Will the Next El Niño Bring an End to the Slowdown in Global Surface Warming?

Rebuttal to Chen and Tung (2014) highlighted in “Cause for ‘The Pause’ #38 – Cause of global warming hiatus found deep in the Atlantic Ocean

Numerous scientific papers have reported the hiatus in global surface warming will end with the next El Niño event. But according to a new paper by Chen and Tung published today online in ScienceMag (link to paper follows), that’s not going to happen because the multidecadal variations in ocean heat sequestration at depth in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans will suppress surface warming for a decade or two more. Additionally, unlike many other papers of its kind, Chen and Tung (2014) indicate a lessening in ocean heat sequestration to depth (the reverse of what we’re seeing now) was responsible for the accelerated warming during the latter part of the 20th Century.

Looking at Chen and Tung (2014) in a different light, they went looking for Trenberth’s missing heat, and, not surprisingly, they found it in the same ocean heat content reanalysis (ECMWF ORAS-4) used in Balmaseda et al. (2013), which Trenberth co-authored.

The paper is Chen and Tung (2014) Varying planetary heat sink led to global-warming slowdown and acceleration. The abstract reads (my boldface):

A vacillating global heat sink at intermediate ocean depths is associated with different climate regimes of surface warming under anthropogenic forcing: The latter part of the 20th century saw rapid global warming as more heat stayed near the surface. In the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved into deeper oceans. In situ and reanalyzed data are used to trace the pathways of ocean heat uptake. In addition to the shallow La Niña–like patterns in the Pacific that were the previous focus, we found that the slowdown is mainly caused by heat transported to deeper layers in the Atlantic and the Southern oceans, initiated by a recurrent salinity anomaly in the subpolar North Atlantic. Cooling periods associated with the latter deeper heat-sequestration mechanism historically lasted 20 to 35 years.

Basically, Chen and Tung (2014) are saying that the vast majority of the human-induced global warming signal can be found in the ocean temperature and salinity data (and reanalysis) for the oceans to depths of 1500 meters. (There’s nothing new about that.) They are also clarifying that naturally occurring variations (that last for multiple decades) in where that ocean heat is sequestered (shallow or deeper layers of the oceans) impacts the rate of global warming at the surface. (There’s nothing new there, either.) During the “latter part of the 20th century” there was “rapid global warming as more heat stayed near the surface” and “[i]n the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved into deeper oceans.” While this proposal is not new, Chen and Tung (2014) are arguing against El Niño and La Niña as the primary cause and saying the variations in sequestration are occurring in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans…the result, primarily, of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, with which the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is associated. The last little tidbit of value is the time periods of similar past cooling periods, 20 to 35 years, and that’s important because the current hiatus has not lasted that long yet.

Unfortunately, the Southern Ocean is one of the key regions in Chen and Tung (2014). There is so little long-term subsurface temperature and salinity data that far south that any reanalysis of the Southern Ocean before the ARGO floats were deployed (around 2003) has to be viewed as fantasy.

DATA AND REANALYSIS

Chen and Tung (2014) relied on the JMA ocean heat content data (Ishii and Kimoto) along with the COBE sea surface temperature data and on the ORAS-4 Reanalysis from ECMWF. As you’ll recall, a reanalysis is the output of a computer model that uses data as one of its inputs, so it’s not data. We discussed the curious behavior of the ECMWF reanalysis in the post Trenberth Still Searching for Missing Heat. The ECMWF ORAS-4 is forced by volcanic aerosols and ENSO to give it features that do not exist in data. Also see Willis Eschenbach’s post Why Reanalysis Data Isn’t…

Would the results of Chen and Tung (2014) be different if they had used another reanalysis of subsurface temperatures and salinity?

CHEN AND TUNG COMMENT ON OTHER PROPOSED REASONS FOR HIATUS

Chen and Tung (2014) discussed a number of the proposed explanations for the slowdown in surface warming. To these, they stated (my boldface):

Response to solar cycle changes was found to be small (40, 41). The aerosol cooling should have a signature in subsurface ocean (42), and yet it is not seen, perhaps suggesting that the proposed radiative effects may be too small. The second involves ocean heat sequestration: The present work follows the original proposal of Meehl et al. (5, 24) regarding global deep-ocean heat sequestration. However, our observational result does not support their Pacific-centric view. The duration of the cooling periods in the CCSM4 model they used is typically 10 years, with one rare 15-year hiatus in 375 years and none over 15 years. The current hiatus already lasted over 15 years using their definition of hiatus as periods with zero trend. Comparing that model with observation, we found that model’s Atlantic has too little variability with too high frequency (fig.S7 versus Fig. 6). This artifact appears to be attributable to a new overflow parameterization scheme in CCSM4 in the Denmark Strait and Faroe Bank Channel (31).

CHEN AND TUNG CONCLUSIONS

They write:

The fact that the global-mean temperature, along with that of every major ocean basin, has not increased for the past 15 years, as they should in the presence of continuing radiative forcing, requires a planetary sink for the excess heat. Although the tropical Pacific is the source of large interannual fluctuations caused by the exchange of heat in its shallow tropical layer (3), the current slowdown is in addition associated with larger decadal changes in the deeper layers of the Atlantic and the Southern oceans. The next El Niño, when it occurs in a year or so, may temporarily interrupt the hiatus, but, because the planetary heat sinks in the Atlantic and the Southern Oceans remain intact, the hiatus should continue on a decadal time scale. When the internal variability that is responsible for the current hiatus switches sign, as it inevitably will, another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue.

So according to Chen and Tung (2014), an El Niño will only cause a temporary surge in global warming but not impact the multidecadal hiatus. But data contradict them. We know that strong El Niño events are a primary cause of global surface warming. Sunlight-produced warm waters released from below the surface of the western tropical Pacific during strong El Niño events (like ones in 1986/87/88, and 1997/98 and 2009/10) are then distributed to adjoining ocean basins in the wakes of those El Niños, and those El Niño residuals cause blatantly obvious upward steps in the sea surface temperatures of the South Atlantic, Indian and West Pacific Oceans. For more information on how strong El Niños cause those upward shifts, see the illustrated essay The Manmade Global Warming Challenge (42mb pdf).

