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The oceans are warming so fast, they keep breaking scientists' charts

Posted on 22 January 2015 by John Abraham

Ocean heat content data to a depth of 2,000 meters, from NOAA.

Ocean heat content data to a depth of 2,000 meters, from NOAA.

Wow, was this a bad year for those who deny the reality and the significance of human-induced climate change. Of course, there were the recent flurry of reports that 2014 surface temperatures had hit their hottest values ever recorded. The 2014 record was first called on this blog in December and the final results were reported as well, here. All of this happened in a year that the denialists told us would not be very hot. 

But those denialists are having a tough time now as they look around the planet for ANY evidence that climate change is not happening. The problem is, they’ve been striking out.

And just recently, perhaps the most important bit of information came out about 2014 – how much the Earth actually warmed. What we find is that the warming is so great, NOAA literally has to remake its graphs. Let me explain this a bit.

We tend to focus on the global temperature average which is the average of air temperatures near the ground (or at the sea surface). This past year, global air temperatures were record-breaking. But that isn’t the same as global warming. Global warming is properly viewed as the amount of heat contained within the Earth’s energy system. So, air temperatures may go up and down on any given year as energy moves to or from the air (primarily from the ocean). What we really want to know is, did the Earth’s energy go up or down?

The trick to answering this question is to measure the change in energy of the oceans. A thorough review of ocean heat measurement methods is found here; we paid the requisite fee to make the paper open access. Anyone can download and read it. 

So what do the new data show? Well, it turns out that the energy stored within the ocean (which is 90% or more of the total “global warming” heat), increased significantly. A plot from NOAA is shown above. You can see that the last data point (the red curve), is, literally off the chart. 

The folks at NOAA do a great job updating this graph every three months or so. We can now say that the 2014 Earth had more heat (thermal energy) than any year ever recorded by humans. We can also say that the folks at NOAA will likely have to rescale their graph to capture the new numbers. The NOAA site is updated by Dr. Tim Boyer and can be found here. Click on slide 2 to view the relevant image.

If people want to read a review of ocean heating that is written for a general audience, I suggest our recent peer-reviewed paper which can be found here.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 51 to 54 out of 54:

  1. michael sweet @51, actually its fairly easy to argue against Bindrunit.  The top, killer argument against his position is that science is not a conspiracy.  As his theory requires global conspiracy by climate scientists, it therefore refutes itself.  We can then move on to the second killer argument, that which is proposed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.  He provides no evidence so it is rightly dismissed.  The third killer argument is, let's see it in peer review.  The simple fact is that peer review is a process of testing your arguments against those who are best able to shoot them down.  A person who will only advance their views on blogs, or in books or articles for the public therefore shows that they do not expect their arguments to survive criticisms from the well informed.  We should therefore take their implicit confidence in their theory seriously, and assume as they implicitly do that their position would indeed fail a proper test.

    We could also, of course, expand on the implications of his theory, eg, land should warm slower than the ocean as his mechanism only applies to the ocean, and implies a reduced energy transfer to the atmosphere, and show that they are simply contrary to the facts.  Or the implication that the maximum warming in the ocean will be along shipping lanes rather than in the Arctic.  (That one is a little trickier.  I think the evidence is against him, but would need to do analysis to confirm it.)

    Finally, we could simply refute his claim that all the forcings are simply made up.  But I see no reason to put more effort into refuting his claim than he has in advancint it, so I will stick with the first thee killer arguments. 

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  2. I would have thought the main derision to aim at bindrdunit @49 would be at his claim that " The greatest energy transfer component in oceans is not from GHGs, but from evaporation."

    Evaporation can be measured quite reliably globally as the atmsosphere has a small capacity for accumulating water vapour and so the resulting rainfall, something easily and often measured, provides a global total, most of which will be evaporated from ocean sources. So (according to AR5 Figure 2.11) we are talking 84 / 0.71 = 118Wm-2(ocean). Back radiation over oceans is probably not greatly different from the global figure of 342Wm-2 which can be taken as a ballpark figure. Again this global average level for back radiationt is not difficult to estabish.

    So what bindrdunit @49 is telling us that 118 > 342 which patently untrue.

    Of course, bindrdunit @49 might have meant his words to be interpreted in a different fashion but if that is so, he should consider using different words, indeed those words whose meaning coincide with the meaning he wishes to convey. After all, that is what the rest of the human race generally manage to achieve.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please keep it civil. 

  3. Tom,

    The argument seems to me to be semantical.  I am sure that if we discussed it we would agree.

    As far as your three points, for point two the deniers argue that scientists have to provide evidence to prove any wild suggestion they can think of is incorrect.  Deniers do not have to provide evidence.

    For point three all deniers know that peer review is pal review so blog posts are the equivalent (or better) of peer reviewed articles.  Why listen to experts when you can read a blog?

    For point one Zeke Hausfather's graph you posted on another thread proves that scientists are conspiring to raise the land temperatures with their right hand while, at the same time, conspiring with their left hands to lower the ocean temperatures.  It is obviously a very deep conspiracy or they could not keep the secret from their right hands!

    It seems to me that Zeke's graph completely puts to bed any claims of tampering with the data by the adjustments made.

    One of my main points is how time consuming and difficult it is to cite exactly the correct graph or paper to make your point.  You obviously read a lot of papers and have a terrific filing system.  It still takes a lot of time to make the detailed posts you provide.  Thank you for all your effort, I have learned a lot from your posts.  Both scientific information and how to frame a scientific argument.  I read a lot here but rarely post because your posts are so good.

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  4. Michael Sweet @54:

    "The argument seems to me to be semantical. I am sure that if we discussed it we would agree."

    I'm sure we would.  I think, however, I was making a significant point.  Two actually.  First, that unsupported rubbish is easilly dismissed by any reasonable person.  If they do not provide the nitty-gritty of their argument the correct assumption is that there is no nitty-gritty there, and that the argument is therefore baseless until they prove otherwise.  It is one of the marks of rational discourse that when making claims, you back them with argument and evidence - not just assume they are right if the people with whom you broach the idea are inexpert enough (or properly dismissive enough, or just otherwise occupied) to not actually pick it apart in front of you.  Only fools assume that the failure of others to disprove some vague idea means the idea is sound, let alone true.  

    With regard to your "skeptical" responses to my "killer arguments", I am sure that many "skeptics" would argue just as you suggest.  In doing so they merely demonstrate that they are in fact "deniers", ie, that their objection to AGW is not rational, is not evidence based, and is really a flim-flam show.  We can hope that onlookers will be rational enough to recognize that.  There is no hope of the "skeptics" such as bindrdunit recognizing it, no matter how copious your evidence or meticulous your argument.

    "You obviously read a lot of papers and have a terrific filing system."

    I do.  It is called Google ;)

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