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Lindzen Illusion #5: Internal Variability

Posted on 8 May 2011 by dana1981

In a recent media article which was uncritically re-posted at a number of websites like "skeptic" blog WattsUpWithThat, in amongst many other erroneous statements, Richard Lindzen attempted to blame global warming on natural internal variability (emphasis added):

"For small changes in climate associated with tenths of a degree, there is no need for any external cause. The earth is never exactly in equilibrium. The motions of the massive oceans where heat is moved between deep layers and the surface provides variability on time scales from years to centuries."

Achilles Heel for Internal Variability

In the quote above, Lindzen has unwittingly revealed the Achilles heel of the 'internal variability' argument.  Internal variability means that heat is just being moved around from one part of the Earth's climate system from another, i.e. in Lindzen's example, from the deep ocean layers to the surface.  But if the movement of heat from the deep oceans is what's causing the surface air to warm, this hypothesis requires that the oceans as a whole and deep ocean layers in particular must be cooling.

In reality, that's not happening.  We know that the upper 2,000 meters of the oceans exhibit a long-term accumulation of heat (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Changing heat content of the global ocean, with respect to the mean of 1993 to 2008 (Trenberth 2010). This analysis samples the ocean to 700 m depth and gives an average warming trend of 0.64 W m−2 (pink line). The data available from Argo floats since 2003 enable an estimate to 2,000 m depth (blue line).

And Purkey & Johnson (2010) reconstructed ocean heat accumulation down to abyssal depths and found significant amounts of heat building up even at the bottom of the ocean (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Rate of ocean warming. Areas of warming are shaded in red and regions of cooling are shaded in blue with intensity scaled by the magnitude of the warming. The basins from south to north are the Southeast Pacific Basin, Chile Basin, Peru Basin, and Pacific Basin (Purkey & Johnson 2010).

There are several other indicators of building ocean heat. Satellites observing incoming and outgoing radiation are able to measure changes in the planet's energy imbalance from year to year. What they find is the planet's energy imbalance continues to increase (Trenberth & Fasullo 2010, Hansen et al. 2011).  And sea levels continue to rise, largely due to thermal expansion as a result of the warming oceans.

Clearly this warming of the entire global climate system must be caused by an external forcing, and the radiative forcings over the past century have been dominated by greenhouse gases.  Lindzen's internal variability argument just doesn't hold up in the face of the observational data and physical reality.  Unfortunately, in the aforementioned article, Lindzen proceeds to attempt to defend this indefensible argument by misrepresenting the work of a number of other climate scientists.

Tsonis et al. 2007

Lindzen first makes the following claim about the work of Tsonis and colleagues:

"Recent work (Tsonis et al, 2007), suggests that this variability is enough to account for all climate change since the 19th Century."

This statement is quite different from the actual conclusions of Tsonis et al. (2007) (emphasis added):

"The standard explanation for the post 1970s warming is that the radiative effect of greenhouse gases overcame shortwave reflection effects due to aerosols [Mann and Emanuel, 2006]. However, comparison of the 2035 event in the 21st century simulation and the 1910s event in the observations with this event, suggests an alternative hypothesis, namely that the climate shifted after the 1970s event to a different state of a warmer climate, which may be superimposed on an anthropogenic warming trend."

Nowhere in their paper do Tsonis et al. claim that natural variability can account for the entire warming trend over the past century.  Tsonis was also a co-author on a more recent paper,  Swanson et al. (2009) which John has previously discussed

Swanson and Tsonis 2009 was a similar study exploring the role of natural variability in global temperatures, and as with Lindzen's treatment of Tsonis' 2007 paper, it was widely misrepresented, as Dr. Swanson noted:

"What do our results have to do with Global Warming, i.e., the century-scale response to greenhouse gas emissions? VERY LITTLE, contrary to claims that others have made on our behalf. Nature (with hopefully some constructive input from humans) will decide the global warming question based upon climate sensitivity, net radiative forcing, and oceanic storage of heat, not on the type of multi-decadal time scale variability we are discussing here. However, this apparent impulsive behavior explicitly highlights the fact that humanity is poking a complex, nonlinear system with GHG forcing – and that there are no guarantees to how the climate may respond."

In their paper, Swanson and Tsonis use climate models to hash out the role internal variability has played in average global temperature changes over the past century (Figure 3). 

Swanson Tsonis variability

Figure 3: Estimation of the observed signature of internal variability in the observed 20th century global mean temperature in climate model simulations

As you can see, over periods of a few decades, modeled internal variability does not cause surface temperatures to change by more than 0.3°C, and over the entire 20th Century, its transient warming and cooling influences tend to average out, and internal variability does not cause a long-term temperature trend.

