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Ocean Warming Dominates The Increase In Energy Stored In the Climate System

June 10, 2017

By Paul Homewood




It is often claimed that the seas are warming up because of GHGs.

This analysis by CO2 is Life shows this to be unscientific nonsense:




Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers

Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence), with only about 1% stored in the atmosphere. On a global scale, the ocean warming is largest near the surface, and the upper 75 m warmed by 0.11 [0.09 to 0.13] °C per decade over the period 1971 to 2010. It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010, and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971. {1.1.2, Figure 1.2}

The IPCC Report does more to prove it is engaged in sophistry than real science. In its 2014 report, the IPCC states that “Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence).” It also states that only about 1% of the energy is stored in the atmosphere.

From these observations, the IPCC concludes:

“It is extremely likely [95 percent confidence] more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.”

Just from a weighted factor approach, it is clear the atmosphere can’t warm the oceans. In reality, the oceans contain 2,000 more energy than the atmosphere and water has a specific heat 4x of dry air. If all the energy in the atmosphere was transferred to the oceans, it wouldn’t move the needle. On the other hand, the Satellite temperature records demonstrate a clear correlation between ocean events like El Nino and La Nina. Clearly, ocean temperatures drive atmospheric temperatures.


Like a Magician using slight of hand, the IPCC states “on a global scale, the ocean warming is largest near the surface, and the upper 75 m warmed by 0.11 [0.09 to 0.13] °C per decade over the period 1971 to 2010.” Poof!!! The Oceans are warming, it must be CO2, do not look behind that curtain or up my sleeve. Wow, are you amazed? You shouldn’t be. Just look up the IPCC’s sleeve and you will see what really is happening. The graphic at the top of this article shows the ocean penetration of various electromagnetic wavelengths. The “75 m” identified by the IPCC is significant because that is the depth at which INCOMING VISIBLE WARMING radiation penetrates and warms the oceans. The oceans are warmed by vast amounts of incoming high-energy visible radiation, not downwelling background long-wave infrared between 13 and 18-microns.


The basic physics behind CO2 warming the oceans, and therefore the atmosphere simply don’t exist. The only defined mechanism by which CO2 can affect climate change is by “thermalizing” long-wave infrared radiation between 13 and 18-microns. In reality, there is another one, radiation,  but that carries heat away from the earth and results in atmospheric cooling. Climate alarmists seem to forget that effect, and I will too for this article. This article focuses on the ability of CO2 to warm the oceans and therefore the atmosphere.


The preceding chart shows the spectral absorption of H2O, starting at 0 microns through the visible spectrum (0.4 to 0.7 microns) and ending in the long-wave infrared spectrum (18 microns). H20 efficiently absorbs much of the high energy electromagnetic spectrum in the visible light range. Energy is inversely related to wavelength (directly related to frequency), so the left side of the scale holds far more energy than the right. The longer the wavelength, the less energy it contains.  The left side of that graphic is what warms the oceans, not the right side that contains the long-wave infrared radiation that CO2 absorbs in the atmosphere. The following chart shows the CO2 absorption of long-wave Infrared radiation between 13 and 18-microns. CO2 has two other spikes at 2.7 and 4.3 microns, but those don’t play a role in the “thermalization” defined by the greenhouse gas effect.


Long-wave infrared radiation doesn’t warm water. It is absorbed in the very top “microlayer” of the oceans. If anything the infrared radiation produced by CO2 between the wavelengths of 13 and 18-microns results in surface evaporation and COOLING of the ocean surface much like evaporating sweat cools the body. The physics of CO2 and background long-wave infrared radiation downwelling warming the oceans simply doesn’t exist.

