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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April 15, 2013 3:20 am

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.

April 15, 2013 3:41 am

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.

April 15, 2013 3:41 am

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

Peter Miller
April 15, 2013 4:02 am

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
April 15, 2013 4:07 am

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
April 15, 2013 4:20 am

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
April 15, 2013 4:21 am

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.

April 15, 2013 4:32 am

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

Stephen Richards
April 15, 2013 4:36 am

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

April 15, 2013 4:37 am

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.

April 15, 2013 4:39 am

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?”

April 15, 2013 4:52 am

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.

April 15, 2013 4:57 am

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”:

April 15, 2013 5:11 am

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.

April 15, 2013 5:38 am

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

April 15, 2013 5:53 am

“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!
April 15, 2013 6:05 am

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.

April 15, 2013 6:07 am

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
April 15, 2013 6:10 am

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.

Dr. Lurtz
April 15, 2013 6:11 am

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
April 15, 2013 6:12 am

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
April 15, 2013 6:17 am

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
April 15, 2013 6:17 am

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.

April 15, 2013 6:20 am

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

April 15, 2013 6:22 am

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.

April 15, 2013 6:25 am

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
April 15, 2013 6:28 am

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.”

April 15, 2013 6:45 am

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

Pamela Gray
April 15, 2013 6:49 am

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”.

April 15, 2013 6:51 am

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

Steve Keohane
April 15, 2013 7:14 am

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
April 15, 2013 7:24 am

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
April 15, 2013 7:28 am

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.

April 15, 2013 7:38 am

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.

April 15, 2013 7:46 am

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.

April 15, 2013 7:48 am

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.

April 15, 2013 8:13 am

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. 😉

April 15, 2013 8:19 am

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.

April 15, 2013 8:26 am

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
April 15, 2013 8:34 am

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
April 15, 2013 8:46 am

(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
April 15, 2013 8:51 am

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

April 15, 2013 8:54 am

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.)

April 15, 2013 8:55 am

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.

April 15, 2013 9:10 am

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.

April 15, 2013 9:10 am

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.

April 15, 2013 9:30 am

That’s 0.015C / 15C.
Sadly, no. Centigrade has a meaningless, arbitrary zero. The only meaningful zero is to be found in the absolute scale, where zero temperature corresponds to zero entropy and zero enthalpy. 0.1% is around 0.3C. However, the oceanic heat capacity is so enormous that for one to look for missing heat on the scale in question one has to be able to measure effects on the order of 0.001 K, more than two orders of magnitude more accurately even than this. That’s because there are a lot of kilograms of water in the ocean (1.4\times 10^{21} kg), and the heat capacity of water is AROUND four joules per kilogram degree kelvin. To put it another way, if one changed the temperature of the ocean by 0.1 C, one would change its heat content by \sim 6 \times 10^{18} \approx 10^{19} Joules, or a thousand petajoules.
All of this sounds more impressive than it actually is. It’s around five or ten seconds worth of total insolation, if the Earth weren’t in almost perfect radiative balance pretty much all of the time.
That’s assuming I didn’t screw up my arithmetic above. Been known to happen…;-)

April 15, 2013 9:45 am

Now here is a fun question –
We have been told that we are all soon going to drown from the incessantly rising seas, said sea level rise being the result of our sinful, SUV driving lifestyle. We have also been told that this is proved, because the measured rise in sea level very closely matches the predictions for sea level rise produced by the “global warming” models.
But now we are being told that about 15 years worth of “global warming” has been swept so far under the rug, that it has ended up in the Deep. This raises a question.
How can “global warming” be both:
1. Warming the upper ocean with its full effect, so as to cause the “as predicted” sea level rise, while at the same time
2. Warming the deep ocean with its full effect (where warming would result in sea level decrease).
Evidently, “global warming” heat can be stored in one part of the ocean (too deep to be seen), and yet cause thermosteric expansion of another part of the ocean.

April 15, 2013 9:56 am

philincalifornia says:
April 15, 2013 at 3:41 am
Dr. Kildare has been replaced:

April 15, 2013 9:58 am

Recall that process (2) ‘cold deepwater formation at high latitudes’ is more complicated in the full calculation as it also generates a non-insignificant amount of warming due to the water sinking kilometers in the gravitational potential.

Ian W
April 15, 2013 10:12 am

Graham Green says:
April 15, 2013 at 6:10 am
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.

