Argo and the Ocean Temperature Maximum

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

It has been known for some time that the “Pacific Warm Pool”, the area just northeast of Australia, has a maximum temperature. It never gets much warmer than around 30 – 31°C. This has been borne out by the Argo floats. I discussed this in passing in “Jason and the Argo Notes“, and “Argo Notes Part 2“. I’d like to expand on this a bit. Let me be clear that I am by no means the originator of the claim that there is a thermostat regulating the maximum ocean temperature. See among many others the Central Equatorial Pacific Experiment. I am merely looking at the Argo data with this thermostat in mind.

First, Figure 1 shows the distribution of all of the ~ 700,000 surface temperature measurements taken by Argo floats to date.

Figure 1. A “histogram” shows how many data points fall in each of the 1°C intervals shown along the bottom axis. The maximum is in the interval 28°-29°C.

The number of temperature records peaks around 29°C, and drops quickly for temperatures above 30°C. This clearly establishes the existence of the mechanism limiting the oceanic temperatures.

What else can the Argo data tell us about this phenomenon? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

First, a look at the year by year evolution of the limit, and how it affects the temperatures at different latitudes.

Figure 2. Annual temperature variations measured by all northern hemisphere argo floats that exceeded 30°C. Temperature observations are colored by latitude. Click on image for full-sized graphic.

A couple points of interest. First, the cap clearly affects only the warm parts of the year. Close to the equator, that is most of the year. The further from the equator, the less of the annual cycle is affected.

Second, the majority of the breakthroughs through the ~30° ceiling that do occur are from areas further from the equator, and are short-lived. By and large, nobody exceeds the speed limit, especially those along the equator.

Figure 3 is a closeup of the years since 2005. I chose this starting point because prior to that the numbers are still changing due to limited coverage. To show how the mechanism is cropping the tops of the warmer parts of the year, I have added a Gaussian average (129 point width) in dark gray for each two-degree latitudinal band from 0°-2°N up to 10°-12°N.

Figure 3. Annual temperature variations measured by all northern hemisphere argo floats that exceeded 30°C. Dark lines have been added to highlight the average annual swings of the data by latitude band. Click on image for full-sized graphic.

As you can see, the warm parts of the yearly cycle have their high points cropped off flat, with the amount cropped increasing with increasing average temperatures.

Finally, here is the corresponding plot for the southern hemisphere:

Figure 4. Annual temperature variations measured by all southern hemisphere argo floats that exceeded 30°C. Click on image for full-sized graphic.

Note that there is less of the southern ocean that reaches 30°C, and it is restricted to areas closer to the equator.

Next, where are these areas that are affected by the temperature cap? I had always thought from the descriptions I’d read that the limitation on ocean temperature was only visible in the “Pacific Warm Pool” to the northeast of Australia.  Figure 5 shows the areas which have at some point been over 30°C.

Figure 5. Locations in the ocean which are recorded at some time as having reached or exceeded 30°C.

Figure 5a. A commenter requested a Pacific-centered view of the data. We are nothing if not a full-service website.

Clearly this mechanism operates in a wider variety of oceans and seas than I had realized, not just in the Pacific Warm Pool.

Finally, here is another way to consider the effect of the temperature maximum. Here are the average annual temperature changes by latitude band. I have chosen to look at the northern hemisphere area from 160 to 180 East and from the Equator to 45°N (upper right of Figure 5, outlined in cyan), as it has areas that do and do not reach the ~ 30° maximum.

Figure 6. Average annual temperature swings by latitude band. Two years (the average year , shown twice) are shown for clarity.

Note that at say 40°N, we see the kind of peaked summer high temperatures that we would expect from a T^4 radiation loss plus a T^2 or more evaporative loss. It’s hard to get something warm, and when the heat is turned down it cools off fast. This is why the summer high temperature comes to a point, while the winter low is rounded.

But as the temperature starts to rise towards the ocean maximum, you can see how that sharp peak visible at 40°N starts first to round over, then to flatten out at the top. Curiously, the effect is visible even when the temperatures are well below the maximum ocean temperature.

Speculations on the mechanism

I want to highlight something very important that is often overlooked in discussions of this thermostatic mechanism. It is regulated by temperature, and not by forcing. It is insensitive to excess incoming radiation, whether from CO2 or from the sun. During the part of the year when the incoming radiation would be enough to increase the temperature over ~ 30°, the temperature simply stops rising at 30°. It is no longer a function of the forcing.

This is very important because of the oft-repeated AGW claim that surface temperature is a linear function of forcing, and that when forcing increases (say from CO2) the temperature also has to increase. The ocean proves that this is not true. There is a hard limit on ocean temperature that just doesn’t get exceeded no matter how much the sun shines.

As to the mechanism, to me that is a simple question of the crossing lines. As temperature rises, clouds and thunderstorms increase. This cuts down the incoming energy, as well as cooling the surface in a variety of ways. Next, this same process moves an increasing amount of excess energy polewards. In addition, as temperature rises, parasitic losses (latent and sensible energy transfers from the surface to the atmosphere) also go up.

So … as the amount of total radiation (solar + greenhouse) that is warming any location rises, more and more of the incoming solar radiation is reflected, there are more and more parasitic losses, more cold water and air move from aloft to the surface as cold wind and rain, and a greater and greater percentage of the incoming energy is simply exported out of the area. At some point, those curves have to cross. At some point, losses  have to match gains.

When they do cross, all extra incoming energy above that point is simply transferred to the upper atmosphere and thence to the poles. About 30°C is where the curves cross, it is as hot as this particular natural system can get, given the physics of wind, water, and wave.

I make no overarching claims for this mechanism. It is just one more part of the many interlocking threshold-based thermostatic mechanisms that operate at all temporal and spatial scales, from minutes to millennia and kilometres to planet-wide. The mechanisms include things like the decadal oscillations (PDO, AMO, etc), the several-year Nino/Nina swings, the seasonally opposing effects of clouds (warming the winters and cooling the summers), and the hourly changes in clouds and thunderstorms.

All of these work together to maintain the earth within a fairly narrow temperature band, with a temperature drift on the order of no more than ± 0.2% per century. It is the stability of the earth’s climate system which is impressive, not the slight rise over the last century. Until we understand the reasons for the amazing planetary temperature stability, we have no hope of understanding the slight variations in that stability.

My regards to you all,

w.

UPDATE (by Anthony):

Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. has some praise for this essay here:

http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/on-self-regulation-of-the-climate-system-an-excellent-new-analysis-by-willis-eschenbach/

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Swede
February 12, 2012 12:22 am

Many researchers are going to hate you for publishing these things in here 🙂
Very interesting results!

R.M.B
February 12, 2012 12:32 am

Try this for size. You can not heat water from above because of surface tension. The only energy entering the ocean is via the sun’s rays which penetrate the surface tension no problem.The sun is relatively stable and so is the temperature.

wayne Job
February 12, 2012 12:34 am

Well done Willis and thank you, your treatise on the equatorial imput of heat as a constant, thus being our primary heat imput thermostat was very well considered. I had been hoping that you would start looking and analyzing the other thermostats, this is a good start. Myself I am not bright enough, nor versed in the fields necessary to look at the stuff you are analyzing.
I look forward to your considered out put in the future as the BS we have been fed by the AGW mob is rather grating on the sensibilities of an old engineer.

Markus Fitzhenry
February 12, 2012 12:49 am

“”Until we understand the reasons for the amazing planetary temperature stability, we have no hope of understanding the slight variations in that stability.””
The reason probably resides in the deep cold waters beyond freezing by the force of pressure. A cold bath will attract heat from the atmosphere of the bathroom until equilibrium is reached.
The oceans have a exponential density of mass to the atmosphere, It is the oceans that takes heat from the atmosphere, the atmosphere doesn’t give heat to the oceans. The oceans are the largest threshold-based thermostatic mechanism.
Climate science looks from above to below, whereas, the major thermostat is the oceans. The internal motion of Earth derives a cold, as does space. The harmonic balance of Earths climate systems lies beneath the surface of the Earth and her Oceans, not in her atmosphere, not in her Sun.
It is the the force of gravitational pressure on mass, that has the general effect to render the distribution of heat more uniform. In the ocean and in the lakes, the coldest particles, or rather those whose density is the greatest, are continually tending downwards, it is this mechanism that prevents the internal heat of the globe and the external heat of the Sun from becoming sensible in deep waters.
Idiot humans looking towards the sky for a God, yet he remains in dust.

Martin Lewitt
February 12, 2012 1:05 am

Thanx for the interesting investigation. Have you seen anything in the literature on model diagnostics for this? It seems like a good check on the basic model physics. The more model diagnostics the better for the next IPCC report draft review. Even better, if any error can a quantified energy discrepancy.

Anton
February 12, 2012 1:16 am

There could be a much simpler temperature regulating mechanism at work. The water vapor pressure increases exponential with temperature and thus the water vapor mass transport (mass flux is proportional with the difference between vapor pressure at water surface and partial vapor pressure in the air above) also increases exponential with temperature. Add the high heat of evaporation for water and you have a very powerful mechanism to regulate temperature which works as follows:
When the energy input into the water increases this energy input is balanced by an increase in water temperature and an increase in evaporation. Energy leaving the water as vapor (= vapor mass flux x heat of evaporation) is very large compared to the other energy flows (sensible heat content of the water and sensible heat loss from the water surface to air is) thus only a small increase in temperature is needed to shed the increased energy input into the atmosphere as water vapor.
Apart from cloud formation and its effects on the Earth energy balance this primary mechanism of water and water vapor could well be part of the explanation why ocean temperatures seem to be capped at 30 DegC.

Stephen Richards
February 12, 2012 1:24 am

Willis your work, which I like, would seem to indicate that the only mechanism avaible to start an ice age is the sun. Why? because the earth would receive enough radiative heat further away from the sun than the limits of the Milankovitz cycles. The clipping would suggest an excess of heat is available at our current orbit.

Gator
February 12, 2012 1:40 am

Even before I took my first climatology class, I suspected the Earth had some form of temperature regulator(s). And to me, clouds and convection have always been the most likely mechanisms. I never bought into the ‘runaway’ warming scenario, as it has no precedent in 4.5 billion years of wildly changing climates.
Thanks Willis!

Lawrie Ayres
February 12, 2012 1:59 am

I love it every time a relatively simple explanation for temperature regulation comes up. A few years back on these pages someone (may have been Willis) used a kind of time lapse from orbiting satellites to show the formation of thunderstorms along the equator. As the day progressed and the water became hotter storms developed to allow heat to be released through the cloud tops. It looked impressive and as an old farmer I had seen the same thing; hot days followed by cloud building and if humidity was high enough a cooling storm. Maybe Jones and Trenberth should stand outside occasionally and watch nature at work.

BenAW
February 12, 2012 2:03 am

The stability of earths temp. is imo mainly because the buffering in the shallow surface layer, including the thermocline. ALL the sun does is warm this surface layer + the atmosphere.
(heat capacity atmosphere is equivalent to ~3,2 meter of ocean, a small player)
Variations in TSI, cloudcover etc. make the thermocline layer shrink or expand, both in depth and towards the poles
Of course it moves N and S with the seasons, allowing freezing of the polar sea in winter.
If the thermocline layer shrinks too much, this could allow ice at both poles at the same time, so perhaps the start of an ice age? Reason could be a well timed series of vulcano eruptions, less solar, more clouds etc.
The bulk of the oceans is just above freezing, but still at ~275K, already 20K above the assumed 255K of the greenhouse efect.

Alan Wilkinson
February 12, 2012 2:25 am

Is wind a very important contributor? Equatorial uplift is supplied with cooler air from the subtropics. In the northern hemisphere some of that wind comes from summer heated land so is dry and hotter. This explains the higher latitudes reaching or breaching the limit all being in the northern hemisphere adjacent to large land masses. The dryer air is less likely to form clouds and more likely to push them towards the equator allowing the sea to exceed the limit because of lack of cloud cover.

Big D in TX
February 12, 2012 2:27 am

Long time lurker, first time poster here, with possibly an inane question:
This seems to show that the ocean temperature “caps out” at the 30-31 degree C area, adding evidence to the ideas that there are plenty of temperature regulating activities that have yet to be fully understood, like the equator storm heat vacuum, etc.
Given that the Argo floats have only been providing decent coverage for less than a decade now, and that global temperatures have maintained about the same for the same period of time if not longer – doesn’t that make anyone else want to go, “well, duh”? Or is it implied that, given current temperatures, the oceans could certainly warm beyond this temperature cap, as Argo has observed it to do, in some areas, some of the time, briefly, and IN GENERAL, there just exist mechanisms that tend to kick in at the 30C mark that halt further warming? What is special at that particular temperature that happens?
I guess what I’m really asking is, if we had this kind of data spanning a much longer time period, would this cap fluctuate? What would it be like in the LIA or MWP? It just seems convenient that it’s leveled off because, well, temperatures are leveled off right now. Maybe I missed the boat on something. I just want to know more.
Anyway, this being my first post, cheers to everyone for their contributions to this amazing site. Largely due to WUWT I am a regretful convert (regretful that I was not always a skeptic)!

John Marshall
February 12, 2012 2:31 am

The real thermostat is latent heat of evapouration. The higher the surface temperature the higher the evapouration and the more heat extracted for this state change. Heat loss is be convection not radiation, as anyone who has been into the tropics and flown around the region can confirm. Over 4/8ths convective clouds. Convected heat is lost from the cloud tops and through condensing water vapour release of latent heat which will leach out to space eventually.

Tim
February 12, 2012 2:35 am

R.M.B. says:
“You can not heat water from above because of surface tension”
I have seen this statement several times on these pages. Can someone explain to me why surface tension should totally inhibit heat transfer from gas to liquid? Is there a vacuum between the air and the sea? Obviously not, so the air molecules are hitting the water molecules, and heat transfer takes place, as far as I can see it.
Thanks.

Bobl
February 12, 2012 3:07 am

A very interesting hypothesis, with astounding consequences for the global warming theory if you are right. Assuming the evaporation of water drives increasing convective cooling and energy transport polewards and subsequent radiation to space (and limitations on insolation through cloudiness), then that would suggest that there is a large NEGATIVE feedback operating in the climate. Given that this even overcomes even peak insolation in summer clipping the temperature rise of the ocean significantly. The mild forcing of CO2 will be no match for a negative feedback of this magnitude.

BioBob
February 12, 2012 3:09 am

You have to love the wet fish smack-across-the-face-effect imparted by Figure 1 demonstrating why parametric statistics are not suitable for use with atmospheric or ocean temperatures !!
We love interesting data presented well. Thanks Willis, very much. Now all you have to do is generate reasonable error bars on those values, ROFL.

Mike McMillan
February 12, 2012 3:15 am

The majority of the earth’s surface is water, and here we have evidence that it has a thermostat set to max at 30°. The heat engine has a limiting governor: pump in more heat, it just runs faster, not hotter.

Buck Smith
February 12, 2012 3:23 am

Thanks you for the great analysis. The graphs are just wonderful especially figs. 5 and 6. Does anyone have a calculation of the ratio of heat capacity in the ocean to atmosphere?.

peter_ga
February 12, 2012 3:29 am

Perhaps the water temperature is effectively capped due to evaporative cooling at that temperature where the lapse rate to the mid-upper troposphere is saturated, about 1.5 degrees C per 1000 meters. This raises the question, why would the mid-upper troposphere altitude be constant at equatorial latitude? Perhaps if it were any higher, water vapor would condense out at the lesser temperature and pressure, and not trap any more long-wave radiation, and the atmosphere would cool by radiation rather than convection, so it would be lower.

John Marshall
February 12, 2012 3:35 am

Sorry R.M.B but water is warmed from above if the temperature above is higher than the water. Temperature change will be slow due to the relative heat capacities of air and water but it must happen for oceanic waters to have seasonal temperature changes as observed by ARGO.

RobL
February 12, 2012 3:47 am

1 degree increase in temp gives about 6% increase in partial pressure of water vapour – ie 6% increase in evaporation. That is obviously a brick wall for trying to increase ocean temp, as all that vapour rapidly rises due to low density of steam and then once high enough condenses releasing all that heat to radiate and convect away more easily to space (tropical thunderstorms)

Buck Smith
February 12, 2012 3:48 am

I did some web searching to answer my own question and found this link which claims a ratio of 1000 to 1.which seems about right to me. In AGW models does the forcing from CO2 and the assumed positive feedbacks have to heat the atmosphere plus the entire ocean or just the atmosphere? Or maybe the atmosphere plus a fraction of the ocean?
The Link is here:
http://www.earthgauge.net/2010/climate-trivia-ocean-vs-atmosphere-heat-capacity

lemiere jacques
February 12, 2012 3:52 am

well hard to understand sea surface temperature if you don’t take into account temperature of the air and water vaper and the temperature of water beneath.
I guess mecanisms in mediterranéan sea or closed like sea or under tropical seas are different.

David L
February 12, 2012 4:12 am

That histogram is very interesting. Really seems to show there is a limit to maximum temperature. I guess the question then is what happens if the entire temperature distribution shifts towards the maximum (i.e. more ocean locations become 30C).

February 12, 2012 4:17 am

I’m also interested in why deep ocean waters are close to freezing. How and when did they get so cold? It’s the other end of the cap. Were they always this way, or are deep ocean temperatures part of global energy dynamics as well? Remember that we have had small but omnipresent heat from radioactive decay for millions of years.
Presumably if ocean waters below the thermocline, that is, the major portion of ocean waters, were at 20 deg C, the surface cap of 30 deg C might be displaced to give rather different outcomes.

regem
February 12, 2012 4:26 am

On this map of SSTs: http://www.marine.csiro.au/~lband/web_point/
you’ll find at least one pixel, at E139.2 S11,7, of 34.5 C, and many around 33 C.

David
February 12, 2012 4:36 am

Willis has pointed out that this is not a new discovery, only the tools he is using to examine it are new, at least to me. Thanks Willis. The paper which I have only seen quotes from is this. (Newell & Dopplick’s (1979) you may wish to read it if you can find it. The mechanism which I remember from the parts I read were in my comment in the first post . David says: February 11, 2012 at 5:58 am…Is it not apparent that as tropical energy surface insolation increases, an ever higher percentage of the increased energy goes into latent heat of evaporation? Is it not logical that as the rate of evaporation increases so will cloud formation and the speed of conduction? It it not apparent that clouds, especially thunder clouds, plus increased evaporation will reduce surface insolation and T? Is it not clear that all across the tropics the high points will be in that particular geograpical locations summer? If the tropical high points at all the ocean locations quickly fall off upon reaching a certain level, and that level is more smooth and lower than land data, then [there] are limiting factors in the ocean surface T not realised in land data? So, is it not fair to say that above 30C, T in the tropical oceans rapidly increase the rate of evaporation , convection and cloud formation, so that the number of recorded T above 30 C rapidly declines to a very low percentage.
@ Willis, you stated…”Note that there is less of the southern ocean that reaches 30°C, and it is restricted to areas closer to the equator” This is curious, as in the Southern hemisphere summer, January, surface insolation is about 7% more intense then it is in June. This, and several other factors leads me to think that the southern oceans must be more net abosorbers of solar insolation.
Tim says:
February 12, 2012 at 2:35 am
R.M.B. says:
“You can not heat water from above because of surface tension”
I have seen this statement several times on these pages. Can someone explain to me why surface tension should totally inhibit heat transfer from gas to liquid?
——————————————————————————
Hi Tim, just as Willis did not say “oceans cannot exceed 30 C”, likewise RMB should not say ““You can not heat water from above because of surface tension”. The message RMB is trying to convey is that almost 100% of the energy/heat from LWIR is abdsorbed in the top few microns of water, right at the evaporation level of the ocenas top surface, and therfore this energy is used almost exclusively to accelerate evaporation and increase convection and coud formation, further reducing surface insolation, wheras SWR is absorbed over a three D medium of ocean depth up to 900 meters in the clearest part of the oceans. Now the above is true, especialy in the tropics as we near 30C, it is just not quantified. In short, we do not know the relative ability of an equal amount of SWR to heat the oceans, vs an equal (W/M2) LWIR to heat the same ocean, it is just apparent that the SWR does a more effective job. There is much we have to learn.

February 12, 2012 4:47 am

It is the stability of the earth’s climate system which is impressive, not the slight rise over the last century. Until we understand the reasons for the amazing planetary temperature stability, we have no hope of understanding the slight variations in that stability.

The two most sensible sentences I’ve seen on climate in twenty years.

Slabadang
February 12, 2012 4:47 am

Willis!
I know that your observation is extremely important and interesting. You cought the climatemodels
who dont explain or have even noticed what you dicovered. According to a growing number of experts on clouds they realized that cloudformation lives its one life unrelated to temperature, The other way around seem more and more plausible. Max surface temperture seems to have other ffactors in play as well. What makes the temperature “roof” so evident clear is a very intresting and raises many questions.
You are in total lack of prestige Willis and I love you for that. A real genuine explorer who takes nothing for granted. You are free Willis! Congratulations!The nobless of IPCC related science has put them selves in a small cell

Richard LH
February 12, 2012 4:49 am

“The mechanisms include things like…”. One that is missing and probably deserves more weight than currently given is “where, horizontally and vertically is all the salt”?
Salt effects th whole hydrological cycle – mostly in a negative way. Salt returns in wto methods, though surface evaporation and though cold brine. The first is immedaite in its effect, The later probably has nautal cycles that stretch into centrurays.

