HotWhopper wrong on ocean heat

a turbulent ocean


After reading Bob Tisdale at WUWT I made my first visit yesterday to HotWhopper to examine a post on ocean heat content. (Though this doesn’t concern the report from our Commissioner for the Environment, it addresses the fundamental science, so please bear with me.) Miriam O’Brien (a.k.a. Sou) writes:

The oceans absorb more than 90% of the extra energy that’s being built up in the system.

This caught my attention as lying at the centre of her argument. But we need to ask where the heat comes from and how it gets into the ocean.

As we know, the oceans warm from the direct heat of the sun. The hypothesis (and it’s still only an hypothesis, it’s not yet a theory) that the oceans also warm from the effects of man-made global warming depends on heat energy reaching them by radiation from atmospheric gases (the so-called greenhouse gases).

Trouble is, physics is against it.

The only explanation I’ve seen of a possible mechanism for atmospheric ocean heating was at Skeptical Science in 2011, based on a highly speculative guest post in 2006 by Dr Peter Minnett at Real Climate, and those are indeed cited in Miss O’Brien’s reply to my inquiry, though the explanation is no more convincing now than it was back then.

If the scientists supporting AGW alarm were sincere in wanting to know their subject, some at least would have tried harder to perform further experiments in this area, because it’s so very vital to the danger they predict. Since human activities can only heat the air, if the air cannot heat the water, much of the threat of dangerous AGW vanishes because the water is not expanding and rising through our influence.

But since they have not investigated, they do not wish to know.

Courtesy of our industrious friend Richard Cumming, we described the skin layer phenomenon and its deficiencies last year. Clearly, repetition is needed.

In the mechanism as described at Real Climate, an immeasurably small temperature gradient across the sub-millimetre skin layer of the ocean (except across the vast regions of turbulence, which destroys the skin layer) holds at bay a portion of the gigantic quantity of solar heat energy wanting to rise again from the water and escape to space, warming the air as it goes.

It was an experiment on board the New Zealand research vessel Tangaroa in 2004 that measured the temperature gradient across the skin layer. It seems to have been 0.002°K (W/m2)-1—astoundingly small. Since they couldn’t vary the amount of carbon dioxide above the ship, they measured the amount of infrared energy emitted by changing cloud cover.

Experiment did not prove CO2 warms the ocean

The serious limitations of this experiment are given away by Dr Minnett’s honest admission at the end of the post (by which frankness nevertheless he reveals his genuine scientific heart):

Of course the range of net infrared forcing caused by changing cloud conditions (~100W/m2) is much greater than that caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases (e.g. doubling pre-industrial CO2 levels will increase the net forcing by ~4W/m2), but the objective of this exercise was to demonstrate a relationship.

Unfortunately that doesn’t prevent him from using the following weasel words in an utterly misleading conclusion that the experiment has proved what all the warmists wish to believe, which is that human activity is heating the ocean (you’ll notice that he doesn’t actually say that):

To conclude, it is perfectly physically consistent to expect that increasing greenhouse gas driven warming will heat the oceans – as indeed is being observed.

(Note that what was being observed was warming, not the method of warming.) No attempt was made to quantify the effect in terms of the real-world ocean. We want to know how much heat energy is prevented from leaving the water, how much the water thus warms and, crucially, how much atmospheric cooling is caused by the energy being withheld in this way.

As the atmosphere warms more and more, the amount of heat energy blocked in this way (if significant) constitutes a hitherto unsuspected negative feedback. This, of course, calls for further research, since it further reduces the impact of ‘dangerous’ AGW.

It strikes me today on rereading that this is not so much scientific revelation as it is the attempted birth of a legend.

Considering the minuscule addition by CO2 radiation to the temperature of the skin layer and the amount of thermal energy the skin layer is attempting to block, we’re being asked to believe that an ant might significantly impede a charging lion.

Yet nobody at HotWhopper seems to mind this.



I’ve posted this response here because it makes a few good points, and Miss O’Brien has declined to publish it at HotWhopper, which confirms her ill intentions towards a proper discussion. By implication, she declares that I’m telling whoppers (lies) but refuses to assist by describing them.

My reply at HotWhopper

Sou, thank you for your courteous response.

