About That Glacial Melt & Salinity

I get this flag goes up when someone talks about properties but leaves out numbers. “How much?” “Is it enough to matter?” “How big compared to counter forces?”.

It’s very easy to speak of a true technical property, but have it gnat’s knees compared to a Boeing 757… and not notice.

There was this article about how “Glacial Melt” was swamping the salinity of the north Atlantic ocean. Yet at the same time, there’s a giant and variable flow of salinity enhanced Gulf Stream water into the north Atlantic. What are these comparative sizes? What is the comparative size of the changes in the two? Silence…

So I figured I’d make a bit of noise about it and see if anything started to jell.

First off, what started me on this was an article at Tallblokes:


Research finds link between rainfall and ocean circulation in past and present
The data showed that, in comparison to today, the Atlantic Ocean surface circulation was much weaker during the Little Ice Age, a cool period thought to be triggered by volcanic activity that lasted from 1450-1850. Since these set of ocean currents are known to influence global climate, the researchers were interested to see if it correlated with rainfall in the Western Hemisphere, and how such a correlation could change over time.

Now my first flag goes up when they say the circulation was weaker during the little ice age, when things were more frozen, yet that is NOT when glaciers are melting. Consistency Alert Captain!… So the current slows down when it is cold and frozen but supposedly also slows down when it is hot and glaciers are melting? When, then, does it speed up? (Crickets!)

In a comment, I linked to another article that also makes claims about the currents and precipitation:


Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found that a well-known period of abrupt climate change 12,000 years ago occurred rapidly in northern latitudes but much more gradually in equatorial regions, a discovery that could prove important for understanding and responding to future climate change.

The research, published Sept. 2 in Nature Communications, focuses on the Younger Dryas, a cooling period that started when the North Atlantic Current, an ocean current, stopped circulating. The event caused Earth’s northern hemisphere to enter into a deep chill, with temperatures in Greenland dropping by approximately 18 degrees Fahrenheit in less than a decade.

The event also caused rainfall to decrease in places as far away as the Philippines. However, whereas temperatures in Greenland responded quickly to the ocean current shutdown and subsequent reboot 1,000 years later, it took hundreds of years for rainfall in the Philippines to be affected and to recover.

“We found that the temperature in Greenland is like a small ship that you can stop and turn quickly because of the influence of sea ice in the region, while rainfall in the tropics is like a big ship that takes a long time to course correct,” said Jud Partin, a research associate at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) who led the study.

So again we have a cold spell with slowed / halted Gulf Stream and north Atlantic current. Does the cold stop the circulation or does the circulation stop cause the cold? In either case, how can it be that “melting glaciers” causes a halt when the glaciers are growing like crazy in the Younger Dryas?

I smell a simplification-rat in folks thinking about melting glaciers…

In this article:


I looked at this paper:


What I said about it was:

What I find particularly interesting about this one is that it shows that even Florida is anti-phase to Greenland. Mostly it is based on water, rather than directly on cold, but that’s fine. It finds that during the glacial (when Florida was about twice as wide as it is today), the way rains were controlled by warm / cold was about the same. When it is cold, not much rain. When it’s warm, lots of rain. Now that happens between winter and summer, then it shows up as a climate shift.

So every Heinrich Event shows up as cold in Europe, but wet in Florida (so the pine trees grow and the pine pollen spikes up) as Florida gets wetter and warmer. When it’s warm in Europe, Florida is more cool, so dry, and you get oaks. There’s a lot more in the article. Grasses and some other plants too. GISP Ice cores.

The key takeaways for me were simple. That 1500 year cycle keeps on happening. Though sometimes with a partial skip (weak cycle). It is water mediated with the Gulf Stream taking a break for a while and both Arctic and Antarctic deep water formation being involved. Something outside natural ocean oscillations drives it as it stays on the same periodicity despite a variety of ocean changes and ice changes and even strength of event changes. The metronome doesn’t shift much (though the effects sometimes skip a beat).

Now if it is warm melting glaciers causing the Gulf Stream / North Atlantic Drift to slow or halt, how can that be happening when Europe is getting more frozen and the heat is backing up in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico?