Smith et al. 2007

Lindzen's article proceeds with an even worse misrepresentation of Smith et al. 2007 (emphasis added):

"scientists at the UK’s Hadley Centre for Climate Research recently noted that their model did not appropriately deal with natural internal variability thus demolishing the basis for the IPCC’s iconic attribution (Smith et al, 2007). Interestingly (though not unexpectedly), the British paper did not stress this. Rather, they speculated that natural internal variability might step aside in 2009, allowing warming to resume."

So according to Lindzen, Smith et al. (2007) "demolishes the basis" for attributing global warming over the past century to anthropogenic influences.  I'm sure this interpretation of their work would come as a shock to the authors, who conclude as follows:

"We present a new modeling system that predicts both internal variability and externally forced changes and hence forecasts surface temperature with substantially improved skill throughout a decade, both globally and in many regions. Our system predicts that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years....Both NoAssim and DePreSys, however, predict further warming during the coming decade, with the year 2014 predicted to be 0.30° ± 0.21°C [5 to 95% confidence interval (CI)] warmer than the observed value for 2004. Furthermore, at least half of the years after 2009 are predicted to be warmer than 1998, the warmest year currently on record."

DePreSys is a dynamical climate model which takes into account the observed state of the atmosphere and ocean in order to predict internal variability, while NoAssim is identical to DePreSys, but does not assimilate the observed state of the atmosphere or ocean or predict internal variability.  Smith et al. used these models to compare the accuracy of the model global temperature hindcasts back to 1982 (Figure 4).

Smith et al Fig 2A

Figure 4:  Smith et al. (2007) temperature hindcasts for the DePreSys model (red, accounting for internal variability) and NoAssim (blue, no  internal variability)

As you can see, the DePreSys model (which accounts for internal variability) matches the short-term temperature changes significantly better than the NoAssim model.  However, both models produce the same warming trend.  So how does Lindzen conclude that this paper "demolishes the basis" for man-made global warming when accounting for natural variability does not change the warming trend?  Your guess is as good as mine, but it's clearly a gross misrepresentation of the results of the study.

Wrong for Two Decades, Again

As with many of Lindzen's arguments, he's been making this one for a long time.  In his 1989 MIT Tech Talk, Lindzen similarly argued that global warming boiled down to little more than internal variability.

"What we have is data that says that maybe [warming] occurs, but it's within the noise....The point we have to keep in mind is that without any of this at all our climate would wander--at least within limits."

However, as we've shown in this post, contrary to Lindzen's claims, internal variability simply cannot account for the warming over the past century.  The magnitude of the observed warming is too large, and the fact that the entire climate system is warming tells us that an external forcing is at work.  Perhaps most disturbing is Lindzen's misrepresentation of other climate scientists' work in defending his fundamentally flawed argument.

Bottom line, as convenient as it would be, it's not internal variability!

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 132:

  1. Just how many times must we simply sit back and allow Lindzen to give us his illusions, Monckton with myths and Christy his crocks? Isn’t it about time this community took the initiative? How about asking Lindzen and his compatriots for their response to these debunking posts and tell them you are going to make public the challenge and also the ensuing correspondence to a conclusion? If a point is reached where a stalemate is reached, the opportunity to join in is offered to those most competent to contribute.

    This site has enough kudos to be able to contact anyone these ‘sceptics’ happen to use to publish their disinformation and show them how much they have been deceived.

    It is fun to see their arguments being demolished, but like the warm feeling one gets from peeing ones pants while wearing a dark suit, who notices?
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  2. funglestrumpet - Lindzen's arguments don't have any impact in and of themselves. Where they have an impact is when somebody references them to propagate and defend a climate myth. Here we are providing a counter-reference to deflate the value and effectiveness of Lindzen's arguments. If people make use of this resource, then others will notice.
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  3. dana1981 – doesn’t seem to be working, does it? At the moment it is all via proxies. I believe we should take the fight to them, heaven knows, the science sits fair and square on this side of the fence.

    As it is, anyone that has little or no science is just going to see one side saying one thing and the other side saying the opposite, both statements being impenetrable. What I am suggesting provides a mechanism that raises awareness. One does not have to understand the science to recognise waffle when one sees it.

    I really don’t think that business as usual is a luxury that we can afford for too much longer.
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  4. Didn't Hansen et al. (2011) actually conclude that the Earth's energy imbalance had decreased?