This needs translation into normal non-climatology English.
“ARGO floats have been found to be unreliable” neans
“ARGO floats have been reporting data that does not match our computer models
If there is one thing that the World Meteorological Office should do is impose Quality Management System. The QMS would ensure that those people collecting or observing data should store the data as is and not be involved in research into weather or climate.
Climate science at the moment is like accountants being their own auditors. There is no way that researchers should be trusted to ‘check’, ‘homogenize’, adjust or conceal the input data to their research especially when these are metrics important to the entire world. There is a distinct impression that data from some quite expensive measurement systems is being deliberately obfuscated if not concealed altogether. For example observations from the ISO standard new climate network in the US which embarrassingly is reporting lower temperatures than the non-ISO standard system.

April 15, 2013 10:14 am

Below is the comment I left at Dr. Spencer’s site a week ago. I still see no way in which downward heat flux from anthropogenic warming could affect readings at down to 2000m in the timeframe allowed without also affecting heat content in higher layers. These waters are not turbo-pumped in an insulated column to the depths, and they do not rise back to the 2000m level overnight.
The whole notion strikes me as silly, and grasping for straws. If there is heating of the mid-layers independent of heating of the upper layers, it is most likely a lagged response of waters which sank centuries ago, well before the industrial age.

Bart says:
April 10, 2013 at 7:32 PM
“(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).”
We’re talking huge volumes of water transported here. And, how does that water sink in the first place? By being colder and saltier than the water below. And, how long does that circulation take? Typically hundreds of years.
I do not see how this can be plausible.

richard verney
April 15, 2013 10:24 am

M Courtney says:
April 15, 2013 at 7:24 am
Fair enough.
Heat from the earth is irrelevant at the bottom of the ocean.
Oceanic volcanoes are spectacular, but rather like pimples on the seabed. Considering the heat inputted into the oceans merely by considering volcanoes is not, in my opinion, viewing the complete picture.
What one needs to consider is how hot would the seabed be, if the oceans were totally drained of water?. How much heat is conducted/radiated from the seabed floor? Would the seabed, if drained of water, be warm to the touch, or at any rate warmer than just a few degrees C. If it would be warmer than a few degrees C, it is inputting heat at the bottom of the ocean and helping to keep the deep ocean warm.
The ocean seabed is akin to a hot plate on the hob of an oven. The ocean is the pan of water sitting on top of the hotplate (the ocean seabed floor).
I am not sure that we really know how much geological heat there is being inputted at the very bottom of the ocean since as far as I am aware, we have never drilled a bore hole in the very deep abyss at the very deepest part of the ocean. Heck, we have hardly ever visited the sea floor in this region, let alone drilled the seabed. Accordingly, I do not think we know how hot the seabed would be if it were to be drained of water.
As you no doubt know, as you drill a bore hole and get nearer the mantle, temperature increases with depth. The geothermal temperature varies from location to location much to do with the rock type but around 4 degC per 100m is fairly typical.
The average depth of the ocean is a little over 4,000m and the deepest ocean is just over 11,000m, Further, the oceanic crust is far thinner (about 7 to 10km in thickness) compared to the continental crust (about 25 to 70km) so the geothermal gradient will be different. All of this would suggest that if there were no oceans, the dry seabed floor would be significantly warmer than geological depressions on continental land (such as death valley). However, oceanic crust is of different rock composition which is generally more dense compared to continental crust.
I have no answers. No doubt there is some borehole data from off-shore drilling in the oil industry. However, this would not encompass the very deepest parts of the ocean.

April 15, 2013 11:07 am

Its seems to me that the argument is based largely if not solely on circular reasoning. Our models show that the ocean depths have warmed because of an increase in ocean surface winds. Our models show that the ocean surface winds have increased because the ocean depths have warmed.

April 15, 2013 11:08 am

“It turns out there is a spectacular change in the surface winds which then get reflected in changing ocean currents that help to carry some of the warmer water down to this greater depth,” Trenberth said. “This is especially true in the tropical Pacific Ocean and subtropics.” …
“So, some of this heat may come back in the next El Niño event … but some of it is probably contributing to the warming of the overall planet, the warming of the oceans. … It means that the planet is really warming up faster than we might have otherwise expected,” he said.
How did Trenberth determine that there was a “spectacular change in the surface winds”? Bob’s chart shows very little change, certainly not “spectacular change,” in surface winds. It’s quite funny how Trenberth goes from “may” and “probably” to a definite conclusion that the planet is really warming up faster than he expected.”
The article goes on to say that sea level rise on the U.S. West Coast has been suppressed for the past two decades, but it will accelerate when heat accumulating in the deep oceans comes back to warm the surface. Can anyone explain this? If the oceans really are warming, why haven’t they already expanded and caused a greater rise in sea level on the West Coast? And why would sea levels begin to rise faster after some of the heat leaves the oceans to warm the surface? If heat leaves the oceans, wouldn’t the waters cool and contract somewhat?

