Climate science learns more — not settled at all

sky, location of climate

Yesterday I saw the headline: Climate change reducing ocean’s carbon dioxide uptake. If they mean the temperature’s been rising, I thought, these guys need a lesson in 1) recent, 15-year-long atmospheric temperature non-rise and 2) the gas laws, or specifically, Henry’s Law.

Henry’s Law states that the solubility of a gas in a liquid at a particular temperature is proportional to the pressure of that gas above the liquid. If the temperature of the liquid rises, it can’t hold so much gas, so some will leave (“outgas”). It hardly requires a paper based on 28 years of observations to confirm this.

Science and modern myth

Surely they know Henry’s Law, because the paper used extensive data on oceanic and atmospheric partial pressures. Although lead author Assistant Professor Galen McKinley does refer to carbon dioxide throughout as “carbon”.

There’s an interesting mixture of science and modern myth presented here. The paper is behind a paywall and all I’ve seen of it is the opening paragraph, the Supplementary Information and statements in the press release from Dr McKinley.

She readily acknowledges that they needed a good 25 years of data to properly measure atmospheric accumulation of “carbon,” saying: “This is a big issue in many branches of climate science – what is natural variability, and what is climate change?” This is a perhaps somewhat naive admission that the science is not “settled,” considering that warmists have been denying it and sceptics asserting it for years.

Robust conclusion?

But elsewhere she manages a tiresome parroting of the establishment view of the cause of global warming. Such as referring to the “warming caused by the carbon in the atmosphere” without providing evidence of it. And “any decrease in ocean uptake may require greater human efforts to control carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere,” as though we can.

The report’s conclusion is: “The ocean is taking up less carbon because of the warming caused by the carbon in the atmosphere,” but Dr McKinley also says merely “the ocean sink could be weakening.” It’s not a robust conclusion, with the lead author stressing the need for more research.

But it’s well known that warmer water holds less CO2 than cold water, and observations for a long time have shown lesser CO2 content in tropical waters. Is this what they found? If it is, it’s hardly news.

Approach double-checked with numerical model

McKinley is a member of the Centre for Climatic Research at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, where they say of her proposal for this research that it concerns “the identification of trends in the ocean carbon sink using data on the partial pressure of CO2 and the understanding of the mechanisms of these trends using numerical models of the North Atlantic.”

The SI describes the use of these models to, at least in part, validate the data. They were concerned with both spatial and temporal coverage with sparse data and found some reassurance from the models of different parts of the North Atlantic.

Time will tell whether this was justified.

Peer-reviewed denial of modelling as evidence

The authors of this landmark paper provide, remarkably, a peer-reviewed renunciation of the view that a computer model might be considered scientific evidence. Because they refer to the “physical-biogeochemical numerical model” [a dreadful, polyglot expression] as an “alternative reality.” Astonishing. We must inform the Team at once. For no alternative reality could be accepted as the actual reality. So unverified climate models are out.

Their doubt about the reliability of the data seems extensive. Judge for yourself from this passage in the SI (emphasis added).

Trends estimated by our methodology benefit from additional scrutiny because of the sparse data and the large regions of interest. How representative are these trends of true pCO2 s.ocean trends at the biome-scale? The data do not exist for a precise determination. However, we can use the “alternative reality” of a physical-biogeochemical numerical model to address exactly this question. To do so, we sample the numerical model at the same times and locations where the actual data were collected and estimate trends using our methodology.

So, if I have this right, they first notice the brevity of the data. In an attempt to verify the worth of the real data, they fire up a model. The model seems close to their sparse data. Then they get the model to provide model “data,” which they use to confirm their methodology.

The more often the data is processed, the better it gets

But didn’t they effectively use their dodgy data to verify that very same dodgy data? Since the “verification” of the model was non-robust, or even weak, because it relied on what they patently admitted was dodgy data, the model could not provide “pretend data” of any better quality than the dodgy stuff!

That’s such a circle of logic. Or tell me what I’ve got wrong.

They seem happy enough with the results, but it must be far from justified. I’ve already noted they insist on further research.

In reporting SSTs, they cite data up to 2009 but plot mostly seasonal data for the three regions studied. Then, near the end, they pop in a time series of SSTs, 1982 – 2009, saying the data is from Reynolds, 2007. I know, two years before the data run out, I don’t know how this happens.

Galen McKinley

I don’t know where Reynolds got the data, but it isn’t from UAH because there’s clear recent warming, with a decline starting about 2005 – 2006. Never mind, if Professor McKinley is happy that rising SSTs are being driven by declining atmospheric temperatures since 1995, she’s the one with the PhD, so who am I to complain?

So, a weak conclusion, much more research required (more funds, please) and some conventional global warming principles solidified a little harder. But nothing persuasive.


