2011-01-13 12:27:11Monckton Myth #1: Cooling oceans
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112
Christopher Monckton is one of the more prominent and popular global warming skeptics kicking around. The Republican Party has on numerous occasions invited him to testify to Congress or the Senate. He is flown all over the globe to speak at public engagements. The Watts Up With That (WUWT) website often grants him a soap box - one example being an exhortation to readers to pressure John Abraham's college after Abraham critiqued a Monckton presentation. And last week, WUWT republished in full a long article by Monckton responding to a Mike Steketee article in The Australian. The glowing response from readers is perhaps best summed up by the very first comment: "The Lord has done well, he’s a hero in my books".

Monckton's response to Steketee's article is a clear example of the rhetorical techniques employed by climate skeptics to paint a misleading picture of climate science. As the article covers many points, we'll take a detailed look at Monckton's points through a series of blog posts, closely examining the science discussed and exposing the techniques Monckton uses. We'll start with point #1:
"A recent paper by Professors David Douglass and Robert Knox of Rochester University, New York, has established that – contrary to various climate-extremist assertions – there has been no net accumulation of “missing energy” in the form of heat in the oceans worldwide in the six years since ocean heat content was first reliably measured by the 3000 automated ARGO bathythermographs in 2003. This finding implies that the amount of warming we can expect from even quite a large increase in CO2 concentration is far less than the IPCC and other climate-extremist groups maintain."

Monckton asserts that the oceans are not accumulating heat, based on the paper 'Recent energy balance of Earth' (Knox & Douglass 2010). This paper considers several estimates of upper ocean heat and find a slight cooling trend in several of the estimates (they also find one estimate that finds a significant warming trend, more on this later). However, this analysis fails to include a number of other reconstructions of ocean heat.

In an effort to create the most reliable measure of ocean heat, various teams across the world combined their efforts into a single 'best estimate' of ocean heat (Lyman 2010). What they found was robust warming in the upper ocean over the 16 years from 1993 to 2008. While the warming trend of the upper ocean from 2003 to 2008 is not as great as the long-term trend, the best estimate indicates the upper ocean is still accumulating heat over this period.

Upper ocean heat content anomaly

Figure 1: Ocean Heat Content anomaly from various teams. Ocean heat is calculated from 0 to 700 metres (Lyman 2010).

However, the Knox and Douglass paper focuses on estimates with a cooling trend, with one interesting exception. They mention one analysis of ocean heat content down to 2000 metres (von Schuckmann 2009) which finds significant ocean warming across the top 2000 metres of the ocean from 2003 to 2008.

Figure 2: Global ocean heat storage (0–2000 metres), measured in 108 Joules per square metre (von Schuckmann 2009).

To put this into perspective, compare the 'best estimate' of upper ocean heat (0 to 700 metres) from Lyman 2010 to the estimate of deeper ocean heat (0 to 2000 metres) from von Schuckmann 2009. The black line in Figure 3 is the upper ocean heat and shows a slight warming trend from 2003 to 2008. The blue line is the ocean heat down to 2000 metres which shows greater warming than the upper ocean, suggesting heat is penetrating down below 700 metres. To state that the ocean is not accumulating heat (or worse, that the ocean is cooling) fails to take into account all the evidence.

Figure 3: Changing heat content of the global ocean, with respect to the mean of 1993 to 2008 (Trenberth 2010). This analysis samples the ocean to 700 m depth and gives an average warming trend of 0.64 W m−2 (pink line). The data available from Argo floats since 2003 enable an estimate to 2,000 m depth (blue line).

Of course, this is not the final word on ocean heat. Another analysis (Purkey & Johnson 2010) reconstructs ocean heat warming down to abyssal depths and find significant amounts of heat building up even at the bottom of the ocean.

Figure 4: Rate of ocean warming. Areas of warming are shaded in red and regions of cooling are shaded in blue with intensity scaled by the magnitude of the warming. The basins from south to north are the Southeast Pacific Basin, Chile Basin, Peru Basin, and Pacific Basin (Purkey & Johnson 2010).

