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Global Warming Paws Fails to Materialise: Earth Still Warming and Global Sea Level Rising Like Gangbusters

Posted on 19 November 2013 by Rob Painting

Human industrial activity burns fossil fuels which then release planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere thereby causing the Earth to warm. Most of this "extra" heat goes into the ocean (some 93.4% over the last few decades) and the rest goes into heating the land, global ice, and atmosphere (2.3%)

All these Earthly heat reservoirs are warming, resulting in the global-scale loss of land-based ice from mountain glaciers and the polar ice sheets, and the rise of global sea level. Indeed the rate of sea level rise, although complicated by a handful of factors, has risen at a much greater rate over the last two decades (the period of satellite-based observation) than it did during the rest of the 20th century.

Despite these observations clearly indicating ongoing heat accumulation by the Earth's climate system, climate science contrarians and some mainstream media have been hard out propagating the myth that global warming has paused. This, of course, relies on the time-honoured contrarian tradition of cherry picking - one of the five characteristics of scientific denial.

Surface air temperatures have recently warmed at a slightly slower rate partly due a temporary increase in tropical and mid-latitude wind strength which mixes more heat down into the ocean. Contrarians and some media outlets have misconstrued this slower warming of surface air temperatures for a pause in global warming. The ocean is by far the largest heat reservoir on Earth and the stronger ocean warming means, counterintuitively, that global warming has increased at a faster rate in recent times. Unsurprisingly, contrarians and like-minded media studiously avoid mentioning this highly relevant fact. Or if they do, a lot of hand-waving often ensues in an attempt to dismiss the inconvenient truth. 

Josh Willis is an oceanographer at NASA JPL who has published a lot of peer-reviewed scientific research on the current warming, and rise, of the global oceans. In the NASA: Ask a Climate Scientist video below he gives his uniquely humorous take on the frequently asked question on whether there has been a pause in global warming. Like Josh says, when the world is still warming and global sea level is rising "like gangbusters", pawses are strictly for kitty cats and puppy dogs.

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Comments 1 to 14:

  1. "Get your 'pause' off me you damned dirty deniers!!!"

    Sorry...I couldn't resist :)

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  2. Just as well the oceans are such a large heat sink ... but isn't there a price to pay for all that energy being absorbed into deeper and cooler parts of the ocean, particularly in polar regions?

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  3. This video emphasizes the role of oceans in AGW, and rightly so, because we, land creatures tend to ignore it.

    Once you learn a little bit about climate science (like myself) it turns out the more you learn the more you realise the importance of the state of the oceans as the main measure of AGW and the related catastrophe:

    - oceans absorb 93% of heat from increased GHE

    - oceans are rising as they expand & melting ice adds there

    - arctic ocean dramatically alters in albedo as sea ice melts with extra positive effect (heat from ocean speeds it up more than air temperature)

    - sooner or later, oceans will absorb most of Antropo CO2 pulse (within 100ky timescale)

    - oceans are getting acidic, and it's far too dangerous for CaCO3 forming creatures than the climate change is for us (if kept at 2degrees)

    - our selfish hope is that ocean will absorb most of CO2 peak quickly enough (some 100y) before GIS and WAIS start collapsing... great hope, but what does it mean for coral reefs, foraminifera, crustaceans, and others in the food chain?... ceartain death!

    I think we should repeat those scientific facts over and over until ignorant/denying public understands the extents of the main problem here. That wasting time talking about "pause" in air temperatures does not make sense.


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  4. Mods, we could use a mouseover def for "GIS."  I gathered it means Greenland Ice Sheet because there is one above for West Antarctic Ice Sheet right next to it.  

    chriskoz: "our selfish hope is that ocean will absorb most of CO2 peak quickly enough (some 100y) before GIS and WAIS start collapsing"

    But is that a "selfish" hope or a naive one?  If marine ecosystems collapse, won't that affect humans too in very nasty ways?  Aside from the obvious loss of a major food source (which would presumably lead to even more livestock consumption with its gluttonous emissions tally => anthropogenic amplifying feedback?), I think I've also read about loss of natural harbors and increased coastal erosion, and who knows what other impacts we may not have even thought of?  