You confirm what I could not have known without asking (never mind the allegation of ‘faux curiosity’), as I neither know everything, nor do I read minds, that you rely upon the Skeptical Science post and the Real Climate article by Dr Minnett to support your assertion that greenhouse gases significantly warm the ocean.

Unfortunately, the experiment described by Dr Minnett does not support you, substantially because they didn’t measure the warming influence of CO2, they measured the varying amount of infrared radiation from clouds, which intercepted the infrared as it tried to leave the surface.

Contrary to what you say, there is no evidence that the minuscule radiation from CO2 molecules might have a significant effect on the temperature of the ocean. The experiment was designed, as Dr Minnett explains, not to quantify the effect, but only to demonstrate it. It’s surprising, in light of its apparent success in doing so, that no further experiments appear to have been conducted in this area, including nothing to establish its magnitude.

Perhaps that lack of interest springs from the fact that the experiment discovered yet another hitherto unsuspected negative feedback to increasing radiative forcing.

Because the skin layer, as it warms, prevents a little thermal energy from escaping the oceans. That heat no longer warms the atmosphere, which rather defines a cooling influence.

Still, without knowing the magnitude of the warming effect on the skin layer and the consequent reduction in heat flux from the water, we can’t be sure how important this is, can we? There is of course no reason to believe it will destroy us by 2100.

Richard Treadgold.


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Richard C (NZ)

>”It strikes me today on rereading that this is not so much scientific revelation as it is the attempted birth of a legend.” Exactly. The Minnett conjecture is an insulation effect (supposedly) i.e. energy that left the surface uninhibited returns as radiation to inhibit further energy loss – daft obviously. And the IPCC doesn’t run with it anyway. AR5 does not actually posit an anthropogenic ocean heating mechanism in Chapter 8: Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing: Page 712 pdf : The Global Temperature change Potential Concept “By accounting for the climate sensitivity and the exchange of heat between the atmosphere and the ocean, the GTP includes physical processes that the GWP does not. The GTP accounts for the slow response of the (deep) ocean, thereby prolonging the response to emissions beyond what is controlled by the decay time of the atmospheric concentration. Thus the GTP includes both the atmospheric adjustment time scale of the component considered and the response time scale of the climate system.” But, “The GTP values can be significantly affected by assumptions about the climate sensitivity and heat uptake by the ocean. Thus, the relative uncertainty ranges are… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

[From Update] >”Contrary to what you [Miriam O’Brien] say, there is no evidence that the minuscule radiation from CO2 molecules might have a significant effect on the temperature of the ocean.”

This is a(nother) major failing of the climate models – they impute far too much heat to the ocean, See graph:

‘Climate Models vs ARGO data’
Global Ocean Temperature, 0-700m

Note this is simply temperature (degrees Celcius) – not heat content (Joules).

And the apparent global average ocean heat gain (Joules) is only due to the Indian Ocean:

comment image

Pacific and Atlantic are cooling on average. So unless CO2 forcing is only active in the Indian Ocean, there is no anthropogenic ocean heating.


Not sure where to post this, but I recently wrote a short piece for another blog on the Wellington City Councils stupid report on what would happen if sea level rise doubled or indeed increase 5 fold from the historic trend. It may or may not get posted.

In the process I noticed that the last 8000 year trend is remarkable flat. Presumably that record is fairly reliable but why does it not show undulation for little ice ages and warm periods? The trend seems to go right through them.

Richard C (NZ)

Last 8000 years is out of my zone Hemi. I’m settling with the historical trend since 1945 at Wellington. Dr Jan Wright’s projection implies a 3.5 fold increase over the next 35 years, which had better start next year, pronto, to make the target. I don’t think so. The WCC’s T&T report is much the same. hardly likely. What is needed is some “fresh advice” – like this: ‘Commentary and Analysis on the Whitehead & Associates 2014 NSW Sea-Level Report’ by Carter R.M., de Lange W., Hansen, J.M., Humlum O., Idso C., Kear, D., Legates, D., Mörner, N.A., Ollier C., Singer F. & Soon W. NIPCC, September 24, 2014 1. Introduction “The issue of sea-level change, and in particular the identification of a speculative human contribution to that change, is a complex topic. Given the scientific and political controversy that surrounds the matter, the Eurobodalla and Shoalhaven Councils are to be congratulated for seeking fresh advice on the topic.” Yes, congratulations. But not for the MfE or WCC. From the previous thread: Wellington 2013.5 – 2050 (3.65 decades) @ 0.252m/century: 9.2cm (historical PSMSL) @ 0.6m/century,: 21.9cm (T&T) @ 0.85714m/century: 31.29cm (Dr Jan… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

