A Very Ridiculous Comment by the Author of a Recent SkepticalScience Post

I returned to a recent post at SkepticalScience to examine what the author had to say about two papers: Meehl et al (2011) and Meehl et al (2013). [We discussed Meehl et al (2013) here.] I am now convinced SkepticalScience should be renamed UtterNonsense or TheCluelessLeadingTheClueless. The SkepticalScience post I’m referring to is A Looming Climate Shift: Will Ocean Heat Come Back to Haunt Us?, and the author is Rob Painting.

The first comment on the thread reads:

Can you say how strong the empirical evidence is for rapid warming to start in the near future? As a non-scientist climate change communicator I’d like to let people know what the balance of evidence is without being too alarmist.

The resident expert on coupled ocean-atmosphere circulation at SkepticalScience, the author of the post Rob Painting, replied (my boldface):

Individuals will make their own decision as to whether they find this information alarming or not. The consequences of a shutdown of the wind-driven ocean circulation could be very profound. As for previous behavior of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, given that many readers will not be familiar with this index – I’m writing a follow-up to this post.

“The consequences of a shutdown of the wind-driven ocean circulation could be very profound”????? He has got to be kidding.

The tragedy: The “climate change communicator” who asked the question, someone who by their own admission does not have a scientific background, actually thanked Rob Painting for the answer. Will the “climate change communicator” now broadcast that nonsense through his communication channels?

The most telling part: No one else commenting on the thread questioned Rob Painting’s statement.

How strange is the phrase “shutdown of the wind-driven ocean circulation”? A Google search with that phrase in quotes presented results only from SkepticalScience. (And now results appear in response to this post.)

Anyone who proposes a shutdown of wind-driven ocean circulation has no clue whatsoever about what causes it.

Wind-driven ocean circulation results from the temperature differences between the tropics and the mid-latitudes, and those temperature differences are caused by the sun heating the tropics more than it heats the mid-latitudes. Since the surface of the ocean is warmer in the tropics than at mid-latitudes, more convection occurs in the tropics. In other words, the air is rising in the tropics. Surface winds blow from the mid-latitudes to the tropics to replace the rising air. The other component is the rotation of the Earth. It causes a phenomenon called the Coriolis effect, which deflects the equatorward traveling winds to the west. Those trade winds, as they’re known, blow across the surface of the tropical oceans and cause the currents north and south of the equator to flow from east to west.

Note: To reduce the number of components, I excluded surface pressures from the preceding discussion. But we all know that surface winds blow from areas of higher pressure to those with lower pressures. And I also excluded El Niño- and La Niña-related discussions.

For wind-driven ocean circulation to shut down, is Rob Painting suggesting the waters in the tropics will no longer be warmer than they are in the mid-latitudes? And is he also suggesting the Earth will stop rotating? Those things would have to occur for his proposed shutdown to occur. Considering that SkepticalScience is an alarmist website, is he suggesting that all this will be caused by increases in manmade greenhouse gases?

Oy vey!

For those who’d like a more detailed introduction to what causes the trade winds to blow and for the surface currents to flow, here’s a chapter from my book Who Turned on the Heat? Sometimes a few illustrations help.

3.2 Pacific Trade Winds and Ocean Currents

Trade winds are the prevailing surface winds in the tropics. They’re called easterlies because they blow primarily from east to west. In the Northern Hemisphere, the trade winds travel from the northeast to the southwest, and they travel from southeast to northwest in the Southern Hemisphere.

The trade winds blow because the surface temperature is warmer near the equator than it is at higher latitudes. Refer to Figure 3-2 for the annual 2011 zonal-mean sea surface temperatures for the Pacific Ocean.

