kahanamoku on the headland at Freshwater. He made surfing popular in mainland America first in 1912 while in Southern California.

Surfer Dave
March 10, 2013 8:20 pm

“Every year for the past six years, Hee has introduced legislation that would toughen restrictions on opihi picking. Currently there are just two rules: a size limit (1.25 inches with shell, or .5 inches without shell), and the requirement that commercial opihi pickers have commercial fishing licenses.”
I was in Hawaii exactly 2 years ago for the North Shore Lifeguard Ke Kaha Nalu O’ Ehukai – the Quiksilver Bodysurfing Extravaganza at Pipeline – a bodysurfing comp in pristine 8′ (Hawaiian scale) waves.
And yes, it was the Duke who visited Sydney and introduced board surfing however I suspect that bodysurfing has already been introduced by Polynesians from Samoa.

March 10, 2013 8:25 pm

How is rift outgassing homeostatic? The congressional office if the (energy) budget only gives geothermal .6 peckerwoods…I mean petawatts compared with 173 from the sun. I’ve often wondered if this were wrong. During the Cretaceous seafloor spreading was very fast and a ridiculous volume of sub oceanic large igneous provinces were produced. It was pretty warm then.

March 10, 2013 8:25 pm

I have often wondered why the transitions from glacial periods to interglacial are rapid and uninterrupted, while the opposite transitions are much slower, with pauses and reversals. I’ve never been satisfied with proposed explanations from mainstream climate scientists like Hansen. My best explanation has been that the same type of effect discussed here comes into play on a larger and slower scale.
That is, during a warming period, the warming surface waters tend to stay more stratified from the cooler under layers. But during a cooling period, as the surface cools for whatever reason, it tends to mix more with the under layers. This increases the amount of water that must be cooled to permit the air to keep cooling, which means a larger thermal capacitance and a slower rate of cooling. Has anyone seen this explanation before?

March 10, 2013 8:33 pm

Last one. This might be the best surf music video ever:

March 10, 2013 9:08 pm

I have never set foot in the ocean, but I do fly small aircraft, sounds like the ocean comes alive in the night like the skies come alive during the day with relation to currents of fluid and or air. Thanks for the great post Willis!

Mario Lento
March 10, 2013 10:13 pm

Great writing as usual Willis. And a fascinating way to explain one of the ways our climate tends to be so stable… (note I did not say normal).
We just came back last year from a week long trip to Beqa Island. A group of us paid an extra sum of money per couple to help them build a recreation center for the children of Bequ. We drank kava with two of the chiefs on two separate nights. Of course no one is allowed to talk directly with the chief, but they relaxed that rule.
My deep water shark dive where they opened up buckets of chum was one of the highlights of the trip…
One thing I loved about this island of Fija was the peoples’ good nature and high level of intelligence (not to be confused with “educated” to our standards).
I could only wish that things ran this smoothly and wonderfully in our own country. Our poor people have so much more and feel so much less potent.

March 10, 2013 10:48 pm

Maybe Willis’s eagle is really that most magnificant of birds, the condor! Where is the book? When it wins the Pulitizer I will saddle up my creaking bones and come to the award ceremony.
Note to Anthony: We’re both, or at least I am showing my age, but isn’t it nice to see a well groomed pop band that doesn’t look homeless and isn’t covered with tattoos? Maybe you are showing your age. Lawrence Welk???
PS: I’ll bet you like Bolaro, too.

March 11, 2013 2:08 am

FYI. typo above in: “refusing to thing about”.
I assume you would want to know about these, especially the ones that are spell-check immune.
[Thanks, fixed, and you’re right, my motto for writing is “Perfect is good enough.” -w.]

Bloke down the pub
March 11, 2013 5:09 am

Somewhere in the dusty attic of my memory, there’s a reference to a post, probably here, about oceanic energy storeage. The general concensus(that dreaded word) at the time was that the ‘missing heat’ couldn’t be in the deep ocean as there was no mechanism for quickly moving the sun’s energy to the deep . This post seems to provide such a mechanism.

March 11, 2013 5:33 am

Fascinating stuff Willis. Thank you. Annie.

March 11, 2013 5:48 pm

Willis – A good read and simple explanation of the “science” in terms easily understandable and interesting to even a layman reader.
The “thermostat” metaphor I think I recall you using in the past is perfect I think to describe both the ocean and thunderstorm processes that manage the transport/transfer and moderation of excess heat.
Both the sea and the atmosphere offer magnificent and similar mechanisms to help moderate the climate to that sweet spot that keeps us alive and prospering. Both sea and atmosphere react to excess heat by a transport mechanism that utilizes the vast pool of cold – deep water in the sea, and the stratosphere and space with the atmosphere – to absorb that excess heat and deliver a cool response in return.
An elegant and simple system that just doesn’t seem all that hard to understand for people who have lived and worked in it Something some scientists I think need to do a lot more of 😉

March 12, 2013 2:02 am

Is there overturning in the open ocean? Or is this on continental shelves? Does the Southern Ocean overturn (cold “ocean” around Antarctica)?

March 12, 2013 8:40 pm

Those were the days. My grandparents bought a condo on the beach in kihei in 72. We’d go beach combing everyday. Makena now has annoying lifeguards w/megaphones yelling at everyone. It’s still paradise, just a lot more crowded.

March 13, 2013 5:44 pm

Shaka Bra

Brian H
March 17, 2013 5:19 pm

I don’t think picaresque means what you think. It’s sometimes relevant to W’s tales, but not this one! YCLIU.
W. ;
As you say, unless the oceans were to boil, if it weren’t one negative feedback, it’d be another. CO2 is waaaay down the list. Again.

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