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

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

R.M.B

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

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

“”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

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.

Willis Eschenbach

Martin Lewitt says:
February 12, 2012 at 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.

I was thinking about that. Another thing on the long list. The information is available at the CMIP5 site, but it’s a pain to dig out. I’ll look to see what KNMI has.
w.

Anton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

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

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

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.

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

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

“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

“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

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

Jimmy H, that is valid for fresh water.

Bill Illis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?)