Figure 3-2

Warm, moist air rises near the equator. This upward motion draws replacement surface air from the north in the Northern Hemisphere and from the south in the Southern Hemisphere. In other words, the air at the surface is being drawn toward the equator due to the updraft there. In turn, the equatorward surface winds need to be replaced, and that cool, dry air is drawn down from higher altitudes at about 30N and 30S. Upper winds traveling poleward from the equator complete the circuit. That circuit is called a Hadley Cell. See Figure 3-3. Because the Earth is rotating, the equatorward surface winds are deflected toward the west by the Coriolis force.

Figure 3-3

We can explain the Hadley Circulation another way, if you prefer. We’ll start again near the equator where warm, moist air rises. It travels poleward at an altitude of 10 to 15 kilometers (32,800 to 45,800 feet) losing heat and moisture along the way. The cooler, dryer air then drops back toward the surface in the subtropics at about 30N and 30S. The surface winds then complete the circulation pattern. If the Earth was not rotating, the tropical surface winds would be out of the north in the Northern Hemisphere and out of the south in the Southern Hemisphere. Because the Earth is rotating, however, the tropical surface winds—the trade winds—are deflected toward the west.

Figure 3-4

The prevailing tropical winds are, therefore, from east to west. They blow across the surface of the tropical Pacific Ocean, dragging the surface waters along with them. There are two surface currents as a result, traveling from east to west, one per hemisphere. They are logically called the North and South Pacific Equatorial Currents. There is a smaller surface current flowing between them that returns some of the water back to the east and it’s called the Equatorial Countercurrent. See Figure 3-4.

Figure 3-5

The Equatorial Currents carry the waters across the tropical Pacific. Then they encounter Indonesia, which restricts continued flow to the west. Some of the water is carried through all of the islands to the Indian Ocean by a surface current called the Indonesian Throughflow. As noted above, a little of the water is carried east by the Equatorial Countercurrent. The rest of the water is carried poleward. The overall systems of rotating ocean currents in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are known as gyres. Gyres exist in all ocean basins. The ones in Figure 3-5 are called the North Pacific Gyre and the South Pacific Gyre.

The NASA Ocean Motion website is a great resource for entry-level discussions of ocean currents. Refer to their Home and Wind Driven Surface Currents: Equatorial Currents Background web pages. Take a tour; there’s lots of interesting information there.

[End of Chapter 3.2 of Who Turned on the Heat?]

Who Turned on the Heat? is a detailed presentation of the coupled ocean-atmosphere processes most persons refer to as El Niño and La Niña. Known collectively as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), they are the second strongest of the natural phenomena that have annual and multiyear effects on global climate—the strongest are explosive volcanic eruptions, which can overwhelm the effects of even the strongest El Niño. The recent example of that is the eruption of El Chichon—it counteracted the very strong 1982/83 El Niño.

The ocean heat content records and the satellite-era sea surface temperature records indicate that the processes of El Niño and La Niña events are responsible for much of the warming of the global oceans. That’s right—the instrument temperature record indicates the oceans warmed naturally. If this topic is new to you, refer to my illustrated essay “The Manmade Global Warming Challenge” [42MB].

Who Turned on the Heat? begins with entry-level discussions, like Chapter 3.2 above. A preview is available here [4MB]. Who Turned on the Heat? is only available in pdf form here, for a price of US$8.00.

I’m working on a new introductory post to Who Turned on the Heat?, because I’m no longer pleased with the original Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About El Niño and La Niña.

CLOSING

In the past, I’ve tried to ignore what SkepticalScience’s resident expert, Rob Painting, has had to say about ENSO and its related coupled ocean-atmosphere processes. Try as I may, I do wind up talking about them occasionally. But I couldn’t overlook his statement, “The consequences of a shutdown of the wind-driven ocean circulation could be very profound.” And I find it quite remarkable that the denizens of SkepticalScience bought it—or just as likely, they elected to ignore it.

Rob Painting ended that comment with:

As for previous behavior of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, given that many readers will not be familiar with this index – I’m writing a follow-up to this post.

