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In Hot Water: Ocean Heat Content Continues To Soar

By Joe Romm  

"In Hot Water: Ocean Heat Content Continues To Soar"

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Some 90% of total global warming goes into heating the oceans. NOAA has several charts showing that the oceans are rapidly heating, just as climate scientists predicted. Here’s one:

As the saying goes, what goes down must come up. Ocean heat is going to come back up. That is precisely why climatologists predict a looming climate shift to rapid surface warming, as discussed here.

h/t Andy Revkin

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48 Responses to In Hot Water: Ocean Heat Content Continues To Soar

  1. Lawrence N. Allen says:

    Even before Reuters saw the light and became denialist, they ran a story, the headline of which implied that global warming had somehow stalled out, ignoring the oceans which absorb over 95% of the excess heat.

    • Will Fox says:

      The vast majority of mainstream media (even the BBC) focus on the 5%. Scientists need to communicate their message better and make clear that land/air temperatures are only a tiny part of the overall picture. It’s absolutely insane and ridiculous that people aren’t talking about this more.

  2. fj says:

    I remember hearing in a colloquia years back that convection below 500 feet is not understood; and a lot of the heat is below 700 feet.

    Seems like this is very serious.

  3. Daniel Stockton says:

    At what depth does the increase in temperature affect formations of methane clathrates? In one Atlantic zone the clathrates form at 190m and continue downward to 450m.

  4. David Goldstein says:

    I wrote about this very situation a few months ago over at HuffPost: “Our 90% Problem”. I’ll post it here for some additional (and, hopefully, interesting) reading on this enormously significant but sadly overlooked situation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidgoldstein/the-first-level-of-disrup_b_2975223.html

  5. Jack Burton says:

    I encourage everyone to look into the present Siberian heat wave as high pressure has locked a heat dome over Siberia right up to the shores of the Arctic sea. Clearly we are watching global warming in action. Also, check into Arctic sea ice conditions.
    Heat over the North Pole, rain storms instead of snow fall.
    Look, the evidence is now everywhere you look. And all this is taking place in the midst of a natural cooling state for the planet. La Nina is in place, yet global warming has swamped it’s cooling effects. All we need now is a El Nino to come along in a year or two, when this adds heat to the global warming, then the record books will be torn up, as simple physics dictates some global record smashing.
    Siberia is getting what Arctic Canada has a few weeks back. Fires raged in Alaska, Northern Canada, Quebec and NOW they have gone out of control in Siberia. Too remote to fight, they simply burn gigantic square mileage.
    As always, the deniers are out in force “trolling” blogs and new sites with mass campaigns of lies. It is almost funny to watch the deniers find a thousands reasons why all that we now witness is not global warming. Pathetic!

  6. fj says:

    We must bring emissions to near zero as fast as possible on a scale of about five years.

    We must figure out what natural feedback systems are accelerating runaway climate change and we must figure out how to slow and ultimately stop them.

    We must start restoring our planetary home.

    This is an emergency of the hightest order and must come before everything else.

    We badly need leadership that can act in this extreme situation at the largest possible scale.

    • David Goldstein says:

      because we ‘must’. of course, does not mean it is going to happen…just as ‘because some try as hard as they can’ does not mean it is going to happen- but you never know!!

    • fj says:

      We need true leadership plain and simple.

      Situations happen and lots of people make noise but those that can act and face what is happening head on with ongoing success and resolve, they are our leaders; our commander in chief.

      We need a true commander in chief who will show us by his actions that we will prevail.

    • Paul Magnus says:

      The only way adequate emissions will be brought down at this point is through rationing. I cant really see that happening… unless we see an escalation of war or hostilities on a global scale in such away that forces this.

