More on Trenberth’s Missing Heat

In the post Trenberth Still Searching for Missing Heat, we discussed the recent Balmaseda et al (2013) paper “Distinctive climate signals in reanalysis of global ocean heat content”, of which Kevin Trenberth was a coauthor.

Dr. Roy Spencer also has a recent post on that paper. I’ve cross posted Roy’s post following this introduction. Roy Spencer argues that it is possible for the oceans to warm to depth, while the surface temperatures remain flat, but… (No spoiler from me. You’ll have to read Roy’s post.)

Roy does note that arguments about continued ocean warming to depth “…depend upon global deep ocean temperature changes being measured to an accuracy of hundredths or even thousandths of a degree…”. That’s why all of the adjustments to the ocean heat content data are so critical to this discussion.


Figure 1

If we were to consider the “unadjusted” ocean heat content data (represented by the UKMO EN3 data in Figure 1) to be correct, then the ocean heat content for depths of 0-2000 meters flattened as soon as the ARGO floats had reasonably compete coverage of the global oceans in 2003-04. It’s only when the ocean heat content data is corrected, tweaked, adjusted, modified, whatever (represented by the NODC data in Figure 1), that the global ocean heat content continues to warm in relative agreement with climate models.


More on Trenberth’s Missing Heat

April 8th, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

While I don’t necessarily buy Trenberth’s latest evidence for a lack of recent surface warming, I feel I need to first explain why Trenberth is correct that it is possible for the deep ocean to warm while surface warming is seemingly by-passed in the process.

Then I will follow up with observations which run counter to his (and his co-authors’) claim that an increase in ocean surface wind-driven mixing has caused the recent lack of global warming.

Can Deep Ocean Warming Bypass the Surface?

It depends on what one means by “warming”. A temperature change is the net result of multiple processes adding and subtracting heat. Warming of the deep ocean originally caused by radiative forcing of the climate system cannot literally bypass the surface without some effect on temperature. But that effect might be to keep some cooling process from causing an even steeper dive in temperature.

It’s like adding a pint of warm water, and a gallon of cold water, to a sink full of room temperature water. Did adding the pint of warm water cause the temperature in the sink to rise?

To appreciate this, we first need to understand the basic processes which maintain the vertical temperature distribution in the global oceans. The following cartoon shows a North-South cross section of measured ocean temperatures in the Atlantic.

Spencer Fig 1 ocean-mixing

The average temperature distribution represents a balance between 3 major processes:

(1) surface heating by the sun (mitigated by surface evaporation and infrared radiative loss) which warms the relatively shallow ocean mixed layer;

(2) cold deepwater formation at high latitudes, which slowly sinks and fills up the oceans on time scales of centuries to millennia, and

(3) vertical mixing from wind-driven waves, the thermohaline circulation, and turbulence generated by flow over ocean bottom topography (the latter being partly driven by tidal forces).

The key thing to understand is that while processes (1) and (2) continuously act to INCREASE the temperature difference between the warm mixed layer and the cold deep ocean, the vertical mixing processes in (3) continuously act to DECREASE the temperature difference, that is, make the ocean more vertically uniform in temperature.

The average temperature distribution we see is the net result of these different, competing processes. And so, a change in ANY of these processes can cause surface warming or cooling, without any radiative forcing of the climate system whatsoever.

So, let’s look at a few ocean mixing scenarios in response to radiative forcing of the climate system (e.g. from increasing CO2, increasing sunlight, etc.), all theoretical:

Scenario 1) Warming with NO change in ocean mixing: It this case, surface warming is gradually mixed downward in the ocean, leading to warming trends that are a maximum at the ocean surface, but which decrease exponentially with depth.

Scenario 2) Warming with a SMALL increase in ocean mixing. This case will result in weaker surface warming, and slightly stronger warming of the deep ocean, both compared to Scenario 1. The warming still might decrease exponentially with depth.

Scenario 3) Warming with a LARGER increase in ocean mixing. This case could lead to an actual surface temperature decrease, but warming of the deep ocean, similar to what I believe Trenberth is claiming.

Yes, the surface waters “warmed” before the deep ocean in Scenario 3, but it was in the form of a weaker temperature drop than would have otherwise occurred.

Because of the immense heat capacity of the deep ocean, the magnitude of deep warming in Scenario 3 might only be thousandths of a degree. Whether we can measure such tiny levels of warming on the time scales of decades or longer is very questionable, and the new study co-authored by Trenberth is not entirely based upon observations, anyway.

I only bring this issue up because I think there are enough legitimate problems with global warming theory to not get distracted by arguing over issues which are reasonably well understood. It takes the removal of only one card to cause a house of cards to fall.