There are several other indicators of ocean heat. Satellites measuring incoming and outgoing radiation are able to measure changes in the planet's energy imbalance from year to year. What they find is the planet's energy imbalance continues to increase (Trenberth & Fasullo 2010).

Sea level is also driven in large part by changes in ocean heat. As the ocean warms, thermal expansion leads to sea level rise. The other contributor to sea level rise is melting ice sheets and glaciers so sea level rise in general is a good measure of global warming. Over the period of Monckton's alleged "no accumulation of ocean heat", sea levels have continued to rise.


Figure 5: Global sea level rise, inverse barometer applied, seasonal signal removed (University of Colorado at Boulder).

To properly understand what's happening with ocean warming, you need to consider all the evidence - measurements of the upper ocean, deeper ocean heat, abyssal ocean warming, sea level rise and satellite measurements of energy imbalance. Imagine a table covered with all this evidence. What Monckton does is rummage through all this evidence, extract the one piece that seems to back his "no warming" position, sweep the rest of the evidence off the table and unequivocally exclaim "there is no net accumulation of heat in the oceans". This is not skepticism. This is ignoring the full body of evidence.

2011-01-13 12:32:42Notes on the above post
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

This is the proposed first post in our Monckton series. A few notes:

  • I just can't bring myself to call it "Monckton Mistakes". It's like saying, oops, Monckton made a boo-boo, an honest mistake. They're not honest. The man is calculated, deliberate and conspires with fellow skeptics for maximum political effect. There may be a slight risk of libel from Monckton - but as I'm the one in the firing line, it's a risk I'm willing to take. But if everyone strenuously objects to "Monckton Myths", I'll reconsider the title.
  • One of my goals with this series is to elevate Monckton to the "face of global warming". Whenever WUWT posts Monckton, I can't help think "how can you collude with that nutter?!" But we should embrace that - if WUWT want to ally with Monckton, let's shine a light on Monckton's flaws while at the same time linking Monckton with WUWT.
  • I'd like to wait till we have one or two more posts ready to go before we go live with this one - just to ensure we actually do have a blog series and the #1 post is not left hanging.
  • While the other blog posts are being composed, I welcome feedback on this one. Be tough and criticial. Read Knox & Douglass 2010 if you get the time.
Thanks!
2011-01-13 12:36:13
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.36.80

What about "Monckton's misrepresentations"? or "Monckton's peculiar construals"?

But actually in this case Monckton is not mis-representing Knox & Douglass: They seem to be saying that the radiative balance is negative. What happened? Who are these guys? Did Lindzen clone himself?

2011-01-13 12:42:36comments
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
71.140.0.210

Looks good, a few comments.

"The Republican Party have..." the Party is singular, so it should be "has"

"(WUWT) website often grant him..." also singular, so it should be "grants him"

The into may focus on WUWT a bit much, but it also gives a reason to quote the "he's a hero" comment, so I'm okay with it.  Plus as you say, it highlights the fact that the Watts bunch are associating heavily with Monckton.  They brought it upon themselves.

I'm a bit confused that Figure 2 says 0 to 2,000 meters had 0.77 W/m^2 from '03 to '08, while Figure 3 puts it at 0.54 W/m^2.  Any idea why?

Need a space between Figure 3 and its caption.

Did Purkey and Johnson quantify the amount of abyssal ocean warming [W/m^2]?

In figure 3 it would be nice to show the sea level data over a longer period, and maybe highlight the 2003-2008 period.  The caption should be italicized for consistency.

I'm fine with 'Monckton's Myths'.  Is Monckton's Misrepresentations better?  That has more of a negative connotation to me, like he's purposefully misleading people (which of course he is, but we're trying not to say that).  I don't think 'myths' has a terribly negative connotation.  I like it.

