Global Climate Change - The Oceans

Before drawing a temporary close to all of this we cannot let the oceans go without a mention. Although the oceans themselves are unlikely to be a direct cause of global climate change, it is now acknowledged that they do have a significant effect on how quickly changes in thermal flux are seen to occur, and also on how tropical heat is distributed around the planet.

Let's start with something we have all experienced - sea breezes.  You will have heard the term before, I'm sure, but do you know where it comes from and what causes sea breezes?  If you heat a solid, like a land mass, by shining solar radiation on it, it gets warm.  That's easy enough, and the same applies if you shine solar radiation on the sea, except it takes longer to warm up and, research has shown, only the surface layers really warm up, with the remainder staying cooler or it takes the warming effect much longer to reach beyond a few hundred metres.  So what happens is the air mass over the land rises with the heat (hot air rises) and cooler air is drawn in from the sea, creating a "sea breeze".  When the solar heating is removed (as the sun sets) the reverse occurs.  The land cools more quickly than the sea, so the air over the warmer sea rises and cooler air is drawn off the land and blows out to sea.

The reason for dwelling on sea breezes is to make the point that the oceans provide a huge reservoir of heat for the planet, distributing that heat to colder regions and therefore moderating temperatures in those regions.  But this can only take place if the distribution of land masses relative to oceans allows for thermal currents to become firmly established, which has definitely taken place in the northern hemisphere.  There are a number of well-known currents which are now becoming better understood, and it is important to realise that without the current distribution of land versus ocean the warm waters from the tropics could not be transported to northern Europe and the climate there would be much more severe, London being on the same latitude as northern Canada and parts of western Siberia.  Even more importantly it can help to explain why the polar ice is melting in the current warming episode, while Antarctica ice - whatever they might tell you - generally is not.

The significance is that the Arctic is a relatively shallow ocean, whereas the Antarctic is a large continent covered by ice.  With the way the continents are distributed, and with the way the various warm water currents flow, it is relatively easy for the Atlantic Ocean to feed warm water to the far north, which is exactly what is happening.  In the case of Antarctica the only part being at all affected by the warmth is right on the western end of the Antarctic peninsula.  This is where those alarming pictures of huge ice floes breaking off came from, and if you look very carefully the same story, about the same piece of ice is run by the media year after year.  The Wilkins Ice Shelf has been reported by the mainstream media to be ominously collapsing every year now since 1999. There is satellite photography back as far as 1993 showing the end-of-summer thaws and mid-winter maximums for the Wilkins Ice Shelf.  Not much has changed over the past 15 years.  That's one of the biggest dangers - the media trotting out unsubstantiated stories that they pull out of the bottom drawer when it suits, and without checking their facts!  We have never had good coverage of Antarctica from a temperature measurement perspective, and it is only recently that we have been able to show that temperatures across the majority of the continent are stable or falling. 

But what's happening to the planet as a whole?  Well we now have a series of satellites out in space watching us and taking our temperature.  Guess what?  All the data are showing conclusively that global temperature is falling - in fact it peaked in 1998 and has been falling ever since.  But they don't tell you that!  But no one has put the reality of the situation more succinctly than Prof Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most distinguished climatologists in the world, who has done as much as anyone in the past 20 years to expose the emptiness of the IPCC’s claim that its reports represent a “consensus” of the views of “the world’s top climate scientists.  He says "Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly exaggerated computer predictions combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a rollback of the industrial age.

Finally, and this is for Liz - I have argued this point with people young and old for some time now, and one of the replies I get is; "but at least it is making us treat the planet better and is cutting pollution and waste".  Goodness how I agree with that, but what a price to pay for making the bad people behave themselves and clean up their act.  The planet was here before us and will be here after we are all gone.  It has been bombed from space, and covered in poisonous dust and smoke from super-volcanoes - and it has always recovered!  Mother Earth will clean herself up when we are done with her, and she will doubtless try to forget that her surface was once covered by polluting beings called humans.