The Problem with Ocean Heat Uptake
Posted by Jeff Id on February 12, 2014
A recent article on the global warming hiatus garnered a bit of attention in blogland and the substantially less technical mainstream media. It was published in Nature Climate Change: Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus. Of course the media ate up the work as though it were a perfect explanation for the utter failure of climate models and inaccurately assume that it means business as usual for them.
The abstract is reproduced below:
Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth’s global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed to account for this slowdown in surface warming. A key component of the global hiatus that has been identified is cool eastern Pacific sea surface temperature, but it is unclear how the ocean has remained relatively cool there in spite of ongoing increases in radiative forcing. Here we show that a pronounced strengthening in Pacific trade winds over the past two decades—unprecedented in observations/reanalysis data and not captured by climate models—is sufficient to account for the cooling of the tropical Pacific and a substantial slowdown in surface warming through increased subsurface ocean heat uptake. The extra uptake has come about through increased subduction in the Pacific shallow overturning cells, enhancing heat convergence in the equatorial thermocline. At the same time, the accelerated trade winds have increased equatorial upwelling in the central and eastern Pacific, lowering sea surface temperature there, which drives further cooling in other regions. The net effect of these anomalous winds is a cooling in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.1–0.2 °C, which can account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001. This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue, however rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate.
There are several issues with the work that I find interesting.
An “unprecedented” trade wind in the past two decades leaves a skeptical mind questioning how this was determined and documented. We are all too familiar with flatly false examples in climate science of claims stating “unprecedented” ala Michael Mann’s hockey stick. The moment the word is used with weather, I am already on edge. But it leads me to wonder just what the cause of this unprecedented wind is. Could this wind be driven in whole or in part by warmer than average air? An unexpected negative feedback?
Of course a wind mixing the ocean would create cooler air. There is massive of heat capacity in the ocean which has been discussed at this blog and at many others. If the ocean is mixed, the cold water is exposed and more heat transfer ensues. I’m much more concerned about cold air from a mixed ocean than I am about any form of warming. Bob Tisdale did a WUWT post on the matter pf ocean temp in models vs observations a couple of years ago. He showed that in particular the East Pacific was falling way behind model projections.
As people are just now becoming aware, almost one hundred percent of the government funded climate models have a global mean surface temperature trend (not jsut ocean) which is higher than observation. This is very bad news for models but according to this graph below the trend in the East Pacific is a whopping 6X less than the IPCC A1B model (likely from AR4). The situation is so bad that scientists who have staked their careers on massive warming are digging deep for explanations for the problems.
What is interesting about this paper to me is what it means if the scientist are actually right. What sort of implications does it have if a wind came by and knocked global temps down by 0.1 – 0.2 degrees Celsius. This graph below tells the temperature side of the story but immediate temperature change isn’t the only implication.
Since subtracting from the spaghetti plot of models is difficult, if I visually add 0.1 C to either the red or blue observation line, that would mean that about 80% of the climate models were running too hot. If I add 0.2, the maximum correction from the paper, HadCRUT4 still falls short of the mean so this paper does not explain the differences between models and observations alone. From the half dozen other articles and blog posts, even at 1.5C, many of them would still be outside of the CI’s of the over-hot climate models.
Dr. Spencer, not so tongue in cheek for climate science, writes in the graph above that observations must be wrong. This ocean heat paper actually doesn’t explain the entire model problem but unless you are looking at the data, you would think that it explained everything.
Another implication is that the heat from the air has been trapped in an ocean heatsink resulting in a water temperature rise of probably tenths of a thousandth of a degree. Basically nothing. Basic thermodynamics tells us that the temperature change isn’t sufficient for the rate of energy transfer from the now microscopically warmer ocean back to the air to measurably increase. As far as our Gaian prognosticating scientists are concerned, the heat is functionally lost to their modeled plans. The observations cannot simply jump back into alignment with models, although the trend could possibly resume as the next hilarious quote shows:
This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue, however rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate.
Ok so lets translate the whole mess so that it is understandable.
– The scientists didn’t predict the trade wind and so don’t know the cause.
– Basic common sense will tell us that this wind or a similar wind event very likely happened before and the “unprecedented” claim is likely unrealistic.
– They modeled the wind mixing the ocean and managed to say that the heat went into the water with the same kinds of swag’s that led to missing the apparently huge pacific “wind” factor.
– They then claim that perhaps in a decade when the winds stop, the original predictions of warming rate will come true.
The Guardian and many other unbiased sources of knowledge for the thinking public, reported the paper as though it was certain knowledge. It even contained the typical refrain of all signs pointing to accelerating warming which is a flatly fraudulent statement considering that they are simultaneously composing an article explaining why warming isn’t happening. No questioning of logic, no notice of the inconsistency with their own or other articles they are publishing about the amazing quality of government science. And it is all placed right next to the articles bashing “skeptics” like me and you who just happen to be able to read a graph.
Eventually the data will decide the argument but it is very very strange that the data is so heavily on our side and we’re the ones who are marginalized by those who hold themselves out as the intellectuals of our time.