Oceans Warmed In Recent Decades

A new study came out in Nature a couple of weeks ago that assesses multiple records of ocean temperatures over the last couple of decades and finds that there is “a statistically significant linear warming trend for 1993-2008 of 0.64 W m-2”.

The challenge the paper took on was one of assessing the uncertainties and inconsistencies in the various records. The paper is Lyman, J.L., et al. 2010. Robust warming of the global upper ocean. Nature 465 and Real Climate had an article about it here.


Also in that issue of Nature is an article by Kevin Trenbreth [PDF] that discusses that paper and sheds some light on his infamous “travesty” comment in the stolen CRU email.

So, oceans are warming on decadal timescales, as expected in an enhanced greenhouse effect climate, and most of the ocean (below 700m) is poorly monitored making short term behaviour in the parts we can see difficult to explain. It is important in understanding global warming to keep the relative heat capacity of the surface and the oceans in perspective.

i-babaf3385220bc5af467ceca00ad9433-Total-Heat-Content.gif

This graph is from Murphy et al, 2009, h/t to Skeptical Science’s post measuring the earth’s energy imbalance

10 thoughts on “Oceans Warmed In Recent Decades

  1. “It is important in understanding global warming to keep the relative heat capacity of the surface and the oceans in perspective.”

    You mean this just as an index of global warming, or as a key element that might affect us in a direct way, as: warmer oceans put more water (or more rapidly) in the atmosphere resulting in heavier rainfall somewhere?

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  2. I was thinking in terms of understanding the wiggles of atmospheric warming and the reason for the lag time between the imposition of a forcing (40% rise in CO2) and the resulting temperatue increase. The high heat capacity of the earth’s oceans mean it will be several decades after CO2 stabilizes before the planet’s temperature catches up.

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  3. “The high heat capacity of the earth’s oceans mean it will be several decades after CO2 stabilizes before the planet’s temperature catches up.”

    A concept that is very difficult, if not completely impossible, for those in denial of physical reality to grasp, even if they wanted to.

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  4. gustavo, in my experience they typically don’t offer an argument, they simply reject the concept out of hand.

    For them understanding science is hard, which is why they reject it outright.

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  5. @Jim

    Debate is just starting down here in Ecuador (you can say that’s the reason I’m tuning into this page). For the way you write, seems that things are getting ugly.

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  6. Yes, Gustavo, things are getting very ugly indeed. That’s what always happens when powerful wealthy interests are threatened.

    This time they perceive “warmists” as the threat, when in reality it is nature’s reaction to the perturbation of the atmosphere and carbon cycle that humans have caused.

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  7. Jim, some actually DO understand the science. Or at least large parts of the science. Enough to construct arguments and calculations that seem to make ‘sense’. Throwing around impressive-looking equations and terms is bound to get the more gullible (and willfully gullible, I must add) to cheer.

    I’ve had my share of “REBUT THIS! You can’t, HAHAHAHAHAHA; see, AGW is a fraud”. Invariably people note some major flaw somewhere, but don’t expect that to be acknowledged.

    Gustavo, I can only hope you have more honest people with a scientific background in Ecuador, and a more skeptical(*) population.

    (*) Skeptical in the scientific sense of the word. Something that supposedly rebuts a solidly supported theory (which AGW is) needs to be scrutinised, not blindly accepted because its implications fit one’s ideological profile.

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  8. Has the editor resigned in shame and penitence yet?

    Are any of the authors creation scientists?

    Until those points are established this paper doesn’t have as much credibility as Spencer’s contribution to *Remote Sensing* . . .

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