Global Warming Stopped, Again (2013)
Global Warming Stopped!? Again...
The Economist reported an article this month called 'A Sensitive Matter'.
Not unlike the Wall Street Journal last year the focus is on the 'leveling' of the temperature record, on 'too short' a time scale. Short time-scales incorrectly represent the state of the climate. The Economist article is not as off as other interpretations of the scientific understanding such as at Fox News, but the inference and the headlines is more misleading and may infer and convey bias. Fox news tends to focus on the 'it's not a problem' scenario, without ever asking the questions that would reveal what the word 'problem' means in this context. Fox does ask people questions, but they focus the question on people such as Marc Morano, rather than those that know the science better. This tends to solicit the answers they may already be seeking rather than the truth of the matter.
The facts are that short term drops, and rises, in surface temperature readings, over a limited number of years, can be attributed to natural cycles related to ocean heat content overturn combined with atmospheric cycles/patterns. These shorter term natural cycles can drive global temperature up and down temporarily. But this is not the same as the long-term trend based on the total energy added to the system by increased greenhouse gases. Interesting to note however that these ocean atmosphere cycles are also increasingly operating under the influence of human changes; and are thus are thus operating under greater potential influence of these human induced changes; and the resulting change in total climate forcing.
So, is the big news really that global warming stopped...
and does this mean that the climate sensitivity is much lower than models predict? If it were true it would be truly great news. Just one little problem, it's not true. The 'Earth's climate system' is still warming, and the climate sensitivity is still estimated to be in the vicinity of 3º C for a doubling of CO2 (possibly a little lower/higher).
Where's the Heat?
Well..., it's not under the couch. It's under the surface of the ocean. In the deep ocean actually. Think of it this way. Pretend you live in a mansion and 90% of the mansion is getting warmer, but some people are in the part of the mansion that is not getting warmer because someone closed the heat vents to the rooms they are in, or left some windows open. And the people that live in those rooms are claiming that the rest of the mansion is not warming because the rooms they are in are not warming. It's worse than a specious argument because there is no evidence that it might be plausible; it's simply wrong.
It's a classic logical fallacy based on misunderstanding the reality of the temperature in the other rooms of the mansion, which make up 90% of their world, so to speak. Sort of like saying it's winter where I live in the northern hemisphere, so it must be winter everywhere... forgetting, or ignoring, entirely that half the planet is the southern hemisphere where, for example, Australia exists..., where it happens to actually be 'summer' when the northern hemisphere is in winter.
Heat energy that might have ended up in the atmosphere is being stored in the deeper ocean. Don't worry though, that energy will rise again... Well, actually that might be something to be concerned about since that energy will further influence storm and precipitation events.
What's Really Happening...
Keep in mind that significant uncertainties still exist as to measurement coverage at the TOA (Top Of the Atmosphere) regarding the accuracy of the total radiation imbalance. Recent changes in tropical zonal winds and increases in the transport of heat energy to the deep ocean are now being tracked with more instrumentation than before. The accumulated knowledge contributed form Navies all around the world for ocean heat content now allow a more systematic examination of ocean heat content since 1955.
The deep ocean heat energy storage has been building steadily but changes in the natural cycles/variation, such as heat transport mechanisms, including ocean/atmosphere cycles and evaporative cooling (wind which desalinates water, enabling salt to attach within the interstices of water molecules increasing density and carrying heat energy deeper in the ocean), which removes heat that would have been available for atmospheric warming. Other natural variations, such as changes in the MOC, and PDO also aid in transporting heat into the deeper ocean. If these mechanisms had not transported the heat into the deep water the atmosphere would have shown increased warming. The conclusion is that the earth is still warming, it's just not showing up in the surface temperature record at this time.
So why the misleading headlines?
One must consider that those reporting of climate science are also not experts in climate science. That translates to some confusion about how to approach the subject and not really knowing which information is more relevant than less relevant information. This in turn is easily exploited by by those that are biased toward the 'it's all a hoax' idea. In the end, the public is confused by the mixed messages but none of the mixed messages actually change the reality that Earth is warming and that the warming is human-influenced.
- Pacific Decadal Oscillation
- Live links to Ocean/Atmosphere Climate Monitor Page
- RealClimate: The answer is blowing in the wind: The warming went into the deep end