    "In this section we examine why the calculated energy imbalance declined during the past decade. In section 13 we discuss factors that may account for the difference between expectations in Fig. 19A and the observed planetary energy imbalance." (pg. 36)
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  5. Fungelstrumpet - Lindzen serves (as does Plimer) as the kind of token "respectable" scientist who "doesn't believe" in global warming who can be trotted out, again and again to show that "the science isn't settled" (otherwise respectable scientists wouldn't dispute it) and the consensus is not 100% (only 99% therefore there is room for doubt). Lindzen seems absolutely content with this role.

    Not much need to scientifically dispute him in the ordinary sense (yes there is "natural variability" but every graph shows it is occurring around a rising mean; what are the odds of "natural variability" not only coinciding with low sun input but sharply rising CO2 in the past 30 odd years?). As with Monckton however, his importance is not in the rubbish science but simply that he exists and is vocal and highly visible.
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  6. David Horton - You may be right. However, there is something wrong if they can be allowed to get away with such behaviour.

    In any event, there must be something that can be done to expose the weakness of the support they get from their peers. In the eyes of the public, the case you advance comes down to two arguments, both difficult to grasp. The concept of the relative support from their peers is not part of the equation. Something I hoped to promote.

    There is surely a need for action when debunked material can be presented for "two decades" with no shame on the part of those concerned. What I suggest would give those who wish to 'trot' out such individuals an accessible resource to get a feel for the quality of their proposed guests. Most importantly, they would not need to know the science, the language on its own would speak volumes.

    It could even be seen as a resource that could be pointed to in any letters of complaint to the heads of organisations when some Presentations Director has booked the likes of Lindzen and suchlike.
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  7. @David Horton post 5.

    Lindzen is a genuinely great atmospheric physicist. He has a view that dissents from the mainstream. But there is nothing unusual in that, many scientists who produce great work in a field have odd views on other areas of that field. Often scientists looking at the same evidence come to differing conclusions. Look at Out Of Africa vs Multiregional in terms of human evolution, the same bones were used by both sides to make their cases.

    Lindzen holds his view honestly and is entitled to it. The problem comes that policy is being based on ideosyncratic minority views rather than the bulk of the scientists.
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  8. dorlomin - I'm afraid the idiosyncratic minority view is Lindzens, not the consensus. I cannot speak to policy, as the US really doesn't have one at the moment. Lindzens climate sensitivity numbers are way out on the fringe, his science and claims are poorly (if at all) supported, his views have been debunked. Sorry...

    I'll respect the time he's put in - but his views are nonsense when compared to the evidence.
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  9. KR - I think that was dorlomin's point. Policy (i.e. a lack of action on global warming) is being made on the basis of idiosyncratic minority views (i.e. Lindzen, Christy, Plimer, and their friends, a number of whom have no specific expertise in this area), while dismissing or ignoring the views of the 99% of climate scientists who think we have a serious problem on our hands.
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  10. Funglestrumpet -

    They get away with it because organisations like Murdoch's News Corp are actively following an anit-AGW agenda. They use what Garnaut has described as a "curious kind of balance - a balance of words rather than scientific opinion". They conduct the debate in political terms rather than scientific terms. This means that for every black there must be a white, there can be no shades of grey. For every left there must be a right, you get the idea. The rest of the media follow this same method.

    This means that if right wingers such as Howard and Bush support the skeptics then it must follow that AGW must be a left wing theory. You just cannot have a scientific theory that is independent of politics.

    Even organisations like the ABC feel that they must provide equal time to "the other side". This is how the 3% skeptics leverage there media presence up to 50% or more.

    I started to watch a global warming doco on SBS a few nights ago. It followed a very simplistic formula of one opinion from that side, one opinion from this side. They had Christy as the token skeptic, possibly because he has a big moustache and looks like a cool scientist. They gave him 3 minutes then the other side 3 minutes then they started to talk about electric cars for no apparent reason, maybe they were sponsored by Nissan. Anyway that's where I turned it off.

    We know that if you were to present one opinion from each side then you could easily have 1000 opinions, 970 of which would be pro-AGW. But the mass media, especially television can't work with that, in the mind of a producer of a TV doco there can only be 2 sides, so they find two opposing views, present them as though that was all there was, then walk away smugly satisfied that they have presented a show that was balanced and unbiased.

    I've got no idea how to break through this kind of simplistic dumbing down of the debate. Given that Channel Ten has now given Bolt his own TV show, I don't believe that any mass media organisation, whether its TV or newspapers, will ever provide an honest comprehensive coverage of the global warming debate.
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  11. dorlomin wrote:- "Lindzen is a genuinely great atmospheric physicist."

