Skeptical Science explains how we know global warming is happening: It’s the oceans, stupid!

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"Skeptical Science explains how we know global warming is happening: It’s the oceans, stupid!"

The empirical data has spoken. Cancel the global cooling party. Global warming is still happening.

The planet is heating up, thanks to human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases.  But as a new NOAA-led study, “An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950” (subs. req’d, release here) concluded:

[S]ince 1950, the planet released about 20 percent of the warming influence of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to outer space as infrared energy. Volcanic emissions lingering in the stratosphere offset about 20 percent of the heating by bouncing solar radiation back to space before it reached the surface. Cooling from the lower-atmosphere aerosols produced by humans balanced 50 percent of the heating. Only the remaining 10 percent of greenhouse-gas warming actually went into heating the Earth, and almost all of it went into the ocean.

Note that this Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres study was done “without using global climate models.”

Figure 1: “Total Earth Heat Content [anomaly] from 1950 (Murphy et al. 2009). Ocean data taken from Domingues et al 2008.”

That figure comes from the first of two posts by the terrific website Skeptical Science, which I repost below.  Skeptical Science is an excellent, well-organized site to send convincible people for a shredding of the standard, long-debunked denier talking points.

Now I’m sure the deniers and delayers out there are shrieking, “There are peer reviewed analyses that document that upper ocean warming has halted since 2003!” — a claim I dealt with in my July post, “Like father, like son: Roger Pielke Sr. also doesn’t understand the science of global warming “” or just chooses to willfully misrepresent it.”

Subsequently, however, another JGR article, “Global hydrographic variability patterns during 2003-2008” (subs. req’d, draft here) details an analysis of “monthly gridded global temperature and salinity fields from the near-surface layer down to 2000 m depth based on Argo measurements.”  Background on Argo here.   Their findings are summed up in this figure:

Figure [2]: Time series of global mean heat storage (0-2000 m), measured in 108 Jm-2.

Still warming, after all these years!  And just where you’d expect it.  The study makes clear that upper ocean heat content, perhaps not surprisingly, is simply far more variable than deeper ocean heat content, and thus an imperfect indicator of the long-term warming trend.

UPDATE:  Yes, I am aware of the recent upper-ocean heat content data on the web.  Please note that plots of very recent, highly variable upper-ocean content heat data down to 700 meters from unpeer-reviewed sources do not trump peer-reviewed analysis of much longer-term data down to 2000 m.  Is it too much to ask people to actually read this entire post before posting comments?

What follows is a repost of two articles from Skeptical Science discussing these figures and the recent studies in more detail:

[I have renamed the figure in Part 2, “Figure 2″ for the sake of clarity.]

How we know global warming is still happening, Part 1

Skeptics proclaim that global warming stopped in 1998. That we’re now experiencing global cooling. However, these arguments overlook one simple physical reality — the land and atmosphere are only one small fraction of the Earth’s climate (albeit the part we inhabit). Global warming is by definition global. The entire planet is accumulating heat due to an energy imbalance. The atmosphere is warming. Oceans are accumulating energy. Land absorbs energy and ice absorbs heat to melt. To get the full picture on global warming, you need to view the Earth’s entire heat content.

This analysis is performed in An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950 (Murphy 2009) which adds up heat content from the ocean, atmosphere, land and ice. To calculate the Earth’s total heat content, the authors used data of ocean heat content from the upper 700 metres. They included heat content from deeper waters down to 3000 metres depth. They computed atmospheric heat content using the surface temperature record and the heat capacity of the troposphere. Land and ice heat content (eg – the energy required to melt ice) were also included.

[See Figure 1 above.]

A look at the Earth’s total heat content clearly shows global warming has continued past 1998. So why do surface temperature records show 1998 as the hottest year on record? Figure 1 shows the heat capacity of the land and atmosphere are small compared to the ocean (the tiny brown sliver of “land + atmosphere” also includes the heat absorbed to melt ice). Hence, relatively small exchanges of heat between the atmosphere and ocean can cause significant changes in surface temperature.