However, in some respects, the sea surface temperature data for the North Atlantic do agree with Chen and Tung (2014). That is, the surface of the North Atlantic had been warming at a much higher rate than the rest of the global oceans during the satellite era (about 3 times faster)…until about 11 years ago. Since January 2003, the surface of the North Atlantic has been cooling, while the warming has slowed drastically for rest of the global ocean surfaces. (See the graph here.) So the North Atlantic has suppressed global warming for the past 11 years.

And, of course, the sea surfaces of the Southern Ocean show cooling for the entire satellite era, with a big step down in 2006-08.

Last, according to Chen and Tung (2014), hiatus periods due to the sequestration of ocean heat to depth in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans can last 20 to 35 years. And they note the current hiatus period has already lasted 15 years. That indicates we’ve got another 5 to 20 years more to go with the current hiatus.

CLOSING

Over the past few years, we’ve seen more and more papers that admit natural variability contributed to the warming from the mid-1970s to the turn of the century and suppressed the warming in the 21st Century. When will the climate science community admit they’d tuned their models to a naturally occurring upswing in the warming of global surfaces from the mid-1970s to the turn of the Century, and as a result their projections of future global warming are way too high? (Answer: Probably not in my lifetime.)

 

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85 thoughts on “Will the Next El Niño Bring an End to the Slowdown in Global Surface Warming?

  1. “The fact that the global-mean temperature, along with that of every major ocean basin, has not increased for the past 15 years, as they should in the presence of continuing radiative forcing, requires a planetary sink for the excess heat.”

    OR requires a re-evaluation of the radiative forcing…
    We DONT have to “invent” a place where the “missing” heat goes… we SHOULD actually be questioning IF there’s actually excess heat in the first place!!!

  2. CHEN AND TUNG CONCLUSIONS

    They write:

    The fact that the global-mean temperature, along with that of every major ocean basin, has not increased for the past 15 years, as they should in the presence of continuing radiative forcing, requires a planetary sink for the excess heat. Although the tropical Pacific is the source of large interannual fluctuations caused by the exchange of heat in its shallow tropical layer (3), the current slowdown is in addition associated with larger decadal changes in the deeper layers of the Atlantic and the Southern oceans. The next El Niño, when it occurs in a year or so, may temporarily interrupt the hiatus, but, because the planetary heat sinks in the Atlantic and the Southern Oceans remain intact, the hiatus should continue on a decadal time scale. When the internal variability that is responsible for the current hiatus switches sign, as it inevitably will, another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue.

    First of all it is the visible light and long UV light wavelengths that are the main contributor to heat accumulation in the oceans. I think they are referring to IR radiation when they say in the presence of continuing radiative forcing. If not then I stand corrected.

    I also think this explanation can eek out more time to keep AGW theory hopes alive while all of the data continues to go against the theory as time moves on.

    I suspect by the end of this decade much more will be known about solar/climate connections due to primary and secondary solar effects. If solar conditions remain quiet and the temperature trend is up or steady it can be dismissed but if the global temperature trend is down once again like it has done in the historical record it is going to make for a very strong case of a solar /climate connection. Especially in the face of rising co2 concentrations.

    Bob I appreciate your work.

  3. Correct, nothing new in there.
    Natural variability in the N. Atlantic is well documented. The N. Atlantic SST (AMO) lags by number of years other natural events of similar or identical longer term trends. As I show
    HERE.
    Even the nearby CET is often out of step or in advance of the AMO.

  4. Hmmmm seems to me that they have discovered some of the reasons behind the 60-year warming and cooling cycle.

  5. It darn well better cause warming – it was down to 4 C last night up here. Leaves are changing color and geese are already flying south. Not a good sign. Gonna be a really cold winter.

  6. The fact that the global-mean temperature, along with that of every major ocean basin, has not increased for the past 15 years, as they should in the presence of continuing radiative forcing, requires a planetary sink for the excess heat.
    ========
    or the radiative theory is wrong. that water vapor provides a negative, not positive feedback. that as you add CO2, H2O is decreased by an equal mass, before any warming can take place.

  7. Does their model include changes in global net radiative imbalance from 1985 to 2012 as seen by Allan et al, doi:10.1002/2014GL060962, that is, pointing to the outgoing long-wave radiation having increased over the past 60 years, in contradiction to the naïve AGW expectation, I wonder. And does it do cloud cover and cloud dynamics correctly?

  8. settled skeptical science

    “We know that strong El Niño events are a primary cause of global surface warming.”

    err no we dont.

  9. “And they note the current hiatus period has already lasted 15 years. That indicates we’ve got another 5 to 20 years more to go with the current hiatus.”

    Here we go again, no pause, then pause needs to be 17 years (Santer) to be significant then as we approach it, now revised to 20 to 35 years. I am sure it will soom be 50 years.

  10. “Numerous scientific papers have reported the hiatus in global surface warming will end with the next El Niño event.”

    Could you cite some references for this please, Bob? Thanks.

  11. We’re doomed in 5 to 20 years from now? The AGW doomsday cult won’t sign up many new members with prognostications this vague.

  12. Even the Old Farmer’s Almanac is jumping on the “A very cold winter is coming” bandwagon.

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_OLD_FARMERS_ALMANAC?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2014-08-20-15-08-00

    The AP writer says, “The almanac, which has about an 80 percent success rate in its forecasts, employs modern technology but still uses the “secret formula” that founder Robert Thomas devised in 1792. By combining the study of sunspots, prevailing weather patterns and basic meteorology, the almanac’s weather staff comes up with a long-range forecast. The temperature deviations are based on 30-year averages compiled by government forecasters.”

    Hmmm… where recently have I seen that 30 year average before?????