John Mason
April 15, 2013 11:24 am

I love the various discussions and papers coming out to address the ‘missing heat problem’. The assumption that the earth system as a whole is still gaining in heat due to AGW is such a faith based ‘fact’ these scientific papers will continue to come out even after Canada is under glaciers again.
Then to see the various ‘reasons’ to explain the model / reality difference are then ‘proven’ using yet more tweaks to models.
This is so like the Earth being the center of the universe syndrome. It’s really similar – only man could be causing the climate to change!

April 15, 2013 11:31 am

This whole article is baloney, start to finish. Long wave radiation comes from the sun, not some mischievous molecules of greenhouse gas. A total of 39 molecules of CO2 out of every 100,000 molecules of air, could not influence anything, even if they tried to. On top of that, I have seen no “proof” that there is such a thing as greenhouse gas.
Water segregates itself into layers due to the change in density, dependent on changes in its temperature and salinity. That is why ice floats and the bottom of the ocean is not coated with ice. For anybody who does not understand the temperature/density principle of water, I suggest a vacation to the beach at St. Margaret’s, Nova Scotia. Wade out until you can swim and do so. When you are a short distance from shore, start treading water. As your feet sink into the cold layer, a couple of feet down, you will understand the layering effect. You will also understand the shallow mixing effect of wind and waves.
Molecules of water are going to obey the laws of thermodynamics. When a warm molecule bumps into a cooler molecule, there will be an exchange of heat energy. When this happens a few trillion times, you have a layer of a uniform temperature.
I would also like to see some proof that anybody has developed a temperature sensing system that can measure temperatures to an accuracy of 0.001 degrees. I am also suspicious of any statement of how many cubic miles of water are in the oceans. Sounds like a guesstimate to me.

M Courtney
April 15, 2013 12:03 pm

I am beginning to repent of raising the effect of heat from the Earth on the bottom of the Ocean but I think I should clarify two things:
1 I really had no idea about the magnitude of heat from the sources below and I am quite willing to accept that they are of an order of magnitude too small to be significant. Volcanoes are hot but the Ocean is big… it was a red herring. Whoops. But now I know and am happy to learn.
2 This statement in the article seems reasonable “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 my original question of the significance of heating from below was raised, in part, by the potential for amplification of the effect by a change in one or more of those processes. Is that ridiculous?
Again, it may well be daft but it doesn’t seem obviously laughable to me. I am just curious.

April 15, 2013 12:27 pm

What we call the earth’s surface is to the earth as a whole, as the skin of an apple is to the whole apple. …. approximately. It seems what happens is that the void of space cools the earth’s surface, but the sun adds some energy that creates a little heat and weather.

April 15, 2013 2:00 pm

I’m puzzled by some things I read in this post. Specifically this example:

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.

This does not address the sign of the transfer of energy to and from the Earth. Things on Earth warm and cool as a function of dilution, for example. Conduction is another kind of dilution. Certainly that is the case for fluids which can carry warmth far from the source and spread it very thin. Humor me this sidebar: You buy a gallon of paint. The base is white. To that is added 2 ounces of die. Properly mixed that 2 ounces of die can be spread across hundreds of square feet of surface using a paint roller. So it is with energy that has arrived on Earth. There are many places for it to go including back where it came from. The problem is it is spread so thin we can’t find it below a certain energy density, or differentiate it from already existing energy. And it is a travesty we can’t. The consequence is we turn to models that we can’t trust and which have no skill. Same can be said for many of the modelers, I suppose. And we then fool ourselves into treating the results as data.
We are using heat as a test for the presence of energy and we try to establish the amount of energy based on the temperature, but is this the right way to follow energy movement? We are, after all, most interested in the coming and going of energy over time. We want exactly as much energy to leave the Earth system as arrives else our planet will heat up. Given the ability of the ocean to dilute the energy density below our means to detect it from noise I think not.
Except there’s this. Quite a bit of energy that arrives from various sources is sequestered biologically and chemically and for all practical purposes becomes inert or at least out of the energy flow for perhaps gazzillions of years. Clathrates come to mind. Maybe Trenberth’s missing energy is precipitating out into the oceanic biome as living organisms and sequestered on the sea floor as biological waste and clathrate mats and other benign forms of non-viable energy. I’ve never seen a chart that describes the rate at which energy is converted to life and subsequently preserved sequestered in the waste byproducts of having been alive.
And yes, I know the bogieman stories of clathrate hydrate eruptions that can happen “real soon now” and cause the next great mass wasting, but that is not the point.

