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Can CO2 Warm The Oceans?

January 21, 2016

By Paul Homewood  





We often hear that the oceans are getting warmer, and WUWT had a guest post up yesterday by Larry Kummer here.

Many commenters rightly questioned how we could accurately measure temperatures down to 2000 m and across all the oceans now to such degrees of accuracy, never mind back in 1960!

But one comment by Dr Roy Clark showed how, scientifically, it was impossible for GHG to cause such warming:


It is simply impossible for the observed increase in downward LWIR flux from a 120 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration to heat the oceans. This presumed LWIR induced ocean warming is one of the major errors in the global warming scam. The increase in flux from CO2 is nominally 2 W.m^-2 or 0.18 MJ.m^-2 per day. The oceans are heated by the sun – up to 25 MJ m^-2 per day for full tropical or summer sun. About half of this solar heat is absorbed in the first 1 m layer of the ocean and 90% is absorbed in the first 10 m layer. The heat is removed by a combination of wind driven evaporation from the surface and LWIR emission from the first 100 micron layer. That’s about the width of a human hair. In round numbers, about 50 W.m^-2 is removed from the ocean surface by the LWIR flux and the balance comes from the wind driven evaporation. The heat capacity of the cooled layer at the surface is quite small – 4.2 kJ.m^-2 for a 1 mm layer. This reacts quite rapidly to any changes in the cooling flux and the heat transfer from the bulk ocean below and the evaporation rate change accordingly. The cooler water produce at the surface then sinks and cools the bulk ocean layer below. This is not just a diffusion process, but convection in which the cooler water sinks and warmer rises in a complex circulating flow pattern (Rayleigh-Benard convection). This couples the surface momentum (wind shear) to lower depths and drives the ocean currents. At higher latitudes the surface area of a sphere decreases and this drives the currents to lower depths.

In round numbers, the temperature increase produced by a 2 W.m^-2 increase in LWIR flux from CO2 is overwhelmed by a 50 ± 50 W.m^-2 flux of cold water and a 0 to 1000 W.m^-2 solar heating flux.

Over the tropical warm pool the wind driven cooling rate is about 40 W.m^-2.m.s^-1 (40 Watts per square meter for each 1 m/sec change in wind speed). This means that a change in wind speed of 20 cm.s^-1 is equivalent to the global warming heat flux. (20 centimeters per second).

There is a lot of useful information on ocean surface evaporation on the Woods Hole website

The heat content of the first 700 m layer of the ocean is of little concern in climate studies. It is the first 100 to 200 m depth that matters. About half of the increase in heat content occurs in the first 100 m layer. This is shown in Figure 2 of the 2012 Levitus paper.

The ocean warming fraud goes back to the early global warming models. In their 1967 paper, Manabe and Wetherald used a ‘blackbody surface’ with ‘zero heat capacity’. They created the global warming scam as a mathematical artifact of their modeling assumptions. These propagated into the Charney Report in 1979. Then an ‘ocean layer’ was added to the model. The layer had thermal properties such as heat capacity and thermal diffusion, but the CO2 flux increase had to magically heat the oceans. This is computational climate fiction. Any computer model that predicts ocean warming from CO2 is by definition fraudulent. The fraud can be found in Hansen’s 1981 Science paper and has continued ever since.

Hansen, J.; D. Johnson, A. Lacis, S. Lebedeff, P. Lee, D. Rind and G. Russell Science 213 957-956 (1981), ‘Climate impact of increasing carbon dioxide’
For a more detailed discussion see:
Clark, R., 2013a, Energy and Environment 24(3, 4) 319-340 (2013) ‘A dynamic coupled thermal reservoir approach to atmospheric energy transfer Part I: Concepts’
Clark, R., 2013b, Energy and Environment 24(3, 4) 341-359 (2013) ‘A dynamic coupled thermal reservoir approach to atmospheric energy transfer Part II: Applications’


There is also a lot of good stuff on his Ventura Photonics website here.

  1. David Richardson permalink
    January 21, 2016 3:57 pm

    Thanks for the link to the Ventura Photonics website – I love this opening gambit

    Anyone who tries to understand how a 100 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration
    causes climate change will soon find out that the entire global warming argument is nothing
    more than empirical speculation. No cause and effect linking CO2 and global warming has
    ever been demonstrated because none exists. ”

    What amazes me about the Global Warming debate and the statement that “The Science is Settled” is how often not even the physics underlying the debate is settled and is still the subject of much confusion. Even at the basic level.

    It is more than half a century since I was taught about the Green House Effect and have pretty much accepted (and taught it) throughout that time. The IPCC back at the start were tasked with researching the effect and whether increasing CO2 could increase the atmosphere’s temperature – that work was never done, they just decided they knew how it worked. But many argue that the theory is not fully formed and some, with experience of keeping people alive in space, have questioned that it even exists as we think we know it. The theory still doesn’t explain all the facts – one scientist has pointed out that Venus ( atmosphere 95% CO2) doesn’t have a higher surface temp than is explained by its distance from the Sun, in comparison to Earth (atmosphere 0.04% CO2).

    I was taught and regurgitated that CO2 could be treated as a black-body and indeed I read that GCMs actually assume that and apply Kirchoff Law – NOW it turns out that not only does CO2 not perform like a black-body but virtually nothing does.

    There is a link to the actual paper but Dr.Pierre-Marie Robitaille’s video presentation on the subject is more accessible.

    Remember the science is settled.

    “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”


    • Kelvin Vaughan permalink
      January 21, 2016 5:44 pm

      I’m very ignorant but I calculate that a rise from 14 to 14.8°C is equivalent to 4.3 Watts per square metre.

      The ratio between the rise in CO2, i.e. 0.02% per sq. m. and the whole square metre is 5000 :1

      For 0.02% of a square metre to raise the temperature by 5 Watts would need that 0.02% to supply 21.536kW

      It would need to be continuously doing this or the World would cool,
      but there again perhaps I missing something? If you said all the aerosols in the atmosphere caused by man were doing this I would be more inclined to believe you.

      • Dvaid Richardson permalink
        January 22, 2016 10:09 am

        Agreed Kelvin, but I guess even that still assumes that CO2 acts as a blackbody and that is called into question.

        Dr Robitaille doesn’t appear to have much of a dog in the fight climate-wise and he is talking from an Astrophysics point of view.

        There is also a presentation (Youtube) of his from the same conference on the Sun. It sort of made my brain hurt but it interesting to listen to stuff other than climate for a change – even if it is all related.

    • FTOP permalink
      January 22, 2016 9:23 pm

      That is the conundrum of the GHG effect. H2O is the dominant GHG on earth and it enters the atmosphere via evaporative cooling. To believe that the earth is 33C higher because of GHGs, one has to accept that:

      Water vapor leaves the ocean, cooling it
      Rises, loosing more energy to potential energy
      Releases energy via radiation to space
      And then.,.turns around and warms the source it cooled in the first step by 33C

      That is quite an amazing feat.

  2. January 21, 2016 5:02 pm

    Can humans warm the oceans? YESSSSS! And we are doing that for so many years. “Any use of the oceans by mankind has an influence on thermo-haline structures within the water column from a few cm to 10 m and more”, as is very well pointed out on Oceans Govern Climate site:

  3. January 22, 2016 6:15 pm

    Thanks, Paul. Dr. Roy Clark seems correct to me, deserving 2 links. His seal level work is excellent.

  4. Kelvin Vaughan permalink
    January 26, 2016 7:39 pm

    Now this is more like it. Airports probably have a lot of this smog.

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