“Climate change is slowly but steadily cooking the world’s oceans”

Summary: Americans have been subjected to barrage of propaganda about global warming of a length and intensity never seen in this nation except during wars. That it has failed so far (see polls here) seems remarkable (explanations vary). Instead of reflecting on this failure, finding lessons learned, the Left has elected to double down: betting their credibility on increasingly extreme forecasts — a combination of misrepresentation of climate science and disregard of that consensus. Today we look at a fun but mad example, an article that’s set Twitter aflame with ignorant fury.

“As to the permanent interest of individuals in the aggregate interests of the community, and in the proverbial maxim, that honesty is the best policy, present temptation is often found to be an overmatch for those considerations.”
— James Madison’s Speech in the Virginia Constitutional Convention, 2 December 1829

Earth Burning



  1. “Climate change is slowly cooking the world’s oceans”
  2. The rest of the story
  3. Another perspective on ocean warming
  4. About these long-term graphs of global averages
  5. About measuring the temperature of the oceans
  6. Other posts in this series
  7. Important things to remember about global warming
  8. Feedback

(1)  Today’s propaganda


Opening of “Climate change is slowly but steadily cooking the world’s oceans
By Gwynn Guilford (journalist), Quartz, 4 February 2014:

Because the ocean’s so big — it takes up more than 70% of the planet’s surface — it absorbs a lot of energy without anyone being much the wiser. Here’s a look at data for the upper 2,000 meters (1.14 miles) of the global ocean. Check out the three-month moving average for the last quarter of 2013, via the National Oceanographic Data Center, which actually goes off the chart:

Ocean Heat Content
National Oceanographic Data Center

Roughly speaking, from about 1980 to 2000, the ocean gained around 50 zettajoules (ZJ, or 1021 joules) of heat. But from 2000 to 2013, it added another 150 ZJs of heat. Of course, even if you knew what a zettajoule is, it’s hard to envision what this means.  Science Skeptic, a blog on climate change, offers this useful analogy: Over the last half-dozen or so decades, the ocean’s been storing the heat energy equivalent of about two Hiroshima bombs per second. Worryingly, that rate’s picking up, with around four bombs per second stored in the last 16 years

In 2013, however, the ocean gained the heat equivalent to about 12 bombs per second, says Science Skeptic.

That adds up to more than 378 million atomic bombs a year worth of heat. That’s troublesome, considering that warmer waters are thought to make hurricanes and typhoons more severe, including Typhoon Haiyan, which ravaged the Philippines in 2013. Warmer waters also cause global sea levels to rise, threatening property values and exacerbating flooding.

Thermosteric sea level rise

This is idiotic, even for climate propaganda. After you change your pants, consider two facts.


(2)  The rest of the story

(a)  The total thermosteric change in sea level since 1970 is 1.4 inches, from that graph.  Not exactly flooding the continents, like in “The Day After Tomorrow”.  The IPCC estimates that the seas rose at roughly 0.7″/decade from 1901 – 2010 (including the thermosteric rise; see AR5 3.7.2). This rate will increase if warming increases as they project.

(b)  As for the warming oceans, see the Figure 3.3 below from the IPCC’s new AR5, chapter 3 — the “gold standard” for determining the consensus of climate scientists (large PDF here). It shows warming of roughly 0.1°F per decade (see the ARGO website).  To call this “cooking the oceans” is an exaggeration that would make Goebbels proud. Expressing the warming in joules nicely confuses the lay reader.

Figure 3.3 (a) — Areal mean warming rates (ºC per decade) versus depth (thick lines) with 5 to 95% confidence limits (shading), both global (orange) and south of the Sub-Antarctic Front (purple), centred on 1992–2005.

IPCC AR5, chapter 3,figure 3.3 (a)
IPCC AR5, chapter 3,figure 3.3 (a)

Also note the IPCC’s discussion of uncertainty about deep ocean measurements

Global sampling of the ocean below 2000 m is limited to a number of repeat oceanographic transects, many occupied only in the last few decades (Figure 3.3b), and several time-series stations, some of which extend over decades. This sparse sampling in space and time makes assessment of global deep ocean heat content variability less certain than that for the upper ocean, especially at mid-depths, where vertical gradients are still sufficiently large for transient variations (ocean eddies, internal waves, and internal tides) to alias estimates made from sparse data sets.

(c)  “Atomic bombs” as a unit of measurement

Comparison of an atomic bomb to a event at a point (e.g., volcano, meteor impact) makes sense.