Name of paper

Convergence of atmospheric and North Atlantic carbon dioxide trends on multidecadal timescales

First paragraph:

Oceanic uptake of carbon dioxide substantially reduces the rate at which anthropogenic carbon accumulates in the atmosphere, slowing global climate change. Some studies suggest that the rate at which the oceans take up carbon has significantly decreased in recent years. Others suggest that decadal variability confounds the detection of long-term trends. Here, we examine trends in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the surface waters of three large biogeographic regions in the North Atlantic, using observational data collected between 1981 and 2009. We compare these oceanic observations with trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, taken from a global observational network. We show that trends in oceanic carbon dioxide concentrations are variable on a decadal timescale, often diverging from trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, when the entire 29-year period is considered, oceanic trends converge with atmospheric trends in all three regions; it takes 25 years for this long-term trend to emerge and overcome the influence of decadal-scale variability. Furthermore, in the southernmost biome, the data suggest that warming—driven by a multidecadal climate oscillation and anthropogenic forcing—has started to reduce oceanic uptake of carbon in recent years.

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Mike Jowsey

Um…. when the learned doctor says “…reduces the rate at which anthropogenic carbon accumulates in the atmosphere…” is she being deliberately ignorant or simply lazy? Surely she must mean “anthropogenic carbon dioxide“.

I note that this garbage is sponsored by none other than good ol’ Hansen from NASA.

Let me paraphrase the paper:
1. We don’t have any reliable data
2. There is too much noise to discern natural variation from anthropogenic signals
3. Therefore we have used these really neat models to magically give us the answers we were looking for.
4. Send more money… more research needed.

Alexander K

Mike, excellent points. My pet hate is sloppy language, which usually indicates equally sloppy thinking. I am still attempting to get my head around the mad idea of ‘anthropogenic carbon’ – does she imply… no, never mind..


Surly she is just referring to CO2, CH4 and the other gases in the atmosphere that contain carbon? Can you please explain exactly why “atmospheric carbon” is incorrect as I don’t quite understand what the problem is and I would hate to repeat her mistake and appear sloppy. I don’t think anyone could honestly consider that she is referring to carbon allotropes.

Mike Jowsey

Or is she referring to soot? We don’t quite know because carbon comes in many forms. Maybe she means atmospheric bird-life or insects? It’s just plain sloppy. Anyhow, this is a semantic side-issue – your focusing on this one point indicates an implied acceptance of the other points in my post. Cheers.


Well I guess she could be referring to soot or insects causing warming, seems unlikely but as you say a little sloppy.

Regarding your other points I do think you misrepresent the article somewhat. My understanding was that they used three decades worth of observed data to overcome natural variability and then found good correlation with a model, validating the model somewhat.


The problem with a lot of these climate models is that we get the observed data to fit the model by tweaking the parameters, and then claim that the model has been validated.

The model is only valid if it correctly forecasts future behaviour.

There’s a quote attributed to John von Neumann

With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.

Richard C (NZ)

They used a model which is parameterized with observed data to validate their sample so it’s the other way around – the model validates the sample, the sample does not validate the model. See the SI:- 2a. Model validation: 2b. Evaluation of analysis methodology with sampled model compared to full model: But so what? It’s their neglect of recent (post 2005) SST change (Atlantic ocean cooling – they go for the long-term correlation but what about the most recent changes) and their woolly contradictory conclusion in the abstract that reaches beyond the actual study that’s the issue among others. This guy at WUWT McKinley post comments puts everything in perspective # John Marshall says: July 12, 2011 at 2:14 am The adsorption of CO2 into sea water depends on water temperature and the partial pressure of the CO2. If temperature rises then the mass of adsorbed CO2 reduces, and conversely for a fall in temperature. If the partial pressure increases then so does the adsorption. At the moment sea temperatures are falling so ocean CO2 adsorption is now increasing. The only input climate has is temperature but this will not ‘hamper’ anything only… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

I’m not saying that they neglect SST in their calcs (SST is a parameter in the calculation of pCO2 – Willis’ “First Oddity” assuming he’s correct, pCO2 could be measurement for all I know at this point).

I’m saying they neglect the recent Atlantic SST COOLING TREND in their bizarre conclusion.

the model validates the sample, the sample does not validate the model.

I’m sorry I got that point wrong. But how glad I am to hear the rest of the criticism.

Especially welcome is the information that the biocarbonate loop “prevents acidification of sea water.” I hadn’t seen it in that light before. Hope it’s true, because it absolutely removes the warmists’ backup battle plan.