>”@ 0.85714m/century: 31.29cm (Dr Jan Wright, MfE projection [applied to T&T scenario])” This is wrong as is the WCC/T&T comparison above. It is difficult to know what Dr Wright is conveying because she is so imprecise. The correction is below if she is implying either the 30cm rise starts end of 2014 as per report date or at 1990 as per IPCC base which she doesn’t state. According to Dr Jan Wright, it is only AFTER 2050 that SLR becomes “increasingly dependent on the actions taken to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions”. Except, rather than Wright’s implication that SLR of 30cm by 2050 is expected from Nov 2014, the IPCC expectation is actually from the IPCC’s 1990 base. There has already been a natural 60mm (6cm) rise at Wellington since 1990 but Wright omits to mention this and it is probable she hasn’t thought about it anyway given the missing historical data. So at the historical rate of 25.224mm/decade, the expectations from 1990 are: Say 7057 base at 1990 @ 25.224mm/decade (PSMSL historical from 1990) x 6 decades = 150mm + 7057 = 7207mm @ 50mm/decade (Wright/IPCC “20 to 40cm” from 1990) x… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

>”In the mechanism as described at Real Climate, an immeasurably small temperature gradient across the sub-millimetre skin layer of the ocean (except across the vast regions of turbulence, which destroys the skin layer) holds at bay a portion of the gigantic quantity of solar heat energy wanting to rise again from the water and escape to space, warming the air as it goes.” In the Kiwi Thinker thread “Frank” tried to invoke the Minnett/RC mechanism too (as did Rob Painting at Hot Topic a while ago). But their rationale is totally flawed as laid out above because there is only so much energy that can be released from the surface in the tropics irrespective of any posited cool-skin effect (negligible anyway). I tried to get this through to Frank at Kiwi Thinker: “…the heat gain in the tropical mixed layer is already constrained by the AO interface conditions. That is why, at 20N and 20S, there is between 1 and 2 PW of heat moving horizontally towards the poles. In the tropics Rns (+Q, 191.5) overwhelms the ability of the ocean to release heat (-Q, -168.1), the excess heat (+23.4) must then be… Read more »


Have none of you heard of gyres or Ekman transport?

Richard C (NZ)

>”Have none of you heard of gyres or Ekman transport?” Yes I have. What’s your point Simon? If you want to invoke “gyres or Ekman transport” to explain ocean heat uptake being CO2-forced then you will need to refer us to the relevant IPCC passages that support you – good luck with that (FYI see AR5 Chapter 8 and Chapter 3 upthread – no “gyres or Ekman transport”, or anything else for that matter). And you will also have to defer to literature that quantifies the observed ocean heat gain in terms of “gyres or Ekman transport” – I wish you very good luck with that too (the IPCC apparently gave up looking). But you’ll need more than exceptionally good luck (actually an ability to perform the impossible) to reconcile your “gyres or Ekman transport” case with basin heat gain/loss 3-month from 1955 to present here: For example, Pacific in the ARGO era: 2003.875 4.680 2004.875 3.905 2005.875 3.291 2006.875 4.023 2007.875 2.933 2008.875 3.769 2009.875 3.374 2010.875 2.007 2011.875 3.505 2012.875 2.858 2013.875 3.828 That’s a heat loss Simon, in a period of rising CO2 levels. The respective basin trends were… Read more »


This from Wiki. My point is that post glacial era the sea level rise does not seem to be subject to little ice age etc, If that is the case how could AGW possibly influence sea level.

Richard C (NZ)

Ok, I see what you’re getting at now Hemi. Here’s a graph, after Grinstad et al (2009) that shows estimated GMSL over the last 1000 years:

That 0.5m SL variation is not discernible over the last 8000 years. But estimated SLF from the MWP to the LIA puts the modern SLR after the LIA in perspective.