In 1998, an abnormally strong El Nino caused heat transfer from the Pacific Ocean to the atmosphere. Consequently, we experienced above average surface temperatures. Conversely, the last few years have seen moderate La Nina conditions which had a cooling effect on global temperatures. And the last few months have swung back to warmer El Nino conditions. This has coincided with the warmest June-August sea surface temperatures on record. This internal variation where heat is shuffled around our climate is the reason why surface temperature is such a noisy signal.

Figure 1 also underscores just how much global warming the planet is experiencing. Since 1970, the Earth’s heat content has been rising at a rate of 6 x 1021 Joules per year. In more meaningful terms, the planet has been accumulating energy at a rate of 190,260 GigaWatts. Considering a typical nuclear power plant has an output of 1 GigaWatt, imagine 190,000 nuclear power plants pouring their energy output directly into our oceans.

Figure 1 only goes as far as 2003 as the ocean heat data used (Domingues 2008) only goes that far. What has global warming been doing since then? Since 2003, ocean heat data has been measured by the newly deployed Argo network. However, there have been teething problems with the Argo buoys experiencing pressure sensor issues that impose a cooling bias on the data. Consequently there have been several data analyses on ocean heat since 2003. One reconstruction of ocean heat show  cooling since 2003 (Willis 2008). Other analyses of the Argo data show ocean warming (Levitus 2009, Leuliette 2009, Cazenave 2009).

How do we determine which analyses are more accurate? Ocean heat data can also be independently determined through other empirical means. Cazenave 2009 uses satellite gravity measurements to create two independent estimates of ocean heat – both find warming. Sea level has been inexorably rising since 2003. As a large portion of sea level rise is due to thermal expansion from ocean warming, this is an indirect confirmation of warming.

Lastly, the planet’s energy imbalance is confirmed by satellite measurements of incoming and outgoing radiation. Earth’s Global Energy Budget (Trenberth 2009) examines satellite measurements for the Mar 2000 to May 2004 period and finds the planet is accumulating energy at a rate of 0.9 ± 0.15 W mˆ’2. This is consistent with the amount of heat accumulating in the ocean. Preliminary analysis on the latest CERES satellite data shows an increasing energy imbalance from 2004 to the end of 2008 (although this data is yet to be published, more on this later).

So the point to remember when considering short term cooling trends in surface temperature records is that the atmosphere is only one small part of a planet which is in energy imbalance. Empirical measurements show the planet continues to accumulate heat. More energy is coming in than is radiating back out to space. Global warming continued past 1998 and is still happening.

How we know global warming is happening, Part 2

In our last post, we determined whether global warming was still happening by adding up all the heat content of the climate system.  Murphy 2009 performed this analysis and found that that planet has been accumulating heat up to 2003. Unfortunately their data ends there as the ocean data they used from Domingues 2008 stops at the end of 2003. So how do we find out what’s happened from 2003 until now? Unfortunately, there is no time series (that I know of) of the planet’s total heat content up to present time. However, we do have the next best thing.

Global hydrographic variability patterns during 2003-2008 (Schuckmann 2009) analyses ocean temperature measurements by the Argo network, constructing a map of ocean heat content down to 2000 metres (H/T to Chris for bringing it to my attention). This is significantly deeper than other recent papers that focus on upper ocean heat, only going down to 700 metres. They constructed the following time series of global ocean heat:

[See Figure 2 above.]

Globally, the oceans have still been steadily accumulating heat right to the end of 2008. Combined with the results of Murphy 2009 who finds the planet accumulating heat right to 2003, we now see a picture of unbroken global warming. Over the last 5 years, the oceans have been absorbing heat at a rate of 0.77 ± 0.11 Wmˆ’2.

So what is our planet’s total energy imbalance? Indulge me as I perform some rough back-of-a-napkin calculations. Murphy 2009 found that about 5.6% of the planet’s energy imbalance went into the land and atmosphere. In other words, 94.4% of global warming goes into the oceans. So if the ocean is absorbing 0.77 ± 0.11 Wmˆ’2, this puts the total energy imbalance at around 0.82 ± 0.12 Wmˆ’2. This is a slight underestimate as Murphy 2009 included ocean heat down to 3000m (remember this is back-of-a-napkin stuff).