Stephen Richards
February 12, 2012 4:50 am

John Marshall
Temperature change will be slow due to the relative heat capacities of air and water but it must happen for oceanic waters to have seasonal temperature changes as observed by ARGO.
Aren’t seasons cause by the angle of sun to the planet’s surface? Nothing to do with air/water conduction?

AngusPangus
February 12, 2012 4:52 am

Hi WIllis,
a very interesting exposition, thank you.
I do recall that “standard model” AGW expects little warming in the tropics, with the degree of warming increasing as you travel polewards. This seems to be consistent with what you have set out here, i.e. if “new” forcings are added to the system, the excess energy will be dissipated polewards and higher latitudes will experience some degree of warming? The “cap” prevents the tropics from getting very much warmer, but the “flat tops” that you illustrate for the higher latitudes will become broadened as, on average, they get warmer?

Martin Å
February 12, 2012 4:55 am

Just two questions:
Imagine an endless ocean and totally clear sky at the equator. What maximum daily temperature would the surface water take eventually? Is there any short term phenomena that could make the water significantly hotter than this temperature?

Peter Miller
February 12, 2012 4:55 am

No alarmist comments yet, presumably because this trashes yet another part of the CAGW cult’s treasured basic beliefs.
Another limiting factor for peak ocean temperatures could be as sea water heats up it will produce ever stronger convection currents, this will bring in colder water from much deeper areas, thus cooling down the near surface zones. This cannot happen in shallow areas like the Red Sea, the area around the Indonesian archipeligo and parts of the Caribbean, here you will find temperatures rising above the mystical figure 30 degrees C.

Jimmy Haigh
February 12, 2012 4:56 am

Water is at its densest at approx. 4 degrees centigrade which may explain why the temperature at the bottom of the oceans is 4C.

Rogelio
February 12, 2012 5:02 am

This from wikipedia now LOL re Mann graph, “with the instrumental temperatures overlaid in black” waht a joke!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png at least its now admitted officially that the graph is a scam

DocMartyn
February 12, 2012 5:03 am

“As to the mechanism, to me that is a simple question of the crossing lines. As temperature rises, clouds and thunderstorms increase. This cuts down the incoming energy, as well as cooling the surface in a variety of ways”
I would respectfully disagree. One can analyze what happens over the course of a full diurnal cycle. Heat in causes a rise in temperature AND an increase in evaporation. The phase conversion of water in saline to gaseous water transforms the heat into potential energy; Water rises against the gravity well performing work.
At night there atmosphere and water surface cool. A gas to liquid-solid phase change occurs, releasing IR, pressure drops, water falls down the gravity well.
The heat of evaporation is banked throughout the diurnal cycle as water lifted against the gravity well.

Bobl
Reply to  DocMartyn
February 12, 2012 5:34 am

Not quite, the latent heat of evaporation is emitted but the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy as the rain falls and expended against the mass of the planet according to Newtons laws of motion. The energy consumed in raising gigatons of water 2-3km into the air everey day seems to often be forgotten in this debate.

Richard LH
February 12, 2012 5:05 am

“Pure Water is at its densest at approx. 4 degrees centigrade”. Salty water is denser right upto 0 degrees centigrade (and beyond depeending on the amount of salt).

Stephen Richards
February 12, 2012 5:10 am

Peter Miller says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:55 am
This cannot happen in shallow areas like the Red Sea, the area around the Indonesian archipeligo and parts of the Caribbean, here you will find temperatures rising above the mystical figure 30 degrees C.
But the temperature will still be capped by evaporative cooling (EC). This type of cooling is used to reduce liquid O² to N² to H to He.

Bengt Abelsson
February 12, 2012 5:21 am

Jimmy H, that is valid for fresh water.

Bill Illis
February 12, 2012 5:25 am

Great analysis. Now we are talking about what a real climate component actually does.
Is there a trend in this 30C water over the long term. You know, it actually looks like there is NO trend in the equatorial ocean SST. Between 5N-5S or 10N-10S, almost all datasets have Zero trend going back to 1850. There is a Enso-influenced cycle but no real change over the long-term. Last month, the equatorial ocean SST anomaly was -0.29C.
Has the 30C limit changed at all over time? It looks like it hasn’t.

Alberta Slim
February 12, 2012 5:26 am

Thanks Willis. Excellent work.
Of course the UN IPCC will never accept this as evidence againt AGW.
It is their religion. Now that GHGs have being debunked they are switching to
GEGs [Global Environmental Governance] at Rio.
Raise a different flag and continue the march toward the NWO.

Buck Smith
February 12, 2012 5:35 am

I did some web searching and calculations to check the 1000 to 1 ratio. I came up with heat capacities in Joules per degree k of 6.2e+24 for the oceans and 5.0e+21 for atmosphere. Then I took 3.7 watts per m^2 as the impact due to CO2 doubling and converted it to a total energy input in one year of 5.8E+22 Joules/year, using 5.1E+8 square kilometers for earth’s surface area.
Applied to the atmosphere only, 5.8e22 joules yields an 11 or 12 degree increase in one year. Applied to the oceans and the atmosphere it is 0.009 degree increase in one year. Willis is showing us the big swamp cooler in action. That pretty much makes the case for a high degree of coupling between ocean and atmosphere.

Paul Bahlin
February 12, 2012 5:35 am

There’s another thermostat in operation too. Life!
Life is a self regulating consumer of excess energy. It transformed the atmosphere from a noxious anaerobic mix to a toxic high oxygen mix. It maintains a prodigious oxygen production factory today by consuming a trace gas. It converts matter in ways that affect constituent ratios.
IMO it is the single best candidate to explain a 4 billion year history of relative stability in spite of a massive increase in solar radiation over that same period. All those selfish genes might just be at work 24/7 regulating the climate they need to prosper.
It is what keeps the third rock from becoming just another boring satellite.

DB
February 12, 2012 5:36 am

GeoffSherrington asks:
“I’m also interested in why deep ocean waters are close to freezing. How and when did they get so cold?”
Looking at the long, long picture, the drifting of a land mass over the south pole had tremendous effects. Once South America and Antarctica split apart (forming the Drake Passage) the Antarctic Circumpolar Current started up.
The second graph here
http://jonova.s3.amazonaws.com/graphs/g/fig-1-continental-glaciation.gif
shows that the deep ocean temperature was about 12°C some 50 million years ago. It began cooling down as Antarctica and South America split apart in the Eocene. Sea ice freezing at the poles, mostly Antarctica, ‘squeezes out’ salt which makes the surrounding water denser. This dense cold water keeps sinking to the bottom of the ocean as it has for millions of years. The cold abyss has been between 2 and 6 °C for the last 35 million years.
This long-term cooling as the ocean basins fill with the deep cold has resulted in the growth of ice sheets in east Antarctica (beginning some 30-35 million years ago) west Antarctica (some 10 million years ago) and the northern hemisphere (3 million years ago).

Mike M
February 12, 2012 5:42 am

Yet another fly in the stale CAGW ointment… and a big one.
More speculation, is it related to the apparent limit of global temperature in general that I am seeing here?

John B
February 12, 2012 5:50 am

Willis, over the decade you have analysed, global surface temperature has not changed (much). What evidence do you have that the 30C sea surface maximum is a thermostat and is not simply a function of the global surface temperature? In other words, if/when surface temperature rises (or falls), what evidence do you have that the maximum sea surface temperature will not follow it?

Richard M
February 12, 2012 5:54 am

It does appear that the limit only shows up in the open ocean. The coastal areas and seas have no problem going over 30°. It may be informative to look only at these areas and see if they have another limiting factor. It could be that ocean circulations, etc. are also involved in maintaining the limit.
Interestingly, this once again would show that structure is an important factor in determining temperature limits. As I’ve stated previously, I suspect the structure of the atmosphere itself also places a limit on the greenhouse effect.

markx
February 12, 2012 5:55 am

Marvellously clear demonstration of the self regulation of the ‘system’.
I live (on a not so idyllic tropical island about 100 km north of the equator), and we rarely see air temperatures over 33 C…. when it gets hot around here, it gets very, very wet. And cools down quickly.
I forsee a Nobel Prize for Willis for Saving the World from Economic Manipulation by the Filthy Rich. (They do have a prize for that, don’t they?)

Richard M
February 12, 2012 6:16 am

If this really is a limit it would seem to throw a lot of cold water over the water vapor feedback theory. If the ocean cannot warm, then there would be no increase in evaporation. The “C” in CAGW would cease to exist.

pochas
February 12, 2012 6:20 am

The 30C maximum means that the whole air column conforms to the adiabatic temperature profile and any temperature increase at any point in the air column will immediately result in convection. Portions of the air column can be cooler than the adiabatic temperature profile and the air column will remain stable as long as the adiabatic lapse rate is not exceeded at any altitude. The flat-top on the equatorial sea-surface temperature is an excellent illustration of the fact that the adiabatic temperature profile determines the maximum surface temperature of the earth (as well as any other planet), as an absolute limit.
Willis, thank you for bringing these important diagrams to us. They make it crystal clear that these high-temperature hobgoblins raised by the alarmists are mere phantoms of their overheated minds.

Kelvin Vaughan
February 12, 2012 6:25 am

There is a maximum temperature for land as well. There is a point where the temperature will not climb any higher.
Records are seldom broken and then it is usually a local phenomenom. New record new location!

beng
February 12, 2012 6:28 am

****
Jimmy Haigh says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:56 am
Water is at its densest at approx. 4 degrees centigrade which may explain why the temperature at the bottom of the oceans is 4C.
****
That’s been explained here more times I can count. SALT water’s density isn’t the same as fresh — it increases down to its freezing point. The cold water is present due to cold, sinking water in the polar regions (which spread out on the bottom globally). The ocean is largely stratified below the mixing zone, so cold water is “preserved” until it upwells. Think of an ocean “thermos bottle” below the mixing zone, w/cold water leaking in and out.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 6:38 am

Willis
One has to be careful not to fall into the trap to which those proffering the cAGW theory fall into, namely that merely because one can see some general pattern(s) in the data that that indicates causation. One must bear in mind that correlation is not necessarily causation.
First, it is necessary to put forward a physical hypothesis which can be tested against the data. Second, one has to explain exactly what the data set is measuring; in this regard what exactly is ARGO measuring when it provides data on SST? In other words, are we looking at the top millimetres, or top centimetre, the first 5 or 10 centimetre etc. It is very important to be clear on this since this may have a bearing on the extent to which the physical hypothesis can be tested against the data. Third, if there are examples in the data set, even if this is only one example, which contradicts the physical hypothesis then unless that one example (or examples) can be shown to be some anomaly, the physical hypothesis is wrong. When I say wrong, I do not mean that it is necessarily fundamentally flawed, but it does require revision.
No doubt the majority of those sceptical of the cAGW theory are of the view that there are (or probably are) negative feedbacks which tend to control temperature within a reasonably small band and which make tipping points unlikely.
I note your tentative mechanism. I am pleased to see that this is stated wider than the mechanism that you proffered a couple of days ago. I still consider that in that mechanism, one should probably include ocean overturning. I also consider that it is probable that the topography of the seabed especially in and around the continental shelf also plays a role.
Ocean currents are difficult to understand. Not only in their lateral location but also in their vertical profile. As a diver, you will know well how localised water temperature can be, and how matters of metres one way or another both laterally and/or vertically can make a significant difference to the prevailing local temperature. Until the physical mechanisms involved in creating the profiles of currents are well understood, inevitably it will be difficult to understand how ocean temperatures are fully controlled.
The air temperature above the ocean is (predominantly) governed by the ocean temperature, This can be seen by the small diurnal range over oceans. You may take it from me that it can also be seen in temperature profiles recorded in ship’s logs in circumstances where the ship is sailing in a warm current, air temperature usually closely correlates to the warm localised sea temperature.
Obviously, oceans at the same latitude in theory receive the same amount of solar irradiance. Given that air temperature is a response to ocean temperature, this begs the question why is the ocean at the same latitude not all at the same temperature?
DWLWIR has little penetrative effect and therefore it is difficult to envisage a mechanism whereby it directly heats the ocean. To the extent that it has any heating effect, it is likely that this goes to increase the evaporation on the first few microns which in turn is likely to result in a cooling, not a warming of the surface layer (by which I mean the layer at about 1mm and immediately below).
One cannot efficiently heat a body of liquid, merely by warm air above it. If you place a drink say at 2 degC in a well insulated cup (sides and bottom being well insulated and of material that is not a good conductor) in a room at 20degC, the drink will not tend to warm quickly and to the extent that it does, this is more influenced by short comings with the insulation. Nor will the rate of evaporation be greatly influenced by whether the ambient room temperature and hence the air immediately above the open surface of the drink is at 5 deg C or 20 deg C. That being the case, and not forgetting that the air temperature above the ocean is driven by the temperature of the ocean itself, it is not immediately apparent that evaporation rates are governed by air temperature as opposed to being a feedback to forcing, primarily solar since DWLWIR penetrates only to microns.
So where is this taking us, apart from the obvious that namely much more thought needs to go into what is driving ocean temperature, how it responds to those forcings and what processes are at play that will naturally place some restrictions on how warm the ocean can get?
At this moment, I have no great answers and need to give much further thought to this matter. But in the meantime, there needs to be a thorough explanation as to why, for example, the open Indian ocean off both the East and West coast of India and the East Coast of Africa can and does get up to 34 degC, and why the Atlantic ocean off the West coast of Africa around Ghana. Ivory Coast can and does get up to 35 degC..

HankHenry
February 12, 2012 6:38 am

This would be a great test of a model of sea surface temperatures. Does the model produce W. Eschenbach’s 30° C cap? …. and I don’t mean by fudging, for example:
100 IF T > 30 THEN LET T = 30 ( as it would be put in BASIC)

Mike
February 12, 2012 6:42 am

All this sort of begs the question of how the great oceanic transport currents are generated and how that heat transport mechanism fluctuates over time. I remember well getting lost one night when crossing the gulf stream from Florida to the Grand Banks near Bimini. I was sailing southbound evidenced by the North star trying to hold position until the night fog bank lifted yet I ended up 20 to 30 miles North of my expected position. That experience taught me to respect the power of the ocean currents.

DocMartyn
February 12, 2012 7:01 am

“Richard M says:
February 12, 2012 at 5:54 am
It does appear that the limit only shows up in the open ocean. The coastal areas and seas have no problem going over 30°. It may be informative to look only at these areas and see if they have another limiting factor”
Salinity. As the evaporation rate increases, salinity increase, and then the rate of evaporation drops. With a fixed heat input the higher the salt content, the higher the temperature and the lower the rate of evaporation.
Thus, salinity should plot with Tmax.

mobihci
February 12, 2012 7:05 am
Stephen Wilde
February 12, 2012 7:38 am

Willis,
The facts that you have helpfully set out are not news.
It has been known for decades that the water at or near the equator never gets much warmer than 28 or 29C.
Your own thermostat proposals are based on that well established information.
However you still fail to join the dots.
It is atmospheric pressure which dictates the limit for the energy content of the air at the surface.Once that limit is reached the global air circulation simply reconfigures itself to maintain system stability.
All unknowingly you are producing evidence in support of Nikolov, Zeller, Jelbring. myself and various others and evidence against your earlier vigorous attempts at debunking the significance of atmospheric pressure.
Read this article of mine:
http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=7798
“The Setting And Maintaining Of Earth’s Equilibrium Temperature”
The rate at which the oceans can release their previously acquired solar energy to the air is dependent on surface atmospheric pressure.
The rate at which the surface can release energy to space through the atmosphere is dependent on atmospheric surface pressure but is modulated by changes in the surface air pressure distribution when ANY factor tries to divert the atmospheric emperature profile from the dry adiabatic lapse rate set by surface pressure.
Every aspect of climate is simply the negative system response to destabilising influences and compared to the scale of natural variability our emissions come nowhere.
The key to it all is the energy budget balancing process provided by variable atmospheric heights in the vertical plane and shifting surface air pressure distribution in the horizontal plane.
It really is that simple.
And this article of yours helps to prove the point.

RockyRoad
February 12, 2012 7:42 am

Geoff Sherrington says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:17 am

I’m also interested in why deep ocean waters are close to freezing. How and when did they get so cold? It’s the other end of the cap. Were they always this way, or are deep ocean temperatures part of global energy dynamics as well? Remember that we have had small but omnipresent heat from radioactive decay for millions of years.
Presumably if ocean waters below the thermocline, that is, the major portion of ocean waters, were at 20 deg C, the surface cap of 30 deg C might be displaced to give rather different outcomes.

Reflect on the fact that life on earth would largely be eliminated except for that fact that ice floats. Were it to sink, the oceans would have filled up with ice long ago, never to turn liquid except for a thin veneer perhaps several tens of meters thick in equatorial regions during the summertime. As one huge block of ice, the “oceans” would have no circulating currents to help distribute massives amounts of thermal energy from equator to the poles. The resulting climate would be harsh, indeed; humans and many other animals would probably not be around.
Now extend this conceptual example to (near freezing) water, which does indeed sink, where it stays for some time, but it isn’t solid. And that cold water will stay down there until forced to the surface by some impediment like a continental mass, although circulation through mid-oceanic spreading centers does transfer significant amounts of heat, but sinking cold water at the polar regions far offsets this addition.

Michael Jankowski
February 12, 2012 7:57 am

So it’s “worse that we thought.” The oceans can only absorb so much heat, therefore in the future air temperature warming will be at even faster rates.
What do the GCMs show when it comes to ocean temps?

February 12, 2012 7:59 am

Well in spite of my previous post where I had not noticed the graph depicted the Southern Hemisphere, not the Northern, those graphs still confuse me a tad. When I see color coding my mind keeps trying to tell me red means hotter and blue means colder. But in your graphs red means equatorial and blue means polar. Might it be worthwhile to plot the same data with the vertical axis representing latitude and the color coding representing water temperature?

Steve from Rockwood
February 12, 2012 8:11 am

This is very important because of the oft-repeated AGW claim that surface temperature is a linear function of forcing, and that when forcing increases (say from CO2) the temperature also has to increase. The ocean proves that this is not true. There is a hard limit on ocean temperature that just doesn’t get exceeded no matter how much the sun shines.
Willis, I can’t agree here. The hard limit on ocean temperature is not 30 degrees. It is the maximum heating from the sun (which just happens to be around 30). Increase the energy from the sun and the temperature goes up. Decrease it and the temperature will go down.
Also if you want to discuss CO2 forcing increases and its effect on temperature you just can’t look at the Argo data. The variation within the time series is too great to extract a small CO2 forcing signal. What I find interesting (thanks to the enormous effort you have invested Willis) is the year over year trends in the troughs of the data. It almost looks like a trend to lower mid-latitude temperatures with time. How does that fit with global warming when the mid-latitude oceans are cooling?
M.R.B. states you can’t heat water from above. How come my pond gets so hot in the summer? I must have an underground heat leak somewhere.

John Blake
February 12, 2012 8:14 am

Reply to Stephan Richards, “The only mechanism available to start an ice age is the sun.” Not so… since the Pleistocene Era c. 2.6-million years-before-present (YBP), geophysical plate-tectonic distribution of landmasses has separated eastern from western hemispheres’ atmospheric/oceanic circulation patterns by interposing North and South American continents.
Since the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) Boundary c. 65-million YBP, five major geophysical eras have lasted a median 12 – 14+ million years apiece. On this basis, cyclic Pleistocene glaciations should persist another 10-million years or so at minimum.
Only when plate-tectonic “continental drift” via sea-floor spreading re-disposes continental landmasses will Planet Earth revert to the more stable climatic equilibrium that prevailed –subject to extraterrestrial bombardment and super-volcanic episodes– throughout post-Cambrian times, now totaling near 550-million years.
Meantime, if not for Earth’s 1,500-year Younger Dryas “cold shock” that ended c. 9,300 YBP (BC 7300), chances are that our current Holocene Interglacial Epoch would have ended coincident with the Roman Warm that preceded a 500-year Dark Age cooling phase from c. AD 450.

