Miraculous: computer game finds missing heat

Argo buoy being deployed

From today’s Summit County Citizen’s Voice, we read Bob Berwyn’s account of Kevin Trenberth’s favourite paper so far this century.

Global warming: ‘Missing’ heat found deep in the ocean

Changes in ocean currents and circulation are capturing some of the sun’s incoming heat deep in the ocean, according to researchers with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who said their latest computer models account for some of the global warming heat that’s “missing” from land and sea surface temperature readings.

This implied that heat was building up somewhere on Earth, according to a 2010 study published in Science by NCAR researchers Kevin Trenberth and John Fasullo.

Observations from a global network of buoys showed some warming in the upper ocean, but not enough to account for the global build-up of heat. Although scientists suspected the deep oceans were playing a role, few measurements were available to confirm that hypothesis.

To track where the heat was going, Meehl and colleagues used a powerful software tool known as the Community Climate System Model, which was developed by scientists at NCAR and the Department of Energy with colleagues at other organizations.

Well, well, who would have thought? All the missing heat, safe in the ocean deep, alive and well, having nipped through the upper reaches of the ocean without warming it. I never guessed — did you? Truly amazing.

But there’s no data, just more modelling

The computer game doesn’t care about realism, so the lack of any plausible mechanism whereby the heat might have reached more than 1000 ft (305 m) deep while leaving the upper levels unwarmed didn’t affect its findings.

When the game “found” extra heat deep in the ocean, there was nothing to say “that’s impossible.”

So, because they’re real scientists, we can expect an announcement very soon of a new study aimed at discovering how the missing heat got to where it was found.

One day they’ll get around to actually observing the climate effects they report. When they do, you can read about it here!

15 Thoughts on “Miraculous: computer game finds missing heat

  1. Australis on September 20, 2011 at 3:15 am said:

    So we’re celebrating because tweaking of the computer model has now identified where some of the missing heat should be. But nobody has gone out with a thermometer to check whether it is actually there.

    In its own virtual world, the model discovered it was short some heat – and then it re-found part of it. If the rest remains lost, NCAR will have to poke around in the innards of this model and find it. If it’s just not there, then the model is wrong – either because it has over-estimated incoming heat or under-estimated outgoing radiation.

    Tremberth previously speculated that the model might be okay and it could be the real world that’s hiding the heat somewhere. But now he’s found some of it right there in his computer. Cross fingers he’ll soon find the rest.

  2. Is it just me, or is the idea of trying to find fractions of a degree temperature changes in the deep oceans somewhat absurd?

  3. Richard C (NZ) on September 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm said:

    Rundown on the Community Climate System Model (CCSM) here:-

    CCSM/CAM – Timelines for the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)


    And it’s atmosphere component, the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM) here (and up-thread):-


    Climate ‘scientists’ arbitrarily increase fictitious effects of CO2 by 25% in latest model

    Attention alarmists: the latest version of the world’s most widely used climate model arbitrarily increases the fictitious forcing from CO2 ‘back-radiation’ and non-existent positive-feedbacks from clouds by 25%, from a fallacious 3.2C to 4.0C per doubling of CO2.

    Journal of Climate 2011 ; e-View doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00197.1

    The Evolution of Climate Sensitivity and Climate Feedbacks in the Community Atmosphere Model

    A. Gettelman et al

    Abstract: We use the major evolution of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model (CAM) to diagnose climate feedbacks, understand how climate feedbacks change with different physical parameterizations, and identify the processes and regions that determine climate sensitivity. In the evolution of CAM from version 4 to version 5, the water vapor, temperature, surface albedo and lapse rate feedbacks are remarkably stable across changes to the physical parameterization suite. However, the climate sensitivity increases from 3.2K in CAM4 to 4.0K in CAM5. The difference is mostly due to (a) more positive cloud feedbacks and (b) higher CO2 radiative forcing in CAM5



    CCSM successor is Community Earth System Model (CESM):-


  4. Richard C (NZ) on September 20, 2011 at 11:05 pm said:

    New Paper “Land Use/Land Cover Changes And Climate: Modeling Analysis And Observational Evidence” By Pielke Sr Et Al 2011

    We have a new paper that has been accepted for publication, that summarizes the current understanding of the role of land use/land cover changes on the climate system, as well as proposes approaches to further advance our understanding. The paper is

    Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis and observational evidence. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Invited paper, in press.

