‘Armageddon Summer’ is just the beginning—but Dyer’s the living end

This post is based on an article I wrote in the Otago Daily Times that answers a bunch of balderdash by Gwynne Dyer about global warming: ‘Armageddon Summer’ is just the beginning (pdf, 134 KB). SNAPPY MOTTO: Defeat drivel, bury baloney. – RT

MULTIPLE LINES of evidence show that Gwynne Dyer is dead wrong (in ‘Armageddon Summer’ is just the beginning, 3/8/18) about the cataclysms he claims will be caused by our continued use of hydrocarbon fuels.

The very title tells us that what he calls ‘Armageddon’ is the beginning—therefore it cannot be Armageddon, which means the end.

There is robust scientific evidence, easily found with a bit of research, that nothing so far in the observational record shows a significant human influence on climate, nor any sign that our puny emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have more than a mild effect on temperature. Our emissions may mildly warm the climate, but catastrophes not caused by warming are not our doing.

That excludes wildfires (usually started by lightning, accident or arson), heatwaves (caused by static weather systems that allow heat to build up in a region) and torrential downpours (which occur in all seasons). We can exclude Biblical floods (which occurred long ago) and ordinary floods (the IPCC says it’s impossible to call humanity responsible). We can also disregard what Dyer refers to as the ‘mounting misery of the next 20 years’ and the ‘highway to Hell’—we don’t know what he’s talking about but he’s certainly a merchant of doom.

Dyer doesn’t mention sea level rise in this article, which is probably sensible, because science knows of no mechanism whereby our airborne emissions of CO2 can significantly heat the ocean: it’s impossible. Since there’s been virtually no warming in the last 20 years, warming hasn’t been a factor in recent sea level rise. The IPCC reports some human contribution to sea level rise in other periods, but it’s trivial contributions to melting ice.

What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means that cutting our use of petrol will have no effect on sea level rise (Mother Nature’s doing all that by herself).

It’s hard to embrace Dr Denis Bushnell’s desperate speculation about the development of anoxic oceans (actually, even Dyer admits it’s not likely, so why does he mention them?). Apparently Dr Bushnell says there will be considerable “feedbacks” of warming, including “melting permafrost, warming oceans, huge releases of methane and carbon dioxide” (though only releases of methane and CO2 can produce feedbacks—melting and warming are what warming does—he seems confused).

So Bushnell predicted warming of 6°C–12°C by 2100, more than forecast by the IPCC and most climate scientists. But temperatures have been that high or higher for about 500 million of the last 600 million years. So we need not fear those temperatures, we’ll be fine just dealing with them.

After the most egregious scare-mongering, Dyer admits: “there hasn’t been a Canfield event in the past 200 million years.” But research shows that for fully half that time, the temperature was around 8°C higher than today, when he’s predicting 6°C–12°C, yet we’ve seen no anoxic oceans. So again, there’s no cause for anxiety.

Gwynne Dyer thinks he’s justified in trying to frighten us, that we’re heading for “a mass die-back” of all creatures and mass starvation is “imaginable”. He calls this a high-stakes game — he’s just letting us know what the stakes are.

But this is a cheap deception: he fabricates a wild and diverting tale with no truth in it.

16 Thoughts on “‘Armageddon Summer’ is just the beginning—but Dyer’s the living end

  1. Anoxic ocean events are already occurring but a Canfield ocean seems unlikely unless we push the temperature well past 10°C. Your argument is however ruined by nonsense repetition of the following falsehoods:
    1. Nothing so far in the observational record shows a significant human influence on climate.
    2. Science knows of no mechanism whereby our airborne emissions of CO2 can significantly heat the ocean.
    3. There’s been virtually no warming in the last 20 years.
    You also neglect to mention that humans have never lived on a planet that was 6°C–12°C warmer than now and that the current rate of warming in unprecedented in the paleo-climatic record.