Ian H
April 15, 2013 4:12 pm

Does Trenberth realise that he is asserting that global warming is not a problem?
If the burning of fossil fuels was going to cause global surface temperatures to warm by 4C or more over a century then we should be concerned. But Trenberth tells us that his ocean transport mechanism will lead to the deep ocean will warm by a few hundredths of a degree instead. Cancel the concern because that is a change so small we can scarcely measure it.
The conclusion is that obviously the burning of fossil fuels is perfectly OK because the Earth has a mechanism for putting that excess heat away in a place where it won’t cause a problem.

Rob Shaw
April 15, 2013 5:09 pm

To my mind, the oceans of the world are the sleeping giant of global warming and this giant has awaked to stop global warming in its tracks by absorbing the trapped heat. A popular guess as to the world’s energy imbalance is 0.5 w/m2 or for the whole planet, 8 zeta joules per year. There are about 1400 zeta grams of water in the oceans at a specific heat of 4 joules per gram per degree C so to warm the oceans up 1 degree would take 1400 x 4/8 = 700 years. Based on BP’s statistic review of world energy, we have about 80 years of fossil fuel left. I think this must be the end of the global warming story. The oceans are quite well mixed by thermohaline circulation which is probably increasing because of the increase in world rainfall not by wind. This enhanced circulation is quite sufficient to pump 8 zeta joules per year down into the depths although we cannot measure the temperature change at present.

April 15, 2013 5:29 pm

Me thinks your cartoon is too cartoonish…the temp of the deep ocean water is between 3 and 4 degrees C due to the insane pressure at 4 km below the surface. The temp must be around the maximum density of salt water and not near 0 degrees centigrade.
There is no missing heat. It is energy and expressing ‘itself’ in other forms.

April 15, 2013 5:43 pm

I want to make it absolutely clear that I haven’t got the missing heat. You can search me if you like. So stop looking at me like that.

April 15, 2013 5:47 pm

World’s Most Bogus! The 1955 to ARGO “Ocean Heat Content” is the most BOGUS piece of crap in the world.
Repeat a lie..often…etc.
I wish Willis would take this on by the THROAT and destroy this evil monster once and for all.

john robertson
April 15, 2013 5:51 pm

I’m with M Courtney on the volcanic heat, it is boldly stated that the oceans are huge and total geothermal heat released into the oceans is very small in comparison.
This makes sense to me.
But what do we really know about the actual number and intensity of volcanic activity under the seas?Volcanic smoker vents? Who knew before their discovery?
The volcanic activity found under the north pole a few years ago being a beautiful demonstration of our ignorance.
Of course the certainty of our measurements once again appears to exceed the accuracy of our instruments.
Thats climatology.

David Aronstein
April 15, 2013 6:13 pm

Specific heat of water is 4.186J/gram so 1.4×10^21 * 4×10^3 = 5.6×10^24J
IF Trenbreth et al were correct that the current radiative imbalance were about 1.0 x10^22 J per year AND then deep ocean was getting mixed right along then it would take about 500 years to heat the whole ocean 1.0K (if I too have not messed up the arithmetic 🙂
So it seems odd that they are trying to argue for deep ocean sequestration as that also kills the whole CAGW argument…..
Btw I very much appreciate reading your comments here. Thanks for sharing your knowledge !

April 15, 2013 6:33 pm

If Trenberth wants his theory about the warming hiding in the deep ocean to be believable he needs to elaborate a mechanism for this and also to elaborate why it did not occur during the obvious decades of surface warming.

Retired Engineer John
April 15, 2013 7:03 pm

The deep ocean and deep lakes are cold due to endothermic chemical reactions and especially hydration of calcium carbonate. The chemistry of these reactions is well know; however, the heat transfers have been ignored.

April 15, 2013 7:11 pm

The deep oceans cannot ‘heat’ up per se; the deep water will move.

John Parsons
April 15, 2013 7:11 pm

Bob Tisdale,
I know you’ve been busy doing the two recent posts and you may have had to move on from your previous post. You were kind enough to address a question I posed there. However, I may not have understood part of your answer. I’ll repost it here. Thanks in advance.
Bob Tisdale, Thanks for taking the time to address a few questions. Above, I asked:
“Does ENSO add or subtract energy from Earth’s climate system, or does it just move energy around within that system?”
You replied: “ENSO adds heat to the oceans at depth.”
Can I conclude from that answer that ENSO does NOT add energy to Earth’s climate system, but rather just moves energy around within that system?
Thanks Again for your interesting post(s).

