Earth just experienced hottest June ever recorded





Modeling ocean temperatures is a complex endeavor. There are at least two sides to this controversy, and one of the more thought-provoking critiques I’ve seen suggests that the idealizations which go into the models follow from the desire to believe we can make accurate predictions on ocean temperatures:

[O]ceanographers seem quite reluctant to acknowledge the role of subaqueous volcanism in influencing ocean circulation, ocean ecology, climate variation and CO2 flux. Why should this be so?

One possible explanation is that oceanography and climate science have come to be heavily dependent on numerical fluid dynamic modelling. “Ocean-atmosphere general circulation models” or OAGCMs have become the preferred means of investigating ocean circulation. The ocean-atmosphere model is tuned to settle down, after “spin-up”, to a steady state where it remains until deliberately perturbed by some external factor such as changing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. According to these models the ocean in its natural state is a sort of machine, a conveyor belt steadily carrying heat, salt and dissolved gases around the planet’s oceans in the same unvarying manner until it is disturbed by humankind.

Volcanic activity does not fit this neat picture. Volcanic behaviour is random, i.e. it is “stochastic” meaning “governed by the laws of probability”. For fluid dynamic modellers stochastic behaviour is the spectre at the feast. They do not want to deal with it because their models cannot handle it. We cannot predict the future behaviour of subaqueous volcanoes so we cannot predict future behaviour of the ocean-atmosphere system when this extra random forcing is included.

To some extent, chaos theory is called in as a substitute, but modellers are very reticent about describing and locating (in phase space) the strange attractors of chaos theory which supposedly give their models a stochastic character. They prefer to avoid stochastic descriptions of the real world in favour of the more precise but unrealistic determinism of the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid dynamics.

This explains the reluctance of oceanographers to acknowledge subaqueous volcanism as a forcing of ocean circulation. Unlike tidal forcing, wind stress and thermohaline forcing, volcanism constitutes a major, external, random forcing which cannot be generated from within the model. It has therefore been ignored.

An important question which we should ask, as we move forward, is whether or not the ocean models are making accurate predictions? This is vital information for the public’s attempts to formulate an opinion on the models.

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Lost me at “warmists.”


There are a lot of impressive sounding words in that word salad - but it makes no sense.

For instance, “Volcanic behaviour is random, i.e. it is “stochastic” meaning “governed by the laws of probability”” is just garbage. If something is truly random (and at the scales underwater volcanic activity is taking place, it is), then it is by definition not governed by probability.

Also the idea that underwater volcanic activity affects the heat balance of the global oceans outside localized areas is laughable and is clutching at straws by someone (often an engineer) desperate to sound smart about something he (and it’s almost always a he) has spent no time studying.

Models are designed to abstract natural systems to study their behavior. Models are constantly tweaked, refined, and tested, because that’s how the science and process works. People like this don’t understand that.


I object to the idea that Engineers don’t know how to use abstract models given its what we do all the time.

I would suggest the above commenter just denies climate change exists and not generalilse about a community of hard working people.

That said what HannesAlfven said is rubbish.


Good point - let me be a little clearer.

There is a small subset of engineers who believe that their training and mechanistic view of the world enable them to better judge natural phenomena than those who have spent decades studying those processes.

I did not mean to say that all or most engineers think this way (and apologize if it came across like that). My observation has been that the people who think they have found the “simple” or “obvious” flaw in decades of climatic science are almost always middle-aged male engineers or computer scientists who have none of the basic background in any of the fields of study which they are criticizing.

The vast majority of engineers are hard-working, educated people who recognize the limits of their experience and knowledge - the same as the vast majority of climate scientists and modelers.


I’m sorry to tell you that this map is not accurate.

As you can see, this map represents the recorded temperature in Portugal, relative to the average (anomalies).
In the map you’ve shown, Portugal is above average during june. Well, observe carefully and you can see that according to the National Weather Institute (, that was not the case, as some areas of the country were above, some below average, but mostly, it was around average.


Whether or not people agree or disagree on specific arguments made, I think the larger point is that we should be asking whether or not the models are working — which is the question I left people with. This point seems to get lost in all of the discussion somehow — and yet it is really what should be guiding our views on the controversy.

Switching gears slightly, let’s look at yet another critique that was recently published on this topic:

… Any model, including those predicting climate doom, can be tweaked to yield a desired result. I should know …

… I realized that my work for the EPA wasn’t that of a scientist, at least in the popular imagination of what a scientist does. It was more like that of a lawyer. My job, as a modeler, was to build the best case for my client’s position. The opposition will build its best case for the counter argument and ultimately the truth should prevail.

If opponents don’t like what I did with the coefficients, then they should challenge them. And during my decade as an environmental consultant, I was often hired to do just that to someone else’s model. But there is no denying that anyone who makes a living building computer models likely does so for the cause of advocacy, not the search for truth …

… There are no exact values for the coefficients in models such as these. There are only ranges of potential values. By moving a bunch of these parameters to one side or the other you can usually get very different results, often (surprise) in line with your initial beliefs …

This raises yet a second question: Shouldn’t we be seeking out all arguments on both sides, and comparing the sum-total against each other? I don’t think this approach honestly deserves derision. It seems to me to be how we’ve traditionally done science.