Begs the question as you say: what caused the SL rise-fall-rise over the last 1000 years? It wasn’t CO2/AGW.

Ans: solar forcing:


El Nino years are invariably warmer than non El Nino years. Where do you think this additional heat comes from?

Richard C (NZ)

What ARE you on about Simon?

>”El Nino years are invariably warmer than non El Nino years. ”

So what? How does that relate in any way to anything in the post or thread? The post is about ocean heat ACCUMULATION over the historical record that spans numerous El Nino’s as per this graph:

This is the point being addressed:

“The oceans absorb more than 90% of the extra energy that’s being built up in the system.”

The post debunks the notion that CO2 is the cause of the accumulation of energy (“extra energy”) in the ocean. This has nothing to do with El Nino’s, or gyres, or Ekman transport which you would have known if you had read the IPCC AR5 links I provided for you to Chapter 3 and Chapter 8.

Where do you think this additional heat comes from?

Solar forcing:

And if you had been following Hemi’s comments you would have seen that the same solar forcing is the cause of the SL rise-fall-rise over the last 1000 years (i.e. that’s not CO2 either):


So we all agree that there is heat interchange between the atmosphere and the ocean?

Richard C (NZ)

>”So we all agree that there is heat interchange between the atmosphere and the ocean?” Predominantly from the ocean to the atmosphere+space. The Fairall et al (1996) data for the tropics was upthread (see Kiwi Thinker link): Rns 191.5 Fairall et al (1996) tropical west Pacific -Q = Rnl – Hs – Hl -168.1 = -57.1 -7.7 -103.3 191.5 – 168.1 = 23.4 W/m2 ocean heat gain in the tropical west Pacific The AR5 data was upthread (see Chapter 3): 3.4.2 Air–Sea Heat Fluxes Turbulent Heat Fluxes and Evaporation “The latent and sensible heat fluxes have a strong regional dependence, with typical values varying in the annual mean from close to zero to –220 W m–2 and –70 W m–2 respectively over strong heat loss sites” Surface Fluxes of Shortwave and Longwave Radiation “The surface shortwave flux has a strong latitudinal dependence with typical annual mean values of 250 W m–2 in the tropics. The annual mean surface net longwave flux ranges from –30 to –70 W m–2.” In neither case is there a net atmosphere-to-ocean longwave, latent, or sensible heat flux (Rnl, Hl, Hs). In both cases the DSR flux… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

>”The source of the energy is accumulated solar energy (DSR)” ‘New paper finds strong evidence the Sun has controlled climate over the past 11,000 years, not CO2’ From The Hockey Schtick “We [Zhou & Feng, 2014] find that the variations of SSN [sunspot number] and T [temperature] have some common periodicities, such as the 208 year (yr), 521 yr, and ~1000 yr cycles. The correlations between SSN and T are strong for some intermittent periodicities. However, the wavelet analysis demonstrates that the relative phase relations between them usually do not hold stable except for the millennium-cycle component. The millennial variation of SSN leads that of T by 30–40 years, and the anti-phase relation between them keeps stable nearly over the whole 11,000 years of the past. As a contrast, the correlations between CO2 and T are neither strong nor stable.” Thus, the well known ~1000 year climate cycle responsible for the Holocene Climate Optimum 6000 to 4000 years ago, the Egyptian warm period ~4000 years ago, the Minoan warm period ~3000 years ago, the Roman warm period ~2000 years ago, the Medieval warm period ~1000 years ago, and the current warm period at… Read more »


Thanks RC

Actually this gives an interesting scale to the potential movement in sea level caused by temperature change. Total movement of 0.4m over 700 years between the two temperature extremes.

Amazing that the Muppets hypothesise movements at 20 times that rate over the next 100 years.

Richard C (NZ)

>”Amazing that the Muppets hypothesise movements at 20 times that rate over the next 100 years.”

And amazing how they can attribute GMST and SLR 1951 – 2010 to CO2 but ignore the MWP and post LIA to 1950. Not for nothing did Jay Overpeck, senior scientific advisor to the IPCC, say in his email to Professor Deming, “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period”.