Joules Verne
February 12, 2012 8:31 am

@Willis
Did it not occur to you that 30C is the blackbody temperature for the equator? Calm water has a very low average albedo (i.e. it’s very close to black) and it also varies little between day and night. Thus what this should be telling you is that under optimal conditions of clear equatorial sky and calm water this is the highest average daily temperature that can be acheived. You can add greenhouse gases until the cows come home and it won’t get any higher because the bottom line is that greenhouse gases cannot raise the temperature above the blackbody temperature. Greenhouse gases can help to approach the blackbody temperature in a roundabout way of making the surface appear darker (i.e. absorbs a greater percentage of the incident energy) but in no way can it exceed the maximum which is limited by solar energy through a perfectly clear sky falling on a surface that absorbs 100% of it. Optimal conditions can approach that maximum but my not exceed it. Exceeding it requires a greater amount of energy reaching the surface than the sun provides so unless the sun gets hotter there’s nothing else that can do it.

ferd berple
February 12, 2012 8:33 am

As I recall from my sailing days, 28C is the ocean surface temperature at which you are at risk for cyclone formation. The ocean surface temperature will not go much above this, because the energy goes into storm formation.
If upper atmosphere winds are high, the energy is simply carried aloft and from there to other parts of the globe, without a cyclone forming. If upper atmosphere winds are low, then the rising energy gets a chance to organize and start things spinning.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 8:34 am

For those who have not followed closely the “Jason and ARGO Notes” post, I consider that it would be beneficial to post a couple of comments I made in relation to that post .
I did not comment upon the statistical analysis performed by Willis since this is a work in progress. However, one assertion of a scientific nature caught my eye because of the potential consequences it could have on cAGW.
The scientific assertion was: “No matter how much incoming solar there is, the ocean doesn’t get any warmer than that [30 degC]. This provides a “cap” on how hot the ocean can get. Above that temperature, any extra incoming energy is converted to latent and sensible heat, rather than warming the surface..”
I considered that assertion incorrect for two reasons. First, open ocean temperatures can and do, in a number of places, exceed 30degC such that the 30degC figure is too low. Second, whilst not disputing that processes are at play which tend to limit ocean temperature, I considered the one mechanism cited by Willis as being not the only process at work. Since then Willis has widened the processes at play which tend to place a limit on ocean temperatures. I consider that to be an improvement but still it fails to take account of other processes which probably contribute in particular ocean overturning and topography.
There is of course a problem with this. Namely, we know for example the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Ghana and Ivory coast regularly gets to 34 degC if not 35 degC. Why is this and why does the immediately adjacent ocean at same latitude not also get to such temperatures? Is it possible that this area of the Atlantic ocean which gets up to 34 deg C (even 35 degC) to increase in area? If not why not? What are the limiting restrictions on the area involved? These are just some of the issues that arise that need to be considered and explained.
Ditto, we know that the Indian ocean off the West coast of India (and indeed in places off the East coast of Africa) regularly gets to 32 degC and at times and in places up to 34 degC. Why is this and why does other parts of the ocean at same latitude not get similarly warm? Is it possible that this area of the Indian ocean which gets up to 32 deg C (even 34 degC) to increase in area? If not why not? Again, what are the limiting restrictions on the area involved? These are just some of the issues that arise that need to be considered and explained.
The above examples are not exhaustive either of the areas of open ocean that regularly exceed 30degC nor of the issues that are involved. Further there are the issues raised in relation to enclosed, semi enclosed and shallower oceans.
If the reason lies in the hydrological process, why is this different in some parts of the ocean?
Further we need to consider the historical data. In particular, we need to consider the pre-historic tropical ocean which I understand (without endorsing consensus) is generally accepted to have been warmer than the tropical ocean is today. Why was that? Especially, as solar may well have been less powerful. This of course is difficult given that the then tropical ocean had different topography and we know nothing (or nearly nothing) about currents and heat transport then on going.
We also need to consider carefully what ARGO is measuring and also what it is not measuring. Putting things in context this is important since it may be that there is some cap of temperature placed on the very top of the ocean surface but the same cap is not necessarily imposed at say 10cm or 20cm or 50cm or 1m (or what have you) below the surface. If that is the case, it may be that whilst the temperature at the surface cannot exceed XdegC, the temperature beneath the surface can exceed X degC or WdegC and the ocean at that point may well nr significantly below WdegC and is presently warming towards WdegC.
Whilst I am sceptical of cAGW, if there is plenty of temperature headroom lying at a depth a little below the surface and if in that depth the ocean is undergoing warming, there is still the possibility for cAGW.
So what am I saying? Well really only this, before one offers Willis the Nobel prize (as one commentator suggested) and before we all get too carried away, let’s give some proper thought to this and not simply fire from the hip.

ferd berple
February 12, 2012 8:36 am

ps: by cyclone I mean hurricane, typhoon, etc. The names differ depending on where you live.

tty
February 12, 2012 8:41 am

” Geoff Sherrington says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:17 am
I’m also interested in why deep ocean waters are close to freezing. How and when did they get so cold? It’s the other end of the cap. Were they always this way, or are deep ocean temperatures part of global energy dynamics as well? Remember that we have had small but omnipresent heat from radioactive decay for millions of years.
Presumably if ocean waters below the thermocline, that is, the major portion of ocean waters, were at 20 deg C, the surface cap of 30 deg C might be displaced to give rather different outcomes.”
The deep ocean has not always been cold. When you think about it is rather odd that it is, since it has warm water on top and hot rocks underneath. The reason it is cold is that it is always the densest water in the ocean that will sink to the bottom. In the present icehouse climate which has lasted for c. 35 million years this is either very cold and salty water which is “frozen out” when sea ice forms around Antarctica or very cold and salty water which is formed by evaporative cooling in subarctic parts of the North Atlantic. In both cases the water is also well oxygenated, consequently the deep ocean is also fairly well oxygenated.
During periods with hothouse climate (which is most of the time actually) the ocean is warm all the way to the bottom. There is no cold, briny arctic water around, so the heaviest water available is instead warm, briny water created by evaporation in the tropics. This water is much less oxygenated than present-day deep ocean water, both because of temperature and less vigorous mixing at the surface. Periods with hothouse climate therefore also leads to OAE:s (Ocean Anoxic Events), periods when the deep ocean, or at least parts of it becomes stagnant and anoxic. The last time this happened on a large scale was in the mid-Cretaceaous about 100 million years ago, but there have been many such episodes in the past (and each time life in the deep ocean must have been wiped out, and restarted by colonization from shallower areas when deep ocean circulation speeded up again).

February 12, 2012 8:46 am

Superbe analysis – again!
Interesting to see how the 31 C wall can hardly be overcome.
Around 30 C waters simply has to let go of the heat. This also seems to explain why ENSO patterns has such a significant impact on temperatures around the world.
And this also makes the relation between temperatures in Nino3,4 and global temperature make even more sence:
http://hidethedecline.eu/media/Pendulum/enso-temperature-Fig1.gif
From recent article: http://hidethedecline.eu/pages/posts/the-siberian-pacific-climate-pendulum-251.php
– because: These equatorial waters at 30 C release more heat to the atmosphere that anywhere else, and thus, differences here affects the whole world.
K.R. Frank

richard verney
February 12, 2012 8:46 am

Steve from Rockwood says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:11 am
//////////////////////////
Your pond is heated by solar, not by hot air. Ambient air temperature is important to how much heat is lost at night.
In Summer, my swimming pool ,regularly reaches 35 to 36 degC and yet the air temperature may be 30 to 33 degC. It is usually able to maintain a night time temperature of 31 to 33 deg C even though night time temperatures may be down to 24 to 25 deg C.

michael hart
February 12, 2012 8:51 am

Tim says:
February 12, 2012 at 2:35 am
R.M.B. says:
“You can not heat water from above because of surface tension”
————-
I have seen this statement several times on these pages. Can someone explain to me why surface tension should totally inhibit heat transfer from gas to liquid?
Thanks.
______________
Tim,
Simply put, the main reason is that at very short distances from the surface [approx micrometres and less] the forces that produce bulk mixing in the ocean become much less important, and diffusion becomes dominant. This diffusion constraint affects how fast heat can be transferred DOWN from the surface [the “Einstein-Smoluchowski” limit is often how it is taught in Chemistry, where it has an important effect on reaction rates]. You cannot make it go faster by simply stirring with wind/wave/convection. So when the heat cannot be rapidly transferred downwards, then more water evaporates, effectively transferring the heat UPWARDS [as latent heat]. This heat now CAN be transported efficiently by wind and convection. It will later reappear when it condenses back to water somewhere else on the planet, higher in the atmosphere, closer to the poles, etc.
Now, Infra red radiation is so strongly absorbed by the top micrometres within this surface zone limited by diffusion rates, that a resulting temperature rise [from increased IR radiation] is more easily lost by evaporation than it is transferred to depths. Dave Springer has often posted about this on these blogs, and elsewhere. It has been used to argue than “Trenberth’s missing heat” in the oceans never did enter the oceans.
Visible light can penetrate much further down into the ocean, allowing it to warm the deeper water rather than evaporate it. This is why changes in the Sun’s spectrum are as important as well as the total amount of radiation received across the spectrum.
Personally, I find the phrase “penetrating surface tension” a bit misleading because surface tension is a force, not a physical object that can be penetrated [“penetrating gravity” would sound similarly non-physical to me]. Surface tension does, of course, operate at surfaces, but the phenomenum is essentially unrelated to the absorbtion of light or infrared radiation.

ferd berple
February 12, 2012 8:52 am

richard verney says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:34 am
If the reason lies in the hydrological process, why is this different in some parts of the ocean?
Cyclones (huricane/typhoon) are not distributed evenly around the globe. They tend to affect the east coast of continents more than the west coast. The ocean basins themselves tend to be steeply sloping on the west coasts of the continents and shallow sloping on the east coasts. What effect the rotation of the earth plays in this is an interesting discussion.

Philip Finck
February 12, 2012 8:52 am

“All of these work together to maintain the earth within a fairly narrow temperature band, with a temperature drift on the order of no more than ± 0.2% per century.”
This may be the case for present conditions when things are relatively stable. However I’m not sure that this is true given the dramatic temperature changes that were seen during the Little Ice Age period; both up and down. Even more so at the beginning and end of the Younger Dryas. It was an interesting time in Nova Scotia where massive storms carried land detritus (spruce needles and cones) out to and deposited them at the edge of the continental shelf. It is a good example of where massive storms were not caused by warming, rather by rapid cooling.

tty
February 12, 2012 8:57 am

richard verney says:
” Putting things in context this is important since it may be that there is some cap of temperature placed on the very top of the ocean surface but the same cap is not necessarily imposed at say 10cm or 20cm or 50cm or 1m (or what have you) below the surface. ”
Since the density of salt water decreases monotonously with temperature this requires lower-density water to stay put below a thin layer of higher-density water. This is physically implausible to put things mildly.
The only way this can happen is if the surface layer has a much lower salinity than the deeper layer. This actually does happen in enclosed marginal seas if there is a very large input of fresh water from rivers but has never been observed in the deep ocean.

G. Karst
February 12, 2012 8:59 am

Willis, these observations are indeed important, and require urgent theoretical explanation and testing. I say urgent, because one can be certain, present climate modality does not have any mechanism or term to limit sea surface temps. Their extrapolations surely project temps above this apparent limit. This in itself would seem to falsify models.
Irregardless, the climate community must begin to address the argo data and begin the integration of these observations into the hypothesis. The fact that a blog must perform basic analysis is damning for this field and speaks volumes about you and WUWT.
I would tend to look at surface tension for mechanism simply because it is such a confounding state of water/matter. There are so many odd and difficult phenomenon present.
I wonder if there is a minimum depth involved in the apparent effect, as well as latitude restrictions. That would be indicative of the actual mechanism. It is all so interesting!
Thanks again for the cerebral candy. GK

BenAW
February 12, 2012 9:00 am

tty says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:41 am
When you say “cold” we’re still talking ~275K, 20K above the 255K the GHE theory states the earth would be without atmosphere.
The hot periods in the oceans live, are they caused by large scale “opening up” of the earths crust?
Like eg in the period Pangea broke up and the separate continents formed?

richard verney
February 12, 2012 9:08 am

Big D in TX says:
February 12, 2012 at 2:27 am
/////////////////////////////////////////
Big D
Good to see you post. I wish I had seen your post before my post of 08:34 am. In that I mentioned that we need to see the historical data. I fully agree with you that we need more historical data before conclusions can safely be drawn.
I do not know how warm the ocean was during the Holocene Optimum, and the Minoan, Roman and Medieval warm periods but it would not surprise me if it was significantly warmer than it is today.
It may be that it could have been a couple or so degrees warmer, or that there were significantly greater areas of the ocean that were warmer than the ’30 deg C capped’ areas that Willis has charted. If so, then that will tell us quite a bit about the effective cap imposed by the hydrological process.
It is always very important to put things in context particularly historical context and the length of reliable data sets. If one looks only at a short snap shot of time, it is easy to draw the wrong conclusions.

pochas
February 12, 2012 9:19 am

Richard M says:
February 12, 2012 at 5:54 am
“It does appear that the limit only shows up in the open ocean. The coastal areas and seas have no problem going over 30°. It may be informative to look only at these areas and see if they have another limiting factor.”
And they do. Over the open ocean near the equator the wet adiabatic lapse rate governs. Over the adjacent desert zones the air is dry. The dry adiabatic lapse rate governs (which is higher) so surface temperatures can be higher. Also, inland seas in the desert regions can be warmer than 30C if the atmosphere above them is dry. Over most of the earth the effective lapse rate may be somewhere in between so the maximum temperature may not be so strikingly apparent as it is over the equatorial oceans.

markx
February 12, 2012 9:22 am

richard verney: February 12, 2012 at 9:08 am
and
Big D in TX: February 12, 2012 at 2:27 am
say: ” ……I fully agree with you that we need more historical data before conclusions can safely be drawn……”
Historical Data. In notoriously short supply. Good luck with that. I see the models and proxy data sets (tree rings for ocean temperature, anyone?) being dragged out again.
I think this lack of data prompted the whole Argo project.
Mann has already plotted and published a modelled worldwide chart of temperatures for the MWP, and strangely enough, most areas were far cooler (according to him) than the (very few) proxy data sources which drove the models were. In fact, Mann’s MWP (or MCA, as he renamed it, “Medieval Climate Anomaly”) was markedly cooler than the present.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 9:22 am

tty says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:57 am
/////////////////////////////////////////////////
I think that the thrust of the point you make is mistaken.
The top micron layer of the ocean is cooler than the layer immediately below it. This is because evaporation (and convenction) takes place from the very top micron layer. It therefore is cooled by the latent heat involved.
There is no significant salinity profile that I am aware of in the first metre or so of the ocean. Are you aware of such a salinity prodike, if so please link it.
You may not have understood my point. It may be that due to the laent heat etc involved in evaporation that the top surface layer cannot heat to above 30degC. However since evaporation does not take place from the water which is at 5 cm or 10 or 20 cm below the surface, it may be that water at that specific and particular depths can be heated to above 30degC. The ocean is overturned which means that water which is say at 5 cm depth is churned in a circular manner influencing the temperature of the water at a depth of say 4.7cm and at 5.3 cm. This process is on going at various depths. The net effect of this is that if the ocean at say a 5 cm depth can be warmed above 30deg C since it is not directly cooled by the latent heat loss in evaporation taking place at the very top millimetres it can tend to warm the ocean both above and below it. Eventually more heat *energy is being captured.in the ocean and eventually that heat can be released (such as in an El Nino).

Mike M
February 12, 2012 9:23 am

Steve from Rockwood says: The hard limit on ocean temperature is not 30 degrees. It is the maximum heating from the sun (which just happens to be around 30). Increase the energy from the sun and the temperature goes up. Decrease it and the temperature will go down.

Huh? You state it isn’t a hard limit but then say that something in control has hit a maximum. – Make up your mind. If there some sort of ‘maximum heating’ then that is a limit and has to be explained by ~something~.
Keep turning up the heat under a pot of water and it will eventually start to boil. We all know that if you keep increasing the heat beyond that, the water temperature will stay at 212. If you were observing this per your suggestion above then you would be stating that ~something~ mysteriously begins to limit the heat when the water reaches 212 when in fact nothing is limiting the heat at all, it is evidenced simply by more steam.
To me it suggests maybe some sort of strong convective ‘tipping point’ going on that entrenched ‘climate scientists’ have been too blind to notice. In the tropics you can almost set your watch by the thunderstorms building up in the afternoon. The hotter it gets, the higher they go, the COLDER the rain falling back to earth. Sounds like a negative feedback…

jeff
February 12, 2012 9:30 am

Slight diversion.
Any comments on the 30-35C summer peaks at mid latitudes in Figure 2? Granted some of this is due to shallower waters but in eyeballing the charts there seems to be a dearth of red points in the summer. Is this due to the Argos being pushed out of the equatorial region by the upwelling and currents?
Or maybe an issue with which color is displayed with lots of overlapping data points?
Well, at the least the reds seem to be spread over the 25-30C range in the summer, whereas they are concentrated around 30C in the winter.
Maybe add some kind of graphical at the bottom of the chart showing the number of buoys for each of the latitude bands over time (weekly/monthly) to see the distribution of data reports?

R. Gates
February 12, 2012 9:32 am

All very interesting Wills, and certainly, as you point out, is an excellent example of the self-regulatory nature of Earth’s climate system, and in this regard is very similar to the ways in which your own body regulates itself to keep its temperature from going too high, or too cold. What your very specific and narrow SST analysis absolutely does not do is saying anything about of the impact of increasing amounts of CO2 to the ocean as a whole, when looking at all ocean layers, and extending even into the cryosphere and across all latitudes. When a similar analysis is done on this more comprehensive scale and scope, we see a much different story being told. We see a system that is undergoing rapid change. Now it well could be that (just as the human body does when it has a fever), that these changes to the system as a whole will prove the extreme self-regulatory ability of Earth’s climate under increasing external forcing, and that would not surprise me. We know of course that every system does have a point beyond which a sudden or extreme enough shock will forever alter that system– either sending into a whole new mode of operation, or of course, in the extreme case, destroying the system completely. Discovery of exactly how much of a shock (i.e. the sensitivity) to the system the relatively rapid buildup of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is likely to be is the prime focus of much of the ongoing climate research. knowing this is of course vital, as the cost of getting it wrong, and to continue down the same path of massive dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere could be extremely high. The point is, we don’t know for certain, but the answer is probably the most important one we could have.

Mike M
February 12, 2012 9:33 am

G. Karst says: This in itself would seem to falsify models.

I’m a bit less reserved, I’d say that if these numbers are right it DOES falsify their models and in a very big way. Hopefully big enough to cause many of them to fold up shop and run away with their tails between their legs.

Matt Skaggs
February 12, 2012 9:38 am

Fascinating analysis, Willis. It is at least conceivable that this construction would still allow for ice ages and glacial epochs through low frequency changes in albedo. As for Stephen Wilde and the Pressure folks, I’d be curious how one achieves a glacial epoch, an ice age, and an interglacial from pressure changes. Similarly, if our current climate has a maximum as shown here, despite the fact that we are well below normal temperatures in terms of the earth’s largely ice-free history, that means atmospheric pressure was both higher and lower in the past?

Jim D
February 12, 2012 9:41 am

Willis, this is interesting. You will see the areas that can get warmer than 30 C are shallow areas, which leads me to suspect that the deeper areas are controlled by the deeper ocean temperature that will only change slowly with climate. The IPCC AR4 projections have the oceans warming in all areas, implying that the 30 C limit will be raised in the future. This may be perhaps as the warming spreads to deeper layers over time. It just takes a long time to warm hundreds of meters depth of water.

February 12, 2012 9:45 am

Do the Oceans not act as the Earth’s thermostat? The saturation vapour pressure of water follows the Claussius Claperyon equation which is approximately VP = Cexp(-DH/RT) (DH = Latent Enthalpy, R Gas constant, T=Temperature. The water holding capacity of the atmosphere increases by something like an extra 8% for a 1 degree rise in temperature. The ocean surface loses heat through evaporation increasing approximately exponentially with T. Rising moist air packets then condense into clouds at some height (Pressure) where latent heat is released to the atmosphere. This changes the dry adiabatic lapse rate to a moist adiabatic lapse rate. The lapse rate is fundamental to the greenhouse effect because it changes the temperature of the level where heat (via CO2 + H2O) can freely radiate into space. This can effectively short circuit AGW because increases in temperature of CO2 molecules at the critical height offset any increase in the height itself. In the tropics, increases in clouds and  daily thunderstorms transport vast amounts of heat to higher altitudes. Looking at a Skew-T diagram, 30 degrees C at the surface is about where the moist adiabatic becomes vertical, and temperature stops decreasing with height making the atmosphere unstable.

Myrrh
February 12, 2012 9:49 am

David says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:36 am
Tim says:
February 12, 2012 at 2:35 am
R.M.B. says:
“You can not heat water from above because of surface tension”
I have seen this statement several times on these pages. Can someone explain to me why surface tension should totally inhibit heat transfer from gas to liquid?
——————————————————————————
Hi Tim, just as Willis did not say “oceans cannot exceed 30 C”, likewise RMB should not say ““You can not heat water from above because of surface tension”. The message RMB is trying to convey is that almost 100% of the energy/heat from LWIR is abdsorbed in the top few microns of water, right at the evaporation level of the ocenas top surface, and therfore this energy is used almost exclusively to accelerate evaporation and increase convection and coud formation, further reducing surface insolation, wheras SWR is absorbed over a three D medium of ocean depth up to 900 meters in the clearest part of the oceans. Now the above is true, especialy in the tropics as we near 30C, it is just not quantified. In short, we do not know the relative ability of an equal amount of SWR to heat the oceans, vs an equal (W/M2) LWIR to heat the same ocean, it is just apparent that the SWR does a more effective job. There is much we have to learn.
Ridiculous. Tim don’t bother with such utter codswallop – the direct heat from the Sun warms the oceans. The direct heat from the Sun is thermal infrared, if this didn’t heat the oceans because it couldn’t penetrate more than a few microns there would be no such thing as swimming in really warm tropical waters – it would be cold water with a thin layer of heat on it! Utter nonsense.
“Ocean Regions
Heat from the sun warms the world’s oceans near the Equator. This heat is gradually circulated through the oceans by currents. Since these waters are always being warmed, they maintain high year round temperatures (21° – 30° C, 69.8° – 86° F) and are known as the Tropical Regions of the world’s oceans.” http://oceanofk.org/tag/Tagmigrate/ddisttemp.html
My bold.
The heat we feel direct from the Sun is thermal infrared, this is the same radiated heat energy used in countless applications to heat water, including us as in infrared saunas because we are so much water – It penetrates out skin and into the body by inches! And it can’t get past the surface tension of the ocean!?
Thermal infrared has the ability to move the molecules of water into vibrational resonance, this is kinetic energy, which is also heat. Water has a very high heat capacity, it takes in a lot of heat before it shows temperature changes and it takes longer to heat up than land and so takes longer to lose heat, from this we get the inshore and offshore breezes.
http://thermalenergy.org/heattransfer.php
Heat Transfer
“Thermal energy and heat are often confused. Rightly so because they are physically the same thing. Heat is always the thermal energy of some system. Using the word heat helps physicists to make a distinction relative to the system they are talking about.”
http://thermalenergy.org/
Thermal Energy Explained
“What is thermal energy ?
Thermal Energy: A specialized term that refers to the part of the internal energy of a system which is the total present kinetic energy resulting from the random movements of atoms and molecules.
The ultimate source of thermal energy available to mankind is the sun, the huge thermo-nuclear furnace that supplies the earth with the heat and light that are essential to life. The nuclear fusion in the sun increases the sun’s thermal energy. Once the thermal energy leaves the sun (in the form of radiation) it is called heat. Heat is thermal energy in transfer. Thermal energy is part of the overall internal energy of a system.
At a more basic level, thermal energy comes form the movement of atoms and molecules in matter. It is a form of kinetic energy produced from the random movements of those molecules. Thermal energy of a system can be increased or decreased.
When you put your hand over a hot stove you can feel the heat. You are feeling thermal energy in transfer.”
An ordinary incandescent lightbulb produces around 95% heat, and 5% light.
http://www.commonsensepress.com/GSA-sample_lesson/lesson_ocean.htm
The direct heat from the Sun, the direct thermal energy of the Sun in transfer, is what heats the oceans.