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Steven Goddard’s recent “blink comparators” have made a similar point …

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Is there a preferred term? Seems actually more neutral to me than “alarmists”. If this is derogatory to you, then I’m not quite sure how to state it …

Note this article isn’t simply about predictions, and fishing for reasons to distrust models is very hollow when you consider this is about observed warming. I’ve asked Hannes to leave me alone, and so should do the same for him, but I think it’s fair to point out what is really the topic here.

(Edit: to be clear, I was replying to the following post. I added this because I felt I should explain why I won’t be talking to Hannes, not to start such a conversation.)

You’re mistaken in this. If you observe it carefully, your map only shows five areas within 0.5 degrees of average - whether above or below is not actually marked - and nothing lower than that.

The rest of the country is at least 0.5 degrees above average and in two places more than 1.5 degrees. NOAA’s map averages Portugal into squares marked as warmer than average, so that agrees with the more detailed results.

I’ll grant you that the article is not about predictions, but peoples’ beliefs about whether or not man is causing the warming — which is the actual motivation for publishing these numbers — should be based upon whether or not the models have accurately predicted our observations.

If I am following the debate properly, the very fact that we are talking about the ocean temperatures here is because the models failed to accurately predict the observations. The reasoning goes that the reason we have not seen the warming where it should be, as of recently, is because the warming has occurred within the oceans. People should make sure they are familiar with the following particular graphic, as it seems to offer a reason to question the models …

I find it problematic that we are not talking more about this graphic. It seems to me important

EPA’s Greenhouse Gas ‘Hot Spot’ theory is that in the tropics, the mid-troposphere must warm faster than the lower troposphere, and the lower troposphere must warm faster than the surface, all due to rising CO2 concentrations. However, this is totally at odds with multiple robust, consistent, independently-derived empirical datasets, all showing no statistically significant positive (or negative) trend in temperature and thus, no difference in trend slope by altitude. Therefore, EPA’s theory as to how CO2 impacts GAST must be rejected.

My understanding of the model is that evaporation plays a key role in the warming. The idea is that the rise in CO2 levels will cause the amount of water vapor to rise — especially in places like the tropics — and that this extra water vapor will in turn lead to even more heat trapping, above what CO2 already does. So, if I have that right, then we should really be paying close attention to whether or not the system will “runaway”, out of control.

Mod note: Reminder to stay on topic.

So, we can only talk about the rise in temperature for June? Not about whether or not the models are accurate?

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Volcanoes have occurred pretty much on a regular course since climate records began. There would have to be a lot of increase in volcanic activity (and remember, most of them lie on subduction zones and not scattered evenly) for anything like we’re measuring.


It’s actually impossible to have the conversation without straying from the topic:

(1) The Sun is blasting charged particles at the Earth all of the time. Some hit the Earth; others do not. The effect of this could be only weakly related to solar trends. It’s just as much about the chance of whether or not we are in the line of fire when these blasts happen.

(2) We can see that these blasts have extraordinary temporal effects upon the ionosphere’s features.

(3) The link between earthquakes and these ionospheric changes is a hot topic right now, and even the subject of entire books.

(4) What happens to the charged particles when they enter the Earth’s poles? A reasonable guess is that they cause things of importance to happen within the Earth’s core.

Given that science generally strives to break this larger system up such that it can be analyzed in smaller individual pieces, we should not forget that one scientific discipline can exhibit unexpected outputs that act as inputs to other scientific disciplines. The boundaries between disciplines are constructs we put there to simplify research. Yet, the Earth is not in some sort of box defined by scientific disciplines. It exists within the larger universe, and the disciplines all “talk” to one another in a sense — some more than others, obviously. Part of the task at hand is to figure out exactly how this happens, and in spite of the way we break the disciplines up.

Scientists have traditionally kept an open mind on such questions. Climate science seems to diverge from that historical precedent in that it appears to reify these boundaries as though they are real physical boundaries. That’s not a big deal by itself, but the appeals to immediate action should force us to ask all sorts of immediate questions — to be rigorous, to listen to critics, to check that we are on the right track.

If people are willing to accept that such a complex debate is basically over, then this will definitively alter the very way in which future science is done. It will set a precedent for generations to come, and in areas which have perhaps nothing at all to do with climate science.

I’m sorry if this seems like it’s off-topic, but it seems to me that such rules of engagement basically dictate the results of this conversation — which is fine by me, but probably suggests that this is some form of advocacy. Either way, I’m personally intrigued by all aspects of this (even the rules for discourse), and am happy to let people formulate their own opinions. Science is very complex. Just as you think you know it, you run into results which undermine your confidence.

Which you promptly did.

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Surely we should be asking whether or not the Earth is warming?

Oh - sorry! We’ve already answered that. My bad.