  2. Alexander k on August 21, 2018 at 11:25 am said:

    Good on yer Simon, leaping in to put your other foot in your mouth. I thought the article to be very even-handed and sensible, but you obviously have a personal stake in the Alarmist narrative.

  3. Richard Treadgold on August 21, 2018 at 2:48 pm said:

    Simon,

    Your argument is however ruined by nonsense repetition of the following falsehoods:

    It’s clear that you agree with a lot: that Armageddon means the end, not the beginning; that the idea that our puny emissions of (CO2) have a significant effect on temperature has been debunked; any catastrophe not caused by warming cannot be laid at our door; and our emissions are not responsible for wildfires, heatwaves, torrential downpours, floods or the ‘mounting misery of the next 20 years’ (whatever that is).

    Dyer conflated anoxic oceans with Canfield events, but I regret I don’t know the difference; please explain that.

    Yes, I neglect to mention humans didn’t live here, but it’s not relevant; Dyer threatens all species with “die-back” and all evolution occurred in the last 600 million years, I simply note we all got through it.

    You fail to assert that our emissions do have a significant effect on temperature (thus apparently agreeing with me again), yet you talk about us “pushing the temperature well past 10°C”. Over about the last 20 years we emitted about one third of all GHG we have ever emitted, yet the temperature refused to rise even by 0.15°C, which is inconsistent with the idea of “pushing”.

    Bushnell’s predicted warming of 6°C–12°C by 2100 is not worth our attention. Scientists don’t agree with it and the earth has already been there for half a billion years but nothing happened. Half a billion! “We need not fear those temperatures, we just deal with them.”

    Dyer is a serial deceiver, fabricating a fact-free tale of doom.

    Please feel free to justify the four points you disagree with; I’m amazingly open to evidence. Though you seldom provide any or even answer my questions, you just stand back and snipe without taking responsibility. I hope to hear you give evidence of:

    1. Observational evidence of significant human influence on climate.
    2. A mechanism of significant radiative heating of the ocean from above.
    3. Significant surface warming since about 1997.
    4. Current unprecedented warming. You’ll have to specify the period.

    I’ll be genuinely interested in your response, thanks.

  4. KillerBean on August 21, 2018 at 11:46 pm said:

    Simon.

    No2: That says heat from the sun warms the oceans, the oceans then pass the heat to land via rain. So how does CO2 warm the oceans.

  5. It also says: “When air in contact with the ocean is at a different temperature than the sea surface, heat transfer by conduction takes place. “
    Conduction, convection, and radiation. All three apply in this case. The proof is that ocean temperatures are rising. https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-sea-surface-temperature

  6. Also note that oceans retain more heat when the atmosphere is warmer. Think about how the ENSO mechanism works.

  7. Richard Treadgold on August 22, 2018 at 9:31 am said:

    Simon,

    When air in contact with the ocean is at a different temperature than the sea surface, heat transfer by conduction takes place.

    Never downwards, always upwards. The basic meteorological texts are consistent is saying the air takes its temperature from the ocean. Except occasionally when cold (e.g., Arctic) air cools the land or sea as it moves off the ice. But not for long.

    The proof is that ocean temperatures are rising.

    The proof of what? The sun heats the ocean, penetrating to 100 m or more. It could be heating through variations in cloud cover, which easily overpowers radiative effects from the trace gas CO2. You should notice that conduction and convection only operate vertically. The air, after warming or evaporating soars up, where radiation cannot affect the sea. This radiative effect is nowhere quantified in AR5; I have searched meticulously. Don’t expect to find much science in the SPM, which simply expresses a political summary of the real scientists’ work. It doesn’t prove any human causes.

  8. Richard Treadgold on August 22, 2018 at 10:27 am said:

    Simon,

    Also note that oceans retain more heat when the atmosphere is warmer.