How does this value compare to other estimates of energy imbalance? Hansen 2005, using ocean heat data, calculated the planet’s energy imbalance around 2003 to be 0.85 Wmˆ’2. Trenberth 2009 examined satellite measurements of incoming and outgoing radiation for the March 2000 to May 2004 period and found the planet accumulating energy at a rate of 0.9 ± 0.15 Wmˆ’2.

All these estimates are consistent with each other. Most importantly, all find a statistically significant positive energy imbalance. The empirical data has spoken. Cancel the global cooling party. Global warming is still happening.

Precisely.

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46 Responses to Skeptical Science explains how we know global warming is happening: It’s the oceans, stupid!

  1. David B. Benson says:

    Tahnks for this post, Joe!

  2. tallbloke says:

    I can see you’ve had the crayon box open again Joe, but have you seen the latest OHC data?

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/09/ocean-heat-content-dropping/

    [JR: I can see you didn’t actually read my post. I should have written it in crayon, ’cause then you might have actually read it and understood it. I have an update just for you!]

  3. dhogaza says:

    Lessee … MIT-trained physicist vs. a high-school trained weather reader.

    I wonder which is more likely to understand the science?

  4. K Nockels says:

    Hang in there Joe, there are just some people who will go to their graves,dening Global Climate Change. The saddest part of that is the children they leave behind that will have to deal with the reality of Global Climate Change. Mine too if we can’t get this problem dealt with before 450ppm.

  5. From Peru says:

    Excellent, terrific article!
    Good work Joe!

    An important thing to note:

    Total Earth heat imbalance: 0,82-0,85 Wm^-2

    Greenhouse forcing: 2,6 Wm^-2 Source: THE NOAA ANNUAL GREENHOUSE GAS INDEX (AGGI)

    Just 31% of forcing was absorbed and retained from the Earth.

    Now substract the 20% from irradiation to outer space and the 20% from volcanic aerosols: remains 1,56 Wm^-2

    Now perform again the ratio: 54,5 % warming the Earth.

    This means the other 45,5 % of the remaining is blocked by stratospheric aerosols: Global Dimming!

    Now imagine a Global Recession(any similarity to real world is only coincidence…) reduces drastically pollution emissions…

    Warming forcing nearly doubles….

    A BIG, VERY BIG TROUBLE….

  6. Christopher says:

    I am pleased to say that having discovered your blog only a week ago, it has already provided me with a good deal of climate insight – used to distinguish fact from fiction when reading chaotic media stories viz. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8299079.stm?lsf

    Does anyone else have any feelings about the BBC’s stance on climate change of late?

  7. Robert says:

    I post the below caption by Damon Moglen of Greenpeace cause it belongs with this Global Warming topic plus i’m sure Joe has covered the same thoughts before. The importance of this subject can’t be repeated often enough! It proves the current legislation is missing the mark and fooling many of those who care!

    [Quote]
    DAMON MOGLEN; Director, Global Warming Campaign – Greenpeace USA writes the following in the Washington Post.com

    The Oct. 1 editorial “The Senate Climate Bill” applauded the legislation’s plan to cut our country’s greenhouse gas pollution by 20 percent by 2020 (a three-percentage-point improvement over the House bill). But it must be noted that the proposed reduction refers to 2005 emissions and not the standard 1990 baseline used by scientists and policymakers around the world. Arranging the numbers this way may be more politically palatable, but it misleads the public on information key to its welfare. To have the best shot at averting the worst impacts of global warming, scientists say that the United States and the developed world must cut pollution by at least 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80 to 95 percent by 2050. Using this accepted standard, the Senate bill shoots for only a 7 percent cut in pollution — less than a third of what is needed — and reflects a lack of ambition that threatens progress toward a fair and effective international climate treaty in Copenhagen this December.
    [End Quote]

  8. Bob Tisdale says:

    Joe Romm: You wrote in your update, “Yes, I am aware of the recent upper-ocean heat content data on the web. Please note that plots of very recent, highly variable upper-ocean content heat data down to 700 meters from unpeer-reviewed sources do not trump peer-reviewed analysis of much longer-term data down to 2000 m. Is it too much to ask people to actually read this entire post before posting comments?”