But it also points out how global warming or cooling can occur naturally, at least theoretically, from natural chaotic variations in the ocean circulation on long time scales. Maybe Trenberth believes the speedup in the ocean circulation is due to our driving SUVs and flipping on light switches. He has already stated that more frequent El Ninos are caused by anthropogenic global warming. (Except now they are less frequent — go figure).

In some sense, natural global warming and cooling events are made possible by the fact that we live within an exceedingly thin warm surface “skin” of a climate system in which most of the mass (the deep ocean) is exceedingly cold. Any variations in the heat exchange between those two temperature worlds (such as during El Nino with decreased mixing, or La Nina with increased mixing) can cause large changes in our thin-skinned world. It that sense, Trenberth is helping to point out a reason why climate can change naturally.

Have Ocean Winds Increased Recently?

Trenberth and co-authors claim that their modeling study suggests an increase in ocean surface winds since 2004 has led to greater mixing of heat down into the ocean, limiting surface warming.

Fortunately, we can examine this claim with satellite observations. We have daily global measurements of ocean surface roughness and foam generation, calibrated in terms of an equivalent 10 meter height wind speed, from AMSR-E:

Spencer Figure 2 AMSR-E-ocean-surface-wind-anomalies

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see an increase in surface winds since 2004 in the above plot. This plot, which is based upon wind retrievals that have been compared to (as I recall) close to 1 million buoy observations, really needs to be extended back in time with SSM/I and SSMIS data, which would take it back to mid-1987. That’s on my to-do list.

So far, I would say that the so-called missing heat problem is not yet solved. I have argued before that I don’t think it actually exists, since the “missing heat” argument assumes that feedbacks in the climate system are positive and that radiative energy is accumulating in the system faster than surface warming would seem to support.

For the reasons outlined above, Trenberth’s view of deep ocean storage of the missing heat is still theoretically possible since increased vertical ocean mixing doesn’t have to be wind-driven. But I remain unconvinced by arguments that depend upon global deep ocean temperature changes being measured to an accuracy of hundredths or even thousandths of a degree.

Finally, as I have mentioned before, even if increased rate of mixing of heat downward is to blame for a recent lack of surface warming, the total energy involved in the warming of the deep oceans is smaller than that expected for a “sensitive” climate system. Plots of changes in ocean heat content since the 1950′s might look dramatic with an accumulation of gazillions of Joules, but the energy involved is only 1 part in 1,000 of the average energy flows in and out of the climate system. To believe this tiny energy imbalance is entirely manmade, and has never happened before, requires too much faith for even me to muster.


Back to Roy’s statement, “But I remain unconvinced by arguments that depend upon global deep ocean temperature changes being measured to an accuracy of hundredths or even thousandths of a degree”:

First consider that the ARGO floats have had “complete” coverage of the global oceans since 2007. The Earth’s oceans and seas cover about 361 million square kilometers or 139 million square miles. There were 3566 ARGO floats in operation in March 2013. If the floats were spaced evenly, then each ARGO float is sampling the temperature at depth for a surface area of approximately 101,000 square kilometers or 39,000 square miles—or an area about the size of Iceland or the State of Kentucky.

Second, consider that the ARGO era is when the sampling is at its best, but before ARGO temperature sampling at depth was very poor. Refer to the following animation. Temperature sample maps at 1500 meters (6MB). There is little observational data at depths of 1500 meters prior to ARGO. In other words, we have little idea about the temperatures of the global oceans to depths of 2000 meters and their variability before ARGO.

Third, on top of that, consider that ARGO floats have been found to be unreliable, hence the need to constantly readjust their observations.

Do we have any idea about the variability of the temperatures and ocean heat content of the global oceans to depth? Simple answer: No.

For more information on the problems with Ocean Heat Content data, refer to the post Is Ocean Heat Content Data All It’s Stacked Up to Be? and NODC’s Pentadal Ocean Heat Content (0 to 2000m) Creates Warming That Doesn’t Exist in the Annual Data – A Lot of Warming.


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The best thing about the deep ocean is that its virtual total unexplored , so you can make great claims about ‘maybe ‘ in it and know its unlikely others can prove you wrong . Of course such a position has no real place in science where the normal procedure is to offer ‘proof ‘ to back up claims , but then this is climate ‘science’ and Trenberth’s is already on record expressing how he want to reverse the normal procedure for the null hypotheses. So the fact this ‘trick’ is to science what Charlie Manson is to family values is to be expected .
I have asked this question a number of times , but it is worth asking again , are their any actual standards within climate science? Then have show time and again they cannot even meet the academic standards expected of any science undergraduate when they write an essay , but are we really saying that BS mixed with guess work is ‘good enough ‘ for these professional ?
Frankly if I was one of their students that had my work marked down , I be tempted to point out to them their own basic failings in following the scientific approach.