We discussed at length what the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation was, and what it wasn’t, in the post Meehl et al (2013) Are Also Looking for Trenberth’s Missing Heat. I’m patiently waiting for Painting’s follow-up post. It should be entertaining.

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Severian

I suspect there were plenty of comments challenging this idiocy, but as usual the SkS boys bit bucketed them as they do all truly skeptical comments.

‘Sceptical Science’ ……….rapid warming to start in the near future?
Not likely, it appears we have just past peak of solar activity for at least two or three decades to come:
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/SSN.htm

WHY DO PEOPLE EVEN THINK OF COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE IF THEY HAVE NO SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND!!
Imagine having a roomful of China experts none of whom speaks Chinese.
Oh well the Vietnam wars started just like that…

Alan D McIntire

” The consequences of a shutdown of the wind-driven ocean circulation could be very profound”
Yeah, as you pointed out, it would mean that the earth has stopped rotating.
It reminds me of “Alice in Wonderland” .
“…Really they’ll be more like bundles of old clothes than anything else, by the time they’re ready!’ she said to herself, as she arranged a bolster round the neck of Tweedledee, ‘to keep his head from being cut off,’ as he said.
‘You know,’ he added very gravely, ‘it’s one of the most serious things that can possibly happen to one in a battle—to get one’s head cut off.’ “

starzmom

His answer to the “communicator’s” question is a standard change-the-subject answer. Of course the consequences of shutting down wind driven ocean circulation would be profound. The fact that it has nothing to do with global warming is irrelevant. The first lesson of advocacy communication is to make sure you get your information out even if the question is not relevant to the answer you give. (The most skilled “communicators” reframe (that is, change) the question so the answer doesn’t look so odd.)

Chuck Nolan

The first comment on the thread reads:
Can you say how strong the empirical evidence is for rapid warming to start in the near future? As a non-scientist climate change communicator I’d like to let people know what the balance of evidence is without being too alarmist.
————————————-
What’s a non-scientist climate change communicator?
I don’t recall that being a career path from my guidance counselor in high school.
Wonder what the starting salary is?
Can it lead to a job in the public sector?
cn

Their point of view is not science or even risk – they comment for GEOPOLITICAL reasons – simply put they want to reduce the human populations and they want a new tax [broad base] to redistribute wealth from rich nations to poor nations. They want to purchase political power with your money. Same method used to Fund Grant Science Studies. All bunk.

Nice explanation to a laughable “what if”. Who is Rob Painting that he should have such recognition and credibility? If I use a couple of search engines all I get is a couple of links to his Skeptical Science posts. His straw man of the wind stopping is laughable and as aptly pointed out seriously lacking in scientific rigor. Trade winds were the stuff of elementary school history and geography back when Ike was president.

Steve from Rockwood

Looks like Rob Painting never even got his gun out of its holster.

JohnWho

“A Very Ridiculous Comment ” at SkS!
I’m shocked.
On the other hand, I am impressed with Bob’s ability to find the very ridiculous at that ridiculous website. Finding a needle in a needle stack doesn’t provide such a great challenge though.

DirkH

An example for a professional Climate Change Communicator. Don’t know if it pretends to be a scientist.
“Susan Hassol is a climate change communicator, analyst, and author known for her ability to translate science into English and make complex issues accessible to policymakers and the public. She served as Senior Editor of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s report Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate, and was a lead author of Climate Change Impacts on the United States. Susan Hassol wrote HBO’s global warming documentary, Too Hot Not To Handle, has appeared on national television shows including 20/20, Frontline and NOW on PBS, and has testified about the impacts of Arctic warming before the U.S. Senate. She was honored by the Climate Institute with its first ever award for excellence in climate science communication. After a recent visit to JPL, Susan Hassol spoke with the Center for Climate Science’s Sharon Ray.”
http://climatesciences.jpl.nasa.gov/news-release/2011-05-communicating-climate
The interview goes on to explain the job of a Climate Change Communicator.
I kid you not.