The comparison becomes a hallmark of fear-mongering when applied to energy flows over the Earth (almost 200 million square miles). The sun baths the Earth every second with energy equivalent to almost two thousand Hiroshima-scale explosions. As Doug McNeall ‏(climate scientist, UK Met Office) said: “Comparing climate change to A-bombs like this is utterly meaningless.”

(3)  Another perspective on ocean warming

From Judith Curry (Professor climate science, GA Institute of Technology), 26 September 2013 (red emphasis added):

Well, Lubos Motl has done the arithmetic in this post Ocean heat content: relentless but negligible.  This is a good post, check it out.  The punchline of his calculations:  the heating in the layer 0-2000 m translates to 0.065 C +/- 20%.  His calculations are essentially confirmed from this ARGO page where they confirm that since the 1960s, the warming of that layer was 0.06 °C.

So, can anyone figure out why 0.06C is a big deal for the climate?  Or how all that heat that is apparently well mixed in the ocean could somehow get into the atmosphere and influence weather/temperatures/rainfall on the land?  Or is sequestering heat in the ocean a fortuitous ‘solution’ to the global (surface) warming problem?

(4)  About these long-term graphs of global averages

The IPCC warns repeated about the low accuracy of data until the deployment of modern sensor systems during the past few decades (e.g., satellite temperature and polar ice data starting in 1979; ARGO after 2005-07).  From Section 3.7 about rising sea levels:

Since AR4, estimates of both the thermosteric component and mass component of GMSL rise have improved, although estimates of the mass component are possible only since the start of the GRACE measurements in 2002. … Although still a short record, more numerous, better distributed, and higher quality profile measurements from the Argo program are now being used to estimate the steric component for the upper 700 m as well as for the upper 2000 m. However, these data have been shown to be best suited for global analyses after 2005 owing to a combination of interannual variability and large biases when using data before 2005 owing to sparser sampling.

(5)  About measuring the temperature of the oceans

The source article for the ocean heat content graph above is “World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0 – 2000 m), 1955 – 2010“, S. Levitus et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 17 May 2012

About the ARGO floats:

ARGO floats were introduced in the 1990s. If ARGO floats are new to you, there’s a video from ARGO Project YouTube Channel illustrating and explaining them here. The floats had reasonably good coverage of the global oceans by 2003/04—especially in the mid-to-high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere where observations were lacking before ARGO. And the installation of the ARGO floats was completed in 2007. The profiling operation of the ARGO floats is also described in Wikipedia here.  {source}

To read about the many adjustments to the ARGO data, a project still in progress, see “A review of global ocean temperature observations: Implications for ocean heat content estimates and climate change“, J. P. Abraham et al, Reviews of Geophysics, 3rd Quarter 2013

(6)  Other posts in this series

Examples of the Left’s exaggerations and misinformation about climate change:

Here’s more speculation about the possible consequences of blowback from the Left’s crusade:

Also: the focus on climate change has diverted resources from other vital programs, such as protecting the oceans from pollution and overfishing.  The Left has placed all its chips on climate change.

(7)  A few important things to remember about global warming

While cheering for their faction of scientists, laypeople often lose sight of the big picture — the key elements for making public policy about this important issue.

(a)  The work of the IPCC and the major science institutes are the best guides for information about these issues.

(b)  The world has been warming during the past two centuries, in a succession of warming, cooling, and pauses. Since roughly 1950 anthropogenic causes have been the largest driver. Warming paused sometime in 1998-2000.

(c)  There is a debate about the attribution (causes) of past warming — which probably varied over time — between natural drivers (e.g., rebound from the Little Ice Age, solar influences) and anthropogenic drivers (e.g., CO2, aerosols, land use changes). The IPCC’s reports make few claims about attribution of climate activity, as this remains actively debated in the literature.

(d)  There is an even larger debate about climate forecasts, both the extent of future CO2 emissions and the net effects of the various natural and anthropogenic drivers.

(e)  For the past five years my recommendations have been the same:

  1. More funding for climate sciences. Many key aspects (eg, global temperature data collection and analysis) are grossly underfunded.
  2. Wider involvement of relevant experts in this debate. For example, geologists, statisticians and software engineers have been largely excluded — although their fields of knowledge are deeply involved.
  3. Start today a well-funded conversion to non-carbon-based energy sources by the second half of the 21st century; for both environmental and economic reasons (see these posts for details).

(f)  Posts about preparing for climate change:

(8)  Send your comment

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