How can it happen on a regular 1500 year cycle without outside drivers?

To me, it looks far more like solar inputs to the ocean drive the overturning (compare the MW of solar heat in the global tropical and temperate oceans vs the pittance of MW-thermal in a glacial outflow) and those thermal driving changes reflect in the speed of the current.

How big is the Gulf Stream? Are glacier flows at all near it in size?


The Gulf Stream is typically 100 kilometres (62 mi) wide and 800 metres (2,600 ft) to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) deep. The current velocity is fastest near the surface, with the maximum speed typically about 2.5 metres per second (5.6 mph).

Where is the 100 km wide river of glacial meltwater into the North Atlantic?

Where is the kilometer deep river flowing into the north Atlantic?

100 km x 1 km = 100 sq.km of cross section. Or 100 million meters^2. Moving at 2.5 metres/sec gives 250 Million cubic meters per second. (Provided I’ve got the math and units right). Further down in the Gulf Stream wiki they state that near Florida it is:

As a consequence, the resulting Gulf Stream is a strong ocean current. It transports water at a rate of 30 million cubic meters per second (30 sverdrups) through the Florida Straits. As it passes south of Newfoundland, this rate increases to 150 million cubic metres per second. The volume of the Gulf Stream dwarfs all rivers that empty into the Atlantic combined, which barely total 0.6 million cubic metres per second.

So there’s a range of about 1/8 to 2/3 of the simple cross section math result.


At an average discharge of about 209,000 cubic metres per second (7,400,000 cu ft/s; 209,000,000 L/s; 55,000,000 USgal/s)—approximately 6,591 cubic kilometres per annum (1,581 cu mi/a), greater than the next seven largest independent rivers combined—the Amazon represents 20% of the global riverine discharge to the ocean.[

The entire Amazon River is less than 1/1000 that size.
209,000 / 250,000,000 = 209/250,000 = 0.000836

Now uplift that for the other possible volumes, it’s
209,000 / 30,000,000 = 209 / 30,000 = 0.0069666

or it’s possibly more like
209,000 / 150,000,000 = 209 / 150,000 = 0.0019904

None of them is big enough to be found even in the rounding errors of Gulf Stream Flow and variation.

There is no Amazon of Glacial Melt. Not even 1/10 of an Amazon…

So just how much can “Glacial Melt” stand up to variation of Gulf Stream flow? Can that flea on the mouse’s tail really steer and halt the elephant?

IMHO this little “rough estimate” sanity check shows the whole “Glacial melt slowing ocean currents” to be a canard of the worst kind.

Yes, it needs much more detailed numbers to be run. Yes, it is only a ballpark sanity check. But also yes, when you have a control input that’s at least 1/10,000 the size of the thing it is reputed to control, AND the physical history has the results opposite to that reputed control, your control input is not a control input.

I would assert that far far more important are variation of solar input to the tropical oceans (in particular where the solar energy is deposited – on the surface as IR and reds, or deep as UV and blues) and variations in the global winds and tides (likely heavily influenced by the lunar tidal changes of ocean depths and tides).

How else can you get a regular 1500 year cycle but by external drivers?



The 1,800-year oceanic tidal cycle: A possible cause of rapid climate change

Charles D. Keeling* and Timothy P. Whorf


Variations in solar irradiance are widely believed to explain climatic change on 20,000- to 100,000-year time-scales in accordance with the Milankovitch theory of the ice ages, but there is no conclusive evidence that variable irradiance can be the cause of abrupt fluctuations in climate on time-scales as short as 1,000 years. We propose that such abrupt millennial changes, seen in ice and sedimentary core records, were produced in part by well characterized, almost periodic variations in the strength of the global oceanic tide-raising forces caused by resonances in the periodic motions of the earth and moon. A well defined 1,800-year tidal cycle is associated with gradually shifting lunar declination from one episode of maximum tidal forcing on the centennial time-scale to the next. An amplitude modulation of this cycle occurs with an average period of about 5,000 years, associated with gradually shifting separation-intervals between perihelion and syzygy at maxima of the 1,800-year cycle. We propose that strong tidal forcing causes cooling at the sea surface by increasing vertical mixing in the oceans. On the millennial time-scale, this tidal hypothesis is supported by findings, from sedimentary records of ice-rafting debris, that ocean waters cooled close to the times predicted for strong tidal forcing.