      And hostilities are just around the corner both from an internal and external threats as we see societies struggle with all the maxed out systems we have.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        You are quite correct. The West is growing ever more belligerent and aggressive, meddling in the affairs of every country, launching active subversion or military assault, directly or through murderous proxies and sanctioning states that do not follow orders. Undoubtedly they understand ecological realities, and that the non-Western world attempting to reach average Western levels of consumption (let alone the massive over-consumption of the moneyed elites for whom this planet is being made uninhabitable for our species)is impossible. So a period of ‘demand destruction’ is required, as the Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Somalis, Libyans and Syrians already have experienced. Overturning China is the big prize, and the most dangerous.

        • Martin Gisser says:

          What about Syria, Darfur, Rwanda? Any belligerent West there? Nope. When the system goes over the edge due to climate change, resource depletion and/or overpopulation you will need no meddling by the West. People will start killing each other all by themselves. Will we end up with cannibal concentration camps on Greenland?

          • wili says:

            “Syria, Darfur, Rwanda”

            All created by a belligerent West.

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            Thanks wili. I very much fear that Martin really doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but he does have the requisite lurid imagination.

    • fj says:

      The rapid escalation of environmental hostilities we are seeing right now will force us to work together.

    • fj says:

      Net zero and net positive designs rapidly deployed in transportation and building retrofits, zero waste strategies, and large scale environnental restoration will cause emissions to plummet.

    • fj says:

      Poor people first will greatly amplify the value of human capital joining the fight while reducing population growth and helping to secure and stabilize global rule of law.

      The poor are the greatest stakeholders and will likely be the most incentivized in winning the war for survival.

      • fj says:

        Poverty eradication, universal healthcare, universal advanced education . . .

      • John McCormick says:

        fi, your optimism is valued.

        ou cannot factor out the illiteracy and near total lack of empowerment among the poor and surely among the very poor.

        Pakistan is a nuclear armed nation with a population of 187 million, contributes about .8 percent of global GHG emissions and is the most vulnerable among nations. In one of its 5 Provinces, Sindh, in the South ot the Country and includes Karachi, the financial capital of Pakistan the literacy rate is 10 percent and the taliban and gangs are rampant. Not much to work with there because the population has a lot more than sea level rise that will eventually annihilate a good part of Karachi.

  7. fj says:

    Right now we are racing against time.

    And we must hope and have the strength that we will prevail despite what this most extreme situation can and will throw at us.

    We must unilaterally act now at wartime speed. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing this.

    Others will follow.

  8. Jack Burton says:

    Just talked to a friend from Florida. He was telling me that statistically his area was overdue for a major hurricane making landfall. I told him that sea temperatures have been rising in response to global warming. Now we have the measurements that prove that the ocean in taking up most of this added heat. So now we know, this ocean heat is the energy that drives hurricanes. One can guess that something out of the ordinary could be brewing. We saw what Sandy did and she was fueled by unusual Atlantic sea temperatures. It is not hard to imagine a major cat 5 gathering strength from the warming seas and making landfall as a cat 5.
    Heat is energy. The ocean is gathering energy to release. The atmosphere has produced several record tornadoes in short order, how would we react to a couple record hurricanes coming a few weeks apart?
    Never fear, the US Congress will ignore it, the deniers will find more evidence against the hockey stick, and all science will be put down to liberal bias. Since when is Physics liberal? Amazing stupidity marks mankind as we march into the new world climate. In response, all governments and business interests are moving to mine Tar Sands, to drill the Arctic, to set deep water drilling records, to frack America and now Europe. Look at the UK government’s fracking plan! Yep, half of the United Kingdom will be drilled and fracked. This is going to be Britain’s major energy play for the next few decades.

    • Solar Jim says:

      Agreed.

      However, there are discontinuities afoot. Worldwide revolutions against nation-state-sanctioned globalized corporate fascism are in play (including against those of the fossil-fissile kind).

      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        Yes, resistance is growing rapidly. People are not taking this lying down, ME

  9. Aaron Lewis says:

    The real problem is that this heat will tend to destabilize sea floor clathrates, which could allow large and rapid carbon feedback.

  10. grant says:

    back of envelope calculations make that an average temp increase of .00003 degrees C. in the ocean waters.
    I would like to know what the 90% confidence interval is for the values. I suspect that there is not enough precsion in the temp. sensors to make any reliable values in the 10^22 range of heat energy.

