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Man-made climate change evidence flakier

The Australian gives us this precious piece, reprinted from The Times:

Man-made climate change evidence stronger: study

EVIDENCE that human activity is causing global warming is much stronger than previously stated and is found in all parts of the world, according to a study that attempts to refute claims from sceptics.

I'll get to the bit that shows this "study" for what it really is in just a mo', but in passing, I note that real scientific work doesn't have an agenda, it attempts to find the truth. Yes, scientists do set up "devil's advocate" experiments in which they attempt to disprove theories, but the purpose is to test the strength of the theory: if it passes, it gains credibility. Or, of course, if it fails, it is disconfirmed. But one shouldn't set up 'studies' whose goal and methodology is designed to confirm what you already claim; science is tested by passing hard tests, not by being confirmed in 'studies' designed to be helpful. Moving on...

The "fingerprints" of human influence on the climate can be detected not just in rising temperatures but in the saltiness of the oceans, rising humidity, changes in rainfall and the shrinking of Arctic Sea ice at the rate of 600,000sq km a decade.

Now let's just stop and think for a moment about this, and let's overlook the detail that Arctic sea ice has risen every year since 2007, because I just can't get my eyes off that "saltiness of the oceans" bit. For all intents and purposes the amount of water on Earth is constant. Yes, meteorites may deliver some, and some may be broken up by radiation in the atmosphere, some hydrogen atoms escape the Earth's gravity, and so on. But compared with the total quantity of water, these changes are, on the scale of hundreds or even thousands of years, minuscule. So much for two countries' erstwhile best newspapers.

So why are the oceans getting saltier? Well in fact they do, because salt is running off from the land all the time. The saltiness of our own bodies, for example, is much less than that of sea water, but it is believed to be approximately the same as the sea's saltiness was when our ancestors were first developing in the primeval oceans. But, again, on the timescales we are talking about here, we can once more regard the oceanic salt content as a very good approximation to exactly constant. Presumably this effect is not what these 'researchers' are discussing.

So again, why are the oceans getting saltier? The water is constant, the salt is constant, so how is the ratio of the two changing?

The major reason this could happen is because most of the world's ice is fresh water. When sea water freezes, it tends to exclude salt as it freezes, meaning the ice is more or less fresh, and the salt excluded goes into the water that did not freeze. Likewise, ice from compacted snow is also fresh, as any salt in the water from which it originally evaporated has been left behind in the ocean or other body from which the water originally evaporated.

The major reason, therefore, that the seas are getting saltier (if indeed they are, but more of that shortly) would be that a major proportion of the oceans' water content had become fresh water or fresh water ice: more water irrigating the land or more water in sea based ice (Arctic ice cover and Antarctic sea ice) or land based ice (glaciers, the Antarctic and Greenland icesheets, etc.). But running water eventually returns to the ocean, so the major long-term lockup of water would have to be in the ice. So how is that happening if the sea ice is shrinking dramatically, as they claim? It is already a part of warmist doctrine that Antarctic and Greenland icesheets are shrinking, and we are also told that the oceans are rising, meaning greater water content for that salt to dissolve in, which would reduce salt concentration, if these people are to be believed - but they just said it was rising. Come to think of it, this report is, after all, from the disgraced UK Hadley Centre and the UK Meet office.

Anyway, the rest of this article is more of the same, ill-thought out mishmash that falls apart as soon as one take a mustard grain of logic to the subject; we are treated to yet another mention of Hurricane Katrina, when the truth is that world hurricane activity is close to an all-time low in the historic record. And on and on it goes about saltier oceans. Okay, let's look at this one even closer.

Our question is: how much extra water can be taken from the oceans by any realistic increase in atmospheric temperature? To start, it is doubtful if the Earth's temperatures are even going up at all; this century they don't seem to have, and we can't trust the figures coming out of Hadley to tell us an honest answer. But the IPCC scanarios predict anything up to 6C increase this century (it's not going to happen, but bear with me). The atmosphere's mean temperature is very hard to estimate, but claims centre around 15C, so let's take that.

At 15C, the partial pressure of H2O is 1.7 kPa, and the total atmospheric pressure is about 101 kPa, so very roughly, H2O can be, if the air is fully saturated, around 1.7% of total atmospheric pressure, which, since H2O is lighter than the main constituents of air, an upper limit on the fractional mass of H2O in the atmosphere at 15C; so let's take that figure as the fractional mass also.

The atmosphere's mass is 5.3 x 1018 kg, so the upper limit on H2O content is the ratio of these numbers, or 9 x 1015 kg.

How does that overestimate of atmospheric maximum water content compare to the mass of the oceans? The oceanic mass is 1.37 x 1021 kg, so this is 0.00066% of the water content of the ocean. And we are blaming evaporation for increased salinity?

But that's not all. The above figure is total maximum atmospheric water content. But the "study" is talking, not about the total, but about the change in the total due to increased temperature.

So let's use the IPCC's absurdly wild 6C figure. How much extra water would be able to evaporate due to that change? At 21C (15 + 6), the water partial pressure has gone from 1.7 kPa to 2.5 kPa, which is a change of 0.7 kPa, which, by a calculation as before, amounts to a staggering 0.00027% of the oceanic mass! And remember, this figure applies if the entire planetary atmosphere is completely saturated (raining everywhere on Earth!) and is an overestimate anyway. So just how much "increase in salinity" could possibly be due to this process?

So to summarise: the other claims by these same people (melting glaciers, melting Arctic and Antarctic ice, rising sea levels) actually claim that oceanic water should increase, not decrease, thus decreasing salinity, not increasing it; and yet suddenly sea salinity is claimed to be on the rise as a result of a mechanism that any school child can show to be completely inadequate for the effects being claimed.