    Q: How will the public react to another brutal winter?
    A: CAGW – RIP

  13. When will the climate science community admit they’d tuned their models to a naturally occurring upswing in the warming of global surfaces from the mid-1970s to the turn of the Century, and as a result their projections of future global warming are way too high? (Answer: Probably not in my lifetime.)

    Bob, I’ve been saying the same thing for more than a decade. The evidence is accumulating, their ship is sinking…..

  14. First – Bob, I think it is reason 32, not 38.

    But to the meat. yea, it does present a conundrum for the team. If the heat really is missing in the deep, then when it reappears will apparently not depend upon CO2. So the control knob does not work. Kind of a damned if you do and damned if you do not.

  15. Maybe missing heat is the energy used to melt the retreating land/continental ice burgs, perma frost, and sea ice. However, there is sea ice growth recently. q = mcΔT, where
    q = heat energy
    m = mass
    c = specific heat
    ΔT = change in temperature

    Maybe someone has an idea of how many mega-grams of ice has melted in 120 years.

  16. “The last little tidbit of value is the time periods of similar past cooling periods, 20 to 35 years, and that’s important because the current hiatus has not lasted that long yet.”
    AND THEN
    “The fact that the global-mean temperature, along with that of every major ocean basin, has not increased for the past 15 years, as they should in the presence of continuing radiative forcing, requires a planetary sink for the excess heat…………….because the planetary heat sinks in the Atlantic and the Southern Oceans remain intact, the hiatus should continue on a decadal time scale. When the internal variability that is responsible for the current hiatus switches sign, as it inevitably will, another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue.”
    ———————————————–
    By a simple rationale, as the excess heat must be much higher at around 400ppm of CO2 then the required planetary sink must be of a much higher magnitude than in case of past similar cooling periods that seem to have lasted 20 to 35 years.
    As they say the current co2 emissions and concentration in atmosphere is unprecedented……therefore a same uprecedented magnitude of a planetary sink is required to explain the current hiatus.

    I think is fair to assume that if such explanation for the hiatus is considered feasible then why not feasible enough to explain in principle by the same means the LIA.
    A planetary sink process causing a cooling period like LIA.
    In such a light is feasible I think to consider also the possibility that another 5 to 20 years of continuing of the current hiatus is and must be the most minima expected with a probability of a much loger period of a hiatus or even cooling for that matter.
    Maybe the next episode of any meaningful global warming acceleration may ensue far away in the future, perhaps thousands of years in the future….perhaps….perhaps not, but could be one of possibilities lookingn at by the angle offered…..

    cheers

  17. Jim S: Hmmmm seems to me that they have discovered some of the reasons behind the 60-year warming and cooling cycle.

    I think that is the best response to the paper. They found a part of the mechanism in the oscillatory behavior of the thermohaline circulation. Everything requires confirmation by subsequent research, but that looks good. KK Tung explains at Climate Etc that the press release including “half of warming due to CO2″ was based on another paper (he supplies a link at Climate Etc.)

    By itself, this paper does not demonstrate that any of the warming since the end of the Little Ice Age is due to CO2. What is shows is that *if* increased CO2 is causing increased heat accumulation, it is not mere hand-waving to assert that the “missing” heat is being directed into the deeper ocean.

  18. Steven Mosher says:
    August 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    settled skeptical science

    “We know that strong El Niño events are a primary cause of global surface warming.”

    err no we dont.
    ####

    I guess predicate logic is not your strong suite, or maybe it just a problem with reading comprehension.

  19. It seems to me that when the slightly warmer water, down to 1500 m in depth, comes to contact with the even COLDER benthic waters that go down to 4000-5000 meters, conduction will tend to pull the heat even deeper, sequestering for even longer. And diluting the temperature gradient even more. As a Fourier’s Law transfer, it will be quite slow, but it will be down there 30 years or so to move the heat even deeper.

    In an analogy, the 11 year solar SSN cycle is related to the meridional flow velocities from pole to equator. When the SSN solar cycles weaken, it is an indication the meridional flow velocity slowed. The AMOC and the AMO cycle lengths are also related to the meridional flow velocities, and by extension, the cycle time length changes. So it seems to me, based on first principles, the extra heat down below will (slowly) speed up the AMOC, not by much, but possibly measurable.

  20. So according to Chen and Tung (2014), an El Niño will only cause a temporary surge in global warming but not impact the multidecadal hiatus. But data contradict them. We know that strong El Niño events are a primary cause of global surface warming.

    Data do not yet contradict a claim about the effects of the next El Niño, and I think you actually agree with them that an El Niño now will cause only a “temporary” surge in global warming, and not impact the multidecadal hiatus. You are not expecting a “strong” El Niño, are you?

  21. Steven Mosher says: “err no we dont.”

    I’ve been presenting the same story here for more than 5 years, Steven. ENSO acts as a chaotic, naturally occurring, sunlight-fueled, recharge-discharge oscillator. It’s an easy concept to grasp if you ponder it for a moment.

  22. Jim S: Hmmmm seems to me that they have discovered some of the reasons behind the 60-year warming and cooling cycle.
    ……………..
    Not exactly, many others were there years ago, just to mention few: Treguier et al, Levermann et al, Born et al Bachmann etc
    60sh years cycles exist in number of other N/ Atlantic events including the Arctic atmospheric pressure, which precedes the N. Atlantic SST by number of years.

  23. “Sunlight-produced warm waters released from below the surface of the western tropical Pacific during strong El Niño events (like ones in 1986/87/88, and 1997/98 and 2009/10) are then distributed to adjoining ocean basins in the wakes of those El Niños, and those El Niño residuals cause blatantly obvious upward steps in the sea surface temperatures of the South Atlantic, Indian and West Pacific Oceans.”
    _________________________

    If it is the case that ocean water previously heated by sunlight is the cause of the observed warming over the period mentioned (1986-2010), then there should have been a concurrent reduction in ocean heat content over the same period. Charts 1 – 3 here suggest that wasn’t the case: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

    The release to the surface of heat from “sunlight-produced warm waters” between 1986 and 2010 apparently occurred during a period when ocean heat content at both 0-700 and 0-2000m also increased. How does that work?