    Your cart precedes the horse: actually, the atmosphere is warmer when the oceans contain more heat. You cannot assert that our puny emissions might overwhelm the power of the sun. Or do you see them as a candle set beside a bonfire, helpfully warming the children’s little hands through a black, icy night, independently of the bonfire?

    Please refer to this graph from Climate4You:

    The following extract from another page by Professor Ole Humlum is instructive:

    The relation [between] the global surface air temperature (HadCRUT3) and the tropical sea surface temperature (NOAA) shown in the diagram above is interesting. The offset between the two data series is due to the different base periods adopted, but in general the two data series tend to follow each other, without the general offset growing or decreasing since 1950.

    Typically, 1-5 yr variations in the sea surface temperature have a larger amplitude than the corresponding variations in global surface air temperature. In addition, quite often a change in sea surface temperature appears to be initiated 1-3 months before the corresponding change in surface air temperature. In such cases, the temperature in the lower atmosphere appears to be controlled by change in sea surface temperatures, and not the other way around. Oceanographic processes such as, e.g., upwelling of warm or cold water masses might [be] one obvious explanation. Another explanation might be variations in the amount of direct short wave solar radiation reaching the ocean surface. Whatever the control, the above diagram suggests that the tropical oceans are important for understanding global surface air temperature changes.

    The apparent significance of the tropical oceans between 10°N and 10°S for the global surface air temperature is not entirely surprising. About 80% of the planet surface is covered by oceans between 10°N and 10°S, so the surface area covered by oceans is huge in this sector of the planet. Presumably the explanation for the significance of these tropical oceans is therefore relatively straight forward: The huge ocean surface in the Tropics is nearly perpendicular to the incoming direct solar radiation at daytime. Little of the direct short wave radiation reaching the ocean is therefore reflected, and the amount of absorbed solar radiation is essentially controlled by the tropical cloud cover. Variations in the tropical cloud cover may therefore be expected to represent an important control on the global surface air temperature, along with oceanographic phenomena (upwelling, etc.) within the tropical regions.

    Nothing to do with atmospheric trace gases.

  9. Richard Treadgold on August 22, 2018 at 10:34 am said:

    Simon,

    4. Nice graph, shows the earth’s temperature has been far higher for far longer than we can imagine, yet life developed. But don’t play games with us. You claimed “that the current rate of warming [is] unprecedented in the paleo-climatic record.” This graph is no evidence of that. It’s impossible with this to know or to compare rates of warming. So prove it.

  10. Maybe you would like to consider why the oceans don’t cool to absolute zero in your mental model.
    Why is the ocean heat content increasing? https://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/
    Hint: Where is most of the additional heat going from the current global energy imbalance?

    The closest analogue we have to the current rate of warming is the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), but that occurred over millennia, not centuries.

  11. Richard Treadgold on August 22, 2018 at 3:02 pm said:

    Simon,

    Maybe you would like to consider why the oceans don’t cool to absolute zero in your mental model.

    No. How about radiative heating from our puny emissions?

    Why is the ocean heat content increasing?

    No idea. Who knows?

  12. You probably need to work this stuff out if you are going to run a climate blog. Penn State have a good paper on climate change: https://www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo469/node/111 It’s post-grad level but you can bypass the math and take it as read.

  13. Richard Treadgold on August 23, 2018 at 11:38 am said:

    Simon,

    For someone who hasn’t worked this stuff out, I certainly manage to ask a lot of questions you can’t answer. “Maybe you would like to consider why” you don’t answer my questions? You don’t even answer your own questions: “Why is the ocean heat content increasing?” Any ideas? Don’t concern yourself with the trivial magnitude of the heating, just think about why it’s occurring. Since you ask, it must be important, right? Wrong.

  14. It’s all in the course Richard. I shouldn’t have to teach you first principles.

  15. Richard Treadgold on August 23, 2018 at 9:25 pm said:

    Ha ha. For the removal of doubt, Simon: I’m not asking for instruction. As far as I’m concerned you could go away and I’d hardly notice.

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