What do sea measurements reveal about Earth's temperature trend?

From the AGU highlights

Despite the fact that average temperatures on land have been increasing from year to year, globally averaged surface temperatures from 2000 to 2010 have shown only moderate warming. This is because sea surface temperatures over the past decade have been flat, if not slightly decreasing. In light of this, scientists are curious about whether this reduced rate of surface warming indicates a reduction of the accumulation of heat in the Earth system over the same period.

Palmer et al. use multicentury climate model simulations to study the relationships among decadal trends in top-of-atmosphere radiation balance (which controls the heat content of the Earth system), ocean heat content, and surface temperature. Consistent with previous studies, they find that all models show large variability in sea surface temperature (SST). This large internal variability in SST could easily “mask the anthropogenic warming signal for a decade or more,” the authors note. By contrast, ocean heat content more closely tracks the radiation budget at the top of the atmosphere, suggesting that measurements of ocean heat to deeper levels would help us monitor climate change more accurately.

Source: Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2011GL047835, 2011 http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011GL047835

Title: Importance of the deep ocean for estimating decadal changes in Earth’s radiation balance

Authors: Matthew D. Palmer, Douglas J. McNeall and Nick J. Dunstone: Met Office Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, United Kingdom.

=====================================================

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 38, L13707, 5 PP., 2011

doi:10.1029/2011GL047835

Importance of the deep ocean for estimating decadal changes in Earth’s radiation balance

Key Points

  • Decadal trends in SST place only weak constraint on TOA
  • As we measure OHC deeper, we gain increasingly good predictions of TOA
  • Trade-off between measuring longer or deeper for given uncertainty in TOA

Abstract:

We use control run data from three Met Office Hadley Centre climate models to investigate the relationship between: net top-of-atmosphere radiation balance (TOA), globally averaged sea surface temperature (SST); and globally averaged ocean heat content (OHC) on decadal timescales. All three models show substantial decadal variability in SST, which could easily mask the long-term warming associated with anthropogenic climate change over a decade. Regression analyses are used to estimate the uncertainty of TOA, given the trend in SST or OHC over the same period. We show that decadal trends in SST are only weakly indicative of changes in TOA. Trends in total OHC strongly constrain TOA, since the ocean is the primary heat store in the Earth System. Integrating OHC over increasing model levels, provides an increasingly good indication of TOA changes. To achieve a given accuracy in TOA estimated from OHC we find that there is a trade-off between measuring for longer or deeper. Our model results suggest that there is potential for substantial improvement in our ability to monitor Earth’s radiation balance by more comprehensive observation of the global ocean.

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starzmom

From the abstract, it is unclear whether the researchers ever looked at actual observed temperatures, radiation balances, or measured ocean heat content. Did they or is it all based on Hadley Centre models?

Bystander

So yes, lots to learn/improve still but nothing here that conflicts with the evidence that we’re warming stil.

Darren Parker

“Our model Results suggest..” Models, Models, Models…. Why do they work backwards?

John Marshall

Without any positive global warming ice levels will remain fairly constant, given local weather changes that affect local melting/freezing, but the trending warming/cooling will make itself felt in the thermal expansion/contraction of the oceans. Currently sea level rise has reduced in value indicating that overall temperatures have fallen, if by a small amount, but fallen nevertheless.

Might it be that there is no Urban Heat Island in the oceans?

john

Waxman calls for national climate-change-education push
http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/172479-top-house-democrat-calls-for-national-climate-change-education-campaign
Whats next…tarot card reading education too?

Luther Wu

Is it just me, or is it really boring to read yet another grant application?

Doug in Seattle

Another GCM exercise that shows the facts are wrong. Who would have guesses this could happen?

Follow the energy. A slight reduction in ocean temps is a large decrease in overall energy. The specific heat capacity of water is nearly 4 times the amount of soil. If you compare the total amount of energy stored in the top 1 meter of the oceans alone, you will find that it has at least 3 times the amount of energy within it as the same square acreage as anywhere on land including dense forest.
Far too much focus has been on Temp or Energy Pressure while ignoring the capacity of the regions being measured. A cubic meter of water at 15C contains about 1.2 Billion joules while the same volume of air just above it contains about 350,000. A cooling rate of 385W/m^2 will reduce the temp of the water 1 C over about 4 hours without any energy going back in. The same volume of air cooling at the same rate, without energy in, would reach 0K within the same period, but of course as temperature is halved, it takes twice as long to cool another half. Point is the oceans contain at least 3,000 times as much energy, per cubic meter as the same space of air and least 3 times as much as any land area on earth.
We need to track the amount of energy in a given location not just how much pressure that area exhibits. Follow the energy.