  24. Steven Mosher says:
    August 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    settled skeptical science

    “We know that strong El Niño events are a primary cause of global surface warming.”

    err no we dont.
    —————————-

    Then why did the Team’s cheerleaders hold out so much hope for a Super El Niño this year finally to end the living nightmare of the “Pause”?

  25. Paul Homewood says: “The AMO won’t go negative for probably another decade. What happens to global temps then?”

    The AMO being positive or negative does not reflect the impact of the North Atlantic on global surface temperature. If the North Atlantic is warming faster than the rest of the global oceans, it’s contributing to global warming. If it’s warming slower than the rest of the oceans, then it’s suppressing the warming. If it’s cooling faster than the rest of the global oceans, then it’s contributing to cooling.

  26. The problem with analysis of deep ocean heat is that the ARGO buoys only started being deployed around the year 2000, so its very easy for poor scientific conclusions to be reached by splicing together pre and post ARGO data, such a splicing is almost guaranteed to give the appearance of a change around 2000, exactly when the Pause started.

  27. Question for Bob T (or anyone):

    I’ve noticed in your plots of sea-surface temperature data that there is very little evidence for any increase in temperatures. Is that a valid general conclusion? If so it must “prove” that CO2 has had little effect to date, because it can only have had a significant effect via the water vapour evaporation feedback, which must be tiny if the sea-surface temperatures have not changed.

  28. Salvatore Del Prete says: “Is the Atlantic Meridional Over Turning Circulation (AMOC) the same as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation? (AMO) Thanks”

    What a coincidence. I recently finished a chapter in my new book about AMO and AMOC.

    The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is typically defined as the multidecadal variations in the sea surface temperature anomalies of the North Atlantic. It’s normally presented by detrending the North Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies (ESRL method) or by subtracting global sea surface temperature anomalies from North Atlantic data (Trenberth method).

    On the other hand, Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) generally refers to the impacts of thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic, where cool and salty (dense) waters sink at high latitudes and reemerge from the deep at low latitudes. See the NSIDC Environment: climate webpage here:

    http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/environment/global_climate.html

    It has a nice description of this process under the heading of Atmosphere and Ocean Circulation. There they write:
    “Ocean currents transport heat from the equator to the poles through a heat- and saline-driven process called thermohaline circulation. Warm water moves from the equator northward along the ocean surface and eventually cools. As it cools, it becomes dense and heavy and sinks. This cold water then moves south along the lower part of the ocean and rises near the equator to complete the cycle.”

  29. Is the current speeding up or slowing down?

    Nature 2014 Atlantic current strength declines
    “But since 2004, ocean sensors have detected a significant decline in the strength of the currents”
    “From mid-2009 to mid-2010, for example, the circulation slowed to two-thirds of its usual strength ”

    “RAPID measurements previously revealed1 that the circulation weakened by 3% per year on average between 2004 and 2008, with a mean strength of 17.5 million cubic metres per second. Most of the past decade’s observed decline occurred between April 2008 and March 2012, when the AMOC was around 15% weaker on average than in the previous four years. The measurements also showed that the strength of the currents varied by up to 70% from year to year, depending on wind and seawater temperature “

  30. MikeUK says: “I’ve noticed in your plots of sea-surface temperature data that there is very little evidence for any increase in temperatures.”

    You’ll need to be a little more specific, MikeUK. What time period and which ocean basin?

    http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/july-2014-sea-surface-temperature-sst-anomaly-update/

    One thing is certain, the global sea surface temperatures during the satellite era warmed at half the rate predicted by the IPCC’s climate models.

  31. Basically, Chen and Tung (2014) are saying that the vast majority of the human-induced global warming signal can be found in the ocean temperature and salinity data (and reanalysis) for the oceans to depths of 1500 meters.
    ——————————————————–
    Temperature of ocean waters below a few hundred meters is already too low to heat any but the polar regions of the earth surface. Any heat that got deposited at greater depths won’t be back to bother us unless the second law of thermodynamics is repealed. Poor Trenberth. His heat is gone.

  32. Paul Homewood says:
    August 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm
    The AMO won’t go negative for probably another decade.
    ……………………
    Last positive section was about 35, and negative about 30 years long, matched exactly by the Arctic atmospheric pressure (which leads the AMO by a number of years (see last graph in my link above), and the Arctic atm pressure is on the verge of going ‘negative’.
    If history is about to repeat itself, the AMO has at the most 4-5 years, although its next 9 year cycle is likely to break for 2-3 years in the positive sector. The October to March section might go over even sooner.

  33. It is reasonable to look at a big heat source- the pacific oscillations, as a source for global temperature. Not certain why that is controversial, expecially since the paper this post is based on posits the pacific oscillation as a big influence on temps.

  34. DavidR says: “If it is the case that ocean water previously heated by sunlight is the cause of the observed warming over the period mentioned (1986-2010), then there should have been a concurrent reduction in ocean heat content over the same period. Charts 1 – 3 here suggest that wasn’t the case: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

    You can never look at an ocean temperature-related dataset on a global basis and hope to determine why the oceans warmed, DavidR. To do that, you need to divide the data into logical subsets.

    The tropical Pacific is where El Niño and La Niña events take place. The TAO project buoys have only had complete coverage of a good portion of that subset since the mid-1990s, so consider that when looking at the next graph. It’s the NODC ocean heat content for the tropical Pacific (red curve) compared to the sea surface temperatures there (brown curve).

    Tropical Pacific OHC cooled (not warmed) from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, and then warmed in response to the 1973-76 La Niña. The tropical Pacific OHC then cooled (not warmed) again (with dips and rebounds caused by El Niños and La Niñas) until the mid-1990s. (Now is when the OHC data there becomes more reliable.) The ocean heat content for the tropical Pacific surged upwards in response to the 1995/96 La Niña, in effect creating an upward step in the ocean heat content there. All of that newly created warm water (it only took about one year) provided the fuel for the 1997/98 super El Niño, which caused a significant drop. The 1998-01 La Niña then recharged that warm water. And basically, after that, the ocean heat content of the tropical Pacific has been declining (not warming).