    • ryan says:

      The Great Arctic Flush
      http://arctic-news.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/the-great-arctic-flush.html

      looks like a cyclone similar to the one in August 2012 is forming right now in the arctic.

      perhaps some more specific plans for individual, community, and mass action are needed. i don’t think the commander in chief has anything helpful along these lines…

    • Mark Shapiro says:

      Better envelopes are available. These sites might help:

      http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/ocean-heat-content-calculated-based

      http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

      They start with measured temperature anomalies and integrate over areas and depths.

    • squidboy6 says:

      Or better yet, why not see the data from Argo itself?

      “The research led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego physical oceanographer Dean Roemmich shows a .33-degree Celsius (.59-degree Fahrenheit) average increase in the upper portions of the ocean to 700 meters (2,300 feet) depth. The increase was largest at the ocean surface, .59-degree Celsius (1.1-degree Fahrenheit), decreasing to .12-degree Celsius (.22-degree Fahrenheit) at 900 meters (2,950 feet) depth.” Source New Comparison of Ocean Temperatures Reveals Rise over the Last Century at https://scripps.ucsd.edu/news/1858

      Plus some have pointed out that Argo misses the very top layer of the sea which warms the most.

      • grant says:

        A).33 degrees C = 1.6*10^6 joules/cu. meter
        B)ocean volume 1.3*10^9 cu. km.
        C)1 cu.km. = 1*10^9 cu. meter
        A*B*C = 2.128*10^24 joules

        It would seem that the numer of joules in .33 rise in temperature is 15 times the amount shown on the graph.
        The graph represents a rise in temp of .02 Celsius
        (I was wrong in my original calculation because I buggered up the conversion from grams/ml to liters)

        • BillD says:

          Is your volume for the top 2000 m? Not much happening at greater depths and most of the warming is in the top 100 m.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    An out-of-control natural gas well off the Louisiana coast caught fire after an explosion on board late Tuesday, the Coast Guard tells CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57595204/explosion-fire-on-blown-out-evacuated-gulf-gas-well/

  12. Lionel A says:

    David Shukman at the BBC pens another mixed message piece of confusion: Why has global warming stalled?

    • Spike says:

      Par for the course with the Beeb post-Hutton. It is a “wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie” too scared of annoying the Lords and Masters in the UK.

    • Solar Jim says:

      Because that is what the richest industry in world history wants the media’s propaganda to say.

      Can you say “globally organized crime syndicate?” These are backed (subsidized, exempted and indemnified) by national treasuries and “central banks.”

      The biggest (and quite ecocidal) racket on Earth.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      For my money Shukman personifies the confusionist, a type quite prevalent at the BBC. The BBC is the English Establishment propaganda service. That is all you need to know.

      • Belgrave says:

        Although the BBC is still in my favourites under “News and Current Affairs” I scarcely ever look at it any more. They seem to be frightened of offending anybody with power.

        Richard Black was a fairly decent environment correspondent but he left at the end of last year & environment seems to have been subsumed within general science. Very poor!

  13. james day says:

    This is why the starfish are moving deeper into Maine waters- they seek cooler temps.

    1 of 100′s of examples.

    Where & when is the correction? It will be horrific..

    • grant says:

      15*10^22 joules == .02 deg. Celsius. This makes them move to deeper water? I would prefer examples that do not bring out the sarcasm in me.

      • BillD says:

        Temperature increases are much greater in shallow waters. Starfish are often in the intertidal zone.

  14. Michael Pope says:

    Introducing this article, Joe Romm writes: “As the saying goes, what goes down must come up. Ocean heat is going to come back up.”

    That is not going to happen. It would be very odd indeed if heat in the deeper ocean were to rise to even warmer surface waters.

    What is likely is that as the oceans warm, their capacity to absorb heat from the atmosphere diminishes resulting in increased average global surface temperatures, particularly during El Nino events.