The Southern Ocean / Hemisphere Problem

Not offering a lot of information here, just admiring the problem. I’ll add some station information a bit later (for where we have stations recording the temperature).

THE big problem can be summed up in one map. Folks almost never look at the globe this way, yet it is vitally important to do so. We like to look at maps with all the land on them where all the people live (and all their thermometers are located…) yet the reality is that 1/2 of the world is essentially devoid of thermometers. Here’s a Southern Ocean view of the world:

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica

From the Wiki at:

Here you can clearly see the basic problem. There’s nearly nothing in the “temperate” band around the southern hemisphere of the globe.

Your choices are Antarctic research stations, that were very poorly represented until fairly recent history, and even that is not very great; and some bits of South Africa and Patagonia. Both fairly wild even in the 1800s, and with political instability even now. Then Australia, that is still mostly empty in the Out-Back (I’ve driven into it. Did not see another car for hours, then days…).

Then note that even Australia and South Africa are closer to the Equator than the Pole.

There are some ship data in the GHCN, but not a lot; especially not in the early years. Then there’s that whole “bucket vs plumbing” measurement issue, and the question of just how deep the water was measured. Surface temperature and 20 feet down are quite different, and with ships having screws dozens of feet tall, there’s a lot of mixing in some shipping lanes. So just what was measured, eh? The data are more “correction” and “adjustment” than actual data.

I’m going to count up the stations by latitude and see what the count is, but it isn’t many. Some New Zealand, a bit of Australia, some Patagonia (when they were not having wars and revolutions), and a few stranded research stations in Antarctica.

Season that with knowing there IS a “Polar See-Saw”:

The polar see-saw (also: Bipolar seesaw) is the phenomenon that temperature changes in the northern and southern hemispheres may be out of phase. The hypothesis states that large changes, for example when the glaciers are intensely growing or depleting, in the formation of ocean bottom water in both poles take a long time to exert their effect in the other hemisphere. Estimates of the period of delay vary, one typical estimate is 1500 years. This is usually studied in the context of ice-cores taken from Antarctica and Greenland.

So what looks like a “trend” in one hemisphere may in fact just be “counter phase” to the other where you have no suitable data.

So what do you do when there just isn’t any data to make a decent baseline and you don’t know the phase of the polar see-saw?

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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...
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22 Responses to The Southern Ocean / Hemisphere Problem

  1. vuurklip says:

    “… So what do you do when there just isn’t any data to make a decent baseline …”

    Just make it up?

  2. DaveH says:

    Project Argo – pretty clever design and great coverage all over the planet.

  3. H.R. says:

    Sadly, not many trees there, but like Yamal, I suppose all they’d need is one tree.

  4. billinoz says:

    I know I’m nit picking but there is weather data for Tasmania. from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and for McQuarie Island deep in the Southern Ocean…

    But your presentation of the problem is clear & correct and easily understood..
    Thanks !


  5. u.k.(us) says:

    A few quotes from the book titled “Godforsaken Sea” (Racing the World’s Most Dangerous Waters), will follow.

    Per Wiki: The Vendée Globe is a single-handed (solo) non-stop yacht race around the world without assistance.[1][2] The race was founded by Philippe Jeantot in 1989,[3] and since 1992 has taken place every four years. It is named after the Département of Vendée, in France, where the race starts and ends. The Vendée Globe is considered an extreme quest of individual endurance and the ultimate test in ocean racing.

    Much of the race is through the Southern Ocean….

    “You can sail for one day, can’t you?
    That’s all it is– one day after another.”

    “That splendor of fine bows which yet could stand
    The shock of rollers never checked by land.”

    “The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.”

    Enough of that, might be time to read the book again :)

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  7. E.M.Smith says:


    Argo is a great system, but new, so a very short record and no baseline data… In a century or so we can start to say something about climate using that system…

  8. ossqss says:

    Don’t forget the Argo data was manipulated in 2015 by Karl et al. to bust the hiatus.

    “The treatment of the buoy sea-surface temperature (SST) data was guaranteed to put a warming trend in recent data. They were adjusted upwards 0.12°C to make them “homogeneous” with the longer-running temperature records taken from engine intake channels in marine vessels.”

    From this write up.

  9. Larry Ledwick says:

    One of my prime complaints about the whole global temperature debate, give the time cycles involved we don’t have near enough data to make any meaningful analysis of trends and limit cases. In America we only have a little over 150 years of climate data in most of the country west of the original colonies. Same goes for high quality ocean data.

    Looking at the nyquist limit theory, if you are trying to analyse a cycle that repeats every 1500 years you only have to sample it every 750 years. Our current sample rate is many times that but just a brief snapshot in the context of 750 year sample rate. For practical purposes for the longer climate cycles we have taken only a single sample. Come back in 300 – 400 years and get sample 2.

    In short we have no clue what the long term climate cycles really are other than we can detect evidence that they exist in low resolution records like the ice cores, and stalactite climate records.

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    Nit Harvested: Yes, there is ONE Australian temperature record from fairly far south on McQuarie Island.


  11. Steven Fraser says:

    @EM: For some reason, when I see that view of Antarctica, I imagine a left-facing Richard Nixon mug shot, with one of those knitted Rasta hats holding in dreadlocks…

  12. billinoz says:

    I saw last week a comment on WUWT that there has been NO indication of global warming in the temperature record for MacQuarie Island. But this is ignored…

    And then there is this wonderful lot of greenist tripe from the Australian Broadcasting Ccorporation last week about Heard island which is presented as evidence for global warming despite it being a major active volcanic area with a plume of magma surfacing there from deep in the earth.

    I hang my head in shame as an Australian for such basic scientific stupidity…

  13. billinoz says:

    Alxo, I am currently reading The Wild Sea : A History of the Southern Ocean” by Joy McCann New South Publishing 2018..I am well into it..( page 145 ). Not a word about global Warming

  14. billinoz says:

    Comment by Geoff Sherrington, scientist on WUWT last week :
    ” Geoff Sherrington
    January 28, 2019 at 2:23 pm
    The other remote southern island, Macquarie Island, has shown no significant warming or cooling in Tmax or Tmin for the last 50 years.Sometimes I feel that Australian officials, like the BOM, should be noting this and generally be making more rebutals of suspect announcements within it’s scope. Geoff”

  15. I loved that book. Read it many years ago. It really made me appreciate the immensity of the Southern Ocean and its remoteness. Highly recommend Godforsaken Sea.

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steven F:

    Can you put me in contact with your supplier? I can be discreet…

    8-) of course…


    No worse than the USA with Hansen / Gore / et. al. or the EU…

    Just realize you ARE the resistance…


    Noted…. In my infinite free time… But yes, I’ll make an effort.

  17. Steven Fraser says:

    @EM: Next time you are in DFW…

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