Understanding How Oceans Have Driven Climate Change

A syllabus from Dr. Bernaerts
(Reformatted, illustrated and lightly edited from his comment.)

Thanks for your interest. Let me first briefly outline the main parameters followed by an outline on the two major climatic changes since 1850.

As effective as the wind by ploughing through the sea.

The main parameters:

• At about 1850 the Little Ice Age ended and screw driven vessels entered the scene.

• Commercial motor ships churn-around a sea surface layer down to 15 meters depths, over a distance of 500 to 1000km during a day at sea,

• This results in a large exchange of warmer to colder water and vice versa.

• Any downward exchange happens immediately, and becomes part of the internal structure (heat and salinity). Any interaction between sea surface and the atmosphere happens only under certain (complex) conditions.

• The net impact is that the oceans presumably take in more heat as it is released again quickly.

• 160 years shipping and other ocean uses may have significantly contributed to global warming since 1850 (for example over the nighttime and winter seasons).

• As very little (at best) is known about these processes, the two major climatic changes provide helpful clues.

Main aspects of the two climatic changes, 1918/19-1939 & 1939/40 to mid-1970s.

Warming Period 1918/19-1939
Arctic Warming at the end of First World War is discussed in a book 2009 (p.106) at http://www.arctic-heats-up.com/

Winter temperatures exploded at Svalbard, and subsequently in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic Ocean, warming the Northern Hemisphere until WWII (USA until about 1933, Europe until 1939).The cause was likely a significant shift in the water structure (before and behind the Fram Strait), due to enormous naval activities around Great Britain that changed the heat and salinity structure of water masses from west of GB to the North Sea that all flows north. Naval war is the likely main contributor of this warming.

Global cooling 1939/40 to mid-1970s has two principle dimensions:

A.The three extreme war winters in Europe were the coldest for one hundred years. See my latest book (2012) http://www.seaclimate.com/

I discuss this event over about 175 pages (from a total of 220 pages), as each winter has specific features, as well with regard to naval activities. Europe’s sea areas (including the North and Baltic Sea) have stored a maximum heat by the end of August, which is usually released until end of March. Stirring hot coffee will cool it down; so will 1000 naval ships and other war activities at sea. Cold air from Siberia can take reign. That is anthropogenic climate change purely based on a large scale experiment with climate. It is evident naval actions caused these three extreme winters.

B. The North Atlantic and the West-Pacific became a major naval battle ground after Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Operations penetrated the sea surface layer down to depths of 200 meters, not to mention ships, and airplanes sunk, and the many million shells fired. Global cooling was established for three decades, because several years’ war at sea generated a huge chaos in a very complex water structure (heat & salinity), which needed more than three decades to ‘recover’.


The three extreme winters in Europe “tell it all”. Climate sciences had seven decades time to analyze the ‘large scale field experiment”. A thorough understanding would definitely establish that naval war activities was the major cause, which subsequently would inevitable require to investigate the Arctic warming and global cooling as a naval war related matter (to a very noticeable degree) as well. Actually, understanding “Climate as the continuation of the oceans by other means” would have raised an alert more than one century ago that screw driven vessels and other human activities at sea may change the sea in a way that alters weather and climate.

A good place to start is chapter A3 “Man-made climate –since 1850” at: http://www.seaclimate.com/a/a3.html

Ron; I hope the brief text provides enough aspects concerning the subject. Your further kind assistance to get the message across would be highly appreciated. Thanks a lot, Arnd.

No, Thank you, Dr. Bernaerts.

Oceans Matter: Reflecting on writings by Dr. Arnd Bernaerts

Updated on April 9 and 11 at bottom of post.

In response to my water world post, I was shown the wonderful phrase coined by Dr. Bernaerts:

“Climate is the continuation of oceans by other means”.

In was in 1992 he wrote in Nature appealing to the Rio conference to use the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) to better manage human impacts on the oceans, and thereby address climate concerns. Needless to say, that call fell on deaf ears.

He later elaborates: “Presumably science would serve the general public better when they would listen to Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) who said: “Water is the driver of nature”. Some say that nature rules climate, but water rules the nature on this earth, and the water on earth is so synonymous with the oceans and seas that it can be said: Climate is the continuation of the oceans by other means.”

Dr. Bernaerts is certainly a man worthy of respect and admiration–an expert in maritime law, a passionate marine conservationist, and an historian of naval warfare. All of these are subjects where I have little background knowledge and much to learn.

I see him as a spokesman for ocean scientists, whose views have been little considered in the IPCC rush to judgment upon CO2. Dr. Bernaerts says quite a lot about this at his website: http://www.whatisclimate.com/

It takes some time to understand how his material is organized, with several websites to explore, but there’s lots of data, naval history, graphs and charts to peruse and expand one’s understanding.

An Overview

My comments here are a first attempt to understand his point of view with respect to climate change. Bernaerts makes this observation:

“In the mid 20th Century there had been a 35-year lasting period of global cooling, which had started between 1940 and 1945. The reasoning for causation given by climate science is rather limited, and hardly sufficient. Cooling was evident in the Pacific as well. Could naval war in the Pacific over just three years have contributed to trigger a climatic shift in the North Pacific? If it was not naval war, which mechanism caused the large discontinuity in the mid-twentieth century in observed global-mean surface temperatures? Was it a “natural event”, or by what kick off was this process set in motion?”

