Radio Ecoshock Interview: Record Floods, ENSO, Methane Release, and Slope Collapse


Last week, I discussed the issues of recent record floods, record ocean temperatures despite the negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation, methane release, slope collapse and ocean stratification along with other environmental and ecological issues surrounding our ongoing climate change crisis with Alex Smith at Radio Ecoshock. The program became available online late Tuesday and will be airing on various radio stations around the US this week. You can click on the image above to listen to my 30 minute interview or you can listen to the entire 60 minute program which also includes an interview with Oxford marine biologist Dr. Alex Rogers here.

The professionally produced program will air on 71 radio stations over the coming week and will be continuously available online at Radio Ecoshock. This is, perhaps, one of the best interviews I’ve conducted and Alex Smith is a fantastic host providing fantastically insightful questions and analysis. So, if you have the time, I wholeheartedly suggest you listen to the entire program.

Those familiar with my blog will probably be well acquainted with the topics discussed. In addition, Dr. Rogers provides an excellent analysis of his recently published State of the Oceans 2013 report which is available here. In it Dr. Rogers explores ongoing threats to the world ocean system resulting from human activity and carbon emissions to include ocean acidification, increasing instances of ocean anoxia (both in the deep ocean and near coastlines), as well as the ongoing impacts caused by over-fishing. Rogers also hints at the growing problem of ocean stratification which combines with a warming ocean system to greatly increase anoxia.

State of the Oceans

(Link to 2013 State of the Oceans report here)

Perhaps most alarming is his explanation that fish species such as marlin are already altering their migration patterns due to changes in ocean water oxygen content — an ominous sign that we are already moving to a more stratified ocean state.

For reference, the following blogs will be helpful to those listening:

August 2013: Hottest Ocean Temperatures on Record Defy ENSO, Spur Continental Deluges

Growth Shock and our Climate Change Choices: Mitigation, Adaptation or Harm

A Requiem for Flooded Cities: Russian Flood Disaster Worsens, Amur River to Hit 30 Feet

I Have A Confession to Make: We Are In Trouble

The Methane Monster Grows New Teeth: Sea Level Rise Found to Cause Methane Release, Tsunamis, Slope Collapse

A Song of Flood and Fire

A Deadly Climb From Glaciation to Hothouse, Why the Permian Extinction is Pertinent to Human Warming

Climate Monsters We Want to Keep in the Closet: Heinrich Events, Superstorms, and Warming the Deep Ocean

Leave a comment


  1. Nancy

     /  October 17, 2013

    Terrific interview, Robert!


  2. Its good to hear back from you. I am downloading it now. I am sure it is going to be as informative as your posts.

    I am back in India. I don’t know how crazy things really are all around the world. This year many places in received 170% of normal rainfall. I am sure you are aware of cyclone that hit India last week. Every single place in the world has witnessed abnormal weather event. I would like to know if you are just as optimistic now as you were six months ago?



  3. typo: many places in *India*


    • Thx! Am nearly done with your excellent book. Sorry for the delay. Lots of events and travel this fall. But my feet are finally back on home turf.


  4. Fine interview, Robert. You have an excellent ability to translate complex scientific topics into common, and easily-understood, vernacular.

    I have only one comment regarding the technical discussion. If I understood correctly, you made a reference to oceanic (and atmospheric) warming during an El Nino event. But the ocean actually ‘cools’ during an El Nino – as it transfers it’s heat to the atmosphere.

    In the absence of AGW, we’d see a sine wave-like heating/cooling cycle between the oceans and the atmosphere, always fluctuating around some ‘average temperature’ (conservation of energy).

    Instead, as you correctly pointed out, the ‘average temperature’ fluctuation point continues to rise.

    If I misunderstood, disregard this. It’s a small point in a lengthy interview that held great insights.

    On a side note, very good to see you back blogging here.


    • El Nino:

      “El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters along the tropical west coast of South America.”

      Heating of the eastern Pacific is associated with periodic average warming of both the ocean surface and the atmosphere.

      Often, under current warming, strong El Nino years correlate to warmest years on record like:


      La Nina is the periodic cooling of Eastern Pacific waters and often has the opposite effect.