April 15, 2013 7:12 pm

john robertson says:
April 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm: “…But what do we really know about the actual number and intensity of volcanic activity under the seas?Volcanic smoker vents? Who knew before their discovery?…”
1. A lot. There are essentially three sources of volcanic heat to the ocean: the material being accreted to the sea floor at the mid-ocean ridges annually; discrete seamounts (individual volcanic edifices; think Hawaii); and volcanic arcs forming above oceanic island arcs. The first of these is probably the biggest contributor, with some amount of material intruded/extruded at a temperature of around 1100 C (the first two sources are primarily basaltic in composition and that’s about the T of a basaltic melt). The ridges measure around 40,000 miles in length. One could make a calculation of the amount of heat contained in the annual volume of material added. I suspect it pales in significance to the volume of the ocean, filled with material having the greatest heat capacity of any widely-occuring material – i.e., water.
2. Volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits have been important sources of copper, zinc, iron and precious metals for centuries. In the 1970s, in particular, these were recognized as having been deposited by sea floor hydrothermal (hot water) systems. The idea that there would be similar deposits in the mid-ocean ridges was floating around since at least the 1980s (in fact, there are some examples of copper-rich black smokers incorporated in obducted sea floor in a number of places – Oregon, Cyprus and elsewhere). We have found numerous black smokers (mostly pyrite and relatively small); now we actually have some examples of cupriferous massive sulfide deposits in formation in a ridge (one offshore Oregon/Washington). The biggest of these deposits are typically Archaean in age (>2.7 billion years) but they occur in rocks of all ages. Younger, economically important versions are the Kuroko deposits of Japan – although these younger versions are small in comparison to Archaean supergiants like Kidd Creek in Ontario.

John Parsons
April 15, 2013 7:25 pm

David Aronstein says:
April 15, 2013 at 6:13 pm
I didn’t check your math, but assuming it’s correct; increasing the average temperature of the world’s oceans by 1*C would mean a warming of 50%. The average temperature being ~2*C.
I may be wrong, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a temperature increase of that magnitude on that time scale anywhere in the paleo record. It’s huge.

John Parsons
April 15, 2013 7:35 pm

Anymoose says:
April 15, 2013 at 11:31 am
“I have seen no “proof” that there is such a thing as greenhouse gas.”
If water vapor weren’t a greenhouse gas, you wouldn’t be alive to make that statement.
Arrhenius proved CO2 was a greenhouse gas 120 years ago. JP

John Parsons
April 15, 2013 7:50 pm

Anymoose says:
April 15, 2013 at 11:31 am
By the way, you can buy a handheld thermometer for $350 that will make measurements to 0.005*C. Scientists are using quantum mechanics to make measurements to one part in a million.
You might want to look at some of the problems associated with such an endeavor. The important thing for scientists is not to measure absolute temperatures, but rather to make reproducible measurements. In other words if your thermometer says 0 degrees, mine should say the same thing making the same measurement.

Retired Engineer John
April 15, 2013 7:52 pm

Please check page 1005 of the URL . Calcium carbonate does not dissolve easily. If you check the chart on page 1005, you will find that the bulk of it is dissolved at between 2000 meters and 5000 meters down in the Ocean. Each mole of calcium carbonate requires 12.3 kilojoules to attach the water molecules and become hydrated. This heat is removed from a cold ocean and makes the deep ocean even colder.

Retired Engineer John
April 15, 2013 8:02 pm

If you need to better understand hydration reactions and heat of hydration, check this URL

John Parsons
April 15, 2013 8:04 pm

Retired Engineer John says:
April 15, 2013 at 7:52 pm
Interesting, John. Do you know what constrains that reaction? Temperature? JP

Retired Engineer John
April 15, 2013 8:17 pm

John Parsons says: April 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm “Do you know what constrains that reaction.”
It is a combination of temperature and pressure.

John Parsons
April 15, 2013 8:32 pm

Bob Tisdale,
Bob, Have to thank you for the link to the video “Verification of regional model trends”, over at RealClimate. I just didn’t get it until I saw that.
I have an internal ranking system for “true skeptics”. If I don’t see commenters asking questions at RC, Climate Etc., Tamino and WUWT; they get a lower rating, than those who only appear at one.
Thanks Again, JP

John Parsons
April 15, 2013 8:41 pm

Retired Engineer John says:
April 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm
Thanks John, kind of figured it wasn’t chemical. So, given the constant pressure, that reaction must be in a sort of equilibrium. Yes? In your opinion, is the heat that Trenberth speaks of great enough to be sequestered chemically for long (geologic) periods of time. Or would the equilibrium just oscillate due to upwelling/mixing etc. JP

April 15, 2013 8:44 pm

Pressure rules!
The super-heated water from interaction with the Earthly goo travels straight up and diffuses outward with decreasing pressure; not heating the surface or the bottom.
Can you imagine what life would be like in a truly 3D world? i.e. instead of just surface with height;
tickles my brain.
btw: did not know about the hydration but it makes sense as with the clathrates; i love learning thanks RE John.

