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Oceans Dominate Global Temperatures, Not CO2

May 10, 2015
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood  


Ron Clutz has an interesting post up at Science Matters on the influence that oceans have on the Earth’s climate.


ScreenHunter_2110 May. 10 18.45


You only have to compare Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) from HADSST3 with estimates of Global Mean Surface Temperatures (GMST) from Hadcrut4 and RSS.


This first graph shows how global SST has varied since 1850. There are obvious changepoints where the warming or cooling periods have occurred.



This graph shows in green Hadcrut4 estimates of global surface temperature, including ocean SST, and near surface air temperatures over land. The blue line from RSS tracks lower tropospheric air temperatures measured by satellites, not near the surface but many meters higher. Finally, the red line is again Hadsst3 global SST All lines use 30-year averages to reduce annual noise and display longer term patterns.

Strikingly, SST and GMST are almost synonymous from the beginning until about 1980. Then GMST diverges with more warming than global SST. Satellite TLT shows the same patterns but with less warming than the surface. Curious as to the post 1980s patterns, I looked into HADSST3 and found NH SST warmed much more strongly during that period.



This graph shows how warming from circulations in the Northern Pacific and Northern Atlantic drove GMST since 1980. And it suggests that since 2005 NH SST is no longer increasing, and may turn toward cooling.


Surface Heat Flux from Ocean to Air

Now one can read convoluted explanations about how rising CO2 in the atmosphere can cause land surface heating which is then transported over the ocean and causes higher SST. But the interface between ocean and air is well described and measured. Not surprisingly it is the warmer ocean water sending heat into the atmosphere, and not the other way around.


Read the rest here.


Ron is making the point, which I keep stressing, that the oceans are huge stores of energy, and as such have an big effect on climate.


Ron’s post ties in nicely with a paper by Dr William Gray, The Physical Flaws of the Global Warming Theory and Deep Ocean Circulation Changes as the Primary Climate Driver , which I have been meaning to post about.

Bill Gray is Professor Emeritus at the Dept of Atmospheric Science of Colorado State University. Below is the Abstract.




Steve Goddard has already posted on the first part relating to clouds,etc, but let’s take a closer look at what Gray says about oceans.







Unfortunately, climate science is only funded to investigate the effects of CO2 on climate. As a result, we risk ignoring the very real processes going on in our oceans.  

  1. May 10, 2015 7:36 pm

    it is the sun

  2. May 10, 2015 7:38 pm

    This conclusion is rather late to the party:

    June 25th 2008

    • May 10, 2015 7:58 pm

      Sorry Stephen, but I get an error message!!

      But you are right, any competent climate scientist would have realised that any atmospheric warming would be dwarfed by the huge heat capacity of the oceans.

      Or to put it another way, if there really was any GHG atmospheric effect, it would be suppressed by the ocean heat capacity for centuries.

      • May 10, 2015 8:06 pm

        Strange, so am I but it was fine a few minutes ago.

        I’ll look into it.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        May 11, 2015 6:48 am

        It seems to work OK now.
        Thanks for the link, I remember reading the article quite a while ago and thinking it made a lot more sense than most theories/hypothesis current at the time.

      • tom0mason permalink
        May 11, 2015 8:40 am

        Link appears OK to me.
        Nice theory Stephen, what is required to move these ideas a long — what observations, measurements or outcome would put more meat on the bones of your excellent ideas?

  3. May 10, 2015 7:42 pm

    It is obvious to any sensible physicist that the water cycle dominates our climate and weather. With the oceans covering over two-thirds of the surface, evaporation being the main coolant of the surface (oceans and land) and IR radiation from water being the main mechanism for energy transfer to space, anybody who thinks CO2 is a control knob on the climate has got to be either bonkers or a shill for climate alarmism (and Agenda 21/the UN/world government by left wing bureaucrats etc).

  4. May 10, 2015 7:48 pm

    Thanks for the post, Paul. I am glad someone of William Gray’s stature laid out the ocean circulation mechanisms. There are numerous oscillations identified by oceanographers:
    They are all irregular in their shifting between phases, and difficult to predict. To matters more murky, these circulations interact and influence each other’s strength and timing.
    Analyzing the ocean circulations is something like this:

    While much is yet to be learned about ocean movements, it remains the key to understanding climate change. And yet, all the research money goes toward atmospheric studies and models. Go figure.