In Conclusion

When you have gigantic massive flows of hot water caused by solar heating the entire tropical ocean even into the temperate ranges; when you have gigantic massive winds caused by the same that account for large wind driven tidal forces and currents, when you have gigantic cyclical lunar tidal driven flow changes:

How then can you claim a minuscule VARIATION in a trivial amount of fresh water is doing anything significant at all?

From the Gulf Stream Wiki:

As it travels north, the warm water transported by the Gulf Stream undergoes evaporative cooling. The cooling is wind-driven: Wind moving over the water causes evaporation, cooling the water and increasing its salinity and density. When sea ice forms, salts are left out of the ice, a process known as brine exclusion. These two processes produce water that is denser and colder (or, more precisely, water that is still liquid at a lower temperature). In the North Atlantic Ocean, the water becomes so dense that it begins to sink down through less salty and less dense water. (The convective action is not unlike that of a lava lamp.) This downdraft of cold, dense water becomes a part of the North Atlantic Deep Water, a southgoing stream.

Now what are the odds that salinity increases in wind driven flows of 1000 times to 10,000 times larger ocean current can overwhelm salinity decreases from glacial melt?

Subscribe to feed


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in AGW Science and Background, Earth Sciences and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to About That Glacial Melt & Salinity

  1. philjourdan says:

    Most of the discussion about the Ocean streams has been dismissive instead of investigative. Pretty much like the contradictions of too warm and too cold causing the streams to stop (there is a stream off the pacific coast as well).

    I blame the fact that they cannot directly relate – or do not want to relate – a cause and effect to AGW. So they pencil whip it out of their models.

  2. R.de Haan says:

    Just mention “Arctic and Glacier Melt” in your report and mega $$$$ coming in. Salt water freezes and the salt christals are sqeezed out out of the ice creating the so called brine that should make the ocean water a bit saltier untill the ice melts again.. The ocean is one big mixer. No worries. As for the glaciers, they come and go during the interglacial and completely occupy huge land masses during an ice ages, completely reshaping the landscapes.. Who gives a sh**t about a little salt. Sea water however exposed to strong radiowaves is able to produce a 1500 degree Celsius hot flame, burning of the hydrogen. If the amount of electric power you put into this process is providing a benefit? I don’t think so. The guy who did the trick has died in the mean time but just the idea that the combined broadcasting power of MSM transmitters could heat my home with salt water makes my day.

  3. Larry Ledwick says:

    So just how much can “Glacial Melt” stand up to variation of Gulf Stream flow? Can that flea on the mouse’s tail really steer and halt the elephant?

    IMHO this little “rough estimate” sanity check shows the whole “Glacial melt slowing ocean currents” to be a canard of the worst kind.

    Well there is one other possibility, perhaps just the nature of the flow changes (or the route of the flow)

    Fluidic switches can switch fluid flow using very small inputs. They were doing research on them in the 1960’s to investigate the possiblity of a non-electronic computer that would be invulnerable to EMP.

    The input of a small pulse from the control ports on the side can switch which wall of the flow channel the fluid attaches to. So for example a puff of flow out of the St Lawrence Seaway into the Atlantic could detach flow from the west coast of the Atlantic near Greenland and make the gulf stream turn across the Atlantic in a tight loop that intersects Europe much lower than currently where it keeps England relatively warm. It could accomplish this by causing the north atlantic current with the Canary current so it makes a more southern short loop. This would cut of warming to northern europe and result in a catastrophic shift in climate that only took years to occure.


  4. Ron Clutz says:

    phys,org did not do justice to the Austin study of the gulf stream variability.