Richard C (NZ)

RT, you got it right in the first instance (it was Nick’s reply above that I was responding to). Quoting the post:- “The SI describes the use of these models to, at least in part, validate the data.” This might need clarification though :- “The model seems close to their sparse data. Then they get the model to provide model “data,” which they use to confirm their methodology” Rather than confirm their method, their method has been to run a numerical model based “double-check” in parallel, but the model ‘data’ is not transferred across to the initial ‘sparse’ dataset that I can see. The model ‘data’ stays within the model double-check. Not that it matters in my view, I’m OK with the methods, it’s the inferences drawn in the abstract (lines 22, 23 and 24) that are disconnected from recent SST trends that I take issue with. Their “warming” trend is much the same as NIWA’s description of the NZT7 i.e. they have to use a timeframe (usually stated as “long-term” – in this case 25 years) that captures that warming e.g. line 179:- “However, in 180 the North Atlantic permanently stratified subtropical… Read more »

Nick, Can you please explain exactly why “atmospheric carbon” is incorrect as I don’t quite understand what the problem is and I would hate to repeat her mistake and appear sloppy. In examining CO2 levels in air and water, the study investigates how those levels have changed over time and across the North Atlantic. That’s the objective aim of the study. But in referring to CO2 as “carbon” a link is drawn to the commonly-accepted cause of global warming — nothing to do with the study. For some reason, those who champion an anthropogenic cause have chosen to demonise the element carbon because it symbolises the oils we burn in our engines, yet carbon plays as much of a role in the greenhouse effect as the oxygen and nitrogen, etc., that it’s attached to and does not act alone. There is no reason to single out carbon. Why not call them “oxygen”? You say “Surely she is just referring to CO2, CH4 and the other gases in the atmosphere that contain carbon?” Perhaps she is — everyone else does. But a scientific reference to a group of unrelated compounds doesn’t name the group… Read more »


RT, you say “For some reason, those who champion an anthropogenic cause have chosen to demonise the element carbon because it symbolises the oils we burn in our engines”

Just to be clear do you believe that the increased global CO2 levels are due to burning fossil fuels? I had thought that the anthropogenic isotopic signature of carbon proved it but if you have an alternative theory I would be interested to hear it, or at least have a look at the peer reviewed source.


Your question misses the point. The compound considered to cause global warming is carbon dioxide, or CO2. My point is that you could refer to it as oxygen with equal logic. After all, in CO2 there’s more oxygen than carbon — in fact, twice as much! But carbon is black, we’re familiar with soot and smoke as dirty stuff so it’s an easier sell.

Do I believe the fossil fuel thing? It seems believable, although there are large margins of error. Also, there is no evidence that CO2 is responsible for all the recorded warming. That, to me, is the important fact.


I think the issue that Nick refers to is the isotopic ratio of C13/C12 that supposedly proves that the increase in CO2 over the last century is caused by the burning of fossil fuels

This article on RealClimate gives some background

I have read a few times that this issue is not quite as “settled” as we might believe (sorry no references at this stage) However, I think it is still possible to fully accept that recent CO2 increases are all due to human fossil fuel burning, and still come to the conclusion that any effects will be small and benign, rather than dangerous or catastrophic.


Hi RT, Andy is right. My point is that the rise in global CO2 is caused by anthropomorphic addition of carbon (previously locked up as fossil fuels) to the atmosphere. As far as I know the total number of oxygen atoms in the atmosphere is unchanged.

Interestingly while I had been thinking that maybe Galen had been sloppy (after your initial comments) on reflection I think maybe she had it right. The increase in CO2 is directly caused by the release of carbon so to talk about carbon accumulating in the atmosphere is correct.

val majkus

here’s a copy of an e mail I received this morning Dear friends, Today NASA scientists and NASA reporters very bravely released a video that destroys any remaining credibility of the Standard Solar Model (SSM) of a Hydrogen-filled Sun and world leaders’ hopes of using the threat of CO2-induced global warming as a “common enemy” to unite nations and establish a one-world tyrannical government: “We’d never seen anything like it,” says Alex Young, a solar physicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. “Half of the Sun appeared to be blowing itself to bits.” NASA has just released new high-resolution videos of the event recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The videos are large, typically 50 MB to 100 MB, but worth the wait to download.” Here is the rest of the comment I posted there: Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dr. Alex Young and Dr. Tony Phillips, for getting this information out! You may both lose your jobs for showing observations that violate Al Gore’s fable of CO2-induced global warming, but frankly I am very proud of you! That is a great video, and it abundantly confirms that the Sun… Read more »

OK, you raise two points here, Val. First, the physics. That paper by Manuel is highly technical and impenetrable, though I accept that it shows the true nature of the sun is a neutron star.

Second, the ramifications for global warming. I don’t understand how you get there. How does the neutron star model invalidate the AGW thesis? I mean, it would be welcome, but how does it work?


Oliver K Manuel is one of the “Slaying the Sky Dragon” authors. He has a tendency to use every platform to push his “Iron Sun” theory, which I think got him banned from commenting on WUWT.