    As the author of the OHC post you are referring to, I will respond with, Is it too much to ask people to actually read the title of the post before posting responses to it? Had you read my post (Click On My Name) you would have noted that it is based on updated data from Levitus et al (2009), a paper referenced in your post. In fact, “Levitus et al (2009)” is included in the post title and two other times in the body of the post. As noted in my reply to dhogaza (3) (My reply was posted above on October 11, 2009 at 5:21 am with a number of links.) the updated data is available from the NODC website and the KNMI Climate Explorer. If you have any questions about the drop in the OHC data, I suggest you direct them to Syd Levitus.

    Have a nice day.

    [JR: None of what you wrote disputes anything I or Skeptical Science have written. The peer-reviewed full OHC data tells us we’re still warming. Had you actually read my post or the JGR papers, then you’d know there is high variability in the upper ocean data. Congrats. You confirmed the peer-reviewed literature.

    And the fact that you threw the name of peer-reviewed article into your headline doesn’t turn your post into a peer-reviewed article. Heck you don’t even link to the article, which was “published 11 April 2009″ (!!) whereas all the data you list is subsequent to that.

    Note that Levitus 2009 clearly shows continued ocean warming. So peddle your deceptive BS elsewhere!]

  9. graphicconception says:

    So, the sea has been storing increasing quantities of heat. Presumably, this increases its temperature? Any increase in sea temperature will cause some CO2 in the sea to be released into the atmosphere.

    Does anyone know by how much the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has been increased because of this sea warming?

  10. dhogaza says:

    So, the sea has been storing increasing quantities of heat. Presumably, this increases its temperature? Any increase in sea temperature will cause some CO2 in the sea to be released into the atmosphere.

    You mean to say “increase the rate”, it’s not as if the slightly cooler ocean wasn’t outgassing CO2 before.

    The amount being outgassed by the sea is still less than that being absorbed by the sea. The oceans are still a net sink and will be until an equilibrium state is reached, which won’t happen until 1) we stop increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and 2) it warms until outgassing and absorption are in equilibrium.

    Along with being basic science, it’s being observed – oceans are acidifying as a result of absorbing more CO2 than is released.

    Does anyone know by how much the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has been increased decreased because of this sea warming?

    There, I fixed that for you. Thus far the ocean and biosphere combine to take up about 1/2 of the CO2 we emit, most of that the ocean. So the amount of increase of CO2 in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuel, concrete manufacture, etc is cut nearly by half by ocean absorption.

  11. dhogaza says:

    graphicconception is sort of onto a point, though …

    As the ocean warms, its effectiveness as a sink will be reduced, thus the CO2 we emit will lead to a more rapid increase in atmospheric concentration of CO2.

    Making things worse.

  12. From Peru says:

    Making things even worse…

    when we will stop emitting CO2 to the atmosphere (i.e when the current economic system will be sent to the dustbin of history, wait some decades more)…

    the oceans will began to return their CO2 to the atmosphere, stabilizing current CO2 levels for centuries at levels enought to a sea level rise of… 30 METERS!(Source, recent article in Science, see the blog http://www.climatechangepsychology.blogspot.com/)

    Again BIG, VERY BIG TROUBLE….

    JR: As an additional question, what has happened to my second post yesterday asking about the possible cause of the drop in upper 700 m OHC described by Bob Tisdale post?

  13. fred g says:

    Believers in global warming are having to start to talk up oceanic temperature, since it is obvious to all who have functioning bodily temperature sensors connected to a functioning brain that there is no global warming. Now a study has come along showing that oceanic heat content is FALLING precipitously:

    [JR: Gotta snip the rest of this. “Study”? Nice try. Anyway, come back when you learn the difference between a blog post and a study.]

  14. Paul Klemencic says:

    There is yet another way to estimate the heat build in the oceans, and that is by sea level rise (SLR). SLR from ice melt can be estimated now that we have GRACE data on ice pack melt for Antarctica and Greeenland. In addition there is some effect from salinity changes, or net impounded water in large water projects, but these tend to have much smaller effects on SLR.