John

I say, let the scientists do their science. There are enough of us now looking over their shoulder, so that any flaws in data gathering will be discovered. If they think that the deep oceans are getting warmer without our (current) knowledge, let them demonstrate the point. Let’s not prejudge, just because they get government money for their research. The facts may well demonstrate that Roy Spencer is right, that much more heat leaves the earth, at times when the earth is warming, than we previously thought, and therefore the missing heat isn’t missing in the deep ocean, it is missing because it left the planet.
The info on the new Roy Spencer, fact based analysis of heat loss:
http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/new-paper-on-the-misdiagnosis-of-surface-temperature-feedbacks-from-variations-in-earth%E2%80%99s-radiant-energy-balance-by-spencer-and-braswell-2011/

More models indicating that the “anthropogenic” is still hiding somewhere.
HAHAHA .. Yeah, right … been here, done this … sorry, it still doesn’t work …

kim

Sure the deep ocean can hide a lot of heat, but heat can’t be transported there quickly. Trenberth was right years ago in his NPR interview, the ‘missing heat’ has been re-radiated to space.
=======================================

Richard S Courtney

Bystander:
At July 31, 2011 at 6:47 am you say:
“So yes, lots to learn/improve still but nothing here that conflicts with the evidence that we’re warming stil.”
Of course the paper contains “nothing here that conflicts with the evidence that we’re warming stil (sic).”
1.
All available evidence except GISS shows we have not been warming to a discernible degree for more than a decade. So, the paper could not “conflict” with “evidence” that does not exist.
2.
It is a model study by people making a good living from promoting the erroneous idea that “we’re warming stil.” Pay me and I will give you a model that “conflicts with the evidence that we’re warming stil”, and my model would not rely on unjustifiable ‘fiddle factors’ such as those built into the Hadley model.
Richard

Pamela Gray

This is basically a supporting piece calling for funding to look for the missing heat. However, I am willing to bet, since so little LW heating makes it past the ocean skin, the change in heat at the ocean bottom will be unmeasurable (smaller than the calibrated error range of the measuring instrument). The thing they seek at the bottom of the ocean is, in a word, a Lockness monster. Its predictive power is only in their imagination.

Kevin Kilty

And how well is all of this parameterized in these codes?
The top of atmosphere radiation balance is that of incoming shortwave versus outgoing shortwave and thermal IR. The deep ocean has nothing to do with outgoing IR, and only a little to do with outgoing shortwave. Input to the deep ocean is by means of absorbed incoming shortwave and sinking of dense surface waters–dense because of salinity or temperature. Outgoing shortwave at top of atmosphere is affected by surface/cloud albedo, which I believe we don’t know well; and, outgoing IR results from ocean surface temperature, but also from land surface temperature and atmospheric temperature. Finally there is heat exchange between land and oceans by various means. To be more concise, there are all sorts of time scales in operation here, so over what time-scale does radiation balance at TOA track with OHC?
Gee, I wish we could just measure all of this, but I don’t think we can measure TOA globally if for no other reason that we cannot look at outgoing shortwave over the entire visible surface from satellite, and even with buoys what is the precision we claim in knowing the OHC? Finally, can anyone tell me if by ocean heat content, do we mean the sunlight portion down to 600m or the entire bulk of the ocean?

Jeff L

I find it amusing how they assume AGW before even starting their study. Hard objective analysis. There is also an implication that at some point that stored energy will be released & the atmosphere will heat up. Of course, one might also assume that any extra heat will radiate down & warm the deep ocean & we will never ever see any of that extra energy expressed as increased atmospheric temps.

R. Gates

This current inability to measure deeper ocean heat content was exactly the point of Trenberth’s “travesty we can’t” comment, and as such is completely understandable.

Joe Crawford

How many of these yo-yos does the government fund each year. This must be the 10th or 15th paper I’ve seen so far this year that is based strictly on climate model runs where the model(s) used have no more tested/proven statistical accuracy than a Ouija board. I guess after passing through several levels of indirection either everyone now believes the models (pseudo-religiously) or no one really cares.

Robert of Ottawa

Palmer et al. use multicentury climate model simulations to study
Could they not maybe have used real data rather than Bingo data?

ferdberple

“All three models show substantial decadal variability in SST, which could easily mask the long-term warming associated with anthropogenic climate change over a decade.”
If natural variability can mask AGW, then it can also falsely exaggerate AGW. How is it that the authors only consider the former but not the latter? Is this science? Doesn’t good science require that you examine both sides of the question?

