Alternate GSA Position Statement by Stephen Wilde

I propose something slightly different and perhaps I can explain it this way:

1) The Earth system is not a single unit. If we ignore land as relatively insignificant we are left with oceans and air. I propose that both ocean and air process solar energy at different speeds and moreover they process it independently save that the oceans drive the whole system and the air has to adjust to what the oceans do.

2) Furthermore the processing of solar energy by both oceans and air is variable. That is the critical issue in creating a variable climate over time. If it were not so then climate would be very much more stable than it is with a virtually fixed latitudinal position for the air circulation systems and climate variation being limited only to a basic level of chaotic variability.

3) The oceans appear to vary substantially over several time scales as regards the rate at which they release energy to the air. The evidence for that is the ENSO cycle, the observed 30 year phase shifts and I suspect a further cycle of 500 years or so.

4) The evidence that those variations go beyond a basic level of chaotic variability is those cyclical latitudinal shifts in the air circulation systems which always follow changes in SSTs on at least the 3 time scales we have evidence for.

5) It is important that changes in air temperatures do not seem to be able to either heat up the oceans or significantly affect the variable rates of energy release from the oceans. The evaporative process combined with the penetrative weakness of infra red longwave seems to be a big enough obstacle to such a process such that I can find no suggestion anywhere other than at Realclimate that the air can ever warm the ocean on any significant time scale.

6) That is important because if the air cannot warm the oceans then the composition of the air cannot change the equilibrium temperature set by sun and oceans. In turn the ocean surfaces prevent the air from warming because water always dictates the temperature of the air above.

7) That means that something else has to happen to the extra energy in the air instead. If it cannot warm the oceans and yet the radiative balance between solar energy in and radiative energy out has to be maintained then all that is left is for it to be ejected faster to space in order to maintain the radiative balance and if that happens then no change in the equilibrium temperature of the Earth can occur.

8) So what we have here is a system that receives a certain amount of energy from the sun and radiates the same amount out to space. No significant imbalance occurs despite large changes in the rate of energy release by the oceans and significant changes in the speed of the hydrological cycle via changes in the air circulation systems.

9) The only logical solution is that the variation in energy flow from the oceans is countered by an equal and opposite variation in energy flow through the air. Since the air cannot warm the oceans any extra energy in the air from any cause has to be dealt with by the same process. Warmer ocean surfaces cause increased evaporation and once the energy in the extra water vapour is in the air from that cause then the change in the speed of the hydro cycle deals with it routinely. It would do the same for increased evaporation caused by extra CO2 but on a far far smaller scale.

There is much observational evidence to confirm what I say. Ongoing climate events in the real world must serve as my proof because there is no conceivable laboratory experiment that could replicate the entire system.

Models could do it but first they must incorporate the full scale of variability of oceanic energy release with an accurate response by the air and a full scale representation of the behaviour of the air at the air/space boundary as well. At present they are limited to guesses about ENSO but have nothing adequate about any other oceanic cycles and nothing about air circulation shifts apart from seasonal changes and a simple observation that warming moves them poleward.

They must also model the air circulation systems correctly as regulators of energy transmission at both the sea/air interface and the air/space interface. The air/space interface is currently governed by fixed equations which take no account of observations that the air circulations have a substantial energy flow regulating effect even at the thinnest upper levels

In view of what Leif Svalgaard says about the smallness of solar variations I’m coming round to the opinion that virtually all climate change that we observe is simply internal variability induced by the oceans and countered in the air all occurring around a relatively stable equilibrium set by sun and oceans.

I don’t see any reason why the variations from the peak of the Mediaeval Warm Period to the bottom of the Little Ice Age and all lesser variations could not be accommodated within the term ‘relatively stable’ in terms of the planet even if not in terms of human sensibilities.

All one has to do is insert that third level of ocean cycling at 500 year intervals along wih the ENSO and PDO irregularities and that covers everything ever observed during the current interglacial.

The validity of the suggestion of that third 500 year level of oceanic variability is provided by the observation that during the LIA the ITCZ was at the equator.

As far as I can tell the latitudinal shift in air circulaton systems is the tell tale sign of a change in the rate of oceanic energy emission. It is the ‘fingerprint’ of an ocean cycle.

That would seem to square the circle and remove any need for external forcing, even solar.

All that is then left is to investigate whether I am right about the powerlessness of changes in the air alone to alter an equilibrium set by sun and oceans.

Hence my focus on the IR downwelling versus increased evaporation issue.

Models can be made to work with equations if they are tortured to produce the required result ex post facto.

The main omissions in current climatology are to ignore the oceanic role in setting and maintaining AND CHANGING the Earth’s temperature and failing to recognise that the speed of the hydro cycle changes in response to those oceanic forcings.In 1988 when this all started no one acknowledged the significance of ENSO events globally or the existence of 30 year phase shifts let alone a 500 year ocean cycle. Believing that the composition of the air sets the equilibrium temperature is reasonable only until one realises that the rate of energy release from the oceans is not stable.

Unstable oceans introduce variablity at the sea/air interface which alters the air circulation. Changes in the air circulation introduce variability at the air/space interface which help to prevent the destabilisation that would otherwise be caused by that oceanic variability. None of this is recognised by the models.

Once one does fit those phenomena into the system it all falls into place without abusing any accepted physical laws or principles and all observed climate phenomena can be seen as inevitable by-products of internal variability.

Published by Stephen Wilde October 9, 2009

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