I love “the flash”. I used to happen about once a month in high school. About once a week years before. Lately it’s been “a long time” between moments. Maybe a year? I don’t know why it’s slowing down. Perhaps I am slowing down. Perhaps I’m just aware of a lot more so it’s less likely that some new bit of data will set off The Flash… It’s hard to say.
What is The Flash? Also hard to say…
I’ll just be going along half dumb doing some mundane thing and the “Ah HAH!” moment just happens. A bit more often when reading things (as that is when new information comes in) but sometimes for no “reason” at all. Some background process just hits a “inform upward” moment and The Flash comes.
If you have it, you know what it is. If you don’t have it, I don’t know how to explain it. It is just a sudden “knowing what is”. A simple sudden “getting it”. A visual gestalt of something…
So I was just cruising along reading a blog posting and the comments on WUWT and there is a comment. One among dozens. And The Flash comes. Here is the comment, quoted in full:
richard verney says:
December 7, 2011 at 2:40 am
December 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm
You have to bear in mind that the average temperature of the ocean is about 4 deg Cs. This relatively low temperature comes back to bite relatively quickly if for example there is more cloud cover reducing the solar radiance inputted into the tropiclcal oceans.
It is important to bear in mind that after about 4.5 billion years of solar input, this has only managed to heat the oceans to an average temperature of about 4 deg C and it is because of this that in the geological past ice ages seem to dominate past history, If the average ocean temperature was say 15 degs, I would suggest that ice ages extending over a large area of the land mass would be very rare since ocean temperatures would tend to a;ways keep warm winds circulating.
I consider that there are strong arguments that suggest that it is not correct to consider that the Earth is 33degC warmer with its atmosphere/GHGs than would be the case if GHGs were removed. These arguments would sugggest that some weighting should be given to reflect that the average ocean temperature is only about 4 degC . In other words, these arguments suggest that we should review the average temperature of the Earth over a period of say a billion years and it is this average temperature against which comparisons should be made noyt against its present average temperature which present temperature is no more than a blip in the context of geological time..
John Marshall says:
December 7, 2011 at 2:43 am
This report only goes to show that we know less than we thought about the sun. Solar cycles that we know about are perhaps of up to 200 year rotation, longer cycles that may include the behavour we are currently seeing, are not in the text books.
We live in interesting times. Now all eyes are on the sun for the next surprise.
Ex-Wx Forecaster says:
December 7, 2011 at 2:43 am
“Shocked Scientists Ask: Is The Sun Is Dying?”
I’ve read many articles about changes in solar activity, including emissions of a newly discovered particle that alters radioactive decay on Earth. But, seldom have I seen such overhyped, sensationalistic writing about scientific subjects–except, of course, for climate science.
Robert Brown says:
December 7, 2011 at 2:49 am
“I think that because the Sun is losing its magnetism, the tides are weaker (there is lots of iron in ocean water so under normal circumstances, a higher magnetic reading on the surface of the Sun helps the tides), therefore the sloshed warm water in the western tropics doesn’t have the strong tides it needs to go back over the cold water underneath, leaving it exposed and cooling us all off. So the Sun has been directly affecting the ocean surface, leading to the cooling trend.”
Could I have a side order of data/evidence to go with that theory? Perhaps a graph showing a correlation between the average height of the tides and the smoothed AP index? Perhaps a computation showing that the field strength of the sun, modulated by and mixed with the field of the earth, is powerful enough to exert a measurable force on an iron atom immersed in seawater? Perhaps a comparison of the energy of the iron atom in the solar field to kT, plus some argument for why a force acting on iron atoms in a dilute solution would actually affect the background fluid instead of differentially (and slowly!) migrating in the direction of the force, a direction that constantly changes and averages out to zero on a daily basis?
Not that I don’t love theories and hypotheses, but this one doesn’t seem to me offhand to be likely to be physically plausible within many orders of magnitude. I’d be happy to look at numbers or back-of-the-envelope computations that suggest otherwise, of course.
Explaining a joke, or The Flash, just isn’t the same as getting it
So what did I Grok at that moment? (See: Michael Valentine Smith and Heinlein for an explanation of Grock.. Yes, we have almost the same name…)
The “deep ocean” is 4 C. Think about that for a moment. Why?
“Why, don’t ask why. Down that path lies insanity and ruin. -E.M.Smith”
If you dig into the earth just a few hundred feet, it warms. A LOT. You get to 500 F or so long before you exit the crust and enter the Mohorovičić discontinuity… At the bottom of the ocean are volcanic vents. The mid ocean ridges are 600 F or so and dumping a load of heat into the oceans. Below is very hot earth.
Above, at the surface, most of the world’s ocean surface is well above 4 C. The tropics are about 85 F to 90 F. (Get over it. I’m comfortable shifting from F to C to K to R – yes, even Rankine. So get a little “multiculturalism” in your units, OK? ;-)
So you have this very large surface of the Global Ocean that is bounded by warmer surface temperatures above it.
So you have this very large surface of the Global Ocean that is bounded by the warmer earth temperatures below it.