    There’s no reason to look at the OHC data south of the tropics before the ARGO floats were deployed, because there’s so little source data. So let’s look at the OHC data for extratropical North Pacific.

    I’ve highlighted a two-year period on the graph. Before the late 1980, the ocean heat content of the extratropical Pacific cooled, and it cooled so much that if you remove that two-year period from the data, the ocean heat content of the extratropical North Pacific would still show a long-term cooling:

    So what caused the sudden surge? There’s a similar upward step in the sea surface temperatures of the extratropical North Pacific, and according to Trenberth and Hurrell (1995)…

    http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/jhurrell/Docs/trenberth.decadal_variations.climdyn94.pdf

    …there were two culprits: a shift in sea level pressure (which alters wind patterns) and the 1986/87/88 El Niño.

    Now, here’s the best part. The ocean heat content for the tropical Pacific and extratropical North Pacific both show multidecadal periods of cooling, interrupted by sudden warming surges caused by natural factors. In other words, there is no evidence of a manmade global warming component in either subset. But if we combine those two subsets, we see a magical transformation. The global ocean heat content (which everyone assumes shows a gradual rise) mimics the combined ocean heat content of the tropical Pacific and extratropical North Pacific.

    Those graphs are from this post:

    http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/is-ocean-heat-content-data-all-its-stacked-up-to-be/

    And that discussion is also presented in the essay linked to the post. Here’s a link again:

    http://bobtisdale.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/the-manmade-global-warming-challenge.pdf

  35. Matthew R Marler says: “You are not expecting a ‘strong’ El Niño, are you?”

    I wasn’t necessarily talking about the one this year, which we haven’t seen yet.

    Cheers.

  36. Does anybody remember this paper http://depts.washington.edu/amath/old_website/research/articles/Tung/journals/Tung_and_Zhou_2013_PNAS.pdf ?
    There was also a follow-up published this year: http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/5/529/2014/esdd-5-529-2014-print.pdf.

    It’s gonna get a lot more interesting when scientists like Carl Wunsch cannot be ignored any longer.

    The statistically steady ocean circulation appears to be a mechanically forced phenomenon; despite its transport of enormous amounts of heat energy, it is not buoyancy-driven. Its essential energetics are the conversion of kinetic energy of the wind and tides into oceanic potential and kinetic energy through the generation of the large-scale circulation. Heating/cooling/evaporation/precipitation directly affect the ability of the wind to create potential energy, but they are only slightly involved in the energy cycle, possibly even reducing the potential energy.
    The energy contained in the large-scale circulation (mainly, but not solely, potential) is converted into kinetic energy in the interior through baroclinic and barotropic instabilities. (Spin-up of the ocean from rest is a completely different process.)

    http://ocean.mit.edu/~cwunsch/papersonline/wunschferrari2004.pdf

  37. Does anybody remember this paper http://depts.washington.edu/amath/old_website/research/articles/Tung/journals/Tung_and_Zhou_2013_PNAS.pdf ?

    There was also a follow-up published this year: http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/5/529/2014/esdd-5-529-2014-print.pdf.

    It’s gonna get a lot more interesting when scientists like Carl Wunsch cannot be ignored any longer.

    The statistically steady ocean circulation appears to be a mechanically forced phenomenon; despite its transport of enormous amounts of heat energy, it is not buoyancy-driven. Its essential energetics are the conversion of kinetic energy of the wind and tides into oceanic potential and kinetic energy through the generation of the large-scale circulation. Heating/cooling/evaporation/precipitation directly affect the ability of the wind to create potential energy, but they are only slightly involved in the energy cycle, possibly even reducing the potential energy.
    The energy contained in the large-scale circulation (mainly, but not solely, potential) is converted into kinetic energy in the interior through baroclinic and barotropic instabilities. (Spin-up of the ocean from rest is a completely different process.)

    http://ocean.mit.edu/~cwunsch/papersonline/wunschferrari2004.pdf

  38. There have been four el nino events since “pause” began. The steps are an optical illusion. El ninos don’t cause steps, they’re temporary noise. Increases caused by AMO/tilt in axis.

  39. All you need to do is adjust the hiatus up and the uncertainty down and you’ll get to ‘unabated’, an approach seemingly favoured by one or two over in the quite amusing comments section of the Guardian’s article on this

  40. Bob,

    Thank you for the comprehensive reply.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I still don’t see how stored ocean heat can cause net warming of global atmosphere without a corresponding net loss in global ocean heat content. If I hold an ice cube in my hand I can see that it melts; but I also feel, very acutely, that the energy causing the melting comes at a cost to me (a cold hand!).

    Even if the heat was transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere only in a specific region, as you suggest, this still doesn’t explain the observed concurrent increase in both global ocean and global atmospheric heat content globally since 1986. One should come at a cost to the other, unless there is an outside influence on the entire system.

    Claiming that the observed warming arose from a source that is itself observed to be still warming smacks of ‘free energy’, as far as I can see. We require an explanation that accounts for *both* increased ocean and atmospheric heat content since 1986.

  41. Bob Tisdale,: I wasn’t necessarily talking about the one this year, which we haven’t seen yet.

    the authors were specifically addressing the next El Niño: The next El Niño, when it occurs in a year or so, may temporarily interrupt the hiatus, but, because the planetary heat sinks in the Atlantic and the Southern Oceans remain intact, the hiatus should continue on a decadal time scale.

  42. 90% of the energy is missing.