In Conclusion:

The IPCC claims that the oceans are by far the largest heat sink in the climate system. The IPCC claims that the oceans are warming. Data proves the oceans drive atmospheric temperatures, not vice verse.  The problem is, the IPCC can’t explain how CO2 warms the oceans. If the IPCC can’t explain how CO2 is warming the oceans, it can’t explain how/why the atmosphere is warming. To explain why the atmosphere is warming you have to explain why the oceans are warming. The oceans are warming because more visible radiation is reaching them. If that is the case, I would stop looking at CO2 and try to discover if anything has happened that would allow more visible radiation to reach the oceans. Has the frequency of volcanic eruptions slowed, has there been any changes to the Hadley Cells or cloud cover over the oceans especially the tropics, have we cleaned the air of sun blocking particulate matter? Explain why the oceans are warming and you explain why the atmosphere is warming, and it isn’t due to CO2. To quote Dr Singer, “evidence of warming isn’t evidence that man is causing that warming.”

  1. Broadlands permalink
    June 10, 2017 1:40 pm

    As I recall, we were recently told that El-Nino was responsible for the “fastest rise of CO2 on record.” And, we have also been told that “global warming boosts El-Nino’s effects” (Al Gore, 20 years ago.) No wonder there is confusion.

  2. Mitchell Taylor permalink
    June 10, 2017 2:56 pm

    So what is heating the oceans which comprise 4/7 of the earth’s surface? Most of the long-wave infrared radiation that CO2 absorbs and re-radiates (greenhouse effect) doesn’t penetrate the surface of the ocean more than ~3 microns, and virtually none of it penetrates further than a millimeter. Visible light and near-infrared penetrate much deeper into the water column (see above figure) and contribute most to ocean warming. The atmosphere is 1-3 degrees on average cooler than the ocean, and the ocean skin layer is also cool … 0.6 to 1 degree cooler than the ocean. Most of the LWIR “greenhouse” radiation that CO2 captures and re-radiates is either instantly re-radiated at the ocean surface skin, or causes increased evaporation. Although the ocean is not much “warmed” by the greenhouse effect, the ocean looses heat more slowly beause of the greenhouse effect. The predominate source of ocean heat is non-greenhouse visible light and short-wave infrared radiation.

    A recent paper (Soon et al. 2015) shows that increased solar radiation could account for most of the recent climate warming in North America as measured by rural (not urban) stations. Increased solar radiation and increased air transparency would cause the oceans to warm, and ocean warming would cause the atmosphere and climate to warm … but not in a in a linear or even regular fashion because it is distributed by the oceans with time lags and geography. Increased atmospheric CO2 has certainly augmented natural warming, but CO2 is probably not the main cause of climate warming as evidenced by the climate variability explained by ocean oscillations and ENSO events. If this perspective is correct, climate forecasts based on CO2 driven climate models that assume constant solar radiation are unlikely to provide accurate and reliable information. Additionally, if this perspective is correct; efforts to reduce CO2 emissions will do little to reduce climate warming.

    Inuit say that arctic ice is mainly melting from the bottom, not melting so much from warmer air on the surface. Maybe climate change is a more appropriate way to talk about what is happening than “climate crisis” … unless of course you are benefitting from carbon tax or renewable energy subsidies, or like to see everyone marching “in step” regardless of what direction the herd takes, or just want to pay more for electricity and slow the economy down somehow.

  3. tom0mason permalink
    June 10, 2017 3:16 pm

    So all that ‘extra’ manmade CO2 warmed the oceans eh?

    So lets look where all that CO2 is —!Carbon%20dioxide!Global!macc!od!enfo!delayed_monthly_totalcolumns!201006!chart.gif

    Or a NASA animation —

    CO2 over the land stick around, over the oceans it reduces.

  4. markl permalink
    June 10, 2017 3:44 pm

    It’s climate pablum for the masses.