NASA: “Far infrared waves are thermal. In other words, we experience this type of infrared radiation every day in the form of heat! The heat that we feel from sunlight, a fire, a radiator or a warm sidewalk is infrared.
Shorter, near infrared waves are not hot at all – in fact you cannot even feel them. These shorter wavelengths are the ones used by your TV’s remote control.”

If you can’t stand the heat…

Allan MacRae
February 12, 2012 9:50 am

Nice work Willis,
You may recall my paper at http://icecap.us/images/uploads/CO2vsTMacRae.pdf
Figure 2 shows the relationship between the rate of change of detrended atmospheric CO2 and the change of detrended average global atmospheric temperature T.
This can be expressed in the modern data record as:
dCO2/dt = 4 * dT (CO2 in ppm and T in degrees C).
The data can be viewed in Excel at http://icecap.us/images/uploads/CO2vsTMacRaeFig5b.xls
The paper also shows that detrended CO2 lags temperature by ~9 months.
The reason I repeat this information is because there has been debate here about what heats what.
I haven’t had my coffee yet, but since dT leads dCO2, and the incremental CO2 is probably coming from ocean exsolution, is it not reasonable to suggest that the Sun heats both the atmosphere and the ocean surface, and as this heat penetrates into the thin ocean surface layer, it releases small amounts of CO2. I am not suggesting there is no heat flow between ocean and atmosphere – I suggest there is, in both directions, from warm to cold.
I further expect that the above equation is a function of the length of the typical time cycle of warming and cooling, in this case a ~4 year cycle, possibly related to major El Nino’s.
A much longer time cycle would impact deeper ocean layers and result in a larger multiple (than the 4 ppm/C above) and a longer time delay of CO2 after temperature. We know about the longer time delay (~800 years) in the ice core data, but I’m not convinced we can say much about its magnitude – I speculate that the ice core data is relatively accurate, but not absolutely accurate.
____________________________________
More on ice cores:
Note the alleged Siple data 83 year time shift – if this is true, the 83-year time shift could constitute remarkable self-delusion!
http://hidethedecline.eu/pages/posts/co2-carbon-dioxide-concentration-history-of-71.php
The well known graph for CO2 is based on Ice core data (”Siple”) and direct measurements from Hawaii (Mauna Loa). The Siple data ended with a CO2 concentration of 330 ppm in 1883. 330 ppm CO2 in 1883 is way too high, 330 ppm was first reached by Mauna Loa data around 1960-70. The two graphs (Siple and Mauna Loa) was then united by moving Siple data 83 years forward in time. The argument to do this was, that the atmospheric content of the ice was around 83 years older than the ice. So rather “fresh” atmospheric air should be able to travel down in the snow and ice corresponding to the 83 year old ice? This is perhaps 50 meters down or probably more. And then the fresh air is locked in the 83 year old ice. So a good ventilation down 83 year old ice, and then the ice closes. This hypothesis is still debated – but the classic Siple-Mauna Loa CO2 graph is used widely as solid fact.

John F. Hultquist
February 12, 2012 9:51 am

Big D in TX says:
February 12, 2012 at 2:27 am
“. . . first time poster here, . .
. . . exist mechanisms that tend to kick in at the 30C mark that halt further warming? What is special at that particular temperature that happens?

As no one else seems inclined to respond (possibly no one knows the answers), I will say, first, thanks for no-longer-lurking.
Next, if governments and NGOs had not wasted so much money over the last 25 years more and better science could have been done. Instead we have smart folks (Willis, being just one) using their own money and time. It is amazing.
Last: An answer to your question (quote, above) might come from something as straightforward as the size and surface composition of Earth. For example, the Equatorial Zone is a certain size and Earth rotates under the direct rays of the Sun at a given speed. These things are what they are – constants, if you like that term. What would happen to this “ocean temperature cap” if any of these constants were to change? Say the circumference of Earth was somewhat longer and it rotated somewhat more slowly, and it had more land and less ocean in the Equatorial Zone. What then? My WAG: no change. What’s yours?

February 12, 2012 9:53 am

As to the mechanism, to me that is a simple question of the crossing lines. As temperature rises, clouds and thunderstorms increase. This cuts down the incoming energy, as well as cooling the surface in a variety of ways. Next, this same process moves an increasing amount of excess energy polewards. In addition, as temperature rises, parasitic losses (latent and sensible energy transfers from the surface to the atmosphere) also go up.
There is a way of testing this hypothesis Willis. Look at the cloud coverage as recorded by the Terra and Aqua satellites as well as others to see if the cloud feedback is at work here. You can also look at the water vapor channels on the birds.
Another possibility that caps the heat is that some of this energy is transferred to cooler deeper regions of the ocean, which at the end of the day results in a longer term form of regulation but I was slightly surprised that you did not mention it.

nc
February 12, 2012 10:11 am

High sea water temperature, memories from time spent in the Canadian Navy working in the boiler and engine room of a destroyer pulling into Manzanillo Mexico water temperature reading well into the 80’s, 30c=86f. Got just a little warmer than normal,sarc, in those work spaces. If there is a hell, been there done that. Any other stokers out there?

jeff
February 12, 2012 10:14 am

Maybe I misunderstood the data set.
Are these graphs only of Argo units that at some point in their lifecycle reported a temperature >30°C?
“Annual temperature variations measured by all northern hemisphere argo floats that exceeded 30°C. “

mbur
February 12, 2012 10:19 am

Ever heard of a thermal low?Like in southern California when the deserts heat up it creates low clouds and fog in the coastal areas(fogaggedon).Heat rises and and causes low pressure near the surface.Maybe that process(heat rising) also drives ocean temps and currents?What about salt water’s lower freezing point and lower boiling point? Shouldnt that also make it’s evaporation point lower ?Maybe a little off topic,but that what i thought about when i read the article and comments.

DocMartyn
February 12, 2012 10:21 am

This is a rather nice recourse for the thermodynamic properties of sea water.
http://web.mit.edu/lienhard/www/Thermophysical_properties_of_seawater-DWT-16-354-2010.pdf

BrianP
February 12, 2012 10:22 am

One thing you are all missing is wind 30 knots will mix down to about 30 ft. At 7.5 knots white caps occure which uis of course is mixing

Tom in indy
February 12, 2012 10:25 am

What is the theoretical maximum sea surface temperature, given the make-up of our atmosphere and other contributing factors? How far above 30C is it?

richard verney
February 12, 2012 10:39 am

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:45 am
richard verney says:
February 12, 2012 at 6:38 am
“Nonsense. Yours is the trap that the AGW folks have fallen into, of hypothesizing in advance of the data.”
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Willis
Please
1. set out with full particularity the trap that you allege that I have fallen into; and.
2.identify with precision the comment and if there be more than one comment the comments that I have made that evidence that I have fallen into the trap that you assert that I have succumbed to.
Silence from you in response to my rewuest will be taken that you are unable to identify one or more of the above such that your assertions are baseless.
I look forward to hearing from you so that I may consider the serious merits of your serious allegation

Davy12
February 12, 2012 10:54 am

The temperature is set by the atmosphere.
Less atmosphere means lower air-pressure which means lower vapour pressures which means evaporations starts at a lower temperature.
Bigger atmosphere means higher air-pressure which means higher vapour pressure which means evaporation starts at a higher temp.
Brilliant. I am amazed by what we are seeing.

R. Gates
February 12, 2012 10:56 am

Dennis Ray Wingo said:
“Another possibility that caps the heat is that some of this energy is transferred to cooler deeper regions of the ocean, which at the end of the day results in a longer term form of regulation but I was slightly surprised that you did not mention it”
________
We know if fact this happens on both a short-term and longer-term basis, depending on how deep the energy is transferred. Right now, for example, there is large subsurface mass of warmer than average (much warmer in some cases) water in the western equatorial Pacific that has been slowly growing and expanding to the east under the surface during the course of the current La Nina. This recharge activity of the Pacific Warm Pool subsurface water is not atypical of the ENSO cycle, and certainly plays a role in the regulation of surface temperatures as some of the warmth from the surface waters has gone down in to the deeper ocean, not up into the atmosphere. Some of the deeper ocean energy will find its way back to the surface to be released dring the next El Nino.

February 12, 2012 10:57 am

Willis , you have a knack for stating the obvious , and I mean that as a compliment because apparently so few people recognise the obvious until it is pointed out to them, myself included. You take things that appear to be obscure and interpret them in such a manner as to make them obvious. Thanks for what you do. You have ability as a teacher, you reach people with your thoughts.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 11:02 am

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:57 am
Steve from Rockwood says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:11 am
“Steve, every year the energy from the sun increases and decreases. Given the sun’s intensity, for part of the year there is plenty of energy from the sun to make many ocean areas reach over 30°C … but they are not getting that warm”
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Willis
You may recall that for several years we have been arguing as to whether without DWLWIR, the tropical oceans would freeze. Your position is that the tropical oceans would freeze. I have suggested to you that you are misguided in that you are looking only at average conditions and failing to focus on the conditions that prevail in the equatorial regions and when one focuses on those specific conditions, even without the effects of CO2 DWLWIR,, the tropical ocean would not freeze because there is enough solar in those regions to keep the tropical ocean warm.
I take it from your comment to Steve that “..there is plenty of energy from the sun to make many ocean areas reach over 30°C…” you will now appreciate that your previously expressed view that the tropical oceans would freeze is very probably misconceived.

JimF
February 12, 2012 11:05 am

Willis: Thanks for this very interesting presentation. It basically shows that the Sun, all 1370 w/m**2 of it, heats the ocean. The latitude band encompassing the Tropic of Cancer (and presumably, the same for the southern hemisphere) merges into the maximum temperature band. All more northerly bands step down to lower average temperatures, as they receive correspondingly less energy the further from the equator. I would guess that the spacing of those bands is geometrically related to their latitudinal position.
In essence, the full sun (not some “sun/4”) is the heater of the ocean, which then acts to dissipate that heat by flowing, mixing and evaporating. Received LWIR has nothing to do with the ocean’s temperature (or heat content), except that it may heat air in contact with the ocean (if it does anything at all).

February 12, 2012 11:18 am

I have seen a “thermostat effect” in “determined” global temperature over the past half billion years or so. When CO2 was at 1200 PPMV and there were no major land masses at the poles, global temperature was generally 22 C. With CO2 at 6000 PPMV, global temperature was 22 C. When CO2 was high and there was a major burpout of methane, global temperature hit 23 C. I suspect the reason is that increase of GHGs increases the lapse rate, and the lapse rate feedback (which is negative). Greater lapse rate increases convection.
Also, according to “determinations” of the past, 23 C occurred less than 100 million years ago and 6,000 PPMV CO2 achieving a limit of 22 C occurred over 300 million years ago, and it is theorized that the sun is slightly increasing its output as it ages.
As for the 30 C limit of tropical waters: It appears to me that exceeding 30 C is causing convection that transfers heat to cooler parts of the world. Keep in mind that the equatorial tropopause is so cold (due to convection to such high altitude) that significant net loss of heat from radiation appears very unlikely to me. So, I think the heat going there mostly moves onward to less tropical parts of the world before it gets radiated to space.
In any case, I would expect the tropical ocean temperature limit to vary with the amount of sunlight directed towards Earth, roughly by the 4th root rule. Since solar output directed towards Earth peaked at about 1366.6 W/m^2 in the 1980’s maximum and even an aggressive prediction for a few decades from now calls for a Maunder-like dip around 1359.5 W/m^2, solar output is unlikely to vary by much more than 1/2 of a percent. This means solar variation is unlikely to cause the tropical ocean temperature limit to vary by much more than 1/8 of a percent or about .4 degree K, even with this extreme range of solar variation.
I do agree with a concept of increase of GHGs causing very little increase in the tropical ocean temperature limit. It appears to me that increase of GHGs warming convection-prone equatorial ocean areas requires albedo change (4th root law applies), or increase of the effective altitude of the level of the atmosphere where GHGs radiate directly to space (and I see the effect there being small).
GCM forecasts calling for increase in tropical middle and upper troposphere temperature appear to me to include excessive cloud albedo positive feedback. I am expecting the cloud albedo feedback to be positive, as convective clouds increase their efficiency with increased water vapor content and increased lapse rate. However, I expect the cloud albedo feedback to be only a fraction as positive as IPCC did as of AR4.
Also, I see positive cloud albedo feedback due to increased efficiency of convective clouds being accompanied by decrease in troposphere relative humidity, as more vigorous updrafts cover a smaller percentage of the world and downdrafts occupy a larger percentage. So, I see any positivity in cloud albedo feedback reducing the water vapor positive feedback. I think these explain why the tropical middle and upper troposphere is lacking the predicted hotspot.

Al Gored
February 12, 2012 11:25 am

“Until we understand the reasons for the amazing planetary temperature stability…”
Odd. Rumor had it that the UN War on Climate Change was the only possible mechanism for this…

R. Gates
February 12, 2012 11:27 am

Jim F said:
“In essence, the full sun (not some “sun/4″) is the heater of the ocean, which then acts to dissipate that heat by flowing, mixing and evaporating. Received LWIR has nothing to do with the ocean’s temperature (or heat content), except that it may heat air in contact with the ocean (if it does anything at all).”
_____
You, and others with similar notions are really looking at this quite incorrectly. It is not a question of what heats the ocean or more accurately, transfers energy into the ocean. Certainly the sun is the source of the majority of the energy in the ocean through the deeper and stronger penetration of SW radiation. But the question really is: “Why is the ocean not losing as much energy back to the atmosphere as it is taking up?” In this regard, you need to look at the complete ocean in all layers, and in doing so, of course you’ll find that the ocean heat content has been going up over the past 30+ years, and this is even more strongly indicated the deeper you take the metric.
Willis’s analysis of the surface temperatures indicates the mechanism whereby a limit is set on the surface temperature of the ocean, and in this regard, is a clue as to why the ocean overall is gaining energy. Sea surface temperatures are a measurement of energy being givien off to the atmospshere. This energy exchange we measure as heat. If there is a cap on the amount of “heat” at the ocean surface it means there is a cap on how rapidly the energy can flow from the ocean to the atmosphere. No doubt determined by atmospheric temperature and pressure. As the overall ocean heat content is rising, it means energy is entering in a larger amount than is leaving, as its exit is capped at a certain rate, as Willis has demonstrated.

February 12, 2012 11:35 am

There is a small sea area where temperatures exceeding 30 C are common. This is the Red Sea. It is disconnected enough from the global ocean to have less oceanic convection with cooler ocean areas than other tropical sea areas. Also, it is just a little too small to be favorable to formation of tropical cyclones. The southern part has *average* summertime surface temperature of 30 C.
Its high salinity, due to being in a hot and arid part of the world, accounts for only a fraction of a degree C higher temperature than other sea waters for a given amount of evaporative cooling.

G. Karst
February 12, 2012 11:51 am

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 10:20 am
Mike M says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:33 am
G. Karst says:
This in itself would seem to falsify models.
I’m a bit less reserved, I’d say that if these numbers are right it DOES falsify their models and in a very big way. Hopefully big enough to cause many of them to fold up shop and run away with their tails between their legs.
…So if you say the result DOES falsify their models, then show us what you are basing this claim on.

Willis I know you didn’t mean to imply that those were my words, but simply a formatting error in a busy day.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but the point, I thought, I did make was:
I am not aware of any component of current models, which would limit SSTs. If there is, in fact, a mechanism which can limit T, then the underlining hypothesis is missing a key function and thereby false. Until this function is understood, validly integrated into the model, it remains falsified… If there is indeed a “cap”. The only thing you quoted from me was: This in itself would seem to falsify models. It is why I also used the word “urgent” as in high priority.
Hope that clarifies things. Cheers. GK

Poriwoggu
February 12, 2012 11:54 am

What this demonstrates is the known issue of the lower to mid troposphere warming and the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere not warming. What drives thunderstorms is the temperature differential between the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere and the surface.
Once the differential is high enough any instability (hot spot) at the surface that causes upward air movement kicks off a thunderstorm transferring energy to the upper atmosphere. The differential guarantees that the rising air will pass through the dew point and start isothermal expansion (since the water vapor partial pressure is dependent on temperature and exceeding the partial pressure triggers condensation).
The lack of warming higher in the atmosphere limits how warm the lower atmosphere can get.

John F. Hultquist
February 12, 2012 11:58 am

mbur says:
February 12, 2012 at 10:19 am
Ever heard of a thermal low?Like in southern California when the deserts heat up it creates low clouds and fog in the coastal areas(fogaggedon).

I’m not sure, but you seem to mean advection fog:
http://apollo.lsc.vsc.edu/classes/met130/notes/chapter5/advect_fog1.html
and with photo (same site):
http://apollo.lsc.vsc.edu/classes/met130/notes/chapter5/advect_fog4.html
Seems more a result, rather than a cause, of ocean temps and currents.

February 12, 2012 12:00 pm

I call BS. From the data shown in Figures 2, 3, and 4, there are multiple data points with values greater than 30 degrees C. There are data points approaching 35 degrees C.
As some great scientists noted, only one exception is required to disprove a theory. Here, there are many dozens perhaps hundreds of exceptions to the “30 degrees C maximum.”.
I suspect, but do not know with certainty, that wind across the ocean surface plays a key role in sea surface temperature regulation.
As others above also noted, the Argo data does not include shallow areas of the ocean. I suspect that those areas are also greater than 30 degrees C. If I recall correctly, the movie Endless Summer had the stars surfing off the coast of Ghana in water that was very hot, so hot the wax melted off the surfboards.

February 12, 2012 12:04 pm

Interesting.
You have regions that are sparsely sampled. You find a temperature cap in those regions.
would you say that the unobserved locations in these regions are best estimated by
A. the cap temperature
B. a number higher than the cap
C. a number lower than the cap.
Seems like the existence of a cap argues for a more spatially coherent temperature structure
than some would like to admit. And the more coherent the temperature is spatially, the fewer
samples one needs to characterize it.

February 12, 2012 12:04 pm

A temperature limit for ocean water appears to me to imply a similar temperature limit for dew point in surface level troposphere. I largely agree with this.
I have heard of surface level dew point exceeding 30 C in central, east-central, south-central and central-southeast USA. In my experience of hearing about these occurrences, all 3 of these factors apply:
1) The land is grassland, weedland or agricultural land with high moisture, sometimes by irrigation.
2) A heatwave associated with a high pressure system is in progress.
3) Dewpoint exceeds 30 C only before convection dilutes the humid surface-level air with drier air from above the cumulus cloud base level. That level is usually less than 1 km aloft when cumulus clouds start forming. The cumulus cloud base level usually increases to around 1.5 km, sometimes closer to 2 km as convection mixes drier air from aloft with the humid surface layer. The dewpoint typically drops after 10 AM to 1 PM or so in summer heatwave days.
Even then, dewpoints exceeding 28 C (82 F) are quite rare.
Stories of temperatures in degrees F and RH simultaneously in the 90’s in USA hot areas are nearly enough entirely from people remembering RH at wake-up time or breakfast time or early in morning commute time, plus usually lag of .25 to 1.5 hours from measurement to reporting, and *falsely assuming* that RH does not have a major decrease as temperature increases during a hot sunny day.

Richard Sharpe
February 12, 2012 12:05 pm

Roger Sowell says on February 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

As others above also noted, the Argo data does not include shallow areas of the ocean. I suspect that those areas are also greater than 30 degrees C. If I recall correctly, the movie Endless Summer had the stars surfing off the coast of Ghana in water that was very hot, so hot the wax melted off the surfboards.

Roger, I advise you not to get your science from Hollywood.

G. Karst
February 12, 2012 12:17 pm

Roger Sowell says:
February 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm
As some great scientists noted, only one exception is required to disprove a theory. Here, there are many dozens perhaps hundreds of exceptions to the “30 degrees C maximum.”.