    The biggest cause of SLR so far, has been the thermal expansion of the seawater in the oceans due to the buildup in heat in the oceans. Deniers like Tisdale seems to look at just one set of data in isolation from other confirming data. This is evident in the statements made by deniers, like global warming stopped in 1998 (looking at global atmospheric temperature anomalies, and ignoring the higher 2005 peak in one of the key global temperature data sets). They also like to look at upper level ocean heat content, as though the new fleet of the Argo diving buoys can accurately measure the entire heat content of the ocean.

    But sea level rise is relatively straightforward… the seawater in the oceans is heating up, and this is driving sea level rise. And YES!! Sea levels are higher today than 1998!! Can everyone now see the big lie, about global warming stopping in 1998, and the even more outrageous lie that the planet is cooling since then?

    You can find some nice graphs of sea level rise, by just googling, but if readers want to read a little bit of history about the Willis work on this (his paper originally showed upper ocean cooling) and how he had to correct his original studies, cut and paste this link to a NASA site report in your browser (note that this is to page 5 that shows a graph of various causes of SLR), but you can click back to start at page 1 if you wish):
    earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/OceanCooling/page5.php

  15. Paul Klemencic says:

    Followup showing how SLR clearly shows ocean heating:
    Here’s a nice graph from the University of Colorado that shows the recent measurements of sea level. From what I understand that thermal expansion of seawater is responsible for roughly half of SLR, with the next biggest influence being melt of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

    (cut an paste) sealevel.colorado.edu/current/sl_ib_ns_global.jpg

    Can anyone look at that graph, and see how global warming stopped in 1998? Deniers are certainly in love with their lies.

  16. Edward Greisch says:

    Thanks, Joe. Forwarding your email to Congress. Suggest others do likewise.

  17. E.A. says:

    I think you’re being a bit harsh on Bob Tisdale. He really doesn’t claim much of anything regarding the data he plotted, although it’s being used by the denier camp as “evidence” once it reaches the Watts blog.

    The new ARGO data seems to suggest that 700m is not deep enough to catch the changes in OHC. This agrees with some of the recent observations regarding deep ocean warming, e.g.
    http://oceans.pmel.noaa.gov/Pdf/gcj_3f.pdf

  18. Jay Alt says:

    #7 Christopher asks about a BBC editorial.
    I see it as a lone editorial by a BBC TV weather ‘presenter.’ It’s not unusual for that crowd to be confused.
    There are many problems with the claims Hudson repeats, not the least of which are the sources.
    The cosmic ray goose chase has been debunked here and on Real Climate.

    The science journalists doing regular BBC reporting are solid. Richard Black usually covers the climate beat. On Sunday he covered yet another peer-reviewed study that should be a warning to us.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8299426.stm

  19. Andrew says:

    The Skeptical Science articles are absolutely devastating. With that evidence, you can bring it all together to make a pretty airtight logical proof for global warming. To logically prove that humans are NOT causing the observed increase in temperatures, you need to prove BOTH of two things:

    First, how can it be possible to pump more of a known greenhouse gas into the atmosphere WITHOUT temperatures increasing?

    And second, if CO2 is not causing the observed warming, then what IS?

    The link to the full post is below. I don’t think any skeptic has ever offered convincing evidence of either of these points, and certainly not both. Lindzen, for example, sort of eats around the edges of the SIZE of the temperature increase due to CO2, but can’t point to anything that could have caused the rest of the warming we HAVE seen.
    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/09/obama-speaks-on-global-warming-what-you_22.html

  20. MarkB says:

    Bob Tisdale,

    Levitus 2009 shows a clear long-term upward trend in upper ocean heat content since 1970, with various spikes and plateaus along the way. The work cited by SkepticalScience reveals ocean heat content down to greater depths. I’m not sure what the point of your post is other than general obfuscation.

  21. tallbloke says:

    With the rate of OHC decline in the north atlantic I predict surface temperatures will be at Jan 2007 levels within 14-17 months. Don’t put those old parkas on ebay yet.

  22. ShellyT says:

    Thanks for this and I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of your proof. I’m getting lots of the global “cooling” comments too.

