Climate Dissonance: Ocean Warming or Cooling?

Climatists are manifesting cognitive dissonance, or maybe factional conflict.  They simultaneously claim the ocean current warming the North Atlantic is slowing down bringing colder weather, while also claiming the increasing ocean heat content is warming the ocean faster than ever.  The cooling alarm was noted and rebutted in a recent No Tricks Zone article 3 New Studies Show Atlantic Tipping Point Unrealistic…”Muted Response”…”Changes To Be Viewed With Caution”.

My own critique of the alarm was this post: The Cooling Also Not Our Fault

Turning Attention from the Freezing to the Overheating Ocean

The Ocean Heat scare was included in the recent UN Climate report, alongside four other claims I rebutted in the post UN False Alarms from Key Climate Indicators.The Ocean Heat Content is more complex, requiring this post of its own. The key message was this:

Ocean heat was record high. The upper 2000m depth of the ocean continued to warm in 2021 and it is expected that it will continue to warm in the future – a change which is irreversible on centennial to millennial time scales. All data sets agree that ocean warming rates show a particularly strong increase in the past two decades. The warmth is penetrating to ever deeper levels. Much of the ocean experienced at least one ‘strong’ marine heatwave at some point in 2021.

Figure 4. 1960–2021 ensemble mean time series and ensemble standard deviation (2 standard deviations, shaded) of global OHC anomalies relative to the 2005–2017 average for the 0–300 m (grey), 0–700 m (blue), 0–2 000 m (yellow) and 700–2 000 m (green) depth layers. The ensemble mean is an update of the outcome of a concerted international data and analysis effort.

Context and Background Information

Media alarms are rampant relying mostly on a publication Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019 in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Authors: Lijing Cheng, John Abraham, Jiang Zhu, Kevin E. Trenberth, John Fasullo, Tim Boyer, Ricardo Locarnini, Bin Zhang, Fujiang Yu, Liying Wan, Xingrong Chen, Xiangzhou Song, Yulong Liu, Michael E. Mann.

Reasons for doubting the paper and its claims go well beyond the listing of so many names, including several of the usual suspects. No, this publication is tarnished by its implausible provenance. It rests upon and repeats analytical mistakes that have been pointed out, but true believers carry on without batting an eye.

It started with Resplandy et al in 2018 who became an overnight sensation with their paper Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition in Nature October 2018, leading to media reports of extreme ocean heating. Nic Lewis published a series of articles at his own site and at Climate Etc. in November 2018, leading to the paper being withdrawn and eventually retracted. Those authors acknowledged the errors and did the honorable thing at the time, resulting the paper’s retraction 25 September 2019.

Then a revised version of the paper was published 27 December 2019 with the same title and stands today.  The 2019 abstract is exactly the same as the 2018 abstract (retracted), except for one sentence.

♦  2018:  We show that the ocean gained 1.33 ± 0.20 × 10^22 joules of heat per year between 1991 and 2016, equivalent to a planetary energy imbalance of 0.83 ± 0.11 watts per square metre of Earth’s surface.

♦  2019:  We show that the ocean gained 1.29 ± 0.79 × 10^22 Joules of heat per year between 1991 and 2016, equivalent to a planetary energy imbalance of 0.80 ± 0.49 W watts per square metre of Earth’s surface.

Figure 1. Argo float operation. There are about 3,500 floats in the ocean, and a total of ~10,000 floats have been used over the period of operation.

In the discussion and graphs, readers should note that 1 Zettajoule (ZJ) = 1 x 10^21 joules, and that these are energy units, not temperatures. Willis Eschenbach did a fine analysis of this OHC issue, since it depends mostly upon ARGO float measurements. From that essay:

The first thing that I wanted to do was to look at the data using more familiar units. I mean, nobody knows what 10^22 joules means in the top two kilometres of the ocean. So I converted the data from joules to degrees C. The conversion is that it takes 4 joules to heat a gram of seawater by 1°C (or 4 megajoules per tonne per degree). The other information needed is that there are 0.65 billion cubic kilometres of ocean above 2,000 metres of depth, and that seawater weighs about 1.033 tonnes per cubic metre.

The first thing is to note that 3500 floats are sampling 0.65 billion cubic km of the ocean, and the record began in 2005. The next thing is to appreciate the impact of increasing energy upon the ocean temperature.

Yes, those are ocean warming increments of a few 1/100ths of a degree kelvin.  Applying the math to Resplandy et al., we should also note the ranges of uncertainty in these estimates (ocean temps to 1/100 of a degree, really?)

Resplandy 2018: Claim 103 to 153 ZJ/decade, or warming between 0.03 to 0.05 C/decade.

Resplandy 2019:  Claim  50 to 208 ZJ/decade, or warming between 0.02 to 0.07 c/decade

And the Climate Show Goes On

Benny Peiser of GWPF objected in writing to IPCC, saying inter alia:

Your report (SROCC, p. 5-14) concludes that
” The rate of heat uptake in the upper ocean (0-700m) is very likely higher in the 1993-2017 (or .2005-2017) period compared with the 1969-1993 period (see Table 5.1).”

We would like to point out that this conclusion is based to a significant degree on a paper
by Cheng et al. (2019) which itself relies on a flawed estimate by Resplandy et al. (2018).
An authors’ correction to this paper and its ocean heat uptake (OHU) estimate was under
review for nearly a year, but in the end Nature requested that the paper be retracted
(Retraction Note, 2019).

That was not the only objection. Nic Lewis examined Cheng et al. 2019 and found it wanting. That discussion is also at Climate Etc. Is ocean warming accelerating faster than thought? The authors replied to Lewis’ critique but did not refute or correct the identified errors.

Now in 2022 the same people have processed another year of data in the same manner and then proclaim the same result. The only differences are the addition of several high profile alarmists and the subtraction of Resplandy et al. from the References.  It looks like the group is emulating MIchael Mann’s blueprint:  The Show Must Go On.  The Noble cause justifies any and all means.

Show no weaknesses, admit no mistakes, correct nothing, sue if you have to.

Footnote: Q: Is the Ocean Warming or Cooling?  A: Nobody Knows.

To enlarge, open image in new tab.





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  4. roberta4949 · June 7

    by all the things I observed especially teh past 2 years of the covidian sects that grew out of the big scare, it seems all the facts and evidence against climate change germ theory etc, are mute, because it seems many are not interested in alternative explanations for what is happening around the world. I dont get it myself why they wont at least consider that what they believe is true may just not be, it is a mystery to me, maybe pride stands in the way? maybe they benefit finanacially from it or maybe some other factor I have no clue.


    • Ron Clutz · June 7

      thanks for commenting, roberta. IMO some people are getting rich, in money, or reputation or status. And they have no interest in questioning the suppositions making up the climate scare story. Most people prefer not to think about sciencey stuff so they go with flow of their network.
      don’t forget that the viewpoint was implanted in early education, so it would be quite upsetting to have it uprooted by contrary facts. I blog on this in order that people who are skeptical, or open-minded have access to others speaking their minds, rather than going along to get along.


  5. HiFast · June 7

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


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