    No he isn't. If his last name wasn't MIT he wouldn't get the time of day from a watchmaker. His iris, his cooling trend since (latest date goes here), his 'missing hotspot' and tropics focus, the 'clouds' problem ... it's one 'butwaddabout' after another. His own explanations don't net out to rigorous science; they come across like 'nya nya can't make me' dodges.
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  12. A better link for Purkey and Johnson (2010) -- "Warming of Global abyssal and deep Southern Ocean waters between the 1990s and 2000s: Contributions to global heat and sea level rise budgets*" -- should be here (if I copied it correctly), as no payment is required to see the full article. Otherwise, it can be accessed quickly at this location.
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    Response:

    [DB] Fixed URLs.  Posting tips can be found here.

  13. I may have missed the point, but why does the internal variability preclude an increase of the heat content of oceans, since Earth is not a closed system ?
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    Response:

    [DB] Due to the radiative physics of greenhouse gases.  If atmospheric levels of GHGs are stable (irrespective of other forcings like the sun) then temps will be within the range of normal variability.

    As we can measure long-term increases in levels of CO2 and methane (CH4) we know that the system will be in radiative disequilibrium, retaining more energy than it receives.  This will occur until enough energy is retained to restore the balance at the Top Of the Atmosphere (TOA).

    Due to the thermal lag of the oceans, we are just now receiving the warming effects of the extra CO2 man injected into the carbon cycle back in the 60s and 70s.  Thus even a zero-sum emissions strategy maintained for decades will still see rising temperature levels for decades.

    To return to your question, if internal variability precludes increased OHC, then the physics of anthropogenically-sourced GHG increases must be different than those GHGs found naturally in the carbon cycle.  And multiple other indicators of a warming world must also be magically waived away as well.

    More can be found at the article linked in the original post at top,

    "How do we know more CO2 is causing warming?"

  14. owl905
    "No he isn't. If his last name wasn't MIT he wouldn't get the time of day from a watchmaker"
    Au contrair.
    He is on the ISI highly cited list.
    http://hcr3.isiknowledge.com/formViewCharacteristic.cgi?table=Publication&link1=Browse&link2=Results&link3=Biography&id=2422

    Making him one of the most respected atmospheric physicists on the planet. He may be wrong on sensitivity but has made many important contributions to his repective field.
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  15. To indulge is something a tad frivolous

    AC Clarkes first law:
    "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
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  16. "If atmospheric levels of GHGs are stable (irrespective of other forcings like the sun) then temps will be within the range of normal variability."

    I meant barring the effect of GHG, is there still room for variability ? I still don't understand why the OHC should stay constant if there is variability? you mean that it is strictly constant, or that it can only vary with a limited amplitude ? (which is what ?)
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    Response:

    [DB] The measured changes in heat content of the Earth:

    HC

    [Source]

    Thus, the rate of energy building up since 1970 is equivalent to 2.5 Hiroshima bombs every second.

    For natural variability to be able to explain away what we measure, there would have to be plausible physical mechanisms to explain the increases we see.  Said mechanisms would also have to explain away why the measured increases in GHG (which we can tell are anthropogenically-sourced) do not also cause an increase in total heat content.

    No such plausible physical mechanisms have been given.

  17. Dorlomin, certainly Lindzen must have done very good work in meteorology to have an endowed chair at MIT. But that was then, this is now. He is not highly cited (in the literature) for his climate work of recent years. Instead he has made a practice of saying in public things he would not even try in scientific public publication. "He says crazier things in public than he does in his papers" is very close to a quote from RC if I recall correctly. IMHO he has lost his moral bearings. As a scientist he should know that if he can not make his case scientifically (and considering the consequences for all of us if he is wrong and believed) then it is highly irresponsible to keep saying what he says in public.

    By the way Tamino has had enough.
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  18. dana1981 original post

    Both Fig 1 and Fig 2 have been discussed in detail elsewhere on this blog.

    Fig 1 has the dubious 'step jump' in the 2001-03 period where Argo measurement took over. The linear trend line showing a global +0.64W/sq.m for 1993-2009 is likely bogus because the step jump does not show in the satellite TOA data.

    Fig 2 " And Purkey & Johnson (2010) reconstructed ocean heat accumulation down to abyssal depths and found significant amounts of heat building up even at the bottom of the ocean (Figure 2)."

    Well they found globally a sum of about 0.09W/sq.m below 1000m which is only one tenth of the claimed global warming imbalance of 0.9W/sq.m. Not that significant at all.
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    Response:

    [DB] The rate of energy building up since 1970 is equivalent to 2.5 Hiroshima bombs every second.

    Nope, not significant.

  19. I want to add that I appreciate Dorlomin's point and it is a good one. It's just that sometimes it isn't good enough.
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  20. Johnny @ 16 - "I meant barring the effect of GHG, is there still room for variability ? I still don't understand why the OHC should stay constant if there is variability?"