I am not making any observations on his theories, just that he has a bit of a reputation.

val majkus

Andy and Richard if you go to WUWT and search for Oliver Manuel the first topic which comes up is New book: Slaying the Sky Dragon Posted on November 29, 2010 by Anthony Watts I have not read this book, but it has been raising some volume in Skeptic websites. What strikes me is the number of authors, it has (9 by my count). Strangely, one of the authors, Oliver K. Manuel, is a person I’ve banned from WUWT for carpet bombing threads with his vision of the Iron Sun Theory, which I personally think is nutty. So, that right there gives me some pause. and if you read through the comments you will see Antony did receive some flak for that expression of his opinion; for example John Carter says: November 30, 2010 at 5:16 am eg John Carter I find the label you attach to Oliver to be both undeserved and offensive. We all have views and opinions and nobody is right all the time. WUWT should stand above the ugly warmist blogs by virtue of honesty and tolerance for diverse opinion. Don’t let the bad corrupt the good. And… Read more »


One of the other authors of “Sky Dragons” is Swedish mathematician Claes Johnson.

Dr Johnson has written quite extensively on his theories of the greenhouse effect that are at odds with the “consensus”.

For example, here:

What I find quite insidious is that Johnson was banned from teaching courses in finite element modelling at his university, because of his scientific views. I cannot condone this kind of behaviour at all. It smacks of something out of 1930’s Germany.

Richard C (NZ)

Full paper, McKinley et al 2011 here:- Reynolds et al 2007 here:- Abstract Two new high-resolution sea surface temperature (SST) analysis products have been developed using optimum interpolation (OI). The analyses have a spatial grid resolution of 0.25° and a temporal resolution of 1 day. One product uses the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) infrared satellite SST data. The other uses AVHRR and Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR) on the NASA Earth Observing System satellite SST data. Both products also use in situ data from ships and buoys and include a large-scale adjustment of satellite biases with respect to the in situ data […] This SST analysis by Bob Tisdale from WUWT uses Reynolds data and links to the database: “Satellite-Era Sea Surface Temperature Versus IPCC Hindcast/Projections” Part 1 and Part 2 Bob examines the differences between multi-model mean of the IPCC 20C3M (Hindcast)/SRES A1B (Projection) for Sea Surface Temperatures and the observations using Reynolds OI.v2 Sea Surface Temperature (SST) anomalies, a satellite-based SST dataset. Most relevant are Figures 8 and 9 that show a sharp drop in the Atlantic warming trend (Deg C per decade) in recent years.… Read more »

Wow, nice analysis, Richard. And fine sleuthing.

Mike Jowsey

Willis takes the McKinley paper apart…

the odds of what is observed being merely a random phenomenon, something occurring by pure chance, is about one in three.



O/T but check out Al Gore’s latest teaser video at

Lots of evil fossil fuel funded deniers are going to be outed. Head for the hills!

Mike Jowsey

OMG – I thought he was dead. He sure sounds dead. Talk about a disconnect with ‘reality’.



On the subject of Al Gore’s Climate (altered) reality project, Shub has posted up an article referencing an “Alex Bogusky” who is a PR person working on this project

I thought A Bogusky was a such a great name!

Alexander K

The mention of Oliver K Manuel and Al Gore are, each in their own way, enough to make the serious reader about climate science’s eyes close from sheer mental weariness. Both are Olympian bores, but Dr Manuel is actually a highly-credentialled scientist who has held some senior and interesting positions, while Al Gore is…in an interesting position, to be polite. I have seen American eyes open and shine with religious fervour at the mention of the former VeeP. As they say over there in the US of A, ‘Go figger!’

Jim McK

I have just scanned the document and I don’t think it is worthy of much more than a scan. McKinley et al have garnered together a massive number of observations and managed to come out with no sustainable conclusions. The basis of the paper seems to be that if you pull enough seemingly related data together you must learn something. They haven’t. The focus on analysing the atmospheric and oceanic partial pressures of CO2 in and over the Northern Atlantic looking for sinks and vents and thereby implying some global implication seems particularly futile and insular.

Someone should have told her that the scale of the sink in the Southern Oceans and the venting in the Tropical Pacific swamp all other atmospheric/oceanic exchanges of CO2 and that CO2 mixes rapidly in the atmosphere

Mike Jowsey

There is a good article by E. Smith on C12 / C13 ratios and how complex the issues are in identifying the anthropogenic component of atmospheric CO2. It’s worth a read. Note, the source article referred to, by Alexander Cockburn, is behind a paywall.

Perhaps even more significant, cold ocean waters absorb lightweight C12 preferentially, resulting in lots of C13-deficient carbon in the oceans. This low-C13 carbon most certainly would have been released massively into the atmosphere over the course of the world’s warming trend since 1850, when the Little Ice Age ended.

Jim McK

Thanks Mike – best thing I have read for ages. The warmists C12/C13 arguement has to be kicked for touch for ever.

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