Thing is, graphs similar over the last 1000 years don’t appear in Jan Wright’s report or Tonkin & Taylor’s report. I think that is despicable.

Other thing is, they (Wright/MfE, T&T/WCC) are prattling on about rates of rise from 1990 that just are not happening after 24 years but they don’t tell anyone about that – also despicable. It’s not always what is said that matters, it is also what is not said.

The closer we get to 2050 the more silly their scenario becomes so that’s some recompense.

Richard C (NZ)

The lie keeps rolling on: ‘It takes just TEN YEARS for CO2 to damage the climate: Impact of global warming will be felt by current generation, claims study’ ‘Amazingly, despite many decades of climate science, there has never been a study focused on how long it takes to feel the warming from a particular emission of carbon dioxide, taking carbon-climate uncertainties into consideration,’ said lead author of the study Dr Katharine Ricke. “The results showed that the average time between a single CO2 emission and maximum warming was 10.1 years, and reaffirmed that most of the warming persists for more than a century. The reason for this time lag is because the upper layers of the oceans take longer to heat up than the atmosphere, the scientists say. As the oceans take up more and more heat which causes the overall climate to warm up, the warming effects of CO2 emissions actually begin to diminish as CO2 is eventually removed from the atmosphere.” Read more: # # # There has been no warming over the last 10.1 years to “feel”. The time lag is sun => ocean => atmosphere and “the oceans… Read more »


This sounds scarey

“The total amount of loss averaged 83 gigatons per year”

At the current rate that is going to cause SLR of 2.3 cm over the next 100 years !!!!!!!

Richard C (NZ)
Richard C (NZ)

Model ocean heat (PCM) vs Observations Observations Rns 191.5 Fairall et al (1996) tropical west Pacific (from link upthread) -Q = Rnl – Hs – Hl -168.1 = -57.1 -7.7 -103.3 191.5 – 168.1 = 23.4 W/m2 ocean heat gain in the tropical west Pacific Model PCM (but see also HadCM3 ‘Anthropogenic Warming of the Oceans: Observations and Model Results’ Pierce, Barnett, AchutaRao, Gleckler, Gregory (2005) Abstract Analysis of PCM’s heat budget [a model] indicates the warming is driven by an increase in net surface heat flux that reaches 0.7 watts m-2 by the 1990s; the downward longwave flux [DLR] increases by 3.7 watts m-2, which is not fully compensated by an increase in the upward longwave flux of 2.2 watts m-2 [resulting in a net LW increase by about 1.5 watts m-2 (Rnl) ] Latent and net solar heat flux each decrease by about 0.6 watts m=2 [decrease?] The sensible heat flux increases by about 0.6 watts m-2. Figure 6 [page 46]: Time series of yearly global volume average temperature anomaly (0-700 m), at dd sampled points only. Left panel: from observations (bottom, thick line) and 12 PCM ensemble members with anthropogenic… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

>”3) PCM model 0-700m temperature anomaly runs far too hot (from 0.1 to 1.5 C too hot [since 1880]). PCM bypasses the physics of the AO interface by radiative forcing of DLR which imputes heat to the ocean spuriously, hence the overheating.”

Climate models predict the top 700m is warming at 0.07C per decade [from JoNova]

The climate models predict that ocean heat content is increasing at about 0.7 × 10^22 Joules per year. (See Hansen et al, 2005: where the increase in ocean heat content per square meter of surface, in the upper 750m, according to typical models, is around 6.0 Watt·year/m2 per year, which converts to 0.7 × 10^22 Joules per year for the entire ocean as explained at Bob Tisdale’s site [hotlink]. Converting to temperature, this corresponds to about 0.7 × 0.01C = 0.007 C per year.)

Graphed over just the ARGO era from 2003 to 2013:

# # #

The (imaginary) anthropogenic ocean warming is the red line.

Reality is the blue line as denoted.

Needless to say but projected SLR is the exact same situation, which Dr Jan Wright (MfE) and Tonkin & Taylor (WCC) regurgitate.