    If the OHC is so variable, where do you think all that heat could go?. Natural variability in this context simply means the exchange of heat between the oceans and the atmosphere. Consider the specific heat content of water compared to the atmosphere, if a significant proportion of that ocean heat were released to the atmosphere, we'd see rapid global warming, but the oceans would have to cool. No way around that.
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  21. Pete @17,

    "Dorlomin, certainly Lindzen must have done very good work in meteorology to have an endowed chair at MIT. But that was then, this is now."

    You have just hit the nail on the head.

    What I find bemusing is when 'skeptics' uncritically lap up Lindzen's BS (Bad Science), and worse yet, try and defend it.
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  22. "Thus, the rate of energy building up since 1970 is equivalent to 2.5 Hiroshima bombs every second."

    Sorry but this is nothing, since the energy imbalance is supposed to be about 1W.m-2 so 1/1000th of the incoming solar power. What do you mean with your Hiroshima bombs? it's always 0.1 % of the solar irradiance !

    I was just trying to understand this statement : "But if the movement of heat from the deep oceans is what's causing the surface air to warm, this hypothesis requires that the oceans as a whole and deep ocean layers in particular must be cooling."

    and I still don't get the point. Actually I even don't see any possibility that heat would flow from the deep cold ocean layers to heat the warm surface, this would contradict the second principle ! so obviously internal variability does not transfer heat from deep ocean, upwelling of lower layers can only cool the surface- but still why is internal variability, for instance of the surface heat transfer processes, excluded ? or rather what is its natural limit, since we seem to all agree that it exists at some level ?
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  23. Rob#20 : again the Earth is not a closed system, you seem to imply that heating of one part implies cooling of another part - but this is wrong, the Earth is constantly absorbing and reemitting much more energy than it stores, and variations of the heat content can occur with small imbalances due to any cause of variability (for instance oceanic circulation), without "cooling" anything anywhere.
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  24. Johnny,

    Could you please state clearly whether or not you agree with Lindzen that the observed warming can be attributed to internal variability of the climate system-- that is, his belief that the observed warming is within the natural noise of the system. Thanks.
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  25. Albatross : I have no idea of the natural noise of the system, so I can't answer you clearly - I'm just trying to understand what is wrong with what he's saying (at least as an open possibility, if not the truth), and I still didn't get the definite counter-argument.
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  26. but of course I would appreciate if you can give me good estimate of the "natural noise", so that it would make easy to test Lindzen's assertion.
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  27. Johnny @25&26,

    "but of course I would appreciate if you can give me good estimate of the "natural noise""

    Well, you could start off by reading the post written by Dana above. You could also read this, and this, or this, or this.

    The science and observations are very clear-- natural variability alone cannot account for the observed warming, not even close.
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  28. well thanks. My comment on the posts would be :

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/christy-crock-3-internal-variability.html : of course short term cycles can not explain long term trends since they are .. short term. To exclude long term trends, as far as I can judge, the argument is mainly based on computations. Not very reliable ...

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-natural-cycle.htm : I mainly disagree with the assertion : A natural cycle requires a forcing. Unforced variability is by definition... unforced. Meaning without change of forcings. Non linear, chaotic systems can exhibit a lot of spontaneous variability with the same external conditions (see the predator-prey system for instance.

    An interesting sentence however :

    "The Little Ice Age following the Medieval Warm Period ended due to a slight increase in solar output (changes in both thermohaline circulation and volcanic activity also contributed"

    In my sense, changes in thermohaline circulation are an unforced variation ! so it seems to contradict the first assertion.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/internal-variability.htm : basically, same as #1.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Could-global-warming-be-caused-by-natural-cycles.html
    same as #2.

    Anything else as a "strong" counter-argument ?
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  29. johnny - although the Earth isn't a closed system, if something outside the 'system' is causing a temperature change, that's not internal variability. That's an external forcing.
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  30. Johnny, predator prey systems still have to obey conservation of mass and energy as well as the second law of thermodynamics. Predators cannot obtain more energy or resources than the environment (including their prey) affords. That's why density dependence occurs - organisms run out of resources (energy, nutrients, space). That's also why food chains can't be infinitely long and why biomass of consumers declines with ecosystem photosynthesis, and photosythesis scales with nutrients and precipitation.

    So despite those crazy potential predator prey dynamics, even ecological systems, complex as they are, display certain dynamics consistent with what one might call energetic or material forcing. They tend to be more likely to display regularities when looked at over larger time scales or when characerized by aggregate variables (like biomass).