Just a reminder that my rebuttal to Myth #24 is ready to go anytime (except I'll probably modify the intro a bit before it goes live).  I'll put together another one too, probably on Saturday, maybe earlier.

2011-01-13 12:51:33Schuckmann figures
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

The 0.77Wm-2 figure is the forcing over the oceans. 0.54Wm-2 is the planetary forcing if you average it over the whole globe.

Myths is both pithier and I feel covers more bases. Misrepresentations is a fairly narrow definition and examines his techniques. Myths looks at the end result regardless of whether Monckton is lying, misleading or genuinely mistaken.

Thus in this case, the myth is that the ocean is not building up heat. Monckton is misrepresenting the state of the science by cherry picking one study and neglecting the rest of the evidence.

Will make a few updates based on your feedback, Dana. Thanks!

Re your Myth #24 - do we want to wait till we get through all the other ones before we post yours? Are we going to strictly go through Monckton's points in the same order he does? I don't think that's particularly important - I'm not fussed either way.

2011-01-13 12:58:14dunno
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
71.140.0.210
I don't know if we want to go live in whatever order they're ready, or stick to Monckton's order.  The former would be easier for us, but the latter would make it easier to follow along.  If we can get organized enough to follow Monckton's order, that would probably be preferable.  But in that case we need to figure out who's doing which and make sure they can get them done in a reasonable timeframe to keep up with the Myth per day schedule.  I'll start a thread on organizing this sucker.
2011-01-13 13:29:38Will depend on Robert who has #2, #3, #4
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112
Not a deal breaker strictly following Monckton's order - good if we can do it but not the end of the world if we don't. Robert, how would you be set with your posts? Want to relinquish one of the #2, #3, #4 posts to another author to relieve your workload?
2011-01-13 14:34:22comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.207.106
Hey John,
I can have those posts prepared for tomorrow evening if you like. (canadian time it is 12 at night currently)
My issue is i'm waiting on GISS data so I was hoping that would of been in in a more timely fashion. Really its up to you when I go live!
2011-01-13 14:35:25Suggestion
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
69.129.142.138

How about an homage to author Bob Asprin & call them

Monckton Myth-takes?

2011-01-13 14:44:08comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.207.106
Mythbusters Meet Monckton
2011-01-13 15:02:50Waiting for NASA
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112
It would be ideal if we could include NASA's 2010 figures and seeing as they should be releasing that data within a few days (fingers crossed), we should wait that little bit longer. That's okay - while we wait, others can submit their Monckton Myth posts and we can critique each other's work - I might tweak the #1 post depending on the approach of other posts.
2011-01-13 15:14:46Never mind, just saw that NASA have released their data
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

I was going to email Gavin Schmidt for an ETA - good thing I had a look at that other thread before I made an idiot of myself :-)

So we're all good to go, as soon as the first couple of myths are posted here on the forum, I'll launch #1 and then we'll proceed to add one approximately each day. Remember, don't feel obliged that our numbers have to match up with Monckton's - I think it's fine to either skip over numbers or break up some of his more heavy laden myths into separate blog posts. This is really about Monckton and how he spreads disinformation, not about the spat between Monckton and Steketee.

2011-01-13 15:56:32#2, 3, 4
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
71.140.0.210

I had thought Robert was going to combine #2, 3, and 4 into one blog post/rebuttal.  They're all about the hottest year/decade/trends,  so all subjects could be covered in sub-sections of one post.

We could break it into 3 different posts too, but that's just how I was thinking about it (combined).

2011-01-13 16:43:32Robert's post
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

Robert, no hard and fast rules re whether to handle Monckton's #2, #3 and #4 points in 1, 2 or 3 posts. Or whether to even cover all 3 points. Point #3 is almost nonsensical and devoid in any actual facts.

I would only say the main thing is that each blog post has a central take-home message. In #1, I could've also talked about Monckton's ridiculous statement that SST records only go back 10 years. Patently false (I double checked with my BoM contact just to be sure). But I thought I'd focus on ocean heat rather than cover too many topics and dillute the message - which in this particular case was that Monckton was cherry picking and ignoring evidence, leading to the wrong conclusion. Go with whatever works for you.