  23. tallbloke says:

    Paul Klemencic says:
    October 11, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    “The biggest cause of SLR so far, has been the thermal expansion of the seawater in the oceans due to the buildup in heat in the oceans. ”

    Latest estimate is that the steric component of sea level rise since 2003 is around 20%
    http://etienne.berthier.free.fr/download/Cazenave_et_al_GPC_2009.pdf

    I think we will find out later that this isn’t right, but anyway, whatever the sensor drift, it’s less than half what it was according to our best current guess.

  24. David B. Benson says:

    Unfortunately Bob Tisdale has some rather far-out ideas about how the climate system works. Just ignore him as best as one is able.

  25. Mark says:

    So what is heating up the oceans? The Sun?

    Explain how so little mass (atmospheric CO2) can absorb and release enough
    energy to warm the ocean or the atmosphere which are many order of magnitudes larger.

  26. John Cook says:

    Mark, the sun isn’t heating up the oceans because the sun has been cooling since the solar maximum in 2001. In fact, solar levels are at their lowest in the last 100 years. So the oceans have been warming from 2001 to the end of 2008 while solar activity has been falling.

    The enhanced greenhouse effect from rising CO2 levels has been observed by satellites measuring the spectra of infrared radiation escaping out to space. They find less radiation escaping to space at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy, consistent with expectations. This is also confirmed by surface measurements of downward infrared radiation which also finds increased heat at CO2 wavelengths, consistent with theory and satellite measurements.

    If you’re genuinely interested in finding out more about the empirical evidence that CO2 is causing warming, I link to all the peer reviewed research at:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/How-do-we-know-CO2-is-causing-warming.html

  27. Gavin says:

    Updated data through to Jun 2009 (in 3 month chunks) are available from NOAA directly (look at ‘World’) and are significantly different from the numbers plotted by Tisdale or available via KNMI. There is no precipitous decrease in April-May-June for instance. A graph showing the difference (that accounts for the different units) is available here (2000-2009) and here (1956-2009).

    It always pays to go to the source before drawing too many conclusions.

  28. Gavin says:

    Data on the KNMI site has now been corrected.

  29. Bob Tisdale says:

    Gavin: Thanks for notifying KNMI of the corrections that the NODC made to their OHC data on October 15, 2009. Geert Jan of KNMI acknowledged you and so have I in my initail post about the NODC’s corrections to their OHC data. The appropriate corrections at my website have been made.

    Also, I was glad to see that the NODC updated their quarterly data on their website through June 2009. I presume the updates to those datasets were part the other October 15, 2009 NODC OHC corrections and updates. And if it was you who brought the original mistake by the NODC to the NODC’s attention, then I will thank you for that as well.

    My posts illustrate NODC data that was posted by the NODC and available through KNMI.

    Have a nice day.

  30. zanardm says:

    Might one have a warming planet, without CO2 increase? The last 15,000 years is evidence for such case, since pre-industrial CO2 is considered as ~280. If one had a slow down in vertical mixing (i.e. lower surface water turnover; say 1% over 100 yrs for 15,000 yrs- giving 150%), resulting gradually in persistent surface warming; then might this surface ‘greenhouse’ effect (assuming all other parameters constant), result in increased photosynthesis, and hence an increasing carbon sink – reinforcing a lower atmospheric CO2? Hence perhaps warming of atmosphere from upper layer of ocean, while maintaining a lower atmospheric CO2? Would such scenario (model) seem applicable to Holocene warming? Might Paleocene/Eocene warming have also had a lower CO2; rather than the assumption that a warm planetary period must have a high CO2, or of other greenhouse gases such as methane?

  31. Shirley says:

    This is a great article with great citations and links. However, as a budding climate scientist (at 37 I went back to school and am getting close r to achieving this goal) there is a piece to the puzzle that I imagine in my mind and am not hearing anywhere about SSTs: glaciers are melting, adding fresh, less dense, very cold water into the system. The cold water won’t rapidly mix with the more dense saline water nor sink because it’s less dense. Would’t it therefore be expected to have some SST cooling, at least until the glaciers are all gone? I see this as another part of the complicated struggle to reach equilibrium within the system. I’m no physics whiz, but I have done the experiment where you put ice and water in a glass with a thermometer and watch the temp as the ice melts. It doesn’t change (I’m sure you can find this on YouTube if you don’t want to try it yourself). Thoughts on this?