Even if there is some increase in the heat content of the oceans it says nothing about whether warming due to man made CO2 is currently happening, or ever happened. All it tells you is that at some time in the past there was some warming from some cause.


Come on Kevin, over here now, make yourself comfortable. Everything’s going to be OK ……

Peter Miller

I have often wondered if the very slow moving deep ocean currents are the Earth’s natural thermostat.
Sometime ago, someone knowledgable on WUWT commented that if the oceans gave up 0.1 degrees C of heat in one second (an obvious impossibility) then the atmosphere’s temperature would instantly rise to boiling point.
If Trenberth’s ‘missing heat’ is being transported away from the surface by these deep ocean currents, it would mean two things:
1. The Earth’s natural thermostat would ensure CAGW is a complete impossibility.
2. There would be a very tiny rise in the level of the oceans as they expanded due to the minute increase in temperature.
I have a suspicion Trenberth may be right about there being missing heat transported to the bowels of the oceans. The point is he has not followed the argument through, for if this is currect – as said earlier – these deep ocean currents must be a significant part of the world’s natural thermostat system.
Below is a Wikipedia comment on these deep ocean currents.

Stephen Richards

I can see no way of heating ‘deep ocean’ by bypassing the surface. It just is not possible and nothing I’ve read suggests otherwise. Yes, the surface can mix caused by long lived storms / depressions but not down below 700m. Roy is gradually losing it, sadly, what with measuring back radiation with a cheap IR temp metre (8ù to 14ù bandwidth) by pointing at cloud and open sky, pulezzz.

john piccirilli

Wikipedea states rising co2 is the cause of agw.not even calling a theory but citing it as a fact. Is it any wonder we are all so misinformed! Just read how these so called experts measure co2 in the atmosphere,they get measurements from the top of several mountains!

M Courtney

Forgive my ignorance but may I ask about heating from the bottom of the Ocean?
I know that volcanoes aren’t everywhere but they are down there. And they are very hot.
Is the effect of geological heat release smaller by orders of magnitude than the effects of sunlight (which is weaker but far more widespread)?
This is a genuine question, asked in ignorance.
A significant thermal gradient in the deep would change the significance of everything, including that diagram in this post.

Excellent post, thanks bob and Roy. The deep water measurements use salinity as a proxy for temperature don’t they?

Stephen Richards

The assumption here is that longwave radiation from greenhouse gases does something other than evaporate a little more warm water.
Bob, exactly. Good post.


If any extra heat generated by anthropomorphic GHG is transferred (by means unknown) to the ocean depths, then there can be no temperature rise at the surface from that heat. Since the positive feedback loop inherently depends on a surface temperature rise, to increase evaporation, then logically, there is no positive feedback.

Seems like a lot of faith is being placed on ocean sensors that measure the temps for each 39k square miles, need to do it to 0.001° and have problems so their readings need to be adjusted. And we have to come up with a process of ocean mixing to explain the missing temperature. Sounds to me like we are a bit short of data to explain much of anything.
When I read this, I thought about the old joke about the guy interviewing accountants. The first two answer his questions with detailed explanations, the third responds “what number do you want?”

What is there about Laws of Thermodynamics that warmists do get. Heat rises simple as that.
And when volcanoes heat the bottom, the heat rises.
It’s easier to fake things that aren’t easily measured, or manipulated. Corrected data is manipulated dat.

Here’s a link to a three-minute Bloomberg video on the Wave Glider, a wind- and wave-powered robot / programmable guided buoy that can gather data on the ocean. It has two parts, a float and a submersible. 200 are in operation. This could provide a network of data sensors for NOAA that would stay in fixed positions, which ARGO can’t do.
Here’s a link to a google search for “wave glider”:


Perhaps a fourth process, the solar/geomagnetic coupling of lateral solar flare currents directly into the first several hundred metres of the oceans depth is quite significant? This could mean that the global temperature anomaly would be highly correlated with the ak index but would not resolve solar cycle minima because the oceans buffer this heat for long periods of time, about a decade. Global temperatures would then reflect Grand minima, maxima and regular periods of solar activity. The heating need not be due to surface heating but vertical mixing would regulate the buffer duration.


Why would anyone worry about hundredths of a degree of “warming”? That has zero effect.