Bill Illis

The consequences of a return of unicorns could be very profound (or Godzilla for that matter).
I guess a person can make up any disaster scenario they want which is what global warming science is primarily based on now.
Wake me up when something unusual actually happens.

DCA

How dare you deniers challenge Rob Painting vast knowledge and experience with climate science. (sarc)
From Sks’ team page.
Rob Painting
Rob is an environmentalist, scuba diver, spearfisherman, kayaker and former police officer. Has researched climate science, in an amateur capacity, for 4 years. A long-time reader of Skeptical Science and now contributor.

Steve Jones

No lie is too big for the cause.

Edohiguma

Is “climate change communicator” a similar “job” as “community organizer”?

And I find it quite remarkable that the denizens of SkepticalScience bought it—or just as likely, they elected to ignore it.
I suspect most did not even understand what it was, but assumed, that whatever it was, something disastrous would result. After all, that’s their religion.
Anyway, nice post, Bob. Even I understood it all!

Ken Hall

Yeah, as you pointed out, it would mean that the earth has stopped rotating…..
AND that the planet became a flat square all facing the sun at once at the same angle.

Chuck Nolan says:
July 1, 2013 at 5:35 am
What’s a non-scientist climate change communicator?

A propaganda minister.

Keith

Bill Illies.
I love it: the profound effect of the return of Godzilla.

dudleyhorscroft

Chuck Nolan asks “What’s a non-scientist climate change communicator? I don’t recall that being a career path from my guidance counselor in high school. Wonder what the starting salary is? Can it lead to a job in the public sector?”
Well, if you don’t mind ‘non-scientist’ including those with little or no studies as a meteorologist, a climatologist, an archeologist, or geologist, or any of the other disciplines related to climate, present and past, here is an example – quote from Wikipaedia:
“Timothy Fridtjof Flannery, (born 28 January 1956) is an Australian mammalogist, palaeontologist, environmentalist and global warming activist. He is the Chief Commissioner of the Australian Climate Commission, a Federal Government body providing information on climate change to the Australian public.”
“On 10 February 2011, Flannery was appointed as the Chief Commissioner of the Climate Commission by the Australian Government. The Commission is a panel of leading scientists and business experts who provide an authoritative, independent source of information for all Australians.[citation needed] The Commission is an independent body which does not comment on government policy.”
Your guidance counsellor would not have thought such a position existed, or if it did, was worth anything. But it does, and presumably it pays well.
Incidentally, the Climate Commission’s website does not respond – could it have been shut down as a result of the recent government turmoil and the new Cabinet sworn in today? On is it just the staff making changes and have shut it temporarily? We shall see.
In addition, while he wrote a book “The Weather Makers” (see the Wikipaedia article on him, a gentleman has written a detailed response and rebuttal of most if not all of the stuff Flannery wrote – “The Weather Makers Revisited” if I remember correctly. Cannot check, I lave lent my copy.

steveta_uk

The consequences of a shutdown of the wind-driven ocean circulation could be very profound.

I can’t see anything in this statement to disagree with, since he hasn’t claimed that it could actually happen.
It’s interesting that this response doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the question asked.

Patrick

Cooks’ (An unfortunate name for Australia) cartoons are not funny, especially his Star Trek analogies! Even before I found out he was the “founder” of SkS, his cartoons were humourless IMO. What I find funnier is his blog, SkS. It’s a real rib tickler! If ever I visit SkS, rare these days since I was asked to prove inter-glacial periods were warmer than glacial periods, I go put on my Playtex 24hr girdle…because my sides would split otherwise!

“omnologos says:
July 1, 2013 at 5:23 am
WHY DO PEOPLE EVEN THINK OF COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE IF THEY HAVE NO SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND!!
Imagine having a roomful of China experts none of whom speaks Chinese.
Oh well the Vietnam wars started just like that…”
Except that’s not how the Vietnam War started- The North invaded the South always going to happen with Chinese support. A lack of Vietnamese experts made the American defence worse but mostly the failure to preemptively strike an obvious strike force was the biggest failure.