  5. June 10, 2017 3:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  6. June 10, 2017 5:29 pm

    The IPCC has a problem here and it lies in the definition of Forcing Rate (FR), which I show below from page 133 of the Technical Working Group 1.
    I quote:
    “The definition of RF from the TAR and earlier IPCC assessment reports is retained. Ramaswamy et al. (2001) define it as ‘the change in net (down minus up) irradiance (solar plus longwave; in W m–2) at the tropopause after allowing for stratospheric temperatures to readjust to radiative equilibrium, but with surface and tropospheric temperatures and state held fixed at the unperturbed values’. Radiative forcing is used to assess and compare the anthropogenic and natural drivers of climate change. The concept arose from early studies of the climate response to changes in solar insolation and CO2, using simple radiative-convective models.”
    This definition does NOT comply with thermodynamic Law, in that an energy flux passing from one thermodynamic system to another MUST result in an increased energy state in the recipient system. Otherwise the flux equals Zero.
    (There is a difference between potential and actual flux)

    I can pontificate further on this; but will desist. Sadly the this so called flux at some 1.5 Watts/sq.m has now entered into the scientific system as a valid parameter in future calculations and has subsequently been enhanced by (in my view) somewhat dubious manipulation of feedback theory to a value of some 3 to 4 Watts/sq.m.

    (Nowhere have I been able to home in to the purported logic of this. Very weird. Additionally, no-one has responded to my challenge on the thermodynamic validity.)

    Technically the so called Greenhouse Effect exists; but in practical terms it is very small in climatic terms due to the scarcity of CO2 in the atmosphere. Doubling it or trebling it makes little difference.

    Where the oceans are concerned the prime source of energy, I suspect, derives from volcanic and tectonic plate activity, which currently is a no go area in the modelling systems due to its random activity, which places it in the chaos area as an anathema in the modelling fraternity.
    This aspect has been conveniently set aside, since the total emission of volcanic etc. emissions are deemed to be less than 0.078 Watts/sq,m, so may be considered constant and irrelevant.

    This is the age old scientific principle of: Ceteris Paribus: “All things being equal”. OK as a concept for specific experiments; but no way valid in complex systems such as climate.

    Is it therefore not small wonder that the IPCC has got itself all screwed up on this aspect?

    Overall, as a technical animal, seeking truth, I am appalled at the current state of the the scientific community. It does need to get its act together. Don’t ask me how, — far too complex.

    • Jack Broughton permalink
      June 11, 2017 8:31 pm

      Good assessment o the RFF, one of the most disgraceful fiddle factors ever used. The calculation using the Beer-Lambert law in an incorrect way was then multiplied by an unprovable “feedback mechanism”. The first major flaw in the RFF is that CO2 radiation is not independent of water vapour radiation as their spectra overlap in places: this makes the simple calculation invalid and has been well known to people involved with gaseous radiation for several decades, it attenuates each.

      The next big flaw was that the values of RFFs for several atmospheric components were assessed by a committee who judged that moisture could be regarded as a background constant. Their evaluation could equally have been a negative RFF (Global cooling).

      Overall the global warming scientific community is a disgrace to the scientific method.

      • Europeanonion permalink
        June 12, 2017 8:48 am

        And increased evaporation equals more water vapour and more clouds which in turn must have some albedo effect against reheating. I’m confused. In London yesterday it was really quite hot while in the north, upon returning home, it was like being in another country, cool and windy. Perhaps the opinion former’s in London should consider writing their views from the Northern perspective where many of us still have recourse to central heating and ‘flaming June’ is a phrase uttered with vehement resentment, a profanity.

  7. euanmearns permalink
    June 10, 2017 5:31 pm

    Paul, a timely post. This issue is like an itch I’ve been afraid to scratch. I have physics to first year uni. Otherwise I’m just a dumb geologist come isotope geochemist. Confronted with thousands of Climate Scientists who fall in behind the narrative of atmospheric CO2 warming the oceans, you have to pause to assess your own understanding.

    So what do we have? An atmosphere with tiny mass compared to the oceans and even lower specific heat capacity. The IPCC model must be for atmospheric heat to conduvctively heat the oceans and that requires a temperature gradient from atmosphere to ocean, but as you point out the more massive ocean will buffer the surface layer of the atmosphere to its teperature. So the temperature gradient at the surface layer is always going to be tiny.

