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November 11, 2013

Warming pause explained -- it was dumb luck

Old and busted -- Deep ocean heat sinks

The "deep sea" heat sinking explanation being touted for the past year was always weak, but quick a stop gap excuse was needed, so they went with what they had until some sort of actual explanation could be offered. The deep sea heat sink temporary excuse is as politicians would say: no longer operative as a serious excuse.

Anyone who wants to keep pimping it needs to explain how their mechanism somehow bypasses the heat equation, and magically gets atmospheric heat to jump deep into the ocean without warming the surface waters significantly first. That's an amazing David Copperfield class trick if you can pull it off. While the oceans are big, deep and theoretically capable of holding a lot of heat, in practice, the bulk of that heat holding potential exists only in shallower waters.(see p. 7/8 of this Brookhaven paper)

The slopes of the ocean heat content data dH/dt based on temperature sounding data represent an unambiguous measure of ocean heating rate to the indicated depths. Despite the order-of-magnitude greater heat capacity, the heating rate from 300 m to 3000 m was only about 50% greater than that from the surface to 300 m, indicative that the relevant heat capacity of the climate system is within about a factor of 2.5 of that of the first 300 meters and is thus likely to represent the great majority of the ocean that is coupled to the climate system on the multidecadal time scale examined here; for uniform penetration the heat capacity would scale roughly as the depth


The new hotness -- The Montreal Protocol

This explanation doesn't requiring magic or mysterious alien heat transport tech. No "models" either this time either, just plain old boring statistics. It actually sounds somewhat plausible too.

We stumbled into the global warming pause in large part due to the late 1980's Montreal protocol that got rid of things like Freon-12 that were killing the Ozone and aggravating the magnitude of the (naturally cyclic) so called "Ozone Hole".

The study provides evidence that the Montreal Protocol was an effective climate treaty, albeit an accidental one, and it is the first to link the treaty to the recent slowdown in warming. At the time the treaty was negotiated, CFCs were known to be greenhouse gases, but the treaty was not initially meant to address global warming, an issue that was just starting to gain public attention.

According to the study, the phase down in the use of CFCs during the 1990s into the early 21st Century, which was solely intended to reverse the loss of Earth’s protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, has shaved nearly 0.2°F of global warming since that time. While that may seem small, considering that the world has warmed by an average of about 1.6°F between 1901-2012, it is not a trivial amount.

Mother Jones jumps on Montreal protocol bandwagon too, but fires off a huge scientific airball at the same time trying to conflate CFC/HFC/HCFC forcing power with CO2 forcing power.
Still, the study makes clear that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—like a recent international plan to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, a group of cousin chemicals to CFCs that are used in air conditioners and refrigerators, and the Obama administration's move this year to impose strict new limits on emissions from power plants—can have a big payoff.
Everyone knows the GHG potential of various refrigerants is like a zillion times more powerful than punk-ass CO2 could ever hope to be, so reductions in those can have a hugely leveraged effect on whatever fraction of forcing they make up.

Carbon Dioxide, OTOH, not so much. The CO2 forcing curve is logarithmic in nature, NOT LINEAR as all propagandists would prefer to have you believe. At the moment, we're pretty well off to the right side of the CO2 forcing curve -- where the curve is starting to look kinda flat'ish -- which means dramatic reductions, or increases, are only going to have incremental effect. This is what a logarithmic curve looks like in a general sense:

For small X-axis values you get large Y-axis changes. For large X-axis values you get small Y-axis changes. Even the notorious Wikipedia editors are forced to admit this inconvenient truth about CO2's logarithmic nature and how CFC's forcing follows a different linear curve, although its downplayed into just two scant sentences.
...The relationship between carbon dioxide and radiative forcing is logarithmic, and thus increased concentrations have a progressively smaller warming effect.

A different formula applies for some other greenhouse gases such as methane and N2O (square-root dependence) or CFCs (linear),...

So, get ready to hear a lot about the Montreal Protocol in the very near future.

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posted by Purp at 02:03 PM

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