Have Global Temperatures Reached a Tipping Point?

Written by Arthur Viterito Professor of Geography (Ret.) College of Southern Maryland

Two previous studies, The Correlation of Seismic Activity and Recent Global Warming (CSARGW) and The Correlation of Seismic Activity and Recent Global Warming: 2016 Update (CSARGW16), documented a high correlation between mid-ocean seismic activity and global temperatures from 1979 to 2016 [1, 2].

As detailed in those studies, increasing seismic activity in these submarine volcanic complexes is a proxy indicator of heightened underwater geothermal flux, a forcing mechanism that destabilizes the overlying water column.

This forcing accelerates the thermohaline circulation while enhancing thermobaric convection [3, 4, 5, 6]. This, in turn, results in increased heat transport into the Arctic (i.e., the “Arctic Amplification”), a prominent feature of earth’s recent warming [7, 8, 9].

Employing the same methodology outlined in CSARGW and CSARGW16, this study extends the analysis through 2017. As such, the lower troposphere temperature anomalies (global) from the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) are employed. These datasets are then averaged, and the resulting means define the global temperature anomalies (hereby referred to as “temperatures”) from 1979 to the present [10].  The time series for the UAH and RSS datasets can be seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1. UAH and RSS global temperature plots, lower troposphere, 1979 – 2017.

It follows that the seismic frequencies for these high geothermal flux areas (HGFA) serve as the independent variable in the analysis. Specifically, this includes the 4 to 6 moment-magnitude events from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the ridge complexes of the Indian and Southern Oceans, the East Pacific Rise, the submarine triple junction areas, the Carlsberg Ridge, the Reykjanes Ridge, and the West Chile Rise (Figure 2), [11].  These frequencies are then correlated with the mean global temperatures (Figure 3). It is important to note that a two-year lag is factored into the analysis: The 1979 HGFA seismic frequency is paired with the 1981 global temperature, the 1980 HGFA frequency is paired with the 1982 temperature, and so forth, for the entire series.

Figure 2. HGFA seismic frequencies, moment magnitude range 4 – 6. The gray bars indicate HGFA seismic frequencies (i.e., the frequencies for 2016 and 2017) that can serve as predictors of global temperatures going forward (i.e., 2018 and 2019).

Figure 3. Time series plot of HGFS seismic frequencies and global temperatures (2-year lag).

The resulting correlation between the HGFA frequencies and the lagged global temperatures is 0.777, a statistically significant outcome that explains 60.3% of the variance in global temperatures. By contrast, an unlagged pairing of CO2 concentrations (ppm) with global temperatures yields a (lower) correlation of 0.735 (Figure 4), [12]. More importantly, multiple regression analysis (Table 1) reveals that mid-ocean seismicity is a significant predictor of global temperatures (p<0.05) but CO2 is not (p>0.05).

Figure 4. Time series plot of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and global temperatures (unlagged).

Table 1.  Parameters of multiple regression analysis employing HGFA seismic frequencies and CO2 concentrations as predictors for satellite-derived global temperatures.

A striking development for this experiment is that 2017 marks the first three-year decline in HGFA seismic activity since 1979 (Figure 2). Furthermore, the 2017 HGFA seismic count is 49% lower than the study period’s peak frequency in 2014, the year of the last “Super El Niño”.  When viewed within the context of the entire time series, the 2017 drop-off mirrors the jump in HGFA seismic activity experienced in 1995, albeit in the opposite direction. The 1995 “tipping point” was significant as global temperatures spiked in lockstep two years later, followed by a 21-year “plateau” in both global temperatures and HGFA seismicity, a.k.a. “The Pause”. It is reasonable to conclude that this recent “gapping down” may be a tipping point towards cooler global temperatures.

Using HGFA seismic frequencies as the sole predictor of global temperatures going forward, there is a 95% probability that global temperatures in 2019 will decline by 0.47 OC ± 0.21 OC from their 2016 peak. In other words, there is a 95% probability that 2019 temperatures will drop to levels not seen since the mid-1990s.  As with any prediction, there are innumerable confounding factors that can impact the accuracy of this prognosis, including surges of subaerial volcanic activity, sudden changes in solar output, changes in cloud cover/height/opacity, and data representativeness problems, to name but a few. Despite these pitfalls, this type of exercise provides fresh opportunities to learn more about the role of mid-ocean geothermal inputs to the climate system. This new knowledge could prove valuable towards solving the climate puzzle, one of the most intriguing and complex projects the geosciences have ever undertaken.