    Research conducted at The University of Texas at Austin has found that changes in ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean influence rainfall in the Western Hemisphere, and that these two systems have been linked for thousands of years.

    The findings, published on Jan. 26 in Nature Communications, are important because the detailed look into Earth’s past climate and the factors that influenced it could help scientists understand how these same factors may influence our climate today and in the future.

    “The mechanisms that seem to be driving this correlation [in the past] are the same that are at play in modern data as well,” said lead author Kaustubh Thirumalai, postdoctoral researcher at Brown University who conducted the research while earning his Ph.D. at the UT Austin Jackson School of Geosciences. “The Atlantic Ocean surface circulation, and however that changes, has implications for how the rainfall changes on continents.”

    Note that the analysis shows centennial and decadal scale shifts in climate due to gulf stream fluxes.


  5. oldbrew says:

    RE: the Little Ice Age, a cool period thought to be triggered by volcanic activity that lasted from 1450-1850.
    Comment: note 1450 estimated start date.

    A tidal period of 1800 years
    By W. DE ROP, Royal Observatory, Belgium

    The Swedish oceanographer O. Pettersson
    has presented evidence indicating that the last
    maximum of oceanic tides occurred about 1433.
    He pointed out that there is a coincidence
    between a tidal period of 1800 years and climatic
    changes of the same period. We think we
    can explain this period as follows.


    NB it’s more precise than Keeling & Whorf.

  6. jim2 says:

    Way back when, an ice dam finally broke up North and dumped a HUGE amount of fresh water very quickly onto the Gulf Stream, IIRC around the terminus of it. That slowed it down, but as you say, the amount from melting ice is minuscule.

  7. John F. Hultquist says:

    The Gulf Stream has been said to influence the climate of Europe.
    Perhaps it does.
    However, if you look at an image of the Atlantic Ocean, such as this one:

    The warmth of the water makes it just past Nova Scotia but not past the Island of Newfoundland.
    Here is a second view from January 2009:

    If one looks at the winds today (1/29/2018) with the nullschool dot net site there is darn little wind reaching the UK and Great European Plain that comes from the warm surface waters of the Gulf Stream.

    An alternative hypothesis is here:
    Richard Seager thinks

    The Source of Europe’s Mild Climate
    The notion that the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe anomalously warm turns out to be a myth

  8. John F. Hultquist says:

    As an aside:
    There is a large volume of warm saline water from the Mediterranean Sea that enters the Atlantic Ocean over the Gilbraltar Sill. The outflow is below the inflow of ocean water. Further, the outflow should turn to the north (right) because of the Coriolis effect, and there is a mid-ocean rift mountain out there. What does that water do?

  9. craigm350 says:

    Done real interesting passages from the Seagar paper that John F. Hultquist links above [emphasis added]

    Recently, however, evidence has emerged that the Younger Dryas began long before the breach that allowed freshwater to flood the North Atlantic. What is more, the temperature changes induced by a shutdown in the conveyor are too small to explain what went on during the Younger Dryas. Some climatologists appeal to a large expansion in sea ice to explain the severe winter cooling. I agree that something of this sort probably happened, but it’s not at all clear to me how stopping the Atlantic conveyor could cause a sufficient redistribution of heat to bring on this vast a change.
    In any event, the still-tentative connections investigators have made between thermohaline circulation and abrupt climate change during glacial times have combined with the popular perception that it is the Gulf Stream that keeps European climate mild to create a doomsday scenario: Global warming might shut down the Gulf Stream, which could “plunge western Europe into a mini ice age,” making winters “as harsh as those in Newfoundland,” or so claims, for example, a recent article in New Scientist. This general idea been rehashed in hundreds of sensational news stories.
    The Longevity of a Legend
    When Battisti and I had finished our study of the influence of the Gulf Stream, we were left with a certain sense of deflation: Pretty much everything we had found could have been concluded on the basis of results that were already available. Ngar-Cheung Lau of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and Princeton University had published in 1979 an observational study in which he quantitatively demonstrated the warming and cooling effects that large-scale waves in the atmosphere had in Europe and eastern North America, respectively. In the 1980s, atmosphere modelers such as Brian J. Hoskins and Paul J. Valdes at the University of Reading in England and Isaac M. Held and Sumant Nigam at GFDL had shown how such stationary waves, including those forced by mountains, warm western Europe. In the late 1980s, two other GFDL researchers, Syukuro Manabe and Ronald J. Stouffer, had used a coupled ocean-atmosphere climate model to determine the climate impacts of an imposed shutdown of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation. Their modeled climate cooled by a few degrees on both sides of the Atlantic and left the much larger difference in temperature across the ocean unchanged. Other published model experiments went on to show the same thing. Further, the distinction between maritime and continental climates had been a standard of climatology for decades, even centuries. What is more, by the late 1990s satellite data, and analyses of numerical models into which those data had been assimilated as part of the weather-forecasting process, had shown that in mid-latitudes the poleward transport of heat by the atmosphere exceeds that by the ocean