WHY is it 4 C when sandwiched between two much larger warmer surfaces?
Because of the poles.
At the poles, it’s cold. VERY cold. The rest of the planet can wobble between ice ages, and not. Between “Ice Ball Earth” and not. But at the poles, it’s cold and very icy for at least 1/2 the year each. It is the cold water sinking at the Poles that tells us the real average temperature of the earth.
At any one time, a massive amount of heat is leaving at one pole or the other (or, to some extent, both). Can’t stop it. Can’t deny it. It is the loss from the poles that puts us into an ice age, or out of one. It is the change in radiation, convection, and albedo at the poles that controls everything. The tropics are hot and will be hot and just don’t change their albedo, average temperature, or convection all that much. Seasonally or otherwise. (The frost sensitive plants of Brazil testify that is has not frozen there in a very long time…)
No, it is the poles that dominate the ‘swings’.
And a 4C ocean means?
So we have the poles dumping heat to space, creating the cold water that sinks to the ocean depths. We have the equator getting lots of sunshine and having lots of rain and convection dumping heat to space. But…
The surfaces of the oceans only warm so much… and the depths not at all… despite millions of years…
We are locked in an ice age. We’ve had several glacials, and several interglacials, and the ocean has not frozen solid nor has the ocean warmed to 10 C at it’s depths. The true AVERAGE of all of this is the 4 C of the deep oceans. Just a tiny bit above freezing and just a tiny bit away from “Snowball Earth”.
Yes, we have “surface” temperatures a bit warm right now. Soon enough we’ll be back in a glacial in this ice age and a lot of the planet will freeze over (reducing heat loss from the poles). But it’s not warm enough long enough to change the 4 C of the deep ocean. In “Only” 14,000 years… even with heating from both above and below…
And now we are headed out of the Holocene and into the next Glacial. (NOT speculation. It’s baked into the cake from the cycles of the orbits. It’s just a very slow process.) With an existing average temperature of 4 C RIGHT NOW.
The good news is that geologic events are very very slow. The bad news is “we’re screwed”. We’re headed into an orbital configuration where heat loss at the poles will increase. Ice will increase. We go back into the freezer for 100,000 years and the real average of the planet is 4 C heading into that. There will be 100,000 years of ‘water turning to ice’ releasing the heat of fusion and trying to prevent Ice Ball Earth, then, if we are very very lucky, we come out into another interglacial for 10,000 years….
No. We can’t stop it.
No. We can’t slow it down.
The good news?
We get a whole lot more land in places like Florida as the continental shelves are exposed from water turning to ice at the poles. We can come through things OK if we move toward the equators and “down slope” to the continental shelves. It will likely take a few thousand years to get “bad” and it will happen at a pace such that folks in any generation will not notice. (Divide the distance from the Greenland Ice Sheet to New York where it ended in the last glacial by 100,000 years and you get about 800 FEET of ice sheet progress per year, so you can out WALK the coming ice sheet in one week end per year …) and the ice does accumulate more or less linearly, though with great spikes in it…
So I don’t think humanity is doomed. I don’t even think it will be very bad on the Ice Age Glacial scale. (They call it glacially slow for a reason…) No, it is the 1500 year scale cycles that will cause us doom and gloom…
The really bad news is that we are likely at one of those 1500 year events. Yes, we’ve had a bit of warm. Yes, it was nice. But the sun has gone sleepy and the volcanoes are getting restless (just as they have every other time in history we’ve reached this point). So most likely we are not only on a several thousand year down trend (from the peak about 9,000 years ago) but we’ve also just had the “good times” after the bounce out of the Little Ice Age. Next direction is down. Harder and further than for several thousand years before.
The really good news it that this is all measured in geologic time, so we’re looking at things that move in 100’s of years, not next year, at a very fast gauge. Most likely we entered the “next glacial” a few thousand years ago. Nobody really noticed. That 1500 ish year cycle mattered much more. So I’m not really worried about things for me. Heck, not even for my kids. That’s maybe, if you push it, 50 years. Hardly measurable on the scale of things like 1500 year cycles or glacials.
But it is still real.
And the reality that I had in The Flash is that the REAL reflection of the “average temperature” of the earth is 4 C. The soil doesn’t tell you as it is nuclear heated; from below. The air doesn’t tell you as it is nuclear heated; from above (solar fusion). No, it is that lens of water in the oceans that averages over the ‘couple of thousand’ year scale and that averages both the polar dumping and the equatorial influx. That is what tells you the real Global Average Temperature. And that GAT is 4 C. A chilling temperature and a chilling thought in more ways than one…
A modest “side bar” observation on this is that, due to water being most dense at 4 C, you can measure the “faster” changes in average temperature of the planet (those “only” measured in hundreds of years…) by looking at the DEPTH of the thermocline. At some depth, the water is 4 C. Watch that level. If it is rising, we are in an interglacial and gaining heat. If it is falling, we are in a glacial and turning sea water into polar ice.
Unfortunately, as near as I can tell, we don’t have that data.
Everything else is just “noise and fury signifying nothing”…