“Warming of the deep ocean originally caused by radiative forcing of the climate system cannot literally bypass the surface without some effect on temperature”.
I discussed this issue in a previous post.
It is possible to heat bulk of the water without heating the surface, Although the effect is quite small the cumulative effect could be significant. If you snorkel under water you can see. What you see always looks blue. The fact that you can see demonstrates that significant radiative energy penetrates to a depth of several metres without significant absorption. The blue hue is because this is not true for the red end of the spectrum which is absorbed very close to the surface.
All wavelengths will eventually be absorbed and converted to heat. In the absence of particulates I believe the UV parts of the spectrum will be absorbed at depths of up to 100 metres but Roy may have a better figure for this.
Roy may still consider this to be the surface ( which would justify his statement) but I think it is possible that this radiative absorption at medium surface depths may be playing an important role in ocean cycles. The reason I believe this is two fold. Firstly, although the UV part of the spectrum is small (3% of TSI at the surface) it varies considerably with the sun’s activity (30% I think) so if you are looking for a source of the correlation of climate with sun spots this is a good candidate. Secondly the variation in UV has no balancing increase in infrared radiation and evaporation at the surface so can accumulate for decades until ocean currents bring the warm pools up to the surface.
It is worth pointing out that the anthropogenic climate change via increased downward infra red radiation from the upper atmosphere is a very poor candidate for bulk heating of the oceans since the wavelength of this radiation is around 14-18 micron. This wavelength will be absorbed within a millimetre of the sea’s surface. It is hard to see how increased energy absorption at this wavelength would not be immediately compensated for by increased losses through evaporation.
Finally. If my idea is correct, it is pointless to look for an increase in ocean heating now. All the warming would have taken place during the period of the active sun several decades ago. I would now expect to see a gradual cooling. Once they have stopped fiddling with the Argo results maybe this is what we will see.

more soylent green!

How can surface heat warm the deep oceans without warming the layers of water in-between? Simple — quantum teleportation!
As you read this, the climate models are being updated to include quantum teleportation.

Earth’s oceans contain 310 million cubic miles of water at an average of 4C temperature. Human CO2 emissions are 28 giga-tons per year, at 125 lb/cu ft, converting, human emissions are less than 3 cubic miles. The specific heat of water is more than four times the specific heat of CO2. In a “normal” thermodynamic heat flow equation the (thermal mass) x (specific heat) would yield the relative heat heat transfer. It is IMPOSSIBLE for this tiny human caused ” 3 cu mile tail” to wag this huge natural “310,000,000 cu mile dog”. As for ocean warming, it DOES come from below, see “Earth’s Missing Geo-thermal Flux”, as a large portion of this heat flow is disguised in latent phase changes of the discharge vent gases.
We have been lied to by Lester diverted tax dollars to fake science grants. See “Lesterland” by Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig, the just announced winner of the Houston Film Festival…trailer posted at:

Graham Green

This is obviously an excellent post and some thoughtful comment. I am intrigued by the statement that “ARGO floats have been found to be unreliable”. If anyone can offer any info on this unreliability I would be most obliged.
It maybe that you have to say that they are unreliable to justify ‘adjusting’ their data.


Until 1980, most people in the world believed that “water seeks its own level” in the oceans, and that oceans level around the world are uniform. In fact, there is an Indonesia bulge of 1 meter verses the west coast of South America at the equator. And, in the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico is 0.3 meters higher than the level at the west coast of Africa. Satellites launched after 1980, measuring the Ocean surface, revealed this fact.
After 1980, most people in the world still believe that ocean levels are uniform.
These bulges are created by the Sun heating the Equatorial waters producing the Trade Winds. The Trade Winds then create a wind driven current across the Pacific/Atlantic creating a void in the East. This surface current piles up waters in the West. When the bulge gets to a certain level, it causes a “surface/deep” current to flow both North/South, of the Equator, that eventually replaces the “void” of waters” to the East.
After much study, I have found that there is a disconnect between the Surface and the Deep Ocean currents. Until this disconnect is fixed, La Nina/ El Nino will not be understood. In addition, how the Sun drives the climate system is only partially understood. The movement of waters driven by the Trade Winds [forced by the Sun] is not part of the Climate Models.
How can “Science” say where the “heat” has gone, without understanding the Surface and Deep Ocean current relationship???

Chuck Nolan

When I was younger man in navy technical school we had a poor instructor spend a week lecturing with little student comprehension. Following this wasted week of lectures was an inadequate exam with a 70% failure rate (I had a 52). The lead instructor decided to add 17points to normalize the grades. I ended up with a 69% and was assigned night study for a week. The leading chief called me in and asked what I had to say so…… I said (with little restraint in my voice) ” The training was poor and the exam was really confusing. I understand you have the authority to put me on stupid study any time you want but it’s your logic that’s screwed up.”
It seems to me these are the same type of arguments. We don’t know the right answer but we’ll say it’s rrriiiiggghhhhttttt here.
btw, I spent the next week on night study. It was the military, Doh!