He was not referring to spurious data points measured electronically, stored, transmitted, etc. etc. Spurious data has many “causes” and is “ever present” in large measurement data bases. GK

February 12, 2012 12:19 pm

Willis Eschenbach said in part in a debate with Richard Verney, and I hope I got that right:
February 12, 2012 at 11:38 am
“Nonsense. Yours is the trap that the AGW folks have fallen into, of hypothesizing in advance of the data.”
I don’t think it’s a big sin to hypothesize in advance of the data. The data can be used to test the hypothesis. I thought the “scientific method” involved getting data after hypothesis to increase or decrease support for the hypothesis, as proposed by experiments designed to test the hypothesis.
My biggest problems with “warmist side” are what appear to me to be favoring “fudged data”, and “fudged usage of the data”. A few more years of good data should humiliate them into significantly decreasing their favored projections of global temperature and sea level rise. IPCC may start doing so significantly as early as AR5.

Septic Matthew
February 12, 2012 12:25 pm

Willis, you wrote in the legend, “Two years shown for clarity.” Is that one year (i.e. all points plotted vs day in the year) double-plotted?
I don’t understand the point of selecting for study those stations that at some time reported a temperature over 30.
Note that at say 40°N, we see the kind of peaked summer high temperatures that we would expect from a T^4 radiation loss plus a T^2 or more evaporative loss.
That requires more explication. I think that you might mean “limited summer peak temperatures”, but how exactly the T^4 and T^2 produce that exact limit needs explication. (with total downward radiation as it is, with absorption rate as is, then there is a limit on how high the surface and air temp can be raised, but what is it exactly?) Especially if you are going to claim later that an increase in CO2 can not possibly raise the limit a little by raising total downwelling radiation. I am not saying that isn’t possible, just that it eventually need to be worked out.
good work, as usual.

Robber
February 12, 2012 12:28 pm

I wonder how these tropical water temperatures compare with land temperatures?
Data from Singapore Changi Airport that is close to sea level and the equator shows annual mean temperatures in the range 26.7-28.4 degrees C, maximums 30.1-32.4, and minimums 24.0-25.1 over the period 1982-2011. http://www.tutiempo.net/en/Climate/Singapore_Changi_Airport/486980.htm
So sea temperatures are warmer than the land?

tty
February 12, 2012 12:29 pm

richard verney says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:22 am
The top micron layer of the ocean is cooler than the layer immediately below it. This is because evaporation (and convenction) takes place from the very top micron layer. It therefore is cooled by the latent heat involved.
There is no significant salinity profile that I am aware of in the first metre or so of the ocean. Are you aware of such a salinity prodike, if so please link it.
You may not have understood my point. It may be that due to the laent heat etc involved in evaporation that the top surface layer cannot heat to above 30degC. However since evaporation does not take place from the water which is at 5 cm or 10 or 20 cm below the surface, it may be that water at that specific and particular depths can be heated to above 30degC.

You seem to believe that the Argo buoys can measure the temperature of the “top micron layer”. They can’t.
And no, there isn’t any significant salinity profile in the top metre of the ocean. Which is exactly the point I was making.
I appreciate your effort to find a resting place for Trenberths missing heat but this idea won’t work. It would be better to postulate that the North Atlantic Deep Water and/or the Antarctic Bottom Water has become slightly warmer and simultaneously saltier (and thus equally dense as before). This is physically possible and has the further merit that it takes place in areas where there are no Argo Buoys, and practically no other measurements either, and so can neither be proved or disproved.

Big D in TX
February 12, 2012 12:58 pm

Thanks everyone for the replies!
If you check the link from
“DocMartyn says:”,
Page 369, section 8, and corresponding figure 12 on the following page. The math is beyond me, but I’m wondering how it checks out. 30 deg C just feels like an arbitrary number (why not 25? 34? etc).
The paper says, “For seawater, no formulae appear to be available for the change of latent heat with salinity and temperature.” (The paper then comes up with a few equations.)
If the incoming energy/heat from the sun stays relatively constant, is it a simple product of being just the right amount of energy/heat once the water has warmed up to ~30 deg C (at the composition of equatorial seawater)? It feels too easy to be algebraic: input variables (composition of seawater, amount of energy required to evaporate said water, amount of energy incoming to water), solve for limit T(emperature) of water, at which point the cloud formation, convection, and everything else takes over to enforce the limit.
Would this not also help explain why earth’s temperature managed to stay the same over millions of years? If the salinity of the oceans has also stayed relatively the same over time (the last 2.5 billion years or so I think). It would be interesting to see if the “cap” differs in any significant or observable way, however small, depending on salinity – say, the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, or Sargasso Sea versus the Black Sea, Baltic Sea, etc., at comparable latitudes when available.

Allan MacRae
February 12, 2012 1:00 pm

Willis Eschenbach says: February 12, 2012 at 11:38 am
No, it is not necessary to theorize before one has data, it is a mistake to do so. It is what I described as being the “trap that the AGW folks have fallen into, of hypothesizing in advance of the data.”
_______________
Agree. First look at the data with an open mind.
I believe there is now, or soon will be, enough good-quality satellite data for us to sort out the main causes and effects of this complex subject.
What we may are missing in the current satellite data is and inflexion point, such as occurred in ~1945 and ~1975, between a warming cycle and a cooling cycle (or vice-versa).
I suspect we may be seeing one such inflexion now, or we will soon, and that should tell us a great deal more about the relationship between atmospheric CO2 concentrations, air and ocean temperatures, and the impact of the Sun and planets. In another decade or so, we should have it – maybe less.
For years, I have suggested to some of the finer minds in this debate that they are focused on the minutiae, and the scientific truth of the big picture in climate science may be right in front of them. It is a very interesting time.

February 12, 2012 1:05 pm

Further data to illustrate the point of the mythical 30 degrees C maximum sea surface temperature, this from NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center at
http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/view_climplot.php?station=42002&meas=st
This particular buoy is 42002, and measures sea temperature at one meter below the surface. The average temperature for the hottest month, July, is 30 degrees C with maximum of a bit more than 34 degrees C.
Buoy 42002 is “W GULF 207 NM East of Brownsville, TX,” translated as in the Western Gulf of Mexico, 207 nautical miles east of Brownsville, Texas, USA. Brownsville is the southern-most city in Texas, on the coast and on the border with Mexico.
Again, there exists no such limit as 30 degrees C for sea surface temperatures. If there were a limit, then the above data would not exist. I have not strolled through the entire available data on sea surface temperatures, but there are other ocean/bay/gulf locations that are hotter than buoy 42002.
As skeptics are fond of saying, let’s look at the data, and not cherry-pick one data set and draw universal conclusions.

Steve from Rockwood
February 12, 2012 1:05 pm

Looking at the lower temperatures at the 30 degree latitude, it dropped to +10 in 2002 and down to almost 0 in 2007. This would seem to be an incredible range (10 degrees) in a world where climate science is trying to come up with a global average temperature. It is also interesting that the big mid-latitude temperature drop (2007) was occurring at the same time the summer Arctic ice was reaching a minimum. I wonder if there is a correlation between Arctic ice extent and minimum ocean temperatures at mid-latitude in the Northern Hemisphere?

February 12, 2012 1:26 pm

The coldest equatorial part of our world’s oceans, according to your “Figure 5”, seems to be just where El Nińo lives – i.e. around the west coast of South America. I wonder why – –

February 12, 2012 1:36 pm

More hot sea surface temperatures from NOAA’s buoy data base: at Naples, Florida, and Key West, Florida, the average temperatures for July and August are 87 degrees F (30.6 degrees C); thus it is highly likely that the excursions around that average are greater than 31 or 32 degrees C.
http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/egof.html
Those are not the hottest bodies of ocean around, either, merely ones easily found in a few moments’ searching.

Buck Smith
February 12, 2012 1:39 pm

“Richard M says:
February 12, 2012 at 5:54 am
It does appear that the limit only shows up in the open ocean. The coastal areas and seas have no problem going over 30°. It may be informative to look only at these areas and see if they have another limiting factor”
Salinity. As the evaporation rate increases, salinity increase, and then the rate of evaporation drops. With a fixed heat input the higher the salt content, the higher the temperature and the lower the rate of evaporation.
Thus, salinity should plot with Tmax.
…or at about 30 to 31 C any marginal increase is heat flux is carried back up by evaporation.

Rosco
February 12, 2012 1:44 pm

How about this –
The AGW proponents have it totally wrong – the Sun’s radiation warming the Earths’ surface is not the measly 170 W/sq m 24/7 as deceptively stated but wayyyy more during the day.
The atmosphere and oceans REDUCE the surface temperature during the day to much lower than it would otherwise be – evidence: the day temperature of the Moon with no atmosphere shows the Sun’s radiation could fry us during the day.
I can never understand the dismissal of this important fact – without an atmosphere and water we’d all be burnt to a crisp by the Sun’s radiation.
To me it seems likely that CO2 released from warmer ocean waters is the most significant source of increasing atmospheric CO2 and may be a “safety valve” mechanism for a global thermostat providing extra radiative transport for heat to space and actually providing no radiative forcing – not a positive one anyway.
Wouldn’t that be funny – increased atmospheric CO2 cools the Earth ?

ntesdorf
February 12, 2012 1:45 pm

Thanks Willis for an outstanding article. It is great illustration of the Earth’s built-in thermostat. It has great implications for the global warming theory. Evaporation of water drives increasing convective cooling and energy is transported to the poles and radiated to space. Insolation is limited by increasing cloudiness. There is a large negative feedback in the climate and this is part of it. It all overcomes peak insolation in the summers limiting the maximum temperature of the ocean.
The mild effect of CO2 is a bit player in this action.

February 12, 2012 2:05 pm

Figure 3(a) of this paper (Sea Surface Temperature and it’s Variability in the Indonesian Region, 2005) also show many near-coastal areas with sea surface temperatures greater than 30 degrees C. The mean monthly temperature for August is shown in Figure 3(a), with the highest temperatures at 30.5 to 31 degrees C. When variability is considered, temperatures of 32 to 34 are quite likely – although the paper does not show the raw data.
http://www.tos.org/oceanography/archive/18-4_qu.pdf
The paper also states that surface winds are the key factor in sea surface temperatures.
I note in passing, reference the “Hollywood science” from a commenter above, that none of the paper’s authors are from Hollywood.

Joules Verne
February 12, 2012 2:10 pm

G. Karst says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:59 am

Willis, these observations are indeed important, and require urgent theoretical explanation and testing. I say urgent, because one can be certain, present climate modality does not have any mechanism or term to limit sea surface temps.

Yes there certainly IS a mechanism to limit sea surface temperature. It’s called the sun. The blackbody temperature is the theoretical maximum. There needs to be more energy than the sun currently provides to exceed it. The earth of course is a gray body but that can only lower the S-B blackbody temperature not raise it.
Greenhouse gases work in a way that can be equated with albedo change because in the end they cause the gray body to be a little less gray and a little more black. Average albedo of the earth is between 30 and 40 percent so there’s a lot of room to make it more black and thus raise the surface temperature. But make no mistake there is a maximum and that is the S-B blackbody (not grayt body) temperature.
There’ s a fair amount of confusion because the infamous 255K temperature of the earth sans greenhouse gases is a gray body number not a black body number. Anything that can effectively lower the albedo will raise the maximum possible average temperature.

George E. Smith;
February 12, 2012 2:27 pm

“”””” February 12, 2012 at 12:32 am
Try this for size. You can not heat water from above because of surface tension. The only energy entering the ocean is via the sun’s rays which penetrate the surface tension no problem.The sun is relatively stable and so is the temperature. “””””
Surface tension has nothing to do with it. The bulk of the solar spectrum (energy) goes deeper than the surface waters (several metres) so it doesn’t directly warm the surface. But radiation in the 1 to 5 micron region which people think of as “heat” (it isn’t) is strongly absorbed in water, particularly at 3 microns, where 10 microns of water absorbs over 99% of the radiant energy, and converts it into “heat” (waste).
It is the Temperature of the very surface layer of the water that determines if evaporation takes place. The Temperature of the atmosphere has very little to do with evaporation; but it does determine the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can contain.
A molecule of H2O near the top few molecular layers of the surface, has no knowledge whatsoever of the atmospheric Temperature, or even that the atmosphere exists. It does know the mean binding energy to be overcome to escape from the surface; and only after escape, does the H2O molecule become aware of the atmosphere and its Temperature. Scientists are still researching the question of exactly where the brains of the H2O molecule reside.
Likewise, evaporation is one of the key elements of the Temperature brick wall that Willis is talking about (Nice presentation Willis). Evaporation not only cools the water surface (look at hurricane tracks) but it transports a lot of latent heat to the immediate atmosphere (590 calories per gram or so). Winds and storms carry off the H2O so they assist the evapration by stopping the accumulation of H2O above the surface.
As every process chemist knows, a properly designed chemical process, has to remove the reaction products from the interface, to keep the process going, otherwise the bidirectional reaction comes to a screeching halt.

Joules Verne
February 12, 2012 2:29 pm

Actually I live on the shore of a deep lake at 30 degrees north (sub-tropics). Max surface temperature record that I know of is just under 32C and average summer max is probably about 30C. It cools off pretty fast with depth because the clarity is far lower than open ocean, there’s little mixing from waves, so the sunlight gets completely absorbed closer to the surface and doesn’t mix downward well.
I expect there’s something pretty close to a law for deep bodies of water with sufficient mixing so that there’s little diurnal temperature variation where maximum possible temperature is then purely a function of latitude.

Third Party
February 12, 2012 2:29 pm

Is there a way to look at the diurnal temp data by season and lat/long?

Philip Bradley
February 12, 2012 2:40 pm

The 30C SST limit means the sun (TSI) has no more effect on the Earth’s climate than GHG changes.
Assuming the 30C limit is caused by the hydrological cycle, and I can’t see another mechanism, the only things which could cause climate change are things that affect the phase changes of water – aerosols, and perhaps GCRs and UV changes.

February 12, 2012 2:53 pm

Outstanding – and a pleasure to read.
(In all the stuff written on climate, there’s a language fingerprint to look out for – snottiness and arrogance. If it’s there, I usually stop reading.)
Commenting on ferd berple et al comments on the cyclone sideline :
“As I recall from my sailing days, 28C is the ocean surface temperature at which you are at risk for cyclone formation. The ocean surface temperature will not go much above this, because the energy goes into storm formation.”
About right. Here (NE Australia) cyclones tend to form in the South Solomon Sea (eg the hot spot on Willis’ graphs) when there is a thunderstorm and the sea temperature exceeds 24°C. They then tend to track south and west (except when they do something different of course). If the track is into waters below 24°C, the cyclone tends to fizzle.
“Cyclones (huricane/typhoon) are not distributed evenly around the globe. They tend to affect the east coast of continents more than the west coast. ”
Not here – north-west coast has higher frequency and strength.

coldlynx
February 12, 2012 3:02 pm

The reason behind this is a well known fact, and are one condition to form hurricanes:
“…waters of this temperature (26.5C) cause the overlying atmosphere to be unstable enough to sustain convection and thunderstorms”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_cyclone

February 12, 2012 3:08 pm

Until we understand the reasons for the amazing planetary temperature stability, we have no hope of understanding the slight variations in that stability
Then, the question is raised. Though it seems that the answer would imply a change of paradigm.

TGSG
February 12, 2012 3:10 pm

Roger @12:00pm
Roger @12:17
Roger @1:05
He never said it “didn’t go over” that temp. he said and I quote:
“It never gets much warmer than around 30 – 31°” The graphs even show many outliers above that point. Really man, pay attention and stop trying to change the subject. The subject being: a possible high limit to oceanic temps and the reasons for that possibility.

RockyRoad
February 12, 2012 3:28 pm

R. Gates says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:32 am

All very interesting Wills, and certainly, as you point out, is an excellent example of the self-regulatory nature of Earth’s climate system, and in this regard is very similar to the ways in which your own body regulates itself to keep its temperature from going too high, or too cold. What your very specific and narrow SST analysis absolutely does not do is saying anything about of the impact of increasing amounts of CO2 to the ocean as a whole, when looking at all ocean layers, and extending even into the cryosphere and across all latitudes.

The oceans have a mass of 1.4E24 grams while the CO2 in the atmosphere has a mass of 3.16E18 grams. Dividing one by the other gives a ratio of 2.3E-6 (0.0000023). This shows the mass of the oceans is about 443,000 TIMES that of atmospheric CO2!
And now, R., you can see why Will has not said “anything about the inpact of increasing amounts of CO2 to the ocean as a whole” as you request.
Time to dispense with this CO2 kick of yours, R. Time to dispense!
(Or continue and I’ll be the only sucker pulled in by your attempted thread pirating.)

RockyRoad
February 12, 2012 3:30 pm

Sorry…meant to type “WIllis” rather than “Will”. I apologize, Willis. (Great post, by the way–must have the CAGW crowd worried by the looks of some of their responses.)

February 12, 2012 3:33 pm

Water with excess charge shows spontaneous increase in surface area below −9.5 kV, stretching into threads and dividing spontaneously in smaller droplets. Droplet spontaneous deformation or subdivision is aided by surrounding electric fields and its dependence with the field may be assessed by plotting the apparent surface tension measured under a given voltage but decreasing distance to a grounded object, as shown in Figure 4.
Spontaneous water surface area increase is opposed to the usual minimum area ex- pected under gravity…

http://www.electrostatics.org/images/I1.pdf

Austin
February 12, 2012 3:37 pm

30C is the average convection temperature for saturated parcels in uncapped atmosphere at sea level?

TimTheToolMan
February 12, 2012 3:51 pm

Interesting. Can you centre your world maps opposite Greenwich so that the Pacific isn’t split? That still seems to be where the most interest is.

Stephen Wilde
February 12, 2012 4:13 pm

Willis said:
“I’m just going to point out that you are a fool following the lead of greater fools, so you’ll find the atmosphere at Tallbloke’s much more congenial.”
I am following the lead of the Gas Laws which have been settled science for more than 300 years but which you have shown yourself determined to ignore.
A number of contributors here have pointed out to you that it is atmospheric pressure that determines the rate of energy flow from ocean to air and which puts a lid on the achievable temperature of the sea surfaces at current levels of solar input.
You, sir, are the fool here.

zlop
February 12, 2012 4:16 pm

Second Law Violation insight into atmosphere motions
Different gases have different lapses (-g/Cp)
Closed, well insulated tall pipe loop of H2, heat exchangers top and bottom
Gives perpetual motion — Propeller inside, generate power
See — ” Modified Feynman Ratchet With
Velocity-dependent Fluctuations And The Second Law Of Thermodynamics”
To what extent is random broken, creating circulation patterns,
Even in an isolated System ?

James of the West
February 12, 2012 4:17 pm

I think its wrong to conclude that 30 to 32 degrees is a cap/limit for the oceans temperature based on the Argo data. All you could conclude is that the average environmental temperature in the warm zones is about 30 degrees C, which seems about right from Darwin to Singapore in my experience. If you were to increase the solar input I suspect it might raise ocean temps to a new slightly higher average.

Mike M
February 12, 2012 4:25 pm

G. Karst says: I am not aware of any component of current models, which would limit SSTs.

Exactly where I am coming from as well. I would be utterly flabbergasted if any climate model used to predict catastrophic warming via amplification from positive feedback from water vapor included any SST limit at all. If such had been included then I just think that by now we would be discussing the difference between some modeled limit and the stark reality that Willis has brought to our attention.
The alarmists don’t just ‘hide declines’, they’re going to hide anything that threatens their agenda and this revelation certainly qualifies as such a threat. What other explanation is there for their rabid refusals of FOIA requests? (And if they already know or suspect such an SST limit exists perhaps we’ll learn of their intent to keep it hidden when the rest of emails are released?)

James of the West
February 12, 2012 4:27 pm

There are also some data points in figure 2 above 35C. Surely that would indicate that the ocean max temp cap was broken or the floats sensors were broken? You would have to be able to properly explain those data points to not falsify the max temp theory.

February 12, 2012 4:30 pm

PROJECTION WHETHER TEMPERATURES PREDICTED BY THE OCEAN THERMOSTAT HYPOTHESIS REMAIN STABLE AS CO2 INCREASES NOW IN DOUBT,
The hypothesis of a Ocean thermostat does not guarantee anything. Singling out just another hypothesis and resting all insurance as prevention of global warming into the future is not as sound as first thought.
GENUINE SKEPTICS remain such. Holding up a theory and using it as our “bed pillow” to sleep soundly at night is lazy science. Not only that – it falls into the same trap as “blinders” science syndrome – by focusing on one theory to exclusion of all else.
The same applies to other resting pillows. The low sensitivity hypothesis. That one is yet to be proven false. However Roy Spencer believes with yet another ten years of data the hypothesis of low sensitivity will either be further strengthened or substantially weakened to irrelevance.
Read on……………..
http://classic.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54291/
The theory of ocean thermostats is a controversial one, says lead author Joan Kleypas from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. The theory goes that in the open ocean, increases in surface water temperature lead to more evaporation. The process of evaporation itself cools the water, but the cloud cover that develops also acts as shade, blocking further heating. But this feedback doesn’t function everywhere. “You’ll have evaporation over a swimming pool,” explained Kleypas, “But you’re not going to get cloud formation above it.”
The authors examined satellite data of surface temperatures from the years 1950-2006 and found a region of particularly warm waters in the western Pacific with temperature increases at half the rate of other areas. They compared the satellite data to a model predicting how surface temperatures, carbon dioxide levels, solar variability and other factors interact.
Even as other factors changed, the model predicted the same stable temperatures they’d observed in the data, suggesting a mechanism such as the ocean thermostat was at play, Kleypas explained. Comparison with a global dataset of coral bleaching showed that fewer bleaching events had occurred in that ocean region, suggesting that waters that were warmer but more stable might protect against coral bleaching.
It’s not perfect protection, says Kleypas. Big shifts in temperature, caused by monsoons, for example, could override the thermostat regulation, and corals in this region are actually more vulnerable because they can tolerate a smaller range of temperature shifts. Most corals commonly bleach after water temperature change by 1-2 degrees Celsius. In these corals, bleaching events were observed after a change of 0.2-0.3 degrees.
The researchers then projected whether the temperatures predicted by the thermostat hypothesis would remain stable as carbon dioxide levels increase. Now for the bad news: They won’t, said Kleypas.
Read more: Ocean thermostat protects corals? – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54291/#ixzz1mDRs5QaI

Spam
February 12, 2012 4:31 pm

I note that there are some data points at temperatures > 30, but wonder if they all come from the same buoys. Is it possible that most of the buoys are only calibrated to a maximum of 30°C?