    The abstract reads [highlights added]

    Our paper summarizes the changes in landscape structure due to human land management over the last several centuries, and using observed and modeled data, documents how these changes have altered biogeophysical and biogeochemical surface fluxes on the local, mesoscale, and regional scales. Remaining research issues are presented including whether these landscape changes alter large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns far from where the land use and land cover changes occur. We conclude that existing climate assessments have not yet adequately factored in this climate forcing. For those regions that have undergone intensive human landscape change, or would undergo intensive change in the future, we conclude that the failure to factor in this forcing risks a misalignment of investment in climate mitigation and adaptation.


    Fantastic paper (but look out Roger – the Team is comin’ to getcha!)

  5. Richard C (NZ) on September 20, 2011 at 11:14 pm said:

    And of course we can’t let this opportunity to go by without this bring-up file from Climate Science: Roger Pielke Sr.

    2011 Update Of The Comparison Of Upper Ocean Heat Content Changes With The GISS Model Predictions

    The observed best estimates of the heating and the Hansen et al prediction in Joules in the upper 700m of the ocean are given below:

    OBSERVED BEST ESTIMATE OF ACCUMULATION Of JOULES [assuming a baseline of zero at the end of 2002].

    2003 ~0 Joules
    2004 ~0 Joules
    2005 ~0 Joules
    2006 ~0 Joules
    2007 ~0 Joules
    2008 ~0 Joules
    2009 ~0 Joules
    2010 ~0 Joules
    2011 ~0 Joules through May 2011
    2012 —–

    HANSEN PREDICTION OF The ACCUMULATION OF JOULES [ at a rate of 0.60 Watts per meter squared] assuming a baseline of zero at the end of 2002] [corrected 6/13/2011 from input from Bob Tilsdale].

    2003 ~0.67* 10** 22 Joules
    2004 ~1.34* 10** 22 Joules
    2005 ~2.01 * 10** 22 Joules
    2006 ~2.68 * 10** 22 Joules
    2007 ~3.35 * 10** 22 Joules
    2008 ~4.02 * 10** 22 Joules
    2009 ~4.69 * 10** 22 Joules
    2010 ~5.36 * 10** 22 Joules
    2011 ~6.03* 10** 22 Joules
    2012 ~6.70* 10** 22 Joules

    Thus, according to the GISS model predictions, there should have been approximately 5.36 * 10**22 Joules more heat in the upper 700 meters of the global ocean at the end of 2010 than were present at the beginning of 2003.

    For the observations to come into agreement with the GISS model prediction by the end of 2012, for example, there would have to be an accumulation 6.7 * 10** 22 Joules of heat over just the next 1 1/2 years. This requires a heating rate over the next 1 1/2 years into the upper 700 meters of the ocean corresponding to a radiative imbalance of ~4 Watts per square meter.


    My favourite post ever I think (sorry Richart T but it just is).

    • My favourite post ever I think (sorry Richart T but it just is).

      Nice of you to apologise, Richard C, but there’s no need. This is encouraging news, for sure, but it still troubles me that it, too, derives its conclusions from examining models. We absolutely need real-world observations at some point to determine reality.

    • Richard C (NZ) on September 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm said:

      That’s the thing, it’s “observed best estimates” vs “Hansen et al prediction”.

      Basically – “real-world observations” (as you say) vs Hansen model.

      That’s why it’s my favourite post and the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change Office have been alerted once (they ignored it) so I’m in the process of getting it in their faces again (I’m not letting them off the hook).

      This is the most important divergence in climate science bar none, because the ocean is where the the most global warming (heat) is stored.

    • Mike Jowsey on September 21, 2011 at 11:50 pm said:

      Yep Richard C – that’s how I read those figures. It’s a Trenberth travesty.

      (Some would say that we shouldn’t even bother focusing on temperature on land – it is too volatile and subject to too many environmental vagaries such as UHI. The ocean, covering nearly 70% of the global surface, is a much more stable and reliable indicator of temperature trends.)

    • Richard C (NZ) on September 22, 2011 at 6:15 am said:

      From what i can gather Mike, the strongest advocate is Roger Pielke Sr. (a luke-warmer). He’s a bit grumpy at the moment going by this post:-

      Torpedoing Of The Use Of The Global Average Surface Temperature Trend As The Diagnostic For Global Warming


    • Richard C (NZ) on September 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm said:

      Hansens GISS Model projection vs OHC reality (as measured and calculated from ARGO) plotted here:-


      From this post:-

      Dr David Evans: Four fatal pieces of evidence

      Submission to the Inquiry into Carbon Tax Pricing Mechanisms


      Here are four bits of evidence that the climate models are fundamentally flawed

      1 First, they have a track record of greatly exaggerating temperature increases. The global warming scare was started by James Hansen in his presentation to the US Congress in 1988, and comparing his predictions then to what actually occurred, the actual temperature rises are about a third of what he predicted…………….