    [JR: Some of the warming has gone into melting ice — and indeed, the ice is ending up in the ocean faster than the models predicted because of ice dynamics. And yes, that ice then has to be melted. So I to believe that affects the rate of the surface temperature warming, but I haven’t seen any studies on this.]

  32. Mark says:

    The enhanced greenhouse effect from rising CO2 levels has been observed by satellites measuring the spectra of infrared radiation escaping out to space. They find less radiation escaping to space at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy, consistent with expectations. This is also confirmed by surface measurements of downward infrared radiation which also finds increased heat at CO2 wavelengths, consistent with theory and satellite measurements.

    How can radiate or how can heat ‘flow’ from a area of lower energy (i.e. the atmosphere) to an area of higher energy (i.e. the surface of the earth)?

    Should it still flow from the earth’s surface, through the atmosphere into space?

    Just wondering, considering thermodynamics suggest that the basic heat flow is from the surface of the earth to space.

  33. Mark says:

    ” Mark, the sun isn’t heating up the oceans because the sun has been cooling since the solar maximum in 2001. In fact, solar levels are at their lowest in the last 100 years. So the oceans have been warming from 2001 to the end of 2008 while solar activity has been falling. …”

    And so just how does a small amount of mass have enough internal energy to warm the oceans which are orders of magnitude larger then?

  34. chris says:

    Mark, the absorption of longwave IR by the atmosphere (greenhouse gases), slows down the rate at which thermal energy from the earth’s surface is dissipated to space.

    So the cooler atmosphere isn’t transmitting net thermal energy to the warmer surface. The atmosphere is slowing the rate at which surface thermal energy is lost.

    In other worlds the surface is a tad warmer than it would otherwise be without the enhanced greenhouse effect. Since the greenhouse effect is slightly enhanced by additional greenhouse gases, so the loss of surface thermal energy is slowed a bit further.

    Since the earth system is temporarily out of radiative balance with an enhanced greenhouse effect, and at equilibrium the flux of solar radiation into the earth system must achieve a balance with the outward flux, the earth system warms up to restore radiative balance.

    Another way of thinking about this, is to consider that as greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere the average height in the atmosphere from which IR is dissipated to space (equivalent to a temperature around 255K, which is the temperature of a “naked” atmosphere-free earth bathed by the solar flux) is shifted to higher altitudes. Since higher altitudes are cooler than warmer ones, the layers of the atmosphere (and surface) must warm in order to bring those regions of the atmosphere to 255K and thus restore equilibrium (radiative balance) where the solar flux at the top of the atmosphere is balanced by radiative emission of IR back into space.

  35. Albert says:

    Do you have some mathematical models to support your response to Mark above?

    I can’t get my math to add up and I can’t get my ‘average height in the atmosphere from which IR dissipates to space’ to change either.

  36. Leif says:

    Another way to look at this problem is that most of the sun’s energy that hits the earth is reradiated back into space via long wave IR radiation. So even thou there has been a bit less solar energy available to heat the earth we have compensated the loss by putting on an extra blanket, CO2. The earth’s heat lose has been relatively stable over many eons with minor fluctuations to anomalies such as volcanos or huge fires, solar fluctuation, etc. Equivalent to adding or removing a blanket for a while. The curious thing about our blankets is that they are transparent to the incoming short wave, UV, radiation but very good insulators to long wave , IR, radiation. Think about two large stones side by each. Both heat up each day in the sunshine but at night you cover one with a couple of blankets. That stone will be warmer in the morning than the one that was left exposed. Should there be cloud cover, another block to IR radiation, both will be warmer than on the clear nights and both will start a bit warmer in the morning but the covered rock will still be the warmest one. Over the course of a summer you will be able to raise the temperature of one significantly more than the other with the same radiation impute. And so it is with the earth except we continue to add an extra blanket day by day, year by year to our peril.