2011-01-13 18:09:59
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.67.12

I don't know John, I agree with Neal, Monckton isn't misrepresenting Knox & Douglass, it's these two that are cherry picking. They call Von Shuckmann's result an "outlier", ignore the XBT data which shows warming, and then start pointing the finger at the satellites.  Takmeng Wong, and his colleagues from NASA, must be getting pissed off. First Josh Willis reckons they're wrong & now these guys using Josh Willis' data.

Wish they would hurry up, identify and fix all those shitty ARGO floats. And sort out that XBT fall-rate issue. 

Oh, and figure 5 is entitled "sea level rise 2003-2008, but goes to 2010 (no biggie to me, but in case someone whines) 

2011-01-13 18:27:06Misrepresentation
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

But I don't say Monckton misrepresents Knox & Douglass, just that he misrepresents the science. Does my article give that impression? Perhaps I need to clarify by explicitly saying that it's Knox and Douglass that cherry pick the data then Monckton uncriticially accepts their analysis. But no, even then, Monckton is more than capable of assessing the other lines of data on top of Knox and Douglass.

Thanks for spotting the Figure 5 error.

2011-01-13 19:04:28A few comments
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212

This would make a good updated rebuttal to “Oceans are cooling”.

Another problem with Figure 5: the y-axis has no units. I presume it’s in millimeters but that might not be obvious to everyone.

Also, you say one needs to consider satellite measurements of energy imbalance, but you don’t discuss them yourself.

2011-01-13 20:01:19
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.67.12

John, we're at cross purposes here. You and I and every sane climate blogger on the planet knows Monckton misrepresents the science, he's one of the worst bullshitters going around. But after your lead-in, the very first point is one where it's the scientists who are being misleading, by cherry-picking data over a short time frame. Just pointing out how it might look to those unacquainted with Monckton's nonsense, nothing more.   

 

2011-01-13 21:38:07
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
192.171.166.144

Units on the axes!

 

Also, groundwater extraction may be contributing ~0.8 mm/yr of sea level rise. If that's accurate (and we've missed nothing that cancels it out) then that's about a third of the sea level rise seen. So obviously ice is melting and/or heat is being accumulated in the oceans, but he might use this as a defence (and conveniently forget to mention that it can, at most, account for a third).

2011-01-13 21:40:05
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
192.171.166.144

Also, I'd kill some of the verbiage.

 

"Christopher Monckton is one of the more prominent and popular global warming skeptics kicking around." -> "Christopher Monckton is a prominent and popular global warming skeptic" for example.

2011-01-13 23:53:21
Ari Jokimäki

arijmaki@yahoo...
91.154.99.160

Note that Knox & Douglass are also using a biased dataset (Argo), which I think might be good to mention:

http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/nodc-ocean-heat-content/

http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/nodc-ocean-heat-content-update/

2011-01-14 04:35:53
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
192.84.150.209
In the intro you could recall "Climate Scientists Respond". In that case the problem was serious, his testimony before Congress. In general there's no need to "honour" him with an high level response, basic science and reading the litterature will suffice to expose his tactics.
Good to point to his posts at WUWT, the shame will be on Watt too. Remember Goddard and the Arctic Ice series :)

P.S. sorry for not helping, not much time these days; I can hardly follow the forum :(
2011-01-14 08:22:35
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.239.6
Ari, wanna hazard a guess what the skeptic response will be once the XBT & ARGO floats problems are corrected, and the imaginary cooling disappears?.  
2011-01-14 15:54:11
Ari Jokimäki

arijmaki@yahoo...
91.154.99.160
I don't think there's much guessing involved in that - we know the response, don't we? ;)
2011-01-15 14:03:36Published
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112
I posted #1 this morning. Many thanks for all the feedback to help improve the article. I don't know how I got by before this forum :-)