Kevin Kilty

I’ve gone to the link provided, and there is not much available beyond the discussion here. I find it interesting that the graphs imply (at least this is what I assume they imply) that if we look at a true decadal trend, then we could resolve a 0.1 W/m^2 radiation imbalance by looking at OHC down to 1000m, but we could resolve half of this by including water to depths of 4000m. By what means does one convey ocean heat to depths of 4000m in a decade, other than in very specific locations?
I guess what one can take away from this, other than its potential for inspiring addition federal research grants, is that if AGW really has been operating to warm the Earth since 1998, then the missing heat could be in the deep ocean. It’s just too bad we can’t measure it.

R. de Haan

As long as AGU remains gung ho on “climate change”, that is, “continuing to proof our world is warming and we are to blame”, we can’t expect anything else but GIGO science and GIGO excuses to cover for crooked predictions from the past.
Science is not politics.
I should have quit reading after the “Despite the fact that average temperatures on land have been increasing from year to year, globally”

ferdberple

1. Land temperatures are increasing.
2. Ocean temperatures are not.
3. CO2 is will mixed over land and water
4. Land use changes occur mostly on land
5. Land use changes almost never occur on the Ocean
Therefore we conclude that temperature increases on the land are driven by CO2.

Let me see if I can help.
The title:
Importance of the deep ocean for estimating decadal changes in Earth’s radiation balance
The study uses GCMs ( hence the importance of decadal variability) to answer some basic design questions for measurement systems.
do we want to measure the deep ocean?
what matters more deeper or longer?
The only way you answer questions like this is with models. the whole argo system was deployed based on GCM modelling results.

Theo Goodwin

The End is FAR says:
July 31, 2011 at 7:10 am
I have to inform you that your comment is about empirical knowledgee and will require translation for Warmista.

R. Gates

Pamela Gray says:
July 31, 2011 at 7:30 am
This is basically a supporting piece calling for funding to look for the missing heat. However, I am willing to bet, since so little LW heating makes it past the ocean skin, the change in heat at the ocean bottom will be unmeasurable (smaller than the calibrated error range of the measuring instrument). The thing they seek at the bottom of the ocean is, in a word, a Lockness monster. Its predictive power is only in their imagination.
———-
Pamela, the notion that excess heat storage in the deeper oceans is related to the downwelling LW radiation penetrating beyond the ocean skin layer is incorrect and is yet one more of those skeptics red-herring arguments. Heat flux into the deeper oceans is through other physical vertical mixing factors such as the meridional overturning current. Strongly suggest you read:
http://tiny.cc/jicao
http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/docs/Garzoli_progressing_towards.pdf

Gary Pearse

Bystander …warming still.
Please tell me though, that back in the heady pre-climategate days before papers such as the above would even have been considered necessary by Had centre, you believed that warming was a heck of a lot worse than you believe it is now. This would be a measure of the amount of cautious, healthy scepticism that has crept into your thinking. A much more thoughtful warmer than you comes with data and analysis and claims to be 75% sure of AGW (R.Gates – whom we hear from often and whom we have some respect for his knowledgeable contributions). Please tell me that by saying “warming still (meaning nonetheless)” you have modified your more extreme position on CAGW to at AGW or even GW. If not, then you don’t really have any “thinking” to modify.

Steven Hales

How deep do we have to go to find the missing heat? When theory collides with measurement it always we need another data set to verify the theory. It is never we need a new theory.

dp

What is the primary transport mechanism of energy in the sea? I can see where cloud formations over the sea that precipitate out over land would introduce a heat loss from the ocean but not from the earth’s system as it is redeposited back on earth. But cloud formation is a net loss for the sea because of reduced insolation.
The conveyor currents in the ocean transport a huge volume of water from one place to the next but still do not change the balance of energy, and don’t describe how surface energy makes its way to the sea floor or even below 500 meters. Is the ocean sufficiently transparent to certain light frequencies to explain the transport? And if so, what is it in the ocean depths that converts light to heat?
If energy is transported principally by convection then the light has to have already been converted to heat and carried below somehow. What is that path and what is the energy source of that downward convection? And what about those pesky thermoclines?

Brian

People here talk about the missing heat but where is this global cooling that the naysayers keep saying will happen?