  1. Viterito A (2016) The correlation of seismic activity and recent global warming. J Earth Sci Clim Change 7: 345.
  2. Viterito A (2017) The correlation of seismic activity and recent global warming: 2016 Update. Environ Pollut Climate Change 1: 103.
  3. Ballarotta M, Roquet F, Falahat S, Zhang Q, Madec G (2015) Impact of the oceanic geothermal heat flux on a glacial ocean state. Climate of the Past Discussions 11: 3597 – 3624.
  4. Scott JR, Martozke J, Adcroft A (2001) Geothermal heating and its influence on the meridional overturning circulation. Journal of Geophysical Research 106: 31141 – 31154.
  5. Mullarney JC, Griffiths RW, Hughes GO (2006) The effects of geothermal heating on the ocean overturning circulation. Geophysical Research Letters 33: DOI 10.1029/2005GL024956
  6. Urakawa LS, Hasumi H (2009) A remote effect of geothermal heat on the global thermohaline circulation. Journal of Geophysical Research 114: DOI 10.1029/2008JC005192.
  7. Chylek P, Folland CK, Lesins G, Manvendra KD, Wang M (2009) Arctic air temperature change amplification and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Geophysical Research Letters: DOI 10.1029/2009GL038777
  8. Serreze M, Barry RG (2011) Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis. Global and Planetary Change 77: 85 – 96.
  9. Screen JA, Simmonds I (2010) The central role of diminishing sea ice in recent Arctic temperature amplification. Nature 464: 1334 – 1337.
  10. Microwave Sounding Unit Temperature Anomalies (2018) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Web. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/msu/. Accessed 1/31/2018.
  11. Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (2018) Wilber 3 event selector. Web. http://ds.iris.edu/wilber3/find_event. Accessed 1/31/2018.
  12. Earth System Research Laboratory (2018) Full Mauna Loa CO2 record, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Web. https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/. Accessed 1/31/2018.

Comments (5)

  • Avatar

    Joseph Olson


    “Motive Force for All Climate Change” posted at ClimateRealist.com in May 2009

    My engineering studies included a semester of Geology and two semesters of Thermodynamics. It was obvious studying the Carbon forcing hypothesis that variable geothermal forcing was grossly underestimated. I was fortunate to met Dr Viterito at the Heartland ICCC-9 Lukewarmist Love Fest in Las Vegas, July 2014 and review his excellent corollation of USGS Seismic data and the Nino/Nina PDO. It was an insane two year struggle to get this Truth published. My website has a number of additional articles on this, including the phase change camouflage of heat flow data.

    “Earth’s Missing Geothermal Flux” at FauxScienceSlayer

    Also see….”Volcanic CO2″ by Timothy Casey at Geologist-1011

  • Avatar

    Robert Beatty


    Interesting to note the comment in the attached paper ‘The Correlation of Seismic Activity and Recent Global Warming’, May 11, 2016: “However, the majority of earth’s geothermal heat is released along the mid-ocean spreading zones, a 67,000 km tectonic complex for which we have very little data. The problem in accurately assessing heat flow from these high geothermal flux areas is that they are poorly sampled.”
    This pretty accurately summarises the problem, but what we do know is that lava spewing out on the ocean floor arrives at temperature between 700oC and 1300oC. Also hot water discharging from geothermal vents exists at over 400oC. This heat finds its way to the surface as plumes of hot water which quickly spread out and become indistinguishable from other sea surface temperature inputs.
    The level of geothermal activity is not constant. We can deduce this from the parallel ridge activity either side of the mid ocean spreading ridges.
    In the currently published fourth paper in ‘A Constant Universe’ series at paragraph 7, I noted “Information from John L. Casey suggests that expanding Earth may be a spasmodic event associated with solar minimums, which is further evidenced by the periodic lava outflows at the Katla Volcano, Iceland,”
    This all leaves open the big question: Is the Earth expanding and under what circumstances?

  • Avatar



    There are pools of liquid CO2 at depth near underwater seismically active sites. National Geographic calls these rare, however considering how little investigation has been done IMO that is the reason they are rare. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060830-carbon-lakes.html
    I also remember National Geographic use to have an article about the deep ocean abyss where someone (I do not recall but I feel he was a rich Hollywood director or some-such) financed and had built a special sub to go down there. They too found large pools of CO2 as well as anomalously thick pools of high salinity water. Needless to say National Geographic has expunged such reports from their site (except the one referenced above).
    My point is, if an area near these large CO2 pools were to become more volcanically active then the upshot might be the liberation of copious amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. However I can not foresee this idea ever being investigated given the current state of climate studies.

    • Avatar

      jerry krause


      Hi Tom,

      Often I do not agree with what you write, but your idea of pools of ‘liquid gases’ (liquids– gases having liquid densities because of pressure) has to be driving the explosion of volcanic ash high into the atmosphere. Mount St. Helens in 1980. I have a recreational property in southern OR with a couple of miles long vertical (about 30ft) extruded lava rim rock behind which has drifted ash in which pine trees grow because the ash soaks up any precipitation like a sponge. No doubt pools of densified gases are required as the mechanism which ejects the ash and is different from the mechanism which extruded the lava rim rock. I do not need to be a geologist to understand (explain) what I see.

      Have a good day, Jerry

      • Avatar

        jerry krause


        Hi Robert and Tom,

        I just overlooked the obvious. We know there are pools of liquid water beneath the earth’s surface. We know there was (maybe still is, I do not know) Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, etc.

        Robert, you consider what I consider to be ‘far-out things’ (pun intended). A question: Could nuclear fusion reactions occur if the water pressure was great enough?

        Have a good day, Jerry

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