    In a way, the situation is much like that in weather/climate science. On the short time scale one can get chaotic dynamics as energy or materials shuffle between one compartment of another...but when those variations are averaged over time, space and taxonomic groups, you get see something more predictable.
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  31. Jonny at 22 and 23,
    You need to think through what you are saying. At 22 you say

    "I even don't see any possibility that heat would flow from the deep cold ocean layers to heat the warm surface, this would contradict the second principle ! so obviously internal variability does not transfer heat from deep ocean, upwelling of lower layers can only cool the surface"

    If upwelling from the deep ocean to the surface slowed that would slow cooling and cause the surface to heat. At the same time it would get cooler in the deep ocean. Thus changes in deep ocean circulation can "heat" the surface, by cooling less. By careful measurement scientists have tracked the energy and know where it is going. When you talk about the second principle you appear to have little understanding of what you are discussing.

    The natural variation depends on whether you add in volcanic eruptions and solar or just count internal climate variability like ENSO. What do you want to count?
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  32. Johnny @23 -again the Earth is not a closed system, you seem to imply that heating of one part implies cooling of another part

    Err, no, that's your misunderstanding. No one is claiming that heating of the Earth, via the greenhouse effect, will stop because of internal variability. If you remove heat from one location (the ocean) and put into the atmosphere, the ocean would be expected to cool, at least somewhere. The fact that the ocean and the atmosphere are warming (i.e. not losing heat) shoots rather large holes in Lindzen's claim.

    "variations of the heat content can occur with small imbalances due to any cause of variability (for instance oceanic circulation), without "cooling" anything anywhere."

    The variation we are referring to here, is a loss or gain of heat. How do you propose the ocean can undergo variation (heat loss) without cooling?. Just to remind you, the oceans are warming.
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  33. I wanted to follow up with an example. "Chaos," and "non-linearity" does not mean "unfathomable." There are ways to ascertain the importance of internal variability relative to external forcing -- as long as you can contrain some model parameters pretty well.

    Take, for example, a choatic predator prey system that is highly unpredictable on the sort term. Despite the appearing randomness of the dynamics, the flow of material and energy between the predator and prey, and between the organisms and their environment, must obey certain rules governing by the physics and biology of the organisms. If you observed more predator biomass than could be explained by their consumption of prey given those rules, you could infer that some subsidy must be present to explain the discrepancy. That subsidy would be a form of forcing acting on a chaotic system.

    Likewise, in the climate system, you basically have the balance of heat coming into and out of the system, and the shifting of heat among compartments within the system. Non-linear dynamics affecting temporal distribution of heat between ocean and atmosphere can influence the atmospheric temperature, but that kind of dynamic would have specific signatures (in ocean currents, chemistry and temperatures) that we could detect and which should fall within bounds set by conservation of mass and energy. The temperatures in both the ocean and atmosphere are unlikely to go up at once without their being a change in the overall forcing.

    The models we have in hand reproduce internal variability pretty well. As far as I know, no one has been able to produce a model with realistic physical constraints that by internal dynamics alone can produce anything like the recent changes in temps.
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  34. OK since most of the comments seem to show a very poor understanding of physical processes, it is probably not useful to continue the discussion.
    Daniel : "
    If natural variability is in play, warming in some regions should be offset by cooling areas in others "
    again : wrong.
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  35. Perhaps you could enlighten us, rather than cruelly leaving us to wrestle with our primitive science. What does natural variability have to do with the current global warming trend, Johnny? Perhaps, since you have a better grasp on the physical processes, you could give us a theory that explains the current situation.
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  36. My reading is that johnny is postulating some form of short term external variability, given his insistence on the fact that the Earth is not closed.

    As to what it might be, who knows ? Its not solar cycles - reading deep between the lines he seems to be suggesting some sort of variability in the earths albedo due to cyclic processes on Earth ? Perhaps ? ??
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  37. 34, johnny,
    ...since most of the comments seem to show a very poor understanding of...
    It's not a good idea to simply assume that others are wrong, and that there is nothing at all that you yourself are failing to grasp.
    "If natural variability is in play, warming in some regions should be offset by cooling areas in others "
    again : wrong
    And this is a perfect example of something you don't appear to understand. I would suggest asking clear questions, carefully studying the answers, and then asking more questions, until you reach a point where everyone recognizes where the confusion lies.

    Simply declaring everyone else wrong is obviously a bad direction to take, especially when this train of comments began with you asking a series of questions. Did you really want answers, or did you just want to set up a scenario where you could declare that everyone else was wrong?
    0 0
  38. Oh my,

    "OK since most of the comments seem to show a very poor understanding of physical processes,..."