    • tom0mason permalink
      May 11, 2015 8:51 am

      Funny I thought that analyzing the ocean circulations is a mix of your graphic and this:


      Otherwise Ron it’s nice to read some straight forward common sense in climate matters — thank you for ably applying logic and sense to this thorny conundrum. Time will tell. 🙂

  5. May 11, 2015 8:09 am
    The surface of the world’s oceans has been warming since the beginning of industrialization. In addition to this, multidecadal sea surface temperature (SST) variations of internal [natural] origin exist. Evidence suggests that the North Atlantic Ocean exhibits the strongest multidecadal SST variations and that these variations are connected to the overturning circulation. This work investigates the extent to which these internal multidecadal variations have contributed to enhancing or diminishing the trend induced by the external radiative forcing, globally and in the North Atlantic. A model study is carried out wherein the analyses of a long control simulation with constant radiative forcing at preindustrial level and of an ensemble of simulations with historical forcing from 1850 until 2005 are combined. First, it is noted that global SST trends calculated from the different historical simulations are similar, while there is a large disagreement between the North Atlantic SST trends. Then the control simulation is analyzed, where a relationship between SST anomalies and anomalies in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) for multidecadal and longer time scales is identified. This relationship enables the extraction of the AMOC-related SST variability from each individual member of the ensemble of historical simulations and then the calculation of the SST trends with the AMOC-related variability excluded. For the global SST trends this causes only a little difference while SST trends with AMOC-related variability excluded for the North Atlantic show closer agreement than with the AMOC-related variability included. From this it is concluded that AMOC [Atlantic meridional overturning circulation] variability has contributed significantly to North Atlantic SST trends since the mid nineteenth century.
    After a decrease of SST by about 1 °C during 1964–1975, most apparent in the northern tropical region, the entire tropical basin warmed up. That warming was the most substantial (>1 °C) in the eastern tropical ocean and in the longitudinal band of the intertropical convergence zone. Examining data sets of surface heat flux during the last few decades for the same region, we find that the SST [sea surface temperature] warming was not a consequence of atmospheric heat flux forcing [greenhouse gases]. Conversely, we suggest that long-term SST warming drives changes in atmosphere parameters at the sea surface, most notably an increase in latent heat flux, and that an acceleration of the hydrological cycle induces a strengthening of the trade winds and an acceleration of the Hadley circulation. These trends are also accompanied by rising sea levels and upper ocean heat content over similar multi-decadal time scales in the tropical Atlantic. Though more work is needed to fully understand these long term trends, especially what happens from the mid-1970’s, it is likely that changes in ocean circulation involving some combination of the Atlantic meridional overtuning circulation [AMOC] and the subtropical cells are required to explain the observations.
    The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a key component of the global climate system, responsible for a large fraction of the 1.3 PW northward heat transport in the Atlantic basin. Numerical modelling experiments suggest that without a vigorous AMOC, surface air temperature in the North Atlantic region would cool by around 1–3 °C, with enhanced local cooling of up to 8 °C in regions with large sea-ice changes. Substantial weakening of the AMOC would also cause a southward shift of the inter-tropical convergence zone, encouraging Sahelian drought, and dynamic changes in sea level of up to 80 cm along the coasts of North America and Europe.

    • May 11, 2015 10:11 am

      I have proposed a mechanism whereby changing solar activity can lead to warming or cooling oceans on the time scale MWP to LIA to date:

    • May 11, 2015 12:22 pm

      kenneth, thanks for those references. They are certainly on point especially this one:

      “Examining data sets of surface heat flux during the last few decades for the same region, we find that the SST warming was not a consequence of atmospheric heat flux forcing. Conversely, we suggest that long-term SST warming drives changes in atmosphere parameters at the sea surface, most notably an increase in latent heat flux, and that an acceleration of the hydrological cycle induces a strengthening of the trade winds and an acceleration of the Hadley circulation.”

  6. May 11, 2015 4:03 pm

    Thanks, Paul, for pointing to Gray (2012), an important paper for climate understanding.
    Dr. Philip J. Klotzbach and Dr. William Gray’s Tropical Meteorology Project has had a very good forecasting run for quite few years now.

  7. May 11, 2015 7:13 pm

    I totally agree with this idea. Oceans are a big factor in climate change and our activity on the ocean is significant for the transformation of the climate. Too bad that oceans were ignored by many scientist for so long time……

  8. May 12, 2015 1:43 am

    A follow up post focusing on oscillations:

    Even today, after many years of study by highly intelligent people, the factors are murky enough that coupled ocean-atmospheric models still lack skill to forecast the patterns. And so, in 2015, we find advocates for reducing use of fossil fuels hoping and praying for a warm water blob in the Northern Pacific to intensify or endure so that the average global temperature will trend higher than last year.

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