A very public own goal…

Airconcover.jpgIt didn’t take long for my last post to draw a reply from Ian Wishart, and — no surprises — it’s another lengthy diatribe. Unfortunately for Ian, it is also a very public own goal –demonstrating very nicely one of my central contentions: he doesn’t understand the stuff he’s writing about. Here’s the relevant passage (sorry about the lengthy quote, but it takes him a while to get his shot lined up):

…Gareth helpfully directs to a NASA feature on ocean cooling. There’s nothing in it that contradicts my usage of Willis in the book, but what it does say backs up one of my other assertions that Gareth had a problem with in our “anonymous” discussion thread on Tumeke previously about the impact of undersea volcanoes on ocean heat and GHG emissions.

When I pointed out scientists have recently discovered a massive volcanic field under the Arctic that began erupting in a catastrophic, albeit submarine, sense in 1999, Gareth, posting as “Response to Ian”, stated:

“If you are implying that they are influencing Arctic sea ice you are absolutely out in la-la land. The amount of heat released is miniscule compared to the heat capacity of the cold Arctic ocean.”

So if a large volcanic field under a relatively small area of ocean has no impact on warming the water, why does the NASA study on ocean cooling Gareth pointed us to say this:

“They are also exploring how volcanic eruptions influence ocean heating, and whether a better understanding of how volcanoes influence the energy balance of the ocean will help explain short term variability in ocean warming and cooling”

The NASA feature then quoted the CSIRO research team directly:

“One thing we found was that climate models that do not include volcanic forcing tend to overestimate the long term change, and their simulated decadal variability is not in agreement with the observations…this kind of result tells us volcanic forcing is important, but that we don’t totally understand it yet”.

Another example, then, of Trufflehunter shooting from the lip because he isn’t across the latest scientific research. 95% of the world’s active volcanic vents are underwater. I quoted other scientists in the book who thought volcanic and tectonic activity might well be significant in regard to sea levels and thermal expansion, but Gareth’s response was:

“One possibility that Wishart fails to consider is that tectonics and volcanoes weren’t ignored and their effects are trivial.”

Well, Gareth, go back and read the report you referred us to. Apparently other scientists don’t think they’re trivial at all.

And the ball’s in the back of his own net! It’s a mistake that only someone who had no real grasp of the subject could make, and Wishart makes it in a typically aggressive manner. The CSIRO team are (of course) talking about the cooling effects of large, Pinatubo-style volcanic eruptions (you know, the ones that occur above the surface of the sea) as a brief check of their paper would have told him…

Church et al. (2005) show that large volcanic eruptions cool [my emphasis] the global ocean and produce a drop in global sea levels. While this volcanic signal is clear in appropriately forced models and the global tide-gauge record, it is not as clear in the global thermosteric sea level record (the component of sea level change due to the thermal expansion of the ocean and closely related to ocean heat content), and there are several instances where global sea level is rising but steric sea level is falling…

Looks a lot like Ian’s indulging in “half-baked schoolboy science” to me. I believe the internet jargon for this situation is p*wned.

[Update 7/5: Wishart concedes and admits to “winging it”, but then proceeds to enlarge the deep hole he’s already dug for himself. Any readers care to explain for his benefit precisely why undersea volcanism has a trivial impact on oceanic heat budgets? The rest of his post is just wibble.]

10 thoughts on “A very public own goal…”

  1. Nice…..I’d just come from reading Wisharts post and thought that line of argument looked rather shaky.

    Unfortunately i suspect Wishart and fellow travelers play AGW football by allocating the score to whoever takes the shot…rather than which net it ends up in.

  2. Getting confused between the effect of the heat input of submarine volcanoes and the effect of stratospheric aerosols from subaerial volcanoes? Whew! I thought I’d seen everything.

    But you must admit Trufflehunter is a good name.

  3. His fundamental confusion seems to be between the effect of volcanism on the base climate versus the effect of changes in volcanism on the present warming trend. The former is perhaps considerable, while the latter is virtually nil.

    That this must be so becomes apparent when one considers that eruptive activity globally is a function of the pace of plate tectonics, and that any meaningful change in global plate tectonic activity would make itself known rather quickly. Various components of this activity (e.g. continental drift and mountain height) can be measured with great precision, and are not known to be changing in unexpected ways (a convenient thing for us, given the energies involved).

    Possible local volcanic effects are a different matter, but of course calculating volcanic heat input relative to the thermal capacity of the surrounding seawater isn’t hard to do, nor is measuring water temps in the vicinity of volcanoes.

    Note to Wishart: Heat output from a given volcano is very small, and the surrounding oceans are very large and very cold. The heating effect is quite localized even adjacent to the mid-ocean ridges, which unlike volcanoes are continually generating heat. Recall all those NatGeo shows with the footage taken by mini-subs from right next to the vents and magma flows. Even divers can get very close, depth permitting.

    1. To which I would only add that Wishart is right in one respect (and one respect only) — that there’s a lot of work being done on submarine volcanoes. They are intrinsically interesting, not well-understood, and biologically fascinating. An interesting description of a submarine volcano near Guam includes this:

      Chadwick said that volcanic plumes behave completely differently underwater than on land, where the eruption cloud is filled with steam and ash, and other gases are invisible.

      “In the ocean, any steam immediately condenses and disappears and what is visible are clear bubbles of carbon dioxide and a dense cloud made of tiny droplets of molten sulfur, formed when sulfur dioxide mixes with seawater,” Chadwick said. “These volcanic gases make the eruption cloud extremely acidic–worse than stomach acid–which is another challenge for biological communities living nearby.”

      Ocean acidification is a serious concern because of human-induced carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere. “Submarine volcanoes are places where we can study how animals have adapted to very acidic conditions,” Chadwick said.

      On second thoughts, perhaps Wishart will start speculating that not only ocean warming and ice melt is caused by volcanoes, but ocean acidification too… Just remember you read it here first… 😉

  4. Listen up to Mediawatch on Sunday morning – apparently they are going to be discussing ‘the coverage of climate change in the media and who gets coverage’. I don’t think it’s too hard to predict that they will be critical of Mr Wishart and he will dismiss them as part of the vast socialist conspiracy. Happy to be proved wrong on one of these points.. (or even both).

  5. Or perhaps it’ll be Chris de Freitas, in the context of last week’s coverage of the Jim Salinger affair – especially as they are both now in the same department… Watching that with interest. 😉

  6. Hmph, I just tried to post the following comment on Ian’s blog and got a “We’re sorry, we cannot accept this data” message. Any idea why? Anyway, here’s the comment for the record:

    Ian, you and the publishers (or whoever) sure did nail the denier demographic with that cover: Conspiracy theorizing, a sideways slam of Al Gore and a very nubile young lady with a come-hither expression.

    Ah, those red, red lips against that blue background. But good on her parents for seeing the situation in purely commercial terms and signing the permission slip anyway, I say.

    FYI the page from which you reproduced that chart includes the following notice:

    “Confidential & Proprietary. Please note these charts are subject to copyright and may not be reproduced.”

    Also, looking at the full chart I see that three of the entries (out of ten) are on the subject of crockpots and slow cooking. Perhaps this says something about Kiwis, although I can’t imagine what. Any thoughts?

    Maybe someone here can explain about the crockpots.

  7. Steve

    Some wag said on Ian’s blog that a book about crooks and crackpots would be more interesting that what he had to say about Air Conditioning.

    I hope this explanation clarifies your question above.

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