    It seems this particular myth has grown to such a massive size that it exerts a great deal of pull on the minds of otherwise discerning people.

    This is not just an academic issue. The play that the doomsday scenario has gotten in the media—even from seemingly reputable outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation—could be dismissed as attention grabbing sensationalism. But at root, it is the ignorance of how regional climates are determined that allows this misinformation to gain such traction. Maury should not be faulted; he could hardly have known better. The blame lies with modern-day climate scientists who either continue to promulgate the Gulf Stream–climate myth or who decline to clarify the relative roles of atmosphere and ocean in determining European climate. This abdication of responsibility leaves decades of folk wisdom unchallenged, still dominating the front pages, airwaves and Internet, ensuring that a well-worn piece of climatological nonsense will be passed down to yet another generation.

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    I’m fairly certain the Younger Dryas was an impact event into the ice shield of Canada. These folks have lots of good evidence:


    Reasonable starting point:


  11. waterside4 says:

    Very informative piece, thank you and our Chiefo for his usual high class stuff.
    I almost swallowed my teeth when I read “usually reputable ….. BBC”
    Surely you do not mean the biased British Broadcasting fake news Corporation?

  12. R. de Haan says:

    The warm peaks that mark the Younger Dryas represent solar ramp ups from ice age mode to interglacial. The first ramp up failed.
    Both peaks coincide with massive melt of the NA Ice cap, both responsible for massive floods and massive sweet water insertion in the Pacific causing a massive sea level rises. We also lost the Clovis people and the Mega Fauna. There is evidence found of a massive event with meteorites entering the atmosphere over NA, SA and Western Europe but no consenses on the subject yet. The extinction of the Mega Fauna reminds me of a video about the dinosaurs where the question was asked if these animals would be able to live on our planet today.
    That is a very interesting question and the answer of the experts is no. With the current G-forces a 180 ton Megasaur with a 12 meter long neck would not survive. 8 ton Elephants and Giraffes border at the limits of what is possible today. The conclusion of the researchers was that Gravity must have been significant less than our current 1G “constant” we’re used to. Mighty interesting stuff. As I see it, we have a lot of research to do to retrieve what exactly happend 12.800 years ago.
    That would be money well spend on real climate change.

  13. John F. Hultquist says:

    I read part of the “cosmictusk” material.
    I’ve no trouble believing there were impacts on the ice sheet.
    However, I do know a little about the Carolina Bays, and much more of the floods into eastern Washington State. Those involved both Glacial Lake Missoula and Glacial Lake Penticton.
    Neither of these things require a comet(s). The simpler explanations** by geologists and related earth-scientists do very well. For the floods, many people over many years have provided field studies. These data have been used to simulate (in 3-D graphic motion) one of the major floods from Lake Missoula.

    If the authors can re-write their Younger Dryas comet hypothesis without so much emphasis on the Carolina Bays and the Missoula Floods it would be more approachable for me.
    On the cosmic aspects and the physical-chemistry, my knowledge is very meager.

    ** https://explorable.com/occams-razor
    Researchers should avoid ‘stacking’ information to prove a theory if a simpler explanation fits the observations.

Anything to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s