Rob Shaw
April 15, 2013 9:12 pm

Sea salt water has a lower specific heat than pure water because of its salt content. 4.0 rather than 4,186 joules per gram per degree C. It also does not have a maximum density at 4 degrees C. The density of sea salt water increases to its freezing point at about – 1.8 degrees C.
The flow rate of the THC is about 0.47 zeta grams of salt water per year so to pump 8 zeta joules per year to the ocean depths would require a temperature change of 8/4x.47 = 4.2 degrees C
per pass. Bearing in mind that sea surface temperature is about 16 degrees C and sea depth temperature is around 2 degrees C, a temperature change per pass of 4.2 degrees C does not seem unreasonable. If the THC increases because of extra rainfall, obviously the temperature change per pass does not need to be as high as 4.2.
I am not a cartoonist, just a retired chemical engineer looking for the truth.

April 15, 2013 9:57 pm

The maximum density of water is not at zero nor is a brine solution maximal at -1.8 C. One of us has not checked the tables or noticed that ice floats…it must be me since i have no accolades nor can i retire; except from unemployment and what are the odds of that XD
The surface temp of the ocean varies from -1.8 to 38 C. Heat is transferred to the atmosphere in the North Atlantic and from the atmosphere in the Indian Ocean principally with respect to the THC. I postulate an increase in the THC is the result of increased conveyance of thermal energy to and fro.
Extra rainfall cannot add to the THC due to a lack of density, fresh water simply cannot play that way.

Retired Engineer John
April 15, 2013 10:47 pm

John Parsons says “Thanks John, kind of figured it wasn’t chemical. So, given the constant pressure, that reaction must be in a sort of equilibrium. Yes? In your opinion, is the heat that Trenberth speaks of great enough to be sequestered chemically for long (geologic) periods of time. Or would the equilibrium just oscillate due to upwelling/mixing etc.”
The hydrated calcium carbonate is a chemical compound. Some of the hydrate undergoes further chemical changes into Ikaite,also a stone with a name starting with an “O”(I don’t remember the name something like Ooakole) as well as other compounds. However, some does stay in solution and will release it’s heat when it is brought to the surface. This release of heat seems to violate the second law of thermodynamics, but it doesn’t since the thermal energy is converted to chemical energy and back to thermal energy. Hydrates have been used for heat storage and release. Calcium chloride with it’s high heat of hydration has been used in some of these systems. When the hydrate is heated above a trigger temperature, it will release the heat that it has absorbed. The basic reaction of carbon dioxide and calcium hydroxide removes about 1600 kilojoules of energy from the ocean foe each mole of calcium carbonate formed.. This is often a permanent sequestration as the calcium carbonate that is not dissolved forms limestone and similiar rocks on the ocean floor.

Retired Engineer John
April 15, 2013 10:51 pm

Robert Shaw says “Sea salt water has a lower specific heat than pure water because of its salt content.”
Robert, you might want check your statement against a chemistry text. You will find that sea water has a higher specific heat.

Rob Shaw
April 16, 2013 12:21 am

I will try to check that, John. Can you give a lead?

April 16, 2013 12:24 am

Rosco says:
If Trenberth wants his theory about the warming hiding in the deep ocean to be believable he needs to elaborate a mechanism for this and also to elaborate why it did not occur during the obvious decades of surface warming.

And somewhat more pointedly, why a slowdown in that sequestration of heat into the deep ocean – or in fact a return of some heat therefrom – was not the predominant cause of the obvious decades of surface warming.
Don’t hold your breath. They don’t have a comprehensive and testable theory of climate. They have a religious belief, and a penchant for ad hoc apologetics therefor.

April 16, 2013 12:24 am

Retired Engineer John, Regarding your endothermic reaction: If there is an endothermic reaction of the hydration of calcium carbonate going on in the deeps is there a complimentary exothermic reaction going on somewhere? If a sample of water is brought up from the depths will it heat slightly? Does limestone heat very slightly as it weathers or dehydrates? I certainly know that limestone bubbles if you treat it with vinegar and I’ve read that it also produces a little heat. My next question would be, is that biochemical heat deriving from the creatures that produce limestone or is it the endothermic heat you mention?