February 12, 2012 4:33 pm

TGSG says at February 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm
“He never said it “didn’t go over” that temp. he said and I quote:
“It never gets much warmer than around 30 – 31°” The graphs even show many outliers above that point. Really man, pay attention and stop trying to change the subject. The subject being: a possible high limit to oceanic temps and the reasons for that possibility.”
My reply is directed at TGSG, G. Karst, and Richard Sharpe from above: Please refer to the following quote of the post:
“During the part of the year when the incoming radiation would be enough to increase the temperature over ~ 30°, the temperature simply stops rising at 30°. It is no longer a function of the forcing.” (bolding mine)
“There is a hard limit on ocean temperature that just doesn’t get exceeded no matter how much the sun shines.”
My point is that there is no hard limit on ocean temperature, and that limit is certainly not 30 degrees C. Direct, impartial evidence was supplied to back up my assertion. It is up to you whether to believe the data or not. NOAA’s own data buoys in not-so-hot open ocean shows 34 degrees C. A peer-reviewed paper in the journal Oceanography states that wind is the key factor in limiting high open temperature.
But, this post has pretty pictures so if you want to go with that, by all means have at it. Don’t let me stop you.

RockyRoad
February 12, 2012 4:48 pm

Stephen Wilde says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:13 pm


I am following the lead of the Gas Laws which have been settled science for more than 300 years but which you have shown yourself determined to ignore.

I’m still trying to position your statement against the fact that oxygen (O2) wasn’t discovered until 1773 (or 1774 depending on who gets credit), which was only 238 years ago.
And your Gas Laws have been “settled science” for more than 300 years? Hmmmmmm…..

Evan Thomas
February 12, 2012 5:01 pm

As a complete layman I hesitate to add to the professional’s comments here. As a long term resident of the east coast of Australia, a traveller, a sailor and consequently a weather watcher I have observed how the summer prevailing nor-easters keep areas in the south like Sydney cool but humid. In the north coastal Queensland is likewise kept somewhat warmer but still tolerable by the south east trades. In the far west of Queensland in the summer colourful cumulus clouds roll up, more often than not resulting in dry storms sometime starting bush fires by lightening strikes. I find it fantastic to see Willis’s analyses of our great oceans. It seems pretty obvious to a layman that as 70% of the earths surface is covered by substantial layer of water, how it responds to the energy from the sun is rather more meaningful than land energy measurements. One doesn’t find too many temp. recordings being obtained from underground mines or caves. Its always around 16*C I understand. Cheers from soggy Sydney.

pat
February 12, 2012 5:02 pm

sort of O/T cos i can’t open TipsnNotes:
15 Dec 2011: Australian: AAP: Bill Gates gives tick to carbon tax
Mr Gates, the founder of Microsoft who’s holidaying in Sydney with his family, said someone had to lead on tough global issues and it had to be hoped that by setting a good example, others would follow.
“I wish the world at large found it easier to get together on this because a carbon tax is a very important tool to encourage the invention of low-cost energy technologies that don’t emit carbon,” he told ABC Television.
“To help that happen, a carbon tax really is a key piece.”…
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/bill-gates-gives-tick-to-carbon-tax/story-fn3dxity-1226223361332
1 Feb 2012: Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Sydney sploshes through a cold, wet summer
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other A-listers were in jumpers and raincoats rather than shorts and beach shoes during their Christmas holidays in Sydney…
The Weather Channel said Wednesday that Australia’s biggest city had its coldest December in more than half a century and its coldest and wettest January in over a decade…
The Gates family got fed up with Sydney’s weather and, like many of the locals, flew up to Queensland for a bit of southern hemisphere summer comfort.
http://news.monstersandcritics.com/asiapacific/news/article_1688430.php/Sydney-sploshes-through-a-cold-wet-summer

Steve in SC
February 12, 2012 5:08 pm

The ocean is a swamp cooler.
It is all in the BTUs.
Darn clever those Brits.

RockyRoad
February 12, 2012 5:09 pm

Oh, and nitrogen wasn’t discovered until approximately 1772. Indeed, this quote is instructive:
“Gases were poorly understood by chemists until the late 1700s. What is air “made of?” That question is difficult to answer for a number of reasons. ”
http://www.chemistryexplained.com/elements/L-P/Nitrogen.html
That “poor understanding” would be, oh, about 210 to 240 years ago. Yet Gas Laws have been “settled science for more than 300 years”?
What gasses are you referring to, Stephen WIlde?

michael hart
February 12, 2012 5:15 pm

Tim,
If you’re still reading, let me add a little more to my earlier explanation [at the risk of provoking the wrath of Willis]. The absorption and penetration depths of IR radiation into the ocean is not contentious [I refer to IR radiation similar to that of S-B black-body radiation at temperatures similar to the Earth, as experienced by the ocean surface].
Willis mis-characterizes the argument as saying that IR does not heat the ocean, which is not correct. It does, but the simple fact that sea surface temperature are lower than land surfaces refutes his rather simplistic counter arguments, and he also falls into the trap of talking about radiative flux but forgetting the word “NET”. His [self-edited] reply refers back to an earlier piece on WUWT where Dave Springer gave an excellent series of replies to discussions about this, but Willis’ replies repeatedly demonstrate that he missed the point. Many others also find it easy to conceptualize ocean stratification or mixing when it is described in terms of kilometres, metres and millimetres, yet cannot do so when the concept is further extended down to nanometres. i have done so myself.
I think Dave Springer is probably on-the-money, [even if he has made himself unpopular here by espousing a point that I can’t find mentioned on real climate]. Or, at least, I think Springer and others may have hit the nail on the head, if the IPCC models really do assume that there is no difference between the top nanometres and the top millimetre of the ocean. Evaporation of water does not occur from a millimetre below the surface, where diffusion [viscosity] has become less than dominant. The argument, as far as I am concerned, is a quantitative one, not qualitative. Here, Willis appears to ask for quantitative argument rather than “hand waving”, but his inadequate counter arguments listed on the previous blog are also qualitative “hand waving”, so I don’t feel the need to do otherwise. Springer answers most of them very well.
Yes, TallBloke allows a greater latitude about what’s acceptable to explore on his blog, and I think he is well aware that some discussions are really pushing it. But this argument does not come under the same category of the N&Z hypothesis [which I don’t subscribe to].
Be that as it may, Willis posts a blog here discussing that ocean surface temperatures appear limited, and it’s an interesting point. Eye-balling the data, I can’t see a significant difference between maximum surface temperatures in tropical open oceans in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Despite the fact that the southern hemisphere receives, I think, about 7 to 9% more insolation, this won’t surprise many people who are already persuaded that the temperature of this planet is ruled primarily by the sun and water, not carbon dioxide.

Myrrh
February 12, 2012 5:19 pm

Rosco says:
February 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm
How about this –
The AGW proponents have it totally wrong – the Sun’s radiation warming the Earths’ surface is not the measly 170 W/sq m 24/7 as deceptively stated but wayyyy more during the day.
The atmosphere and oceans REDUCE the surface temperature during the day to much lower than it would otherwise be – evidence: the day temperature of the Moon with no atmosphere shows the Sun’s radiation could fry us during the day.
I can never understand the dismissal of this important fact – without an atmosphere and water we’d all be burnt to a crisp by the Sun’s radiation.

Well, they’ve taken out all the direct heat, (beamed) thermal energy, from the Sun from their energy budget saying it doesn’t reach the surface, could this have something to do with it?
To me it seems likely that CO2 released from warmer ocean waters is the most significant source of increasing atmospheric CO2 and may be a “safety valve” mechanism for a global thermostat providing extra radiative transport for heat to space and actually providing no radiative forcing – not a positive one anyway.
CO2 is part and parcel of the Water Cycle, which has also been taken out of their energy budget, and this brings the temperature down by 52°C to 15°C from the 67°C it would be on an Earth without water, but with its atmosphere of nitrogen and oxygen (and trace). The difference then it appears between the moon and earth from the 67°C and whatever the moon’s, is the difference between with and without dry atmosphere.
So, how would you calculate what it would be rather than the 170 W/sq m 24/7 ?

Evan Thomas
February 12, 2012 5:21 pm

PS from E.Thomas. I forgot to mention. On the northwest coast of Australia there are no substantial sea breezes from the Indian Ocean as there are from the Pacific in the east. Consequently coastal land temps are often 10*C hotter than the east. Down south near Perth during the summer afternoons a reliable sea breeze affectionately known as the Fremantle doctor (Fremantle is the port for Perth) kicks in to moderate temperature. Cheers (again)

February 12, 2012 5:30 pm

On topic and off topic at the same time: Willis, you and others on this board do more personal work and analysis than Mann, Hanson, Gore, and the rest of the crowd. They draw huge paychecks while they tell their underlings to do the actual work. There is something terribly wrong with this picture.

Richard Sharpe
February 12, 2012 5:33 pm

Roger Sowell says on February 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURE AND ITS VARIABILITY IN THE INDONESIAN REGION
The paper also states that surface winds are the key factor in sea surface temperatures.
I note in passing, reference the “Hollywood science” from a commenter above, that none of the paper’s authors are from Hollywood.

Hey, Roger, I was only being flippant before.
I notice that the highest temperatures appear to be in the shallow areas next to land …

steve fitzpatrick
February 12, 2012 5:35 pm

Willis,
Interesting post.
In Figure 6, the shape of the seasonal curves for the mid latitudes (with a sharp summer peak) has a lot to do (I think) with the influence of seasonal heating on the stability of thermal stratification. When the summer sun begins to warm the surface, that produces a rather steep temperature gradient (and so density gradient) which tends to suppress turbulent downmixing, and the greatest warming takes place in a relatively thin layer near the surface. When the solar flux begins falling, the cooling that takes place is at first rapid, because only that relatively thin surface layer, with relatively low heat capacity, cools by convection, but as the cooling continues, convective overturning must increase in depth, so that the heat capacity of the convective layer increases (and the cooling rate slows) the further away from the late summer peak surface temperature.

February 12, 2012 5:54 pm

Mean sea temperature, Dubai, 32.8 degrees C for month of August, for the period 1987 – 2009. One can only wonder how hot the water is on non-windy days, 35 degrees C at least. If the Gulf of Mexico is 34 degrees C, then coastal Dubai should be at least 35 degrees C.
http://www.dia.ae/DubaiMet/Met/Climate.aspx

richard verney
February 12, 2012 6:37 pm

Roger Sowell says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm
///////////////////////
Roger if you haven’t seen my posts on the earlier thread by Willis: Jason and Argo Notes, you may be interested in having a look at them.
I started off this argument as to what is the theoretical cap on ocean temperatures. I noted that I had reviewed thousands of ship’s logs containing many hundreds of thousands of entires and I could confirm from this review that ocean temperature in many areas often exceed 30 degC and I had seen many examples of 34deg C such that the cap on ocean temperature (no matter how much solar) could not be as low as 30 degC.
You are quite right to refer to waters in Indonesia and off Durban. There are many warm areas such as in the Atlantic around Ghana/Ivory Coast, in the Indian ocean both off the East coast of Africa and the West coast of India, around the Mexican Gulf, Red Sea. North coast of Egypt around Alexandria and so on
The idea that there is a cap at 30degC beyond which no matter how much solar there may be is not born out by the data. Obviously the hydrological cycle together with a number of other processes (eg currents, ocean overturning, wind local environmental issues no doubt in some way connected to the local topography) all play a role to keep ocean temperatures down to whatever may balance the energy budget at the particular location under review. All of these factors (together with the local prevailing solar) add up to some unique pachage to create an energy budget for each area and hence the reason why ocean temperatures are different in different areas. . .

zlop
February 12, 2012 6:40 pm

Good job Willis Eschenbach !
Ocean heat content tracking is revealing
Will be exciting, when the record is long enough to correlate with climate cycles

richard verney
February 12, 2012 6:43 pm

Roger Sowell says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm
///////////////////////////////////////
Roger
Wilis’s assertion has slightly ameiliorated from the more unequivocal statement he proffered a couple of days ago on the Jason and ARGO Notes thread. So too, the mechanism, that he asserts caps the temperature, has slightly widened.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 6:49 pm

James of the West says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm
////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Agreed.
See my post of 06:38am, particularly the third point made in the second paragraph of that post.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 7:06 pm

tty says:
February 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm
//////////////////////////
I don’t know what the ARGO buoys measure when they report on SST and I have asked Willis to clarify that very point. It is material.
I myself have a lot of experience with ship’s data. On the Jason and ARGO Notes thread I explained how they sample temperature. Broadly that is at a depth of 10 metres. So when I advise that I have seen numerous empirical data recording temperatures of up to 34 or 35degC this is ocean temperature at a depth of about 10 metres.
I am most certainly not trying to find a resting place for Trenbeth’s missing heat. I consider that there is no empirical evidence supporting his conjecture.
However, whilst I do accept that the hydrological cycle plays a role in keeping ocean surface temperature down, I do not accept that that process caps it at a temperature of 30 degC. If I am wrong on that, it does not act so as to cap the ocean temperatire to 30 degC at a depth of about 10 metres; this is a stark fact which can be seen from a review of ship’s logs. My view in this regard is based on the personal review of thousands of ships logs containing many hundreds of thousands of entries involving the major shipping routes through the major oceans.

kalsel3294
February 12, 2012 7:13 pm

I believe the stability of the earths climate system as noted by Willis, has everything to do with the physical properties of H2O, in particular the points at which a change of state occurs.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 7:18 pm

G. Karst says:
February 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm
//////////////////////////////
The example given by Roger is nor Spurious. See for enample one of my posts on the earlier threat in which I cite numerous examples:_.
richard verney says:
February 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm
@Philip Bradley says: February 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm
Fifth, you then at the end of your response set out a summary of the ARGO data reviewed by you. This summary suggests that nearly 10,000 points/sets of data show a temperature exceeding 30degC. That alone, would indicate that even based upon the data that you yourself have reviewed your assertion of a 30degC cap for surface sea temperature cannot be correct.
Those greater than 30C temperatures are clustered around 30 to 35 degrees north, which is where the Earth is mostly land and there are enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, the Med, Yellow Sea.
Without a geographic breakdown, I’ll suggest most of those +3OC temps are close to land.
30C does appear to be an upper limit for SSTs in the open ocean.
The cause is likely to be the hydrological cycle limiting the rise in air temps over the ocean.
And it doesn’t matter how hot your swimming pool gets, its not going to affect the hydrological cycle
///////////////////////////////////////////////////
Philip
As you will have noted from my post. I have reviewed thousands of ship’s logs containing hundreds of thousands of entries and I can assure you that 30degC is not the upper limit for SSTs whether in enclosed, semi-enclosed or open oceans. Incidentally, the Med only reaches above 30 deg C close to Alexandria and very near to the Northern coast off Egypt.
Warms seas can be commonly encountered in and around Indonesia, Thailand, off the coast of China and Japan, in the Indian ocean both up the west side of India and the east side of Africa, in the approaches to and through the Red Sea (see my earlier post which referred to a wikipedia entry recording the survey done of Sudan revealling 32 degC temps) the Atlantic ocean around north east Africa, in and around the Gulf of Mexico.
Just to give you a slight flavour, see the following links:
Off the coast of UEA, this months water temp 32degc, long term max temp 35degC . See http://www.sea-temperature.com/country_water/united%20arab%20emirates/127
Off the coast of Ghana, this months maximum temp 34 degC, long term max temp 33 degC (the maximum cited is not the absolute maximum but more the average maximum there will always be examples when a higher figure is unusally observed) . See http://www.sea-temperature.com/country_water/ghana/77
Indian Ocean say off the coast of India, this month’s maximum 31 deg C, long term max temp 31 degC. See http://www.sea-temperature.com/country_water/india/110 In practice, this is far to general, warmer temperatures are not infrequently recorded off the west coast of India and say off the coast of Madagascar, see http://www.sea-temperature.com/country_water/madagascar/64 .
Off the coast of Thailand, this months max temp 32degC, long term max temp 32 degC. See http://www.sea-temperature.com/country_water/thailand/119
In an around Indonesia, eg this month’s max temp 31degC, max long tem temp 31 degC. See http://www.sea-temperature.com/country_water/indonesia/115 and East Timor this months max temp 29 degC, long term max 31degC. See http://www.sea-temperature.com/country_water/east%20timor/114
In and around Mexico, for example http://www.sea-temperature.com/water/tapachula/536 and Guatemala, see: http://www.sea-temperature.com/country_water/guatemala/49 noting max temps of 31 degC.
I make no comment upon the distribution of the ARGO buoys, My comments are based upon a review of thousands of logs compiled by ships plying trade through the shipping routes through the major oceans of the world. You will note from the above links (which is by no means an exhaustive list) that the distribution of temperatures above 30degC is not as narrow as you suggest nor is it limited to enclosed and semi-enclosed oceans.
If you read the third numbered paragraph of my post of 8:12 am you will note that I accept that the hydrological cycle has a role to play but it is not the only process at work.
The hydrological cycle does not cap SST in open ocean at 30 degC.
PS. I am not comparing my swimming pool to the open ocean. My observation was meant merely as an indicator upon which many people will have some experience so that they can get a grasp as to general merits of the assertion made by Willis that ‘no matter how much incoming solar there is the process of evaporation caps temperature at 30 degC’ (my paraphrasing). Obviously, not many people will have reviewed thousands of ships logs and will therefore have little feeling for what ships report as prevailing ocean temps

JimF
February 12, 2012 7:20 pm

Wow, I am depressed by the nattering that goes on here. I do not believe Willis has stated a Law of Nature that sea surface temperatures are “limited to 30˚C”. He has merely shown a bazillion measurements that show that sea surface temperatures, for some reason(s), tend to maximize at 30˚C +/- a bit. A few of these bazillion measurements are indeed higher, maybe as much as 15% higher, but the tendency is 30˚C.
Now this paper sheds some real light on the issue in relation to the input of solar energy:
The Model Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect
Joseph E. Postma
http://www.tech-know.eu/uploads/The_Model_Atmosphere.pdf
“…We hold that the average solar radiative input heating is only over one hemisphere of the Earth, has a temperature equivalent value of +30˚C, with a zenith maximum of +87.5˚C, and that this is not in any physically justifiable manner equivalent to an instantaneous average global heating input of -18˚C…..”
That is, a chunk of the Earth’s surface, about the size of North America, centered on wherever the Sun is in its north-south seasonal migration, is receiving an instantaneous influx of energy that is the equivalent of 90˚C for part of the day. Much of this huge area necessarily is water – the world ocean. That water accepts this energy, and then all sorts of processes immediately start to remove and dissipate or limit the energy: evaporation, convection, condensation, cloud formation, rainfall, wind, typhoons, nightfall, etc. The summation of these processes tends to limit the water’s temperature to about 30˚C – as shown by a bazillion measurements.

February 12, 2012 7:30 pm

Taking the latitude bands of 5 degrees either side of the Equator, if you gaze for long enough at the graphs, you might see that: 1. The SH band was hotter than the NH band in years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, & 2006. 2. Then the NH is hotter for 2007, 2008 & 2010, with remaining years being about equal. (This is a visual observation, not a numerical one).
There is some evidence of feedback, detail not described here. In the NH, over all latitude bands, a hot summer is often followed by a colder winter, e.g the high red peak in mid-2005 is followed by a long blue tail descending in 2006. Ditto 2010-11.
Maybe it is noise or sampling, or simply by-products of currents, but there seems a hint of opposite symmetry either side of the Equator, additional to that in the first para. There is an equatorial downwards dip in the NH first half 2006, but a rise in the SH at the same time, being of similar shape but different sign.
This is a complex, multidimensional set of data. Who could possibly make a better conclusion than Willis, “Until we understand the reasons for the amazing planetary temperature stability, we have no hope of understanding the slight variations in that stability.”

wsbriggs
February 12, 2012 7:35 pm

Willis,
Another excellent thought provoking post. I’m continually astounded at how many otherwise intelligent people can’t read and comprehend your initial post – regardless of what post it is.
Here I seem to see people insisting that there are locations with SSTs over 31 C, you never said anything about all locations, just that most locations… Pointing out that there are places near Durban, or Brownsville, or anywhere else, with SSTs over 31C doesn’t exactly make a huge statement or discussion point. I’m sure I could find relatively deep water off the coast of Hawaii with temperatures well over 40C – they would just happen to be where lava is being extruded into the sea.
It is nice to see the majority of people are thinking about the data rather than trying to immediately “explain” everything there is to “see” in it. Your thoughtful purusal of data advances my understanding of the phenomena, not to mention being generally a delight to read.
To understand something, you first have to generally understand the majority of the data, then you can start refining the information by examining the exceptional data for hidden links to the general understanding.

pochas
February 12, 2012 7:45 pm

Here is NOAA’s web page on ocean sea surface temperatures. Its just a further illustration of Willis’ data.
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/clim/sst.shtml

February 12, 2012 7:49 pm

Thank you to DB, RockyRoad, & tty for comments about the cold ocean deeps.
Here is my problem. The globe is exposed to hot sunshine from outside; and to a very warm interior, albiet one with a slow tranfer of energy outward. Yet, in between, we have the deep oceans at not much more than freezing point.
Given hot above and hot below, the oceans shold warm steadily unless or until there is an escape route like a phase change, or a radiative, convective or conductive loss to space. Such a loss to space has to ‘connect’ with the deep oceans. The obvious mechanism is oceanic circulation with a vertical component. The rate of loss, if the ocean heat content and solar input remain stable, can only really be controlled by the rate of circulation, with warming happening when the colder waters are bought more often to the sunshine.
So, Willis, a thought experiment. If ocean circulation was to cease overnight, would your tropical SSTs still be capped? Or, put another way, is the level of the cap dictated by the rate and disposition of ocean movement?