Bill Illis

Here is a better comparison of what the theory really says should be happening.
Not a tiny 15 10^22 joules over 25 years (0.5 W/m2) but it is predicted to be increasing at a rate which is more than twice that which has been observed from Argo.
Trenberth’s CCSM4
That leaves a large amount of energy missing. More than half.

richard verney

A number of questions arise, before the premise behind this conjecture can be taken seriously, such as:
What is precise mechanism whereby heat (energy) is transported to the deep ocean? At what rate can heat be sequestered to depth? Will the heat resurface, if so by what mechanism and when will this occur?
When did this mechanism first start? For example, has it been operative throughout the entire history of planet Earth and if so that begs the question as to why the deep ocean is only some 2 to 3degC after some 4 billion years of deep ocean warming. If it started more recently, what caused this mechanism to now kick in? Why was it not operative during say the late 1970s to late 1990s warming?
What has caused the atmosphere to stop warming? Is it easier for the effects of backradiation (whatever they may be) to heat the atmosphere, or the deep ocean? Can it only do one or other, or both simultaneously?
Has the atmosphere stopped warming precisely at the time when the oceans at depth began to warm? If so, are these two mechanisms related in some way, and if so, what is their relationship?
If backradiation cannot directly heat the ocean because it only penetrates a few micrometers and the energy flux at this layer is upwards (such that energy absorbed in the first few microns cannot be conducted downwards), and ocean over-turning is a slow mechanicakl process operating at a speed slower than the rate of the absorption of DWLWIR (such that it cannot sequester the energy to depth before the energy absorbed in the first few micron layer drives evaporation) can the oceans only heat (in the sense that they are losing heat more slowly than would otherwise be the case), if the atmosphere above the oceans was warming?
I am of the view that this appears to be ‘fantasy’ conjecture. We do not have the data to test the conjecture, nor will we possess it for at least 50 or more years. We would need to extent the coverage of ARGO by probably 100 million fold, and have this data set for say a minimum of 50 years before trends could realistically be assessed, and even then there would be issues as to whether we can measure temperature to the required accuracy.
In summary, this smells of desperation and should really be dismissed for the fanciful b*llsh** it appears to be.


Should not the melted Arctic ice cause some form of cooling measurable by the Northern meters?

Opps….the winner of the Houston Film Festival was “American Empire”….which covers the same concepts as “Lesterland”. That movie trailer is at
Regardless, all of the faux science is publicly funded, monopolist directed, outcome based for the benefit of the 0.05% of the Lesters. That is the root of the “climate change” problem.


M Courtney says:
April 15, 2013 at 4:21 am
… may I ask about heating from the bottom of the Ocean?
I’m not an expert but I’ve wondered about this myself. I think that the heat from the earth’s interior is considered to be negligible. This makes sense when you reflect that the temperature of water at the depth of the ocean is only 4 or 5 degrees C while average air temperatures are more like 15 C. I trust that hard rock geologists have studied the geothermal gradient very well and can calculate how much heat emanates from the depths. (I seem to remember from my college days that the earth gets about 1 degree F hotter every 70 feet you go down.) I have also read that the midatlantic ridge is higher than the rest of the ocean floor due to heat causing the material near the ridge to expand. This, of course, is because hot rock expands.

Jason Calley

Let us hope that Mr. Trenberth does not switch fields and become a paleontologist.
“After a thorough search has ruled out the possibility of their location being in civilized and well traveled parts of the globe, we have determined that living dinosaurs must therefore be currently inhabiting some of the poorly mapped areas of the Antarctic high plateau. Our re-analysis of seismic readings from the area have clearly demonstrated the ‘thunk-thunk-thunk’ of their massive footfalls.”


Can someone explain to me why the Argo network hasn’t detected this heat on its way to the deep ocean? Thanks.

Pamela Gray

Which scenario results in more equatorial ocean evaporation thus water vapor in the lower atmosphere: La Nina or El Nino? The Trenberth heat depends entirely on more water vapor in the air. And the runaway condition depends entirely on increasing water vapor. Unfortunately for them, the vagaries of ENSO delivers a blow against constant fudge factors in their “code”.

Trenberth has finally located Maxwell’s Demon. He’s in the middle of the ocean.

Steve Keohane

M Courtney says: April 15, 2013 at 4:21 am
WRT volcanic-seabed heating. From the numbers given in my CRC Handbook, the heat from the earth averages .0082 watts/sq meter. Not much.

M Courtney

Fair enough.
Heat from the earth is irrelevant at the bottom of the ocean.
And heat from volcanoes is also negligably small so variations with time are insignficant.
I may feel apologetic for wasting your time yet, as a total ignoramus of the subject, I will swallow my feelings and refuse to apologise for asking a stupid question.
We novices must ask to learn.

Jeff Alberts

peterg says:
April 15, 2013 at 4:37 am
If any extra heat generated by anthropomorphic GHG

Methinks you’ve got the wrong word there, partner.