    Dunning-Kruger or concern troll or both? This person originally state that they " I have no idea of the natural noise of the system, so I can't answer you clearly - I'm just trying to understand what is wrong with what he's saying...", and asked to be shown some more estimate as to the magnitude of the "natural noise. When presented with the evidence, they then simply dismiss out of hand a whole lot of science and observational data. But it seems that the point is not to make a valid or substantive argument, it is to fabricate faux debate and to distract us from yet another of Lindzen's failed hypotheses.

    Stephen @33-- "As far as I know, no one has been able to produce a model with realistic physical constraints that by internal dynamics alone can produce anything like the recent changes in temps."

    Not to mention being unable to explain the known fingerprints associated with a stronger "greenhouse effect" because of anthro GHG forcing. So there are two critical tests that the "skeptic" myth fails.

    Phil @36-- I think the other point of the Lindzen supporters here is to keep us guessing as to what the mystical forcing it could be, anything but anthro GHGs of course ;) But as DSL noted @35, we are probably "cruelly" destined to keep guessing, because of our ignorance of course. You see, if we were geniuses then we would understand Lindzen and Spencer ;)
    0 0
    Response:

    [DB] I did find out johnny wasn't from Missouri...

  39. johnny - ""If natural variability is in play, warming in some regions should be offset by cooling areas in others"
    again : wrong. "


    Well then, pray, expound! Natural variability includes things like the ENSO, where energy shifts between ocean and air and back again. How would heating in one area not be reflected in cooling in another and not violate conservation of energy?

    Are you speaking of natural variation in insolation or IR radiation to space? If so, please describe what you are discussing, rather than casually dismissing others statements.

    Personally, johnny, I am sensing a concern troll, rather than honest questions, given that you have simply dismissed pointers to more information rather than discussing them.
    0 0
  40. Daniel Bailey response #18

    "[DB] The rate of energy building up since 1970 is equivalent to 2.5 Hiroshima bombs every second.

    Nope, not significant"

    This kind of remark might appeal to the emotions Daniel, but can be rebutted in similar fashion.

    We are looking for 25 Hiroshima bombs every second and can only find 2.5 below 1000m in the oceans.

    The Earth also has an energy flux flowing in and out of the atmosphere of 6000 Hiroshima bombs every second in each 24 hour rotation.
    0 0
  41. Hi Ken,

    Not that I'm saying your wrong, but can you describe how you arrive at the numbers you reported @40 please?

    And another question, I'll ask of you the same question that I asked of Johnny here. Thanks.
    0 0
  42. Ken,

    "This kind of remark might appeal to the emotions Daniel,.."

    Actually, I thought it rather useful to help people grasp the energy involved-- all this talk of W m-2 might make sense to scientists, but does not necessarily resonate will lay people.

    I have heard of similar example given for the amount of energy in a typical thunderstorm or a tropical storm. So it seems to me that you are arguing a strawman when you complain about the alleged "appeal to emotion".

    Interestingly, appealing to emotion is something that Lindzen is rather good at:

    "For a lot of people it is also something I call “the quest for cheap virtue”, people need a cause…and they sorta feel puffed up by having a cause like saving the Earth, and they don’t really care that they are hurting people, that they may be involved in an immoral cause, and so on, they’re perfectly happy to just go along with it because they were told it’s virtuous."
    0 0
  43. KR : "Well then, pray, expound! Natural variability includes things like the ENSO, where energy shifts between ocean and air and back again. How would heating in one area not be reflected in cooling in another and not violate conservation of energy? "
    This is a very bad description of ENSO cycle, and there is no "conservation of energy" in open systems.

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ensocycle/elninosfc.shtml

    "El Niño episodes also contribute to large-scale temperature departures throughout the world, with most of the affected regions experiencing abnormally warm conditions during December-February."

    Some regions can cool, like the Gulf coast, but not because the conservation of anything : the overall warming is positive (it should be zero if it were only a heat transfer from one region to another).

    I'm not offering my own theory of GW : you are stating that Lindzen is grossly and obviously wrong, and you believe you can demolish it with a crude argument that a first year student should understand (if it's getting warmer somewhere, it must cool elsewhere ! ) -but this argument is simply wrong ) and shows you have little grasp of what you're discussing.
    0 0
  44. Ah yes, the old "I'm right because I'm smart and you're dumb" argument, along with a little "if you're too dumb to understand what I'm saying then I'm not going to bother trying to explain it to you." Classic :-)
    0 0
  45. yes, classic - from you , apparently. I'm not here to teach you physics. I was just surprised to read an argument that I didn't understand. I asked for explanations, and what I read confirms that the argument is wrong, and based of wrong pictures of what natural variability really means. Believe it or not, I don't care. I would be interested in continuing the discussion if I were sure that it could be hold in an open and peaceful way, without censorship. What I've read from the other posts shows me that it is probably not the case, so good bye.
    0 0
    Response:

    [DB] You did indeed come here with a question.  One for which you received a multitude of responses all from people trying to help you.  You subsequent replies of "you don't know anything" (I paraphrase) are more indicative of equal parts:

    • poorly-framed initial question on your part
    • lack of interest in meaningful dialogue on your part

    Based on the multiple questions from responders asking you to reframe your question to better reply to it you now withdraw, claiming censorship and lack of open and peaceful discussion.  That is your right to do.  It is also your loss, for nowhere on the Intertubes exists a forum with the level of open scientific discourse free from invective and censorship (provided comments comply with the comments policy) as this one.

  46. Johnny - "OK since most of the comments seem to show a very poor understanding of physical processes"

    Yeah, right. Not only does your warming from the ocean, not cause cooling in said ocean, but for some really weird reason it seems to happen predominantly at night and induces stratospheric cooling ( a signature of the increased greenhouse effect)

    Note the natural variability over the last 800,000 years:



    Johnny and Richard Lindzen "natural variability" shown in top right-hand corner.

    And if you're wondering why the temperature has not yet surpassed earlier interglacials, see CO2 lags temperature - what does it mean?
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Changed IMG 'alt' tag to IMG 'width'
  47. Rob, this totally irrelevant to the point I raised. I was not discussing the point that there is no CO2 increase, or that it doesn't contribute to stratospheric cooling or to ground warming. All this wouldn't be contradictory with the fact that the warming is still compatible with the natural variability (which doesn't mean that it proves there is no anthropogenic component), and doesn't justify the-wrong- "conservation of energy" argument. Please stick on what I'm really discussing if you want to answer me.
    0 0
  48. sgmuller@10

    "They get away with it because organisations like Murdoch's News Corp are actively following an anti-AGW agenda."

    Your comment exposes why this side of the argument is losing the war, despite winning the battles by providing sound science with proof that global warming is, and will increasingly be for some time to come, a problem.

    Take 'Anthropogenic' out of the discussion and assume that the global warming is due to some mysterious cause, as yet unidentified, and the discussion centres on prediction of future warming. There is no disagreement to the fact that it is warming and the deniers have no idea as to where it is going. All their suggested mechanisms have been proven to be invalid. That leaves them with no arguments to put forward to stop us, as a species, taking whatever action that we can in order to combat it.

    GHG are a proven source of heating, no matter where they originate, so reducing them is obvious.

    We can agree to continue to try to find the source of the heating because, clearly, combating global warming is not going to be cheap and nations should be expected to contribute pro-rata their culpability. When that discussion comes, you can bet the 'heat' of discussion will be several orders of magnetude greater than that of the current debate. But by then, the world will fully engaged and there will be a lot of pointing to sites like this one in order to prove that the science was known early on, therefore ignorance that SUVs etc. etc. could be a bad thing will not be a legitimate defence. Its like 911, 'truth will out' eventually.
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  49. johnny "... the warming is still compatible with the natural variability ..."

    I'm having a problem with what you're getting at. When you talk about "the warming" I presume you mean that
    1. The atmosphere is warming.
    2. The ocean is warming.

    When I hear 'natural variability' I think ---
    1. The sun's been a bit cooler the last few years.
    2. Volcanoes are not doing anything interesting.
    3. ENSO and the other large atmospheric features are just chugging along in their usual fashion, up for a while, down for a while.

    But I get the impression that this is not what you mean by 'natural variability'. Could you clarify?
    0 0
  50. Adelady, I refer to natural variability with the meaning I think Lindzen is referring to. This can include variations of forcings as you mentioned, but also identified (as ENSO, which is not only "atmospheric"), or unidentified, spontaneous cycles. Obviously a century scale global trend can not be attributed to short term decadal oscillations, but I think that what Lindzen says is that we cannot exclude possible long term variations - that are unnamed since they may be not identified. I understand you think he's wrong - I didn't understand why.

    Just a side remark : do you think that it is plausible that a renown climate scientist like Lindzen could "simply" forget the law of conservation of energy , or didn't see the very simple argument that deep ocean should have cooled ? you're playing a strange game here - both arguing that contrarian blogs cannot contradict peer reviewed articles, and using your own blog to dismiss the work of real scientists. If you're not yourself very good professional scientists, with a very good knowledge of what you're dealing with, it's very unlikely that you'll be able to bring a valuable piece in the debate. Are you claiming you are ?
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