    It is impossible IMO for a warming atmosphere to warm the oceans. The heat flow must be in the oppositie direction. So what is warming the oceans? dCloud is the obvious candidate for me. An old post I wrote with Clive Best on UK temperatures:

    There is a close correlation between cloud cover and temperatures in the UK. I know this is perhaps hard to believe. But sunny days tend to be warmer.

    So what causes dCloud. Volcanoes could be one variable – things have been VERY quiet. Or change in the jet stream that is down to The Sun.

    Where does this leave climate scientists. Are they morons or corrupt?

    • June 11, 2017 6:01 am

      I have always thought that there are a few corrupt climate “scientists”. We know the names of some of them from Climategate. To understand how the climate works you need to be a physicist or have a thorough understanding of thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid flow etc. Most climate “scientists” are neither physicists nor experts in thermodynamics etc. Just Like Judith Curry originally did, they accept the promulgations of the corrupt climate “scientists” (and hence accept the contents of the SPMs produced by the IPCC) without understanding them. Only a few (like Judith Curry) have subsequently looked at the details and found them seriously wrong.

      It has always astounded me that people can accept that a warming atmosphere (from whatever cause) can result in a warming of the oceans. They have to be pretty dumb or very blinkered to believe such nonsense.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        June 11, 2017 9:47 pm

        “To understand how the climate works you need to be a physicist or have a thorough understanding of thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid flow etc”

        You mean like the majority of – say – chemical engineers, perhaps?

        And not forgetting a bloody good grasp of statistics (as in “lies, damned lies and statistics”) , as most/all temperature, sea level etc. global measurements are merely statistical artefacts produced for political purposes and have little or no bearing on any real earthly parameters whatsoever.

      • Jack Broughton permalink
        June 13, 2017 10:21 am

        Interesting comment by Catweasle about the Chemical Engineer being well equipped to understand and criticise climate change science. An extra factor is that chemical engineers use complicated computer models of technically challenging science and gain a good appreciation of the dangers of GIGO and self-delusion about models.
        The I.Chem.E. had a a very vigorous correspondence going on the issue until about 2 years ago, with many dissenters from the orthodoxy. Then, the council became controlled by the AGW believers and they issued a policy statement that “the science is proven and we will not allow further debate”. I resigned from the institution over this censorship. It shows how far the control of the “believers” has reached and the difficulty of fighting back.

  8. John F. Hultquist permalink
    June 10, 2017 6:22 pm

    Previous posts on cleaner air — London, Pittsburg, and so on — may be of interest.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      June 12, 2017 8:33 am

      I believe that irony is a massively underused scientific rule if thumb, and that is therefore likely that Climate Change is indeed man-made, but caused by the original Green movement cleaning up our air.

  9. euanmearns permalink
    June 10, 2017 8:25 pm

    @ Euan Mearns – having re-read Paul’s post I see that oceans are supposed to warm by “radiative downwelling” from the atmosphere. This makes things even more remrkabale. The CO2 IR bands are saturated at surface. But they are not saturated at altitude and this gave rise to the CO2 radiative cascade theory where staurated IR bands at surface re-emit to be trapped by CO2 higher in the atmosphere, the upwards cascade proceeding until the concentration of CO2 becomes so low that the IR emits to space. This defines the height of the tropopause.

    The temperature at surface is raised by this process. But IR in CO2 bands “downwelling” sounds like water falling uphill. It cannot downwell into already already saturated bands.

    As far as I can tell, the only mechanism to warm the oceans from a warm atmosphere is via conduction that flows form hot to cold. Where the ocean is warmer it will warm the air by both emitting IR and via conduction.

  10. June 11, 2017 7:11 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  11. Athelstan permalink
    June 11, 2017 7:49 am

    I think and always have done, that, the climastrologists, as always look at their pet supposition and make the ‘facts’ fit their narrative.

    Inevitably, the alarmist ‘consensus’ they ‘get’ nothing, more often ‘get it’ all ar*e about face, specifically with oceans, they look at it through their ‘warmist’ prism and seek to augment their mythology concerning man made CO2.