JCH

Imo, he was referring to that part of wind-driven ocean circulation that is currently alleged to be causing the SAT pause by sequestering a fraction of energy entering the oceans in the deep ocean. If that wind-driven circulation were to end, then the sequestration of some energy in the deep oceans would presumably end, and the SAT would resume rising.

Just Steve

“Climate change communicator” has all of the hallmarks of a government make-work job, and perfectly illustrates a society with too much time and money on its hands.

Hot under the collar

For a full job description of ‘climate change communicator’ please refer to the job of ‘weaver’ in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson.

Luther Wu

Chuck Nolan says:
July 1, 2013 at 5:35 am
“What’s a non-scientist climate change communicator?”
_______________
Daryl Hannah?

dayday

I may be wrong but the flat Earth that the …….Artist predicts would not be flat. It would be similar to a square piece of paper curved to the same curvature as the sun.

Patrick

My word. Figure 3-3, the Coriolis effect, indeed. Well established science. Orbit, axial tilt etc…

eyesonu

Thanks Bob, good description of the wind circulations on planet earth.
If I may suggest, would it be appropriate to explain the winds from a different perspective. Consider a perspective from a point in “space” looking at the earth and not from the surface of the earth itself.
The earth (land mass and oceans) is rotating from left to right (in standard view with the north pole at the top, graphically speaking). The atmosphere may in a sense not rotate in the same direction at the same speed as the physical solid and liquid properties of the surface of the earth. It could therefore be viewed from “space” that actually (in a sense of perspective) that the easterlies are a result of the earth turning in a stationary atmosphere. From this perspective (space) it could be observed that the actual upper level flows are direct from the equator to the poles (which may be mostly true) but from a perspective on the ground there is a deflection in direction.
I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but looking at things from a very simplified and different perspective that I convinced myself it was easier to understand. Hope this helps some others to understand some of the dynamics here. But in reality the atmosphere is far from simple.
Anyone claiming the winds will cease is an idiot.

Richard M

Ken Hall says:
July 1, 2013 at 6:14 am
Yeah, as you pointed out, it would mean that the earth has stopped rotating…..
AND that the planet became a flat square all facing the sun at once at the same angle.

I think you got it figured out. Painting is another member of the Flat Earth Society.

Since Skeptical Science isn’t going to change its name to reflect who they really are, I suggest WUWT change their name to “Alarmist Nonsense” that way people who want to believe alarmist nonsense will have a place to go to learn the truth, even if they don’t want to hear the truth.

DaveA

Rob Painting
Rob is an environmentalist, scuba diver, spearfisherman, kayaker and former police officer. Has researched climate science, in an amateur capacity, for 4 years. A long-time reader of Skeptical Science and now contributor
—————————
Spearfisherman => Non-scientist communicator => Children

Jeff Alberts

omnologos says:
July 1, 2013 at 5:23 am
WHY DO PEOPLE EVEN THINK OF COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE IF THEY HAVE NO SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND!!
Imagine having a roomful of China experts none of whom speaks Chinese.
Oh well the Vietnam wars started just like that…

And even after all this time, people sill call it “Vietnam” instead of “Viet Nam”.

” I’d like to let people know what the balance of evidence is without being too alarmist.”
_______________________________________________________________________________
I would like to be alarmist, just not too alarmist. The stopping of wind driven ocean currents is just about the right amount of alarm.

Jim Ryan

Look. This is no time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. The ocean currents are about to be shut down and we’re running out of time.

I am now convinced SkepticalScience should be renamed UtterNonsense or TheCluelessLeadingTheClueless.
Ooh burn! lmao

TG McCoy

Global “whatever” causes the Coriolis Effect to wither?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect
Huh?