John Parsons
April 16, 2013 1:09 am

Thanks John, very interesting. JP

April 16, 2013 1:49 am

While it is true that detecting the movement of thermal energy into the deep oceans requires measurements resolving just a few hundredths of a degree in the temperature gradient over 2000m there is another very obvious indicator of the thermal energy held in the oceans.
The thermal expansion of the oceans is a direct measure of the extra thermal energy they have absorbed. GRACE satellite data enables the hydrological cycle to be followed and shows where the water has moved. Despite increased rainfall moving water from the oceans to land reservoirs it is clear there has been expansion of the oceans entirely consistent with significant amounts of extra energy from the rising CO2 being moved to the deeps.

wayne Job
April 16, 2013 3:06 am

Correct me if I am wrong here but if the 4C of the deep ocean becomes 4.001C how is it going to make the Earths atmosphere hotter. Heat content and temperature are two different animals.
It is the surface temperature of the oceans that warm the atmosphere and not the depths in Davy Jones locker.

April 16, 2013 3:48 am

‘ Despite increased rainfall moving water from the oceans to land reservoirs ‘
I suggest you review how the ‘water cycle ‘ works and much like the ‘missing heat’ there is much about ocean expansion that is more myth than fact.

April 16, 2013 3:54 am

@- wayne Job
“Correct me if I am wrong here but if the 4C of the deep ocean becomes 4.001C how is it going to make the Earths atmosphere hotter.”
The more energy that moves into the deep oceans the slower the surface warms.
@-“Heat content and temperature are two different animals.”
But closely related by the specific thermal capacity of a substance.

M Courtney
April 16, 2013 5:37 am

John Parsons says: April 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm “I have an internal ranking system for “true skeptics”. If I don’t see commenters asking questions at RC, Climate Etc., Tamino and WUWT; they get a lower rating, than those who only appear at one.”
That’s a bit harsh. Some of us have very little worth saying and so don’t say as much.
Personally, I’m more likely to appear at the Guardian website (or Bishop Hill) as my knowledge of UK culture and politics is far better than my knowledge of Bayesian statistics.
Why should I go to Tamino and McIntyre and say something brash like “I can’t see how Bayesians don’t just beg the question”? That would make me rude, arrogant and openly stupid.
Why would I be open about it?
JP – What criteria do you rank “true skeptics” on? And why?

Retired Engineer John
April 16, 2013 6:49 am

HankHenry says: April 16, 2013 at 12:24 am
“Regarding your endothermic reaction: If there is an endothermic reaction of the hydration of calcium carbonate going on in the deeps is there a complimentary exothermic reaction going on somewhere?”
As rainwater absorbs carbon dioxide falling to the Earth, it forms a weak carbonic acid. This weak acid dissolves limestone in the soil and releases heat. There are a series of reactions and the final product is the calcium hydroxide in the ocean. This is the corresponding exothermic reaction that releases heat and the heat is released in the Earth’s soil.
” If a sample of water is brought up from the depths will it heat slightly?”
The water will release the heat of hydration as the calcium carbonate hydration process is reversible.
” Does limestone heat very slightly as it weathers or dehydrates? I certainly know that limestone bubbles if you treat it with vinegar and I’ve read that it also produces a little heat.”
Limestone is not hydrated; it does produce heat as it is dissolved by an acid.
” My next question would be, is that biochemical heat deriving from the creatures that produce limestone or is it the endothermic heat you mention?”
Calcium carbonate is produced by two different ways: Living creatures in the ocean use photosynthesis to create calcium carbonate. The 1600 kilojoules of energy is supplied by the sun. That energy is removed from entering the ocean by converting thermal energy to chemical energy. The second process is a direct chemical reaction between carbon dioxide dissolved in the ocean and calcium hydroxide in the ocean. The ocean is super saturated with calcium hydroxide and has a plentiful supply of carbon dioxide; however, the reaction is inhibited by magnesium. When the ocean reaches 30.3 C, the critical point for carbon dioxide, something happens and the process is spontaneous. I have read an account, that I cannot find, about the tropical ocean bubbling on a warm night. These two processes cool the ocean.

John Parsons
April 16, 2013 10:59 am

Thanks Bob. I appreciate it when posters stick with their commenters.
Now, of course, I’m wondering where the energy comes from; for “…La Niña events [to] create warm water…” But, I accept that at some point it becomes my responsibility to find that information for myself. You’ve doubtlessly explained that before I became aware of your work.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going here. I’m trying to understand whether or not ENSO effects Earth’s radiative budget; or, as I had always assumed, ENSO’s effects are energy neutral in the long term.
Thanks for being so generous with your time. I’ll check out your blog.
P.S., I’ve noticed supporters of the Theory of AGW also report having their comments deleted on skeptic blogs. Seeing your posts at RC is encouraging. It also shows that one’s tone can make all the difference.
Cheers, JP

April 16, 2013 11:32 am

John Parsons:
Arrhenius theorized much, but proved nothing.