    Wunsch and Heimbach (2014) is the only study to look at the total global ocean heat content uptake and they have calculated the number as +0.2 W/m2/year. [They further note that Balmaseda/Trenberth 2013 use of the reanalysis data (and therefore the Chen and Tung 2014) cannot possibly achieve an error rate approaching +/- 0.1 W/m2 as they claim].

    http://ocean.mit.edu/~cwunsch/papersonline/heatcontentchange_26dec2013_ph.pdf

    Meanwhile the IPCC says that the radiative forcing is supposed to be +2.30 W/m2/year in 2013.

    http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~mmalte/rcps/index.htm#Download

    So, 0.235 W/m2/year showing up, 2.30 W/m2/year supposed to be showing up (or at least, identifiable, as in some could be just re-emitted back to space but nobody seems to be able to show this either). Therefore, 90% is missing

  43. Gee, doesn’t that mean that models calibrated against the warming phase, when ocean currents were (unknown to scientists) boosting the rate of rise in temperature, have grossly overestimated global warming?

  44. “Ocean currents transport heat from the equator to the poles through a heat- and saline-driven process called thermohaline circulation. Warm water moves from the equator northward along the ocean surface and eventually cools. As it cools, it becomes dense and heavy and sinks. This cold water then moves south along the lower part of the ocean and rises near the equator to complete the cycle.”

    The description here is dynamically ludicrous! Poleward transport is wind-driven, persists independently of seawater density, and is orders of magnitude more rapid than THC. The latter process is responsible mostly in forming cold, hypersaline, bottom-water, which, as such, cannot rise anywhere near the surface in tropical waters “to complete the cycle.” Eminent oceanographers (e.g., Wunsch) have debunked this “great conveyor belt” myth, but it doggedly persists in the minds of wannabes and scientific amateurs.

  45. RE: Mosher, 12:36 pm..
    Bob, I actually may have to agree with Mosher on this one, at least in part. El Nino is merely a release mechanism of heat, not a cause. The cause is prior heating of the oceans my solar…maybe a bit of semantics, but as said…correlation is not causation.

  46. Fred Berple says:
    “or the radiative theory is wrong. that water vapor provides a negative, not positive feedback. that as you add CO2, H2O is decreased by an equal mass, before any warming can take place.”

    First I’ve heard of that theory. Maybe more likely that increased cloud cover is a negative feedback?

  47. “””””…..Bill Illis says:

    August 21, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    90% of the energy is missing.

    Wunsch and Heimbach (2014) is the only study to look at the total global ocean heat content uptake and they have calculated the number as +0.2 W/m2/year. …..”””””

    Bill, when they calculate these numbers, are they just calculating total solar energy that enters the oceans, below the surface layers, where evaporation removes energy, or do they also figure out by some as yet un-described means, what fraction of that total solar energy is turned into ocean bio-mass, rather than wasted as “heat” ??

    And how do they actually measure the EMR to bio-mass conversion.

    The heat isn’t missing, if it simply does not exist.

  48. “””””…..Grant says:

    August 21, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Fred Berple says:
    “or the radiative theory is wrong. that water vapor provides a negative, not positive feedback. that as you add CO2, H2O is decreased by an equal mass, before any warming can take place.”

    First I’ve heard of that theory. Maybe more likely that increased cloud cover is a negative feedback?…..”””””

    I agree, any CO2 atmospheric heating, which occurs (which I don’t dispute) results in MORE water in the atmosphere (per Wentz et al), and that results in negative feedback due to cloud increase.

    More water vapor in the atmosphere means more solar spectrum radiant energy, that never reaches the deep ocean storage bin, so it results in net cooling.

    Water is never a positive feedback.

  49. Chen and Tung 2014 are correct.

    Recently I have made several posts arguing that since most climate heat is in the ocean, redistribution of ocean heat and in particular changes in deep vertical mixing can account for climate changes.

    With several newly published papers including Chen and Tung 2014 falling into line with this view, its nice to see some growing acceptance of this ocean centric paradigm. Its the only game in town if you think about it seriously.

    Here is a repeat of a recent exchange with db:

    phlogiston on August 19, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    dp says:
    August 19, 2014 at 8:36 am
    How can El Niño warm the earth? Any energy released from an El Niño event is energy that is already here, not new energy trapped by hellish republican sweat shops churning out SUV’s by the billions. Like moving cash from one pocket to the other has no affect on your wealth, moving energy from one place to another in the Earth system does not change the energy balance between the planet and the universe.

    Spot on. Consider how many orders of magnitude more heat is in the oceans compared to the atmosphere. Eventually folks will realise the profound error of into thinking that climate warming must mean gain of energy by the earth as a whole. Why? With near freezing water at the bottom of all the world’s oceans, all it takes for climate cooling is an increase in deep vertical mixing in the oceans, integrated globally. All it takes for climate warming is a decrease in the same deep mixing. Yes – its just moving money from one pocket to another. But it changes climate as experienced by people living on land surfaces.

    Climate can move upward and downward in temperature just from changes in ocean deep vertical mixing, with zero change in global energy budget. (There is evidence that Arctic bottom water is warmer during ice ages for instance.) Again, considering the ocean’s heat budget, climate on at least decadal timescales should be considered adiabatic.

  50. phlogiston on August 21, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Tung and Chen are right with the paradigm that changes in heat distribution in the ocean are a major source of climate change. However they are wrong to mix it up with the flawed dogma that heat is being gained by the earth as a whole by co2. The former is based on good thermodynamics and real data. The latter is a fiction of simplistic computer models that fatally exclude nonlinear thermodynamics.

    Co2 really is the spare prick at the wedding. It is not responsible for any climate change. Its all the oceans under weak nonlinear astrophysical forcing.

  51. There seems to be some lack of clarity as to whether we are talking about total heat in the system or GASTA in these comments.
    El Nino will release heat into the atmosphere – warming.

    But it’s not clear that it will increase the total heat in the system. That depends on how the heat is reorganised – which affects the rate it is re-emitted out.

    Right?

  52. From mothcatcher
    Phlogiston – I find your perspective compelling. The heat storage capacity of the oceans must be huge. Can we have some figures, relative to the heat content of the atmosphere and land surface? Of course, the many factors that will regulate the interchange will be complex and obscure, and, reading the range of current papers, quite possibly beyond the ability of present understandings to disentangle, but we might get an idea of the likely inertia that the oceans may impart to any real or imagined forcings..

  53. more soylent green! says: “But do GHG cause el Ninos?”