Richard C (NZ)

Corrections to 2). -103.3 latent (Hl, 1990s) was after a decrease of 0.6 (according to PCM). Therefore

Rns 188.5 (1880 assumed)
-Q = Rnl – Hs – Hl
-167.8 = -55.6 -8.3 -103.9
188.5 – 167.8 = 20.7 W/m2 ocean heat gain in the tropical west Pacific (1880)

With unrealistic latent decrease: 23.4 (1990s) – 20.7 (1880) = 2.7 W.m-2 increase over 120 years using a combination of model and observation assumptions, IPCC atmospheric forcing from 1750 is 1.6 W.m=2 (included in DLR, therefore net Rnl)) but which cannot heat the ocean.

With latent remaining the same: 23.4 – 21.3 = 2.1 W.m-2 tropical ocean heat gain 1880 – 2000. No part to play for anthropogenic forcing once solar (+3) and latent heat forcing becoming realistic.

With latent increasing +0.6 more realistically: 23.4 – 21.9 = 1.5 W.m-2 change. No part to play for anthropogenic forcing because solar is +3 i.e. an increase of +3 solar means an increase of +1.5 ocean heat gain because, realistically, increased DLR of +3.7 increases latent heat of evaporation (ocean cooling contrary to spurious model heating) rather than impossibly heating beyond the surface as modeled.

Richard C (NZ)

Willis Eschenbach on ‘Argo And Ocean Heat Content’

“Now, there were several interesting things in the presentation. The first was a total surprise to me. We hear a lot about how the heat is “hiding” in the ocean. But what I didn’t know was that according to the Argo floats, every bit of the warming is happening in the southern extratropical ocean, while the oceans of both the tropics and the northern hemisphere are actually cooling … color me puzzled.”

comment image?w=720

And the Indian looks to be the culprit:

comment image

Apparently the Skydragon lives there.

[…] to the RealClimate post by Peter Minnett, see the very recent ClimateConversation post HotWhopper wrong on ocean heat. It includes links to a three part discussion titled “Anthropogenic Ocean Warming?” by Richard […]

Richard C (NZ)

AN ACT TO STUDY AND MODIFY CERTAIN COASTAL MANAGEMENT POLICIES. GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA SESSION 2011 HOUSE BILL 819 RATIFIED BILL *H819-v-5* [passed 2012, effective to July 2016] The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts: SECTION 2.(a) Article 7 of Chapter 113A of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read: “§ 113A-107.1. Sea-level policy. (a) The General Assembly does not intend to mandate the development of sea-level policy or the definition of rates of sea-level change for regulatory purposes. (b) No rule, policy, or planning guideline that defines a rate of sea-level change for regulatory purposes shall be adopted except as provided by this section. (c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a county, municipality, or other local government entity from defining rates of sea-level change for regulatory purposes. (d) All policies, rules, regulations, or any other product of the Commission or the Division related to rates of sea-level change shall be subject to the requirements of Chapter 150B of the General Statutes. (e) The Commission shall be the only State agency authorized to define rates of sea-level change for regulatory purposes. If the… Read more »

[…] to the RealClimate post by Peter Minnett, see the very recent ClimateConversation post HotWhopper wrong on ocean heat. It includes links to a three part discussion titled “Anthropogenic Ocean Warming?” by Richard […]


“limits the next state-sponsored report to only analysing what will happen during the next 30 years”

We tend to do a lot of talking to ourselves on this site.

Here is something the very sensible resident with a coastal property at Kapiti recently featured on TV would support. The government has to take a lead on this perhaps through the Local Authority Commission.

Planning Rules based on datum levels need to be limited to 30 year forecasts. 30 year forecast should take proper regard for both hypothetical global models of sea level rise and the long term sea level trends at the site nearest the particular local authority .

Sounds sensible to me.


“The new research found that an average of 243 gigatons (or 66.5 cubic miles) of the Greenland Ice Sheet melted each year from 2003 to 2009. (The scientists had the most comprehensive data for this period.) That’s enough meltwater to raise oceans by about 0.027 inches (0.68 millimeters) per year, the researchers said.”

Adding that to the Antarctic loss of mass 129? GT per annum over same period gives almost exactly 1 mm per year or extrapolated 10 cm per century.

[…] HotWhopper wrong on ocean heat […]

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