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    Moderator Response:

    [AS] GIS Glossary term added.

  5. Agnostic:

    ... but isn't there a price to pay for all that energy being absorbed into deeper and cooler parts of the ocean

    Well, among other effects, there's thermosteric sea level rise:

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  6. "but isn't there a price to pay for all that energy being absorbed into deeper and cooler parts of the ocean, particularly in polar regions?"  Agnostic at 10:41 AM on 20 November, 2013

    I suggest that it threatens the thermohaline circulation.  Would someone speak about the probable effects of a shutdown?

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  7. skymccain - prior warm periods, such as the Mid Pliocene Warm Period a few million years ago would argue against such a scenario. The reduced equator-to-pole and surface-to-deep-ocean temperature gradients back then imply that the thermohaline circulation remained vigorous (but not necessarily constant) throughout the warming. It is something I intend to write about in the future.

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  8. I continue to be mystified that in all the news I read, not necessarily in the MSM but also on sites like this one, I have never seen an article addressing the possibility that through deforestation, and acidification of the oceans, thereby killing phytoplankton, we are destroying the sources of our atmosphere's oxygen. There are two possible reasons for this that I can think of: 1) not being a climate scientist, I don't understand enough to realize that I'm overstating the problem or even creating a bogus scenario, and 2) I am on the right track but the scenario, which should be our #1 concern re climate change, is just too scary for people, even climate scientists, to look at. I would certainly appreciate feedback from anyone qualified to give it succinctly and clearly, or direction to another source where I could find this discussed.

    It's a matter of the demise of almost all lifeforms on the planet. How many organisms do not breathe oxygen besides anaerobic bacteria, tubeworms at ocean floor volcanic vents, etc.? PLEASE RESPOND!

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  9. fulvus @8, try this article.

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  10. Tom Curtis, thank you for response and the reference to the article on the dire state of our oceans, and the implications for marine species survival and indirectly impacts on humans.

    However, this article does not answer my question. Nowhere does it mention phytoplankton and therefore doesn't address the fact that phytoplankton produces 60% of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and that combined with deforestation there is a real chance that terrestrial lifeforms too will suffocate.

    We talk a lot about rising sea levels, wild weather, drought and so forth, but no one seems to be addressing the primary issue that none of this will matter to us because we will be asphyxiated, dead, finis! The end of oxygen breathing life in the oceans is discussed in the article, but it doesn't address the end of oxygen breathing life on land as well. Even the cockroaches will die.

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  11. fulvus@10,

    Please provide the refeence suporitng your claim "that phytoplankton produces 60% of the oxygen in the atmosphere".

    According to my knowledge, the amount of oxygen we are a currently having (21%) is the result of a Gy-long evolution of biosphere, in particular a balance between photosynthesis and fires. Entire plant kingdom contributes to the release of O2.

    Fossil fuels, even if all of them burned, cannot realisitcally take more than some say 0.1% of it (if CO2 increases by 1000ppm which is 1/1000 of total air volume). I don't know of any processes that would negatively alter the biosphere's photosynthetic ability in Anthropocene. Rather opposite is taking place - the terestrial biosphere is responsible of drawdown of about 20-30% of anthropogenic CO2, releasing some of that O2 that used to burn FF back to the atmosphere.


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  12. fulvus@10, I appologise for a typo of your name in my post @11 - I cannot correct it now, unless mods can help me (thanks).

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  13. fulvus & chriskoz, I have attempted to answer some of your questions on a more suitable thread.

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  14. I sent a summary of this paper to a friend who is both a scientist and somewhat skeptical of the AGW consensus. She sent me a response to the article (and a few others that address the gap in arctic coverage) by Judith Curry. I read Judith's response and I had a very hard time following her critique. I have seen some responses to what Judith Curry has written on other issues in the comments on Skeptical Science but I am not aware of anything on this particular issue. I would like to provide my friend with a response to Judith Curry's critique that focuses on the science. Any suggestions?

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