April 16, 2013 2:31 pm

To: Retired Engineer John. Thank you very much for your very informative answer.

April 16, 2013 6:30 pm

Retired Engineer John says:
April 16, 2013 at 6:49 am
This is very fascinating stuff. How it impacts the overall heat budgets is something I am not very clear on.
Bob Tisdale says:
April 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm
There is more than enough energy coming in from the Sun. One could think of it as similar to an ideal voltage source connected to an LRC circuit which takes in that voltage, stores it in alternating reservoirs producing oscillations, and discharges it in energy dissipating mechanisms.
Actually, a circuit much more complicated than a simple LRC, with many storage and dissipative elements, which oscillates in particular modes creating a complex waveform with components sometimes reinforcing one another to create a significant output, and other times detracting from one another to create a minimum sum of activity through constructive and destructive interference.

Rob Shaw
April 16, 2013 7:49 pm

Retired Engineer John
I can find no evidence that the specific heat of sea water is above that of pure water. Most values suggested for sea water are between 3.85 and 4.0 joules per gram per degree. The THC seems quite large enough to lose Kevin Trenberth’s lost energy in the depths of the ocean but the rate of warming would be immeasurably small viz 1/700th of a degree per year. By the time we run out of fossil fuel we could have raised the ocean temperature by 80/700 degrees which ain’t exactly catastrophic
Rob Shaw

Retired Engineer John
April 16, 2013 9:08 pm

Rob Shaw April 16, 2013
The specific heat for pure water is 4.18 joules/degreeC/gram. A range of 3.85 to 4.0 for sea water is reasonable. I was wrong.

Rob Shaw
April 16, 2013 11:04 pm

Retired Engineer John
Thanks for that
Your heat of hydrolysis figure for Calcium Carbonate 12.3 KJ per mole . Is that a kilogram mole or a gram mole?Something like 90GtC are precipitated into the oceans per year. Most of this would be calcium carbonate wouldn’t it?
Rob Shaw

Retired Engineer John
April 17, 2013 6:11 am

Rob Shaw April 16, 2013
The number is per mole and is taken from the table on this URL
Your 90Gtc number looks like an estimate of the carbon produced by photosynthesis. A portion of that number is calcium carbonate; the rest is hydrocarbons. There is a repository of satellite data at Oregon State University that lists the yearly production. The reaction that I am talking about is a direct chemical reaction that does not involve photosynthesis.
On your post about energy in the deep ocean; it is more complicated because of the heat of hydration of sodium chloride. Please note the 4 kilojoule number for sodium chloride in the docbrown reference. This 4 kilojoules per mole must be removed before sea water can freeze. This starts happening around 4C and is the reason that most of the ocean is at a temperature of 3-4 C. This complexity is not recognized when calculations of ocean heat are made.

Retired Engineer John
April 17, 2013 8:32 am

Rob Shaw April 16, 2013
The URL for the Repository at Oregon State is
They state the productivity to be in excess of 100Gtc with roughly half of it to be in the Ocean. I have seen higher figures in other papers and this is just an approximation. The web site is complex and I haven’t tried to understand it.
There is a 2004 paper that is good because it gives you the detailed steps involved in making productivity estimates. It is here
This paper estimates a productivity of 60.4Gtc per year net and 124.7 gross. The energy absorbed to produce the gross productivity was 191.3X10E21 joules or 1.9X10E23 joules. When you see the net is about half; you have about 10E23 joules being converted to chemical energy and being removed from the enviroment. This gives you a feel for the carbon cycle. The calcium carbonate cycle removes enough heat to prevent the ocean from warming above 31C; but, I don’t know how to calculate the number of joules.

April 21, 2013 2:24 pm

I will put there a post that was put in the Dr Roy’s blog.
The fact stated here is fitting and I think that cut the discussion.
Dr. Strangelove says:
April 17, 2013 at 1:24 AM
Dr. Spencer,
There is no “missing heat.” You can measure the heat in deep ocean not by thermometers at shallow depths < 700 m but by change in sea level. The ocean is a gigantic natural thermometer. Sea level rise when warmed and fall when cooled due to thermal expansion and contraction of seawater.
Thermal expansion can explain all your three scenarios. It doesn't matter at what level sea temperature is changing. Seawater will expand when heated whether at the top or bottom of the sea. It will manifest as a change in sea level. Is sea level rising or falling in the last 10 or 20 yrs? That will answer your "missing heat."

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