    The linear trend of the average of the NINO3.4 region sea surface temperature anomalies from the ERSST.v3b, the Kaplan and HADISST reconstructions (graph on the right) shows no long-term warming of the east-central equatorial Pacific.

    Also, see Ray & Giese (2012) “Historical changes in El Niño and La Niña characteristics in an ocean reanalysis”

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012JC008031.shtml

    They concluded:
    “Overall, there is no evidence that there are changes in the strength, frequency, duration, location or direction of propagation of El Niño and La Niña anomalies caused by global warming during the period from 1871 to 2008.”

    Regards

  54. M Courtney:

    At August 22, 2014 at 1:29 am you say and ask

    There seems to be some lack of clarity as to whether we are talking about total heat in the system or GASTA in these comments.
    El Nino will release heat into the atmosphere – warming.

    But it’s not clear that it will increase the total heat in the system. That depends on how the heat is reorganised – which affects the rate it is re-emitted out.

    Right?

    Yes, right. But the reorganisation of the existing heat across the Earth’s surface – with no change to total heat in the system – will also affect the rate heat is re-emitted out with resulting change to GASTA.

    Coincidentally, I again explained this on WUWT as recently as yesterday in another thread, and that explanation is here.

    Richard

  55. Paul Mankiewicz says: “Bob, I actually may have to agree with Mosher on this one, at least in part. El Nino is merely a release mechanism of heat, not a cause. The cause is prior heating of the oceans my solar…maybe a bit of semantics, but as said…correlation is not causation.”

    Hi Paul. I’ve been presenting ENSO processes here at WUWT and at my blog for more than 5 years. I’ve documented those processes with data, carrying the relationship between ENSO and global sea surface temperatures far beyond the “correlation is not causation” phase. I’ve used data to document my understandings of ENSO: sea surface temperature data, sea level data, ocean currents data, ocean heat content data, depth-averaged temperature data, warm water volume data, sea level pressure data, cloud amount data, precipitation data, the strength and direction of the trade winds data, etc. I have presented the effects of ENSO on each of those variables in past posts. And since cloud amount for the tropical Pacific impacts downward shortwave radiation (visible light) there, I’ve presented and discussed that relationship as well.

    Solar? See the discussion under the heading of THE ENERGY SOURCE THAT FUELS ENSO-RELATED WARMING in the post:

    http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/untruths-falsehoods-fabrications-misrepresentations/

    And there’s always the overall presentation in the essay linked in the post:

    http://bobtisdale.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/the-manmade-global-warming-challenge.pdf

    Regards

  56. 1sky1 says: “Eminent oceanographers (e.g., Wunsch) have debunked this “great conveyor belt” myth, but it doggedly persists in the minds of wannabes and scientific amateurs.”

    Hi 1sky1. Do you have a link to the Wunsch paper that debunks the “great conveyor belt”.

    Cheers

  57. Eric Worrall says: “Gee, doesn’t that mean that models calibrated against the warming phase, when ocean currents were (unknown to scientists) boosting the rate of rise in temperature, have grossly overestimated global warming?”

    Are you sure that climate scientists did not know they were tuning models to a naturally occurring upswing in surface temperatures?

  58. Matthew R Marler says: “the authors were specifically addressing the next El Niño…..”

    And I’ll stand by my earlier comment that we haven’t seen an El Nino event yet this year.

  59. DavidR says: “Maybe it’s just me, but I still don’t see how stored ocean heat can cause net warming of global atmosphere without a corresponding net loss in global ocean heat content.”

    First, consider the heat storage capacities of the ocean and atmosphere. Also, while the tropical Pacific is releasing heat from ocean to atmosphere during an El Nino, the North Atlantic and Indian Oceans are gaining heat in response to El Nino-caused changes in atmospheric circulation which allows more sunlight to penetrate and warm those oceans to depth. As a result, an ENSO index (NINO3.4 SSTa) correlates very poorly with the NODC’s depth-averaged temperature anomalies for the top 700 meters and 2000 meters. We can’t use the NODC OHC data for that analysis, because their ocean heat content data for the top 2000 meters are only available in pentadal form. Luckily, their vertically averaged temperature data are available in annual form.

    For the period of 1955 to 2013, the correlation coefficient (0-year lag) for NINO3.4 SSTa (Kaplan SST) and the NODC vertically-averaged temperature data for the depths of 0-2000 meters is -0.14. Horrendous! It gets slightly worse for 0-700 meters. For the period of 1955 to 2013, the correlation coefficient (0-year lag) for NINO3.4 SSTa (Kaplan SST) and the NODC vertically-averaged temperature data for the depths of 0-700 meters is -0.12.

    The sampling for older subsurface temperature data is terrible, so let’s look at the ARGO era. For the period of 2003 to 2013, the correlation coefficient (0-year lag) for NINO3.4 SSTa (Kaplan SST) and the NODC vertically-averaged temperature data for the depths of 0-2000 meters is -0.34. Still pretty awful. And it’s again worse for the depths of 0-700 meters. For the period of 2003 to 2013, the correlation coefficient (0-year lag) for NINO3.4 SSTa (Kaplan SST) and the NODC vertically-averaged temperature data for the depths of 0-700 meters is -0.29.

    The correlations get a little better for the ARGO era if we lag the NINO3.4 data by a year, but we’re still talking correlation coefficients in the neighborhood of -0.5.

    I first presented those correlations in a recent response to a comment by David Appell at my blog here:

    http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/lewandowsky-and-oreskes-are-co-authors-of-a-paper-about-enso-climate-models-and-sea-surface-temperature-trends-go-figure/#comment-19719

    I think I’ll have to prepare a post about it.

  60. I wonder why the dismissal of ENSO as a mechanism. If CO2, as the climate obsessed have claimed, is the control knob, then that means something else is the heater. We are in a pause as long or longer than the allegedly unprecedented heating, and CO2 is still creeping up. It is reasonable to focus on the heating mechanism, because the control knob is not working as predicted. Bob seems to focus on the mechanism and appears to be making valid points about it. Certainly better than those who have claimed we are in a massive dangerous climate crisis with all sorts of unusual things happening, all controlled by the wicked control knob, CO2.
    Bob,
    You might want to check out Jennifer Marohasy’s blog. She is working on some things that could be of interest to you.