Wouldn’t it be ironic if Earth’s surface temperature was driven by the Earth’s molten core circulating in nonlinear ways similar to the sun’s internal circulation. Does the Earth’s core then have the equivalent of Earth spots but at depths where they cannot be seen as we see sun spots? What is to stop the earth’s molten core from being influenced by gravitational and angular momentum such that heat is conducted irregularly into the oceans over lengthy periods of time. Such heat then slowly dissipates into the atmosphere. The lag time would be very long indeed. We could be experiencing global warming due to the way the core was hundreds if not thousands of years ago.


What is there about Laws of Thermodynamics that warmists do get. Heat rises simple as that.
And when volcanoes heat the bottom, the heat rises.
It’s easier to fake things that aren’t easily measured, or manipulated. Corrected data is manipulated dat.

It is comparatively simple to measure the rate of heat flow out of the Earth’s surface, and this is a complete non-player in the global climate. It could be ten times greater than it is currently measured to be and still be negligible. And it’s not ten times greater than it is currently measured to be, even if those measurements aren’t particularly accurate.
It’s really easy to make bald assertions without even citing a single reference such as:’s_energy_budget
It’s doubly especially easy when one doesn’t understand the things that make water special, and the impossibility of water “heated” at 4 C rising to the surface to magically become water at 25 C because “heat rises”.
A better article to read than the one above is:
because measuring the geothermal gradient and the thermal conductivity of rock make it bone simple to compute the rate of heat flow associated with the gradient:
You clearly have been contaminated with Dragonslayer antiscience. Sadly, spouting nonsense of this sort simply reduces the credibility of actual skeptics such as Tisdale and Spencer even as they remain accountable to all of the precepts of well-done science, such as backing wild-ass statements up with data and arguments instead of just saying “the earth is being heated/cooled by invisible fairies flapping their little wings to cool or dancing a little fairy dance to heat” without any actual evidence of the fairies beyond the fact that the Earth DOES sometimes heat and sometimes cool.
And BTW, in case you’ve read some of crap on Slayer websites and taken it too seriously, no, fusion is not a meaningful energy source inside of the Earth, and even though the energy released by fission sounds impressive, it really isn’t, not when one compares it to the 99.96 to 99.97% of the total energy budget that comes from Mr. Sun. The geothermal contribution to total surface temperature is a tiny fraction of a degree.
One other aspect of geothermal power makes it unsuitable as a candidate for observed “global warming” quite independent of its measured magnitude. On average the rate of energy production inside of the Earth is almost certainly a very nearly constant (if anything, slowly decreasing) function. Yes, idiotic Slayer lore tries to avoid this problem by asserting that there are sudden changes as subterranean Uranium deposits are moved around to create natural reactors, but somehow they fail to do the arithmetic associated with thermal diffusion in three dimensions and spatiotemporal averaging over the entire interior volume. Even if there were (or are!) dramatic variations in heat output in highly localized environments where volcanoes pierce the crust and provide a conduit for heat loss that short circuits the substantial resistance of that crust, those variations are indeed highly localized and temporally distributed. There is no evidence at all, compelling or weak, to suggest that variation of a completely negligible measured number is responsible for the macroscopic global changes in temperature observed even in the completely reliable 33 year UAH LTT (for example).
So let’s keep it real, folks. Doubt CAGW/CACC all you like — I do too — but TRY HARD not to make egregious claims like “there is no such thing as the greenhouse effect” or “underwater volcanic heat is responsible for global warming” without some very hard numbers and good physics to back them up.


Regarding undersea volcanoes, it isn’t the occasional volcano that is the main contribution to ocean heating–it’s the midoceanic spreading centers and their hydrothermal circulation. I’ve read where a volume equal the entire ocean goes through that system (which is a continuous mountain range about 40,000 miles long) every 8 million years, and consequently contributes a significant amount of heat (along with soluble elements) to the ocean’s mass. The mid-oceanic ridge is believed to be caused by up-welling of hot material in the mantle, likely heated by the outer core of the Earth, hence the source of the heat.


Chuck Nolan says:
April 15, 2013 at 6:12 am
… btw, I spent the next week on night study. It was the military, Doh!

If the knowledge is important, you need to learn it one way or the other. It isn’t about punishment, it’s about getting the job done. The chief’s choices were: 1 – You re-take the course with a different instructor. 2 – He persuades someone that the knowledge wasn’t important and you shouldn’t be responsible for it. 3 – You get ‘punished’ for failing to learn the material first time around.
Depending on the circumstances any of those three actions would be reasonable. Having said that; if your chief had been a better communicator, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. 😉