While admitting answers are not definitive, he goes on to assert:
“In the North Atlantic and its adjacent seas the naval war in Northern Europe definitely contributed highly. This is due to a much higher extension of the northern North Atlantic towards the pole, and the sensible structure of the warm Gulf Current system that flows through colder water up to the Arctic Ocean . One has to assume that any substantial climatic shift generated in the North Atlantic will inevitably show its impact on the North Pacific as well.”

This leads into a discussion of the PDO:

“While naval activities, just like any wind, have an impact on the upper sea surface layer concerning the temperature and salinity structure, the vastness of the North Pacific in extension and volume, makes it hard to assume any relevance between WWII and the observed climate shift in the early 1940s. But as long as the reason for the shift has not been evidently established, naval war activities need to be regarded as an option, and should not have been ignored. The question is about the impact human activities may have on climate, and this should be known completely as soon as possible. For this reason this investigation restricts the scope on the so-called Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).”

“Until now no mechanism has been identified to explain the shifts. They are rare, and occurred only six times over the last 300 years: 1750, 1905, 1946, 1977, 1998, and 2008 (Biondi, 2001). Concerning the last century N. Mantua identifies two full PDO cycles: with cool PDO regimes from 1890-1924 and again from 1947-1976, while warm PDO regimes dominated from 1925-1946 and from 1977 through (at least) the mid-1990’s (Mantua, 2000), whereby timing may vary according to the researcher, e.g. saying that a warm phase lasted from 1925–42 that turned into a cold PDO cycle from 1943–76 (Zhang, 1996).”

Although the sea surface temperature (SST) data taken during WWII should only be used with caution (Bernaerts, 1996), they need nevertheless be assessed with regard to timing. But the shift in SST and SAT (surface air temperature), show a different time, first in the Europe/Atlantic area (between 1940 and 1942), and in the North Pacific between 1942 and 1945. The set of given SST graphics indicate, at best that pre WWII warming continued maximally until about 1942.”

Elsewhere he theorizes that the stirring action of great and increasing numbers of propeller-driven vessels releases ocean heat into the air, beyond what naturally occurs. He doesn’t claim this is proven, but rather it has been ignored and not studied. He also believes that future cooling is as likely as warming, contrary to what consensus scientists expect.

I appreciate Dr. Bernaerts’ perspective and will be reading more of his extensive work.

Update April 11:  Recent Analyses

Offshore Wind-parks and mild Winters.
Contribution from Ships, Fishery, Wind-parks etc.
25th February, 2015

Click to access k-.pdf

After a moderate March now a cold April? April 4, 2015

Update: Comments by Dr. Bernaerts and myself

Ron; Your essay is highly appreciated. Thanks a lot! As COP Paris is approaching quickly, your presentation is very helpful for raising more interest and discussion on ‘oceans make climate’, about which I would be ready and happy to assist you in exploring my research material, and concepts of the various analyses, as it may otherwise “take some time to understand how his material is organized….” covering the last quarter century.
With best regards

Ron Clutz · April 9

Dr. Bernaerts, thanks for your comment. I am glad my overview of your work was not too far off.

As you can see from my posts here, I am a generalist with a scientific curiosity. Truth be told, I paid zero attention to global warming prior to COP Copenhagen. At that event was the spectacle of nations pledging reductions in fossil fuel emissions, and the pledged amounts totaled up to forecast temperatures at the end of the century.

Amazing! When did we so well understand the climate system to project the future in hundredths of degrees? So I started reading, and soon learned it was a circus act, or even worse a side-show con game. My point: The notion of CO2 as the “climate control knob” offended my sensibility that such a complex reality could be so simply explained.

At the time, I could only say to my friends (who think I am obsessing over this issue) that we are only experiencing natural variability. That is true enough, but I and others like me need an alternative theory of what drives changes in the climate.

That is why your phrase struck me. In the water world post, I noted that global SSTs fluctuate in the same periods as the IPO, and the same patterns appear in surface temperature records. This suggests that the oceans are the source of natural variability, and I believe that is your premise.

Here’s what I want to learn from you. What is the theory, the mechanisms and the evidence for your assertion: Oceans make the climate. Please point me to the writings. Remember that I am a generalist who needs to grasp the core principles underneath the complexity of your specialized knowledge.

Looking forward to your response.

Dr. Bernaerts responds here:


Searching for Potable Water

Report: Majority Of Earth’s Potable Water Trapped In Coca-Cola Products

According to top experts, the new report marks the first comprehensive attempt to measure the planet’s freshwater reserves and determine exactly how much of it is currently locked inside sources such as Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Coke, Dr. Pepper, Barq’s root beer, and other Coca-Cola beverages, making it impossible to use as drinking water, or for bathing or cooking.

“By harnessing the freshwater that exists inside these remarkably abundant beverages, we could more than double access to safe drinking sources worldwide,” said Ghosh.