      • Robert,

        It’s absolutely true that surface waters in the Eastern Pacific are unusually warm during an El Nino event. But this explanation from UCAR explains the larger picture:

        “…Recent work using computer models of ENSO hints that the storage of heat throughout the tropical ocean is a key element. Apparently, as rainfall and cloud cover are reduced during La Niña, the increased solar input heats up the ocean, especially in the deep western-Pacific warm pool.

        During El Niño, heat is transported from the tropics to higher latitudes by ocean currents, and additional heat goes to the atmosphere, mainly through evaporation. Global temperature averages can reflect this heat input, rising by as much as 0.3°C (0.5°F) in the months after a strong ENSO event.

        Thus, the tropical Pacific Ocean loses heat during El Niño and gains it during La Niña.”

        See the section on Anatomy of El Niño here:

        If you think about it, it would have to be that way. The planet’s atmosphere is considerably warmer during El Nino years. That heat has to come from somewhere. It comes from the Pacific Ocean – which means (by definition) that the ocean must be losing heat.


        • I suppose the more exact phrase would be ‘warms into an El Niño event.’

          That said, it’s pretty clear El Niño is the warmer of the two ocean states.

          In noting that ‘El Niño’ dumps Pacific Ocean heat into the atmosphere, I’m satisfied I provided proper technical information. In any case, no one is arguing that heat transfer isn’t involved or that the radiative phase of El Niño doesn’t result in Pacific Ocean heat loss throughout its phase or terminate in cooling as it transfers, once more, to La Niña.


  5. Steve

     /  October 18, 2013

    I found this interesting from the front page of Yahoo headline news this morning. There is no report to go with it. Just a bunch of links to articles about our weather. It’s probably too much work for most, but the information is there for someone who is concerned about what is going on.


  6. Intriguing Tipping Points TV Series Begins Airing Saturday at 9pm EDT
    How does one tell the most important story of our time–the emergence of our great Climate Disruption–without boring one’s audience to tears, but at the same time, not resorting to over-hyped spinning of the science? “Tipping Points”, a landmark 6-part TV series that begins airing at 9 pm EDT Saturday, October 19 on The Weather Channel, aims to do just that. “Tipping Points” follows a group of preeminent scientists as they venture off the grid to explore the perilous tipping points making our weather systems more extreme and unpredictable. The first episode at 9 pm EDT/8 pm CDT this Saturday will be “Amazon Rainforest Risks”. “Tipping Points” host Bernice Notenboom will join Peter Cox, Professor of Climate System Dynamics at the University of Exeter, on an expedition across the vast Amazon Rainforest to explore the mega droughts and tree deaths occurring that threaten the forest’s survival this century.


  7. Sourabh

     /  October 19, 2013

    I listen to your interview. It started with “I have confession to make”…it reminded me of the narration during the first 15 mins in the following documentary

    I am not sure if you have already seen it, but I am sure you will definitely like it.


  8. ‘Rising Seas,’ long-form radio doc on climate change by Alex Chadwick and ‘BURN: An Energy Journal’

    My friend, former NPR colleague, and longtime journalism mentor Alex Chadwick has an incredible new radio documenting hitting the public radio airwaves this week. We’re sharing it here on Boing Boing before it hits the radio-waves. I asked Alex to tell us a little about ‘Rising Seas.’ He explains:


  9. Al Gore: Divest Now From Sub-Prime Coal And Oil Companies Before Carbon Bubble Bursts

    On Tuesday, at 2pm EDT, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project will kick off a live-stream, multimedia event. It will explore how we are all already paying the cost of carbon pollution — and what we can do about it. Details and webcast here.

    Our Nobel prize-winning former vice president has been giving interviews in the days leading up to the 24 Hours of Reality event. Here Gore talks about the financial and investment implications of the fact that we must leave most fossil fuels in the ground if we are to preserve a livable climate:


  10. Gwynne Dyer: Russia, the Maldives, and short-term thinking on climate change

    A really good piece, and some crazy facts about the Maldives.


  11. The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone, it ended because stone working became an *obsolete* technology for progressing civilization.



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