I am still troubled by the claimed accuracy of the ARGO floats. It is profoundly difficult to measure temperature to an accuracy of 0.001 degree C in a calibration laboratory. Simply dunking an expensive RTD (Resistance Temperature Detector) in a tub of water won’t achieve that.
Even assuming you have managed to achieve a calibrated accuracy of 0.001 degree C for your field measurement RTD (or other temperature measuring device), the next issues to deal with are instrument drift over time, calibration shift with pressure (!), aging from temperature cycling, and variations in measurement current. No instrument lab would claim a device would maintain that accuracy for an indefinite period time or under all possible environmental conditions.
Then, of course, we have to realize that what an instrument measures is the temperature of its sensor, not the process it is supposed to be measuring. Temperature measuring sensors must be protected from the environment of the process being measured. The ARGO deep ocean environment requires a substantial level of protection for the sensor. In the real world of instrumentation, you must take into account the isolation of that sensor from whatever it is measuring. At the very least, a typical temperature measuring well adds a time lag that could effect readings while the ARGO float is changing depth.
So 0.001 degree C long term accuracy? That is stretching credibility.


OK I have my widget makers prejudices twitching away here.
“It’s only when the ocean heat content data is corrected, tweaked, adjusted, modified, whatever”
If we have to change the data, doesn’t that mean either that the data is cobblers to start with. or that it doesn’t support the process we are subjecting it to?
“and the new study co-authored by Trenberth is not entirely based upon observations, anyway”
Doesn’t this absolve us of any need to read it?
“then the ocean heat content for depths of 0-2000 meters flattened as soon as the ARGO floats had reasonably compete coverage of the global oceans in 2003-04.”
So the process behaviour changes when an improved and supposedly better measurement method is introduced. Basically says that all the prior history can be round filed as garbage (not my first choice of adjective)
“ARGO floats have been found to be unreliable”
So why is everybody gathered around having a circle jerk over them? Stop wasting your time, get a better gauge set, or limit analysis to areas where the metrology system errors are small compared to the effect being measured.
Thank god its the whole world economy at stake and not something vital like the durability of your brake pads.

Theo Goodwin

Peter Miller says:
April 15, 2013 at 4:02 am
Good post. Now that Trenberth has discovered “deep ocean warming,” (DOW?), things are worse than we thought. But, as you point out, he states only half a hypothesis. Maybe the DOW can explain the lack of warming in the last seventeen years. That is the first half of the hypothesis. For the second half of the hypothesis, Trenberth offers only “things are worse than we thought.” Why would he not consider that he might have discovered the first glimmers of huge and powerful regulators of CO2 and temperature in the deep oceans? Because he is searching for support for his top down theory. Trenberth should be saying that there is a great need for empirical research into this matter and that several decades of research could reveal some important answers. But such a scientific attitude would sidetrack global warming hysteria. Trenberth cannot let that happen.

Eugene WR Gallun

(see the courtroom scene in The Caine Mutiny)
As greenhouse gases still accrete
This captain of the climate wars
Is searching for the missing heat
That he believes the ocean stores
He’ll prove to all humanity
That danger in the deep resides!
The Kraken that he knows must be
That Davy Jones’ locker hides!
(The soul’s more heavy than we think
A truth that everyone must face
And to what depths a soul may sink!
O! To what dark and dismal place!)
Does Captain Trenberth understand
The data leaves him no appeal?
He tumbles in his restless hand
Three clacking balls of stainless steel
(When silent faces stare at you
It’s always best to shut your jaw
But Trenberth is without a clue
As he believes they stare in awe!)
Eugene WR Gallun

Chuck Nolan

It boggles the mind of the average Joe (me) …. 0.1%
I’m no math guy but it gets hard to buy all this.
That’s 0.015C / 15C.
Stop the world because we have absolutely got the data that proves indicates shows implies we’re all gonna die, sometime.
We have measured observed calculated made upmodeled a 0.1% change in temperature of the entire earth…and now we know …for sure…this time.
In the words Bob Dylan, “I can only think in terms of me and now I understand”.
So, if my normal body temperature is 37C and for some inexplicable reason it shoots up 0.1% it goes to 37.037.
If my weight is 180 lbs and for some explicable it shoots up 0.1% it goes to 180.18 lbs.
Anyone, and I do mean anyone, attempting to explain to the average citizen (me) how or even why they have managed to measure these obscene numbers would be laughed out of the local bar.
This is why I and most of the world remain skeptical and for the most part Rationally Ignorant


We presumably know from replicate measurements in various locations by ARGO buoys and earlier instruments how accurate ocean temps can be. Why don’t you or Roy tell us what the lit says about this? (Performance can deteriorate over time and needs to be re-assessed.)