Stephen Wilde

Going by the heat capacity of water as compared to air and the size of the oceans I’d guess that if the energy from more CO2 in the air were ALL to get into the oceans it would be millennia before we could notice any difference to the temperature of the air.
So, if the late 20th century warming of the air was caused by more CO2 it follows that either none or very little ever penetrated the oceans.
They can’t have it both ways. Since the air did warm then the extra energy from more CO2 cannot have gone into the oceans. The oceans have warmed too but from a different cause namely reduced cloudiness and albedo during the warming spell leading to more solar shortwave getting into the oceans.
It seems to be generally accepted that water temperature controls the air temperature above. There is a slight divergence on Earth because of the landmasses but not a lot.
So if the water controls the air temperature and the air tries to get warmer then all that will happen is that more water will evaporate to cool the air back to the water surface temperature.
The surplus energy in the air just gets converted to latent heat and is whisked away upward by increased convection for faster ejection to space.
The ocean heat content therefore tells us nothing about AGW warming but everything about cloudiness, albedo and solar shortwave into the oceans.
If any increase in advection of energy into the depths occurs then it has to be solely about solar shortwave input and nothing to do with CO2.

Huth

That would be Loch Ness, Pamela, known to the locals as Nessie.

Don E

I guess this means if it were not for all that other stuff going on burning fossil fuel would be warming the world. Makes perfect sense to me!

Latitude

Bystander says:
July 31, 2011 at 6:47 am
So yes, lots to learn/improve still but nothing here that conflicts with the evidence that we’re warming stil.
================================================================
Other than the fact that they still can’t find it………………………….

If they were to examine the SST and OHC data instead of playing with models, they could see what causes the year-to-year and multiyear and multidecadal variations in those datasets.

Katherine

We use control run data from three Met Office Hadley Centre climate models to investigate the relationship between: net top-of-atmosphere radiation balance (TOA), globally averaged sea surface temperature (SST); and globally averaged ocean heat content (OHC) on decadal timescales.
But have the models been validated? What’s the use of studying models that don’t accurately simulate the real world? Until those models are validated, the only thing they can tell researchers is what’s going on in the fantasy worlds they’re based on.

R. Gates

Brian says:
July 31, 2011 at 9:16 am
People here talk about the missing heat but where is this global cooling that the naysayers keep saying will happen?
____
Brian, skeptics to anthropogenic climate change look only to natural cycles of solar and ocean influence on climate, and as such, would be inclined to think a period of cooling is ahead based on these cycles only. Often they look to any evidence of it happening, sometimes even touting evidence that actually proves the opposite, like heavy snowfall events for example. (the heaviest snowfalls occur during warmer climates, and their much beloved medieval warm period saw heavier snowfalls than the little ice age did). See:
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/alley2000/alley2000.gif
Currently, none of the climate data show that cooler times are coming for the planet as a whole, though this won’t discourage some skeptics from scouring the data to find some proof that we are cooling, but all indications are that the global climate models are generally correct and we are heading to warmer, not cooler decades ahead.

Jeff L says:
July 31, 2011 at 7:41 am
I find it amusing how they assume AGW before even starting their study. Hard objective analysis. There is also an implication that at some point that stored energy will be released & the atmosphere will heat up. Of course, one might also assume that any extra heat will radiate down & warm the deep ocean & we will never ever see any of that extra energy expressed as increased atmospheric temps.

Most of the published papers of the last 20 years supposedly showing evidence of AGW assume that AGW is the cause, and go looking for data to enforce that position.

David, UK

Bystander says:
July 31, 2011 at 6:47 am
So yes, lots to learn/improve still but nothing here that conflicts with the evidence that we’re warming stil.(sic)

Come on, admit it Troll. You made that stupid, baseless statement just to provoke some reactions, didn’t you? Well, it won’t work with me.
D’oh!

Interstellar Bill

Deserts shrink, agriculture improves, and forests thicken from the benificence of higher CO2, hopeful developments downplayed or ignored by fanatic warmistas.
LA Times just had a story about trees having to be cut down in Yosemite, but they gave all the credit to lack of forest fires, when they should have said
“Thicker Yosemite forests are consistent with higher CO2 levels over the last 50 years”. or
“Computer models show that elevated CO2 was more important than reduced forest fires”.
Oops, you’d never get funding for those kind of computer models.

Gerry UK

The words ‘straw’ and ‘clutching’ come to mind. I suppose it is reasonable that they want to look for their missing heat even if they are unlikely to find it down there. On the other hand, as they are funded by my taxes, I would object to them wasting my money trying to cover up why their models are useless at forecasting the climate.