  61. Bob Tisdale says:
    August 22, 2014 at 2:38 amHi 1sky1.: “Do you have a link to the Wunsch paper that debunks the “great conveyor belt”.”

    It’s a comment Carl Wusch allegedly made in an interview for the “Great Global Warming Swindle” documentary.

  62. Let’s clear something up:

    Climate models are all “control volume” equations. Think of an invisible envelope around the entire heat-trapping system known as “earth,” including the atmosphere. Actual global warming means that heat input through the envelope exceeds heat output through the envelope. (CO2 can do that based upon basic physics by reducing heat output while heat input remains constant, so can some other things.) Nothing else matters for global warming on a centennial or millenial scale. However, surface warming in a given time interval is affected by capacitance within the system, what Bob calls “charge-discharge oscillation.” El Ninos, ENSO, etc. are all capacitance phenomena that have no bearing on global warming as defined above, but they most certainly can cause trends in decadal climate. That being said, if we want to understand the significance of the recent surface (or ocean or whatever) warming and how that will affect temperature trajectory in the future, we need to understand the role of capacitance. So Bob’s work is really important, but it does not impinge upon basic AGW theory.

  63. Matt Skaggs:

    At August 22, 2014 at 7:32 am you say

    So Bob’s work is really important, but it does not impinge upon basic AGW theory.

    Anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) global warming (AGW) is at best a hypothesis.
    It has not risen to the level of a theory and – in light of the failure to determine any supporting evidence for it – AGW seems unlikely to ever become a theory.

    Richard

  64. I’m trying to understand how this all works: GHGs send heat to the deep ocean, which is 1) undetectable at those depths and 2) can’t be detected on it’s way to the deep and 3) doesn’t warm the atmosphere. 4) Somehow instead of radiating upward and outward into the atmosphere, something on the ocean surface gobble up the heat and secrets it away to the depths and 5) the heat comes up and warms the ocean surface as an el nino.

    Did I miss something?

  65. mothcatcher on August 22, 2014 at 1:33 am

    From mothcatcher
    Phlogiston – I find your perspective compelling. The heat storage capacity of the oceans must be huge. Can we have some figures, relative to the heat content of the atmosphere and land surface? Of course, the many factors that will regulate the interchange will be complex and obscure, and, reading the range of current papers, quite possibly beyond the ability of present understandings to disentangle, but we might get an idea of the likely inertia that the oceans may impart to any real or imagined forcings..

    One way to express the relative amount of heat in atmosphere and ocean is to calculate the depth of water at the ocean surface that contains the same amount of heat as the whole atmosphere. Estimates of this thickness are in the range 2-10m. This gives a good idea of where all the heat is.

    It is extraordinary how two-faced the climate community is about natural climate variability. I well remember during the warmists glory days of the 90’s how the idea of natural climate change was dismissed with derision. “Natural” was a dirty work for these folks. The party line then was that computer modelling was the only legitimate climate science and that nothing but co2 can change climate because they “could not see how it could”.

    Now that climate has stopped warming they have finally realised that they need natural variability to explain the “pause”. Naturally of course they do not admit any previous error.

    Tung and Chen have in fact identified correctly ocean vertical heat redistribution as a mechanism of climate change at the land surface. If they were honedt they would state the glaringly obvious corollary of this research, that is, that the warming of the 80s and 90s could have been a natural ocean driven process unrelated to human activity. However instead they assert on the basis of pure religious dogma that co2 has been continually adding heat to the earth’s climate. The “pause” simply means that vertical ocean redistribution has cancelled out the warming in the last couple of decades.

    This is not science with integrity. They should grow some cojones and admit the logical possibility that most or all recorded climate variability is from natural changes and cycles in ocean vertical mixing.

  66. Matt Skaggs says: “So Bob’s work is really important, but it does not impinge upon basic AGW theory.”

    It actually does. Because ENSO can and does cause long-term changes in surface temperature and ocean heat content, it is also responsible, in part, for the radiative imbalance…where the assumption now is that the imbalance is all manmade.

    Cheers

  67. Climate science is a sick joke. These ocean mixing processes have been well known and well studied for decades – just Google-scholar terms like “bipolar seesaw” or “meridional overturning” or “Antarctic reversal” or “heat piracy” etc. and you can very quickly assemble a coherent literature on how decadal to millennial timescale shifts in thermohaline circulation (THC) can cause shifts in earth surface temperatures. So a perfectly plausible mechanism for continual climate variation, dare one say “climate change”, as a natural and normal process, is well known.

    Thus this paradigm of continual climate change driven by ocean circulation complex dynamics is a major underpinning of the null hypothesis of climate that it is in fact always changing naturally.

    Thus for that reason it has until now been diligently swept under the carpet (not contradicted – just consigned to silence and obscurity by scientists’ laziness, narrow-mindedness, low intelligence, ignorance, un-curiosity and submissive herd mentality) since the party line for CAGW needed the narrative of “climate was always an unchanging idyllic garden of Eden until sinful white males ate the apple of technology, industry and capitalism and this sin cursed the earth by warming its climate”. Its so pathetically absurd it would be laughable if it were not such a balefully dominant reality in science-politics worldwide.

    It is only now with the pause challenging the credibility of the global warming story that they allow oceanography out of the closet and two spiv-s1opes claim as their “new discovery” what has been textbook oceanography for decades.

    Plagiarism, corruption, propaganda, concealment, manipulation – you name it its all there. With every twist of reality there is a twist in carefully choreographed propaganda strategy and established bodies of scientific knowledge alternate between mentionable and unmentionable like the flashing of a DJ’s strobe lights.

  68. Since OLR rises linearly with surface temps, it must be assumed that negative feedback is removing any “added” heat as fast as it accumulates. It’s not missing — it’s gone.

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