"Suspicion" of link to global warming is enough

All that's required

The SBS headline this morning screamed “‘Drastic shifts’ in Atlantic sea currents”, a quote lifted directly from a press release from EAWAG Aquatic Research in Switzerland. So why is SBS news interested in an arcane paper about ocean currents? Because the press release contains the magic words “global warming”, which sets off all the alarm bells at SBS (and every other news network on the planet – there are over 600 hits on Google for “drastic shift in ocean current” in the last week). Here’s part of the press release from EAWAG:

Examination of deep sea corals reveals that there have been drastic changes to oceanic currents in the western North Atlantic since the 1970s. The influence of the cold water Labrador Current, which is in periodic interchange with the warm Gulf Stream, has been decreasing continually since the 1970s. Occurring at the same time as Global Warming this phenomenon is unique in the past 2000 years. These results are reported by researchers from the University of Basel and Eawag in the current edition of the scientific journal «PNAS».

One of the oldest known weather systems in the world is the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the periodic variation of atmospheric pressure difference between the Azores and Iceland. It dictates not only whether the winters in Europe will be cold and dry or wet and warm, but also influences the oceanic currents in the North Atlantic. On the continental shelf off Nova Scotia, the NAO seems to control the interaction between different water masses. During positive phases, the oceanography of the north-west American continental shelf is dictated by a relatively warm water mass at 10 degrees Celsius which is salty and nutrient-rich, originating from the Gulf Stream. If the NAO is in a negative phase, the Labrador Current is dominant, a relatively cold water mass at 6 degrees Celsius, which is relatively nutrient-poor scarce and originates from sub-polar regions.

Using new geochemical methods, an international team of researchers including the biogeochemists Prof. Moritz Lehmann (University of Basel) and Dr. Carsten Schubert (Eawag – Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) were able to prove that a drastic change to a «warm water mode» occurred in the western North Atlantic in the early 1970s. This change, the timing of which coincides with and may be directly related to Global Warming, is unique in the last 2000 years.

Now I am no expert in ocean currents, and for all I know, their research may have been carefully undertaken and of a high standard. But look at the flimsy and tenuous links to “global warming” thrown in:

  • Occurring at the same time as Global Warming this phenomenon is unique in the past 2000 years” – in other words, the researchers have made a temporal association with GW, but haven’t any evidence to show causation
  • “the timing of which coincides with and may be directly related to Global Warming” – again, a coincidence, and surely might it also not be directly related to GW? Apparently that option wasn’t considered.

And they can’t seem to get the story straight. On the one hand, the Labrador current has been decreasing continually since the 1970s, but later, they claim there has been a drastic change in the warm water mode in the early 1970s. And the last paragraph sweeps away any remnants of scientific impartiality:

The researchers suspect there is a direct connection between the changes in the oceanic currents in the North Atlantic and Global Warming primarily caused by human activities.

Let me get this straigh:

  • “suspect” – so a hunch is enough now, is it? Apparently so when we’re talking about global warming…
  • “direct connection” – where’s the evidence?
  • “primarily caused by human activities” – this is a peach, and completely exposes the agenda, since even if the changes in the ocean currents were linked to changes in climate, why single out changes allegedly caused by human activities? Why wouldn’t the ocean currents respond to natural climate changes? The currents can’t exactly tell what is causing those changes, can they?

This is another perfect example of decent science being compromised by researchers desperate to play the global warming joker – for publicity I expect. And it worked. But if all these changes happened in the 1970s, surely it would have been caused by global cooling… wasn’t that the scare du jour back then?


  1. “Occurring at the same time as Global Warming this phenomenon is unique in the past 2000 years”

    An intelligent person looks at that statement and ponders “so it hasn’t been unique in 2000 years.. what about before then? There certainly wasn’t any AGW scare back then.. not even a modern industrial society”.

    I guess pondering those kind of things doesn’t sell the news.

  2. I’m in two minds as to whether SBS (and others) continually running news stories like this is the actions of idealogues in the editing department, or just normal people responding to what the public seems to like in the news bulletin – a case of telling them what they want to hear. In the case of SBS/ABC I suspect it is the former, in the case of commercial stations I suspect the latter. In all of the coverage of the QLD flooding, I am yet to hear the words ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’. Which tells me they’ve got data/research that says these terms don’t work/sell anymore, or the short-attention span of the news editors is already looking for the next scare. Or that big floods are scary enough and don’t need embellishment.

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