Eyal Porat

UHI, UHI, UHI…

Pamela Gray

Mr. Gates, you just indirectly proved my point. For the overturning proposal you state to work at heating deeper layers of the Earth from anthropogenic sources (which AGW theory states is through increased LW re-radiation), the heating has to get past the skin in order for the current to carry this extra heat into depths that are then carried by the overturning current. If the heating stays at the surface, most of it will evaporate off. So we are back to LW anthropogenic heating, are we not?
Your logic is entirely flawed as it ignores the beginning sequence of proposed anthropogenic ocean heating, irregardless of whether or not upper layer mixing through wind/wave agitation or the overturning current carries the heat into depths. You did not disprove my proposal. I will state it again. Only a small portion of the small amount of AGW heating will make it into depths and will likely be smaller than the calibrated error of the instrument that seeks to measure it.

Sandy Rham

“Currently, none of the climate data show that cooler times are coming for the planet as a whole, though this won’t discourage some skeptics from scouring the data to find some proof that we are cooling, but all indications are that the global climate models are generally correct and we are heading to warmer, not cooler decades ahead.”
I respect your faith but not your data.
http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/1930s-was-much-hotter/

Pamela Gray

Gates, you make a statement about snow fall not supported by the graph you link to.

Pamela Gray

We had a way above average snow event in Oregon during our La Nina winter that we don’t see during El Ninos. When temperatures rise we still get wet, but it is in the form of rain. With La Ninas, we still get wet, but it is in the form of snow. And all of that is just a known weather pattern variation that allows short term predictions, commonly provided by NOAA. Based on ENSO parameters, they predicted colder temps with above average precipitation in NE Oregon, which we got as snow. They were spot on.

Katherine

R. Gates wrote:
Pamela, the notion that excess heat storage in the deeper oceans is related to the downwelling LW radiation penetrating beyond the ocean skin layer is incorrect and is yet one more of those skeptics red-herring arguments. Heat flux into the deeper oceans is through other physical vertical mixing factors such as the meridional overturning current.
Then doesn’t that mean CO2 is off the hook? Because the heat that CO2 is supposedly responsible for is due to downwelling LW radiation, isn’t it?

@Theo Goodwin,
Sorry to the Warmistas, see my translation here. http://wp.me/pB8xR-fo
@Stephen Wilde
Precisely. You must view Temperature as Energy Pressure and Density for each given region to understand which way it flows and at what rate over a given time. While it is possible for radiation to travel from a region of lower pressure to a region of higher pressure, the higher pressure region is moving more energy to the lower causing a net cooling effect. The AGW Advocates have this magical system where they must be treating the energy densities as equal in order to get the warming that their models show.
The flow, direction, and rate is quite obvious when you understand that the Oceans have 3,300 times as much energy per unit volume (joules/m^3) as the air at sea level has. Move up to 6,500m it is over 7,000 times, and at the Tropopause it is more than 20,000 times due to lower temps and far lower density. A cubic meter of water having around 1.2 Billion joules/m^3 and the same volume of air around 362,000.
Just as High temperature moves to Low temperature. High Energy Densities will naturally move towards Lower densities since they cool faster.
The flow of energy also applies different density parcels of air. Since temps and air densities are higher near the surface, energy flow will be towards the lower temps and densities. Any backing up will simply cause that region to expand more quickly and therefore convect more quickly.
Also, try to imagine how to get a GreenHouse Effect without the GreenHouse Cause and with Convection (lack of GreenHouse Cause) as an added means to transfer energy from an area with High Energy Pressure and Density at an average 15C (Surface) to an area of very Low Energy Pressure and Density at an average -58C (Tropopause).
It is time we stop this internet debate and call a Convention to have each side Openly and Publicly present and then defend their understanding of the Laws of Nature and how Climate is affected.

@ R. Gates
Actually the Milankovitch Cycles show that we can expect more warming in the coming centuries and should expect cooling to begin in the next couple thousand years.
The Precession Cycle is about to cause the NH Glacial Minimum with the NH Winter Solstice occurring on/at Perihelion in 2012. If you trace the Precession Cycle back 5 full cycles to 128,000 BC, the same conditions as today occur.
The Obliquity Cycle is moving towards it’s minimum which causes less severe winters and summers and will reach it in about 8,000 years. Oddly if you trace that cycle back to 128,000 BC, the Obliquity is very similar to today.
So it is not just the Models that are predicting warmer days, decades, and centuries. The Milankovitch Cycles do as well. Also, we are in an Ice Age that has lasted millions of years with several interglacials like the one we are currently in lining up as expected with the Precession, Obliquity, and Eccentricity Cycles that make up the Milankovitch.

Don K

“To achieve a given accuracy in TOA estimated from OHC we find that there is a trade-off between measuring for longer or deeper.”
Can someone translate that into English? It flows nicely, but AFAICS, it makes no sense whatsoever. It seems to imply something along the line of “when we use the deepest temperature data over the longest feasible interval, we don’t like the answer we get.”