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Gulf Stream Myths (2)

Another March, another collection of scientific half-truths about the Gulf Stream. I do not believe it is a coincidence that I wrote about gulf stream myths a year ago, quoting also Richard Seager, Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory:

“That the Gulf Stream is responsible for Europe’s mild winters is […] nothing more than the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend. […]

All Battisti and I did was put these pieces of evidence together and add in a few more illustrative numerical experiments. Why hadn’t anyone done that before? […]

The blame lies with modern-day climate scientists who either continue to promulgate the Gulf Stream-climate myth or who decline to clarify the relative roles of atmosphere and ocean in determining European climate. This abdication of responsibility leaves decades of folk wisdom unchallenged, still dominating the front pages, airwaves and Internet, ensuring that a well-worn piece of climatological nonsense will be passed down to yet another generation.”

Nothing has changed since. And so yesterday we have learned that the “Atlantic’s Gulf Stream has huge influence on atmosphere“. But is it really so?

(1) Not to mention Prof. Carl Wunsch, let’s have a look at what NASA has to say about oceanic currents:

“The major surface currents are wind generated (as most other oceanic currents are)”

Therefore, rather than discovering that “a band of rain […] tracks the warm surface water” it may very well be the other way around.

(2) In terms of European warming by the Gulf Stream, let’s also compare like-for-like following Seager’s line of thought: and so the cities to choose around latitude 50N are Vancouver (V) and London (L), not Quebec City or the island of Newfoundland.

Vancouver and London, in fact, have an Ocean to their West: while Quebec City, Newfoundland, or the Avachinsky volcano in Kamchatka, all places much cooler on average than London, are just east of a continent.

And so: weather conditions as from the BBC weather site show very little difference between the two cities. Values in the following list are VancouverLondon: for example “Avg Min: -1.3C” means Vancouver is 1.3C cooler in average minimum temperature, than London.

Average Sunlight (hours): 1.2
Temperature (C):
Avg Min: -1.3
Avg Max: 0.2
Rec Min: -3.2
Rec Max: -0.4
Relative humidity am: 11.4
Relative humidity pm: 6.4
Average Precipitation (mm): 72.1
Wet Days (+0.25 mm): 1.6

As it happens, there are warm Oceanic currents that reach Vancouver. But how likely is it that they are as powerful there as the Gulf Stream is in London? What a remarkable coincidence that would be.

Rather, the best explanation in the Occam’s Razor sense is that the warming of Vancouver and London compared to other places around latitude 50N, is due to a metereological (atmospheric) effect, not an Oceanic one.

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Gulf Stream Myths

2008/03/14 4 comments

(originally published on 18 March 2007 as “Gulf Stream Myths“. Click here for the March 2008 update “Gulf Stream Myths (2)“.)

Myth #1: The Gulf Stream will fail if a massive outpour of freshwater will come out of Greenland glaciers due to increasing temperatures.

Answer: No, it most definitely will not. As explained by Carl Wunsch, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at the MIT in Cambridge, Mass. (USA), in a letter published on The Economist:

The Gulf Stream is a wind-driven phenomenon (as explained in a famous 1948 paper by Henry Stommel). […] Shut-off would imply repeal of the law of conservation of angular momentum […] focusing on near-impossible Gulf Stream failure is an unproductive distraction

Myth #2: The Gulf Stream is responsible for the milder weather in the United Kingdom and part of Northern Europe than North American regions at similar latitudes.

Answer: No, it most definitely does not. As explained by Richard Seager, Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in an article published on American Scientist:

That the Gulf Stream is responsible for Europe’s mild winters is […] nothing more than the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend.

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Seager’s comments are particularly telling on how current Climatology is self-destroying by way of catastrophism:

Pretty much everything we had found could have been concluded on the basis of results that were already available […]

All Battisti and I did was put these pieces of evidence together and add in a few more illustrative numerical experiments. Why hadn’t anyone done that before? […] The blame lies with modern-day climate scientists who either continue to promulgate the Gulf Stream-climate myth or who decline to clarify the relative roles of atmosphere and ocean in determining European climate. This abdication of responsibility leaves decades of folk wisdom unchallenged, still dominating the front pages, airwaves and Internet, ensuring that a well-worn piece of climatological nonsense will be passed down to yet another generation.

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