February 12, 2012 8:11 pm

Just an observation
The 30 C line seems to be a sort of limit, with a few outliers
I wonder if someone thought about examining just that data above 30, and do some searching/analysis of that portion of the set.
Look for things like
1) depth of ocean measured (when above 30C) Was this in shallower water?
2) Proximity of storms (something that would remove heat), would require weather map correlation.
The overall data could also be correlated with depth, average ocean depth at each measurement.

John F. Hultquist
February 12, 2012 8:12 pm

Evan Thomas says:
February 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

10*C
I compose in a text document. Then when pasted into the Word Press window I use these keystrokes to get a degree symbol
(ALT) 0 1 7 6 That is the Alt key and the digits 0176, no spaces.
So, putting the above between 10 and C gives: 10°C

JimF
February 12, 2012 8:13 pm

R. Gates says:
February 12, 2012 at 11:27 am “…In this regard, you need to look at the complete ocean in all layers, and in doing so, of course you’ll find that the ocean heat content has been going up over the past 30+ years, and this is even more strongly indicated the deeper you take the metric….
Do you have a link to back up this statement. I would like to see it. According to the Ocean Page, under the Reference tab here on WUWT, indeed the heat content of the upper 700 meters of the sea has increased since about 1970, although the last decade seems to be a flat spot (little or no increase).
So what of it? We all agree that the Earth’s carapace – let’s call it the surface-atmosphere ensemble – has warmed by some fraction of a degree over the last 40 years. As a result, the Earth must be shining a little brighter to an observer in space – brighter in that its emission spectrum has shifted a bit to the short wave, and is somewhat more energetic. That’s as can be expected.
Whether or not there is equilibrium between incoming and outgoing energy I can’t say. The sea is a giant heat sink, filled with the most rapacious heat gatherer known in nature – water. That water can mix and spread the heat in three directional dimensions, and a couple of other physicochemical dimensions. There is a vast amount of heating required to destroy this planet.
I do not believe that Willis has shown that “…there is a cap on how rapidly the energy can flow from the ocean to the atmosphere…” I think that the processes that occasion this phenomenon – conduction, convection, evaporation, etc. etc. can scale up to match whatever heating input there is, at least within geologic reference. Witness what appears to be a cap on the Earth’s temperature over half a billion years; these processes get heat to the point where it can radiate to space in such a way as to maintain an upper boundary on surficial heating.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 8:14 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 11:38 am
////////////////////////////////////////////////
Willis
I would respond to your response, if it actually made some sense.
I am able to respond to the IPCC point. No they do not have a physical hypothesis. They avoid putting forward this at all cost. For example, they do not explain how DWLWIR which by virtur of its long wavelength can penetrate the ocean by only about 10 microns (most of which is absorbed within 5 microns) can heat the oceans given that the first few microns of the ocean is no more than wind swept spray which in any event is being ‘boiled’ off as part of the process of evaporation. As such, it is difficult to envisage how it gets overturned thereby heating the ocean below.
Instead they look at some data covering temperatres. They see from this data that it appears to have gotton warmer these past 60 or so years and they are aware that man has been releasing a lot of CO2 and conclude from this that there is a process whereby CO2 drives global temperatures upwards. This is because they can’t think of anything else that may have caused temperatures to rise. They do not look at the data in any detail which detailed scrutiny may reveal inconsitencies with the data led hypothesis. So they do not see that there is in fact no correlation between CO2 levels and temperatures during the instrument periof (the only tome CO2 and temperatures run in tandem is during the late 7-s warming but the rate of warming is no greater than the 1920-40 warming). They do not see that in the geological past, there are periods when temperatures fall although CO2 is rising, there are periods when temperatures increase when CO2 is falling, there are temperaure plateaus when CO2 is either rising or falling and in any event to the extent that there are some broad similarities, CO2 lags temperature and therefore apprears a response not a driver. Inconvenient data is ignored.
In short, they are over-strecthing the data.
This, in my opinion, is essentially the approach that you have adopted. You collected the ARGO data, plotted it noted that it peaked at 30degC and immediately read too much into the data. You made a stark and unequivical claim to the effect that ‘no matter how much solar there is, the process of evaporation caps the ocean temperature at 30degC’ (my paraphrase).
A couple of days ago, I suggested that whilst I accepted that the hydrological procees does act to keep down ocean temperature it is (i) not the only process in play, and (2) the cap is not set at 30degC but rather higher. I recounted my extensive experience of ship log data that confirms that significantly higher temperatures are obtained in many different oceans and I pointed out that even the ARGO data that you collected contained nearly 10000 entries exceeding 30degC.
As you say at the top of this post, you have not identified any new process. Most people accept that the hydrological process plays a role in restricting ocean temperatures. But there are many other factors involved as well.
I pointed out that I only need show you one data set exceeding 30degC to establish the temperature cap you claim of 30degC is wrong. I cited nearly 10,000 ARGO temps logs showing this.
In my opinion, you are over reaching the data. Clearly there are processes involved which all taken together serve to restrict ocean temperature towards an upper level of around 30degC. These processes include the hydrological cycle but also prevailing currents, wind, ocean over turning, topography (and no doubt many others) but these processes do not cap it at 30degC and where local environmental conditions are different one can see ocean temperature rising to 35degC and even beyond. It is all a matter of the interplay of local prevailing environmental conditions. If you alter these, you alter the resultant tempoerature, If you increase solar, eg less clouds (or possibly a stroneger sun), there will be a resultant increase in ocean temperature which the hydrological process will act to some extent to to limit and the increased evaporation may lead to an increase in clouds which in turn may act to restrict temperature until a new equilibrium temperature is reached.
. ,

johanna
February 12, 2012 8:18 pm

Richard Sharpe says:
February 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm
Roger Sowell says on February 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm
As others above also noted, the Argo data does not include shallow areas of the ocean. I suspect that those areas are also greater than 30 degrees C. If I recall correctly, the movie Endless Summer had the stars surfing off the coast of Ghana in water that was very hot, so hot the wax melted off the surfboards.
Roger, I advise you not to get your science from Hollywood.
——————————————————————————
Richard, I advise you not to jump to fact free conclusions. The surf classic ‘The Endless Summer’ was made by independent film-maker Bruce Brown on a shoestring budget. It was rejected by all the Hollywood distributors he approached and opened in a tiny theatre in Witchita, Kansas. It then ran successfully in a New York independent theatre for a year before Hollywood would even touch it. It was a light hearted documentary which Hollywood thought would be of no interest to the public.
Snark without even a leavening of fact is just pure snark.
Does anyone know the melting point of board wax?

richard verney
February 12, 2012 8:21 pm

Geoff Sherrington says:
February 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm
//////////////////////////////////
Not wishing to step on Willis’s toes (I think I have angered him enough already), it is almost certainly the case that they would go far higher as one can see in lagoons where temperatures of about 40degC can be seen. .

markx
February 12, 2012 8:28 pm

I marvel a little at the pedantic in here who have found individual buoys and areas which manage to exceed the (suddenly magical) 30C ‘limit’. Willis’ distribution plot in Fig 1 shows these are very is the exception, and I’d think easy enough to explain in shallower waters.
More important is probably the remarkable confluence of maximums, such that the range at a latitude of 5 degrees N is perhaps 1C, while at 20 degrees N it is more like 7C (eg). All capped out at (about!) 30C.
Of course, the converse argument may be very important: in that insolation varies increasingly with the seasonal changes in axial tilt of the earth at more extreme latitudes, whereas at the equator there is little variation at all.
30C is what you get there now, who is to say what it would be if insolation increased say 20%? A 20% variation at 20 degrees N does not answer the question because the maximum insolation in that case is still less than that at the equator.

February 12, 2012 8:34 pm

I don’t comment much on Mr. Eschenbach’s postings. Also I have not read any of them for quite some time. This one, though, is a good example of the hockey-stick graph problem: Take a single set of data, no matter what other data exists to the contrary, then draw conclusions about the climate from it. Mann used some tree rings, Eschenbach uses Argo temperature data.
My version of science and valid conclusions doesn’t work that way. Each statement made in a post should be read with the question: is that a true statement? Math should also be carefully checked for accuracy, and more importantly, for validity. Is that particular bit of math appropriate at this point in the analysis? Graphs have the well-known problems of starting and ending points, choosing only the data to support one’s conclusions, and in particular drawing straight line trends through a portion of cyclical data. Is this data any good? Does the data reinforce or contradict previous data? Does this data support the conclusions? Those are just some of the thoughts I use when reading these posts. Others may use different means to question things, or “be skeptical.”
This post immediately rang the BS meter with the statement that ocean temperatures are limited to 30 degrees C maximum, more or less. I know for a fact there is data that disproves that. Perhaps it is because I grew up on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and have first-hand experience with warm water. I was quite surprised that so few (perhaps nobody?) challenged that point about a hard maximum ocean temperature. Richard Verney joined in later to confirm the bogus 30 degree C limit, from a different data set (ship logs). I am even more surprised that various people criticize my comments here today for pointing out that 30 degrees C (more or less) is not a hard limit on ocean surface temperatures. Is this now an echo chamber? Should we all just shout out “Yes that’s GREAT” on any serving of BS? Pretty graphs do not make good science.
So now, I expect to be more heavily criticized than before. I really don’t care at this point. The climate science is far too important for BS to be tolerated. My personal view is that we are completely out of time. The Sun has gone quiet and is expected to grow much quieter, the oceans have gone cold or into their cold phase, and all we can do is watch the coming cold-planet-catastrophe unfold. The Russians are on record that the thing of concern is not warming, but cold. I have seen the US West Coast temperatures and they are dropping dramatically. There is no great sunspot cycle this time, though, like there was in 1950 when this happened before. Instead we are facing a weak sunspot cycle. With all due respect to the Solar Scientists, Causation be damned. We know that world temperatures drop every single time the sunspots grow weak or disappear. Ancient men were smart enough to figure out that the Sun always rose in the east (correlation) but had no clue as to causation. Causation is not always necessary. The only good news is that today there is a wide array of scientific instruments in place to monitor and provide data as the cooling commences. We will not be able to stop it, but we will at least see it coming this time.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 8:44 pm

Guys
If one wanted to speculate on the main process at play which results in the tropical ocean generally having a temperature not exceeding 30 degC, my money would be on the ocean currents (which in turn drive air currents) that carry the heat away from the tropical ocean polewards, not the latent heat involved in the hydrological process..If it were solely down to the hydrological process it is difficult to envisage why there are great swathes of oceans covering 100s of miles where the ocean temperaure is frequently significantly above 30egC.
The tropical oceans are the heat pump of the planet. The currents eminating from them are constantly moving warm water generated in the tropics elsewhere. It is the distribution of this heat which is resulting in the relatively low maximum temperatures. If this conveyor belt were to stop, not withstanding the latent heat involved in the hydrological cylcle, the tropical oceans would be far warmer than 30degC .

February 12, 2012 8:46 pm

Johanna, thanks for that on Endless Summer!
Yes, surf board wax comes in a variety of melting points, so the surfer can use a wax that is most appropriate for the water temperature that day. Cold water can make the wax too hard, and hot water can make the wax far too gooey or thin. So, there are different waxes for the different temperature ranges.

JimF
February 12, 2012 8:50 pm

Geoff Sherrington says:
February 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm “…Given hot above and hot below…”
I’m not Willis, but I’ll give you a partial answer. The ‘hot below’ – the heat of the Earth’s interior – expresses itself only in the oceanic spreading ridges/continental rifts and in volcanoes.
The Earth’s interior heat is almost self-contained under a layer of exquisite insulator – the crust itself. However, that heat breaks through in places, for example, at the mid-ocean rifting centers where new oceanic crust is formed as extruded and intruded lavas. This material is hot and therefore less dense, and as a result it stands high (the spreading ridges are topographic ridges).
As spreading continues, newly formed seafloor rock moves away from the hot central rift zone and cools, losing heat to cold ocean water. After about 750,000 years, the seafloor rock is as cold as that ocean water, notwithstanding that the hot asthenosphere is immediately below it. It becomes so cold and dense that it begins to press down into the asthenosphere (the abyssal plain – the sea floor away from the spreading ridges – is up to hundreds of meters lower in altitude than the spreading ridge). Finally the cold, dense seafloor plunges into the hot asthenosphere, forming a subduction zone . There it will be partially melted and resurface in volcanic eruptions.
As a result, the ocean gets some heat added to it at volcanic centers and at the ridges. However, the ocean is gigantic, and water has the highest heat capacity of any natural material. As a result, if the interior of the Earth adds even one degree to the ocean, I would be astounded.

markx
February 12, 2012 9:13 pm

Roger Sowell says: February 12, 2012 at 8:34 pm
says: “….this…. is a good example of the hockey-stick graph problem: Take a single set of data, no matter what other data exists to the contrary, then draw conclusions about the climate from it. Mann used some tree rings, Eschenbach uses Argo temperature data….”
Gee, Roger, this is the silliest thing I have seen in a long while. Straight from the circus, are we? You apparently have no limit on the hoops you will jump through or the twists you will make to align your argument.
There is a huge difference between Mann’s interpretation, manipulation, lopping and grafting of data, followed by scientific publication and his subsequent citing by international organisations…
…..and Willis’ presentation here of some data and a few questions.

JimF
February 12, 2012 9:17 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:50 pm
Now that is one incredible map. I’d like to blow it up to wall mural size and hang it on my wall.
Take a look at the fetch of the equatorial Pacific. All that hot water pushed west to pile up around Indonesia. If it weren’t for Indonesia, Africa would be a roaster oven. Look at that cool water “upwelling” off the western coast of South America. It’s a lava lamp in reverse! Or else, the first skin of the onion has been peeled off and pushed back to good old Indonesia, uncovering an underlying layer of cooler water.
Is there a contour map of the Earth’s surface that would show how much water is (from time to time) piled up around Indonesia? From Peru, it must look like a small hill, at least. Are there data that show the tidal ranges of both Indonesian ports and Peruvian ports during either El Nino or La Nina?

Keith Minto
February 12, 2012 9:19 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm
O H Dahlsveen says:
February 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm
The coldest equatorial part of our world’s oceans, according to your “Figure 5”, seems to be just where El Nińo lives – i.e. around the west coast of South America. I wonder why – –
Upwelling.
w.

With help from some of the Antarctic Circumpolar current moving up the west coast of SA as the Humbolt current.

Philip Bradley
February 12, 2012 9:30 pm

A number of contributors here have pointed out to you that it is atmospheric pressure that determines the rate of energy flow from ocean to air and which puts a lid on the achievable temperature of the sea surfaces at current levels of solar input.
Stephen, the primary driver of ocean/atmosphere heat flow is the temperature differential, with a secondary contribution from air flow/turbulence.
Which BTW, likely explains the SST outliers above 30C. In semi-enclosed seas adjacent to large land masses, say the Gulf of Aden, the air above the ocean will be influenced by air masses that originate over land. These air masses will typically be much drier and often warmer than the usual atmosphere over the ocean. The warmer air will reduce the heat flow from the ocean (reduced temperature difference) and the reduced humidity will impede the hydrological feedback (cloud formation). Thus allowing the ocean surface to warm above 30C.
I am sure Willis will eventually get to a geographic analysis that shows land proximity to these over 30C values.

R. Gates
February 12, 2012 9:30 pm

JimF says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:13 pm
R. Gates says:
February 12, 2012 at 11:27 am “…In this regard, you need to look at the complete ocean in all layers, and in doing so, of course you’ll find that the ocean heat content has been going up over the past 30+ years, and this is even more strongly indicated the deeper you take the metric….
Do you have a link to back up this statement. I would like to see it. According to the Ocean Page, under the Reference tab here on WUWT, indeed the heat content of the upper 700 meters of the sea has increased since about 1970, although the last decade seems to be a flat spot (little or no increase).
———-
Jim,
Go here and click between the different depths:
http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/
Ocean heat content is probably the best single metric for the energy imbalance of the planet. The amount it has gone up (to as deep as we are currently measuring) over the many decades is impressive. Please note that there has been no flattening at the 2000m mark, and not as much as some skeptics would have you believe down to 700m. Some skeptics seemed puzzled by the warming of the deeper ocean, and are trying to figure out why this would be impossible. After all, how could heat be forced into the deeper ocean? In the regard, it is critical to understand areas such as the Western Pacific, where, on a cyclical basis, warm water piles up, actually forming a dome of water, and underneath this dome, downwelling of warm water occurs, taking very warm water to the deeper ocean. The Mindanao dome, near the Philippines is the prime example of this area of downwelling. Eventually some of this warm water will work its way back to the east and to the surface, but as the ocean heat content has increased, especially down to the 2000m mark, it means that less energy is leaving during cycles such as El Niño, than is entering in downwelling areas all over the worlds ocean. Perhaps this warming of the deeper ocean is in response to increased greenhouse warming of the atmosphere, or perhaps not. If it is a natural cycle, then one would need a mechanism to explain it, and one would also expect it to begin to cycle back down at some point.

David
February 12, 2012 9:41 pm

Thanks, Geoff. In addition to JimF’s reply, I can add that the geothermal heat is estimated to be on the order of a tenth of a watt per square metre or so. So there is no “heat below” for the ocean other than in limited regions, there is only heat in the top 100 metres or so, the “photic zone”. This is also (not coincidentally) the depth of the upper “mixed layer” of the ocean. It is not a coincidence because it is the heat of the sun which mixes that top layer … but only at night.
———————————
I understand (?) the geothermal heat flux estimate to be from land based borehole meausrements, yet the crust thickness on land is several miles thicker then the mean ocean crust thickness. Also, the mean volcanic heat flow into the oceans may be far greater then realised in the recent past. As the deep layers of the ocean have very little circulation how long do you think this heat energy could accumalate. In other words what is the residence time of the deep ocean volcanic and geothermal heat?

richard verney
February 12, 2012 9:45 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 11:44 am
richard verney says:
February 12, 2012 at 11:02 am
… I take it from your comment to Steve that “..there is plenty of energy from the sun to make many ocean areas reach over 30°C…” you will now appreciate that your previously expressed view that the tropical oceans would freeze is very probably misconceived.
Richard, truly, I haven’t a clue what you think Steve said, or what you think I said, that has to do with whatever it is that you are talking about. That was the most opaque writing I’ve seen in a while. Clearly you think you’ve scored some massive point in the discussion, but I’m sorry, I simply can’t make heads or tails
//////////////////////////////////////////
As regards what you said, I think you said “..there is plenty of energy from the sun to make many ocean areas reach over 30°C…” which is a quote of something you said in your post of February 12, 2012 at 9:57 am.
My comment was perhaps a liitle bit of a cheap shot. By way of elucidation, not on this thread but on various other threads posted by you (extending over a period of several years) discussing the effects of DWLWIR from CO2, you and I have exchanged views on whether but for the DWLWIR from CO2 the oceans would freeze. In these exchanges, you claim they would. I claim that even if the DWLWIR from CO2 was not taken into account, there is sufficient solar in equatorial regions which would heat the tropical ocean to a temperature above freezing, ie, the tropical ocean would not freeze.
As part of the argument on that topic, I have suggested that your view is distorted by you using average figures (ie., average solar average DWLWIR etc which you have done in your posted article) whereas one needs to utilise local prevailing not average figures. Local prevailing solar in the tropics is high.
I accordingly agree with your statement “..there is plenty of energy from the sun to make many ocean areas reach over 30°C…”. The implications of this are that in local areas where solar is most intense it is in sufficient in amount to prevent the tropical ocean from freezing.
The reason I made this cheap shot is that on many occassions you have simply side stepped doing the calculation of solar in the tropics and have simply maintained some average figure and referred me to articles I think on the scienceofdoom (I can’t recall with certainty the specific website).
I do not consider that I am scoring some points over you. But next time we get into an argument on a relevant thread concerning the effects of DWLWIR from CO2 and the impact this has on the ocean and in particular whether the oceans would freeze but for this ‘energy’ remember the strong solar forcing in the tropics.
.
PS: Don’t take my earlier post regarding the way in which the IPCC handle data, the wrong way. I was not intending to be rude. It is just that I think that in this particular case, you are rather over strecthing the data. That is intended as a constructive comment upon a data anaysis which is a work in progress.

Mike M
February 12, 2012 9:50 pm

One horrifying thought, remember when some NASA probe was screwed up because someone failed to convert metric to inches or vice versa? I hope this isn’t some weird artificial result from some idiotic mistake like, for example, a BCD to binary ‘misunderstanding’ between the hardware and software people or “Oops, I thought the other one was the overflow bit? ”
I assume someone physically tested that ARGO floats behave just as reliably in 40 degree water as they do in 10 degree water?