      [See plot]

      2 Second, the climate models predict the oceans should be warming. We’ve only been measuring ocean temperature properly since 2003, using the ARGO system. ……………

      [See plot]

      3 Third, the climate models predict a particular pattern of atmospheric warming during periods of global warming. In particular, the most prominent change they predict is a warming in the tropics about 10 km up, the so-called “hotspot”…………..

      [See plot]

      4 Fourth, satellites have measured the outgoing radiation from the earth and found that the earth gives off more heat when the surface is warmer, and less heat in months when the earth’s surface is cooler. Who could have guessed? But the climate models say the opposite, that the Earth gives off LESS heat when the surface is warmer, because they trap heat too aggressively (positive feedback). Again, the climate models are violently at odds with reality……………….

      [See plot]

      So now I am calling for a debate……..

  6. Richard C (NZ) on September 20, 2011 at 11:29 pm said:

    Worth keeping in mind that:-

    “………some of the global warming heat that’s “missing” from land and sea surface temperature readings.”


    “………some of the sun’s incoming heat”

    I.e. the “global warming” is solar sourced in this case.

    As is all the ocean heat.

  7. Clarence Kay on September 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm said:

    Interesting that the NCAR computers are now saying that the sun’s heat was absorbed at the surface of the oceans, and travelled downwards by convection (managing to dodge Argos buoys on the way) to a depth not monitored by scientists.

    But if the heat went straight down, then it didn’t attempt to radiate back to space. It never encountered any greenhouse gases, so was not affected by human activities in any way.

    So any missing CO2-caused heat is still missing.

  8. Alexander K on September 22, 2011 at 3:33 am said:

    Once again I am reminded of Willis Eschenbach’s wryly humorous posting on WUWT some time ago, titled ‘Models all the Way Down’, which built on the mid-Eastern idea of a great turtle holding the world on it’s back and the great turtle in it’s turn being supported by ‘turtles all the way down’. Any so-called science based entirely on models has, in my view, the exact level of veracity as the aforementioned mid-Eastern myth featuring turtles. And I am also reminded that computer simulations not based on real-world measurement remain mere computer simulations.

  9. Willem de Lange on September 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm said:

    Just note that there is evidence of warming of the deeper waters of the oceans. Of particular relevance for New Zealand, there has been a slight warming of the intermediate waters in the Tasman Sea (1000-2000 m roughly), and deep waters of the so-called “Southern Ocean” from 1500-5000 m.
    There is a problem in that the data are sparse in both space and time, which makes any trends difficult to quantify with any degree of confidence.
    Further, the few data sets with relatively high resolution indicate that there are water masses with warm anomalies and others with cold anomalies. In other words, the warming is patchy and associated with cooling as well. This has led researchers to suggest that there is no significant global trend supported by the evidence.
    Personally, I would expect there to have been some warming since the Little Ice Age,
    Finally, the data that does exist indicates that any warming has resulted from the subduction (sinking) and advection (transport by currents) of surface temperature anomalies as part of the thermohaline circulation (also called meridional overturning circulation – MOC). This is a relatively slow process for the deeper ocean, and would not result in a dramatic heat gain over a decade.
    The data do not support the rapid transfer of heat supplied by back radiation to the ocean skin (top tens of microns) to depths greater of 1000 m without registering on any of the ocean buoys, ARGO drifters or oceanographic hydrocasts.
    A simpler mechanism is either the missing heat never existed or it is convected/radiated to space.

  10. Australis on September 29, 2011 at 12:47 am said:

    Its great to get some hard facts from Willem.

    Just how approximate the GCMs are is highlighted by an article by Patrick Frank in the (normally warmist) Sceptic magazine. http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/a-climate-of-belief/

    Richard, you have been critical of NIWA for not measuring the confidence intervals of their temperature adjustments and discarding them if they are statistically insignificant. Compare that with the IPCC projections –

    “after only 20 years, the uncertainty from cloud error is ±22° and for forcing, it’s ±3°. The effect of the ~1% forcing uncertainty alone tells us that a 99% accurate GCM couldn’t discern a new Little Ice Age from a major tropical advance from even 20
    years out.”

    You should do a post on this paper – the IPCC uncertainties are massive!

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