“Our own country has enough water in its Vanilla Coke Zero to fill Lake Michigan, but in its current state that water is useless to us,” he added.

In an examination of the ongoing drought in California, the report concludes that if it can one day be tapped, the potable water contained within the supply of Sprite in Los Angeles alone will meet the needs of the entire state for years to come.

Full article is here: http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-majority-of-earths-potable-water-trapped-in,38356/

I missed this when it was published beginning of this month. Mind you, with the Onion, it is always April 1st.

Climate Report from the Water World

In 1995 many people saw the cli-sci-fi (Climate Science Fiction) thriller based on polar ice melting and all land surface covered with water.

But that hypothetical world is not the subject of this post, rather it is our very own planet earth just as it is today.

We humans, parochial as we are, imagine the earth’s surface to be land because that is where we live. In fact, the earth’s surface is 71% water, and the Northern Hemisphere (NH) consists of 30% water and 20% land, while the SH is a whopping 41% water and only 9% land. I was reminded of this fact recently while looking at Australian temperature records. The image below shows the effect of living on a piece of land upon a water world.

“Warming over Australia has been consistent with warming in the surrounding oceans.”

Indeed, how could it be otherwise for an island continent surrounded by water? The graph above shows a gentle rising of sea surface temperatures (SST) following the end of the Little Ice Age, overlaid with various ocean shifts (ENSO, AMO, NAO, etc.). Since 84% of Australians live within 50 km of the coast, and weather stations tend to be located where people live, it’s not surprising that the land surface temperature records mimic the sea surface variations.

But the effect is not limited to Australia. Climate research centers estimate global mean surface temperatures weighted according to grids, so those metrics are dominated by the ocean SSTs. 2014 was warm because of the mild undeclared El Nino, which persists today and gives hope to those wanting a record warm year in 2015.

But this is not about CO2. It has everything to do with water heated by shortwave solar radiation, stored and circulating in complex patterns, driven by the temperature differential between the equator and the poles. Scientists are gaining insight into the temperature dynamics of our water world.

The Pacific Makes Waves Worldwide

Among the oceans, the Pacific is the gorilla whose fluctuations drive changes across the water world. Short-term ENSO events ripple globally, and in the longer-term, there are effects from the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), not to be confused with an Initial Public Offering. Here are some recent research findings:

“From 1920 to 2012, there are roughly two warm IPO phases (1924–1945 and 1977–1998, with warm SSTs in the central and eastern tropical Pacific) and two cold IPO phases (1946–1976 and 1999–2012, with cold SSTs in the same region). The most recent cold IPO phase is still continuing. We found that phase switches of the IPO are concurrent with major climate transitions over the globe, including abrupt shifts in SST, SLP, T and P.”

“Annual surface air temperature is positively correlated with the IPO index (i.e., higher T during warming IPO phases such as 1924–1945 and 1977–1998) over western North America except its Southwest, mid-latitude central and eastern Asia, and central and northern Australia, but the correlation is negative over northeastern North America, northeastern South America, southeastern Europe, and northern India. Annual precipitation tends to be higher (lower) during warm (cold) IPO phases such as 1924–1945 and 1977–1998 (1946–1976 and 1999–2012) over southwestern North America, northern India, and central Argentina, while it is the opposite over the maritime continent including much of Australia, southern Africa, and northeastern Asia (Fig. 4b).”

“Besides the direct impacts on decadal variations in T and P, we also found some decadal modulations of ENSO’s influence on T and P on multi-year timescales by the IPO over northeastern Australia, northern India, southern Africa and western Canada.”

“Thus, the IPO is an ENSO-like low-frequency mode not just in its SST and SLP patterns (Zhang et al. 1997), but also in its impacts on T and P and atmospheric fields. These results imply that many of the surface and atmospheric processes associated with ENSO also apply to the IPO phase changes, with the warm (cold) IPO phase resembling El Nino (La Nina). Our results also suggest that it is important to predict IPO’s phase change for decadal climate predictions.”

From: The influence of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation on Temperature and Precipitation over the Globe Bo Dong • Aiguo Dai 2015 http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/adai/papers/DongDai-CD2015-IPO.pdf

So let’s see how those warming and cooling periods show up in the SST historical records. HadSST3 dataset is available here:

I analyzed the annual global record and got the following results:

HadSST3 Global Temperature Anomaly Trends

1924-1945 0.171 C/decade
1945-1977 -0.028 C/decade
1977-1998 0.150 C/decade
1998-2014 0.054 C/decade
1924-2014 0.057 C/decade

If those trends look familiar, it’s because you see the same pattern in any of the global surface temperature datasets.


Living on our water world means our temperatures and precipitation fluctuate according to ocean circulations and oscillations, especially ENSO and IPO patterns in the Pacific basin.

Climate is the continuation of oceans by other means. Dr. Arnd Bernaerts


I think SSTs are a reasonable proxy for natural variability over the last century or so. The long-term trend is 0.5C/century with multi-decadal periods as high as +1.7C/century, and as low as -0.3C/century. The latter one was enough to cause an ice age scare.

In advance of COP Paris, some want to project warming of +1.5C as requiring action. We’ve been there twice already recently, and much warmer still in the distant past.