Unfortunately, sadly - indeed tragically, we may have to accept that we are not dealing with honest brokers here. These people have spent their lives studying this stuff and yet their big gun reply to the Climategate expose of their previous bad behaviour is to insult our intelligence with yet more demonstrable rubbish.

People ask me, what possible reason could anyone have for deliberately falsifying something as important as climate research? Well I don't claim to know all the reasons, but I suspect that the vast amount of government and private money flooding in for research (but only as long as that research shows that there is a problem) is actually keeping thousands of people in jobs. If you lose your job for speaking the truth, many people will choose not to.

Also there is a deep inner need in many of us to feel guilty. The white race blames itself for every problem on Earth including slavery, when in fact they were the only race in history to fight their own kind to put an end to it. Men blame themselves for domestic violence whilst figures show that amongst adults it is an equal-opportunity activity, and with children, it is women, not men, doing most of the damage. Moderns admire primitives for their custodianship of the land, whereas it was primitives on every continent except Africa (including primitive Europeans, so this isn't a racial observation) who exterminated the megafauna. (The African megafauna grew up with us, so they knew how to protect themselves.) So modern human beings have big psychological problems that often prevent us thinking clearly. But the fact is that we don't think clearly and we don't tend to spot the obvious holes in the lies we are told. Matters are now critical; if we can't change this somehow, it looks as if we are heading for a new dark age.

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Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

I am not in a position to challenge your maths so I accept it. I do readily accept your logic regarding sea salt content. So, did you send this to the Australian? Even if they don't print it they may think more deeply next time they receive some new "research". It's time editors were persuaded to seek alternative views before slavishly printing what some "scientist" says as gospel. Unfortunately many readers will simply accept what is written assuming it is correct. We all know in the arena of CC the leading lights are often wrong. Good piece.

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

Reminds me of the experience I had while working as a mining engineer for a gold-producing company; my particular work there was doing reserve estimation. One of my co-workers had a prior job doing the same thing but was asked to leave that company because he couldn't get the same rosy reserve numbers that another mining engineer consistently got. Those rosy reserve numbers obviously propelled the company's stock much higher than factual numbers would, so that company kept the mining engineer that gave them better numbers. However, the old saying "proof is in the pudding" applies. When they mined these deposits, the ounces of gold were nowhere near the rosy predictions. So yes, your reason why climate scientists keep wailing on about doom and destruction so they can keep getting funding is valid. It happens in many areas, unfortunately.

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

Thanks for the great write-up!

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier


This was my first time visit to your site. You saw the same glaring contradiction that I've been wondering about with regards to salinity. Your presentation on the matter was excellent. I've been debating the pH and coral bleaching hype at another pro-AGW site and like the salinity hype, it appears to be an art of making the science fit the desired headline du jour. When you point out relevant studies that explain reasonable natural causes (or other human activities unrelated to global warming - in the case of corals), they resort to ad hom. Seriously, if there were any non-tabloid non-post modern science that supported the salinity story line, I would accept it. However, asking for objective traditional science these days is heresy. Alas, I remain duly unconvinced that the salinity and pH alarmism is grounded in any science at all.

BTW: I've bookmarked your site and will visit often.

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

Lawrie: Arithmetic isn't my strong suit, so it wouldn't surprise me if I made a snafu, but the ocean is so huge compared to the atmosphere that the right answer must be around about that place. Good idea to send to the rag, BTW.

Rockyroad: Yes, it happens all over. I'm not sure why anyone trusts reserve numbers from the company itself though.

Hank: I wondered afterwards if they would try to claim they were only talking about the top layer. But the gulf stream guarantees that the top layer eventually sinks, and the top layer idea only works temporarily (while the temperature changes), so the system would have to settle down to something close to my calculations, I am reasonably certain.

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

Alot of good presausive evidence on both sides of the discussion but if we due get hit by the nasa predicted solar flares storm sometime around 2012 and it scorches the earth, would that be because of mans carbon footprint on the earth?

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

The main danger from solar flares is to electronic equipment - expensive but not an earth scorcher. The carbon footprint is a very good thing because it makes plants grow. More food more life more happiness.

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

If you really want to disprove the AGW you should first show competence on the available evidence.

First and foremost piece of evidence that none of the "debunkers" ever talk about is the constantly increasing CO2; and how the measurements of the increasing CO2 concentration matches human CO2 production.

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

Since when is too much of a good thing good for you?

[Response: 15ppm above the point at which photosynthesis stops is WAY WAY BELOW "too much of a good thing". Each ice age in the current cycle has gone deeper than the one before, and since CO2 follows temperature, it doesn't lead it, the next ice age would be expected to be deeper, colder, and with less CO2 than the last one. The extra human generated CO2 might be the only thing that prevents the end of life on earth as we know it. There isn't enough fossil fuel in all the world to raise CO2 even close to levels that we already know allowed life to thrive riotously - e.g. the Cambrian explosion, and the era of dinosaurs.]

Re: Man-made climate change evidence flakier

Well you've shown INcompetence on the available evidence I'll give you that.

Climate realists not only talk about the increasing CO2 it is a showcase reason why AGW is false. CO2 is going up and temperatures are not. CO2 historical records over the past million years TRAIL temperature by 800 years. At the depth of the last ice age, CO2 fell to within a whisker of the point at which plants cannot photosynthesise and thereafter life as we know it goes extinct - the final cataclysm. the extra CO2 over the past 40 years has fed hundreds of millions of people by increasing plant growth. Warm times are proven by historical fact to be good times, and cold times are bad times. AGW is insanity even if it were true. Wake up! You've been sold a tragic and dangerous lie.