    Oceans should be regarded as the cooler, not the heater.

    That big shiny thing in the sky is wot did it, well fusion actually.

    Not quite gospel but main ingredients:

    Warmy Sun heats de water, coriolis force and continental contours and some other stuff, land/coastal morphology, seaboard gradients – ie where the continental slope decline is a more gentle gradient aids the coriolis force, acting to slinging warm water north and east, if you get my ‘drift’.
    Water loses its ‘glowing’ energy as it travels across the Atlantic and redistributes beneficial warmth irradiating, transference to the atmosphere [prevailing westerlies see coriolis effect – again] as it travels north and east. thermohaline hypothesizing and cold water sinks as you’d expect, in simple terms [and I ain’t no oceanographer] – a conveyor is formed and that is our [the planet’s]: ‘air conditioner’.

    The ‘conveyor’ ’tis a wonderful thing, and it’s got FA to do with man made CO2.


  12. June 11, 2017 11:31 am

    Claims that ‘the ocean loses heat more slowly because of the greenhouse effect’ don’t mention that, even if it’s true, that would be mainly due to water vapour, slightly due to ‘natural’ CO2 and very marginally due to ‘man-made’ CO2.

    In other words, as always man-made CO2 is much ado about very little.

  13. tom0mason permalink
    June 11, 2017 3:25 pm

    Water, and water vapor, conducts heat but it is quite variable depending on circumstance — absolute composition, pressures, etc …

    And their reference Thermophysical Properties of Matter – The TPRC Data Series (a poor photocopy with hand-written corrections – warning it’s a 56MB pdf ) can be downloaded from

  14. catweazle666 permalink
    June 11, 2017 9:35 pm

    “the upper 75 m warmed by 0.11 [0.09 to 0.13] °C per decade over the period 1971 to 2010.”

    And they reckon to know this how, precisely?

    Here is some information about the common method of acquiring ocean surface temperature data during that period.

    Ship’s engine cooling water inlet temperature data is acquired from the engine room cooling inlet temperature gauges by the engineers at their convenience.

    There is no standard for either the location of the inlets with regard especially to depth below the surface, the position in the pipework of the measuring instruments or the time of day the reading is taken.

    The instruments themselves are of industrial quality, their limit of error in °C per DIN EN 13190 is ±2 deg C. for a class 2 instrument or sometimes even ±4 deg. C, as can be seen in the tables here: DS_IN0007_GB_1334.pdf . After installation it is exceptionally unlikely that they are ever checked for calibration.

    It is not clear how such readings can be compared with the readings from buoy instruments specified to a limit of error of tenths or even hundreds of a degree C. or why they are considered to have any value whatsoever for the purposes to which they are put, which is to produce historic trends apparently precise to 0.001 deg. C upon which spending of literally trillions of £/$/whatever are decided.

    But hey, this is climate “science” we’re discussing so why would a little thing like that matter?

    Curiously Tom Karl’s “Pausebuster” paper “corrected” the buoy data – which disagreed with the engine room data – by adjusting the buoy data specified to AFAIK 0.01 deg C to agree with the engine room data.

    • June 12, 2017 5:55 am

      ” historic trends apparently precise to 0.001 deg. C ” But calling projections of future conditions speculative fiction is a matter of not understanding “the Math”. That would be similar to multiplying by zero and claiming a significant figure results.

  15. Gamecock permalink
    June 12, 2017 1:37 pm

    ‘On a global scale, the ocean warming is largest near the surface, and the upper 75 m warmed by 0.11 [0.09 to 0.13] °C per decade over the period 1971 to 2010.’

    But wait! Increased atmospheric CO2 is presumed to come from Man, due to industrialization. Outgassing from warming oceans could be the real source, or at least a significant part of it.

  16. June 14, 2017 3:49 pm

    Mid-summer – well, just about, sea temp yesterday at St. Ives was recorded by the RNLI as 12C!

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