JimF
February 12, 2012 9:52 pm

R. Gates says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm
Thank you. I’ll have to look at those and think a bit, but it’s late here.
regards

richard verney
February 12, 2012 9:57 pm

R. Gates says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm
///////////////////////
When I have time, I will look at your link.
In the meantime, I enquire if it is indeed the case that the deep ocean is warming, is this really a problem? What lenth of time is required for energy stored in the deep ocean to find its way to the to a height where it can significantly affect the temperature of ocean currents distributing temperatures poleward and/or the air temperature above the ocean.
Is this measured in tens of years or hundreds or even thousands of years. In otherwords, when do you envisage that this *ie, the additional energy you suggest is being stored therein) will come back to bite?

G. Karst
February 12, 2012 10:04 pm

richard verney says:
February 12, 2012 at 7:18 pm
G. Karst says:
February 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm
//////////////////////////////
The example given by Roger is nor Spurious. See for enample one of my posts on the earlier threat in which I cite numerous examples:_.

They are spurious until their deviation from norm can be verified and explained. It is why further investigation as to latitude, water depth, salinity is required urgently. These statistical anomalies may correlate with shallower or deeper water, if shown to be valid temps. Perhaps they occur on the lee side of land masses? Who knows? Until the data is analyzed for such?

Joules Verne says:
February 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm
Yes there certainly IS a mechanism to limit sea surface temperature. It’s called the sun. The blackbody temperature is the theoretical maximum.

Well yes, I guess, I should have mentioned SB limits but then I should have mentioned the boiling point of seawater, as well. oops…
Consider the top few microns of water. It is intensely bombarded by photons, fiercely blasted by various particles, undergoing evaporation distillation and complex chemical changes, while constantly exchanging gases. This layer is an energized flux field, resistant to investigation and of tiny volume. Like quantum theory – much is yet possible – not much impossible. Can any of these many factors limit SST? I don’t know… evaporation is certainly affected – but we better find out, if and what, is. That’s all I have to say about that. GK

David
February 12, 2012 10:04 pm

Willis, I still think your point about the S.H. oceans being cooler was curious, as they receive vastly greater heat flux from a sun which is three million miles closer in January and about 7% more intense as compared to the NH summer. Some of this may be due to ocean currents transporting heat, but could not the self regulating, evaporation, conduction, cloud formation mechanism of the oceans be a factor in this as well? Do you know if the earth’s mean cloud cover increases in January February, as opposed to June and July?
Overall the earth is considerably cooler when it is closer to the sun. At perihelion we have a permanent loss to space of ? W/2m SWR due to increased albedo and a loss of SWR to the atmosphere, as at perihelion the SWR is falling on far more ocean, where it is absorbed into the oceans for far longer then if that SWR fell on land. Do these balance (unlikely) or is the earth gaining or losing energy during perihelion??? The TOA flux should tell us and climate models should accurately predict the observation. As these immense changes in SWR TSI happen bi-annually, then how much and how rapidly changes in most things we measure in climate, temperature, cloud cover, albedo, SST, OHC, TOA flux incoming and outgoing, must be reflected in these bi-annual changes and analyzing these relative to the bi-annual 7% perihelion/aphelion flux in SWR should give deeper insight relative to heat and energy flux within our earth system.
BTW Willis, in the very clear deep waters of the tropical ocean sunlight may penetrate deeper and accumalate longer then you think. From 660 to 3,000 feet (200 to 900 meters), only about 1 percent of sunlight penetrates. This layer is known as the dysphotic zone (meaning “bad light”).
http://www.scienceclarified.com/

February 12, 2012 10:05 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:50 pm
For those claiming that there is some part of the ocean over thirty degrees C … where is it?

It’s hiding… from Kevin Trenberth :-)))

February 12, 2012 10:08 pm

Geoff Sherrington says:
February 12, 2012 at 4:17 am
I’m also interested in why deep ocean waters are close to freezing. How and when did they get so cold?

It’s just arithmetic, I think Since saline water increases more or less linearly in density with declining temperature, it is inevitable that, given enough depth, the lowest levels would be hovering just above freezing. How “thick” that coldest layer is would perhaps vary over time, and naturally with local water depth.
I’m curious about what the temp profile looks like in deep trenches in the tropics vs high latitudes.

JimF
February 12, 2012 10:11 pm

Keith Minto says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm
Heh. I followed the link to the wikipedia reference. It’s interesting the way the thing is defined. It’s “upwelling” until an ENSO event. In my mind, unless there is some topographic structure that would cause a moving stream of cold, dense water to be pushed or channeled to the surface, somehow pushing aside warm water, the “upwelling” simply is the way things are – the cold current is the normal flow of water along the coast of SA (and it is probably underlain by even colder, denser water).
Then along comes El Nino – the equatorial trade winds die down (because there aren’t many thunderstorms going off in the equatorial Pacific), the hill of hot water over at Indonesia succumbs to gravity and spreads out over the Pacific (I wonder how fast this tide actually moves), eventually covering the normal cold water of the Humboldt current, and creating a local economic disaster. Is that “Downwelling” or simply a slow tsunami? Finally, the warm surface water is pushed back to Indonesia (La Nina) and “upwelling” (or normalcy) returns.
Otherwise, dense things rise, and less dense things sink. And that, I don’t believe.

David
February 12, 2012 10:16 pm

JimF says:
February 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm
Wow, I am depressed by the nattering that goes on here. I do not believe Willis has stated a Law of Nature that sea surface temperatures are “limited to 30˚C”. He has merely shown a bazillion measurements that show that sea surface temperatures, for some reason(s), tend to maximize at 30˚C +/- a bit. A few of these bazillion measurements are indeed higher, maybe as much as 15% higher, but the tendency is 30˚C.
—————————–
Exactly, or more percisely not exactly I did not read Willis to mean this as 30c is a law, but to show it as a principle to be generally true, and let us discuss the observations. The rest appears pedantic.

Werner Brozek
February 12, 2012 10:19 pm

Summary of possible factors that could affect maximum ocean temperatures (some were already mentioned):
1. Depth of ocean. The shallower the ocean, the less distance visible rays have to penetrate to heat the sand so the less diffuse the energy of the photons.
2. Color of sand where the ocean is. (I believe it was in Tahiti or somewhere that I saw beaches of black sand.)
3. Length of day. Over 12 hours of sunlight, and only some of it directly overhead, there is only so much time for the ocean to heat up.
4. Specific heat capacity of ocean water. Related to #3 above, it takes a long time to heat up water, especially if really deep.
5. Conductivity of water. Water is a poor conductor, but some heat may conduct to the cooler parts below if there is a large temperature difference.
6. Oil spills. The spill the other year off Mexico caused a good increase in water temperature since evaporation was greatly hindered under the oil.
7. Cloud cover. The more evaporation, the more clouds.
8. Winds. If winds blow the clouds away from #7, more sunlight may enter the water.
9. Solar makeup. With more sunspots and more UV, perhaps more warming.
10. Proximity to land. Land can get much hotter so this may affect oceans temperatures close to land.
11. Particles or life in the water. Darker things in the water would warm things more.
12. Natural ocean currents. If there are none to carry heat away, things could really heat up.

February 12, 2012 10:30 pm

Willis Eschenbach said @ February 12, 2012 at 11:38 am

I finally remembered the apposite quote that has been at the edge of my brain while I’ve been writing this, which comes from Sherlock Holmes.
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.”
That was the IPCC method, and the method you advised me to follow as well when you say “First, it is necessary to put forward a physical hypothesis …”.
No, it is not necessary to theorize before one has data, it is a mistake to do so. It is what I described as being the “trap that the AGW folks have fallen into, of hypothesizing in advance of the data.”

Willis, if it’s a mistake to theorise before one has data, why do all of our physics teachers teach the exact opposite? Consider the paradigm case of the Law of Falling Objects:
Aristotle taught that heavy objects fall faster than light objects. This was discounted by John Philoponus (6thC), Jean Buridan (14thC) and finally Galileo a thousand years after Philoponus gets the credit for the disproof by contradiction. If the lighter object falls slower than the heavier object, then when they are tied together, the combined weight must fall even faster. But the smaller object will be slowing the heavier object (like a parachute) so the heavier of the two objects will also be falling slower. Since no object can fall both faster and slower, all objects fall at the same rate. QED
Now Galileo is supposed to have demonstrated this by dropping a light and a heavy cannonball simultaneously from the tower at Pisa. Both cannonballs supposedly reached the ground simultaneously to the dismay of Galileo’s opponents. Unfortunately, this is a lie made up a century after Galileo’s death. In the actual experiment that Galileo described, his assistant dropped a wooden and an iron cannonball of the same size from a height some 300 feet greater than Pisa’s tower. The wooden ball initially fell faster before being overtaken by the iron ball which arrived at the ground considerably ahead of the wooden ball.
Now if we say that “it’s a mistake to theorise before one has data” then clearly John Philoponus, Jean Buridan, Galileo and presumably unrecorded and forgotten others were mistaken and Aristotle was correct (though for the wrong reason). Yet we are taught the opposite: Aristotle was wrong and the thought experiment trumps any amount of contrary observation.
I’m not interested here in why the Law of Falling Objects is true, just that theorising before data acquisition appears to be the norm. Off the top of my head, the only example I can think of where the opposite sequence occurred is Faraday’s motor.

ferd berple
February 12, 2012 10:45 pm

Steve from Rockwood says:
February 12, 2012 at 8:11 am
Willis, I can’t agree here. The hard limit on ocean temperature is not 30 degrees. It is the maximum heating from the sun (which just happens to be around 30). Increase the energy from the sun and the temperature goes up. Decrease it and the temperature will go down.
If what you say is true, then the data should show a “normal” distribution around the maximum (bell shaped). From a first look it doesn’t, thought it is hard to say positively until the maximums are isolated. The very steep upper “edge” to the data implies that there is some sort of physical mechanism that limits the temperature around 30C.
This is actually quite an important observation. Statistical analysis of the upper limit would be a good topic for a peer reviewed paper.

richard verney
February 12, 2012 10:47 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:53 pm
//////////////////////////////////
Willis
This all started in your previous post when your claim was far more unequivocal. In one of my earlier posts on this thread I acknowleged that you have slightly raised the bar and widened the mechanism you claim imposed the cap.
Nearly 10,000 ARGO data sets is not an insignificant number. This represents quite some area dispersed over a number of different regions. Claiming that it is 1/10th of a percent is the same ridiculuous argument that some people raise about the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere. In percentage terms something can be small but nonetheless significant. Again misquoting Einstein 1000 experiments can ‘show’ that I am right but it only needs one to prove that I am wrong. He therefore appreciated that 1/10 of a percent was quite sufficient to demolish a claim. Indeed, he could easily have saud a million experiments can reveal results consistent with my theory but it only takes one that reveals a result inconsistent with my theory to prove me wrong. Frankly, your argument on numbers disappoints.
Then you resort to consensus. What need I say on that argument?
Even your own data (the ARGO data) contradicts your claim. Even ignoring my claim with respect to data contained in ship’s logs, the other day, I posted many reference to places which had higher temperatures than the capped temperature.
One of the problems in this area of science is the certainty with which people put forward claims which claims should be equivocal in nature. People frequently over stretch the data, ignore contadictory data, fail to acknowledge the uncertainty and shortcomings in the data sets relied upon eyc etc. Another problem is that people too quickly get entrenched with a ‘theory’ and refuse to step back when problems are raised and then take a more objective re-evaluatiion. Regretfully I consider that some of these traits are finding their way into this post of yours.
If this post had been more general in natuire and on whether the hydrological cycle tends to lower ocean temperatures, I would have no gripe with it. It is the speicific claims that I have aproblem with and in particular the claim that no matter how much solar due to the hydrological cycle temps are capped at 30degC (this particular post suggests may be it is about 30 to 31degC and now includes some processes other tha the hydrological cycle).
I would tentavilely suggest that what we are seeing in the ARGO buoys is that the temperature of the open ocean can get up to about 34 degC but this rarely happens since the currents remove the warming water in the tropics before it gets an opportunity to go above (or much above) 30degC and carries this warm water polewards (it cooling as it goes), there being en route someareas where those currents pool such as off the coast of Ghana where the sea temperature gets up to about 35deg C before the current continues on its Northward journey.
It is rather akin to a pot of water being placed on a stove. The stove can drive the water in the pot to a temperature of say 50 degC but as soon as it reaches about 30deg someone removes some water and replenishes it with slightly cooler water. This process on goes ad infinitum such that one only sees a 30deg C temp in the pot. If the syphoning off and replenishment were to stop the watter temp would increases.
What you have done is look at the temperature in the pot, noted that this generally peaks at 30degC and immediately jumped to a knee jerk reaction that it must be due to the latent heat of evaporation without considering other processes involved.
The ARGO data does not in itself tell you what is capping the temperature and you are over reaching the data in this regard and ignoring inconvenient data within the data set. Thiis is below your usual standard.
Just consider that your post had been put out by the ‘Team’ under pal review, what would your response have been. I am fairly convinced that you would be jumping on the 10,000 ATGO readings that contradict the claim. You would go off and search other data bases showing higher temperatures in many parts of the ocean. In short you would have a field day and would be right to do so.
..

markx
February 12, 2012 10:56 pm

The Pompous Git: February 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm
says: “…Willis, if it’s a mistake to theorise before one has data, why do all of our physics teachers teach the exact opposite?….”
Seems to have become the realm of the pedants around here;
Sure the usual situation is observation, theory, data collection, test theory, proof.
In this case, let’s just say Willis’ ‘observation’ is in the data someone else has published.
We are now therefore at the theorizing stage. We may have to collect some more or different data to proceed further….

JimF
February 12, 2012 10:57 pm

David says:
February 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm “…I understand (?) the geothermal heat flux estimate to be from land based borehole meausrements, yet the crust thickness on land is several miles thicker then the mean ocean crust thickness. Also, the mean volcanic heat flow into the oceans may be far greater then realised in the recent past. As the deep layers of the ocean have very little circulation how long do you think this heat energy could accumalate. In other words what is the residence time of the deep ocean volcanic and geothermal heat?…”
Look, the seafloor ridges are expanding at about 6 cm a year (or less). The oceanic crust is about 3 kilometers thick. So let’s posit 200,000 miles of oceanic spreading ridges forming a slab of hot basaltic material (1260˚C) that is 6 cm wide X 3 km thick X 320,000 km long. I’ll let you do the math to determine how much heat is contained in that annual dollop of new oceanic crust. When you compare it to the volume of the ocean, filled with the magic potion known as water, you’ll find that this is like the fly on the withers of an ass – inconsequential.
“…Also, the mean volcanic heat flow into the oceans may be far greater then realised in the recent past….” What do you mean here? The seafloor spreading in the Cretaceous – 100 to 65 million years ago – was dramatic, say about twice the rate outlined above. Four billion years ago, there was enormously more energy being emitted by radioactive elements than today (one totally unstable element, technetium, 43, may no longer exist in nature. However, you may get a dose of it when you go for certain kinds of medical tests, the Tc being all man-made). Three billion years ago, there were lavas being erupted on the surface of the Earth that had to come out at >1500˚C (komatiites), which seems impossible today (common basalt, think Hawaii, is around 1250˚C, and that is THE MOST BASIC rock the Earth can form today). The Earth, and its internal heat, has been winding down for 4.5 billion years. So what happened in the recent past?

ferd berple
February 12, 2012 10:57 pm

The Pompous Git says:
February 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm
Willis, if it’s a mistake to theorise before one has data, why do all of our physics teachers teach the exact opposite?
My physics teachers taught us to collect the data ahead of theory. But that was a different era, before liberal arts majors started teaching physics. Now the norm is to:
1) identify an area of study for which grants are available.
2) identify a theory likely to attract a grant
3) attract the grant
4) identify data that supports the theory sufficient to get published and justify further grants.
5) repeat from step 1.
Sadly modern science isn’t about investigating nature. It is about writing good proposals to attract funding and jobs. The vast majority of scientists will never make a single discovery in their career’s more important than: “you need to go along to get along”.

John F. Hultquist
February 12, 2012 11:01 pm

In the first of these posts, Willis notes: “Like Jason, I proceed into the unknown with my look at the Argo data, and will post random notes as I voyage. I have no great insights at this point, just some interesting results.
With that as prelude, it seems to be that a few comments have gone off the rails. The word “strident” comes to mind. Oh well. End of rant.
In these Argo posts, Willis and others, have mentioned ocean currents, specifically off the west coast of S. America. With an understanding of the wind spinning out of the edges of Subtropical High Pressure, the Coriolis Effect, and so on – I was impressed by the white area (lack of data) from this part of the ocean.
Some years past a plane went into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru. As I recall from the MSM it was visible for a short time and then the current carried it away. I believe it was this one: Aeroperú Flight 603;
Just past midnight in October 1996, a Boeing 757 crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 30 mi off the coast of Lima, Peru.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroper%C3%BA_Flight_603
The Argo floats folks are going to have to find a different method for some parts of the ocean.

zlop
February 12, 2012 11:09 pm

Non-linear feedback, which turns negative under saturated conditions,
Is the governor of local overshoot
Temperature of evaporation is the root non-linearity cause

Chris Colose
February 12, 2012 11:16 pm

There will be a SkepticalScience piece published about this article any day now (written by me), since the topic is rather interesting; as others have pointed out it is also a subject that has generated a number of peer-reviewed articles over the last couple of decades. The SkS article will have a more thorough argument and references, but the main point is that the premise laid out for a ‘maximum SST near 30 C’ is fundamentally wrong (and many of the references cited, for example by Ramanathan and Collins were wrong too). This has been pointed out by a number of papers since the 90s, but evidently has not gained widespread appreciation by the community, at least prior to several years ago. As a quick summary,
– The apparent cutoff on the histogram at 31 C or so is a consequence of the onset in deep convection in the modern climate, when low air has enough moist static energy to reach the upper troposphere, and becomes buoyant with respect to the upper layers. It has nothing to do with a maximum allowable SST, which instead is determined by (and certainly not independent of) the top of the atmosphere energy balance.
– In a warming world, the troposphere also warms, and thus the SST threshold for the generation of convection increases too. There are other coordinate systems aside from SST that are more appropriate to envision this problem, such as the entropy difference between the surface and upper troposphere, but I didn’t get into this in the coming article for fear of losing too many people on the web. The key point is that the distribution of SST will also shift to the right in a warming climate. It is also worth noting that a number of studies looking at the most recent paleodata for time periods such as the Eocene show tropical SSTs well above that of the purported maximum threshold of SST.
– It is not appropriate to think of clouds as thermostats in the modern climate, since the shortwave albedo component nearly cancels the longwave greenhouse component at the top of the atmosphere (in the tropics). The details on how this cancellation plays out in a global warming scenario cuts into the heart of the climate sensitivity issue, which I didn’t really get into, but there is no compelling basis to suggest that clouds inherently buffer SST changes in a forced climate.

February 12, 2012 11:21 pm

Willis Eschenbach said @ February 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I’m not bogged down with the prejudices of the physics teachers. I can just let the data lead me wherever it wants to go.
Seriously, Pompous, investigating a dataset is best done in the spirit of play. You have to get to know the data, you need to mess about with it, simply for the sake and the joy of messing about. You need to notice the oddities, you need to cozen it into revealing the secrets and the anomalies. You need to toss it into the air and see how the wheat separates from the chaff. You need to hold it in your hands, and turn it around and look at it from different angles, try a host of vantage points and discriminant functions.
If you march in the door all armed with your whiz-bang theory, you won’t notice or see or understand all of that stuff. As the saying goes, “To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

Willis, I’m not disagreeing with you; it’s how I approached my auto-didactic adventures into ag sci and computing. I was just curious as to whether had any thoughts about why we turn an exciting adventures into something as dull-as-dust in the classroom. And why do we tell so many Lies-to-Children? It seems so counterproductive… and OT I guess.

February 12, 2012 11:28 pm

markx said @ February 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm

The Pompous Git: February 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm
says: “…Willis, if it’s a mistake to theorise before one has data, why do all of our physics teachers teach the exact opposite?….”
Seems to have become the realm of the pedants around here;
Sure the usual situation is observation, theory, data collection, test theory, proof.
In this case, let’s just say Willis’ ‘observation’ is in the data someone else has published.
We are now therefore at the theorizing stage. We may have to collect some more or different data to proceed further….

Why is it pedantic to ask a legitimate question? And you would seem to have the sequence wrong; it’s usually theory first aka the Plato approach. It was Aristotle, an excellent marine biologist, who put observation first.

markx
Reply to  The Pompous Git
February 13, 2012 12:10 am

The Pompous Git: February 12, 2012 at 11:28 pm
“…Why is it pedantic to ask a legitimate question? And you would seem to have the sequence wrong….”
Pompous, nothing wrong with the question, just perhaps (to my mind!) in insisting on the ‘correct order of procedure’.
But really, was ANY theory ever advanced without some sort of observation? ie, noting the sun rises in the east, an apple falls from a tree, etc, THEN attempting an explanation? Then deciding to collect more data?
Surely we are at the “hey, look at that…. I wonder if….?” stage?
And now I’M being pedantic…..!

Stephen Wilde
February 12, 2012 11:30 pm

“Stephen, the primary driver of ocean/atmosphere heat flow is the temperature differential, with a secondary contribution from air flow/turbulence.”
Surface air pressure determines the amount of heat (or rather energy) flow that one gets from a given temperature differential.
The higher the pressure at the surface the higher the temperature needs to get at the surface to enable convection to overcome the weight of air pressing down on the surface.
The Gas Laws prevail.