Joseph A Olson says:
April 15, 2013 at 6:07 am
Earth’s oceans contain 310 million cubic miles of water at an average…

Nooo, noooo, the dragonslayers have come, the dragonslayers have come!
Now it’s not helium fusion in the crust powering global warming, it is latent heat at undersea vents. I suppose that’s an improvement.
As for the tail wagging the dog, yes and no. “Yes”, the heat capacity of the ocean dwarfs that of the atmosphere, especially the relatively thin slice of the atmosphere near sea level where we actually live and where air temperature is considered “surface temperature”. That is the bit about Roy asserting that to make claims regarding missing heat one has to resolve temperatures and temperature changes to within order of a thousandth of a degree, reliably, at depth, to facilitate global enthalpy computations, because things that would make comparatively large changes in surface temperatures would hardly change the temperature at depth. The ocean is, indeed, an enormous heat buffer, and one with a non-Markovian memory and multiple time scales wherein energy associated with previous climate state is absorbed or released. Some part of the ocean’s contribution to the climate was established back in the LIA, or the beginning of the twentieth century, not just over the last year or five years or even ten years.
The larger problem is (as always) the statistical one. A few thousand buoys, even if they were all remarkably accurate as far as temperature measurements are concerned, would have a very hard time supporting an INTEGRAL of enthalpy over the volume of a highly structured ocean, especially when a nontrivial (and probably ignored!) component of the enthalpy is raw/bulk kinetic energy associated with bulk fluid transport. A simple rule I like to apply is that no matter how precise the thermometer I have outside, it is a remarkably poor measure of the “average temperature on my property” even for as small and localized a chunk of land as that property, and it is a REALLY poor measure of mean Durham temperature, and an even worse measure of mean temperature in Durham county.
The laws of large numbers and the CLT can only help with this to some extent. Using a single thermometer per county might help you find a mean temperature for North Carolina that was normally distributed and had a meaningful standard deviation (one that is almost certainly going to be much larger than 0.001 C, of course), but the probable deviation of that mean temperature from the mean temperature at my house is likely to be systematic and large, and applying that mean temperature in some sort of volume-averaged enthalpy computation likely to be even more systematically erroneous and larger. The density of ARGO buoys is MUCH WORSE than trying to measure the mean temperature of Durham on the basis of a single thermometer in my back yard, and I’m enormously skeptical that the system has the resolution to make any meaningful statement whatsoever about the so called missing heat. Maybe it’s there, maybe not. Either way, the ocean could buffer that missing heat for a century without significantly changing its bulk temperature profile, so if the missing heat IS going into the ocean and keeping the surface comparatively cool(er than it would otherwise be), that’s simply spiffy, an instant end to the theory of catastrophic warming.
“No”, in that the surface temperature of the Earth is not set by heat flow from the interior. If you took the Earth away from the Sun, it would be cold as all hell. It IS cold as all hell down there on the 70% of the Earth’s surface covered by ocean. The surface temperature is almost entirely set by insolation as energy in, radiation as energy out. You could turn off 100% of geothermal energy and never miss it. You could double it and never notice any effect (lost in the noise).
You might take a bit of time and try to learn Fourier’s Law for heat flow. It would help to keep you from making egregiously incorrect remarks concerning geothermal contributions to the overall energy budget.
But no, honestly, can anything manage that? Probably not.


Sea level was higher during most of the Cretaceous Period than at any other time in the Phanerozoic Eon, & possibly ever, especially in its Late Epoch, but before regression in the Maastrichtian Age just before the K-Pg mass extinction event. These high levels did not result mainly from lack of ice, but used to be attributed to thermal expansion. Now they are thought primarily to have occurred from displacement of seawater by the enlarged mid-oceanic ridges powering rapid continental drift during that period.


So 0.001 degree C long term accuracy? That is stretching credibility.
And I obviously agree, but I’m sure that they cite the central limit theorem as the basis of their claim. Let’s assert that the expensive thermometers in the buoys are accurate to 0.1 degree. Let’s assume that there are 10,000 of them. Then one might expect the standard deviation of the mean temperature produced by 10,000 iid samples from the same distribution to be order of 1/sqrt{10000} = 0.01 times 0.1 or 0.001 C.
Of course there are fewer than 10,000 buoys IIRC, their accuracy is probably no better than 0.1 C, the samples are in no conceivable sense iid samples drawn from the same distribution, the ocean has nontrivial structure, currents, thermoclines, inversions, variations in density, salinity, and thermal heat capacity with depth, the ocean is moving with a nontrivial kinetic energy component and satisfies some sort of Navier-Stokes equation from hell inside an irregularly shaped, gravity contrained, wind-driven, solar heated, spinning accelerating volume, and there aren’t enough buoys for them on a GOOD day to resolve the KNOWN fine-grained structure of oceanic currents (where surface currents alone make up around 10% of all water in the ocean and have an almost fractal structure, constantly changing, turbulent rolling structure).
The Central Limit Theorem is good, but it ain’t that good, not at the surface, not at depth. I’d argue that they aren’t within orders of magnitude of the resolution needed to claim knowledge within 0.001C at depth suitable even for a crude oversimplified multiply-T-by-some-assumed-C estimate of \Delta E.