There have been a number of unusual climate patterns around the Earth this year and some scientists are making excellent progress in providing some reasonable explanations. The distinguished climate scientist Dr. Judith Curry has come up with some interesting answers by examining recent changes in heat balances at both the top of the atmosphere and the internal flows driven by the air and ocean currents at the surface. In addition she has considered contributions made by the switch from El Nino to La Nina, the Hunga Tonga underwater volcanic eruption and changes in atmospheric aerosols caused by ships using less polluting fuels. Any increase in the greenhouse effect from increasing carbon dioxide “is lost in the noise”, she states.
This latter conclusion, of course, will mean that Curry’s excellent work will be ignored in the mainstream media, which largely follow the view of the UN’s IPCC that most climate change is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. Curry’s research is a detailed piece of scientific work, and the full paper can be seen here. I shall try to highlight some of the most significant features, showing how scientists can harness the power of observation to add to their knowledge about how the chaotic and non-linear atmosphere actually operates.
In Curry’s view, the recent warming in spring/summer 2023 is associated with a spike in heat flows at the top of the atmosphere. The warming is said to reflect an increase in incoming shortwave radiation – essentially the sun is a bit brighter – a decrease in high level cloudiness, the impact of reduced ship sulphate aerosols, reduced snow and ice extent and the Hunga Tonga eruption that propelled 13% extra water vapour into the stratosphere.
At the surface, there was anomalous sunlight heating in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and again Curry notes the involvement of reduced sulphate particles from ship fuel. The eastern North Atlantic is said to have warmed from anomalously low turbulent heat flows, reflecting weak surface winds particularly in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. In the mid/high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere oceans, there was strong cooling from surface turbulent flows that are associated with strong wind speeds.
Curry provides a dispassionate analysis of some of the anomalies, or departure from recently recorded norms, in stark contrast to the hysterical reporting found in mainstream media. Earlier this month, the BBC reported that ocean heat records were broken, “with grim implications for the planet”. Dr. Matt Frost from the Plymouth Marine Lab warned that “we are putting oceans under more stress than we have done at any point in history”.
Curry points out that current warming in the North Atlantic “is comparable to changes over consecutive three-month periods during the winter/spring seasons of 1983, 1987, 1989 and 2010”. The high this time around was boosted from a relatively warm initial start. Each of these past warmings was followed by cooling of an approximately equal magnitude within the next 6-24 months, resulting in relatively small net changes in sea surface temperatures and upper ocean heat content.
Current North Atlantic sea temperature anomalies occurred in an ‘arc’ pattern and this is a signature of natural variability. Two more extreme natural variations are also identified by Curry. Around 1970, there was strong warming followed by a large sea surface temperature drop in 1971 that marked the beginning of lengthy period of cool conditions and weak hurricane activity. During 1994-95, the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation shifted to a warm phase and this sea current boosted surface temperatures around the arc at the time. This introduced a period of warmer conditions that “in some respects” remains to the present day.
As the Daily Sceptic has noted, the recent spate of climatic anomalies has provided climate hysterics with a field day. None more so than those commenting on Antarctica where Curry confirms there was low surface sea ice during the current winter. Clive Cookson of the Financial Times jumped to the conclusion that the continent “faces a catastrophic cascade of extreme environmental events… that will affect climate around the world”. Curry points out that in 2023, a different wind pattern has been in play, bringing strong winds from the north that are breaking up and compressing the sea ice against the continent.
Meanwhile, Curry notes that Arctic sea ice is healthy – the extent for July was only the 12th lowest in the satellite record. Last month’s Greenland mass ice sheet balance – annual snow accumulation minus melt – was above average relative to 1980-2010.
There are many reasons why the work of climate scientists such as Judith Curry never get picked up in the mainstream media. Much of what she describes is natural variation and has been observed before in the climatic record. But the Net Zero political project demands a simple message from scientists – it’s all down to human-caused CO2. As I have noted before, this closes off vast areas of science for investigation or debate for fear of opening a Pandora’s Box.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.