Mike McMillan

Edohiguma says: July 1, 2013 at 6:09 am
Is “climate change communicator” a similar “job” as “community organizer”?

Hai, bear, and requires equal competence.

Steve C

“A non-scientist climate change communicator”?
Is there some other sort of climate change communicator, then?

It would appear that “a non-scientist climate change communicator” is a type of lay minister or priest, who has taken on the task of proselytizing the received litany to the public. This alone is a sure sign that “Climate Change” (née “Global Warming”) is an ideological movement, which bears no relation to actual scientific enquiry, and explains why real scientists who question the dogma are denounced as “deniers,” i.e. heretics.
It is remarkable that the President of the United States has surrounded himself with high priests and acolytes of Climate Change, which he assures us is “Is real” and any doubters are equivalent to “Flat-earthers.” That the prescriptions and policies advocated by the Climate Change hierarchy would, if pursued to the ends its adherents desire, devastate the economies of the Western World, and condemn billions of people to an eternity of poverty and misery, means nothing to them. What is important is adhering to the tenets of the faith, and the entirely false global socialist utopia it seems to offer.
It is time to turn this pernicious ideology on its head, to expose it for the insane cult that it really is, and to free our governmental and educational institutions from its suffocating grasp.
/Mr Lynn

John F. Hultquist

Thanks, Bob.
Maybe Mr. Painting thinks the Sun will stop shining and the Earth will stop rotating.
Below are two dates regarding the development of this subject:
1735 – –
The year of publication for Hadley’s theory of tropical atmospheric circulation
1835 – –
The year the mathematical expression for the Coriolis force appeared

Jim Ryan,
Obama is likely sorry he used the “flat-earth-society” disparagement, as it includes a lot of respected scientists. Likely a speech-writer got demoted, and the teleprompter got the boot and a new one will need to be purchased.
Even a layman like myself has been following links and studying the subject of Global Warming for over ten years now. You see, we were brought up to be what is called “an educated voter,” which involves more than regurgitating talking-points. If you want to regurgitate talking points you can go to Skeptical Science, and they have your answers all written out for you. You don’t have to think at all. However if you would like to be something besides wet behind the ears, you will need to study hard, asking many questions even if it makes you look less than knowledgeable, and ask follow-up questions as well, and make more than one narrow view be your source. Often you will not get a single answer, for there is no single answer to what controls the weather; it is a complex and chaotic system influenced by multiple factors, and there are multiple theories to think about.
Shutting down the ocean’s currents is not likely, and would take an event so huge we’d likely have too many problems dealing with the event itself to spend time worrying about the currents.
Our president was rude to refer to educated voters as “flat earthers,” and copying him makes you appear to be a rude parrot, rather than wise. If you would like to read how long I have been studying this subject, and why I feel Obama is unwise, I wrote a long rave:
http://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/history-revisited-ending-with-keith-briffa-reviewing-data-snapping-blade-from-manns-hockey-stick-yet-again/
Bob,
Thanks for taking complex things and making them understandable. Besides an excellent observer you are becoming an excellent communicator.

dayday says:
July 1, 2013 at 6:55 am
I may be wrong but the flat Earth that the …….Artist predicts would not be flat. It would be similar to a square piece of paper curved to the same curvature as the sun.

Actually, wouldn’t it have to look more like my satellite dish?

TomR,Worc,MA,USA

Someone with an account over at sKs should post that guys quote with Bill I’s response about unicorns and Godzilla ……… lol

DR

You’re being too hard on him. He only forgot to mention this would happen when the earth stops spinning. Come one, give the guy a break.

John F. Hultquist says: July 1, 2013 at 9:05 am

1735 – –
The year of publication for Hadley’s theory of tropical atmospheric circulation
1835 – –
The year the mathematical expression for the Coriolis force appeared

…………..
Not much change in the CET from those years
1734 —– 9.54 C
1835 —– 9.55 C
2012 —– 9.54 C