Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is the Ocean Still Warming?

The latest data seem to show a very considerable slowdown in ocean warming, starting a few years after the slowdown in atmospheric warming.

That raises an obvious puzzle. As I understand the situation—readers are welcome to correct me if I am wrong—there are satellite measurements of incoming and outgoing radiant energy, and they show a substantial net inflow. If atmosphere, surface, and ocean are all warming much more slowly than they were twenty years ago, where is that energy going?

The two obvious alternatives are that we are missing something, that warming is happening somewhere we cannot readily measure it such as the deep ocean, or that there is something wrong with the measurements that show a net inflow. I do not know enough to offer an educated guess as to which is the case and no other alternatives occur to me.


Quantummist said...

Might I suggest reading upon magnetic field and cosmic high energy particle modification of the atmospheric chemistry and an answer to your question..

Robert Ayers said...

From "nature geoscience" at

For the decade considered, the average imbalance is 0.6 = 340.2 − 239.7 − 99.9 Wm when these TOA fluxes are constrained to the best estimate ocean heat content (OHC) observations since 2005. This small imbalance is over two orders of magnitude smaller than the individual components that define it and
smaller than the error of each individual flux. The combined uncertainty on the net TOA flux determined from CERES is ±4 Wm (95% confidence) due largely to instrument calibration errors. Thus the sum of current satellite-derived fluxes cannot determine the net TOA radiation imbalance with the accuracy needed to track such small imbalances associated with forced climate change.

Fred Mangels said...

I wonder about geothermal energy from underwater volcanoes and such? Yahoo News recently had this story on how volcanoes are believed to be responsible for melting antarctic ice:

Perry E. Metzger said...

"Anonymous" writes: "That's why people get tired of denialist BS from clueless economists that suddenly have found a new calling"

First, Dr. Friedman has not claimed to deny the AGW hypothesis, he is (somewhat publicly) getting informed about the topic and discussing what he's learning.

Second, he has asked a question, which you could have chosen to answer politely rather than insultingly.

Third, ad hominems (i.e. noting he's an economist rather than a physicist -- except his PhD is in fact in physics, not that it matters) are not rational arguments, they're in fact the opposite. Indulging in the ad hominem fallacy is a way to attempt to get people to stop thinking clearly about what they're discussing and focus instead on the persons making various points -- an ugly habit to have, and one that is incredibly shameful.

Fred Mangels said...

Perry wrote, "First, Dr. Friedman has not claimed to deny the AGW hypothesis,...".

In fact, if I've read him right, he is a believer (note the small b). He simply doesn't have a problem with looking at arguments that supposedly support AGW or CAGW with a critical eye, something Believers(note large B)generally won't do.

David Friedman said...

"He's a believer."

I am a believer in AGW, a skeptic about CAGW, but interested in evidence on both.

Josh Sacks said...

I don't think there's any point in relying on pre-Argo data (~2004), or comparing post-Argo trends with pre-Argo trends.

Pre-Argo the uncertainties are just too large-the oceans are vast and our abilities to survey them accurately were quite limited. You can come to any conclusion you like given the sort of corrections and statistical choices you need to make in working with the scattering of pre-Argo data.

Tom Bridgeland said...

Where is the heat going? Just a thought, but the Earth is said to be greening. A fair amount of energy may be taken by photosynthesis, and is being locked up in plants, such as sea algae that die and sink to the bottom, and any other fairly permanent biomass.
Not saying this is the actual situation, as I have no idea how much energy this could possibly be.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous 12:45

I'm not quite sure what you're saying here. Are you saying heat from the atmosphere is being deposited straight into the ocean 700-2000 m below the surface? Because I can't really make sense of that physically. (David is a physicist so maybe he has a better understanding of that than me.)

I mean, the best case for saying that more heat is going into the ocean would be that the 700-2000 m parts of the oceans are suddenly absorbing far more energy from the 0-700 meters parts than before, so that the increased absorbance of the 0-700 meters from the atmosphere is being nullified, but that's not really reflected in your graph, so it seems like the best interpretation of the data is that the ocean is in fact absorbing either exactly as much or slightly less heat from the atmosphere, while the heat exchange between the 0-700 m and the 700-2000 m parts of the oceans is still in regular effect.

Or maybe I'm completely mistaken. I'm sure someone more learned than I could weigh in.

Unknown said...

Hi David, it would be interesting to get your thoughts on this article:


Daublin said...

The comment from Robert Ayers seems very important to me: even though we lack the data to accurately measure flux to the necessary degree, surprisingly reputable people are propagating the idea that there is a definite net incoming flux.

It's similar for the comments about tree ring data that Friedman posted a few weeks ago. It is not clear that we have any convincing link between ring widths and temperature at all, and yet, surprisingly prestigous people are propagating arguments based on just such a link.

We need to do a better job of verifying information before forwarding it, or at least, of verifying information before developing more arguments on top of it. The Internet has greatly increased the speed that interesting information propagates through the population, but only to a lesser degree has it increased the effectiveness of policing that information for correctness.

John Cunningham said...

I am not a physicist, so this is perhaps a stupid question: if there is no warming in the surface down to 700m levels, and the 700 m to 2000m levels, how is the heat being transitted below 2000m?