  37. Leif says:

    It does not heat to infinity, it heats to equilibrium. Like wise the CO2 does not heat and cool as you imply, it retards the long wave IR radiation readmitted by the earth to dissipate into space as clouds do. The clouds do not absorb all the heat that the earth radiates over the course of a night, it prevents the long wave radiation from escaping to space as a clear night allows. CO@ and other greenhouse gases are just an other barrier to that long wave radiations escape from our earth. Just as two blankets might not keep you warm on a cold night but three or four might. Clouds do not heat up significantly, they slow heat transfer.
    You said it yourself, your thinking is in fact gibberish.

  38. Brad says:

    Good information, well presented, Joe. Just a minor grammatical quibble: ‘data’ is plural (the never-used ‘datum’ is the singular). Thus, we should say “these data are,” “the data show” (not “shows”), “there are few data..” etc. Alas, even most scientists don’t seem to know this, or have long forgotten, but it is nonetheless true.

  39. Dennis B says:

    That’s great article. However I do have a big problem. Calling a skeptic a “denier”. This reminds me of Galileo who was also labeled a denier.

    To call someone a denier you must be discussing absolute truth. The best anyone has at this point is various studies and charts which can be interpreted and misinterpreted depending on the overall goal or mood of the scientist.

    If you find someone skeptical, the best thing you can do is listen to them with an open mind and then see if their “denials” have any merit.

    Next time you use word “denier”. Remember pain and suffering denier Galileo had when he went on about the earth being round, that old fool just couldn’t go along with the program… stupid denier!

  40. Albert says:

    Since the earth system is temporarily out of radiative balance with an enhanced greenhouse effect, and at equilibrium the flux of solar radiation into the earth system must achieve a balance with the outward flux, the earth system warms up to restore radiative balance.

    Too a point.

    Once the higher equilibrium is re-established, the rate of heat transfer goes back up….

    Thus cooling the surface…

    Until we heat up space, the heat transfer rate will not change.

  41. Leif says:

    Albert, you are barking up the wrong tree.
    Except for the fact that we are continuing to increase the green house gasses faster than the earth can reach equilibrium, plus we are flirting with tipping points, (methane, forest loss, ocean saturation, etc.), that only make maters worse. None of which addresses ocean acidification. I hope you like eating jelly fish.

  42. Albert says:

    Lief

    The mass of the earth by itself can not sustain a given temperature at night without input from the sun. While large bodies of water do have some ability to store heat energy, yet, even without the sun, these large masses of water cool and freeze over.

    So again tell me how something in parts per million has enough internal energy to release when it cools to warm a mass on the order of millions times larger?

    We already know that the atmosphere does not have enough internal energy to heat anything.

    As for the blanket idea, blanket my a**. Try a couple of small thin threads…

    Too little energy, too little mass and space which way too cold.

  43. Larry Gilman says:

    Figure 1 is a bad graphic. The large colored areas under the curves, with labels smack on them, encourage the viewer to look at the _areas_ as the anomalies — whereas the actual anomalies are the curves _above_ the areas. In other words, the graphic makes visual integration of the curves almost inevitable, reflexive. E.g., comparing the sea to land/atmosphere anomalies, one ends up — perceptually — comparing the areas, not any 2 particular curve values — in effect, approximately squaring the actual ratio. The data are amazing enough without this implicit exaggeration.

    In the graphic representation of quantitative information, in general, adding large swatches of ink does not clarify, it confounds.

  44. Steve says:

    Steve
    12/24/09

    Well I don’t think it’s el nino but global warming,the tempertures are all altered but the oceans are warming up in many places which allows more evaporation to form in the oceans,which causes stronger storms,we are seeing it slowly getting wetter around the world,but we been in a drought for so long it’s still will take time to see a big change,the climate has been changing throughout time,so don’t be surprise if the climate will be much diffrent then it use to be.

  45. Lamont says:

    I tried to replicate Bob Tisdale’s heat content graphs from the same data and can’t replicate the cooling that he found:

    http://www.scriptkiddie.org/2009ohc.png

    I think either he made a mistake in analysis, or else he simply made a mistake by using preliminary data.

    Reinforces Romm’s comment about peer-reviewed analysis being better than bloggers.